He hissed but grabbed a shirt from the end of his bed and pulled it over his head.
I lit an oil lamp and brought a pitcher of milk from the larder and two thick slabs of currant cake.
“We haven’t done this in a while,” Mason said, more of a question than a statement. Middle-of-the-night visits to the kitchen were reserved for disasters or planning for them. A few embers still glowed through the grill on the stove. The quiet of a midnight kitchen seemed quieter than anywhere else in the house, maybe because in a large family like ours it was usually filled with so much noise—the constant sounds of dough being punched, dishes clattering, meat being cleaved, the cutting, the stirring, the pouring, the chatter, and someone always coming in for a taste. It was the most comforting room of the house, its sole purpose to nurture. Maybe that’s why I wanted to talk to Mason here.
He looked at me, waiting. “You should have eaten dinner.” He knew this wasn’t about being hungry.
“You know Zane?” I asked.
He grabbed forks from the sideboard drawer. “What
kind of question is that? Of course I do.”
I set the plates on the kitchen table, and we both pulled out chairs and sat. “What I mean is, do you know details about him? The routes he drove when he was a Previzi? Maybe most important, do you remember … does he have a mole on his wrist?”
Mason’s brows pulled down. “What’s going on?”
I explained why Kazi reacted the way she had when she saw the Previzi at the arena, and how she had described Zane to me right down to his greasy black hair.
Mason hissed, trying to absorb it. “On her own since she was six?”
I nodded but didn’t tell him how she survived as an orphan.
He cut off a piece of his cake with the side of his fork. “I don’t know about routes, maybe Zane went to Venda, but I do remember his wrist.” He looked up at me and sighed. “There’s a large mole.”
If Kazi had remembered correctly, Mason and I both knew what it meant. Zane had a past with labor hunters. And that meant he probably had a present with them too. He wasn’t just Kazi’s problem. He might be ours too.
We agreed we were going to have to question him, carefully, so he wouldn’t suspect anything. Previzi had the nose of a wolf and could sniff trouble before it arrived—and they were just as good at disappearing. If he thought we suspected him of being involved with the labor hunters who had come into Hell’s Mouth, we’d never see him again. And if he was involved, we needed to know who he worked for—maybe the same person Fertig had taken orders from. We may have crippled their operations by killing twelve of their crew, but I wanted the rest of them too. I wanted them to pay for Samuel’s hand, pay for torching the Vendan settlement, pay for burning homes in Hell’s Mouth and stealing citizens off the street, pay for raiding caravans, pay for choking Kazi and nearly killing her. Their debt ran deep.
“It’s hard to believe Zane’s involved,” Mason said. “He’s a hard worker. Dependable.”
“We’ll find out. I have to make this right.”
“Sorry, brother, but something like this can’t be made right.”
“But I can make sure it doesn’t happen under our noses again.” I told him I was calling a family meeting first thing in the morning—everyone’s plans were on hold until we talked about ousting the Previzi or making them adhere to a new set of rules.
I rubbed my head. “There’s something else,” I said. And maybe it was my darker worry because I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. It was something that didn’t feel right. “Did you notice anything a little off at dinner tonight?”
He looked at me, surprised. “Yes … as a matter of fact, I did notice. Synové talked a lot, more than usual, but she was back to guessing my height, bringing up old conversations like she was distracted, like we had just met—”
“Like you hadn’t already run your hands over every inch of her body?”
Mason lowered the forkful of cake he was about to shovel into his mouth.
“Yeah, I know about you two. Why’d you hide it from me?”
He moaned and leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know. Embarrassed, I guess. After telling you not to get tangled up with Kazi—” He shook his head. “I don’t know how I got mixed up with Synové, but she makes me laugh. And she is so damn…”
He didn’t need to finish his sentence. His strong attraction to her was evident.
“What about you and Kazi?” he asked. “I thought we’d be getting a summons to the temple by now. What’s holding you back?”
I looked down, mashing the crumbs on my plate with my fork. “She says she’s bound by duty to go back to Venda. We avoid talking about the future, and I promised her I wouldn’t bring it up again.”
“But you—” He hesitated to use the word but finally said it anyway. “You love her?”
I looked up at him. Love didn’t even seem like the right word to explain how I felt about her. The word seemed too small, too used, too simple, and everything I felt about her seemed complicated and rare and as wide as the world. I nodded.