Liam propped his feet up on the pew, leaning into its edge. He crossed his arms, tried to rest.
“What do you think you are doing?” Oki asked.
Liam opened his eyes, grunted. “Figured I’d try to get some shut eye since no one is showing.”
“You do not need to sleep.” A disapproving scowl had seated itself on her face.
“You’d be amazed at what gods dream of,” Liam replied with a weary smile. “You should try it sometime.”
Oki’s gaze went wide, losing focus. Her body went limp and her jaw fell slack. She toppled to her knees, jackknifed at the waist.
Liam’s eyes flashed and he crossed the space, caught her before her head smacked into the ground. The vein she’d emerged from bubbled, spilling across their legs as he drew her up, held her face before his. Red flecks snaked through her irises in an intricate web. Her pupils had shrunk to pinpricks. The crimson wove in on itself, becoming a tangled mass that filled the whole of her eye.
He shook her, words catching in his throat.
In a rush the mass receded, leaving her eyes clear and alert. She turned her head at a sharp angle, her face melting into a mask of pain and fury. “What’re you—” She flung Liam away.
Air rushed past his ears as he tumbled. He slammed in the ground, striking and sliding across it. He hit the pew with a loud thud. A groan escaped his lips. He forced himself up, shaking his head, then turned his gaze on Oki.
Clapping sounded from the back of the chamber. Theon strode out from the elevator doors. The mural of Oki’s grasp locked behind him. “So nice to see things haven’t changed. Two of us in a room and we can’t keep from trying to kill each other.” He stopped beside the boiling vein. “Seriously, Oki, control yourself.”
Oki straightened, the waves of her dress crashing against her skin in erratic swirls. She closed her eyes and they settled. The vein topped off, leveled, and she stood there with composure once again. Displeasure etched itself across her features, but she spoke with her same husky tone. “I am glad you decided to show up.”
“We had a choice?” Another voice came from another entrance, this one unfamiliar. Liam stood abruptly, his aches and pains forgotten, to see a short man, scars covering his face. The man’s eyes flashed and the tension eased. Dawber continued, “If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have gotten all spruced up for you guys.”
“Heard you lost your last match,” Liam said.
Dawber ignored him, walked over to Theon. “Any luck?”
Theon shook his head, indicated for them to move to the periphery of the room. Oki walked back to the spot over her shattered vein. Water lapped at her wounds like a kitten. Liam watched her movements, not sure what to make of the infection he’d seen. He smoothed out his jacket, then sat back down, this time in the first pew, with his hands knotted together. His eyes didn’t leave Oki.
“Look who I found playing outside,” a female voice said.
Liam turned to see Journey in tattered scraps of clothing. She leaned into the closed doorway, seeming nonplussed by the situation. Standing beside her, Kanya looked properly chastened for forgetting her duty. She swayed, eyes planted on her feet, muttered, “Sorr-ry.”
“Since everyone’s here,” Oki said. The light behind her veins dimmed as the water solidified. The platform she stood on became a beam of light highlighting her figure. Her dress danced wildly around her legs. “Let the meeting begin.”