Judge Judy
60 Days In

Blind Shrike Page 49

Shrike walked over to him. Her eyes were clear and bright, though a little dark, as if she hadn't slept in days. Spyder looked for the white cane that doubled as her sword, but he didn't see it.

"My father was dying. I knew it the moment I saw him back in Madame Cinders' tower. I had to take him home," Shrike said. "And I had to get away from you."

"Did I do something to upset you?"

"Just the opposite. You saved me."

"Bullshit. You're the one with the sword, the one who knows magic and how to move between worlds. I was just faking it, doing card tricks."

"You don't understand. I'm a killer. I'd dedicated my-self to destroying life because mine had been stolen from me. I told the few people who asked that I was sorry I had to do it, but it was all that I knew. The truth is, I enjoyed taking life. And doing it for something as cheap as money made it all the better. I wanted to burn down the world for what it did to me and my family."

"I know the feeling."

"If things had gone a little differently years ago, I might have become someone like Madame Cinders. If you hadn't come along on this journey, I would have given her the book. I would have made a deal with the Dominions to bloody the whole world. I still thought about doing it, right up until the end."

"What happened?"

"You. I used you that first night because I wanted sex, so I gave you drugged wine. I needed someone to stand next to me at Madame Cinders', so I took you along. I needed someone who knew Hell, so I dragged you into something that could have killed you a thousand times. And I wouldn't have blinked if it had. Every time you gave me something I needed, I was ready to cut you loose. I was stringing you along because I knew how."

"If you came back all this way just to call me a sucker to my face, mission accomplished."

Shrike came closer, resting a hand on the bike's throttle, not touching him.

"I kept waiting for you to bolt. I kept waiting for you to catch on and sell me out. Betray me. But you wouldn't. At first I thought you were playing a game, angling to get the book for yourself. Then, I decided it was simple self-preservation. You wanted to get out alive and get the magic to restore your precious ignorance. But you kept not betraying me. You kept…" She hesitated.

"Caring about you?"

"I told myself you were trying to manipulate me, but you gave the book to Madame Cinders to save my father. Then you destroyed the book, and I knew you'd never tried to deceive me. I would have killed anyone to have the power in that book. You already had it in your hands and you threw it away. I know you wanted to save your world, but I think partly you did it for me."

"You know I did."

She looked way and frowned. "And I couldn't bear that. I couldn't look you in the eyes after I'd lied and used you all down the line. Being with you brought back all these feelings I'd thought I'd burned up years ago. Then, when I had my father and I knew he was dying, it was too much. I had to run away. Can you forgive me?"

"Of course."

"No," she said, holding onto his coat sleeve. "Not like that. Don't forgive me like you forgive some street urchin who picks your pocket. I need you to save me one more time. I need to know you can forgive me from that other part of you that refused to betray me or leave me when you could have."

Spyder tossed his cigarette, and put a hand over hers. "I can. I do. I always did. I wanted to strangle you for -pulling that ghost act back in the tunnels, but I knew you must have had a good reason. And I always knew I'd see you again."

"Really?"

"No. That was me being Cary Grant. I didn't know what the f**k to think when you took off. I was going out of my mind and I hated you. But you didn't lift my wallet, which is more than I can say for most girls you meet in alleys."

Shrike smiled and leaned against him.

"Maybe we can go to your place and try that first meeting again."

"On one condition."

"What?"

"Teach me magic. I still have all this juice left in me from falling into the book, but it comes out in strange ways. I was dreaming of my younger self back in Berenice the other night, and in the morning my bedroom was full of all the keys to all the cars I'd ever stolen."

Shrike put her hands on Spyder's shoulders and stood up.

"I'm glad you asked. I'd love to teach you. When you're ready, there's plenty of work for us to do. I'm going to take back my kingdom from the bandits who are running it now. After that, we'll figure out a way to drive the Dominions back into the oblivion where they belong."

Spyder ran his hands down Shrike's back, thrilling to the reality of her warmth, her presence right there with him.

"It's cute, how you have no ambition," he said.

"We'll have to leave this Sphere to do it. You'll come with me?"

"I'd be a fool not to."

Shrike climbed on to the back of Spyder's bike, wrapping her arms around him. Spyder kicked over the motor and gunned the engine. They shot off and the fog closed in behind them, swallowing the tail lights and even the engine noise. They were gone.

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