mean, look at it! This thing is like some kind of prison tattoo on steroids, for crying out loud. Do I look this hard core? Seriously? The only ink I have is a tramp stamp of a butterfly I got when I was too stupid to know better. It’s pink for fucksake.”
Jack’s tight expression melted into a smile at my words. His eyebrow quirked as if to ask: “A tramp stamp? Really?” Lifting his car antenna again, Jack placed the flat of his palm on the button tip. With a deft movement, he collapsed it between his hands. He stowed it back into its spot inside his jacket. The Wi-Fi icon on his T-shirt dimmed to two bars.
As if following Jack’s cue, the others began to relax a little as well. Officer Jones’s fingers left his holster. Stone dropped her shoulders, too. People around the office let out their breath. A few cautiously stood up, though no one went back to work yet. The office remained hushed, though the timbre changed from fearful to curious. The only voices were muted ones coming from the reports or whatever streamed on the video screens.
“You say the snake came out of the necromancer?” Jack asked again. When I nodded, he shook his head. “I don’t understand how it ended up on you. If it was protecting him, it’s done a piss poor job of it. I mean, that is”—he ran a hand through his mess of hair and gave me a half-apologetic, half-thoughtful grimace—“since you’re still alive and all.”
“You sound disappointed,” I noted, unable to keep from smiling at him.
“It’s not that,” he assured me quickly with a bright, disarming smile of his own. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “It’s just very unusual that, well, it seems to have transferred its loyalty to a…uh, that is, someone nonmagical.”
“Or, woefully unschooled,” Jones muttered.
Jack started at that comment, and shifted his attention to Jones. I followed his gaze, and gasped in surprise. For a brief second, I thought Jones’s eyes glowed bright green with an inner light. At my sound, he blinked and the brightness instantly faded.
I took a step back, and nearly collided with a nearby desk. I shook my head, as if denying what I’d just seen.
No glowing eyes
, I admonished myself. All the rest of this stuff, sure. But no glowing eyes. That was too much like what got me in trouble back in Chicago.
I tried to refocus the conversation on something, anything else. “You said something about loyalty?” I asked Jack. “You make it sound as though this tattoo is alive,” I said, trying to keep myself, unsuccessfully, from looking into the tattoo’s glittering eye again.
“You should let me look at that.” Stone came out from behind the desk she’d put between us, and held out her hand. I pulled the sleeve of my T-shirt over my shoulder to let her see all the damage.
She took my wrist without hesitation. I nearly jerked away, expecting another painful response from the snake, like what had happened at Jack’s touch, but it didn’t come. Her hand on my skin was cool, but solid.
The tension I’d carried in my shoulders drained at hertouch. It was like she grounded me. I sank back against the edge of the desk that had nearly tripped me, letting my butt rest against it.
“It’s very attached to her,” she told Jones, letting go of my arm. My arm flopped at her release. I blinked, shaking off the uber-calm her touch had inflicted.
Officer Jones’s hands hooked on his belt. “You’re sure?”
“I’d tell you to test it for yourself,” Stone said, “but considering what it did to Jack, it would probably knock you out.”
“I don’t get it.” Jones crossed his arms in front of his chest. The stiff fabric of his uniform bunched up and caused his silver badge to reflect the fluorescent light. “How could the spell attach so easily to an
?” He looked like so many police officers I’d seen in my life, standing there; it was getting harder and harder for me to cope with the fact