While Harry communed with Quaila, Ray sauntered over to join Mollin and Arrion Degas. “Arrion, you’re looking . . .” But here, politeness failed.
“Alive?” Arrion asked. “And happy to be so. Happier that Domina Jessyn is also safe.” He looked to where Jessyn hovered over Harry, then his gaze returned to the men at his side. “Has there been any word on Gavin?”
“Captain Marifanne had three teams down below, searching the garage and out in a two-kilometer radius from the club,” Maynard said, grabbing a handful of what looked like beignets but smelled like cheddar cheese. “Nothing,” he rumbled, waving a ham-like fist.
“He’ll surface again,” Ray said. And when he did, Ray meant to rid the Known of that particular cancer. “But,” he admitted, “at the moment Gavin’s not our main concern. We dealt two Syndicates a pretty devastating blow last night. We’re gonna have to watch our asses.”
“Succinctly put, though I do find the ‘we’ encouraging.”
All four men turned to see Fayla had joined them.
“Lady.” Ray nodded, and he and Maynard stepped aside to make room while Mollin rose to offer her a seat.
“You may keep your place,” she offered with a flick of a finger, and Mollin subsided. “Fortunately for us, last night’s debacle worked more in our favor than against. The revelation of Mariska and Neishi’s plot burned most of the bridges between the Black Rose Sisterhood and the Draconis Syndicate, but Neishi’s confession also made it clear the blame lay entirely at Mariska’s feet.”
“Doesn’t bode well for Mariska,” Mollin observed.
“No,” Fayla said, “it does not.” And while she didn’t smile, Ray didn’t doubt it was satisfaction he heard in her voice. “In the meantime,” she said, looking at Mollin and Ray, “Harry wishes a word with the both of you.”
“Of course he does,” Ray said.
“Oh boy,” Mollin said, rising from the chair with a sigh.
“Courage, Amis,” Degas offered as the two men departed.
* * *
“So,” Harry said as Jessyn settled his pillow behind him, “tell me about your boyfriend. Does he treat you right? Have a job? Can I beat him up?”
As he’d hoped, this brought out a laugh.
What he hadn’t expected was that the low, throaty chuckle would remind him so much of her mother.
“He is a good man,” she said, glancing under her lashes at Ray, who even now approached, Mollin at his side. “Even though he doesn’t believe it. Sálufá,” she greeted Ray, rising and brushing a hand over his shoulder. “Do not overtire him,” she warned both the newcomers.
“And here I was hoping to go a few rounds on the mat,” Ray said.
She responded, to Harry’s unbridled delight, with a punch to Ray’s shoulder. He gave her a look that both reassured and galled before they closed in for a kiss that had Harry desperately looking elsewhere.
“Clear,” Mollin said after an uncomfortably long moment.
“Praise be,” Harry muttered, bringing his attention back to the two men looming over the side of the bed, both healthy and robust and irritating. “So . . .” He looked up at Ray and kept his voice low, “You work for Doyle.”
Ray, lips twisted in a not-quite-smile, nodded.
“And you,” Harry turned to Mollin. “You knew?”
“Not at first.” Mollin glanced at Ray, standing to his left. “I figured, after seeing the setup on your ship, you were most likely in the game. It wasn’t until the both of you asked me to deliver a message to Doyle, right before the plan went into play, that I figured it out.”
“And you didn’t think to tell either of us?” Ray asked.
“I floated the idea to Uncle Mikey,” Mollin admitted. “It was a nonstarter. Compartmentalizing, he called it.”
“I can see that,” Harry said, startling both men. “Seriously. Think about where he sent us. Where we are right now.” He glanced around the room, filled with various flavors of ’path. “Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. Still,” he continued, studying Ray, “he had to know if I was looking at Seth and you were looking at Sims and Gavin, we’d run into each other, sooner or later.”
“Know? Hells, I bet he planned it,” Ray said.
“I’d second that,” Mollin agreed. “And it’s hard to argue his plan, given we won.”
“But was it enough of a win to keep us from local prosecution?” Harry shifted, wincing slightly. “Never mind my Neishi-on-a-stick issue, we trashed three businesses in three nights. That may be a record.”
“Neishi’s on the books as self-defense,” Mollin stated.
“And technically, Al-Kar and Booth trashed Ankhar,” Ray pointed out.
“Plus, it was Braxx who started the fight in the Needle,” Mollin added. “Also on record, thanks to your ocular.”
“Oh, well then, I guess we’re okay.” Harry didn’t spare the sarcasm, but a beat later his expression closed up, telling the others company was coming.
“Don’t shutter your thoughts on my account,” Fayla said, joining them. “A joke,” she added as all three men shifted uncomfortably. “We do have them.”
“Ha,” was Harry’s response.
Her lips turned up in that hint of a smile. “Mr. Mollin,” she said, while still looking at Harry, “Mister Degas should return to his room. I wondered if you would assist Maynard in getting him settled?”
“Certainly,” the Cherrii said, already stepping away from the bed. “You should rest too,” Mollin told Harry over his shoulder. “You’ve looked better.”
“Wow.” Harry blinked. “Thanks.”
“Guess the party’s winding down,” Ray noted.
Harry looked past him and saw that Tahna and Caris had already departed. With Maynard and Mollin taking Arrion out, that left Ray, Fayla, Harry, and . . .
“Jess.” He smiled as his daughter—and that was never going to get old—joined them, sliding in to sit at Harry’s side while Ray hovered over her.
“Father,” she said, visibly relishing the chance to use the word . . . and that wasn’t going to get old, either.
“You know,” he said, glancing up at Ray and Fayla, “none of this can stay under the radar forever.”
“It need not remain hidden forever.” Fayla joined Jessyn on the side of the bed. “If all goes as I plan, a time will come when such relationships will no longer be anathema to the Matriarchy. Perhaps not today or tomorrow, but someday—”
“And for the rest of our lives,” Harry threw in.
Ray stifled a sigh. “Casablanca?”
“The most classic of classics,” Harry said, sinking back into the pillow and stifling a yawn. “In fact,” he said, fighting off the weariness, “I’m pretty sure this counts as the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“While I won’t disagree, I think you’d better take Mollin’s advice and get some shut-eye,” Ray observed.
“Et tu?” Harry said but didn’t argue when Jessyn removed the extra pillows or when Fayla tucked the coverlet around him.
Didn’t argue because, even as he went horizontal, he was asleep.
“Wow,” Ray said.
“He had help.” Fayla glanced at the empty water glass. “And will likely be asleep for a few hours.” She looked up at Ray, “If the two of you wish to find someplace more private for the next little while? I will be certain to contact you when he wakes.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Ray said, tugging Jessyn’s hand. “Want the platinum tour of my ship?”
“If you are certain,” Jessyn said, torn between father and bond mate.
“He is healing well,” Fayla promised. And you should enjoy what time you may with your beloved, she added silently.
The younger woman’s gratitude washed over Fayla, and she watched as Jessyn brushed a kiss over Harry’s forehead before taking Ray’s hand.
Fayla watched the young people make their escape and then, for the second time in as many days, she settled down to watch over Harry Finn while he slept in her chambers.