"Doctor Hector tells me you can't speak, maybe that's just as well," said Kingsley. He had eased down at the foot of the gurney. I think my end of the metal bed had risen an inch or two.
Kingsley was hunched into a sort of cannonball, his meaty knees up around his chest. He looked uncomfortable and didn't seem to know what to do with his thick arms. He was dressed in another shirt, clearly one that wasn't his own, since that had been bloodied and shredded. His own wounds had long since healed.
He reached out and touched my right ankle which was poking out of the thick blanket covering me. I flinched and withdrew it. He nodded to himself. "I deserved that. I deserve, in fact, for you to never talk to me again. I should consider myself lucky that I have you here, alone, in this small place, so that you are more or less forced to hear my apology."
I was still in some pain, as the effects of the silver bullet still lingered. Perhaps there were trace elements of silver still lodged in my muscle tissue? Lord, I hoped not. Or, more than likely, my actual muscles and tendons and flesh supernaturally mending themselves.
Lord, I'm such a freak.
Kingsley's longish hair spilled over his collar. Known as a maverick lawyer, Mr. Fulcrum propagated the image by keeping his hair long and thick and lustrous. Then again, maybe his flowing locks were a result of his own particular wolfish condition. Now, for the first time in a long time, Kingsley looked at me so tenderly that my heart heaved.
"You took a helluva beating tonight, kid. I'm sorry you had to go through that alone. I should have been there earlier to help." He made a move to pat my ankle again, but stopped himself. This time I wasn't so sure I would have moved my leg. "You deserved better. You deserved a friend who supported you through thick and thin, good and bad. Who am I to tell you how to run your life, how to deal with your dying boy? Who am I to play God from afar? You made the best choice you could, and I should have been there to support you. My God, I'm an ass, and I almost lost you forever because of it. Look at you, babe. You can't even talk. Your poor throat. And you did this all to help another boy, risking life and limb and the very medallion you need to help your son, and I couldn't even be there for you."
Now I did something that surprised even me. I leaned forward and took his warm hand. It took both of mine to comfortably hold one of his, and we gripped each other like this for a few minutes.
I wanted to tell him that he did come, that he did help me, that he did save my ass, but I couldn't speak, nor could I penetrate Kingsley's thoughts. An immortal, he was closed to me.
He chuckled lightly, running his thick thumb over the back of my hand. "I bet you're wondering how I came to be there on time. Well, the on time part was dumb luck. The being here part, not so much. I realized I had made an egregious error when I had mentioned the medallion to Dominique." He caught my raised eyebrows. "Oh, you didn't know his name?"
Ah, so the bastard had a name. Dominique. I was certain I hadn't seen the last of him.
Kingsley continued, "I can't be certain, but I think Dominique has been around long enough to read the minds of fellow immortals. But that's no excuse. I've been around long enough to learn how to guard myself from such an attack. I suspected he scanned my thoughts and knew that you and that damn medallion were heavy on my thoughts. He then mentioned something about it and I felt oddly…compelled to tell him what I knew. He's a bastard. A sneaky bastard, but what do you expect from a blood dealer? Still, I should have been more guarded in his presence."
Kingsley looked away and I wanted to desperately ask him about the blood. Who else was he sharing it with? Another woman? Should I even care if it was another woman? Kingsley had been famous as a womanizer. Did his harem of women also include vampires? It seemed so unlikely. But my thoughts were cut short when Kingsley went on.
"I knew he was staying at the Mission Inn. In fact, he's been here for quite some time. After I blurted out the info on the medallion, I was on edge, nervous. I should have warned you. Instead, I lashed out at you, perhaps more angry at myself for not keeping your potentially dangerous artifact a secret. And when I heard about the kidnapping at the hospital, it seemed fairly obvious to me what had happened, and I headed out to the Mission Inn immediately. I have fairly good instincts, too, and, as you might imagine, a helluva sniffer."
I laughed lightly, which tore at my throat. I reached for it immediately, wincing.
"Easy," he said. "No more laughing, young lady. Anyway, I'm quite familiar with your scent and I was soon on the trail."
What every woman wants to hear, I thought.
I think he read my expression. "Oh, nothing bad, of course. Your scent is all your own, and the way my own supernatural hard-wiring works, I can distinguish individual scents from thousands, even millions, of other scents. Call it my gift. Hey, you turn into a giant vampire bat and I can smell feet."
I slapped his hand and stifled my laughter. He squeezed my hand tenderly and looked at me so deeply that I felt a stirring deep in my heart. Love?
"Anyway, I was soon following a winding pair of stairs when I came across a rather strange young man. Poor guy looked like he'd been through hell, face bloodied and all. He immediately led the way down a side hallway, up another flights of stairs, and that's when I heard the gunshots. I came running, fast. Where the young man went off to, or who he was, I haven't a clue – "
Leland had, of course, been there by my side, comforting me the best way he knew how. A sweet guardian angel with a crush.
Kingsley went on, "And before I knew it, I was on top of Dominique and I think you know the rest. The boy, Eddy, I believe, is safely with his family and apparently unhurt. Interestingly, he too spoke of a young man leading him out to safety. I suspect it was the same young man who had helped me. Do you know him, Sam?"
I simply nodded.
"Well, he's an unsung hero and there are a lot of people who want to thank him. The police are looking, of course, for the man who kidnapped Eddy, but for the most part, the police are unaware of your involvement, Sam. Thanks in part to Detective Hanner. She can put quite a spell on people. She even went back and cleaned up your blood. Mine, too."
He continued stroking my hand, and as he did so, I saw the tears forming in his eyes. The moment his tears formed, my own came running free, too.
"I don't expect you to forgive me, Sam, for being a holier-than-thou ass, but if you can find it in your heart to give me one more chance, I promise I will do my best to never hurt you again. You see…" And now he covered my two hands with both of his, and never have I felt so protected. "I think I'm falling for you, Sam, and I don't want to screw it up any worse than I already have."
His words caught me by surprise. Mostly, because they echoed my own thoughts.
"Take care of yourself, kiddo, and take care of your little one, too. You're a good mother, and I respect you more than you can possibly know."
He leaned over the gurney and kissed me lightly on my lips, then turned away and headed out, pushing through the ambulance's door.
I awoke by my son's side in the early afternoon.
With Dominique still out there, it was hard to truly feel at peace, although I suspected any attack now would be on me personally, and not my son, since the medallion was still sealed to my chest.
Where Dominique had gone, I hadn't a clue. But I would be ever vigilant for him and perhaps others like him, especially since he had proven to be such a bastard.
I soon got the news I was dying for. The doctors were releasing Anthony later today. For now, two policeman had guard duty just outside his door. The hospital, apparently, was taking all necessary security precautions, especially since little Eddy's abductor had not been found.
I absently felt for the medallion that had melded into my flesh. I hated the irony. I possessed the very artifact that would have returned Anthony's mortality, an artifact that, apparently, was sealed to me forever.
Or so said the vampire, Dominique. I wanted a second opinion. In the least, I still wanted to find Archibald Maximus, whoever the hell he was.
My cell rang. I glanced at the faceplate. Restricted call. It was Detective Sherbet. I was sure of it.
I clicked on briefly and told him to call me back in five minutes since I was at the hospital. He called me back in four, just as I was exiting through the sliding glass doors.
"You did good, kid," he said.
"Thank you," I whispered. I still had not gotten the full use of my voice back. Not to mention that my shoulder still hurt.
"Interestingly, no one mentioned you in any reports. Only a young man who saved the day."
"God bless him."
"Apparently the little boy had been held captive, albeit briefly, within one of the domes. They found damage to the ceiling and what appeared to be an epic fight. You wouldn't happen to know anything about this, would you, Sam?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"I want to know everything, dammit."
"I've told you more than I should have."
"That's not good enough. Not in this case."
"Soon, Detective. I've had a rough night."
"I bet. You vampires are weird. Take care of yourself, Samantha, and expect a visit from me soon."
"Looking forward to it."
"Don't sass me," he said, chuckling, and hung up.
I was about to head inside when I got another call. This one was a local Orange County number. It was probably work related but I wasn't interested. I was about to hang up when I got an overwhelming sense that I should definitely pick up.
Damn psychic ability.
I clicked on, immediately regretting it because my sunscreen wasn't applied as thick as it should have been. Already I was feeling the first wave of some serious pain.
"Samantha Moon?" asked a pleasant young man.
"You got her," I said.
"You removed a book from our library the other day and we would like it returned."
"Who is this?"
"I'm with the university."
I frowned. "How did you know about the book? How did you know it was me?"
But he ignored my question and asked cheerily: "We would like our book back, Miss Moon."
I forgot about the heat, about the searing pain. "I don't have it anymore."
"I see," said the voice, somehow even more cheerily. "Then there will be a fine. We will need that taken care of immediately."
"A fine? How much?"
"I think you know the price, Miss Moon." And the moment he said that, the medallion in my chest pulsed with heat of its own. "I will be expecting you soon."
And he hung up.READ MORE >>