Part 12

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When Neo brought us up to a private room at this little upstairs vegan restaurant a few blocks down from the Radisson, I wanted to ask how the southern branch of the IFA could afford to pay their Fae so much. I was back in my capitol hill attire, which was a fairly nice looking gray-and-blue getup, but even in some of my best clothes, Neo outdid me with his sharp, matching suit, tiny cuff links (which probably cost more than the human-sized ones), and his ability to slip the hostess enough money to get us a table wherever we wanted. By the spartan modern furniture and the ultra-hip price-less menu, I would bet that this place – The Grange – was one of the fanciest vegan spots in Austin.

Watching him with all his charm and wit, it occurred to me that Neo's wealth was likely from the same source as Caleb's. Neo was still a Muse, even if he wasn't one the front page of the New York Times. He probably had assets attached to family enterprises throughout the south. It's not as if the south had a surplus of Muses.

I was wedged in between several huge, plushy pillows in various bright-but-tasteful colors, sitting at the too-cool-for-chairs table which was only inches off the ground. Fortunate for us it was the perfect size. The waitress stepped through the gauzy curtains to take our orders, shutting the door to the private area behind her when she took it back to the kitchen. I chewed on my lip, just praying that whatever I ordered wouldn't break my own bank account. I was sure that Caleb or Neo would gladly pay for me if I needed it, but I wasn't about to ask for such a thing. Just because I was a Tree Fae didn't mean I had no pride.

 "So Amelie," Neo started right in, resting comfortably on his own mound of pillows. "You're a Northwest original, yeah?"

 "I have some roots from the native tribes," I acknowledged, taking a sip of my water. "More Irish than anything, though. Transplants."

"So many of us are," Neo smiled, his teeth starkly white against his dark skin. He nodded towards Caleb. "Especially that one, not even born in his region. How do they let you lead them up there?"

 "It's all in the name," Caleb shrugged. "You're doing well for yourself." The look that Caleb was giving Neo struck me as a little odd – almost suspicious – but I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it. I didn't know him well enough yet.

 "Not bad," Neo hedged. He winked at me in a very human way, to which I reflexively smiled. If ever there was a male match for Dyana, it was Neo. He had that same overly pleasant quality which would be annoying on anyone else, but was perfect on him. "I keep myself busy, you know. Tell me, Amelie, what did you do before you joined the IFA?"

 "Activism, mostly," I told him, "didn't pay very well, but it was alright. I felt like I could make more of a difference with the IFA."

 "We need more of that optimism," he rolled his eyes in Caleb's direction, "don't take after this guy. He's a dark one."

"I noticed," I chuckled.

 Caleb made a rude gesture at Neo, which drew laughs from all three of us. The two of them together made an odd pair – probably just as odd as me and Dyana. Caleb motioned toward the window, which we couldn't quite see out of. This restaurant didn't face the side of the street with the protests we'd passed. "Have you had any trouble from them?"

"I stay out of the city when I can, travel pretty light," Neo hesitated, "sometimes I do wish you'd let me have my cheerful conversations."

 "This is a business trip," his ultra-serious, dark eyes held steady on his old friend. "You said you had some important things to talk about, but I don't think it has to do with anything personal."

 Neo's eyebrow raised and his wings fluttered indignantly. "Straight to the point, yeah? Does he ever relax anymore?"

 "He's insufferable," I said.

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