Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)(11)

Also, there would be no popcorn.

A few months ago Holly had been forced to eat Faerie food, which for whatever reason, is addictive to mortals. And not the kind of addictive that any number of anonymous group meetings in a basement was likely to fix. Once a mortal ate Faerie food, they could sustain life on nothing else. Human food turned to ash on the tongue. There was no cure. It was Faerie food or starve, and Faerie food couldn’t be removed from Faerie without disgusting—and inedible—results.

So, no popcorn or any other form of movie snacks. Also, with the floor plan of the house, I couldn’t even subtly nuke a TV dinner without her being very aware of it from the couch. She rarely complained directly about anyone eating in front of her, but I knew her dietary restrictions pained her. Add to that the fact that it was sort of my fault she was in this mess as the deranged changeling who’d given her Faerie food in the first place had kidnapped Holly to use as bait for me . . . and yeah, I didn’t eat mortal fare in front of her.

I glanced down at PC in my arms. “Which awkward is more uncomfortable?” I asked him in a whisper.

The little dog cocked one white tufted ear and wagged his tail. Which wasn’t an answer. Not that the dog would have cared even if he had been capable of answering. As long as he had food and a bed, he was an easygoing kind of guy. I, on the other hand, would rather not have to choose between the weird tension between Falin and me, or the awkward intrusion into Caleb and Holly’s budding romance and the guilt I’d feel if I made even as little as a cold sandwich with Holly around.

With a sigh, I set PC in the grass so he could do his business. Once he was finished, I turned away from the main door and headed toward the stairs to my loft, hoping it was the right choice.

When I opened the door, Falin was in the kitchenette loading steaks and cheesy mashed potatoes onto two plates. He didn’t look up as I entered, or when I set my purse down on the one chair in the room. He didn’t even say hello. He just grabbed silverware before depositing one of the plates on the far side of the counter, not quite in front of me, and then taking his own plate and leaning against the stove.

“Hi to you too,” I said, frowning at the plate of food. “How did you know I’d be home for dinner?” Because the steaks had just come off the pan he’d seared them on, and looked perfectly cooked, not like he’d been waiting. Which was odd, because I certainly hadn’t told him when I’d be home. Last night I hadn’t come home at all and the previous two nights I’d come upstairs only to grab a change of clothes, so he couldn’t have been expecting me.

Falin didn’t look away from the food on his plate. “I always make enough for two.”

Right. Maybe barging in on Holly and Caleb would have been the less awkward choice. Too late now. Grabbing the plate, I retreated to my bed. It wasn’t much of a retreat, if you discounted the bathroom, the loft was only one room. But at least, with Falin in the far side of the kitchenette and me on the other side of the room, it was slightly less weird that we were in the same room ignoring each other, right? Okay, maybe not.

Sighing, I dug into the food. It tasted as good as it smelled. Which didn’t surprise me. Falin was an excellent cook. I felt contrary enough to try to be annoyed by that, but it’s damn hard to be grouchy while eating an amazing steak.

But even focusing on an exquisite meal couldn’t overcome the level of awkward resounding in the small space. Setting my plate on my pillow, I leaned over and pressed the power button on the TV remote. The shabby old television flickered to life. Lusa Duncan, the star reporter for Nekros City’s most acclaimed witchy news station, Witch Watch, appeared on the screen. Behind her the image of a man, whom I originally thought was quite old but then realized had most likely simply been worn hard by life, was superimposed on the screen.

“—would not confirm cause of death,” Lusa said as I bumped the volume. “But it is believed that Murphy was the same man seen only hours earlier riding on the back of a unicorn in downtown Nekros.”

A second image, this one a pixilated close-up of the bedraggled man from earlier today appeared beside the first image. I squinted at the two images. My vision wasn’t quite back to what passed as a hundred percent for me, so I was far from certain, but the two men did bear a striking resemblance to each other.

“Did you hear about this?” I asked, looking toward Falin.

He glanced at the screen, but he didn’t answer as his focus returned to his plate.

Did that mean yes? No? Or was he just avoiding speaking to me. I frowned at him and turned back to the TV. Lusa went on to mention that the body had been found in an alley earlier in the evening, and that while the police weren’t releasing any information, witnesses said the man who’d found him had tried to resuscitate Mr. Murphy, who had no obvious wounds, but to no avail.

By the time she moved on to the next story, my fork lay on my plate, the forgotten food cooling. I hadn’t confirmed to Jenson that the unicorn was pure glamour at the café because I didn’t like admitting I could see through glamour. Now I wished I had. The rider—if it really was him—ending up dead a few hours later was too much of a coincidence.

I slid off the bed, but as I stood, dark spots filled the corners of my eyes. I swayed, dizzy for a moment. I pressed my hand to my forehead, ready to sink back down—I had no interest in hitting the ground for the second time today. The sensation passed as quickly as it hit. Did I catch Rianna’s cold? I shook my head. I didn’t have any cold-like symptoms, so most likely it was just the exhaustion of too many days of poor sleep mixed with the massive amount of magic I’d used today.

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