THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 6.4 - HOMEWORK

Riley fought the rising fear which surged from his belly. Indeed, he’d expected the vampires to be watching, especially with Tony having led him to the rendezvous point and Cole awarding him an impromptu visit. But, he had not, for one moment, thought Luke would appear, except later, at the club itself.

If the vampire leader had overheard him, then Riley had just signed his own death warrant. Worse, he had probably added his signature to Becky’s as well.

He glanced across at the young woman; her face was impassive. Her initial shock must only have been from the unexpected suddenness of Luke’s arrival; nothing to do with what he was. If she even surmised what he was.

Riley cast his eyes to the cruet set, abashed by his naivety. Of course, she knew. But what now? He risked looking at her again. Her focus kept shifting between the door and Luke. Following her lead, Riley noticed Cole lingering near the entrance, hands in pockets, head bowed, but no doubt peering through his curly locks at the trio. Inwardly, he groaned.

“I am pleased to see Riley has found some more befitting company, Miss - ?” Luke raised an enquiring eyebrow.

Becky, amazingly, remained quiet. A beat passed, then Luke continued. “He has been a little - lost, recently. I have been worried about him.”

“Really!” Becky said, curt. Her tone was not what Riley had supposed it would be. This woman continually surprised him. Then he noticed her hand, kneading her napkin; she was frightened; she was trying to keep a brave face.

Becky caught Riley looking and she slid her hand from the table onto her lap. Her eyes kept going back to the door, furtive, and a little confused. Riley understood, there was something particularly unsettling about the watcher; Becky must have picked up on that too.

Luke smiled. He sat down, making Riley shunt over in the booth.

Another silence stretched. Riley afforded a glance at Luke, which evidenced an astonishing realisation. The vampire was discombobulated - mildly, yes, but still, Luke seemed a little surprised by the woman’s unexpected resolve.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” Luke ventured, leaning on the table, closing the distance between himself and Becky.

“Perhaps because I didn’t give it,” Becky replied, quick. She involuntarily pushed back against her seat - creating a break in the illusion.

Luke laughed. “Not one for games, are you?”

“No, I’m not. So let’s stop the pretence.”

Luke picked at a piece of pizza, then shoved it aside, a look of disgust rippling his mouth. “I must say I am surprised how astute you are.”

“As am I by your stupidity,” Becky said with a gulp.

“Becky, I think -” Riley tried to intervene, concerned by her flippant response.

Luke’s eyes darkened as he snapped his head around; a reprimanding glare at his Familiar. Riley quietened, but inside he was humiliated as well as seething.

“You know my name already,” Becky continued, drawing Luke’s attention away from Riley. “And you are not the only one to do your homework - Magpie.”

Luke’s eyes widened, amused. Settling his forearms back on the table, he studied the woman in front of him. “So, what is it you think you know, Becky?” His voice was smooth, beguiling, provocative.

Becky shifted a little in her seat, then fixed Luke with a determined stare. “I know one of your brood met with the Fallen,” she said. “I know you want Cain - you even sent him an invite to your club. And I know he’s keen to meet you.”

Riley could not interpret whether Becky knew more than she was telling or if, based on his utterance seconds before Luke appeared, she was winging it. Similarly, Luke’s countenance was now difficult to read.

The vampire sat back. After a few moments deliberation, he glanced at the door and dismissed Cole with a jerk of his head. Becky’s eyes followed the watcher until he vanished into the crowd traversing the sidewalk.

Riley noted her nibbling the inside of her mouth. He could not help but wonder what must be racing through her head.

He equally questioned his take on matters. Perhaps misgivings had been embedded in fear. It wasn’t surprising considering the nature of his new circumstances. Such things were thought of as impossible, only existing within the realms of fantasy or horror.

He then found himself reviewing discussions in the club and at Cole’s house. Luke stated he wanted Becky “out of the way” leaving his path clear to Cain so he could join in his “Holy” crusade.

Perhaps Luke felt the father of vampires “too polite” to take it upon himself to dissuade the woman from pursuing him? A strange hypothesis, indeed considering the debate involved a monster. Still, channelling that train of thought, Ted Bundy had fooled many with his seemingly charismatic persona while he continued with his vicious butchering. So maybe, some bloodsuckers were quite charming outwith their grotesque existence too?

There was no denying Riley found Luke’s intentions obscure, confusing. In fact, the human could not quite fathom the direction which Luke was now leaning towards concerning Becky. But, Riley sensed there was something still undisclosed, a link he had not discovered.

“And do you know why I am interested in you, Becky?” Luke asked the captivated woman.

The question seemed to throw her. No response was forthcoming. Her mouth fell open as if to answer, but there was only silence.

Luke slid forward on the seat, a look of composed victory curving his mouth. His fingers walked across the table surface towards the intrigued woman. “Initially, I considered you a distraction, a constant diversion which prevented Cain from achieving the glory he so rightly deserves. But, now, sitting here, talking with you, I see you very differently. You have promise. You could assist Cain greatly in his - our - crusade.”

Becky’s body trembled, her hands gripping the edge of the table as if seeking stability.

Luke’s fingers closed around hers. Almost in a purr, he whispered, “And I can give you the very thing to enable you to do so; that which you so desperately want.”

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