He looked less than happy to see me. Of course, blood and champagne were running down his bald head and into his eyes so I couldn’t really blame him.
“What happened to your hair?” I demanded at the same time he grabbed my elbow, dragging me through people who moved away from us, some lifting glasses in giddy cheers. I would have struggled to get away from him except that would defeat the purpose of all that time spent trying to find him. If he was hanging onto me then I wouldn’t have to hang onto him. He didn’t say anything until we’d gone inside, through the sound guard that left the party and music a world away from us. He marched me down the hall, throwing open a door that revealed a small but quite pleasant study with green leather furniture and bright white paint.
He propelled me into a chair, pushing his enormous weight down on my shoulders as though he didn’t believe I’d stay there before he folded his arms across his chest exactly the same as the Bloodworker had done earlier. It was too bad that the blood and champagne ruined his fierce scowl.
“What are you doing here?”
I blinked at him, startled at the question. Was he an idiot? Did he think I’d come all this way to dance with the Cool that he apparently didn’t like? I sat up in my chair while I fixed him with a polite smile. “It’s nice to see you, too. I could ask you the same question. What are you doing here other than throwing drinks at perfectly nice musicians? I’d thought you were raised better than that.” I lifted my eyebrow while I channeled the infinite disdain of my grandmother.
“Perfectly nice? That…” He sputtered for a moment, clearly overcome by my counterattack.
“As the only male who asked me to dance, yes, I’d say perfectly nice.” I wasn’t about to reveal my irrational anger at seeing him dance with a tree. “I don’t understand you hemorrhaging about whoever I danced with. You’re still bleeding. Maybe I should get a towel.”
He wiped his hand over his head distractedly. “It’s fine.” He picked a chunk of glass out, and I watched a large drop of blood drip onto the dark floor. I blinked at that clumsiness—that he’d sprinkle his blood around so carelessly.
“I didn’t mean to break it over your head,” I said, half an apology, rising from my chair to do something about the blood, but he shoved me back down, leaving a smear of blood on my shoulder, but at least not staining my camisole.
“The last time you ‘accidentally’ broke something over my head…”
“You’re going to say you didn’t deserve it for…” I trailed off, studying my hands in my lap. This was not going any of the multiple ways I’d planned for finding my brother. I couldn’t remind him of that time after mother died, right before the first time he’d left the House to go Hunting. I had to remind him why he wanted to stay with the House, to come back.
“Helen,” he said quietly, sitting down across from me. “This isn’t a safe party for you, in fact, I don’t think there’s anywhere in this country that’s going to be safe right now.”
I fought down the urge to argue that I could take care of myself because I needed him to feel like I couldn’t take care of myself, that I needed him to come back with me, to be part of the House even if it did feel broken without my mother. “Maybe not,” I said slowly. “But it’s not safe anywhere, is it? No matter where we go, or what we do, we can’t escape death.” I reached out and put a hand over his where he had a clenched fist on his knee. I hoped this worked. I’d tried to understand why he’d left, why he’d finally not come back. I think it was the realization that it was all a lie. The runes, the power, the security didn’t matter, because however long you lived it wasn’t going to be forever, and what else was enough when it came to someone you couldn’t live without? I felt a pang in my chest that made it hard to breathe.
“Well,” he said, putting my hands back on my lap. “Maybe you’re going to die, but you don’t have to run into the arms of the first unstable Hybrid you come across.” Hybrid? What was he talking about? The Cool musician, had he lied to me about being Cool? No, because he’d never specifically said that he was Cool, only referred to their tendencies. I stiffened in my chair as I mentally reviewed our conversation. I’d danced with a Hybrid? I’d been vulnerable and trusting of someone who could lose control at any moment? I blinked Saturn back into focus.
“It says something about a party that the most pleasant person there is a Hybrid. What are you doing at a wedding party anyway?” I was proud of how steady my voice came out because even though he’d ended up being trustworthy, pointing me in my brother’s direction unlike all the other Hotblood’s I’d tried to deal with, the idea of dancing so close to a Hybrid, the reality that I hadn’t even known what he was or why he’d singled me out disturbed me.
He glared at me, cracking his knuckles before he cleared his throat. “It’s my wedding party.” In the silence after those words I listened to the clock, ticking loudly in the corner of the room.
It couldn’t be true. They’d said it was a Hotblood’s wedding party, a Hotblood, nothing about a Wild. Camilla, somebody would have mentioned the Wild. It explained why there were so many Wilds, though. The idea of my brother marrying a Hotblood, of having Hybrid children who would manifest unknown traits, most of which would get the child killed, chilled me. There were enough unpleasant ways to watch the people you loved die.
“Well.” I stared at him, at his bald head and the unlit cigar still in his teeth. “I can’t say it’s agreed with you, marriage, I mean. Congratulations.” My voice was empty of emotion. I stood up, smoothing down my skirt. “I’d better not take you away from your guests any more than I already have.”
I was half across the room when he snorted, taking the cigar out of his mouth and rolling it between his fingers. “You’ll never understand.”
That stopped me. Of course I’d never understand how he could turn away from his family whatever the reason. Losing mother had made it clear how precious every member was to the whole. The House without Saturn would leave another gaping wound.
I slowly turned around. “Saturn, you’re right. I don’t understand. You didn’t invite me to your wedding, and when I stumble onto it, instead of coming to meet me, you try to kill my date. I don’t know you at all.”
“Date? You’re Matthew’s date?” His face turned this weird reddish purple color while his eyes which were too large in the first place got even bigger. “You didn’t even know he was a Hybrid. You’re dating someone who could paralyze you with the touch of his fingers, slip into your thoughts and make you do anything, can read every intention you have. He has no moral inhibitions about using his gifts against anyone. I’m supposed to sit back and let a filthy Hybrid sully my sister’s reputation?” That last bit came out a roar. Apparently he’d been spending too much time in the company of Hotbloods if he couldn’t have a civilized argument without raising his voice. It was all about inflection.
I crossed my arms over my chest before I realized I was copying his pose. “Your hypocrisy is incredibly annoying. You can marry a Hotblood girl and that’s just fine, but heaven forbid if I, someone you’re no longer even willing to be related to dances with a Hybrid. Would you prefer I take up with the Bloodworker I ran into?”
“Anyone, anything would be better than a Hybrid. You can’t trust them. Who knows why they do anything? Bloodworkers can be trusted to hate Wilds. I’d thought Matthew hated everyone, but apparently he gets some sick thrill out of putting his filthy hands on my sister.”
“Your concern is touching, or it would be if you hadn’t decided to cut all affiliations with my House. My safety is no longer your business. I don’t know which bothers you more, if I danced with someone in appropriate or that I enjoyed it, but either way, I’ll dance with every Hybrid, Hotblood, and Bloodworker I want, and you can’t stop me.” My voice rang as clearly as his did.
I ran across the room, yanking the door open. The Hotblood in the green dress tumbled in. She looked slightly guilty while I stared at her, realizing that this was no doubt the Hotblood Saturn had abandoned the House for.
“Congratulations. I wish you every happiness.” I tried to push past her but her hand gripped my arm.
“Are you leaving so soon?” She sounded sincerely disappointed, a complete revolution from the way she’d talked to me outside, when she must have known who I was and what I wanted. Now I wanted to rip her auburn hair out by the roots.
“Not right away,” I said reassuringly, forcing a smile at her. “I have to get back to my date before he leaves me for a tree.” I glanced back over my shoulder at my brother, well, the man who used to be my brother, before I slipped past the girl who had destroyed his future.
If you'd like to read something else from House of Slide, Here's the link for Hotblood and Hybrid Also, my lighter YA paranormal, Watergirl.
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week for another installment.