“If there is one thing I absolutely love it is when some incompetent with more brains or muscle than sense decides to try to do my job,” Radovan Dzerdja growled irritably at the hulking man standing before his desk in a black trench coat, jeans, and button down shirt. Glaring up at the young man a moment longer, he waved him to one of the finely made oak chairs padded with dark leather cushions. “You don’t see me running about, waving around a battle-axe or popping off with an assault rifle, do you? Of course you don’t! Do you know why? Because it isn’t my bloody job! So what the hell possessed Angus O’Shea to allow some incompetent, multiple incompetents, if I read you contract correctly, to begin the Awakening process? How would he feel if I and my people decided to start beating up, torturing, and killing people for no apparent reason other than we felt we knew what we were doing? After all, if a Bloody Hand can do it, it can’t be that f•©king difficult!”
The man calmly taking the tongue lashing was inwardly smiling despite his expressionless mien. He stood well over six feet tall and was all bulky muscle with pale skin, light blue eyes, and wavy, shoulder-length red hair. He liked Radovan because he was such a fearless, acerbic curmudgeon.
And because Radovan knew his tirade would only amuse Hugh O’Shea, it took all of the fun out of it.
He glared at the younger man, snorting disgustedly. “You may as well smile before you hurt yourself,” he snapped, his gray eyes staring daggers at the young Bloody Hand. He combed his hands through his honey brown hair and sighed as the huge grin spreading across the desk from him dissipated his foul mood. If he didn’t know better, he would almost think young Hugh were a Psy-Blade. Nobody else managed to be able to turn aside his vituperation with a mere smile. Radovan looked down at the contract again and shook his head. “How the hell did Rory O’Shea’s son manage to become Lost? Everyone and his brother knew where he was, including the sapiens.”
Hugh sighed sadly. “Cousin Angus was sort of conceived at an inopportune period,” he replied reluctantly, not really liking the necessity of speaking about family business to an outsider. Grimacing, resigned to the need, and shrugging, he continued, “When Uncle Rory had to leave Angus Cavanaugh behind, he also had to leave Angus Michael behind as well. When he did, he made it plainly known to everyone that anyone messing with his son or his ex-lover would regret it for the rest of their short, miserable, pain-filled lives. So everyone avoided Angus FitzKiern like the plague. At least until the other day’s clusterf•©k at Exposé, that is. And so I find myself in your lovely condo at the behest of my father, at the behest of Little Angus’ father.”
Radovan frowned, flipping through the pages of the contract, scanning the pertinent facts of the job. “There is nothing in here about why Rory O’Shea is not handling this himself. For a Bloody Hand, he is a fair student of our history and has done that task for your Society in the past.”
Hugh shook his head sharply. “Bloody Hand Lords can’t stay in the same territory with each other for long without a fight, you should know that,” the young Bloody Hand said gravely. “My father and Uncle Rory negotiated for him to remain in town long enough to make sure Little Angus can go back to his life when he gets out of the care of the Aesculapians. Even after he warned about the move on my father by the Exile, Mastermind, my father still required Uncle Rory to honor the agreement as originally negotiated. Uncle Rory is The O’Neill Bloody Hand, so he understood. He showed his trust in my father by asking that we handle Awakening not only his son but also the Silken Dark that seems to have taken a liking to Little Angus. We know next to nothing about her other than she lived in Boston and originally came from Eire. That is why we ask you to look into her lineage in the contract. She will need to know when her mother’s people come calling. It is why we decided we need to get the best Loremaster in the city.”
Radovan’s brow rose at that, his lips twitching. “Flattery, and the large check that came with this contract, will get you far,” he said with a chuckle. He pulled the copy of the contract from under the original and scribed his elaborate signature on it before passing it to Hugh. “Tell your father I will take the children in hand. Has Angus FitzKiern awoken again yet?”
Hugh laughed, shaking his head. “He all but sprinted out of the warehouse the Grandmaster acquired to use as the Aesculapians’ workshop. From what the nurse said, the cabbie looked horrified to be picking up an escapee from an ICU ward in front of a warehouse,” the young Bloody Hand replied with amusement, clearly envisioning his cousin in a hospital gown in the warehouse district, looking like death warmed over. He laughed again. “The Grandmaster’s people say the Silken Dark did much the same when they spoke to her in Little Angus’ apartment the other day. The Grandmaster asked us to apologize for stepping on your Society’s toes but his historian was on another assignment and both children were asking questions, as the Lost are wont to do. They felt it would be wrong not to give some answers, even if they were answers that they would not be able to accept yet.”
The Loremaster grimaced in disgust. “Trust a Grandmaster to craft an apology that would take all of the fun out of continuing my snit,” he snapped in mock irritation. Radovan looked up at the vaulted ceiling of the study in thought before his gray eyes once more narrowed as they pierced Hugh. “Did your father or Rory O’Shea have a preference as to how I proceed with the Awakening? Separately or together? Location? Soft or hard?”
The young Bloody Hand shook his head. “They said to leave that up to you,” Hugh replied solemnly. “I was to let you know Little Angus was at home and would be for the next week or so. The address is in the contract info. His boss told him not to come back to work until he is healthy. The Aesculapians will be sending people to give him a check-up and make sure everything is healing correctly.” His tone suggested he wasn’t sure why they would. And given Bloody Hands pretty much heal whatever does not kill them or involve dismemberment, Radovan could see why he was confused by the healers’ solicitude.
“As for the Silken Dark, she works at Exposé, as is in the info we provided,” he continued briskly. He shook his head again, grinning. “I imagine she will stop by Little Angus’ place in the next day or so to see if he has returned and once she sees the shape he is in he won’t be able to get rid of her. As the info says, she has it bad for him but hasn’t worked up the courage to do anything about it. In his current state, he won’t be able to fight her off any longer. Especially when she figures out how to use her abilities.”
Radovan thought about that and nodded, smiling. “Probably not,” he agreed with shared amusement. He straightened in his chair and inhaled deeply. “All right, then. I will put people on both of them and wait until she heads to his apartment. He isn’t very mobile and a Silken Dark with a mating fixture will not abandon him. Once they are together, I will go Awaken them. Properly.”
Hugh smiled at his severe tone on the last word. Rising, he folded the signed copy of the contract up, putting it in his coat pocket. He held out a large, calloused hand with a grin. “Enjoy this one. I am sure there will be quite a bit of amusement with it,” he said, shaking Radovan’s hand as the Loremaster rose. A twinkle in his light blue eyes warned the older man a parting quip was coming. “At least once you get through the bloody-minded stubbornness it will.”
“Sir, she is here. As far as we have seen, he hasn’t left in two days,” Samovir Tvarsk informed him over a phone connection barely intelligible. “The only other visitors have been the Aesculapian nurse and two grocery delivery boys. You want us to go up and keep them in place?”
“No. What I would really like is for you to explain why I can barely understand you,” Radovan snapped back, glaring at the bookshelf opposite his desk as if it were a recalcitrant minion. “I supplied you and your Ronin with cell phones that should get better reception than this.”
The Loremaster heard his Ronin guard clear his throat, barely. “There is so much signal interference around this building that I can only assume multiple someones are keeping an eye, and many ears, on your subject. We are lucky to get a single bar within two blocks of that place. I am on the closest pay phone.”
Radovan scowled. “How do you know the Silken Dark is still there?”
He could hear the slight smile in the man’s tone as he replied with, “Ronin do not depend on technology to be reliable. Thusly, we are always prepared with contingencies, even if they are a little obsolete to today’s tech-driven world.”
“Fine, keep your secrets,” he replied sourly, wondering what they could possibly be using that would be considered low tech. He rose from his chair and put on his jacket. “I am on my way. Call my cell if anything changes.”
Radovan jabbed a finger on the End button on the desk phone, grabbed his satchel, and headed out. Two more Ronin in the hall took up station behind him and called down to his driver, an unreliable-looking young man belonging to the Society known as The House of Newton’s Bastards.
.... There is more of this story ...