I watched as he crept toward the cellar door, quiet as a mouse, his Glock at the ready. He stood to one side of the doorway and pushed, easing the door open. Nothing happened. He slipped one hand through the opening and felt for a light switch. After scrabbling for what seemed like forever, he found it and snapped the cellar light on. A snarling, slavering mass of fur exploded from the darkness…
… just as Seth’s doorbell rang, pulling me out of my book and scaring the hell out of me. I jumped and looked around, almost surprised to find myself snuggled into the corner of one of the couches in Seth’s –our– living room.
Seth peered at me over the top of his own book. “Were you expecting someone?” he asked with a little frown.
I shook my head.
Sighing, Seth levered himself up from the sofa and padded toward the front door. The doorbell rang a second time just before he peeked through the peephole and then jerked the door open.
“What the hell?”
“Hello to you, too,” I heard a familiar voice say.
I knelt on the sofa so that I could lean over the back to look out the doorway and across the foyer to the front door. I couldn’t see much except Seth’s back and the pair of arms wound around his neck. Then he stepped aside to let our visitor in and shut the door, and I knew why the voice had sounded familiar.
I turned around and sat down again as Jenny Marshall walked into the living room.
“Hey,” I said.
“Hey? That’s all you got? Hey?”
“What are you doing here?” Seth asked as he curled up on the other sofa again.
Jenny leaned against the back of the sofa and looked at me. “Since Elizabeth hasn’t returned any of my calls, or emails, or texts, I figured I better come make sure she was still breathing.”
I rolled my eyes and picked up my e-reader, determined to go back to my book.
“Chris thinks you dumped him but didn’t have the balls to say so.”
I looked back up at Jenny, ready to argue, but I didn’t get the chance. Seth beat me to it.
“Chris is giving her space, Jenny. He knows she’s dealing with a lot of shit right now.”
“Like he isn’t?”
“I didn’t say that.” Seth leaned his head back against the arm of the couch so that he was looking up at the ceiling. “I talk to him almost every day, Jen. We know what’s going on with him, and he knows what’s going on with us.” He turned his eyes on her. “But I’d be willing to bet he has no idea what you’re up to right now.”
Jenny frowned but didn’t argue. Instead she turned to me and said, “He talked to the school and made sure you’re going to get your internship credit so you can graduate. Did you know that?”
“He did?” I asked.
Seth rubbed his face with one hand. “He told me last night, but asked me not to say anything. He wanted to tell you himself. He was planning on calling you today.”
I glanced at my cell phone, lying on the end table between the two sofas, and thought about calling Chris. I knew that was probably exactly what Jenny wanted me to do, though, so I decided to at least wait until she was gone before I called him.
“Yeah, he did,” Jenny said, ignoring Seth. “And just so you know, he’s not the only one who’s feeling abandoned. Mom and Hannah miss you, too.”
There was no way in hell I was going to let her make me feel guilty about protecting myself, so instead of admitting that I missed them, too, I glared at Jenny and said, “Well. You’ve seen that I’m alive. You’ve interrupted a perfectly good afternoon, annoyed the hell out of both me and Seth, and spoiled Chris’s surprise. What else ya got planned for your impromptu trip to Lalaland?”
The air seemed to go out of Jenny’s sails then. Her shoulders sagged and she sighed. “I didn’t come here to fight,” she said. “I really did want to see for myself how you’re doing. I guess not being greeted with open arms set me on edge. That or not sleeping for the last day and a half.” She rubbed her eyes, and Seth reached up to lay a hand on her arm.
“Guest room’s all yours, if you want it,” he told her.
Jenny half turned and eyed the staircase. “It up there?”
“Then one of you needs to scoot your ass over and share a couch. I’m lucky I made it this far. Those stairs would be the death of me.”
Her eyes widened as she realized what she had said and she covered her mouth with one hand.
“It’s just an expression,” I said, laying my e-reader aside.
I knew she was thinking about Robbie Quinn, who’d been a friend of mine and Jenny’s as well as one of Jenny’s exes. He’d taken a fatal header down a staircase a few weeks before during a magic-induced hallucination. My irritation with Jenny gone, I pushed myself to my feet and skirted the sofa to hug her.
“I’m okay,” she lied, her voice thick with unshed tears. But she hugged me back for a long time.
Seth closed the blinds and pulled a blanket and throw pillow out of the storage compartment in his coffee table. He tossed the pillow and blanket on one of the sofas and said, “You can nap here, if you want, or we can make sure you get upstairs okay.” He wrapped his arms around both of us. “It’d be kind of awesome to have two women in my bed. Again.”
Jenny giggled, and I grinned. I took a step back and let Seth hug her properly.
“Come on,” he said. “Nap time.”