Grave Visions (Alex Craft, #4)(2)

A glance over my desk turned up a blank form. I taped the coin in the provided box and jotted down my initial analysis. I’d do a more in-depth check on the spell later.

After setting down my pen, I looked up to discover Rianna still standing in my doorway, her expression somewhere between concern and disapproval.

“What? I had a lot to do.” I waved a hand to the mess of coins and forms. She cocked one dark eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. With a sigh, I slipped out of my chair and focused on gathering the escaped coins. Even through the solid wood of the desk, I could feel the weight of her stare.

“Oh, yes,” she said, drawing out the words for emphasis. “That looks like an important case. One so pressing, it warranted working through the night.”

I didn’t answer. Rianna and I both had our private investigator licenses, and as grave witches, our specialty was finding answers for our clients by questioning the dead. Analyzing charmed coins didn’t exactly fall within the typical Tongues for the Dead case description, but peering into the land of the dead to raise shades did nasty things to the eyes. So, I’d been searching out cases that wouldn’t make me blind before my thirtieth birthday. It didn’t pay nearly as well as raising shades, but it covered some bills without burning out my vision.

“My last client got arrested before paying for her ritual,” I said, as if recouping the income justified working overtime on a simple spell-identification case we both knew wasn’t pressing.

We also both knew exactly why I hadn’t gone home last night. He had a name.

Falin Andrews.

The Winter Queen’s knight was currently crashing in my one-room loft. Considering we were occasionally lovers, that might have been okay, except that it was the Faerie queen’s royal decree placing him there and saying I suspected her motives was more than an understatement. He suspected them too—which was why he himself had told me never to trust him while he was under her rule. Oh yeah, and he’d told me that while holding me at dagger-point. Just after saying he loved me.

Our relationship was complicated, to say the least. In the two weeks he’d been staying at my place we’d barely spoken, by mutual consent. And besides, I was sort of seeing someone else. Can we say awkward? Yeah.

The office was a better option.

When I remained quiet, Rianna joined me on the floor. Together we gathered the coins, the only sound the clicking of my dog’s nails on the wood as he moseyed over to see what we were doing—and if we had food.

Rianna shot a glance at the small Chinese crested and frowned again. “PC is with you, so I take it you never planned to go home last night? I thought you arranged to stay in Caleb’s guest room until you could figure out what to do about Falin.”

“I did.” And it wasn’t so much that I’d worked it out as that Caleb, my landlord, had insisted. The problem was . . . “The guest room isn’t soundproof and I don’t think Caleb and Holly ever sleep.”

“So they’ve officially hooked up?”

“Who knows if it’s official, but they go at it like bunnies.”

Rianna gave me a sympathetic glance as she passed me the last of the coins. “I’d invite you to my place, but . . .”

But she lived in an enchanted castle in Faerie. Well, actually my enchanted castle, but I’d never been inside it. I’d inherited the castle in a rather grisly way and the whole thing creeped me out. Besides, I’d have to pass through the winter court to reach limbo, where the castle currently resided, and with the Winter Queen determined to add me to her court, it wasn’t worth the risk of her finding a reason to detain me. So yeah, not currently a viable option for a place to crash.

I shrugged. “I’ll figure out something.” Climbing to my feet, I dumped the coins into a magic-dampening bag—my client thought they were cursed, and though I’d found no evidence of any malicious spells, better safe than sorry—before straightening. Rianna rose slower, levering herself up with the edge of my desk. She teetered when she reached her full height. I looked at her then, really looked at her.

When I’d first rescued Rianna, she was a wasting shadow of her former self, but in the last few months, she’d reclaimed a soft glow of health. The glow was missing today, her cheeks pale and dark smudges ringed her eyes.

“Are you feeling okay? I’m the one who passed out at her desk, but you look worse than I feel.” Though I was definitely feeling the weeks of gradual sleep deprivation.

Rianna gave me a feeble smile before shrugging. “I think maybe I caught something.”

“I didn’t know changelings could catch a cold.”

Another shrug. “Apparently. It must be going around. Ms. B. won’t be in today. She said something about the garden gnome being unwell.”

If I wasn’t frowning before, I definitely was now. When I’d inherited the castle, I’d also sort of acquired the people—well, two fae and one changeling—living in the castle. Like I said, creepy. The garden gnome I’d never met, but Ms. B was a brownie who’d tended the castle for longer than anyone seemed to remember. She’d taken a liking to me and recently decided to claim the role of receptionist at Tongues for the Dead—I hadn’t had a say in the matter. She was gruff on the phone and some of our clients balked at her diminutive size and inhuman appearance, but I’d gotten used to having her around the office. I’d never heard of a fae getting sick, but honestly, despite the fact the fae had come out of the mushroom ring seventy years earlier, or the fact I’d recently discovered I was more fae than human, I didn’t know all that much about the day-to-day life of fae.

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