Caleb woke in their hotel suite a few hours following their return from lunch with Alton. The elder vampire had been correct that their flight, combined with the food and wine, had caused him to feel incredibly exhausted. He rolled over onto his back and immediately stared into Katrina's beautiful eyes.
She smiled down at him warmly while perching on one elbow next to him. "Welcome back to the world of the conscious, my love." Her fingertips tenderly brushed against the side of his cheek, causing him to smirk from the tickling sensation.
"Watching me sleep, I presume?" he asked before stretching and yawning.
She half-shrugged. "You're the best view in the hotel."
He shook his head. "I don't know, there's always London through the windows."
"I've seen London. I can't get enough of you," she said simply and kissed him on the lips.
"You're spoiling me. Badly," he warned.
She smirked playfully and teased, "Don't worry, I'll put you in your place if you get out of hand."
He rolled his eyes at her and glanced at his wristwatch. It was already early evening. "Wow, I slept five hours!"
"Just in time for evening, actually," she offered.
He shook his head slightly at the late hour and asked, "So, are you ready to go out on the town for some sightseeing?"
Her eyes flared bright green for a second and she replied, "Once I'm done with you."
"Done with me?" he asked carefully.
She smiled slyly. "You got your sleep. Now I want blood and more."
While initially caught off guard, it took very little motivation to interest him for more amorous prospects. He was amazed by the level of passion she raised in him, almost at will. He felt a mix of adoration mixed with animal magnetism coming from her. It was like standing before the sun: blissful warmth that burned into you if you stood too long before it or got too close. But it was a blissful burning, the kind that you wanted to yield to and embrace. So he did, and time stood still for them.
Later, a numbing sensation formed in his neck as he lay on the bed, glistening with sweat. He was still catching his breath as he subtly felt Katrina's fangs pressing into him. It wasn't painful, thankfully, more like increased pressure forming in his neck. He heard the telltale slurping sounds indicating that she was feeding from him. No, not feeding. Communion. And he was only too happy to oblige. He let his mind wander on a euphoric tide, which ended much sooner than he wanted. When her head lay against his chest, her mane of hair tickling his skin, he opened his eyes and wrapped his arms around her.
"I so love you," he whispered.
She kissed his chest with soft lips and murmured, "My love. My reason for existence."
They relished the precious moments, lying together in contented silence.
Following a shower and changing into fresh clothes, they headed downstairs to begin their excursion into London. The weather was still cold and cloudy, but at least the rain had ceased, allowing them the opportunity to take pictures using Caleb's camera. While the city was breathtaking to view from the hotel and Alton's office building, it was another thing entirely for Caleb actually to walk through it. The city was alive at night, transformed from just a large metropolis to something mysterious and eternal, teeming with people from all walks of life.
The sights were amazing. Their view from inside the London Eye was impressive. Of course, while the stores were still open, they also did some souvenir shopping. Then they proceeded to get Caleb something to eat at a popular downtown restaurant named Bankside, not far from Southwark Cathedral. Katrina contentedly watched him eat, and they discussed their next destinations that evening.
Afterwards, they went through parts of the city to view key sights such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Thames River itself. Katrina even posed a couple of times with Caleb as friendly passersby were willing to snap the photos for them. As much as she enjoyed the touring, most of her satisfaction came from watching Caleb's reactions and sharing in the excitement of his experiences. It was so easy to see how much fun he was having, and it filled her with genuine happiness.
It was while appreciating his interest in a granite-mounted statue of the Duke of Wellington on horseback that she caught the glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. Her keen vampire vision focused on a pale man in a dark overcoat who was watching them from about a hundred feet away while partially concealed in the shadow of a nearby building. However, once the figure realized he had been sighted, he quickly disappeared from view.
I wonder if he's one of Alton's vampire staff? Katrina wondered with a narrow-eyed expression. Caleb looked up at her curiously, but she smiled at him as if nothing had happened. Instead, she made a point to stay close to him and be more aware of her surroundings without raising her mate's suspicion. Fortunately, the remainder of their nighttime excursion was pleasantly uneventful.
As they made their way back to the hotel via the London Tube, she snuggled into his arms as he held her closely beside him, earning a number of envious-looking stares from fellow passengers.
All in all, it's a perfect evening, Caleb mused as he closed his eyes to rest.
This has been wonderful, Katrina thought happily as she scanned the train car's nearest passengers in precautionary fashion.
As soon as they carried their armload of shopping purchases into the suite, they freshened up, and Caleb collapsed into bed. Katrina lay beside him, lightly caressing his back while gazing out the large bedroom window into the night and out onto the city. Her mind recalled the events of their excursion, but also played back the brief discovery of the mysterious vampire observer. The stranger's actions hadn't seemed hostile, merely curious. Probably one from Alton's cadre of employees. I'll ask him about it tomorrow.
Caleb woke early on Sunday to find Katrina gazing upon him fondly as she lay beside him. A glance out the bedroom window revealed gray clouds and some light drizzle. However, it didn't detract from his excitement of knowing that he was waking up in London.
"Morning, Kat," he offered with a sleepy grin.
"Good morning, my love," she replied warmly.
She started to kiss him, but he held up his hand to cover his mouth and shook his head.
"Oh, not yet," he protested and quickly rolled out of bed to patter into the bathroom as she regarded him with a raised eyebrow.
A few moments later he returned to bed and offered her a minty fresh-breath kiss. She smirked following their kiss and shook her head. Always so thoughtful, she mused.
"Fresh breath for a fresh day in London," he quipped. "What's on today's agenda?"
"Well, there's a couple of museums located near the hotel that aren't open in the evening, so perhaps you can visit those today. We'll see other sites together this evening," she offered.
He glanced outside again before returning his gaze to her. "I'm no meteorologist, but isn't it safer for you on cloudy, misty days like today?"
She smirked. "Somebody needs to watch more Weather Channel. Despite the clouds, the sun projects very powerful ultraviolet radiation that penetrates them, and it would still damage me. It's an easy misperception by most people. UV radiation isn't in the visible spectrum for humans, but vampires can sense it quite readily in much the same way you can feel heat emanating from an oven."
"Oh," he replied sullenly. He hated the idea of spending the day without her, but he certainly didn't want her to be injured, either.
She reached out to caress the side of his face with her fingers in soothing fashion. "It's okay, my love. I don't want you to be cooped up here in the hotel all day. Besides, I'm used to the limitation, and it will be evening before you know it. There's a lot to see, and we'll only be here a week. Please, go enjoy, okay?"
"Well, okay. But I won't enjoy it as much without you."
"You're very sweet," she acknowledged appreciatively.
He wished that he could do something nice for her before he left, but it wasn't as if he could order breakfast in bed for her. An idea struck him, and he smiled slyly. She frowned at him with a curious expression as he lay back down onto the bed and turned his head slightly away from her.
"Hungry? How about a little nip before I get ready?" he offered.
She smiled at his thoughtful gesture. Her eyes briefly flashed, and she advanced upon him to kiss him deeply, warmly. I'm such a lucky woman. He's so giving, especially of himself.
Her mouth moved from his lips to the side of his soft neck, and she kissed him ever so gently a number of times with appreciation. Her lips parted, her tongue pressing against his skin. He waited patiently as the numbing sensation spread throughout his neck.
"Thank you, my love," she whispered. "You fulfill me in so many ways."
She held her tongue against his skin for another brief moment, and then extended her fangs into him. A wave of ecstasy passed through her as his blood trickled past her lips, into her mouth, and down her throat. She caressed his scalp with her fingertips soothingly and deliberately controlled the rate at which she drew blood from him.
Knowing that he was preparing for a day of sightseeing, she made sure to take only a small amount from him, just enough to fulfill her morning craving. There were few words she could use to describe the satisfaction that partaking in him brought to her. Human blood was sweet, but all the sweeter when given freely and with love. The time passed all too quickly, and she carefully retracted her fangs and used her saliva both to seal and heal his bite marks so nobody would be the wiser.
Despite his aversion to the idea of touring London alone, the day passed quickly for Caleb as he visited two museums close to the hotel. He ate in one of the museum cafes and continued his perusal until later that afternoon. He was amazed by the diversity of people that he saw as he walked around the exhibits and quickly understood how popular the city was for tourists. By four o'clock, he hurried back to the hotel. Upon entering the suite, he found Katrina sitting on the couch watching television and using her notebook computer.
After he freshened up, he and Katrina went out on the town. They went to a different local restaurant so that he could eat dinner someplace new and afterwards took in a play at the Her Majesty's London Theater. It was a rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, and they had a wonderful time. The remainder of the evening was spent seeing various sites of interest and walking arm-in-arm together while appreciating each other's company. Time flew by, and soon after midnight, Katrina redirected them back to the hotel so that her mate could get a decent night's sleep. And though it felt like a brief evening out for a vampire, she felt the quality of their time made up for its length.
The next day was Monday, and Caleb woke very late in the morning to find himself alone in bed. He stretched, yawned, and happily reflected on the previous night's events. Despite the closed the bedroom door, he heard Katrina talking in the living room beyond.
"…he just woke up, in fact," he heard her comment when he strained to hear what was being said.
Okay, so I'm nosy, he conceded with a shrug.
A few moments later, Katrina appeared in the room with a swoosh of air and a sweep of the doorway. The gust of air actually blew his hair around slightly before she appeared at the bedside.
"Good morning, sleepy-head," she murmured before placing a soft kiss on his lips.
"Hey, morning breath alert," he warned, but was too late to make a difference.
She merely shook her head. "A few hundred years ago, there wasn't any such thing as morning breath. Just breath. And a morning waking with breath was a good morning."
He pursed his lips as he considered the historic logic of her statement, admitting, "You certainly have a way of putting things in perspective."
She gave him an endeared look. "You better get up and around; breakfast will arrive soon." She noted his curious expression and explained, "Alton thought you would appreciate an authentic English breakfast. Oh, and he made an appointment for you."
She explained that Alton had scheduled for him to meet with Dr. Guilhelm that evening. He hoped that the accomplished vampire psychiatrist would be able to unlock his blocked childhood memories. And while he was adamant about recovering those memories, he still felt a sudden rush of anxiety at the prospect. But I'm not going to get cold feet, that's for damn sure.
He shaved and dressed and was ready to eat the breakfast that had arrived just minutes prior. Katrina watched with amusement as he gazed upon the large platter containing eggs, bacon, sausages, fried bread, mushrooms, and baked beans.
He wrinkled his nose and looked up at her with shock. "This is a traditional English breakfast? Mushrooms? And baked beans?"
She laughed so hard from his semi-horrified expression that tears streamed from her eyes. In the end, he ate the eggs, bacon, and part of the sausages and picked at the rest just to be polite.
Overall, not too bad, he reflected.
He passed the time perusing the local shops and interests within a block of the hotel while Katrina spent most of the afternoon visiting with Alton about his new European project intended for the upcoming summer. When evening arrived, Katrina would accompany him to see Dr. Guilhelm.
Much as Caleb expected, and as was typical when he was apprehensive about something, the afternoon passed rather quickly. By the time the sun began to set and early evening arrived, he returned to the hotel suite to find Katrina sitting on the couch channel-surfing. He put down a small sack of novelties he had purchased and plopped down on the couch next to her. After a quick exchange of kisses, he glanced at the television and pointed to the screen as the channel changed.
"Hey! Wasn't that a Doctor Who episode?" he asked excitedly.
She peered at him curiously, shook her head and replied, "Not sure. And anyway, we don't have time for– um."
"Doctor Who," he supplied happily.
"Ah. We've got to head across town for your appointment. Then we'll get dinner afterwards, okay?"
He shrugged. "Okay."
The journey was expedited via the London Tube, and they arrived nearly thirty minutes early. The five-story office building was actually used for a variety of businesses, which included small medical practices. Dr. Guilhelm's office was on the fifth floor and reminded him of the small office that Alondra Vargas, actually Chimalma, had maintained in Atlanta during last fall's adventure. The small seating room outside of the doctor's main office was eerily similar in size and layout. A brown-haired, human receptionist greeted them, acknowledged their appointment and asked them to sit in some chairs on the other side of the room.
Caleb looked up at Katrina with a frown and made a comment regarding the odd coincidence in setting. Her expression turned serious as she whispered, "Something like that's simply not going to happen to you again. I promise no vampires will be messing with your mind or body. Except for me, of course."
He sighed with his arms folded across his chest, and she placed a comforting arm across the back of his shoulders as they sat next to each other. After a few minutes, the doctor's interior office door opened, and a tall figure with teal eyes and silvery blond hair looked at Caleb with an inviting expression. The fellow appeared to be in his late forties and had gaunt features and a lean body. Aside from his overly pale complexion, the only attribute even hinting at his true nature was that his eyes appeared somewhat brighter than normal.
"You must be Caleb," he ventured calmly. "I'm Dr. Guilhelm, and I'm pleased to meet you. Alton said to expect you. And Ms. Rawlings, I presume?"
"Katrina," she offered as she rose to shake his hand firmly.
Dr. Guilhelm shook Caleb's hand in turn and gestured towards his dimly lit office. "Please come in, Caleb. Would you mind if Katrina remained out here for the time being?"
He looked up at her, and she smiled supportively and nodded her affirmation.
"I'll be right outside if you need me," she assured him and noticed the doctor smile and nod subtly in agreement.
"And Ms. Prescott, you may clock out now," Guilhelm politely instructed his aide. "I won't need you back here until tomorrow afternoon at the regular time."
"Yes, sir," the woman acknowledged with a respectful tone. "Good night."
"Good night," he replied as Caleb walked past him to enter the office.
A few minutes later, he perched on the edge of a brown leather couch placed against the back wall of the office. A series of forest photographs was displayed in three large frames above the couch. A leather reading chair sat across from the couch, in which the doctor sat with his legs crossed. Caleb scanned the office and noticed the window behind the doctor's large oak desk looked out upon a nighttime view of the city beyond. Overall, it was much more comfortable than Vargas' office and far more warm and inviting.
"Kind of a classic look in here, Doc," he offered with a hint of anxiousness. "Do all psychiatrists use the same office furniture catalog? Or maybe it's a standard layout?"
The doctor smiled, briefly and nodded. "Chapter three of the psychiatrist's manual, actually."
Caleb sighed and smirked.
"Are you feeling nervous, Caleb?" Guilhelm asked calmly with a supportive, non-threatening expression.
Caleb swallowed. "No. Well, actually, yes. But I'm okay."
"Ah, but if you really were okay, you wouldn't be here, would you?" the vampire asked with a grin.
Caleb looked up with a surprised smirk and chuckled despite himself. "You're not a real psychiatrist, are you?"
The doctor grinned reassuringly. "Actually I am, but I've found humor usually lightens the mood, and you seem to enjoy a little levity."
"I can see that," Caleb agreed good-naturedly as he absently rubbed his fingertips against each other. "And yeah, I like humor."
"That's good. So, why not tell me a little about yourself?" Guilhelm encouraged. "And then a little about what it is you're trying to recall."
Caleb described his background at a cursory level, but soon found himself going into further details about his childhood and abusive father. He was surprised how easy it was to talk to the doctor, and he effortlessly described his introduction to Katrina last fall, including the occasional flashes of memory flaring at odd occasions. He described the flashbacks after having discovered the old photograph of his mother and Katrina, then Amber, at the company banquet. Occasionally, the doctor asked simple questions for clarification or additional details, but mostly listened patiently. By the end of his recollections, Caleb found himself feeling oddly at ease and had even stopped fidgeting.
"Caleb, have you ever undergone hypnosis therapy?" Guilhelm asked once Caleb had finished.
"Well, I'm going to try something that's very straightforward and pain-free," the doctor began. "It's just to gauge how significantly your memory may be blocked. And if the conditions are viable, I'll see what I can do beyond that. Perhaps I can nudge them free for you. All you need do is sit back and relax."
Caleb nodded, and the doctor stared at him in a sedate manner. Guilhelm's eyes began to glow mildly, and he offered in a reassuring voice, "Now just stare into my eyes, Caleb. And don't be nervous. My eyes are calm, and friendly, and inviting…"
Within moments, Caleb was concentrating on Guilhelm's teal eyes. They were entrancing and soothing, and it made him feel a little sleepy. Suddenly, he saw only teal eyes before him. He heard Guilhelm continue talking, asking him to think about his childhood. Random memories from his youth flooded his mind. The doctor's voice continued to soothe and guide him as he remembered back to various childhood events. Again, the teal orbs filled his vision, blocking out everything else. And the memories continued to flash in his mind.
He described his visions in a subdued voice, explaining the scenes and recollections playing out in his mind. But at some point, he was unable to recall whether he were speaking aloud, or merely thinking, or both. Yet the memories continued to flood through his mind. After an undetermined period of time, he saw something new from his childhood seemingly appear before his eyes. At least, the vision seemed new. He didn't recognize the scene, which included a sunny day in his old backyard in Ohio. Was it summer? Everything was so vivid in the vision. I played with my toys, and I saw something blurry kicking up dust in the field near our house. A door opened and slammed shut abruptly. It was the old garage next to the house. I ran to investigate. Caleb watched events play out through his own eyes as he entered the musty garage with a curious expression.
I went into the garage, and I think I heard moaning somewhere. Was it an animal? The sound came from the tarp-covered old car that Dad worked on sometimes. I knelt on the floor and peeked underneath the oily old tarp. Caleb gasped. I saw a person, or something that looked like a person! There was a stinky, burnt smell, too.
There was a woman's voice, a quaky-sounding woman's voice. Was she hurt? What was she doing under the car? Then additional flashes of conversation with the woman. She's an angel? From heaven? And she needs help soon! I ran back into the house for a pencil and some paper and returned to the garage. It was a secret, the angel. Angel Amber said not to tell anyone, not even Mom. A long series of numbers followed. He needed to get to a phone and call the number and give the angel on the other end of the phone some more numbers. What were all the numbers for? Did God use all those numbers too?
I waited for a truck to arrive. God sent a truck? The delivery angel, Angel Bruce, although he looked like an ordinary man, left a plastic box with me. Why did the angel need for me to write my name on a clipboard? Don't angels know everybody? I rushed the box to the garage for Angel Amber. She told me to leave for a while, so I did. More playing with toys, watching television, and eating lunch. Then Mom made cookies. It was evening, and I had to go check on Angel Amber after supper. But Dad was angry after work, and he drank more of the stinky bottles of beer. He got angry again. Lots of shouting, and Mom started crying. Then Dad hit me when I kept asking about Mom. The pain hurt so much. He likes hitting, I think.
I went into the garage and wanted to see the angel, but I'm upset. Angel Amber asked me questions from under the car. Wait! Dad's coming! He looked angry, and I was scared. Ow! My arm was bleeding, and I cried. There's a woman standing in front of me. Who is she? She's Angel Amber? Dad's really mad and doesn't like Angel Amber. The angel hit Dad! She's putting me outside, out of the garage. But Dad's going to hit the angel with a big metal bar! Angel Amber grabs Dad by the neck, and he falls onto the floor. Angel Amber wants to look at my arm because it's still bleeding. She kisses it, and it feels funny, but better. She says the angel magic will fix it. She wants me to look into her eyes. She has pretty green eyes. I feel sleepy. Then I'm playing in the back yard with my toys. I see the angel carrying something over her shoulder as she walks through the empty field near our house. And Dad's gone…
Caleb gasped as he fell back against the cushion of the leather couch, still staring into Dr. Guilhelm's calm face. His heart was racing so fast that he thought it might burst from his chest.
"Are you okay, Caleb?" Guilhelm asked quietly with a concerned expression. "How are you feeling?"
Caleb blinked once and nodded dumbly. "Um, yeah," he stammered. "Confused…" He actually remembered meeting an angel named Amber. It's like everything just happened. Everything's still so fresh.
Guilhelm merely nodded silently and waited.
"Angel Amber was Katrina," Caleb mumbled almost to himself. "She killed…She saved me from my dad."
Guilhelm nodded again. "Caleb, you found something that was hidden away inside your mind. You must realize that these new memories, though valid, are as you would have interpreted them as a child. They are yours either to embrace or reject, but either way, they are your own. I suggest that you patiently take the time to go over them in your mind."
"They're so vivid, like they just happened," Caleb rambled.
"In essence and to your conscious awareness, they just did," the doctor explained. "What are you feeling right at this moment?"
Caleb rubbed at his eyes and felt wetness on his face. Guilhelm handed him a box of tissues, and he blew his nose.
"I'm not sure," he began unsteadily. "I'm free from Dad, though. Forever."
"Caleb, your memories can be very powerful, and I want you to think about your feelings surrounding them. You have some difficult images to digest and may want to consider further visits with me. I'll be more than happy to help," Guilhelm offered.
"Most of all, you should talk to Katrina about your memories openly and honestly. I also want you to call me if you have any questions or concerns, day or night." Guilhelm handed him a business card. "I put my personal cell phone on here, and you shouldn't hesitate to call me anytime. After all, I'm a vampire, and I don't sleep much."
Caleb smirked at the quip and took the card. Guilhelm rose from his chair, but motioned for him to remain where he was. "I'm going to step out for a few minutes so you can collect yourself in quiet," he explained. "But I'll be outside with Katrina if you need me or her."
Caleb nodded, and the doctor quietly slipped from the office.
Katrina rose as soon as Guilhelm exited. She had an expectant expression on her face, and the doctor motioned for her to remain quiet. Once he pulled his office door to, he whispered, "We're done for now. He seems fine and is collecting himself at the moment. I was successful in releasing his memories, and I suspect he remembers everything that you blocked. But time will tell, and he may need to visit with me in the future. I told him that he needs to think about his feelings and to talk to you about them. I gave him my card, but I'll give you one too, just in case. Call me anytime, especially if you sense that something is wrong."
"Can I see him now?" she asked with concern. My God, it's been nearly three hours!
He held up his hand tentatively and suggested, "Give him a few more minutes alone. Then you can peek in on him."
"Um, just let me know what I owe you, and –" she began a little unsteadily. Her mind was racing with concern for Caleb.
"No," Guilhelm countered. "This one's pro bono. Alton told me a little about your circumstances, and I'm just happy to help."
"Pardon me for being suspicious, but why?" she asked carefully.
Guilhelm smirked. "I see what Alton meant when he warned me about your protective and cautious nature. Not that I'm criticizing, mind you."
She scowled. Alton, you blabber-mouth.
"For one, he seems like a fine young man. I'm sincerely pleased to help you, actually. Alton conveyed how very important Caleb is in your life. And frankly, I don't get to see many vampire hypnosis patients, particularly vampire mates. This was a sort of professional opportunity for me," he explained. "You did a pretty good job, by the way. But I'd stay away from hypnotizing humans in the future. It's quite tricky."
She sighed and shook the doctor's hand. "Yeah, I found that out the hard way."
Guilhelm smiled and nodded.
He certainly seems like a thoughtful being for a vampire. How unusual. "I've got to hand it to you, doctor," she said. "You're a first in my book, as well."
"First vampire psychiatrist?"
"No, first time I met a psychiatrist who does pro bono work," she teased. Fortunately, a hopeful feeling began to replace the anxious ones of a few minutes ago.
Guilhelm shook his head and smirked. "Cute. Tell you what, I'll make a few phone calls from out here while you go in to check on him."
Katrina nodded and gently opened the door leading into the office. She slipped into the office and noticed Caleb rubbing at his eyes while sitting on the couch. He's been crying. She suddenly felt anxious, wondering what his first reaction would be to her following the restoration of his memories. He'll know for certain that I'm the one who killed his father.
He blew his nose into a tissue and looked up at who entered, thinking it was Dr. Guilhelm again. Instead, he saw Katrina, only this time, there was another figure in his mind whom he instantly recognized. His mouth dropped open with a degree of astonishment.
"You're Angel Amber," he whispered as he rose from the couch. He had seen the photo of Katrina as a short-haired brunette, but now the face in that picture was actually real to him and not just a blank space. "You called me Angel Caleb. I remember that, too," he added.
She smiled tentatively and promised, "You're still an angel."
"You saved me," he whispered in a shaky voice. "Thank you, Angel Amber."
Katrina felt a tear slip from the corner of her eye, but it was swept aside by the velocity of her movement as she lurched towards him. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him to her in a warm embrace. "You never have to thank me," she whispered soothingly. It was a far better reception from him than she could have hoped.
"I love you," he whispered into her ear as his arms encircled her waist.
"Oh, how I love you too, Caleb," she whispered. "Completely and forever."
It was very late by the time they left Dr. Guilhelm's office. Katrina asked if Caleb wanted to get something to eat, but he declined, insisting that he wasn't very hungry. Instead, they rode the Tube back to the hotel. During the journey, he kept glancing at her furtively, though she only regarded him supportively or tried to ignore it altogether. His expression was a mix of wonder and confusion, as if he were trying to discern something perplexing.
Caleb wondered about the vivid nature of his new memories and how the woman in them was both different and familiar to him. The freshness of his visions coupled with the current timeline generated a confusing temporal dichotomy. He kept trying to reconcile both periods in his mind, almost as if trying to get his mental bearings. Equally confusing was the host of feelings accompanying the process, a confusing mix of shock, apprehension, wonder, appreciation, and love.
They sat together quietly on the couch once back in the suite, holding hands as Katrina leaned her head against his shoulder. Sometime later, Caleb's stomach abruptly reasserted itself with a growl. Katrina smiled and ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke for him through room service, hoping it would serve as a form of comfort food. Later, she quietly watched him eat with her chin propped up on her upraised palm as her elbow perched on the dining area table. He smiled wanly at her and seemed to be much more at ease. Occasionally, he glanced up at her thoughtfully.
"You seemed much taller in my memories," he ventured between burger bites.
She smirked. "You were much shorter then. Though I'm still taller."
He nodded with a smirk, continuing to eat.
After dinner, he took a shower, and Katrina called Alton to fill him in on the details from the session with Dr. Guilhelm. The stately vampire listened quietly, finally advising her to keep an eye on Caleb and to try to make him comfortable. Yeah, like I need another opinion on how to look after Caleb.
"Did you check with your vampire contacts and staff on whether they were observing us the other night?" she asked, quietly changing the subject.
"I checked, and nobody has seen you in town, nor have they sought you out," Alton replied. "But that doesn't mean some rogue vampire living in the city didn't just happen upon you. London's an old, populated city, and it's conceivable that there are a number of anonymous vampires lurking in the vicinity," he added.
Katrina conceded the plausibility, but experience had taught her that a little paranoia was healthy. "Well, thanks for checking, anyway."
"Listen, Caleb mentioned wanting to see the city during the day. Perhaps I could offer two of my best human staff to accompany him on a tour tomorrow? It would be a great opportunity for him to see the daytime sights under the guidance of locals who also happen to be accomplished in the area of security. Not that anyone is particularly seeking him out, mind you," he ventured.
She frowned, but conceded the viability of the idea. "Hm, no thugs, though," she insisted. "I don't want him to feel overtly guarded."
"Rob and Lynne Fuller are an unassuming married couple who just happen to be two very promising agents on my staff. And they might welcome a respite from their normal duties," he suggested. "I think that Caleb would like them, in fact."
"You're employing married couples now?" she challenged.
"Ah, but they work well together," he countered. "And I made an exception in their case. They each have useful backgrounds."
"Very well," she replied guardedly. "But I want to meet them before Caleb does."
He chuckled. "Fine, fine. You can interview them in the morning. Just call me when you're ready."
"Thanks, Alton," she offered sincerely. "Until morning then."
As she hung up the phone and listened to the sound of Caleb's shower, she appreciated that Alton was trying to be helpful. Then her thoughts turned back to Caleb, and she wondered if the past were finally on its way to being reconciled between the two of them. Only time will tell, I suppose.
The next morning, Caleb woke to Katrina's arm draped across his chest. She was staring into his eyes as he glanced over to her, and she smiled.
"Good morning, Angel," he greeted with a sleepy expression. His freed childhood memories from the previous night's session with Dr. Guilhelm were still so vivid.
She grinned and patted him on the chest lightly. "Good morning, my love," she replied.
"This is nice," he mumbled. "I could get used to all the room service, nice hotels, traveling the world, not to mention plentiful spending money. No worries, no limits, and complete freedom. It's surreal for me, really. Heck, it's easy to forget what day of the week it is."
"It's Tuesday, and I can make this come true for you every day if you want," she baited with a raised eyebrow. "Just say the word and it's yours."
He chuckled and rubbed his sleepy eyes. "Don't tempt me."
She stared into his eyes intently. "Just say yes, and I'll make it happen," she whispered.
"Kat," he stammered with a serious expression, "I can't just…I mean, I have a job, a career to nurture. There's retirement to plan for. Hell, in a couple of years, I'm gonna need a new car, for Pete's sake. You can't just –"
She raised an eyebrow. "Oh, but I can. And I will. Just tell me that's what you want."
He swallowed, taking a moment to contemplate what she had just offered to him. It was like something out of a Hollywood film or fantasy novel. He considered the thrill of it all and the freedom. But he would feel terrible, like the world's worst mooch. A shameless, greedy leech of a person. It's her money, not mine. His pride wouldn't allow such a thing. As much as he wanted to say yes, he simply couldn't with a clear conscience.
"That's very kind," he replied. "But I can't."
He frowned. "It's just wrong," he explained. "What you're doing for me here in London is already too much."
She sighed. Male pride, she fumed. Still, his heart's in the right place, I suppose. "Do you know how many people would've already faxed resignations to their employers by this point?" she teased.
He adopted a more thoughtful expression. "Sorry, it's just not me."
"Well, I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. But let me know if you change your mind. The offer stands, and I'm not going anywhere."
He nodded as he stared down at the comforter draped over them. She reached up to grasp him gently by the chin and turned his face towards hers.
"We're going to travel more, you know," she resolved. "And you have to get used to the fact that I'm going to dote on you."
He smiled back at her and winked. You're the best.
"So, what's on today's agenda?" he asked.
"I'll know more later this morning," she answered mysteriously, rolling over to the opposite side of the bed to get up. "Why don't you order something to eat while I'm getting ready?"
"Okay," he replied, stretching lazily in bed as she went into the bathroom to shower.
He slipped into a pair of jeans and t-shirt and was sitting at the dining room table eating a recently delivered breakfast by the time Katrina appeared in the room with a burst of speed. She blew him a kiss and smirked at the plateful of food before him.
"I'll be back soon, my love," she offered as she hastily departed the suite.
She called Alton on her cell phone as she made her way towards the underground passageway between the hotel and his office building. He assured her that the Fullers would be waiting to meet with her.
As soon as she walked into Alton's office, she began her assessment of the two humans before her. Rob Fuller was her height with short brown hair, brown eyes, and a fit, muscular build. His bearing suggested prior military experience. Lynne Fuller was somewhat shorter with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a lithe, toned build. Katrina detected that both of them were watching her as closely as she was observing them, and she offered a slightly predatory smile. It seemed to surprise both of them, which pleased her.
Alton raised a curious eyebrow at her. "Katrina, I'm pleased to introduce Rob and Lynne Fuller. They're two of my best staff." He gazed at the Fullers in turn, offering, "Ms. Katrina Rawlings. She is Caleb's mate."
Neither of them looked at Katrina in a challenging manner, but each seemed quite interested in her reaction to them.
"Rob was British SAS and later served as a British secret service agent. He's been in my employ for three years," Alton began. "Lynne was MI-5, specializing in intelligence gathering. She's been with us for two years."
"Weapons training?" Katrina asked as she regarded Lynne Fuller.
"Small arms and martial arts," Alton supplied. "Carries a Beretta 9mm pistol."
Her gaze shifted to Rob Fuller. "Your background tells me what I need to know, except perhaps weapons of preference?"
"Steyr 9mm pistol," Rob replied easily. "And combat boot knife."
"Tourism experience?" Katrina asked with a straight face.
The Fullers exchanged curious glances, and then Rob smirked while Lynne stifled a laugh through her bright smile. Katrina allowed a slight smile to form on her lips. Good sense of humor. Caleb will like them, I think.
"Thank you for agreeing to look after Caleb," she offered politely as she reached out to shake their hands. "It's a pleasure to meet each of you."
Their demeanors relaxed further, and Alton raised an eyebrow with intrigue over the brief exchange. "Well, they're yours for the day," Alton offered. "They'll escort Caleb back to the hotel by evening, unless you request earlier, of course."
Katrina nodded with approval, and the Fullers subsequently accompanied her back to the hotel suite. Rob and Lynne politely stood just inside the suite's entry area while she went to find Caleb, who was perusing the Internet on his laptop in the dining room.
He glanced out the large picture window onto the city beyond. Once again, it was overcast, and some drizzle started to fall. It looked somewhat cold and foreboding to him, in fact.
"Back already?" he asked as she walked up behind him and bent down to kiss his lips. "Are we staying in today?" he asked.
"Staying in?" she countered. "If we waited on nice weather in London in March, you'd never see most of the sights, my love. Instead, there are two people I'd like you to meet."
He gave a puzzled look as he closed his applications and shut down his laptop. He followed her into the living area, where he noticed the Fullers standing near the door. He glanced up at Katrina curiously, though he moved forward to shake their hands in turn.
"The Fullers will be showing you some of the sights in the city today," Katrina offered. "They work for Alton, who's been kind enough to offer their tour guide services to you. As Londoners, they have the inside scoop on the best places to visit."
"Hi, Caleb. I'm Lynne," offered the blonde woman with a friendly smile as she shook his hand.
"I'm Rob," offered the dark-haired man with a polite expression as they shook hands. "Happy to make your acquaintance."
Caleb found them quite charming, aided in no small part by their British accents, similar to how he felt when he had first met Alton. Katrina assessed her mate's reaction closely, quite pleased to sense his relaxed body language and melodically calm heartbeat.
"Excellent," Katrina observed. "I think you're in very capable hands, my love. You'll be able to take daytime pictures of some of the sights, and then they'll have you back by evening so you and I can go out on the town together."
"Great! I'll get my coat and camera," Caleb blurted as he headed towards the bedroom.
"You should only need a light jacket, Caleb," Rob suggested while watching Katrina. "We'll take the Tube around town to avoid being in the elements as much."
Katrina nodded at him in silent approval.
Caleb called back from the bedroom, "Hey, we can also scope out Tube stops where Kat would be able to access sites without being –" He abruptly fell silent, unsure if the Fullers were aware that they were working among vampires. Surely, Alton would have told them, he mused.
"They know about us, my love," Katrina called to him in an amused tone.
He reappeared with his camera and black leather jacket in hand. "Good. We'll be able to pick out sites that allow access through the Tube system without ever being in daylight. Maybe we can plan to see those sites together tomorrow." He looked up at his mate with an endearing expression and asked, "Sound good?"
She smiled broadly and quickly kissed him on the lips. "Sounds wonderful, my love. Have a good time, and mind Rob and Lynne's advice, okay?"
He smirked and feigned innocence. "Me? I'll be the picture of the model tourist."
She arched one eyebrow and murmured, "Mm-hm."
Rob and Lynne cast quick glances at each other as Caleb opened the front door and proceeded into the hallway. As Lynne passed him, Rob silently nodded to Katrina in a reassuring manner and turned to follow the others down the hallway.
Katrina stood in the open suite doorway for a few seconds before closing it behind them. She hoped that Caleb left his unexpected penchant for trouble back in Atlanta. Still, it's just sightseeing, right?
Caleb enjoyed getting to know Rob and Lynne as they proceeded to various points of interest throughout the city. He didn't ask, but realized that if Alton employed the couple and Katrina approved of them, the Fullers were likely much more than just a timid, married couple who were showing him around town. They're probably agents, or something, he mused. Still, he didn't want to seem rude by asking, and instead merely kept the conversations light and friendly. Besides, we're here on vacation anyway. It's not like we're on a mission or something. The mission portion of the trip ended with Dr. Guilhelm last night.
His mind momentarily wandered to last evening's revelations regarding his memories of meeting Katrina as a child and the death of his father. He had been scared by what might be revealed in his memories, but was actually relieved by what he had learned. Granted, he found the vivid images disturbing as they related to his father's demise, but it wasn't as bad as he feared it would be. Many other unblocked memories of his father included numerous cases of physical or verbal abuse, and he hated the man for it. I'm glad he's dead, he considered darkly. He realized there was a time not so long ago when such thoughts would have disturbed him. But that changed after I met Katrina. Should that concern me, or perhaps encourage me?
"Caleb, is everything okay?" Lynne asked as she sat next to him on the Tube. Rob glanced discreetly past his wife to study him as well.
Caleb broke from his reverie and felt himself blush slightly. "Sorry," he replied with a sheepish grin. "I was just caught up in some other thoughts for a moment. I'm having a great time, though. Thanks so much."
She smiled at him supportively and nodded.
The three ate a light, afternoon lunch at a quaint English pub called The Cross Keys, where Caleb tried a tasty ale on tap and enjoyed a traditional English sausage entree. Later, they went by Buckingham Palace to view the queen's impressive elite guards on duty. They took some outdoor photos of old buildings, including Parliament and the Courts of Justice on the Strand, and of course, Big Ben, the London Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. The Fullers kindly took photos of him standing before those sites as well. He thoroughly enjoyed their company and forgot they were anything more than a charming English couple showing him the sites. He also called Katrina a couple of times during the day to check in and noticed on the last call that his cell phone battery was waning. I'll be back in a few hours to recharge it.
By late afternoon, they were once again riding the Tube on their way across town. When they exited the train, there was a large crowd of people in the underground boarding area, and Caleb had to squeeze between people. He shared a smirk with Lynne as both of them were brushed aside by a man carrying a violin case who seemed in a hurry.
"Probably just a mobster late for a hit," Caleb joked loudly over the din of voices around them.
"Gonna rub somebody out, eh?" Lynne quipped with a smile, to which he grinned and nodded.
Rob suddenly grabbed the sleeve of Caleb's jacket, and he looked up to see him focused on something along the far wall across the terminal.
"Bloody hell," Rob muttered under his breath, catching Lynne's attention.
She abruptly stopped and turned to look at both of them as Caleb's eyes spied a tall, pale man wearing a gray leather jacket staring back at them with slightly glowing brown eyes.
"Go!" Rob urged to Lynne. "Get Caleb topside into daylight!"
Lynne grasped Caleb's left arm and pulled him towards the nearby escalator heading upstairs. He saw Rob's arm sneak inside his jacket.
"Keep moving, no matter what, Caleb," Lynne urged as she pressed at his back, glancing over her shoulder in the direction of her husband.
"But Rob –" he protested.
"Rob's fine. He'll be fine," she urged and pushed him onto the escalator. "He knows what to do."
Somehow Caleb doubted that. He had been attacked by vampires before and knew how utterly futile it felt to combat them.
At the top of the escalator, Caleb heard a brief gunshot, followed by people screaming. Lynne looked behind her, hesitating. She turned to Caleb with a desperate expression and ordered, "Get up to street level and call Alton or Katrina! Just stay in the daylight, no matter what!"
Caleb nodded and hurried towards another escalator leading further upstairs. He stopped after ten feet to look back, but Lynne had already disappeared downstairs. He turned to continue to the escalator, but spotted a tall, blond man wearing a dark suit coming down the escalator, urgently pushing past people as he descended. Caleb noticed his complexion was very pale, and the man glanced up with slightly glowing violet eyes. Crap, another vampire!
Crowds of animated and scared-looking people were pouring upstairs even as people upstairs were frozen in place wondering what had happened. Instead of getting on the escalator in the direction of the other vampire, Caleb turned towards a small corridor leading away from the area. He quickly proceeded down the abandoned, tiled corridor. It ended in a metal door with a push-bar handle, which he hit at full force as he hurried forwards. Instead of leading upstairs, the concrete steps led down. But rather than backtrack and risk running into the vampires, he proceeded downstairs. At the foot of the stairwell was another heavy, metal door, which he barreled through like the previous one.
He entered into a dimly lit concrete corridor, realizing he'd likely made a bad mistake. The door shut behind him with a metallic thud, and he whirled around with a horrified expression as he grasped at the metal door handle and pulled. It didn't budge an inch.
"Damn!" he cursed and peered tentatively down the darkened corridor before him.
His hand flew to his belt to withdraw his cell phone, and he flipped the face open, muttering, "Hope I get a signal."
He tried scrolling through his contact list, and then stared at the blank screen with a puzzled expression. He tried actuating the power button a couple of times, to no avail. He removed the battery, reinstalled it, and tried turning the phone on. Again, nothing. Worse than no signal. No charge.
He slipped his dead phone away in its carrier and walked carefully to the end of the corridor where it opened into an underground subway tunnel. There were only occasional dim lights placed in the ceiling, giving the tunnel an eerie ambiance.
"Pick a direction," he mumbled, finally turning right.
He walked for a short distance in hopes of finding another side corridor that might host another potential exit, but found the tunnel continuing in a slightly curved fashion. He heard the sound of a train in the distance, which grew progressively louder. Anxiously looking for a place to step off the track area, he quickened his pace forwards. He thought it was too far away to turn back and was relieved when he found a small alcove set in the wall that appeared big enough to squeeze his body into. Thankfully, the niche was more than adequate, though he was less than enthused by the feel of the moist, cold concrete at his back.
The oncoming roar of a train drew closer as he remained in the niche. A rumbling accompanied the noise until a train sped by his location with a roaring rush of air. He clamped his hands over his ears and tightly shut his eyes until the train passed. Stepping from the niche, he proceeded onwards. His mind wandered back to the fate of the Fullers, and he prayed they were okay. He struggled to focus on his present situation instead of allowing his growing anxiety to get the best of him.
Caleb soon arrived at a branch in the tunnel, and he was forced to choose between right and left. He took the left tunnel, walking at an increased pace. The tunnel was much quieter until he heard the roar of another train in the distance, which failed to grow louder and eventually faded away. Time passed, and he finally located a small side corridor leading away from the tunnel. It looked like the passageway that had brought him into the tunnels, but seemed older and less utilized. The brick wall appeared antiquated, and there was only a single light at the front of the corridor. He considered abandoning it for another further up the tunnel, but instead removed a keychain flashlight from his pocket and flipped it on.
Proceeding into the narrow passageway, he failed to hear any noises or voices. It's probably a dead end up here, he mused. After a short walk, the corridor led into a small, open area that appeared completely abandoned. However, he noted a newer looking leather couch that one might find in an office waiting room or lobby. That's strange, he thought.
He shined his small light around the approximately twenty-foot square room and spied a small niche. He walked to it, noting a deteriorated metal door set into the wall. The handle appeared antiquated, and an old deadbolt lock was set into its dingy metal facing. He tried the handle, but the door was secured in place.
"It figures," he groused. "Probably just goes to the Land of Oz or Alice's rabbit hole, anyway."
He sighed and dejectedly headed back to the tunnel. When he arrived, he turned right and proceeded onwards. Not long afterwards, he heard another train in the distance, which grew progressively closer. He shrunk into another alcove formed by two large concrete pillars until his back pressed against the cold, damp cement wall. The rumbling of the approaching train reverberated through his body via the ground and wall behind him. The train sped by with a screeching and whooshing roar, a gust of air sweeping over his body as it passed. He shut his eyes tightly to the onslaught and waited a few seconds longer once the train had passed before opening his eyes again.
"Crap, that's loud!" he cursed as the sensation of the train still seemed to vibrate through his body.
Gathering his wits, he proceeded down the tunnel towards what he hoped would be another boarding area where he could rejoin humanity. He proceeded into the barely lit darkness and concentrated on keeping his footing, pausing occasionally when he thought he heard a rustling sound around him. His nerves were on edge, feeling as if at any moment a vampire would rush out of the darkness at him. He hated the idea that he was essentially weaponless and felt vulnerable due to both his reduced visibility and increasing disorientation.
After a time, he heard another quickly approaching rumbling in the distance. He hastily sought another niche in the tunnel wall and pressed his body into the space.
The train roared past him like the previous ones, and he gritted his teeth while closing his eyes until it passed. Once the train was gone, he opened his eyes, took a deep breath, and proceeded up the dismal tunnel. He had quickly grown to despise the subterranean detour and was anxious for it to be over. He proceeded down another lengthy stretch of dimly illuminated tunnel and avoided yet another approaching train.
Following its passing, and after a much longer interval, he heard another train approaching and sought another niche in the wall. The increasing rumbling noise and accompanying vibrations unnerved him, and he forced himself into the nearest wall space.
"Damned trains!" he shouted with frustration.
The train whooshed by with a roar and a bone-jarring reverberation. He closed his eyes tightly and waited as the air rushed past his body, which shook from the tremulous vibrations working their way through his muscles and bones.
Caleb released a deep breath he'd been holding, feeling weary from his seemingly never-ending journey, and slowly opened his eyes again once the train had passed. But instead of staring into the darkness, he was staring into a black cotton sweater. His eyes widened from the scent of cherry blossoms, and he quickly looked up into Katrina's glowing emerald eyes.
"You're such a handful sometimes," she lightly chastised him, but with an adoring expression on her face. She deliberately hid her relief at finding him safe, having feared the worst when she learned he had disappeared near the tunnels.
His arms immediately wrapped around her waist, pressing her against him in a bear hug. "You don't know how freakin' glad I am to see you," he muttered.
She smiled down at him, fully appreciating his firm embrace, and wrapped her arms around him protectively as she felt his rapid heartbeat thrumming from deep within his chest. However, she also detected the tension in his body and realized just how alarmed he must have been over the situation. Of course, hearing him yell in the tunnel was a good indicator of that.
"Are the Fullers okay?" he asked. "I heard gunshots before Lynne went to help Rob."
"They're both fine," she assured him. "Alton called me while I was on my way to find you. The vampire attacked Rob, but was deterred by a gunshot wound to his neck. By the time Lynne arrived to aid her husband, the injured vampire had escaped into the tunnel."
"What about the other one, the blond vampire?"
"There was another?" she asked. She hadn't recalled Alton's mentioning two vampires on the phone.
"Just how did you manage to find me down here?" he asked, continuing to hug her a moment longer. He savored the comforting feel of her body and scent of her cherry blossom lotion.
"My love, I could find you in a city packed with people," she replied simply. "How much easier would it be in an empty subway? Besides, I also heard you shout, and a faint trace of your scent was flowing through the tunnel."
"I'm so glad you're a predator," he mumbled gratefully.
She chuckled at his odd comment and shook her head slightly before craning her neck down slightly to kiss him. While reluctantly separating from their embrace and stepping back into the dark tunnel, she reached down to his belt, smoothly slipping his cell phone from its carry pouch. She flipped the facing open with her thumb and noticed it was powered off.
"Dead battery," he explained irritably.
She nodded. "Explains why we couldn't reach you," she observed. "And why Alton was unable to triangulate your location from it."
"Pretty typical, isn't it?" he asked with a sigh. In all the excitement over their arrival in London, he had forgotten to place it on the charger.
She handed his dead phone back to him with a smirk and asked, "Ready to get back to civilization?"
He glanced up into her eyes, noticing they weren't glowing as much as a few moments ago. Realizing that she must have been upset when she found him, he smiled, pleased to have a mate who cared so deeply for him.
"Hell yeah, I'm ready," he insisted as he grasped her hand and began walking. Then he stopped dead in his tracks, looking up at her with an annoyed expression. "Um, Kat, do you know how to get the hell out of here?"
She chuckled and nodded. "As a matter of fact, I believe I do."
She led him in the direction he had started to proceed initially, and within minutes they heard another approaching train. Halting their progress, she ushered him into one of the nearest wall niches and pressed his back to the wall. Stepping into the niche facing him, she placed her arms on either side of the concrete columns to hold their two bodies securely in place.
Caleb's right arm slipped around her waist to pull her closer into the niche with him. He stared up into her eyes, appreciating the closeness of her body, and closed his eyes again as the train's roar assailed his ears. A swift rush of air flowed over them as the train sped past. Afterwards, he opened his eyes, and both of them stepped from the small alcove to resume their journey up the tunnel.
"Geez, it's really creepy down here," he observed warily, only to glance up and see her smirking at him.
After a short time, they encountered a dimly lit passageway just wide enough for two people to walk abreast that detoured from the tunnel at a right angle. Caleb pulled on Katrina's hand to halt her, gently beckoning her forwards to continue their journey down the tunnel.
"Probably just another dead end," he offered. "I tried one further down the tunnel that was abandoned."
"Really?" she chided lightly, instead urging him to follow her with an abrupt tug on his hand.
They went down the narrow, dark corridor at a brisk pace, and he noted that a heavy-duty metal cage loomed ahead. The area appeared somewhat different from either the initial corridor he had exited into or the older one leading to the dead end. Katrina barely paused in her brisk stride as her right leg whipped up to kick the lock mechanism. The metal cage door made a crashing metallic sound as it swung open with a powerful reverberation that nearly took it from its hinges.
My God, she's powerful, Caleb noted with awe. He wasn't often able to appreciate Katrina's abilities firsthand, but they amazed him on each occasion.
She led him by the hand to a metal door set into a concrete wall. Firmly grasping the metal handle, she effortlessly pulled it open with a single jerk of her arm, causing the door to yield with a loud pinging sound and a metallic groan of its rusty hinges. Caleb found himself being half-pulled up the concrete stairs behind her, and within seconds they were standing in a deserted, well-lit maintenance access corridor. A sigh of relief emitted from him, and she turned to look into his eyes with a satisfied smile.
"Back to civilization, as promised," she remarked.
He elevated himself on his toes slightly as she bent her head down towards him, and he kissed her lips appreciatively. "Thanks, Kat," he offered with a firm squeeze of her hand.
She winked at him, paused for a moment to get her bearings, and led them down one of the lengths of hallway back to the main terminal area. She withdrew her cell phone and called Alton as they proceeded on their way down the corridor. Minutes later, they were on the Tube heading towards his location.
Alton stood between two vampires dressed in business suits and the Fullers as Katrina and Caleb exited from the train that had pulled up at the station near Alton's office complex. The stately vampire was dressed in an immaculately tailored dark gray suit. Caleb's eyes widened slightly as he exited the train car amidst the other passengers and noted Alton's dour expression. However, Katrina looked like she had just won the lottery, if the broad smile on her face were any indication.
"I'm glad you found him so quickly," Alton complimented as he glanced at Caleb reprovingly. "And as for you, young man, I'm happy that you weren't harmed. Please allow me to reassure you that I won't be underestimated like this again. I intended for your stay in London to be memorable but for the appropriate reasons, naturally."
He nodded with an appreciative expression. "Thanks Alton."
"However, if there is a next time, perhaps follow the advice of your escorts," he suggested.
"I would have," Caleb countered innocently. "But another vampire was heading my direction."
"Another vampire?" Alton inquired with narrowed eyes. He glanced to the Fullers, but they each shrugged and shook their heads negatively.
"You didn't see him?" Caleb asked with a frown. I'm sure he was a vampire, he considered. "He was coming down the second escalator, so I turned and ran down an alternate corridor. But then I got lost in the subway tunnels."
"We'll examine the substation's security camera footages," Alton said. "Our mysterious vampire should turn up on one."
"You have access to the Tube security systems?" Caleb asked.
"My dear boy," Alton replied, "we have access to a great number of things, some of which might actually surprise you."
"Let me guess," Caleb ventured wryly. "You own the Tube system, don't you?"
The edges of Alton's mouth upturned ever so slightly, and he reached out to place a hand on Caleb's shoulder. "Rubbish. Honestly," he retorted. "You're an absolute scamp. You know that, don't you?"
Caleb grinned back at the tall vampire as Lynne Fuller recalled, "Scamp, indeed. One minute he was running towards the escalators in my line of sight. As soon as I was down on the next level, I turned back to spot him again, but he had already disappeared into nowhere. You're fast, Caleb, almost like a vam–"
The blonde agent refrained from completing her sentence given their public surroundings, but her suggestion was obvious to everyone present, and her eyes fell upon Alton and Katrina in equal turn. Alton's eyes briefly darted to Katrina's, both of them exchanging a similar consideration of Lynne's observation. Alton turned to stare inquisitively at the woman.
"Not entirely as fast, obviously," Lynne amended. "But remarkably swift."
Katrina frowned as she considered how quickly Caleb seemed to be able to move for a human. She had noted that when she had first revealed herself to him in the park near her estate, and he had run away at a rapid pace. Likely, he would be a very fast vampire, she mused.
"Our apologies, Caleb," Rob offered. "The matter is quite an embarrassment on our part, and we won't get caught off-guard again."
"Exactly," Alton agreed as he gestured for everyone to follow him from the terminal area. "Next time, we keep Caleb top-side in the light of day. And there will be additional resources available at a moment's notice, if needed."
"It sounds strange, but I'm not convinced they were actually looking for us," Caleb speculated.
"The timing is too convenient," Alton reflected. "Why else would they have been there, if not to intercept you?"
Katrina frowned as she followed directly behind Caleb and Alton. The two other vampires and the Fullers brought up the rear. Alton led them through a length of the terminal until he reached a non-descript, solid metal door. He punched a series of codes into a numeric keypad, and a metallic clicking emitted from inside the wall. They walked into a well-lit, carpeted hallway with pictures of London night scenes placed intermittently down the length of both walls.
"Please remind me, and I'll provide you with the codes to these access doors, Katrina," Alton suggested as they walked down the hall.
"Thank you," she replied, wondering how many such corridors existed.
Eventually, they entered an open, well-lit lobby area located deep beneath Alton's office building. The central portion of the room contained a carpeted floor decorated with professional reading chairs and couches, a mix of end tables, coffee tables, and some live potted plants. A few men and women in business attire either milled around the nearby elevators and seating area or were gathered at the small coffee shop set off to one side of the elevators. While the area was obviously in a subterranean portion of the building, it appeared much like a traditional office lobby.
"Yet another professional gathering area for humans and vampires alike," Alton commented just loud enough for Caleb to hear him clearly. "It also tastefully bridges the office complex with the subway system."
Katrina scanned the area and complimented suspiciously, "Very impressive, Alton. This is all very elaborate, actually. But to what end, I wonder?"
He smirked with a gleam in his hazel eyes. "Why, Katrina, I would have thought that was readily apparent. I intend for London to be a major hub of interaction for our kind, and all alongside the common commerce of humanity. Certainly London is a multifaceted center: commercial, cultural, and social. How much more so for our own kind?"
She began to understand the implications at hand. Alton appeared to be establishing the complex to act as a sort of base of operations or centralized venue for vampires. However, what were missing from his explanation were the barriers to his success. Namely, who would have an interest in seeing the venture fail? And more to the point, why?
However, rather than broach the subject with him in such a public setting, she merely nodded and looked at Caleb, who appeared somewhat tired or shell-shocked from his recent adventure. She reached out to grasp her young, sandy-haired mate by the hand and smiled at him. "You look tired," she observed with a supportive squeeze of his hand.
He offered a half-smile. "A little. But actually, I'm kind of thirsty and maybe a little hungry."
She rolled her eyes at him, always amazed at how robust his stomach seemed to be despite the accompaniment of stress or hardship.
"But of course," Alton neatly interjected. "I'm always hungry following a romp in the Tube tunnels," he teased.
She cast a withering glace at her former mentor, while the Fullers quietly smirked. But Alton's amused visage quickly turned serious, and he turned to address the Fullers.
"Thank you for your service today. I'd like to go over events with you again tomorrow morning, but I'll bid you a good evening for now," he instructed.
They both nodded and turned to Caleb.
"Again, my apologies for today's finale," Rob offered as he reached out to shake Caleb's hand. "I assure you a better showing of our abilities all around, if we're allowed the opportunity for a further tour of London."
"I'd like that very much, thanks," he replied with a grin. "I had a great time, and you've both been very kind."
Lynne extended her hand in kind and offered, "My apologies as well. But it's been a pleasure, Caleb. I enjoyed our time today, and as Rob said, I'd enjoy showing you around some more."
"Thank you," Caleb replied as he shook the former agent's hand. "I'd love that, in fact."
Each agent nodded deferentially to Katrina while silently shaking her hand and nodded to Alton before departing towards the nearby elevators. Alton turned to address the two sharply dressed vampires standing nearby.
"Activate the others," he instructed in a near whisper. "Search the immediate area where they were. I want to know who was down there and why. Most importantly, we need to know where they're operating out of."
Both vampires silently nodded and departed in the direction of a nondescript door with keypad panel inset in the wall located off to the left side of the nearby coffee shop. Alton turned back to Caleb and Katrina with an apologetic expression.
"I hope to have some answers by tomorrow," he offered. "Are you sure you're okay, Caleb?"
Caleb looked up at Katrina with a thankful expression and replied, "I am now, thanks."
"Good. I'm happy to hear it," Alton offered and looked at Katrina. "I'll call you in the morning, okay?"
She nodded, and he turned to depart.
"Alton?" Caleb called after him, to which the dark-haired vampire turned to look at him curiously. "Rob and Lynne were wonderful today," he said. "Don't be angry with them. I felt really safe and welcome around them, and I'm the one who ran in the wrong direction."
Alton nodded and walked towards the nearby elevator. Katrina wrapped her arm around Caleb's shoulders and led him towards the underground corridor across the room that connected to their hotel. He slipped his arm around her waist as they walked.
"Any chance we might stay in tonight?" he asked after a quiet moment.
She smiled, turned to kiss him on the lips, and replied, "I think I can arrange that."
However, as they walked, her thoughts returned to the events in the tunnels. She wondered who had attacked Caleb and the Fullers and why. And Caleb mentioned a second vampire. Who could that have been?READ MORE >>