The Company of Fiends (Tempting Monsters 2) - Page 72

Jude held the door open for me, in spite of Mr. Reddy's increasingly vocal protestations as I ran down the hall.

"She's the only one who's dealt with the killer and lived," a low, heavy voice answered Reddy's snarls. "I don't see why you're keeping them in the dark in the first place."

"Because he's afraid we'll leave," I said, stepping inside and stopping immediately. Lord, it was crowded.

Mr. Reddy was in his usual place behind his desk, but Nireas was standing to the left of him, leaning against the wall, low arms crossed over his stomach. Ronan was in the chair across from Mr. Reddy, Hunter at the wall to his right, and the unfamiliar voice belonged to an enormous man with a bullish face, tan horns, and lovely, gleaming bronze skin. A minotaur! Right there, sitting at Myra's desk. I'd never met a minotaur before!

"Where's Myra?" I asked Mr. Reddy, who in spite of declaring his lack of use for me at the moment, seemed pale and relieved to see me.

"Resting," he said. "You gave us a scare."

"I'll look in on her when we're done here," I said before taking the only bit of space in the direct center of the room and crossing my arms over my chest. "What on earth have you been thinking, old man?"

Ronan snorted and then hissed as Mr. Reddy kicked him under the desk.

"I'm protecting the lot of you."

"Maybe by refusing this, this—"

"Birsha," the minotaur supplied.

"—but not by keeping us in the dark. Not by refusing to warn us of what was coming or what was being risked."

"We don't know—"

"But you thought it might be a possibility, Reddy!" I snapped. "You thought it might be him. When? Margaret? Or even as soon as Beth?"

"No," he barked, face red. We glared at each other for a long moment, and Nireas cleared his throat, almost in warning. Mr. Reddy sighed and sank in his chair. "Somewhere between the two. More so after Margaret."

"Not that I don't think this lovely young woman deserves the right to string you up for your crimes, Reddy, but I'm afraid the situation may be growing worse," the minotaur said.

"Hazel, this is my friend Asterion," Hunter said, gesturing to the man. "He was with me at Star Manor and has been acting as a spy for us in Birsha's house here in London, the Seven Veils."

"Why is it getting worse?" Jude asked.

"Birsha's focus has been split. He was planning an attack against Star Manor, his second effort at destroying Magdalena Mortimer's house," Asterion explained.

"House?" Jude asked.

Oddly, the minotaur appeared to blush.

"It's a place for courtesans who serve monsters," I said, and Jude only blinked and nodded.

"Star Manor was prepared, and she prevailed, at great cost to Birsha's allies. He lost—we all lost some impressive monsters of the community," Hunter said solemnly.

"His temper will be up, and unless he decides to act against Mortimer again, I suspect he'll turn his focus in your direction," Asterion said to Mr. Reddy.

"Politicking," Ronan muttered, shaking his head. "Makes my head hurt."

I flicked him gently on the back of the head, and he twisted to flash me a smile.

"The company has allies too," Mr Reddy said, puffing his chest.

"Of course we do, but have you told them what's going on?" I asked.

"Christ, it's like there's a second Myra buzzing around me," Mr. Reddy muttered.

"Did you write to the sphinx?" Hunter asked, offering to the rest of us, "I only know of one person who injured Birsha directly, physically, and she's in Egypt with several of our kind. I believe they're digging into Birsha's origins."'

"I did. No word back yet," Mr. Reddy said.

"We need help we can call on from closer than Egypt," Nireas said quietly, and I was surprised to find Mr. Reddy listening, nodding along in answer.

"Please tell the rest of the company what's happening," I urged, ducking my head until Reddy was forced to meet my gaze, his jaw grinding.

"If the patrons find out—"

"Your patrons will want the theater to remain in your hands," Hunter snapped.

"In spite of what Birsha would like to believe of us, there are more who seek out places like Mortimer's, entertainment like yours, than what he offers us. Why do you think he's so determined to crush you? He acts as though he is one of our kind, when really, he seeks to fashion us in his own image," Asterion said. Minotaurs were rare, and we'd never had one perform at the theater while I'd been here, but if they were all like Asterion—so eloquent and reassuringly calm—they would've had their pick of the company girls during their stay.

"It seems to me that until we're able to discover the killer, your company is safest if they know what they're up against," Jude offered.

"I suppose it might keep foolish girls from running off in the night before curtain call," Mr. Reddy grumbled, glaring at me.

"It would," I said, tipping my chin up at him. "Evie and Alexa and I can convince the others to weather the storm, if you'll give them better security."

"With Star Manor settling, Hunter and I may have some trustworthy volunteers," Asterion offered.

I'd known Mr. Reddy for eight years. We weren't friends, exactly, and everyone was right that he took as much advantage of me as I allowed him. Still, we had a moment of shared amusement at Asterion's offer.

"You know the girls appreciate new faces backstage," I said lightly.

"Your dance card is full, nut," Ronan whispered, not quietly enough for my taste. He laughed as I swatted him again.

Mr. Reddy sighed so heavily I knew he was faking, a natural melodramatic, always destined for the theater he found himself presiding over. "See who you can find," he said to Asterion before turning to Nireas. "Gather everyone together on stage. I'll be up in a moment."

Nireas nodded and pushed off the wall. Had he and Reddy always been like this? As if Nireas was the right hand? I'd thought that place had been Myra's, but she was really the advocate for the humans, not for Reddy's orders. More often than not, she was fighting those orders on our behalf.

Tags: Kathryn Moon Tempting Monsters Paranormal
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