In which Joshua brings a gift

“Olivia-”
Olivia scrambled back as the werewolf lord Joshua materialized before her, a body slung over his shoulder.
“Uh, hi Joshua,” She looked up, swallowing. He was a vision in black leather and raw animal power, sweat glistening on his bare chest. He smelled like fighting and smoke. “Thanks for dropping in.”
Joshua inclined his head. “I have this for you.”
He moved forward in a single fluid motion, laying the body down on Olivia’s table. A pale-aurad kindred, not in torpor, but rendered incapable; his battered face revealed him as the Black Mamba’s owner.
Olivia felt her eyes flicker away from his face, and then away from Joshua’s, an involuntary reaction. Will this be the way it is forever? she wondered. Will I live eternity afraid to look a man in the eye?
“Thank you,” she heard herself say. “A fine gift. There were casualties?”
Joshua shook his head. “We evacuated civilians beforehand, no accidents. Most of the snakes ran. Except this one.”
Olivia nodded slowly. “Good. Thank you, Joshua.”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should go. This place gives me the creeps.” Joshua turned on his heel and left, his long leather coat flaring behind him.

Olivia stared at the unconscious Setite a moment more before she called Shen, arranging for restraints and a gurney for their new guest.

Shen looked at her curiously as he inspected the setite leader’s body, the flesh indly warping under his hands. “Lucius said you didn’t prewarn the council of the raid.”
“Well, of course not,” said Olivia, frowning. “They might have had spies, tipped the Setites off.”
Shen made a noise somewhere between frustration and pity. “Well, at least send something to Lucius explaining what happened,” he said, shifting the body from Olivia’s table to the gurney.
Like Lucius needs to know anything with Shen to inform him. Olivia narrowed her eyes. “I’ll send him something,” she conceded, and Shen seemed a little happier as he wheeled the setite away.

Jed returned next, requesting clearance to land on the roof. Olivia granted it with a moment’s hesitation; tame as he was, the gargoyle was still dangerous. He was closely followed by Jack, at the gates with another setite under one arm and a bag full of cash under the other.
They met in the boardroom, and Olivia’s eyes watered between the musty mouldering smell of Jed and the rank assault of Jack’s cologne. Shen’s faint smell of disinfectant barely registered.
“We’re collecting Setites,” said Shen, eyeing Jack’s latest specimen critically. “I don’t like it.”
Olivia felt a twinge of anxiety as she looked from Jack to Jed. “I’m afraid I agree with Shen,” she said. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave our property, and to take your captives with you.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Only a few hours until dawn,” he grumbled.
Olivia pursed her lips. “I have a few properties in the warehouse district. I can give you the pass for one of those for the night if you need it.”
“And a van, to transport my guys?”
Olivia waved her hand. “Sure. Talk to John, he’ll fix you up.”

Jed remained behind once Jack had gone, looking thoughtful. “Olivia-” he began.
Olivia looked up from the email to Lucius she had been composing. “Yeah?”
“You know your… haven…”
Olivia looked at him sharply, suspicion digging its silver spurs into her psyche. “My haven?” What the fuck does he want with my haven?
Jed nodded. “Can I have a look at it?”
Olivia frowned. “Why?”
“I wanted to check underneath it,” said Jed. “For tunnels.”
What was his game? An impostor? A spy? Olivia found herself staring into Jed’s aura; it crackled with anxiety and doubt, but there was something more there. Jed’s sword, the justicar’s sword, swirled with the dark aura of a wraith. Shen’s black expression showed that he had seen it too.
Olivia found herself breathing in deeply to calm herself. She swallowed. “You need to get that sword out of my house. Now.”

They left the sword in the gatehouse, with a warning to the guards not to touch it, and headed down to the vault.
“You know,” said Olivia, as they waited in the airlock. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you smell pretty bad.”
Jed looked a little uncomfortable. “I had a suitcase when I first came here,” he said. “But, I lost it. In the… you know-” he gestured.
“The confusion?”
“Quite.”

The gargoyle stepped through the security door and onto the walkway of the vault, and Olivia felt a sliver of anxiety crawl up through her spine. This was the first kindred that they had allowed down here since they had taken in Alice, and ragged though he was, he was still more of a threat than the oracle girl who barely deigned to get out of bed. Or was that just what Alice wanted her to think? Olivia closed her eyes, dispelling her creeping suspicion as Jed laid his hands on the metal of the vault, seeming to concentrate, his aura shimmering with magic.
Finally, the gargoyle shook his head. “No, I can’t sense any tunnels near here. The vault is secure.”

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