Iwasn't prepared for the spectacle of returning to the theater. We arrived at the stage wing door, and the moment we stepped inside, voices were shouting our names.
"They're back!" Frank shouted.
"Who's back? Ronan? Did you find her—Oh! Hazel, thank god!" Evie cried out, rushing at me from up the stairs, throwing her arms around me and sending me stumbling back to bump into Hunter's chest. "I shouldn't have let you bolt last night, I don't know what I was thinking, what if you had—Oh! Hazel."
I reached up, pressing my hand over the bruises lingering on my throat where Evie's gaze had snagged.
"It's not as bad as it looks," I said.
Her eyes narrowed and she stood straight, jaw clenching. "Did you see him?"
"Who was he, Haze?" Eston asked, approaching from the other wing, arms crossed over his chest, electric blue eyes glowing in the dark.
I shook my head. "Still no idea, I'm afraid. I never saw anything clearly. Is Mr. Reddy in?"
"He's downstairs with that detective. Who asked for you by name, I might mention," Evie said, some of her usual flirtatious teasing returning, a slight smirk on her lips.
"Ju—Detective Piper is here already?" I asked, glancing over my shoulder to the others. "We should join them."
"You're all right, though? Really?" Evie whispered, clutching my arms.
I nodded and offered her a half-smile. "Nothing a little stage paint can't cover."
Evie huffed and rolled her eyes. "Only Hazel Nix would be nearly murdered one night and then powdered and painted and under the spotlight the next."
"You're not performing tonight, nut," Ronan said, huffing a little.
"But—" We were down two girls already, and I…I glanced at Nireas. I didn't really want the girls standing in my scenes, I realized. Not with Constantine, and not because of the pain. And not with Nireas either.
"Reddy will cut the scenes for tonight," Nireas said.
"He won't like that," Frank laughed.
"We should go down," Hunter prompted.
"I'll… I just need a moment, I'll meet you down there," I said.
Hunter, Ronan, and Nireas all narrowed their eyes at the same time, and it made Evie snort.
"Go on," I said, nodding my head toward the stairs.
They trailed away at a reluctant crawl, and Evie's smirk strengthened as she waggled her eyebrows at me.
"I bet that lot was very attentive last night," she said.
"Hush and go bend over for someone," I answered, a little bubble of lightness in my chest at her answering laughter.
I slipped away from her to where Eston was turning around.
"Hey, Eston, wait," I called. He stopped in place, shoulders rising, and turned slowly to face me, gaze wary. "I'm sorry for snapping at you last night."
He blinked and then his lips quirked up, opal horns at his temples and along his jaw glowing and shining faintly pink. "Don't mention it, Haze. We all get prickly around here, don't we?"
I reached for his arm, but he was already patting my shoulder cheerfully and walking away. I headed back for the stairs, greeted with warmth by some of the other actors and stagehands on my way down, before they all slipped by. And there, at the foot of the stairs, staring up at me with his high horns and silver coin gaze, was Constantine.
A week or two ago, and it would've been alarm racing through me at the sight of him looming there, clearly waiting for my arrival. Now it was something like relief.
"I'm okay," I said immediately, even though there was no clear reason to read worry in that impassive expression.
"You've been injured. You've bled," he answered.
I stepped down to the last stair, and I was nearly tall enough there for us to be nose to nose. I raised my hand between us to show him the slightly red but mostly healed cuts on my fingers.
"I'll be better by tomorrow," I whispered.
He caught my wrist in a strong grip, lifting my palm to his face, breathing in deeply, his nose wrinkling. He tugged me closer, and I tipped my head to the side to allow him to scent my throat too.
"Hunter, the orc, he tracked the attacker last night, but the scent was disguised," I said.
Constantine grunted, and his grip eased slightly. "You should not have been touched."
"I shouldn't have tried to go home on my own last night," I said. "I got lucky."
Constantine stepped back into the light, his brow tangled slightly, clear frustration lining his jaw. He looked down the hall, and I realized suddenly that we had an audience, Hugh and Isabella crowded together at his dressing room door, watching us.
"You're not like them," Constantine whispered in my ear.
I stiffened, wanting to ask what he meant and also already knowing. I'd known from the first moment he'd called me "sweet creature," although neither of us had even been direct enough to address it before. Constantine knew I wasn't human.
I stepped down, and my foot landed hard, Constantine twisting and taking my place on the stairs. At the opposite end of the hallway, Jude Piper waited in the doorway of Mr. Reddy's office.
"She doesn't belong in this conversation." Mr. Reddy's voice carried to my ear, and Jude's eyes rolled.
"I have to—" I was turning to Constantine as I hurried to join the others, but his back was to me already, halfway up the stairs.