I jerked my head down at the heavy weight swinging between us. "Do you really want to talk about this right now?"
"I can'tthinkof a better time," he replied, then dropped his half of the load onto the ground.
I let go of my half of the weight, put my hands on my hips, and rolled my eyes at the whiny, petulant tone in my foster brother's voice. "You can't come because it's a girls' day at the salon. No guys allowed. That includes you."
Finnegan Lane sniffed, straightened up to his full six-foot-plus height, and carefully adjusted the expensive silk tie knotted around his neck. "Yes, but I am not justanyguy."
More eye-rolling on my part, but Finn ignored me.
His ego was pretty much bulletproof, and my derisive looks wouldn't so much as scratch his own highfalutin opinion of himself.
"Besides," he continued, "I'd get more enjoyment out of a spa day than you would."
"True," I agreed. "I don't particularly care how shiny my nails are or how well conditioned my hair is."
Finn held out his manicured nails, studying them with a critical eye, before reaching up and gently patting his coif of walnut-colored hair. "My nails are good, but I could use a trim. Wouldn't want to get any split ends."
"Oh, no," I muttered. "We wouldn't want such a horror asthat."
With his artfully styled hair, designer suit, and glossy wing tips, Finn looked like he'd just stepped out of the pages of some high-end fashion magazine. Add his intense green eyes, chiseled features, and toned, muscled body to that, and he was as handsome as any movie star.
The only thing that ruined his sleek, polished look was the blood spattered all over his white shirt and gray suit jacket-and the body lying at his feet.
"come on," I said. "This guy isn't getting any lighter."
The two of us were standing in the alley behind the
Pork Pit, the barbecue restaurant that I ran in downtown Ashland. A series of old, battered metal Dumpsters crouched on either side of the restaurant's back door, all reeking of cumin, cayenne, black pepper, and the other spices that I cooked with, along with all of the food scraps and other garbage that had spoiled out there in the July heat. A breeze whistled in between the backs of the buildings, bringing some temporary relief from the sticky humidity and making several crumpled-up white paper bags bearing the Pork Pit's pig logo skip down the oil-slicked surface of the alley.
I ignored the low, scraping, skittering noises of the bags and concentrated on the sound of the stones around me.
People's actions, thoughts, and feelings last longer and have more of an impact than most folks realize, since all of those actions and feelings resonate with emotional vibrations that especially sink into the stone around them.
As a Stone elemental, I have magic that lets me hear and interpret all of the whispers of the element around me, whether it's a jackhammer brutally punching through a concrete foundation, rain and snow slowly wearing away at a roadside marker, or the collective frets of harried commuters scurrying into an office building, hoping that their bosses won't yell at them for being late again.
Behind me, the brick wall of the Pork Pit let out low, sluggish, contented sighs, much the way the diners inside did after finishing a hot, greasy barbecue sandwich, baked beans, and all of the other Southern treats that I served up on a daily basis. A few sharp notes of violence trilled here and there in the brick, but they were as familiar to me as the sighs were, and I wasn't concerned by them. This wasn't the first person I'd had to kill inside the restaurant, and it wouldn't be the last.