The wood groaned under Raine’s feet as he descended the stairs. He paused, listening to the crashing waves, trying to expel the stench with shallow breaths. Gulls circling above squawked, eager for their pending bounty.
He crept down the steps. A lamp revealed the guard, a freckled man lost in the disintegrating novel in his hands, posed no problem. The light fell over Raine’s face but he kept his breathing steady. As he took the last step, a distinct creak filled the air. The watchman’s eyes didn’t leave the page. Slipping from sight, he began his search for Jaiden. A mixture of excitement and fear hung in his chest as he moved forward, anticipating the rematch.
Storage crates loomed overhead. A breeze sulked through the passages. In the settled gloom anything could hide. A beam lit the nearby containers, but the stretching shadows concealed him.
The stairs creaked overhead with new weight. He pressed against the wall, watching through the gaps. The steps groaned in an air of descent, one right after another, although no one revealed themselves.
He counted the seconds as the stillness set in before he peered through the warped wood. The guard hadn’t moved. Unsure of his solitude, Raine waited for the lighthouse’s beam to carve its way across the dock before he continued into the night.
Marise clutched Mr. Raine Morgan’s keys as the elevator rattled around her. Her knuckles, marred from the long nights alone on the streets, showed white. Unsure of where to go, she’d received far too many looks, demeaning glares from the rich and infamous, as she shuffled through their lobby.
The elevator jerked, the insistent clank of metal coming to an abrupt stop. She let out a pent up breath, spent a good minute figuring out how to open the doors. She drew the grates to the side, stepped out into the hallway.
“Oh my, a visitor,” came a dreamy female voice.
Marise’s vision caught on the junkie by the vein. Raine had warned her about his neighbor. Feond’s glassy eyes swept over her. Marise eyed the doorway, wondered if she could move on without upsetting Feond. She’d seen enough Blue Fae users lose it on the streets. She opted to wait it out until Feond got distracted.
Feond smiled and her head drooped. Her fingers worked their way up the air like a spider. Feond’s fingers attacked her own hair, becoming tangled in the battle. She opened her mouth, a cackle burst from her as her eyes spread wide.
Marise watched her, lost in the insanity. Feond pushed all her hair forward in front of her face, then threw it back, a gale of laughter following after. Broken from her trance, Marise crept toward Raine’s door.
“I’m sorry, Mister Raine isn’t home.” Feond put up a stern hand, her face turning serious though her eyes still swam in the ether.
Marise flashed his keys. “I’m his guest for the night.”
“Oh no no no no, the funny man doesn’t have guests.”
“This is a onetime thing,” Marise responded with authority. She pulled the bag tight, suppressing the urge to lash out at Feond. She needed a shower, something to eat, then she’d split. “Let’s just keep it our little secret.”
“I like secrets.” She spun the tendrils into loose-fitting curls, then released them.
Satisfied with that response, Marise stepped closer to the door.
“Would you like to hear a secret?” Feond’s eyes seemed to gain some focus.
“Everyone says Raine is a bad bad man, but I . . .” Feond’s fingers began to trace something in the air. Her gaze drifted away, focusing on nothing in particular.
Marise waited for Feond to finish the thought, but decided against it and slipped into Raine’s apartment. As the door clicked shut, a litany of giggles erupted from the other side.
“Now, Mr. Raine Morgan,” Marise mocked the silence, “why do you offer your flat to strange women?” She stepped into the room. The lights clicked on. The open blinds stared out onto the city. A gas fire burned against the far wall. She clutched the strap of her bag, wary of the situation, but more comfortable than she expected.
She fixed herself a sandwich with what little ingredients she could piece together, then moved through each of the rooms, snooping enough to sate her curiosity. She entered the bedroom, covers tangled on the ground, phone resting atop the black sheets. “Quite the bachelor.” She snickered as she crossed into the bathroom.
“Guess it’s a good thing you’re not here to take advantage,” she said as she turned on the shower.