Chapter Twenty-Five

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May hadn't heard the door open. When she looked back, she found the threshold filled by three figures. On one side stood Blake, tall and composed, and on the other was the Art Collector. A slight, mischievous grin stretched across her lips as she watched May with unveiled curiosity. Her tattooed arms ended with her hands planted firmly on her hips.

But it was the woman between them who held May's attention. She wasn't especially tall, but she carried herself like the biggest force in the room. Rich brown skin, inky black eyes set deep into her narrow, lined face on either side of a long, hooked nose. May figured the woman had to be in her late fifties. Slick, full white hair ended in a curl just below her shoulders. She was aging brilliantly; a picture of sophistication and power.

"I thought you wanted to meet with me," the woman purred, a smile pulling at the corners of her bowed mouth.

"Are you Necar Devereaux?" May asked, turning  to face them. She moved slowly so as not to disturb Fargus who was still balanced on her arm. Blake stiffened, scandalized, though May couldn't tell if it was because she had addressed his boss so casually or because of the bird.

The woman – Devereaux – nodded slowly without breaking eye contact. Her black eyes shone as she took May in from head to toe.

"Oh, you're a Gardener, alright. Color me thrilled."

May wasn't sure how to respond to that.
"What's that?" asked the Art Collector, stepping into the room and pointing a long acrylic fingernail at Fargus.

"He's, uh, a raven?" May answered like she was asking a question of her own.

"Fascinating. Close that window, will you?"
May and Fargus shared a quick, interspecies look. As the bird fluttered to her shoulder, May pulled the window shut and snapped the latch back into place. When she turned back around, Blake had closed the study doors. Necar stood on the other side of the deck, watching May with sparkling delight. She motioned to the seats by the fire where the Art Collector was already lounging.

"Come, sit," said Necar. "Let's talk."

"Where are my friends?" May asked. "Why did you separate us?"

Necar waved a dismissive hand as she took a seat. "Because I don't want to talk to them, I want to talk to you. The secret daughter of Oliver and Dawn, what a treat." When May didn't move, Necar continued. "Your friends are fine, dear. You'll see them when we're finished talking. Sit."

Now May did as she was told. She eased into a low chair across from the two women. Fargus hopped to the arm of the chair, while Blake stood sentry by the doors. May sized up Necar, with her professionally tailored suit, worn without anything other than a dripping diamond-encrusted necklace beneath the blazer. This woman was impressive, and under her gaze May felt like a flustered school girl.

"You look just like your mother," Necar remarked between her long fingers, which she was tapping thoughtfully against her lips. "It's incredible."

There was a flutter in May's stomach. After a lifetime of barely giving her birth parents a second thought, she was surprised by her own sudden interest when faced with their ghosts.
"Did you know them well?" she asked, perhaps more earnestly than she intended. "Do you know where they are now?"

Necar arched her eyebrows. "What do you mean? When was the last time you saw them?" Beside her, the Art Collector's brows furrowed.
May laced her fingers together in her silk swathed lap and looked down in discomfort.

"Never, actually. They gave me up right after I was born."

Sitting back in her seat, Necar surveyed May with an expression that was impossible to read. May fidgeted, worried her confession had just made her significantly less fascinating and therefore, no longer worth the consignee's time. Beside her, Fargus twitched his head and stared up at her unblinking.

"If you're hoping I can help you find them, I'm afraid you're out of luck." Necar spoke slowly. She kept her eyes locked on May, watching for her reaction as unblinking as the raven. "I haven't heard from them in years – no one has. In fact, I'm willing to bet that has something to do with you."

May's face warmed at the thinly veiled implication of blame. Necar wasn't exactly wrong, but May wasn't about to say so. A soft, throaty rattle rose up from Fargus, and May was inexplicably encouraged by the sound.

"Actually, that's not why I'm here," she said.

"Not exactly, anyway."

Necar leaned forward with a curious hum. She rested her elbows on her knees and pressed her fingertips together. Over the peak of her fingers, she stared May down.

"What's your name, girl?"

"It's May."

There was a beat of silence.

"Any why are you here, May?"

There was a thrill in May's stomach, one part excitement and another anxiety. She was on the precipice of an answer.

Taking a deep breath, she spoke.

"I don't know much about my birth parents, but I know they were criminals – thieves. And I know you helped them. Which is why I'm hoping you can help me. I need to find something they stole."

The Art Collector snorted lightly and covered her grin with an inked hand. She and Necar exchanged vaguely condescending looks. May fought to keep her expression impassive, not wanting to screw up an already delicate situation just because she felt like they weren't taking her seriously.

"Sorry kiddo. I'd like to do good by Oli and Dawn, but I can't go divulging buyer details. You don't get to be as successful as I am with loose lips. I have clientele to protect."

"I know, but this is important."

"It always is."

"I'm trying to find the fallen wishing star," May blurted. Desperate. Worried she was losing what little leverage she had left.

A silence fell. The Art Collector looked to Necar, curious. Necar sat up straighter, narrowed her eyes and frowned.

"I can't help you," she said.

May felt her heart sink. "Please, if you'd just–"
Necar cut her off.

"This isn't personal, May. It's not even business. Your parents never moved that thing; not with me or anybody else."

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