Home > Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(11)

Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles #2)(11)
Ilona Andrews

Wilmos touched a glowing symbol. The message flashed brighter and dimmed. Seconds ticked by. I kept my smile on.

A message flashed in response to mine. I told you I wasn’t poisonous.

Sean was alive. Nobody else would know that I nearly brained him with my broom for marking his territory in my orchard.

“Anything else?” Wimos asked. He was trying to be nonchalant, but he was watching me very carefully.

“No, that was it. Much appreciated.”

“Any time. I’m sure he’ll visit when he gets shore leave.”

“He’s welcome any time and you as well. Come on, Beast.”

Beast gave Gorvar one last parting snarl and we walked out of the shop, joined the crowd and kept going down the street.

It made no sense. Wilmos built and sold weapons. Some of the gear in his shop looked too new to be antique. He must’ve had a lot of connections in the soldier for hire world. When Wilmos recognized Sean, he’d become unglued. Sean was a natural biological child of two alpha strain werewolves, who weren’t supposed to have survived the destruction of their planet. A normal werewolf was bad news, but Sean was stronger, faster, and more deadly than ninety nine percent of werewolf refuges strewn across the Galaxy. Wilmos had acted as if Sean was a miracle.

“You don’t stick a miracle onto a freighter where he’ll be a security guard,” I told Beast. ‘There are more exciting ways to see the glory of the universe.”

It was like finding the last known Tasmanian tiger and selling him to some rich guy to be a pet in his back yard. It just didn’t add up.

Wilmos didn’t want me to know what Sean was doing. I didn’t know why, and I really wanted to find out.

***

It took me almost half an hour to get to the Quillonian’s place. The shop owners pointed the door out to me, but it was three floors up and I had to find the way up and then the right set of stone bridges to get to the terrace. Quillonians were a reclusive race, proud, prone to drama, and violent when cornered. A couple of them stayed at my parents’ inn and as long as everything went their way, they were perfectly cordial, but the moment any small problem appeared, they would start putting exclamation marks at the end of all of their sentences. My mother didn’t like dealing with them. She was very practical. If you brought a problem to her, she’d take it apart and figure out how best to resolve it. From what I remembered, Quillonians didn’t always want their problems resolved. They wanted a chance to shake their clawed fists at the sky, invoke their gods, and act as if the world was ending.

My father was brilliant at handling them. Before he became an innkeeper, he was a very good conman, excellent at reading his marks, and he finessed our more difficult guests. Before long, they were eating out of his hand. I tried to remember what he’d said to me about it. What was it? Something about plays…

I crossed the terrace to a stone bridge. The bridge had no rail and was barely two feet wide. At the other side, the bridge terminated in a narrow balcony with a dark wooden door. Deep gouges scoured the wood as if something with superhuman strength and razor sharp claws had attacked the door in a frenzy. I squinted. The scratches blended into a phrase repeated in several languages. KEEP OUT. Wonderful.

I leaned and looked over the side. At least a fifty foot drop to the street. If the Quillonian jumped out of his door and knocked me off the bridge, I would die for sure. I’d be a Dina pancake. Beast whined.

I picked her up and started across the bridge, taking my time. I didn’t mind heights but I would’ve liked something to hold on to.

Step, another step. I stepped onto the balcony and knocked. Before I could get the second knock in, the door flew open. A dark shape filled the doorway. I saw two glowing white eyes and a mouth studded with sharp teeth.

The mouth gaped open and a deep voice roared, “Go away!”

The door slammed shut inches from my face.

I blinked. Really, now. I think he actually blew my hair back with that. I knocked again.

The door sprung open, jerked aside by a powerful hand and teeth snapped in my face. “What? What is it? Do I owe you money? Is that it? There is no money! I have nothing!”

“I need a chef.”

There was an outraged pause. “So that’s it. You have come to mock me.” The dark lips that hid the teeth rose, baring fangs the size of my pinkies. “Maybe I shall COOK YOU FOR DINNER!”

Beast’s fur stood straight up. Wicked claws slid from her feet. Her mouth gaped open, unnaturally wide, displaying four rows of razor sharp teeth. She snapped her teeth and let out a piercing howl. “Awwwreeerooo!”

The Quillonian leaned back, shocked, and roared.

Beast snapped her teeth, lightning fast, biting the air, and struggling in my arms. If he slammed the door in our face now, she’d shred it like confetti.

“Stop it, both of you!” I barked.

Beast closed her mouth. The Quillonian sagged against the doorway. “What is it you want?”

“I need a chef.”

“Holy Mother of Vengeance, fine. Come inside. You can bring your small demon as well.”

I followed him through the doorway into a narrow hallway. The wall were filthy with grime, baked into the plaster by time. The hallway opened into an equally grimy living room. The glass in the windows had been shattered long ego, and a single dark shard stuck out from the top of the frame. Dirt lay in the corners, gathered against the wall like dunes in a dessert. A filthy couch sat in the middle of the floor. Soiled high-tech foam stuck out through rips in its upholstery. A pile of wooden slivers filled a singed metal bucket in front of the couch. He must’ve made a fire in the bucket when he got cold.

The draft brought a sour revolting stench. I glanced through the window as I followed him. Below us stood huge concrete vats. One was filled with what had to be lime and the other with some dark substance. The other three vats held red, blue and yellow dyes. Tall bird-like beings waded through the dye vats, stirring something with their feet. It had to be a tannery, which probably meant the substance in the other vat was bird dung. The wind flung another dose of stink at me. I clamped my hand over my mouth and nose and squeezed through the next doorway.

A pristine kitchen lay before me. Its cheap wooden cabinets were so clean, they glowed. The counter top, a single slab of simple stone, was polished to a near mirror shine. A butcher block carved with a knife out of a plain block of wood held three knives in the corner next to an ancient but clean stove. The contrast was so sudden, I stole a glance at the living room to make sure were still in the same place.

The Quillonian turned toward me and I finally saw him in the light. Even slightly stooped, he was seven feet tall. Chocolate-brown short fur covered his muscled body in the front, flowing into a dense forest of foot-long spikes on his back. That’s why the innkeepers called them Quillonians. Their real name was too difficult to pronounce.

His torso was vaguely humanoid, but his thick muscular neck was long and protruded forward. His head was triangular, with predatory canine muzzle terminating in a sensitive black nose. His hands had four fingers and two thumbs, each digit long and elegant. Two-inch long black claws tipped the fingers. Quillonians were a predatory species, my memory reminded me. They didn’t hunt humans, but they wouldn’t mind ripping one apart.

“What do you know?” The Quillonian fixed me with his stare. At the door his eyes appeared completely white but now I saw a pale turquoise iris with a narrow black pupil.

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