I woke up Saturday morning, feeling incredibly refreshed. I was naked, in a bed with luxurious silk sheets, when it hit me, all that had happened last night, all that I had done, or nearly done, or didn’t do. I had had sex with a vampire, repeatedly. We had drunk each other’s blood, repeatedly. I had enjoyed every minute of it, too, I thought, blushing. I wanted to cringe, to feel guilty and ashamed, to take it all back, but in all honesty, I found myself laying there smiling and feeling just damn good head to toe. I wasn’t feeling particularly vampy, but I felt stronger and faster, and the world seemed a little brighter.
I slipped out of bed and padded off, naked, to Lucas’ oversized bathroom to wash up.
Lucas was nowhere to be seen. I didn’t remember him leaving, and had no clue where he was. He was probably sound asleep by now. I wondered if he normally slept in this bed. Did he sleep in a coffin? Did he vacate the bed because of me? He must have, since outside of the residual effects from drinking some of his blood I felt particularly normal that morning. If he had been in the vicinity, I would have felt differently.
After showering, I reapplied makeup, with a lighter touch than Aislinn had used the day before. I stepped out to retrieve my hooker outfit again, since all the clothes in my overnight bag reeked horribly of smoke and were unfit for wear. I found that they had disappeared. Lucas had left me a package. How thoughtful. I smiled. I opened the package and found it to be a lovely mauve cashmere halter top sweater dress that belted at the waist with a delicate black leather belt, and a pair of knee-high black stiletto boots with a note enclosed. I slipped the dress on with a sigh. It landed high on my thighs, covering no more skin than my micro miniskirt had, I realized with chagrin. Lucas was nice, but not that nice. I rolled my eyes, and chuckled. I wasn’t going to complain, though. It was clean, and comfortable, and it fit me like a glove, and right now that was all that really mattered.
I opened the note. It was written on a heavy sheet of ivory parchment paper. His handwriting was old fashioned, crawling across the page in delicate swirls. “This will become you more than that skirt. I much prefer you as a brunette, fix that please. Please feel free to explore. Lock up when you leave.” I laughed. Of all the nerve! I didn’t need some vampire ordering me to dye my hair back. Who did he think he was? I would have to have words with him next time I talked to him.
Deciding I was appropriate enough for another day, I grabbed my bags, and cracked open the door to go find Andreas, and to do just what Lucas said I was free to do: explore. Lucas’ lair was huge, but the lack of windows was stifling me this morning without the vampiric influence of Lucas to counterbalance my need for fresh air and sunlight.
I explored the cavernous interior, finally making my way up the two flights of stairs to the top floor. I found it odd that there was no kitchen to be found in the entire house. But then again, seeing as how a vampire lived here, he probably had no need of a kitchen, anyway. Nearly all the doors were closed and locked, I realized with frustration, as I wiggled handle after handle. Lucas might have invited us to stay the night in his private sanctuary, but he obviously wasn’t inviting us in completely, and his note about exploring took on an entirely new sarcastic tone. After all he and I had shared last night, I was a little miffed about that.
I found Andreas on the top floor in a large library. The walls were packed from floor to ceiling with black bookshelves, which were crammed with books on probably every subject known to man. I wondered if Lucas had read them all. He probably had. Some of them seemed incredibly old, with worn leather covers sporting gilt titles so faded I could not make them out. Andreas sat sprawled out in a brown leather recliner, a large book open on his lap. He had changed clothes, and was now sporting a skin-tight shiny black tee over holey pale blue jeans; equally rock star, but more of a casual chic look than a flamboyant look. I wondered if Lucas had provided him a change of clothes, as well, but that seemed improbable to me. Andreas looked tired and worn, like he hadn’t gotten any sleep. He glanced up at me. “I don’t like concrete caves,” he said curtly, a wounded hint in his eyes.
I set my bags on the floor and sat down in a vacant leather chair and sighed. “I’m sorry, I should have known. Why did you agree to come here?” I wrung my hands in my lap, feeling like I had made a major mistake in bringing us both here.
He closed his book and looked up at me slowly and sadly. “Because you looked like you were going to eat me, and it seemed like the only option at the time,” he said softly. “I was afraid I couldn’t handle you on my own.”
I was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt, realizing that I had been incredibly thoughtless and selfish. This was a man who was linked to my emotions, and he must have felt everything from last night with crystal clarity. I felt awful, horrible. “I’m so sorry, Andreas,” I whispered, staring into my lap, afraid to look him in the eyes.
“You don’t need to apologize or explain to me about last night,” he said wearily. “I know what happened. I can feel you, remember?”
That just made me feel even worse, and heightened my sense of embarrassment. I blushed, ashamed. I had unabashed sex with a vampire last night, while the one being who could feel everything I feel was just two floors up. I was horrified, and suddenly very angry at Lucas for taking advantage of my altered state of mind. I buried my face in my hands. “Oh my god, what have I done?” I wailed.
Andreas stood up and came over to stand in front of me. “You did what comes natural to vampires, Rhiannon. What did you think would result of having Lucas pick us up? I warned you about vampires. You didn’t listen,” he said firmly.
I definitely didn’t. I shook my head. “But that’s not me,” I said desperately. “That’s not who I am. I don’t do that!” Try as I might, though, I could not deny what I had done.
He looked down at me with an expression wise with centuries of experience. “But you did, and you nearly did it to me, and I nearly let you.” The muscles in his jaw tensed. He turned around and walked back to the leather recliner. “I’d tell you to stay away from that vampire, but I don’t think you can, and I don’t think he’ll let you now, anyway.” His voice took on a tight angry tone, as he sat down stiffly. “Did you hear nothing when I said your blood was addictive?” he demanded.
I had no reply. All I could do was stare at my hands in shame.
“Don’t you dare drag me into it again like an unwilling participant,” he said tightly. “You were so close to me I felt practically violated.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, feeling utterly miserable for what I had thoughtlessly put him through. If I bled, he bled, and my throes of passion became an unwanted violation of his senses. It struck me as emotional rape.
“I had to spend the last of my reserves and jump home just for the distance, and to get some real rest,” he finished.
I looked up at him, in surprise and relief. If he teleported away, then he probably was far enough away to spare himself the worst of it, and for that I was selfishly grateful. It also explained his change of wardrobe. I stood up, suddenly feeling very dirty, and wanting desperately to get out of this place that reminded me so strongly of my bad decisions of the night before. What was done was done, I couldn’t undo it, but I was determined to move forward. “Can we leave?” I begged.
“Absolutely,” he agreed with relief. “Where to?”
I thought fast. “Well, I need to get to the hospital to pick up my records, and I want to talk to Grant. Do we still want to visit New York? What about maybe tracking down the people in those files? We ought to get in touch with Aislinn and make sure she made it back ok, and we need to track down this Warren O’Dell, and Marshall Lewis as well, and find out what, if any, connection there was between my dad’s job and TerraGen.”
He smiled briefly. “That’s a long list. They’ll probably be looking for you at the hospital, that’s not a good idea,” he warned, shaking his head.
I stood up and fumed. “I am not going to hide from these people for the rest of my life, Andreas, and I need to know what’s in those records! It could prove that Ariel doesn’t have a spy in her midst,” I pointed out. “Time is running out,” I pled. “I only have until tomorrow until your stupid angel council’s deadline arrives, or did you forget about that?”
“Uh, yeah, actually I did.” It was his turn to look guilty. “Alright, I’ll allow the hospital. It’s a public place, after all. I doubt these people want to draw kind of the attention that causing a major public scene will create, although after the hotel fire who truly knows. We’ll be in fast, and out fast, and if things start to go downhill I’ll be there to port you out,” he said, outlining his rules for the expedition. “It’s daylight, and my powers are in full force, and we cannot afford to waste any more time.” He gave me a very serious look that brokered no disagreement.
I nodded my head in acceptance.
“Good. I suggest first we catch up with your wolf friend.”
I fetched my pre-paid cell phone and dialed his number. He answered on the second ring. “Hi Grant, it’s Rhi,” I said.
“Good lord woman, are you ok? I have been trying to reach you since yesterday morning!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, we’re fine. Long story,” I muttered. “Where are you?”
“At home feeding Pierre breakfast. Where are you? Are you still in Chicago?” I heard cat food pour into a bowl and the grouchy meow of his cat in the background.
“No, are you alone? Can we pop in safely?” I was envisioning his living room in my mind, preparing to beam Andreas and I there, already focusing on the energy link.
“Yeah, come on over,” he said, sounding surprised and relieved.
I hung up and slung my bags back over my shoulder and looked at Andreas. “Come on, let’s go.” I held out my hand, and he took it. His palm was warm against mine. I focused and teleported us to Grant’s living room.
We arrived, and I crumpled to the floor in agonizing pain, exhausted. My head pounded, and I buried it in my hands, moaning.
“What on earth are you two wearing?” Grant laughed as soon as he saw us.
“Disguises. Get her some pain killers,” I heard Andreas gruffly order Grant, “And find some food, it will strengthen her. It’s daylight, she’ll be fine in no time.” He pulled me to my feet while Grant found some Tylenol for me. The light was too bright, but I grimaced, bearing it, figuring I deserved worse than this after last night.
I made my way into Grant’s kitchen. His house was small, big enough for one man and a cat, and a living room bursting with tropical plants. His kitchen was tiny in comparison to mine, but familiar. I opened a white cupboard and helped myself to a bowl of cereal and sat at the table. Grant and Andreas both joined me around the square table underneath the wide window and talked. While I ate and waited for the pain killers to kick in or the headache to fade – whichever came first, Andreas filled Grant in on all that had transpired since we left, glossing over the finer details of last night, for which I was grateful. By the time Grant had been caught up to speed, my head was feeling nearly normal again, and my stomach was full. I was recovering from these headaches quicker each time. I guessed that it was because I was getting more experienced at teleporting.
Pierre, the giant orange beast, bounded up onto the table to peer curiously in my eyes. I was surprised, to say the least. Normally he would hiss and scowl at me, trying to bully me into leaving, and when I didn’t, he’d try to use my leg as a scratching post. This idle curiosity threw me off. “Uhh, Grant?” I said, as a low purr burst forth from the beast. Pierre leaned forward and rubbed his head on my chin. I scooted back away from him in alarm.
Grant started laughing. “Well, I’ll be damned, he must think you smell like me!” He grinned in amusement, and scratched his cat’s head. Pierre flopped onto his fat belly as Grant scratched him, soaking up the love.
I stared down my nose at the creature suspiciously. Pierre had never liked me. Ever. I guessed that since I was able to pick up Grant’s werewolfiness that made me all right in the evil cat’s head. I was starting to feel a little wolfy, but for once I was grateful for the strange sensations. I felt alive, powerful, in control, and ready for action after a bowl of Cheerios and a big glass of milk.
I excused myself from the table and borrowed Grant’s phone to check my messages, stepping into the living room. Grant’s furnishings were simple, but comfortable. An overstuffed beige sofa and matching loveseat sat against the walls, facing a plasma television, and a laptop computer rested on his coffee table. Kat called wanting to touch bases, since she hadn’t heard from me in days. I felt guilty. When all this was over I was going to have to do something extra nice for her to make up for being so avoidant. Lucas had called, and my pulse reflexively sped up at the sound of his earthy baritone, much to my annoyance. It was an old message, time-date stamped from while we were still in Chicago. He said he was sending the information regarding O’Dell to the greenhouse via courier. I hung up and went back into the kitchen.
“Hey Grant, has David said anything further?” I asked. I hoped he had. I hoped he had spilled the beans entirely. I hoped they had broken him. I hoped it had been painful, too.
He shifted in his chair and gave me a guilty look. “Uhh, David escaped, Rhiannon.” He looked at me apologetically.
I gasped. No! “Escape? How?” I demanded, pounding my fist on the table.
“No one knows,” he shrugged. “One minute he was there, chained in Clint’s basement, and the next he was gone. We checked everywhere, but there were no signs of forced entry or exit.” He shook his head. “Everyone is stumped. It’s as if he turned into smoke and melted through the walls or something.”
“Or turned into something really tiny and crawled out,” I said thoughtfully. I was having an idea, it was right there on the tip of my brain, just waiting to burst forth, but I couldn’t quite grasp it. I frowned.
“What is it?” asked Andreas, picking up on my perplexity.
I shook my head. “I don’t know.” I stood up and went back into the living room. I sat down on the overstuffed couch with my carry-on bag, and unzipped it, pulling out one of the files and flipping through it absently. The DVD caught my attention, and then I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier, it was so painfully obvious to me. I walked back into the kitchen carrying the file. “I want Kat to look at these files after I get mine from the hospital,” I announced firmly.
Andreas jumped up. “Absolutely not!” he thundered.
Grant jumped up right after him voicing his vehement disagreement, as well. “Kat is human, she cannot get mixed up in this. Think about what you are suggesting, Rhiannon. I know you love Kat. I like her too, but we can’t risk the exposure to humans, no matter how much we love them.” His voice took on a sad tone.
I flipped the file open. “And these files are all about humans right? Look, she’s a geneticist, and these DVDs are stuffed full with genetic codes, they make no sense to me. I have no idea what I’m looking at, do you?” I waved the disc in their faces. They both glowered at me, but shook their heads. “I didn’t think so.” I set the file down on the table and folded my arms across my head, determined to win my case. “I trust Kat with my life,” I said defensively, “And I trust her with this. There are humans in the know,” I pointed out. “I’ve seen them.” I thought back to the vampire clubs.
Grant looked at Andreas thoughtfully. “She has a point,” he conceded begrudgingly. “Kat’s easily startled and prone to excitement, but she’s a smart, shrewd woman who knows how to keep her mouth shut.”
“Great,” Andreas spat. “It’s two against one here, there’s no way I’m going to win. If Kat has been your best friend for years, you can bet she’s being watched,” Andreas pointed out reasonably. “How do you plan on getting around that?” He folded his arms tightly across his chest, giving me a challenging look.
I smirked, having already thought of that. I knew of a couple of petite winged friends who would be perfect for the job. “Why, with the help of a couple of spices, of course,” I grinned at him. “Can you take me to my office at the greenhouse?” I wasn’t feeling up to another teleport myself. “It’s a Saturday, and I’m expecting company. If we don’t go walking in through the doors or turn on the lights, anyone watching the outside shouldn’t even know we are there.”
I loved my greenhouse. We weren’t due to open for another hour or so, so Andreas and I had the place all to ourselves. The smells of the fresh soil and growing plants instantly relaxed me and put me at ease every time I walked in through the door, or teleported directly inside, as the case may be. I made my way to my herb section in the back near the cash register, feeling my spirits lift by the sight of the glowing greenery and the scents they put off. I inhaled deeply, and smiled, refreshed.
“What are we doing here?” Andreas whispered.
“Just wait,” I cautioned, and perched on the edge of a table, waiting. Andreas seemed a little more at ease, as well. The tired tension I first saw in his face when I found him this morning was slowly melting away as my greenhouse worked its magic on him. I might have had a tough time believing in most magic, but the uplifting magic of nature was one in which I fully believed.
A few minutes later, I heard high pitched chatter, and two fairies swooped into view, flying circles around my head. I laughed with delight. Frankincense and Myrrh landed light as a feather on the branches of a rosemary plant near my elbow. Frank looked particularly dashing in his tiny silken trousers, and I had to wonder just what their clothing was made of, as it shimmered and sparkled in the light. Myrrh had delicate blades of grass braided through her long locks. “Rhiannon, friend!” beamed Frank. He swept me a bow, his delicate purple and black butterfly wings peeking out high over his head as he bent low at the waist.
I smiled widely. “I am so glad to see you two!” I exclaimed. “I have a job that only a couple of nimble, fleet footed fairies could accomplish, are you available for hire?” I smiled sweetly at the two of them.
I saw Andreas smile and nod his head in approval as understanding dawned on him, catching on to what I had in mind.
Frankincense zoomed up and alighted on my shoulder. “A job? Say, whatkindof job?” He eyed me shrewdly. “Wantmetofind something?” He spoke fast, his words blending into each other with his excitement.
“Frank!” shouted Myrrh, folding her arms and tapping her foot on the rosemary. “You get down here! Offer nothing until you hear the job, you stinkweed!”
Abashed, Frank flitted down to join Myrrh. He gave her an apologetic look, and then turned to face me, straightening his tunic. “What is it you wish to have our help with, Rhiannon Maddox?” He asked with an air of formality.
I decided to go for flattery. “I need to have something delivered, unseen, unheard, and anonymously. I thought of no one but you for this important task,” I said, gravely serious.
Frank beat his brow with his fist. “This is what fairies do best!” he exclaimed.
I smiled. “Good.” I pulled my notebook out of my bag and wrote a quick note, and then folded up the piece of paper. “I need you to deliver this to a woman named Katherine Hopkins. Make sure no one but her sees this, and make sure she sees it quickly and reads it as soon as possible. Don’t let anyone spot you. This is of the upmost importance,” I emphasized.
Frank bowed again. “It shall be done.”
“For a bottle of honey!” added Myrrh, stomping on his foot in frustration.
“Honey!” I laughed. “Why not money?”
Myrrh looked at me with disdain. “What use have fairies for pictures of old men on green paper and metal disks with funny faces? We can’t eat them, and we certainly can’t go shopping at WalMart!” She looked at me like I was an idiot.
I let out a peal of laughter, agreeing that she was absolutely correct. I flipped out my pre-paid phone and called Grant. “Hey, can you bring a bottle of honey in with you when you come to open the greenhouse for the day?”
He sighed. “Are you making deals with fairies, Rhiannon? Be careful, or they’ll rob you blind.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah yeah, can you just do it?”
“I’m already on the road,” he complained, “But sure, fine. I’m being tailed, though, so you two better be out of sight when I get there,” he warned.
I hung up and looked at Frankincense and Myrrh. “Your bottle of honey is on its way.” I held out the note, and Frank snatched it greedily from my hand. “Do you need directions?” I asked.
“I’m a fairy,” he scoffed, “I need no directions.” The two fairies flew up toward the ceiling and disappeared. One of these days I was going to have to ask how they managed to get in and out.
Andreas and I headed back to the privacy of the employees-only section to wait with my maturing baskets of hanging flowers. He seemed relaxed and lighter of spirit, wandering around smelling the baskets I had spent so much time laboring over. He reached out and touched the occasional basket, and the budding blooms blossomed.
I unconsciously reached out to touch his hand, but he reflexively pulled it away.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, feeling rejected.
He shook his head. “What’s done is done. You are what I made you.” He looked at me sadly.