Home > Infamous (Chronicles of Nick #3)(11)

Infamous (Chronicles of Nick #3)(11)
Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon

“Really?”

“Yeah, my parents are both only children.” Something he’d learned from Ambrose after he’d confessed that he wasn’t really Nick’s uncle. Ambrose didn’t want anyone else stepping forward and claiming to be a long-lost relative of Adarian’s. The last thing he wanted was for Nick to put his trust into the wrong person.

“That’s so sad. I’ve got almost two dozen cousins and a little sister in addition to my brother Joey. What about your grandparents? Surely they weren’t only children, too.”

“I don’t know anything about my grandparents. My dad’s parents died a long time before I was born and my mother never talks about hers.”

“I’m sorry, Nick.”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “Nothing to be sorry about. It just is. You can’t miss what you don’t know.”

She smiled again. “I like talking to you. You’re really smart and you have a great way of looking at things. It’s unique and makes me think.”

Every warning bell he possessed rang out. Flattery and insults both brought out the same reaction in him—What do you want? In his experience the people who flattered him to his face were the first ones who stabbed him whenever he turned his back. He hated it. Maybe he was judging her wrongly, but he’d been burned enough to be very wary of people’s motives.

He heard the sound of the arms about to lower over the street. “My streetcar’s coming. I need to get back to the Quarter.”

“Oh, okay. It was good talking to you. I’ll see you in school tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Later.” Nick ran to the platform, grateful to have an excuse to get away from Jill. He had no idea why she bothered him so, but …

He didn’t trust her and he didn’t believe in wasting time around people he didn’t trust. While they might be all right, it wasn’t worth the gamble. He’d rather be doing his homework, which said it all.

It didn’t take that long to get back to Sanctuary. His mom was busy with customers so he headed straight to his corner booth and resumed pulling his books out.

A few minutes later, he was tugging at his hair as he tried to understand his chemistry assignment when something white appeared next to him. Arching a brow, he looked over to see a double fudge sundae.

His jaw dropped as he looked past the three cherries to see his mom smiling at him. “Should I be scared? I get a burger and a sundae, and it’s not my birthday? Who are you, strange woman, and what have you done with my mother?”

Laughing, she rolled her eyes—something that would have gotten him grounded for a week. “Mr. Addams called me and told me what you did for Brynna. I don’t have any hero cookies, so you get a hero sundae instead.” She added whipped cream to the top, then set the bottle down next to him. “I love you, Nick.”

“Ditto.” He grabbed the spoon and dug in before she changed her mind or he did something else that got him into trouble and made her take it back.

With a shake of her head, his mom started away, then stopped to frown.

Nick glanced up, and did a double take as he saw Kody a few steps away. His mom didn’t look as pleased to see her as he was.

“Hi, Mrs. Gautier,” Kody said with a genuine smile. “Um, this isn’t a date, and I know Nick’s on restriction. Nick had no idea I was coming, but I knew he was here, and I wanted to ask him about the algebra homework we have. That is, if it’s okay with you?”

His mom relaxed. “I’m sorry, sweetie, you didn’t have to explain. I wasn’t frowning at you. I just … ever have a weird déjà vu moment? When I saw you in the light … it was so strange. Like I’d seen you before, but you weren’t you. Anyway, I’m being silly and it’s nothing against you. You want me to bring you something?”

Kody looked past his mom, to his sundae. “Any chance you might share that?”

“Only with you.”

She met his mother’s gaze. “May I have another spoon?”

His mom pulled one out of her apron pocket. “I’ll grab you some milk and water to drink, too.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Gautier.”

Kody sat down next to him while his mother headed toward the bar. She kissed his cheek before taking a bite of his sundae. Ah, the sneaky woman. She knew that little peck bought her instant distraction and guaranteed her that he would be incapable of speech for the next few minutes.

“Mark can’t find squat on who registered the domain. Whoever it is went through a company and all that’s showing up is that company’s information. Worse,the company is based in Canada.”

Which meant, with Mark’s luck, if he hacked it, it would cause an international war. “That sucks.”

“That’s what Madaug said. Still, Mark said he could and would eventually hack it, but it might take a few days. After you left, we got on the site and…” She closed her eyes and winced.

“What?”

“It’s awful, Nick. The site is mostly lists. Most stuck-up. Most obnoxious. Most likely to run an old lady over. Ugliest, et cetera.” She took another bite before she continued. “It also has personal information posted like who’s g*y. Who was caught mooning the crowd or flashing themselves at Mardi Gras. Who’s a virgin. Who’s slept with the most people. Those who have been treated for eating disorders and drug addictions, or STDs. Students who are cutters and alcoholics.” She hesitated before she added, “Who’s been arrested.”

Nick went cold. “Am I on it?”

She hesitated before she spoke. “Did you really shoplift?”

Righteous indignation and anger burned through him. “No! I had a sucker in my pocket when I went in and the store owner didn’t believe me. He called the cops, saying I’d stolen it from his store. But I didn’t. I swear it. My teacher had given it to me for scoring highest on a class test.”

She put a comforting hand on his arm. “I believe you, Nick. I do. It also lists what everyone’s parents do for a living. Whose parents are alcoholics or drug addicts.”

So much for the sundae. He no longer had any kind of appetite. He could hear the implication in her tone.

The students whose parents had been to jail, or in his case, had taken up permanent residency there.

“It tells everyone my dad’s a felon, doesn’t it?”

She nodded. “And it still lists your mom as a stripper.”

In that moment, he fully understood his father’s need to kill people ‘cause if he could be locked in a room for five seconds with the person behind this, he’d tear their head off, and laugh like a loon while he did it “Anything else about me?”

“They claim you cheated on your entrance exam, and that the only reason you weren’t thrown out for it is because your mother traded favors to the administrator to keep him from turning you in.”

Fury tore through him. “I swear, I’ll—”

Kody placed her finger over his lips to keep him from ranting. “Madaug is hacking into the site even as we speak to delete it all. For everyone.”

That helped, but it didn’t change one thing. “Yeah, but how many people have seen it?”

“Do you really care?”

He wanted to lie and say no, but he thought too much of her to do that. “Yes, Kody. I do care. There are some things that you just don’t want other people to know about you. Things that they don’t need to know. I would think if anyone should understand that, it’s you. Case in point, even after a year, I don’t know who or what you really are. Your real age. Anything. Who are your parents? Did the site say anything about you at all?”

She scoffed. “I’m on the most obnoxious list, worst dressed, and the she-enhances-her-attributes list. The parent thing is only what I have listed on my school record. It says my father’s a judge and my mother an accountant.”

“Is that true?”

“Depends on the definition you use.”

Nick snorted. “You’re never going to tell me anything about you, are you?”

Sadness furrowed her brow. “I hope I never have to tell you.”

There was a note of foreboding if he ever heard one. What was she? Another angel of death like Grim? Or something a lot worse?

Was there anything worse than Grim?

He really hoped not. “Will you at least tell me if you’re a demon?”

She swallowed her bite of sundae. “Definitely not a demon. You’d be able to see my real form if I were.”

That was news to him. “Really?”

“Really. The perspicacity you developed is honed enough that you will always see a demon no matter the form it’s taking. It might only be a flash that lasts no longer than a single heartbeat, but they can’t hide from you. Unless … they’re possessing someone.”

Possession was never a good thing. “I don’t understand.”

“Demons have two very scary cloaking powers. The mid and upper-level ones can assume any disguise they want. Kind of like Caleb appears to everyone as a teenager while he’s really thousands of years old.”

Yeah, Nick had seen his real form and he was …

U-g-l-y. But scary enough to run Freddy Krueger out of the dream realm.

Kody continued her explanation. “The lower demons and those who haven’t mastered their powers yet can take possession of someone. That takes a lot less energy and talent.”

“Really? I would have thought that was harder.”

“Some people are remarkably weak-willed and make very easy targets for all creatures. The best protection? Know yourself and have your own thoughts, right or wrong. Never let someone else think for you or you’ll find yourself a sheep in the slaughter mill.”

Nick forced himself to smile and act naturally as his mom returned with Nekoda’s milk and water. He waited for her to dash over to a table before he resumed their conversation.

“Like in The Exorcist?”

“Yes. The human has to do something that opens a conduit for the demon. Usually the demon uses a power called silkspeech or influence to get their target to do something they shouldn’t. The moment the doorway’s opened, the demon slips in and takes control of their body. The human has no idea they’re even possessed.”

He knew this scenario a little better than he wanted to. “They become Madaug’s zombies.”

“Pretty much, but they don’t have a bokor or outside master controlling them. The demon can only control them so long as it’s inside their body. That’s why you won’t be able to detect them.”

“Ever?”

“Depends. The Malachai has some exceptional abilities. So normally I’d say never. In your case … who knows? I wouldn’t put any ability past your father, and you have the potential to be even more powerful than he is.”

“How so?” Nick asked.

“Honestly, we’re not sure. It’s one of those things where we can see into the future, but you have some very distinct and exceptionally diverse paths you could follow and until you choose, we don’t really know what will happen to you, or what you’ll do.”

Nick frowned at that. “We? Who’s the rest of the group?”

“Speaking in the royal sense of the word.”

Uh-huh. Nick wasn’t so sure she was being honest about that. He was dying to know who ‘they’ were, but he’d been around Kody long enough to know she wouldn’t divulge anything.

“But we can alter my future, right?”

“That’s the plan,” she said wistfully. “If you give in to the demon side of yourself, you will destroy everyone around you. You won’t be capable of love or compassion.” Her words sent a shiver down his spine as he remembered the way Ambrose had attacked him. She was right. The last thing he wanted was to become that version of his future.

“What mangy, nasty rat died on top of your head, and why would you keep it there?”

Nick frowned at the angry tone from two booths over. He looked up to see Wren, one of the busboys, trying to clean an unoccupied table that was filled with dishes, while a man with a small group in the booth next to it harassed him. Tall and lean with blond dreadlocks that fell over his face, obscuring most of his features, and all of his turquoise eyes, Wren didn’t appear much older than Nick. Extremely antisocial- as in Wren took it to a whole new level uniquely his own- he seldom spoke to anyone. Rather, he functioned like a ghost, moving ninja-style through the restaurant and doing his job without comment or complaint.

What the moron antagonizing him didn’t know was that Wren was a tigard. Half white tiger and half snow leopard. And like a mighty shinobi, he could strike fast and hard with very lethal accuracy.

Nick held his breath for the bloodshed he was sure was imminent.

“Hey, freak! I’m talking to you,” the customer in the booth behind Wren called out. The man looked to be in his early twenties and beefy enough to back his animosity. If Wren were human. “Are you deaf as well as dumb and grungy?”

 

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