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Chapter 4

Gabby slept until her body woke on its own. The sunlight was now streaming in the windows as it approached noon. She stretched lazily, realizing she felt stiff. She needed a run. She hadn’t had a chance since she left San Francisco. She materialized her winter running clothes and her favorite running shoes. It was not much colder here than at home. Despite the common view of San Francisco being cold even in the summer, natives were used to it. After getting dressed and brushing her teeth, she pulled her dark brown hair up into a messy bun before doing her warm-up stretches. She was excited to run in Central Park again. She hadn’t done that since she had graduated from college. She tucked her room key, some cash, and her phone in the zipped pocket and left her room.

After her door closed, she spelled the room to repel anyone attempting to enter. The spell would gently redirect maids, but would painfully strip any paranormal trying to sneak in of their powers for seventy-two hours. She had no sympathy for them. She made the spell obvious to anyone who looked. She then headed to the elevator.

Once outside of the building, she jogged slowly over to the park entrance at the Center Drive entrance. She then set her run at a good pace. She followed the trails along Center Drive and onto 65th, where she headed for the Zoo and the Delacorte Clock. She would head back from there along East Drive to Army Plaza. It would be a good stretch of her legs.

* * *

The town car pulled up in front of New York’s famed Cipriani’s Restaurant. Nicolas Drake had a lunch meeting with a client. Jared, today’s driver, got out first. He used his prenatural senses and scanned the area for threats as he buttoned his suit jacket. The onetime Irish warrior did not find any threats. He walked around the car and opened the door for his boss. Nicolas stepped out of the car, placing his hand on top of the door to steady himself, more out of habit than actual need. He scrunched his brow in confusion. He took another whiff of the air floating by him and caught a faint scent of the most incredible bouquet he had ever experienced. It made him stop in his tracks, just to inhale again. His eyes widened.

“You okay there, boss?” asked Jared, his blue yeses watching him warily. As his Security Manager and sometimes bodyguard, Jared went everywhere with his Lord and sire. He was one of the few people that Nicolas implicitly trusted.

“Huh?” asked Nicolas, coming back to the here and now. His eyes were closed and had a look of utter rapture on his face.

Jared chuckled. “I didn’t think it was possible to distract you. You okay?”

“Do you smell that?” Nicolas asked, looking around for the source.

“I try not to breathe in any more of New York than I have to. I may be immortal, but I still worry the fumes could kill me,” said Jared, chuckling. When Nicolas ignored his antics, he became serious. “What’s going on?” he asked, his tone immediately different.

“A scent on the wind. Her,” said Nicolas, inhaling deeply to get every last molecule available.

“Her?” asked Jared, not quite understanding. His eyebrows scrunched.

“Yes. Coming from the Park,” he said absently as he started to walk toward the corner so he could cross the street and follow the scent.

As Jared gently grabbed his arm and steered him back towards Cipriani’s, he said, “Meeting first. Do you have any idea a how big that Park is? We wouldn’t find her in time.”

Nicolas shook his head to clear it. “Of course. Thank you,” he said. He straighten his suit jacket and pulled his cuffs before heading towards the restaurant. He glanced over at the Park entrance before stepping inside. "This would be shortest lunch meeting ever," he muttered.

* * *

Gabby felt better than she had in days as she slowed her breathing. She slowed to a walk once she got to 59th Street. Her goal was the Plaza Food Hall. She ducked inside to see if that little bakery that used to make those scrumptious macaroons she used to crave while in school was still in business. She had left New York several years ago, so it could have closed by now. It was one of the few items she truly missed from the City. That and real bagels with a schmeer. She wandered from stall to stall until she found it, beckoning like a host of angels, complete with a choir singing. She leaned her forehead against the glass case, her mouth flooding with saliva as she scanned the available confections.

The woman manning the counter saw the coveting look on Gabby’s face and knew instantly she had a sale. “Which ones would you like?” she asked, picking up a small sheet of white tissue.

“I could easily take the entire case, but then I would have to run all the way home to work off the calories,” said Gabby, smiling.

“How far is home?” asked the woman.

“San Francisco,” Gabby said, laughing. “It might be worth it.”

“I hear you. I have to limit myself to one a day. Anymore than that and I can’t stop,” the woman said and then laughed.

Gabby rattled off several flavors and then sighed happily. “Oh! Since it is fall, do you have the pecan and maple syrup?”

“We do,” smiled the woman as she grabbed one and added it to the box. “Any more?” the lady smiled at her.

Gabby sighed. “No. I promised myself I would behave.”

“Well, you know where to find us,” said the woman as she rang up the treats.

Gabby handed her cash, and the woman gave her a macaroon with her change. “Ooh. What is this?” she asked as her eyes widened.

“Lavender blueberry. It’s new,” she said with a smile.

Gabby took a bite immediately and almost orgasmed as the flavors exploded across her tongue. She groaned.

“I know, right?” the woman said. “Enjoy.”

Gabby headed back to her hotel, with her treats tucked under one arm and licking the heavenly goodness off the fingers on her other hand. Had she paid attention to the park entrance and not on trying to get every bit of the lovely sweetness off of her fingers, she would have seen two tall and dark-suited men jogging into the park, hunting for the owner of the scent that the taller man would search every inch of New York to find.

* * *

Two hours later, Nicolas was in a foul mood. The scent was everywhere throughout the south end of the Park. They had searched as far as the Ramble before it became too faint to track. “How on earth am I going to find her?” Nicholas complained. “There are over 1.6 million people living in Manhattan and an equal amount commuting into the City to work every day. That didn’t even count business travelers and tourists who invade the City daily.” As they neared the entrance at Grand Army Plaza, which was at 59th at 5th and closer to the town car, he suddenly stopped walking as he picked up the scent again.

It took a few seconds for Jared to realize that Nicolas had stopped moving. He turned to see his boss sniffing the air, trying to get a direction. “You catch it again?”

“Yes. It doesn’t make sense that it is stronger now than it was earlier,” he said. He face pinched in confusion.

“Unless she is in the area,” said Jared, pointing out the obvious.

Nicolas started walking up 59th Street, following the tantalizing aroma. He found himself inside a small bakery. Her scent was stronger here.

“Can I help you?” asked the woman manning the counter.

“Yes. This will seem like a strange question, but was there a woman here in the last couple of hours?” Nicolas asked.

“Yes, several. Why?” she asked, eyeing his suspiciously.

“I am trying to find someone,” Nicolas answered as he looked around. She must have a sweet tooth.

“What does she look like?” asked the woman.

Nicolas blanched. He would look like a weirdo if he said he had no idea. “Ah, never mind.” He then turned around and headed back out to the sidewalk.

The scent floated to him from the west in small snatches. It was disappearing. He was certain that she was somewhere near here. He inhaled again, peace settling into his soul. He had to find her. “I need a better action plan.”

“We could hack into the security cameras and see if you see someone who strikes a cord,” suggested Jared.

“It’s not the same. That might work for a witch, but you know we use scent to identify our mates,” said Nicolas grumpily.

“There are not many options unless you want to do a door-to-door search,” said Jared. “Assuming she is not a tourist or a commuter.”

“Let’s start monitoring the shop here. Maybe she will come back and we can eliminate possibilities,” said Nicolas. “Let’s go. I need to get the contract moving for Bentley. He is always a bastard if he has to wait.”

A few minutes later, they were climbing into the town car. Nicolas took for granted that the small ouroboros sticker on the front windshield kept the meter maids from ticketing his vehicle. They left the car unticketed because they knew it was untouchable, much like embassy plates. Although most people thought the circular serpent eating its own tail was a Chinese symbol, it was not. It appeared in many ancient culture iconographies representing the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. It was his family’s specific symbol. He was the oldest living member of the Draco, or Dragon line. He always carried a surname that meant dragon. All vampires could trace their lineage back to one of the seven houses of Lilith. Much like witches were descendants of the seven daughters of Lilith, vampires were descendants of her seven sons. This close link to their progenitor helped to maintain the peace between the two groups.

As they pulled away from the curb, Jared asked, “What is the plan for tonight?”

“The club, as planned,” said Nicolas.

“I wasn’t sure you would be willing now since you got a whiff of your mate,” said Jared, meeting Nicolas’ gaze in the rearview mirror.

“We will go. I need to feed. If I find I can’t, I will use some bagged blood from the club.”

“Okay, as long as you feed,” said Jared. “We need you strong.”

* * *

Gabby relaxed after getting a significant amount of research done. She knew now where his office was, where his home was here in the City, and most of his favorite haunts. She had only found articles calling him the most eligible man in their world, so he had not mated yet. If he was, women would mourn globally. Judging by the gossip magazine photos, he had the taste for the elegant with Manhattan’s finest eateries such as La Grenouille, NoMad, Il Punto, and the Smith on his frequent stop list. Then she found local gossip pages had him frequenting a well-known Manhattan Mexican restaurant. She looked it up and found it was only a few blocks from her hotel. It seemed a bit more low-brow than his typical dining haunts. All the pictures showed him leaving some fabulous restaurant with a at least one babe on his arm. So, he was a player. That was a good to know as a back-up plan. She was sure he had no problem filling his bed, even without him glamouring them. Heck, he made her drool, and she knew exactly what kind of threat he was.

That gave her an idea. She dug into the website. The Iguana was a well-known Manhattan hot spot and served up more than just great food. They were a restaurant sandwiched between two floors of dance clubs. That would be where she could observe him. He might know there was a witch in the room from the power signature, but it would be unlikely that she would be the only witch in the place. She had just enough time to get some dinner and get ready. She snapped her fingers and her favorite salsa shoes and her vestido de fuego, or fire dress as her sister called it, arrived on the bed. The fire-red crepe silk wrap dress with little gold-tinted beads to catch the light flowed over her skin when she danced. She rarely sat down when she wore it to the Salsa club in the Inner Richmond neighborhood that she and her sister frequented at least weekly. It was a win-win. If he wasn’t there, she could get some dancing in.

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