J.T. twisted and blinked at Phelan. His eyes felt gritty, but he couldn’t sleep yet. Not until they were sure that Neve Vaughan was out of the woods. That whole out of the woods part might take more time. “Fever seems like it’s down, at least,” he said. “The antibiotics Jacqueline pumped into her seems like it might be doing the trick.”
Phelan nodded slightly as he came over and set his bag down next to the bed. J.T. watched as the thin red-head reached down and almost reverently brushed dark hair out of his cousin’s face. “Déithe agus arrachtaigh,” he murmured. “She still looks like hell.” His gaze drifted over to Jacqueline, who was curled asleep in a nearby chair, wrapped in a blanket. “Did she—?”
“I think she tried,” J.T. said. “I don’t know. She might have succeeded. Seems like your cousin’s sleeping a little easier now, so either Jac did something or pumped more drugs into her while I wasn’t looking. I don’t think it’s the latter.” He scrubbed a hand roughly over his face, grimacing at the stubble he found there. What time was it, anyway?
He could see the shade of Constance lurking just out of the corner of his eye. He glanced in that direction and bit back a sigh.
“I think we’re about to have trouble,” J.T. said quietly.
“Is that why the hair is standing up on the back of my neck?” Phelan asked.
“No trouble,” Constance’s ghostly voice whispered. “Just keeping watch. Just in case.”
“In case of what?” J.T. asked, stomach folding painfully in on itself.
“In case she tries to leave him,” Constance said simply, her ghostly eyes glowing with other-earthly light, gaze drifting away from J.T. and toward the woman in the bed. “In case another Death comes for her. I am to keep watch. To tell her.”
Phelan’s brows knit. “I’m hearing…pieces of this, I think. What’s she saying?”
J.T. ignored him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Constance’s nose wrinkled in mock annoyance. If he didn’t know better, he’d never have thought a ghost could be annoyed. “I’m a guard against Death taking her, Jameson. Do you need to know something beyond that, or are you satisfied with knowing that I’m here to help, not harm?”
He frowned slightly and nodded. “I think I am.” He glanced at Phelan. “She’s here to safeguard Neve. Must be worse than we thought.”
“Safeguard her against—” Phelan cut himself off, mouth snapping shut. His eyes seemed to briefly erupt with green fire before he brought himself tightly under control again. “Who sent her?”
“Why is that—”
“Déithe agus arrachtaigh, Jameson, who sent her?”
J.T. looked at Constance’s shade. The ghost shifted uncomfortably, looking away for a moment.
“The maiden,” she finally said.
“Did you catch that?” J.T. asked Phelan.
“Only because I was trying.” A thin line of red trickled from Phelan’s nose. He scowled and dug a rag out of his pocket, shoving it up against the offending nostril. His voice came muffled from behind it. “The maiden, huh? That could be any number of death goddesses I’ve had the pleasure and displeasure of encountering.”
“I’m not permitted to say more on the matter,” Constance warned.
J.T. waved a hand. “I’m not going to ask more. I’m fine with knowing what I’ve already been told.” And if it’s a maiden, then it’s not the Morrigan again.
Of course, that means there’s some other death goddess watching us and that should make me really, really uncomfortable. So why the hell doesn’t it bother me?
Because stranger shit is happening to us lately and I’m a big boy and I can roll with the goddamned punches.
Phelan gave him a gimlet-eyed look, then shook his head slightly and sank down onto the edge of Neve’s bed. “If she’s here to watch over my cousin, then whoever she’s serving can’t be all awful. I’ll just have to trust her on this one.”
“You’re the one who’s told me to trust the ghosts I knew,” J.T. reminded him.
“I did,” Phelan said quietly, staring down at his cousin. “But that was well before one showed up to purportedly keep death watch over my cousin.”
“They kept death watch over you, too,” J.T. said. “Back when killing Vammatar almost got you killed. I didn’t realize it at first, but they were there the whole time.” On the edges of camp, watching and waiting. Then she came and they drew near again. As if it was suddenly safe again.
Phelan sucked in a deep, ragged breath. “You never told me that.”
“You never asked,” J.T. said, following his friend’s gaze to the pale face of the woman in the bed. “All of you people have guardian angels watching over you, y’know that?
“So do you guys,” Phelan said softly. “It’s just half of them are the flesh and blood kind.”
J.T. frowned. “Speaking of those, where did Cameron go? He was here before you got here and he stepped out for a minute and he hasn’t come back in.”
“I imagine he’s with Marin and Thom, getting grilled for information in the oh-so-delicate way they go about that sort of thing,” Phelan said, sounding weary.
A faint whistle reached both of them in the same moment. Phelan cursed under his breath as J.T. stood up abruptly.
Horror was etched on Constance’s ghostly face.
“You’d best hurry,” the ghost whispered. “Your enemies are legion and some are knocking at the door.”
Winter – Chapter 27 – 02