The December morning air made Claire Brennan shiver but did nothing to dampen her excitement. She stared up at the redbrick town house, just one in a row of similar buildings on the residential Brooklyn street. It was a sight Claire had been longing to see for months.
“This is it,” her mother, Lynn, said.
“We cannot find out anything by just standing here,” commented Claire’s grandmother, Helena, in her cultured British accent.
If only Erica and Brian were here, Claire thought. They’d be as excited I am to see this place. Claire missed her best friends big-time. But it was the holiday season, and they were home with their families. And this was a family mission. If she was ever going to find her father, Claire needed her mom’s memories and her grandma’s psychic mojo.
And her boyfriend.
Alec MacKenzie gave Claire’s gloved hand a brief, affectionate squeeze. “Let’s do this.” He ran up the stone steps and rang the buzzer to the third-floor apartment. Glancing at the name tag beside the buzzer, he called down to them, “Someone named Arrividera lives here now.” Alec’s charming Scottish burr, and the way he rolled his R’s, was just one of the many things Claire loved about him.
Claire, Lynn, and Helena followed more carefully, holding on to the black wrought-iron railing and avoiding the snow and ice that had accumulated along the stair edges. On the landing, Claire wrapped her arms around herself, cold despite the parka and wool hat she was wearing. Helena and Alec, of course, looked comfortable in just leather jackets. “It’s so not fair that you guys aren’t freezing.”
“Grigori constitutions,” Lynn noted with a shrug.
“If we were in the Arctic, my dear,” Helena stated matter-of-factly, “I might be wearing an outfit similar to yours. But in a far more stylish design, and a milder shade of blue.”
A smile tugged at Claire’s lips. Although she’d only met her grandmother a few months ago, she’d come to appreciate Helena’s sense of humor.
Alec sighed, running a hand through his dirty-blonde hair. “Looks like nobody’s home.”
Great, Claire thought, disappointment spearing through her. Ever since she’d learned about her true nature as a Halfblood Grigori (translation: half angel) she’d been dying to learn how and why her father had disappeared sixteen years ago.
She tried to peer in through the leaded-glass window in one of the mahogany doors, but it was too cloudy to see inside. “Should we come back tomorrow?”
“Why wait?” Alec pulled on a pair of gloves and rested his hand on the doorknob, staring at it intently until it made a soft, clicking sound. “Got it.”
“Alec!” Claire whispered insistently. “We can’t just break into somebody’s apartment!” His Jedi-grade telekinesis might be handy to unlock doors, but it wasn’t exactly legal.
“I thought you wanted to get a reading off the place?” Alec looked to her and Helena.
“We do,” Claire replied, “but what if there’s an alarm?”
“If you were about to step into danger, I would know, remember?” Helena’s hazel eyes were reassuring, but Claire knew that her grandmother’s psychic ability wasn’t foolproof.
“And if you’re wrong? A breaking-and-entering charge will look great on all of Claire’s college applications,” Lynn warned.
“I spent two years keeping the Grigori off Tom’s trail when he left to marry you, Lynn,” Helena hissed. “He vanished because I could not protect him—because I was locked up for obstructing the investigation. I haven’t been able to sense his essence or call up a vision of him since. This is the last place he lived before disappearing, and there is no way I am going to walk away just because the Arrivideras are not home.”
Lynn threw up her hands in defeat.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be in and out before anybody knows a thing,” Alec insisted. “I’ve done this a million times.”
Claire winced at his words. She hated to think about Alec’s former life, before he went AWOL from his celestial duties policing those members of the Fallen (the hundreds of thousands of descendants of the Nephilim, offspring of Grigori-human relationships) who used their various talents for immoral purposes instead of good.
Before he found her and helped protect her. He was everything to Claire now; she couldn’t imagine her life without him.
“Third floor,” Lynn reminded them, as Alec pushed the door open.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Claire asked Helena under her breath, as they all entered and headed up the stairs.
“No, but it is a good place to start.”
The apartment’s front door looked freshly painted. Alec knocked firmly. There was no answer. Alec glanced at Lynn, as if waiting for her permission to proceed. The suspense was killing Claire.
Lynn sighed. “No guts, no glory. Go ahead.”
Claire’s stomach tensed nervously as she watched Alec unlock the door and dead bolt as easily as he had downstairs, using only his mind. He motioned for them to stay put. “I’ll check if it’s clear.”
Alec slipped inside. Claire had seen him do this type of routine plenty of times, sweeping his own apartment for potential intruders. He returned a moment later and silently gestured for them to enter.
The apartment was about a fourth the size of Claire’s old apartment in L.A., with one bedroom, a small kitchen, a narrow living room, and a balcony overlooking a tiny yard.
“Wow,” Lynn said softly, taking it all in. “The furniture is different, of course, and the walls are a different color. But otherwise, it’s exactly the same.”
I can’t believe my mom and dad actually lived here when I was a baby, Claire thought. Pulling off her gloves, she touched a wall, hoping to access some memory of her father. She waited for the familiar sensation of heat that usually preceded a vision, thankful that she’d outgrown the nausea that used to accompany them.
Nothing happened. Claire gripped the bedroom doorknob, something her dad’s hands must have touched. Her spirits sank. “I’m not getting anything.”
“Try the kitchen,” Lynn suggested. “Your father and I used to love cooking together.”
Claire crossed the room and placed a hand on the handle of a kitchen cabinet. She frowned. “Why isn’t it working? When I touched Dad’s old jacket back home, it triggered a flashback.”
“That’s because the jacket belonged to your dad,” Alec pointed out. “He’d worn it enough times that it retained a strong memory of him. These are just walls and doors, and they look like they were just painted. I suspect too many people have lived here since your parents did for your tactile ability to work.”
“He’s right. This flat’s history is quite crowded,” murmured Helena.
Claire’s grandmother was sitting on the living-room rug in the lotus position, a peculiar expression on her face.
“Now she, on the other hand,” Alec said with a smile, “might have better luck. She’s a psychic antenna with legs.”