They were rapidly approaching Missy’s hospital room when LM remembered Jeff. He stopped walking. “Carthage.”
The human stopped and looked back at him. “What?”
“I think this is a bad idea. Antioch’s XQ isn’t alone.”
“I know. She has that vampire with her.”
“And she has her father with her too.”
Carthage scoffed. “Do you really think that will be a problem? Besides, I’m just coming to visit her.”
“And that is all?”
“That is all.”
LM carefully thought it over, trying to find all of the straight lines. Trying to get all of the lines to match up correctly.
Carthage shifted his weight and folded his arms across his chest. “What are you thinking?”
So many lines. Some straight. Some crooked. How can I tell which is which?
“LM. Do you trust me?”
The half-fey blinked. “Of course.”
“Then, don’t worry about stuff.”
“I can’t help it. You don’t know her father. I do.”
“I’ll protect you.”
LM bowed his head and waited for Capernaum’s reassuring touch.
He waited in vain.
I’m on my own. This is my decision to make. My jump into the dark.
“I promise I’ll keep you safe. Her father won’t hurt you.”
LM’s wings rustled in a futile attempt at a flap. “I trust you.” LM raised his head. “Follow me.”
Darius sighed. “I’d love to stay, but I’m sure our babysitter is reaching the point of insanity. Gotta go.” He gave Jeff a concerned look. “You okay?”
Jeff nodded. “I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’m fine. Tessa is improving. It may be small improvements, but they are improvements all the same.”
Darius expression lightened. “Good.” He hugged his friend.
Jeff returned the hug.
Darius quickly released him. “We’ll see you tomorrow, right?”
Jeff smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it.”
“Don’t forget your DevilsDare.”
Darius smiled. “Don’t you forget your Tsunachu.”
Arabella wrapped her arm around her husband’s arm. “You two are muy locos.”
Jeff laughed. “What can I say? Dweeb kind of rubbed off on both of us.”
“You more than me.” Darius kissed his wife’s forehead. “I’m the sanest guy of the whole group.”
She leaned her head against his arm.
The door opened without any preliminary knocking.
LM entered the room. An unfamiliar man followed him.
Jeff abandoned his post at Missy’s side. He stopped in between the two interlopers and Missy’s bed. “LM, who is this?”
LM’s wings rustled unevenly. “This is Carthage. He wishes to see your daughter.”
Carthage took a step forward. “I thought you and the vampire would be alone. I wasn’t expecting you to have company.”
Jeff narrowed his eyes and moved into a defensive position. He kept his body just loose enough so he could change quickly and easily into offensive if necessary. “Why don’t you try again? Who are you, Carthage? What do you know of my daughter? What do you want?”
Carthage smirked. “I know that she is Antioch’s XQ. I know that there are so many people and countries who’d love to make use of her.”
Jeff bristled. “You’re from that darned Institute, aren’t you? What do you want? To barter for her? To steal her from me? Sorry, buddy, but that ain’t gonna happen.”
Carthage shrugged. “Have it your way.” He pulled a stake out of the plastic bag LM was holding and rushed at Jeff.