Kinked (Elder Races, #6)(11)

He wanted to block out Grym’s voice, but he couldn’t, as the other sentinel turned back to Aryal. “I have a point to make here. There’s a reason why Dragos has given you so much free rein. In a way, you’re kindred spirits. Like you, he has his own hellish temper to grapple with and he creates as many problems as he solves. He knows you love him too, and you’re committed to the Wyr demesne with every bit of that considerable passion you carry inside of you. So if Dragos says you’ve used up all the free rein he’s given you, Aryal, you’d better listen to him, because he meant every word he said out in the hall. I really think this could be it for you. Be careful how you act when he gets down here. Okay?”

The harpy’s angular features sobered as she listened. She nodded.

Grym straightened and turned to face Quentin, his expression growing colder. “Now for you,” he said. “Dragos meant every word he said to you too. You haven’t earned any free rein. A lot of people like you, and it’s probably a lot more than who like Aryal. Most of the sentinels like you. I like you. We also all know that she’s been investigating you for a long time. Dragos knows, because she hasn’t held any secrets back. So what the hell are you doing here, Quentin? Why is she getting under your skin so bad, and what are the rest of us supposed to think when you fly off the handle and continue to attack her?”

All vestige of Quentin’s sardonic humor vaporized as Grym’s words hit him like individual blows. Maybe they shouldn’t have hit him so hard. He had known that some people were suspicious of him just because there had been an investigation. In fact, he had been expecting it. But somehow by what Grym said, or in the way he said it, the other sentinel held up a mirror for him to look in and the reflection was pitilessly uncompromising.

What the hell are you doing here, Quentin?

That was the question. That was the heart of every question.

The office door slammed open. A volcano in the shape of the Lord of the Wyr poured into the room. The walls contracted, and suddenly the office was much smaller than it had been a few moments ago.

Clearly Dragos’s self-imposed, ten-minute time-out hadn’t improved his mood very much.

Dragos looked at Grym and jerked his head toward the door. Grym didn’t say another word. Inclining his head respectfully to Dragos, he holstered his gun, and shot one look at Aryal and another one at Quentin as he walked out, easing the door closed behind him as he went. Aryal straightened from the desk and opened her mouth.

“I have not given you leave to speak,” said Dragos before she could start. “You will both remain silent. I don’t care what he did.” Blazing gold eyes speared Quentin as Dragos said, “I don’t care what she did. I. Do. Not. Give a shit.”

Anger churned in Quentin on a fast boil, and he almost didn’t contain it. He had always bristled at Dragos Cuelebre’s particular brand of dominance. The two worst aspects of becoming a sentinel were facing him in this room, and he held himself clenched like a fist, shaking with the desire to spit in their faces and storm out.

What was he doing here?

Hands on his hips, the dragon studied him and waited.

Quentin returned Dragos’s gaze bitterly and shook his head. No you don’t, you arrogant son of a bitch, he thought. You will not drive me away that easily. I’ve won my way into your Tower by your own rules. If I leave, it will be because I choose to do so for my own reasons, and not because you manipulate me into it.

Something strange flickered across Dragos’s face. If Quentin were pressed to describe what he had seen, he would have said that the dragon almost smiled.

Whatever that subtle expression really was, it was gone almost immediately. Dragos strode behind his desk and turned to face them.

Dragos said, “Do you know what I was doing this morning? I was walking Liam so he would fall back asleep and let Pia stay in bed for a little longer. Then I came across you two jokers brawling all over the hall. I should add, brawling in one of the main hallways of the upper floors in the Tower. You had no idea I was there, did you? You were f*cking oblivious to everything else outside of your own vendetta. What if I had been someone else babysitting Liam and taking him for a walk—say, Talia, for example?”

Talia Aguilar was a Wyr selkie and the new head of PR for Cuelebre Enterprises. Sleek and delicately rounded, with soulfully large eyes, Talia was gentle to the bone and didn’t have a single fighter reflex in her.

Sourness churned in Quentin’s stomach. As viciously as they had been fighting, they could easily have plowed into someone like Talia and caused major injury, if not death. A quick glance at Aryal’s tight expression told him that she realized it too.

“I’m banishing the two of you from New York,” Dragos said.

Quentin moved sharply while shock bolted over Aryal’s expression.

Dragos was still speaking in a rapid-fire staccato. It took a few moments for the words to sink in. “… and you are going to work your shit out somewhere else way the f*ck away from here. I don’t want to have anything to do with you until then, and let me tell you, nobody else does either. I’m going to give you an assignment. You have to work together on it, or you both lose your sentinel positions. You cannot return before two weeks are up. You cannot stay away longer than a month. That’s your time frame. When you return to New York, you will somehow have made peace with each other, or you both lose your sentinel positions. After the Games, we now have a detailed list of current runners up. It won’t be hard if we have to make that transition.”

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