The creaking stopped and Leta looked up as Fiearius leaned back to look down. “You wanna give this a go, kiddo?”
Of course she didn’t. Heights terrified her. Which was something Fiearius was well aware of. “Hurry,” she growled again, rolling her eyes. “I’m tired of looking up at your ass.”
The creaking resumed as Fiearius continued his climb, though Leta was certain, through the noise, she heard him remark, “Liar.”
Refusing to reward bad behavior with attention, Leta ignored him and went back to watching the vast double doors like a hawk. The party inside seemed to be going strong and, as far as she could tell, no one was wondering where they had gone. Except maybe Liam. Gods, she probably should have said something to him. Or invited him along. He was a reporter, surely he had some investigative skills that would come in handy. At the very least, he was good company.
Leta was just considering going back inside to fetch him when a door directly beside her swung open. At once, she jumped back, but when Fiearius emerged from beneath the shadow of the doorway, a proud smirk plastering his face, she calmed.
“Unlocked the stairs,” he chimed and headed back into the narrow corridor. “Come on up.”
Casting one last glance in the direction of the ballroom and internally hoping Liam would understand, Leta followed.
The upper level of the mansion was just as beautiful as the rest, but infinitely quieter. Of course, everyone was down below, dancing the night away at the party. Fiearius and Leta left the grand balcony and entered a hallway, lined with white marble pillars and floored with lush red carpeting. After the first corner, Leta was already turned around, but Fiearius continued on with the confidence of someone who knew exactly where he was going.
“How do you know where his quarters are?” she had to know.
“Found the guest room ledger in the downstairs study,” he answered easily.
“The downstairs study? Shouldn’t that have been locked?”
“So you broke into the private study to steal secure information about the guests,” Leta said. “And you called Liam a shark.”
Fiearius glanced back over his shoulder and smirked. “Takes one to know one.”
“Speaking of which.”
“We don’t need to–” Fiearius began, but she cut him off, feeling a spike of that familiar anger run through her.
“We do need to. You were horrible. I wish I could say I was surprised at you, but frankly, I’m not. I had just been hoping you’d be able to be an adult about it.”
Fiearius locked eyes with her, but his expression was unreadable. “Leta–”
“Liam’s done nothing to you. Nothing. I know you’ve had bad experiences with journalists in the past, but that’s no reason to act like such an ass to every one you meet,” she went on. “Especially one that I’m introducing as someone who matters to me.”
Fiearius continued to stare at her for a long, tense moment until finally, he sighed. “Look, I respect that, honestly, but–I don’t trust him,” he said, speaking far more calmly and cohesively than she’d expect from him. “He knows too much. He’s in a position of power that could destroy–everything I’m working for.” He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t like having things held over me.”
“But he not holding it over you,” Leta argued. “He would never publish anything about what you’re doing. He believes in our cause, he’s on our side and he wants us to succeed.”
“And you’re so sure of that?”
But Fiearius shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t trust him.”
“Why? Honestly? Because he knows about the Councillor initiative or because I’m sleeping with him?”
To her surprise, he admitted, “Maybe a bit of both.”
She opened her mouth to respond, but found herself slightly too stunned to manage it. Moments later, she collected herself. “Well. I’m not asking you to trust him. I’m asking you to trust me. And trust me, he’s on our side. And I would appreciate it if you would at least try to be nice to him.”
Leta almost thought he wouldn’t answer, the way he continued to stare at her across the hallway, silent and stoic. But to her great surprise, the stubborn, impossible man she’d known for half a decade somehow, miraculously, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Alright, fine. I’ll play nice. If it’s that important to you.”
They exchanged a silent but meaningful look of agreement, and then Fiearius said, “C’mon. Should be this door over here.”
Leta followed Fiearius a few more feet and watched as he easily picked the lock on a grand white door which swung open to the guest room on the other side. Fiearius strode straight inside as Leta double-checked that no one was watching them.
The room was exactly what one would expect from the mansion. Huge, lavishly furnished with shining red wood cabinets and long flowing white curtains. It held the biggest bed Leta had ever seen and its doors opened up onto a balcony nearly larger than the room itself. The one thing it didn’t seem to contain was many personal items of its tenant. There was a small bag in the corner and a tablet sitting on the desk, but otherwise you might not have known there was someone staying here at all.
“Well, you did know it’d be unlikely you’d find anything,” Leta told Fiearius who already looked disappointed. After she’d said it, however, determination masked his face.
“Don’t give up just yet,” he said, crossing over to the desk to pick up the tablet. He turned it over in his hand and switched it on, a blue glow lighting his face.
Leta rested her hands on her hips. “You don’t really think he’d be that stupid.”
“Of course not,” Fiearius said, scanning through the device. “Check the bag.”
This whole escapade was starting to feel a bit idiotic. Of course they weren’t going to find anything. What had she been thinking? Falling, not for the first time, for Fiearius’ dramatic flair instead of trusting her gut. Still, she did as she was told, approaching the bag, crouching before it and delicately poking at the opening. It looked like what she’d expect. Some clothing. Toiletries. Normal things that normal, if rich, people carried with them while traveling.
“Fiear, we should go back downstairs.”
“In a minute,” was his distracted answer across the room.
Leta stood up and glanced back at him. “You’re supposed to be raising money for the war. That’s more important than rooting around in some poor guy’s belongings.”
“If he is a Councillor, and I’m beginning to think he’s not, you’re not gonna find out here.” She moved over to him and tried to take the tablet from his hand, but he resisted, his eyes fixed on the screen. “What–”
“You’re right,” Fiearius said, sounding a little numb. “He’s not a Councillor.” When Leta just narrowed her eyes at him, lost, he turned the screen towards her where a message was blazed onto its face. She read it hurriedly, ready to scold him and drag him back downstairs. But then she read it again, more thoroughly. And one more time.
Finally, she looked up at Fiearius, her eyes wide and her stomach suddenly tied into a knot.
Fiearius met her stare. “He’s an assassin.”