Iced - Page 68/120

Feck, feck, feck.

I paste on a mask, turn around and begin the pretending game.

“And you’re Rainey Lane,” I say. Same beautiful blond hair as her daughters, even though they were both adopted. Same pretty demeanor: classy feminine Deep South. She’s walking around in chilly, gloomy-ass late afternoon Dublin, dressed like somebody’s going to care she’s color-coordinated and accessorized. I guess Jack Lane does. Unlike most married folks I’ve seen—not that I’ve seen a lot—they seem to be crazy about each other. I saw them in Alina’s photo albums. I saw them in Mac’s. I’ve seen pictures of this woman holding her daughters when they were small. I’ve pored over photos of her beaming at their sides when they were grown.

Like she’s beaming at me now.

Like she doesn’t know I killed her daughter. I guess she doesn’t. I guess the last time Mac talked to her was before she found out it was me that took Alina to that alley to die.

For a second I get this stupid vision of how she’d be looking at me right now if she knew, and it kicks the breath right out of my lungs and leaves me standing there dumb. I have to clamp down all my insides so I don’t puke. She’d hate me, despise me, stare at me like I was the most disgusting, horrible thing on the face of the Earth. She’d probably try to claw my face off.

Instead of this … this … mom-love-bullshit thing glowing in her eyes like I’m her daughter’s best friend or something, not her other daughter’s murderer. I thought Mac was the worst thing I’d have to face one day on these streets.

I’m smothered in a hug before I can dodge it, which shows how discombobulated I am. On a good day I can dodge raindrops! I forget myself for a sec, because she’s got soft mom arms and hair and a neck you want to cling to. Worries melt on mom bosoms. She smells good. I’m enveloped in a cloud that’s part perfume, part something she baked lingering on her clothes, and part some indefinable thing I think are mother-hormones that a woman’s skin doesn’t smell like until she’s raised babies. It all combines to make one of the best scents in the world.

After my mom was dead and Ro took me to the abbey, I used to whiz by the house every couple days. I’d go into Mom’s bedroom to smell her on her pillow. She had a yellow pillowcase embroidered with little ducks along the edges like my favorite pajamas. One day the smell was just gone. Every vestige of it vanished without a trace. Not one tiny little sniff left for my supersniffer. That’s the day I knew she was never coming back.

“Get off me!” I eject myself violently from her embrace and back away, scowling at her.

She beams like one of Ryodan’s supercharged flashlights.

“And stop beaming at me! You don’t even know me!”

“Mac told me so much about you that I feel like I do.”

“Well that’s just stupid on your part.”

“I read the latest Dani Daily. Jack and I hadn’t heard of those bugs. You’ve been doing a wonderful job keeping everyone informed. I bet that’s a lot of work for you.”

“So?” I say suspiciously. I hear a “but” coming.

“But you really don’t need to anymore, honey. You can relax and let the adults take over.”

“Yeah, right. Weren’t adults in charge when the walls fell? And haven’t they been in charge since? Doing a real bang-up job, aren’t you all?”

She laughs, and the sound is music to my ears. Mom laughter. Melts me like nothing else can. Guess because I heard it so rarely from my own. I think I made my mom laugh three times. All before I “transported” for the first time. Maybe it happened once or twice after that. I tried. I’d memorize funny things I saw on TV while she was gone. I’d watch musicals, learn cheery songs. Nothing I did was right. Rainey Lane is looking at me with more approval than my mom ever did.

“Go. Away. No, wait. Don’t. You can’t be out here alone. I’ll find somebody to take you back wherever you go. What are you doing walking around Dublin alone? Don’t you know nothing? There’s all kinds of monsters in the streets! It’s going to be dark soon!” Somebody needs to knock some sense into her.

“Aren’t you the sweetest, to worry about me? But you don’t need to. Jack’s just around the corner, parking, honey. There’s too much debris in the streets to park any closer. I keep telling Mr. Ryodan he needs to clean up outside his club but he hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I suppose we may have to help him out with that. He’s a busy man, you know, a lot on his plate.”

“Crime is time-consuming, isn’t it?”

She laughs and I get my first suspicion she might just be totally clueless. “Aren’t you funny? Mr. Ryodan a criminal. That nice man.” She shakes her head, smiling like I’m just the funniest thing. Yep, clueless. “Dani, honey, I’ve been hoping to run into you. Mac has been, too. Why don’t you come have dinner with us tomorrow night?”

Yeah, right. Skewered Dani on the menu, served up with a side of veggies. Not. Would all three of them take turns beating me to death, once Mac ratted me out?

“There are some people I’d love for you to meet. There’s a wonderful new organization in the city that’s been doing fabulous things, bringing about some real changes.”

I shoot a big, melodramatic, beleaguered look at the heavens, then back at her. “You can’t be talking about WeCare. Please tell me you’re not talking about WeCare.”

“Why, yes, I am. You’ve heard of us!” She’s beaming again.

“Us? Gah! Please tell me you’re not part of them! You can’t be part of them! Do you know they hate me?”

“No we don’t. WeCare doesn’t hate anyone. We’re all about rebuilding and helping. Whatever gave you that idea?”

“We.” She’s slaying me. Is Mac part of them, too? “Dude, like, maybe the way they copied my paper, took over my posts, and printed all kinds of lies about me.”

“I happen to know for a fact that top individuals at WeCare are eager to meet you. They think as much of you as Mac does.”

Gee, great, so they want me dead, too. Top individuals. Lovely. They can get in line behind Christian. Who’s behind the Unseelie princes.

“They think you could be a tremendous asset. I think so, too.”