I got up and made sure that I was slightly in front of Thomas when Marcone came sauntering into Mac's. True, we were here for a neutral meeting--ha--and Marcone had no reason to harm Thomas (right now), but no matter how many times I warned my brother about how dangerous this certain vanilla mortal was, he didn't seem to take me seriously.
By being in front of Thomas when they met for the first time, I could prevent flying bullets and half-seduced mobsters.
Look, it made sense in my head. I think everyone in the universe should live inside my head. That way, they would understand why I do what I do, and that way, everyone would be happier.
Marcone came through the door with Hendricks right behind him and a hulking guard I didn't recognize on the other side. I mentally dubbed him Sunglasses, because he was wearing them as if he thought they would make him cool. Thomas, lounging behind me, wore them, too, but the difference was, they actually did make him look cool. I felt a momentary pity for Sunglasses.
"Mr. Dresden." Marcone's eyes fastened on me in that creepy way he has, as if there was no one else in the room. I tried to take it for a compliment; he thought of me as the most dangerous person there. That would change when he knew what Thomas really was. "Thank you for coming."
"I was the one who invited you to this meeting, asshole," I snapped. Sunglasses looked shocked, but Hendricks put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. Ah. New kid. "And you shouldn't thank me for coming until you hear what I want to talk to you about."
Marcone only looked all the more intrigued, because he thinks the world revolves around him and his business opportunities, so this must just be another of them. "You do bring a needed dose of mystery into my life," he murmured.
"Careful, you don't want the cops investigating your mystery quotient," I muttered at him, and waved Thomas forward. "This is my liaison in the White Court for our discussion, Thomas Raith."
Thomas stood up and moved in, smiling in that way he does when he wants to look harmless and foolish. "Hi," he gushed. "I've heard so much about you!"
And then he leaned in enough to really see Marcone's face, and he slammed to a halt. He was staring, his hand held out to shake as if he had forgotten it was there. His jaw clenched a minute later, and then he reached up and took off the sunglasses.
I looked at Marcone in confusion, wondering if he was under some sort of magical influence that the White Court could feel and I couldn't. But he had dropped the smile that might have made him look stupid and was staring back at Thomas.
Staring really hard.
I got it a second later, and was surprised at the discomfort that I felt. I mean, Thomas was free to fuck whoever he wanted. And so was Marcone, obviously. I'd never heard that he was gay, but he might be bisexual. And Thomas affects everyone like that, regardless of whether they're young, old, married, single, or, obviously, mobster.
But this stare had an edge to it that made me think they were going to tear off each other's clothes in the middle of Mac's. Thomas's eyes were going silver, and Marcone's hands opened and then closed, opened and then closed, with a regularity that made me think he wanted a knife. To cut Thomas's shirt open faster, obviously.
I coughed and waved a hand up and down between them. "Guys?" I asked. "Here for a business meeting, remember?"
That seemed to work. Their eyes snapped away from each other and back to me, and Marcone resumed that sharp smile. I thought it had an edge of superiority to it this time, as if he knew something I didn't. I gave him a haughty stare back.
"I know, I know, you want to date him," I muttered back. "Later."
The superior edge to Marcone's smile grew, and he stepped past me and walked to the table, banging hard into Thomas's shoulder on the way. Thomas stepped back a minute too late--which just wasn't something my brother did, he normally avoided all contact that he wanted to avoid--and fixed Marcone with a burning gaze.
I mentally rolled my eyes. Yes, fine, the mutual attraction of self-confident and vain mobster and self-confident and vain vampire was probably inevitable. But could they do it somewhere else? Like another planet?
I sat down in the chair between them, as if that would prevent them from touching each other if they wanted to. At least it would make the touches less comfortable and therefore maybe less frequent. "Okay," I announced. "The White Court wants to discuss ways to..."
I trailed off when I noticed that Marcone was indeed leaning forward across the table, looking so intently at Thomas that I thought he probably hadn't blinked in the last two minutes. For some reason, his hand was next to mine on the table, and one finger sneaked out and brushed down the back of my wrist. I jumped, then snorted and shot Marcone a glance I hoped would tell him Trying to make him jealous that way won't work.
But then I turned to Thomas, and realized that his eyes were still silver, and his skin was practically glowing, and his demon looked ready to jump out right there. He looked at Marcone the way he did when he wanted to kill someone or feed on them, and I knew killing couldn't be an option when he'd never met the bastard before.
Why did I have to be the mature one in this situation?
I coughed, loudly, and when they looked at me, said, "Okay, Thomas. You understand this best, why don't you start?"
Thomas gave me this weird look, equal parts irritation and concern. I glared back. He'd just have to learn to live with it when I interrupted one of his little staring contests. Hell, I'd thought he had. I hadn't been there when he met most of his one-night stands, but I'd had more than my share of awkward meetings the morning after, and I hadn't paid much heed to their desire for private farewells, either.
Thomas glanced at Marcone, then back at me. Then he suddenly relaxed, draping down the chair like flowing water. He smirked at Marcone, as if he'd taken something away from him.
Marcone sat upright and frowned. I eyed him cautiously. Dead men had probably seen that frown more often than living ones.
"Of course, Harry," Thomas all but cooed, with that fake French accent I normally never heard outside the salon. "I would be happy to...explain." No one knows how to load innocent words with innuendo better than Thomas.
And he did, with flourishes and details and all the rigorous explanation he needed. More than enough explanation, actually. Including gestures that somehow all ended up with his hand near my shoulder.
Marcone agreed to the terms and added a few of his own. He and Thomas discussed it, but not amiably; there was a flash of snapping teeth behind every smile. Marcone stomped up the stairs out of Mac's looking as if he'd swallowed a thunderstorm, and Thomas leaned back in his chair and laughed aloud.
I shook my head. "I never would have guessed that Marcone was the sort to get that pissed because he couldn't have someone right then," I complained.
Thomas glanced at me, the laughter gone. "You got that?" he asked.
I rolled my eyes. "Give me some credit for observational skills, Thomas. He was all but climbing into your lap. I think he would have licked your tonsils up if I gave him the chance."
Thomas froze for a long second. Then he laughed again, and this time it was real and uninhibited. He reached across the table to ruffle my hair, and I didn't duck in time. "Excellent," he said. "Just remember that, little brother."
And he bounced out of his chair and went out of Mac's whistling.
I shuddered a little. I'd probably have to watch for black cars following Thomas around so Marcone could sweep him off to his boudoir or something.
Great, I thought as I stood up and left the restaurant, nodding to Mac, who gave me a sympathetic grunt. Now I have to worry about what happens if my brother and the mobster hook up.
A black car followed me as I went home, but I knew I had nothing to worry about. Thomas had moved out months ago, and I wasn't about to lead Marcone straight to his secret lair.
I ignored the feeling of satisfaction it gave me to see the car, though. It had just been a weird day all around, and some of had probably affected me. I gave the car the one-fingered salute and gratefully shut my apartment door behind me.