Ricky sighed with pleasure as the water beat down on his back. There was nothing like a hot shower after several hours in a smoky club. He scrunched his eyes shut and scrubbed shampoo into his hair.
He felt the change in temperature as the bathroom door opened, and he flailed about in alarm. Could a man defend himself with just a bar of soap and a bottle of baby shampoo?
“We hope we’re not disturbing you.”
Ricky tried to wipe the suds out of his eyes. “Kalila? Nevin?”
“Me, too,” said Bo.
“And me and Lazaro,” Vic added, “If the rest of them will let us in.”
“I got here first,” Nevin said in indignation. “But you can sit with me on the counter.”
“Never mind,” Kalila told them. “I’ll conjure chairs.”
Ricky shoved his wet hair off his forehead and poked his head around the shower curtain. “Wait a minute. This is my bathroom; my alone time. Is nothing sacred?”
Kalila conjured a velvet folding chair and sat down. “I’m a Zoroastrian, remember? Fire is sacred to me, not water. But carry on with what you’re doing, if it’s that important to you.”
“Yes, please continue your water ritual,” Nevin said from his perch on the countertop. “We promise not to take up too much of your time.”
“Take up my time with what?”
“An idea we had,” Bo said, with a leer that suggested he could see through the shower curtain. “Although I’m starting to get some new ideas. This room is a little crowded. Mind if I join you?”
Ricky ducked back behind the shower curtain. “You guys never cease to amaze me. Out. All of you. Now.”
There was a startled silence on the other side of the curtain, then Ricky heard the soft chittering of whispered conversation over the pounding of the water.
“Look, human,” Vic finally said. “We have a brilliant idea and we took time out of a night’s lurking and prowling to come here and discuss it with you, so the least you could do is listen.”
“You really aren’t being very friendly,” Nevin pointed out.
“This isn’t about being friendly, or having ideas, or…” Ricky paused. What good would it to do to explain? “I’m almost done, okay? Wait for me in the living room like normal people, and I’ll be there in a minute. Promise.”
Ricky heard grumbles from Vic and Lazaro and a sniff of annoyance from Kalila as they filed out.
The last set of footsteps paused near the door. “Ricky?”
“Go away, Bo.”
“I just wanted to say, 'nice ass.'”
Ricky grabbed the soap and threw it at him.
Alone again, with the steaming water beating down around him, Ricky tried to regain the sense of peace and relaxation that had been stolen from him, but the moment was gone, as frail and fleeting as a soap bubble.
He rinsed his hair under the water one last time. What did the demons want that was so important? They had an idea? Dear lord, if it was like any of their others, it was probably something ridiculous, illegal, or immoral. Maybe all three.
He reached for the faucet and shut off the water. Well, nothing was impossible. Maybe this time it was something brilliant. He opened the shower curtain to reach for a towel and found Kalila grinning at him. When did she sneak back in? Damnable djinn with her conjuring ways and—
She handed him a warm, fluffy towel.
Okay, so sometimes demons had good ideas.
“You got me,” Ricky said. “Come clean and tell me what you want.”