As Valentine emerged from the lake I was reminded of that famous painting of Venus on a half-shell… if only because of the white caps and the fact Valentine was completely naked.
“Ah, oop!” Mac laughed in an embarrassed sort of way. Scrambling to his feet, he dashed toward the main pathway to the park. At first I thought he’d turned tail and bolted at the sight of a dragon, but he yelled over his shoulder: “I’ll fetch a beach towel from my saddle bags! You don’t want to get arrested for indecent exposure!”
Despite the hazy summer sun, there weren’t a lot of fishermen out on the lake. Even so, I did have to wonder how many people noticed the snow-white dragon circle and then dive deep into the lake. Maybe, so long as the Tinkerbell Effect was lower around these parts, they just mistook dragon-Valentine as a fast-moving cloud.
Sloshing his way to the shore, Valentine frowned down at me. “I didn’t expect to find you in the company of wolves.”
“Then you shouldn’t have left me to them,” I grumped, not looking at him. It was an awkward angle, anyway, given his nudity. “Sit down, would you? I can’t talk to you like that.”
Valentine chuckled, but did as I asked. He plopped down beside me on the sandy bank. Raising his knees, he wrapped his arms around them, hugging himself in a tight ball. “What’s happened?”
“Okay, let’s see, since you left, Jack accused you of being the killer—or people dropper, whatever,” I ticked off all the events on my fingers, “I cursed him into a concussion and nearly broke Sarah Jane, got arrested, tossed into a prison clearly built for you, discovered gold and jewels make me sleepy, got rescued by a gang of magpies, spooked by Nana Spider, called my stepmonster, and started hanging out with a werewolf biker gang!” I was nearly out of breath and fingers, but I added very sarcastic and exasperated: “Typical day, really! You??”
Valentine considered this for a long moment, his gaze focused on the sparkle of the waves in the sun. “So…” he said, finally. “If I filled our bed with pure gold you would complain less?”
I smacked the top of his head. The bop was just a tap, really, no real force behind it beyond my frustration with him. “That is not the point!”
Dodging a second blow, he asked, “What, pray tell, was the ‘take away’ I was meant to have gathered from your laundry list of woes?”
“They think you’re the bad guy,” I said. Giving up trying to pummel him, I let out a strangled cry of frustration and flopped back onto the sand. Staring up at the blue sky dotted with clouds, I said, “And, I saw you, too, Val! You had something in a burlap sack.”
“Ah,” he said. For a maddening moment, it seemed like he was going to leave it there and say no more. But, then he unwound to lay back on the sand with me. Propping his head up on one elbow, he looked down at me. He smoothed the hair away from my face with his other hand. “You realize, of course, I was merely de-cluttering the house for Robert. It seemed far more convenient to fly than to rent one of those horrid storage units. Besides, I have a perfectly decent lair of my own in which to store my treasure. I thought only to help our living situation improve.”
I felt stupid for doubting Valentine for even a second, but I was still grumpy. Maybe even more so, because then everything that had happened was all some kind of stupid mistake, and if I ended up killing Jack because of it, I’d never forgive myself. “Yeah, well, we can’t go back to Robert’s any time soon. I’m on the lam.”
“Awesome,” Valentine beamed. He looked as happy as if I’d just told him we’d won the lottery. “How do you feel about Russia? I have a lot of gold and jewels for you to sleep on.”
YOU ARE READING
Alex Connor thought that being the South Dakota Hughes County Coroner was going to be a boring cushy job. She didn't count on the fact that her first case would leave her with a magical, living tattoo and awaken her latent magical powers. Now she'...