Now Angela eventually has returned, she’s come bearing a suitcase.
He’s all too aware of the fact that Olivia’s behind him, having followed him into the room, and he wonders how on earth he’s meant to explain himself. Or, well, the case.
He turns to his sister and says, “This is… this is a complex order. I think I’ll need to speak to her for a while, so could you take the shop?”
“Sure,” Olivia says. She glances down, seeming to realise at the same time everyone else does that she’s still holding a slice of bread. “I’ll just…” She gestures back to the kitchen, the rest of her soon following the gesture.
When he turns back to Angela, he pointedly looks at the suitcase, not at her. Well, truthfully, it’s probably less of a look and more of a glare. “We need to talk.” When she nods, he shuts the door to the back room. The shop isn’t exactly private from the public, but they’ve had few enough customers that he’s certain they’ll get a few minutes to themselves.
“We had an agreement,” she says, as if that’s any sort of explanation or excuse.
“No. Like you always seem to do, you gave me an order and expected me to follow it. Any kind of agreement there was all presumed, and believe me, it was all on your end.”
“I have no choice,” is her irritable retort.
“Of course you have a bloody choice! You could go to a bloody Travelodge! I mean, honestly, I can’t say it’s as if the forces of Heaven would really care, would they? This is London, I’m sure there are some very good deals on nearby hotels, God knows it’ll be easy enough to find a Premier Inn or something if you put your mind to it…”
“I’m staying here,” she says, far too firmly and confidently for his peace of mind.
“No, you’re bloody not! Not after last night’s performance, I assure you. And it’s not even as if you know I have somewhere to put you. You might be stuck sleeping on the sofa, and well, Your Majesty, somehow I doubt you’d take very kindly to that – “
He’s surprised by how quiet her voice is as she says, “A sofa would be perfectly adequate.”
That halts him, even though he doesn’t want it to. “What?”
“Anything that would allow me to carry out my mission is enough. We’re trained to withstand inclement conditions and battlegrounds. This is hardly a trial.”
“Well, I’m sure you can survive anywhere, then, including the sofa or my spare room – Shit.”
“I knew.” She sighs.
“I could read quite clearly that you were lying. We can with humans anyway, but you are an unimpressive liar.”
Right now, he wants her to be anywhere but here. Heaven. Shropshire, which according to some is the next best thing. Anywhere but standing in the shop with her practical, dark brown suitcase and staring him down. He certainly doesn’t want her getting into his only spare room. Just the thought of explaining it all is starting to give him a headache. “Why the hell should I let you stay here?”
“You say that as if you have a choice.”
He shrugs. “So I don’t. Fine. But if you stay here, we keep out of each other’s way. I don’t need you bothering customers while you’re here, or bothering me.”
With a shrug of her own, she simply responds, “Understandable.”
Well, that’s one word for it. As she often does, she’s taken the wind out of his sails. He sighs, wanting to sit down but realising that he’s not behind the counter – sometime during all this, he’s stepped forward, tried to get in her face and make demands. It’s nothing different from what she’s been doing, but he still doesn’t like it. He makes a conscious effort to take a step backwards, to loosen his muscles and to stop looking like he’s dying for a fight. Something occurs to him, and he wonders how to phrase it. “Look,” he tries eventually, “you might not want to do the Godvoice, or the glaring thing, so much while you’re here.”
She raises an eyebrow. “’The Godvoice’?”
He shrugs. “The whole” – he lowers his voice an octave or two, knowing it sounds nothing like what she subjected him to; just the memory of that makes his legs turn to jelly all over again – “obey, tiny human trick. It can be rather… disconcerting, if you catch my drift.”
She raises an eyebrow. “It is a last resort.”
“And in no way do I glare.”
He clears his throat, tilts his head to one side and tries his best to look at her like he’s planning her murder. He doesn’t quite manage it – it’s probably closer to “slightly confused zombie” than “angry Angela” – but it’s certainly a valiant attempt.
“That’s far from accurate.”
“I don’t care. You obviously understand what I mean.”
She stands steadfast, crossing her arms as if to ground herself further. “And why, exactly, should I take orders from you?”
“It wasn’t an order. I think you’ll find it was a request. The way that I see it, people have already convinced themselves that Scholars can summon things. They think we’re all…” He waves his hands about in a stupid, half-hearted look at me, I’m enchanting things kind of way. “…meddling with ‘unseen forces and communing with the devil. Whatever nonsense is in vogue this year.” He sighs. “If people find out that I have an angel in my bookshop, things could get difficult for both of us. Not just me – I mean, I’m sure there’s some way you could extricate yourself from that sort of mess, but, well, I doubt you really want the attention.”
She, too, seems to disengage. There’s no fight in her when she nods and says, “I understand. Thanks for warning me.”
Adrian is certain he must have misheard. Was that a thank you? From Angela?
With a nod of his own, he says stiffly, “Right.” He looks back to the door. “Look, if you’re going to stay, I need to get them out of here. I’m not up for all the questions and the, well, the interrogation.”
“You don’t need to yet.” At his questioning look, she elaborates, “I have some business to attend to. I’ll return later today. May I leave this here?” She lifts the case.
“I suppose so.”
“Thank you.” She walks past him, putting it down next to the counter, and then walks out of the shop with no further ado – not even a word. Typical. He’s left staring in the wake of her, wondering what the hell to do.