I was exhausted from the events of the day, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I called Nikki.
“Matthew,” she sounded tired. “I’m pleased to hear from you. Our earlier conversation was . . . terse.”
“Yeah. Wanted to let Cassie process things and just have a normal night.”
“I understand. Are you well?”
“I guess so. I don’t like to cut it that close, you know?” I went into my room, and grabbed the box from Max’s stash. I hadn’t exchanged it for anything else, but I would, soon. But now I had a reason to go through the items again.
There was a pause.
“Nikki? Did I lose you.”
“I don’t think I heard that right.”
“After the incident, you were so concerned for my well-being.”
“I thought the doorman had plugged you with one of my rounds.”
“I know. It was very kind of you. But I did not return the sentiment. You, by far, were the more vulnerable between the two of us, but I didn’t spare a moment for your well-being before I concluded my business with, as you called him, Dmitri. Nor did I ask in the car. It was all about my welfare. I was selfish.”
I had the box of stuff in my study, now, where I could really look it over, but I stopped in my tracks.
Never heard anything like this from her before. She doesn’t do apologies.
“I was okay,” I said automatically. I still didn’t feel okay, but it was something to say.
“That’s kind of you to say, Matthew, but I should have been more cognizant. I was too focused on my own goals at the time. I didn’t consider you, directly, or the effect on Cassandra.”
And now it makes more sense. The two of them have connected in some way, and it’s tied to mine and Nikki’s connection, too. She had some feelings for some of the “friends” she had fed upon, but hadn’t made close ties like that since one had died at the hands of another. She had the Petersons, and, apparently, now me and Cassie.
My instinct was to play it down, but I needed something from her, anyway, and it might make her feel better for it to be part of this than a separate favor.
“How about we give ourselves peace of mind.”
“What do you mean?”
“I need a big favor. Two, actually. I need some new clothes, and I need you to pay for them.”
“I already have some clothes for you, dumpling,” she got back into character, “but you always deny me the pleasure.”
“Something new and decidedly more expensive. You remember that one corset you wore?”
“You will have to narrow it down.”
“With the succubus.”
“My tactical corset, yes.”
“I need something like that.”
“Underbust or Sweetheart?”
“Uh huh. Like I’m supposed to know what that means.”