Angelus preserves the carpet.

He woke up in a confused kind of hell. His mouth was dry as paper and tasted indescribably foul. There was a terrible, heaving pain in his head. He lay for a moment staring at the spots whirling behind his eyelids, trying to remember whom he’d fought, and hoping he’d got a few good blows in before being knocked out. It certainly felt as though the other fellow had.

He was lying flat out on his stomach, and he lifted a hand slowly to lever himself up. His left shoulder sent up a searing protest that his back answered dully. He swore and pushed himself to his knees, then rubbed his eyes.

They burned when he opened them, but he saw at once that he was in Angelus’s hotel room, lying on the floor. On a bed sheet, actually; someone had carefully laid a sheet over the carpet, and he was lying on top of that. It was dark in the room—the curtains were drawn, with a cruel white edging of sunlight—but he could see a few dark stains on the sheet. Angelus’s hat was on the table and his overcoat was laid neatly over a chair. Angelus himself was nowhere to be seen.

Will rubbed a hand over his head, stood up, and looked down at himself. The sight was a startling one. He was painted from head to toe with dried blood—great looping splashes of it, as if someone had flung a bucket of gore over him. He lifted his arm and sniffed a spot on his sleeve. The blood wasn’t human. It also wasn’t his own, which was a relief.

His legs were like milk, and after a moment’s wobbling in the centre of the carpet he limped over to the chair and sat on Angelus’s coat. He felt sicker than he’d felt in years; perhaps sicker than he’d ever felt. When he lifted his hand to his face he found a hard sore lump on his jaw.

He sat silently, staring at the spatters on his trouser legs. The heat, which he hadn't noticed immediately, began to close him in a sickly hug, and he loosened his collar with shaking fingers. He’d torn the back seam of his coat, and lost his tie. His hat was nowhere to be seen. He noticed this last with a small, hollow satisfaction.

His stomach clenched and he had a bad moment, wondering whether he was going to vomit. He waited it out with his head in his hands, and when it finally passed he looked up pitifully, wondering where Angelus was. He was sick, and he’d been beaten, and he wanted to be cared for. He didn’t give a toss if it was weak. He felt worse than he’d felt since the day he died, and he wanted nursing.

But even as he thought this, he felt a slight uncomfortable stirring of memory in the back of his mind. He stopped testing his jaw and stared at his feet, trying to remember what had happened last night. He’d cached the girl, and there had been that strange moment of unease in the slums. He’d seen something. And he’d come home intending to tell Angelus about it—so perhaps he’d been taken by surprise somehow, and beaten? That would explain the welt on his jaw.

Perhaps he’d killed it, whatever it had been. He lifted his arm and sniffed at the blood again. It smelled animal—but what animal could have attacked him, here in Brighton?

His unease turned on itself and began to worry at the question of Angelus’s whereabouts. He stood up, wrenched off the torn suit coat, then saw that he’d burst all the buttons on his waistcoat, and slipped that off too. If Darla was in her room, he could at least ask her what had happened, but he couldn’t go down the hall looking like he’d come from an abattoir.

He sat back down to take off his shoes and, for no reason whatsoever, clearly remembered standing in the door to the room, staring at Dru and Angelus in the bed.

He paused—and was clutched with cramps again. He hunched over with his arms wrapped around his belly and tried to think. He’d made it back all right, and found Dru in Angelus’s bed, and he’d gone straight out again to get drunk—

His mouth fell open and a heavy chill settled over him, despite the heat. He had a vague smeared recollection of a glittering row of bottles, a mirrored backfitting, a wooden sign that said something about peasants. He lifted his hand to touch his jaw again, and his left shoulder flared. He couldn’t quite remember what he’d done to earn that, yet.

He didn’t have the chance to pursue it, because the door opened and Angelus stepped in. He looked clean and pressed and upright, in a neat dark coat and a cream day waistcoat. His collar was crisp and white as paper, and his tie was a thing of beauty. He closed the door softly behind him and went directly to the wardrobe on the far side of the room.

Will half-stood, then thought better of it and sat down with his arms still round his stomach. “What’s happened?” he asked weakly. “Did I—I mean, is everything all right?”

Angelus opened the wardrobe and began to take out the Morocco travelling cases they’d bought in Leeds. He placed them on the bed and turned back to take out several of his coats. Will watched dumbly as he folded them and laid them in the cases.

“We’re leaving?” Will asked after a moment. “Why are we—what’s going on?”

Angelus used his thumb to give a knife’s edge crease to the coat he was folding. He put it in the case and closed the lid, then lifted the case down to the floor and turned back for another armload of clothes.

Will stood up—too fast, as black spots winked across his vision. He braced himself against the chair, swallowed down his nausea, and tried to put some iron in his tone.

“Tell me what’s going on,” he said. “Why are you packing to leave?”

Angelus finished arranging the contents of the case, then looked up at Will. “I can hardly call a servant in to do it, with you looking like that.” His voice was cool and low.

Will stood staring for a moment, while Angelus closed the case and put it beside its fellow. He shut the wardrobe doors with a soft click, his back to Will.

“We’re leaving, then?” Will asked stupidly. “Why?”

Angelus paused, his head slightly tipped. It struck Will, inconsequently, that Angelus’s shoulders were extremely broad.

Then Angelus turned round, and Will forgot about his shoulders in favour of the cold black look on Angelus’s face.

“Will you please tell me—” Will started to say, hearing with dismay the hint of a whine in his tone. He was cut off by Angelus walking suddenly straight across the room toward him.

“Wait, I don’t even know—” Will tried to back up in a hurry and almost fell. Angelus caught hold of his shirt, yanked him upright, and punched him in the face.

It was a very hard blow; harder than anything Angelus had given him in months, and for a second Will was as incapacitated by the shock of it as by the pain. He couldn’t hear or think; he could only see the ceiling. Dull white, a decorative moulding. There was blood in his mouth and his neck felt broken.

He raised a slow incompetent hand and tried to pull Angelus’s fingers away from his shirt, but Angelus only lifted him off his feet and shook him till his teeth chattered. He tried to kick out and missed completely.

“Shut up,” Angelus said, and Will realized he was gasping. He closed his mouth. Angelus dropped him without warning, so that Will’s knees buckled and he fell. “Why do you think we’re leaving?”

Will looked up and tried to speak. His head spun and he felt desperately ill.

“You killed a horse,” Angelus said flatly. He took out his handkerchief and began to wipe his hands with a look of disgust. “Do you remember that?”

Will pushed up onto his knees, started to stand, and fell back down again. He remembered the sign about peasants, and then—the feel of the pump handle coming loose in his hand. The sheared bolts clinking on the pavement. Then quickly across the street to the abandoned hansom, and the bay horse with one white sock.

He touched his cheek where Angelus had punched him, and felt blood where the skin had split.

“Tell me,” Angelus said coldly, “because I’m interested to know. Was there a rationale? Or was it a random sensationalist act?”

Will stomach heaved, and he clenched his teeth. Angelus prodded Will’s chest with the toe of his shoe, and Will batted it away angrily. “Get off,” he gasped. “Leave me alone.”

Angelus drew his leg back and kicked Will in the belly. Will went over on his back from the force of it, and found himself pinned with Angelus’s foot on his neck.

“You imbecile,” Angelus said. “You realize the driver saw you, don’t you?”

Will writhed and clawed at Angelus’s leg; Angelus shifted his weight until Will’s throat felt ready to split. He forced himself to lie still.

Angelus studied him with a frown, then abruptly bent down and put his hand to Will’s face. Will flinched, but Angelus merely wiped the blood from his cheek with his handkerchief. It wasn’t a tender gesture; Angelus might as well have been mopping something spilled on a tabletop.

“Don’t bleed on the carpet,” he said. “If you’re going to be ill, do it in the basin.”

Will tried to speak but couldn’t, and resorted to nodding sharply. Angelus lifted his foot and Will rolled away and got over to the basin just in time. He retched and coughed; the stuff that came up was half blood, half liquor. It stank and burnt, and there was a great deal of it.

At last he sat back and wiped his mouth with a trembling hand. Angelus was somewhere behind him, silent and unmoving.

“You came and fetched me,” Will said, without turning around.

“I did.”

“How did you know where I was?”

Angelus snorted and didn’t bother to reply. Will touched the welt on his jaw. “Did you kill the driver?”

Again, Angelus snorted. “No,” he said. “I paid him ten pounds for the horse.”

Will was silent, probing his jaw. “Wasn’t worth half that,” he said after a moment.

“Nor are you,” Angelus said. “We’re leaving tonight, by the evening train. I think we’ve attracted quite enough attention in Brighton. Or rather, you have.”

“But—” Will stopped, because he couldn’t think of anything further to say. There was no conceivable excuse. Now he could remember the shriek of the cab driver at his elbow, and the louder screams of the horse. He lifted his left arm experimentally, and felt the ache again.

“All right,” he said dully, and stood up.

“I haven’t finished with you,” Angelus said. “We have to wait out the day here, but if you can still walk tomorrow morning, so help me God—”

Will was unbuttoning his shirt with shaking fingers, and for a moment he couldn’t make them work at all. He stared at the basin, felt his stomach roll, and reached out carefully to shove it under the chest of drawers. “All right,” he said again.

“I’ve told the servants you’re ill, and not to be disturbed,” Angelus said. “You can pack your own things, and take care of this mess.” Will looked up to see him toe the bloody sheet with a look of disgust, then turn away.

“Where are you going?” Will asked immediately. Angelus paused, then turned back and closed the distance between them in a few steps. He grabbed Will’s chin and fixed him with a stony look.

“Pardon me?”

Will squirmed. “What—I said, where are you—” As he spoke, he realized what he’d forgotten. “Sir. Sir, all right? Where are you going, sir?”

Angelus held him a moment longer, staring at him with a flicker of gold in his eyes, then let go. He tapped the welt on Will’s jaw.

“You’ve begun speaking to me as if I were your schoolmate. That ends now.”

Will stared in silence, then collected himself enough to say, “Yes, sir.”

Angelus smacked him.

“Ow—what was that for?” Will clutched his cheek angrily, and Angelus smacked him again.

“Keep your voice down. You will use respectful terms of address in speaking to me, and you will approximate a respectful tone, boy. Do you understand?”

Will ground his teeth and stared at the carpet. “Yes, sir.”

Angelus smacked him a third time, and Will jerked away with his lip curled in a sneer. Angelus came after him immediately, but Will got the chair between them. That bought him just enough time to catch a glimpse of Angelus’s face, and to realize that hotel or no hotel, he was going to be badly thrashed.

Angelus knocked the chair out of the way and grabbed him, but just as the first blow was coming down, the door to the room opened.

They both froze. Then Darla stepped in and shut the door quickly behind her.

“What—” Angelus started to say.

“Angelus!” Darla hissed. “Have you completely forgotten where we are? Do you think the whole hotel is deaf?”

Angelus said nothing, but his grip on Will’s neck tightened. Will gritted his teeth and held still.

“My apologies,” Angelus said. “You’re quite right—I let myself be carried away.”

“You did,” Darla said grimly. “You told the servants that he was ill, if I recall—what are they supposed to make of that kind of din?”

“You’re quite right,” Angelus said again, with perhaps a slight edge in his tone. Darla narrowed her eyes at him, then glanced at Will.

“Good Lord, he’s a mess. I can’t for the life of me imagine what possessed him.” Will kept silent and she shook her head in disdain. “A horse, for God’s sake.”

“Never killed the other one,” Will muttered, even though, strictly speaking, nobody had asked. Angelus gave him a quick dark look, and he added, “Madam,” in as derisive a tone as he dared.

“Well, perhaps it will put an end to this nonsense at least,” Darla said.

“What nonsense might that be, love?” Angelus asked tightly, following her gaze to the mussed bed. She made a dismissive gesture.

“I’ve been thinking we ought to take a proper trip,” she said. “To France, I think. It would be a change, and it might improve that appalling accent of his.”

“His accent isn’t—“ Angelus said, then glanced over and seemed almost surprised to find he still had Will at the end of his arm. He let go, and Will eased gratefully back down on the flats of his feet. “If you like, love.”

“It’s been a long time since I was in France,” Darla said. “I wonder who’s taken over Rebecca’s—” She stopped, her face attentive. She and Angelus both turned to face the door. An instant later, Will heard the step in the hallway, and then there was a knock.

”Get in the bed, Will,” Darla said softly, and he realized he was half-dressed in bloodied clothes. He started at once for the bed, then checked himself and came back for the sheet Angelus had put down to save the carpet, and for his own cast-off clothes. With all of that in his arms he leapt up into the bed and was just pulling the covers up to his chin when Angelus opened the door.

A servant boy stood there in a sheen of sweat, his eyes flickering quickly past Angelus’s elbow to scrutinize the darkened room.

“What is it?” Angelus asked. “I left instructions that this room wasn’t to be disturbed.” His tone was cold, and the boy gave him a quick doubtful look.

“Yes sir,” he said, “but the lady in the other room doesn’t answer.”

“Why should she?”

“’Cos there’s this, sir.” The boy produced a salver from behind his back; he’d been holding it pinched sideways between finger and thumb, and there was a clear damp sweated print on the buff envelope he offered. Angelus didn’t move.

“What is that?”

“A letter, sir.”

“I can see that. To whom is it addressed?”

“To, uh—” The boy turned the paper toward his face and screwed his brow with concentration. “To…Mr. A. Arlus, I think. The hand’s funny. But that’s supposed to be you, sir, innit?”

Angelus still didn’t move.

“And who is it from?” he asked.

The boy shrugged.

“Dunno, sir,” he said. “Fellow left it last night—or this morning, I s’pose. Early, before it was light even.”

Angelus turned his head slightly and glanced at Darla. She had stationed herself at the foot of the bed; Will couldn’t see her face. Angelus turned back to the boy.

“Did anyone see the man?”

“Not sure, sir.” The boy paused and scratched his cheek. “Oliver passed a Frenchie coming in—it might’ve been him.”

“A Frenchman?”

“Yeh, that’s what he said. You can tell a Frenchie from how he dresses.” He turned his leg as if showing off the calf, and feigned primping with a grin. “This one had bows in his hair, Oliver says.”

Angelus traded the letter for a coin, which the boy pushed quickly into his pocket. His eyes were already past Angelus again, squinting and fixing on Will.

“What’s he ill with?” the boy demanded. “He looks like he’s been thumped, more like.”

“You should beware,” Angelus said. “In case the condition is contagious.”

The boy took no notice of that, tipping his head to keep his view of the room as long as possible as the door closed. “You’ve got to watch out,” he counselled. “This heat makes people mad. Like Oliver seeing that Frenchie go up the wall.”

Angelus paused and opened the door a fraction. The boy looked up at him and swallowed.

“Repeat yourself,” Angelus said.

“Eh…just that, it’s such funny weather—”

“About the Frenchman.”

“Oh, that’s just Oliver being daft, he said he saw the chap go up a wall after he came out last night. Like a spider, he said. But it’s just the weather makes people mad—did you hear some lunatic slaughtered a horse on Bread Street?”

Angelus swung the door closed in the boy’s face and turned to Darla.

“French,” Darla said speculatively.

“Indeed,” Angelus said. He lifted the letter, and they both looked at it.

Will threw off the covers and slid out of the bed. He felt furious and sick and inexplicably sad, and the letter made him even angrier. He couldn’t think straight about it through the pain in his head. It was probably a misdelivery, and they were leaving Brighton anyway, and he was going to be thrashed until he couldn’t stand, and he’d been lying on a damp spot.

Neither Darla nor Angelus so much as glanced at him. Darla had gone over to Angelus’s side, and they were both studying the envelope with similar concentrated frowns.

“What?” Will asked, unbuttoning his shirt the rest of the way and dropping it. “What’s it say?”

“I don’t recognize the hand,” Darla said softly, speaking not to Will but to Angelus. “But it’s—”

“Old,” Angelus finished, turning the letter over and glancing irrelevantly at the back of it. After a moment he lifted it to his nose and sniffed it. Darla raised her eyebrows at him, and he shook his head.

“Seems safe enough,” he said, but there was a question in his voice, and he waited for her response. She took it from him, put it delicately to her own nose, then shrugged and passed it back.

“French,” Angelus said in a musing tone. He held the envelope at arm’s length and ripped the paper with his thumb. There was a single buff card inside; Will could see even from where he stood that it was heavy and smooth. Good quality stuff. Angelus withdrew it, and he and Darla bent their heads together again.

While they studied it, Will leaned on the edge of the bed and began to take his trousers off. His curiosity was starting to get the better of his foul mood, but he knew better than to try to get his own look at the letter yet. Even yesterday, Angelus might have put off such an impertinence with a firm but gentle shove—but today the rules had changed back. Will stepped out of his trousers and touched the lump on his jaw again. He had the faintest memory, now, of Angelus’s fists in the early dawn.

“Interesting,” Darla said, and he looked up to see her gazing past him with an abstracted expression.

“What?” he asked, and Angelus looked up.

“You need a wash,” he said curtly. “And then perhaps you might rejoin polite society by dressing yourself.”

“’s what I’m doing,” Will muttered. “Sir.” They were both studying the letter again. He stood silently watching them, and a faint prickle began to run along the back of his neck. “What does it say?” he asked quietly.

They ignored him a moment longer; then Angelus looked up.

“It’s a request for an invitation,” he said simply. “Someone wants to pay us a visit.”


“A French master. Her name—” Angelus dropped his head again and studied the letter with a frown. “Her name is Venétiane.”

Will stood still, while a fly buzzed at the window. He couldn’t remember ever hearing the name before, and he couldn’t tell from Angelus’s tone whether he was supposed to recognize it.

“Oh,” he said.

Angelus went back to the letter and Will flaked a little blood off his forearm. His fingernails were a disaster.

“Here?” he asked after a moment.

Angelus looked up again, distracted and then annoyed.

“What? Oh—yes, here. Of course. Where else?”

“No, I just—I mean, we don’t live here. We’re only visiting, ourselves.”

Angelus stared at him.

“Nothing,” Will said, and went back to his forearm.

“Venétiane,” Darla said, in a low musing tone, as if he hadn't spoken. “I wonder—”

Angelus looked sharply at her, but she’d fallen silent. She raised one hand and tapped her lips lightly, then gave the letter a final glance and stepped away. She went to the bureau and fingered a pair of earbobs she’d left there.

“I hadn't noticed any others in town,” she said mildly. “Angelus?”

He shook his head.

“I wonder how this came to be delivered,” Darla continued. She picked up the earrings and rolled them gently in her palm. “How anyone might have known that we were here, in this hotel.”

The prickle on Will’s neck grew stronger. He stared at his crumpled clothes and suddenly wanted very much to be dressed.

“I can’t imagine,” Angelus said. He raised his eyes from the letter, and looked at Will

“Ah—” Will said. His throat clutched, and he fell silent.

“What was that?” Darla asked, still studying her earrings. “Did you speak, William?”

“I meant to mention—” Will said, and again had to stop. The strange feeling he’d had in the alley, the flicker of movement he’d caught in the corner of his eye. But he’d been so careful, coming back; he was sure he hadn't been followed, and he would have told Angleus directly, if not for—

“Mention what?” Angelus asked flatly.

Will gave him a pleading look and took a step back. He’d crossed his arms tightly over his chest without realizing it, and he forced himself to drop them to his sides.

“I thought I saw something,” he said. “Last night, in the slums. When I cached the girl. It was just…it might have been a rat, or anything. And I was going to tell you about it—”

“A rat,” Darla said, holding one of her earrings up and watching it dangle. “How curious, that a rat should write us a letter.”

“I didn’t know,” Will whispered, then coughed with embarrassment. “I didn’t know,” he said in a louder voice. “How could I have known? And I made sure I wasn’t followed—”

“Oh, yes. Of course.”

“I was going to mention it.”

“But you were too busy slaughtering that horse in front of its driver. You’ve had a busy evening, William, drawing attention from all quarters. You must be exhausted.”

He pressed his lips together and said nothing. There was a slight bitter smell in the air, and he couldn’t bring himself to look at Angelus.

“Well,” Darla said, closing the earring in her fist, “what’s done is done. I think we ought to go back to my room, Angelus, before Drusilla eats lye.” She paused. “In future, darling, I would appreciate your finding less troublesome creatures to turn.”

Angelus had fixed Will with a cold unwavering stare. “I’ll be there in a moment,” he said.

Darla smiled thinly at Will. “Remember the servants,” she said as she walked past Angelus to the door. “The walls are like paper.”

Angelus said nothing, and she shut the door firmly behind her. The click of the latch sounded, to Will’s ears, very final.

“I was going to tell you,” he said, in what he hoped was a reasonable tone. Again, he wished he weren’t naked—it might go better if he at least looked respectable. “I came back directly, as you said; I didn’t dawdle, and I was going to tell you—”

Angelus slipped the letter carefully back into its envelope, then turned and went to lay it on the bureau. Will watched him remove his cufflinks and put them in his pockets, then roll his sleeves well above his elbows.

“Oh, that’s right,” Will said, feeling desperate and trying not to sound it. “It’s my fault, of course—and it’s time I was thumped anyway, isn’t it?”

“I’m not going to thump you,” Angelus said, straightening his sleeves. Will paused.

“Well that’s—”

“Come here.”

Will didn’t move. Angelus fussed a moment longer with his sleeves, making sure that the folds were neat and identical. After a moment, he looked up and raised his eyebrows.

The air smelled very bitter now.

Will glanced at his clothes, bundled pathetically in the corner, and wished one last time he were at least wearing trousers. Not that trousers would protect him from anything Angelus planned to do to him, but still. For a split second he considered asking permission to dress; then he realized how stupid that was, and made himself walk over to Angelus before he could think too much about it.

“If you’re not going to thump me, then—”

“Give me your hand.”

A cold stone dropped into Will’s belly. He knew instantly what was about to happen, and it was all he could do not to skip backward out of Angelus’s reach, and start babbling. He’d talked his way out of things before—well, not often, but once or twice. Sometimes, if he could just keep out of Angelus’s grasp long enough, if he could just be desperate and outrageous and craven enough, he could shunt the anger sideways into amusement or lust. Either one was vastly preferable to what Angelus was about to do.

“Must I repeat myself?” Angelus asked. This close to him, the acrid smell was very strong. Like the flare of a lucifer match lit too near to one’s face, Will thought.

“I didn’t—” he started, and one look at Angelus’s face told him that this was not a way out. Not this time. He stopped himself before Angelus could hit him, blinked slowly, then put out his right hand.

Angelus took hold of Will’s wrist in one hand, and his little finger in the other.

“If you make a sound,” he said, “I’ll break your jaw.”

Then he jerked the hand that held Will’s finger, and there was a snap like a dry twig breaking.

Will’s hand exploded and he went rigid with the pain, but he didn’t make a sound. Angelus studied his face briefly before taking hold of his ring finger.

“Jealousy,” he said, “is no excuse for endangering the family.” He jerked his hand again, and there was another snap. Will’s eyes were streaming, and he was bobbing ridiculously on his toes. He couldn’t help it—his body wanted to run. Angelus grasped his middle finger, and Will pulled his hand back before he could stop himself. It did no good; Angelus’s grip on his wrist was like iron.

“You let a stranger follow you back here,” Angelus went on. “You’re not yet five, so that might be forgivable—though I must say, I’d come to expect better from you. I’m sorry to find I was wrong.” He paused, and his touch on Will’s finger was almost gentle. “In any case, you not only led someone here, but you neglected to tell me what you’d seen. Because you were jealous.”

He gave another quick yank, and Will’s middle finger went with a crack. Will screwed his eyes shut and beat his left fist against his leg.

“Stupid,” Angelus said flatly, taking up Will’s index finger. “She isn’t yours to begin with, boy. She never will be. I made her, she belongs to me. And frankly, it’s presumptuous of you to put on such a show. I can’t think why I allow it.” He shook his head and broke Will’s index finger.

While he waited for Will to get control, he gently stroked the web of skin between Will’s thumb and finger. The fly buzzed against the window again, and a light footstep went past the door and down the hall.

“The real trouble with it is, it makes you do imbecilic things. Like killing that horse. And forgetting to tell me what you saw. And so here we are again, and I’m sure you’re no more pleased than I.”

Will wiped his eyes furiously. He was shaking all over; he couldn’t hold his hand still, and it was only Angelus’s grip on his wrist that kept his arm up. He wanted to say, Break it and get it over with, but couldn’t make his throat work to form the words. And even if he’d been able, he wasn’t sure he could force himself to say that. Even though it was inevitable, he couldn’t make himself invite it.

“I could simply forbid you to speak to her,” Angelus said thoughtfully. His thumb made a lazy circle over Will’s wristbone. “It would be awkward, keeping the two of you separate, but perhaps given enough time… Well, in any case. We have other things to consider at the moment, but I bring this up as a matter of general concern. I’d appreciate your giving some thought to my comments. And Will?”

Will lifted his head and looked Angelus in the eye.

“You’ll call me sir from now on,” Angelus said, and took hold of Will’s thumb.

Will closed his eyes. There was a crack and a flare that burnt straight up his arm to his shoulder, and he wavered on his feet.

“All right,” Angelus said. “You’ll stay in this room today. Don’t answer to any knock.” He dropped Will’s wrist, and Will staggered back immediately, cradling his broken hand against his chest. “Have a proper wash, and get dressed. And pack your things. We’ll change hotels tonight.”

Will blinked at the carpet; his bare feet looked vulnerable and white against the pattern.

“Yes sir,” he whispered. His voice was dry and splintered.

Angelus patted his pocket to check for his cufflinks, collected the letter off the bureau, and went out without another word.

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