I'm fine," I told him tersely. "Of course you are. You're one of the strongest people I know." It took me a second to process that, because he'd said it so casually. Like he was talking about the weather or what time it was. Only Pritkin didn't say things like that. His idea of a compliment was a nod and to tell me to do whatever it was I'd just done over again. Like that was usually possible. But that had sounded suspiciously like a compliment to me.
I dodged behind Mac for cover and refused to take the bait. I glanced at my nonexistent watch. 'Oops, look at the time. Guess I have to be going now. Let's not do this again sometime, okay?' Before I could move, Pritkin was there, jamming the medallion into the skin of my upper arm.'Ow!'He looked at me expectantly. I glared at him. 'That hurt!' What do you see?' A big red mark,
I couldn't see Pritkin's face very well, just a pale blur against the shadows, but he didn't sound happy. Some people thought he had only one mode... pissed off. In reality, he had plenty of them. Over the past few weeks, I'd learned to tell the difference between real pissed off, impatient pissed off and scared pissed off. I suspected that this was the last kind. If so, that made two of us.
He shook me, and despite it being one-handed, it made my teeth rattle. "If anything like that ever happens again. You. Leave. Me. Behind. Do you understand?" I would have argued, but I was feeling a little shocky for some reason. "I'm not good at abandoning people," I finally said. A front-desk person scurried over, first-aid kit in hand, but Pritkin snarled at the poor guy and he quickly backed up a step. "Then get good at it!" He stomped off, limping, one shoulder hanging at an odd angle. "You're welcome," I murmured.
He smiled at that, and then his gaze shifted to a spot over my shoulder and it faded. 'These doubts wouldn't have anything to do with the company you're keeping of late, would they?' I didn't get a chance to answer before the shop door was thrown open and a furious war mage stomped in. Pritkin spotted me and his eyes narrowed. 'You shaved my legs?!' Mircea looked at me and folded his arms across his chest. I looked from one unhappy face to the other and suddenly remembered that I had somewhere else to be.
Pritkin, it's a hotel room, not a death trap!' A glance over his shoulder showed him impatient blue eyes under a fall of messy blond curls. 'Anyway, you're here.' 'I can't protect you from everything, ' he forced himself to say, because it was true. It was also frankly terrifying in a way that his own mortality was not. He'd never had children, but he sometimes wondered if this was how parents felt when catching sight of a fearless toddler confidently heading toward a busy street. Not that his charge was a child, as he was all too uncomfortably aware. But the knowledge of just how many potentially lethal pitfalls lay in her path sometimes caused him that same heart-clenching terror. And the same overwhelming need to throw her over his lap and spank the living daylights out of her, he thought grimly, when she suddenly popped out of existence. 'Cassie!