Together, they glanced up at the panel depicting that part of Arthurian legend, the chair at the Round Table that would spell death to anyone taking his place there who proved unworthy of seeking the Holy Grail.
Savannah could feel Gideon studying her, despite that his gaze was fixed on the painting overhead. The heat from his big body, nearer to her than she'd noticed, seemed to burn through her clothing, imprinting itself on her skin. Her pulse ticked a bit faster as the seconds stretched out between them.
"Freshman," he said after a while, an odd pensiveness in his tone. "I didn't realize you were so young."
"I'll be nineteen in a few months," she replied, inexplicably defensive. "Why? How old did you think I was? How old are you?"
He gave a slow shake of his head. Then he brought his gaze around to look at her beside him. "I should go. As you said, the library's closing. I don't want to keep you from your work."
"It's all right if you want to stay awhile. I won't need to kick you out for another fifteen minutes, so until then, feel free to enjoy the art." She took one last look at Sir Galahad being led to the chair that would either confirm his honor or spell his doom, and couldn't help reciting another of Plutarch's quotes: "Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks."
Gideon's answering smile threatened to steal her knees out from under her. "Indeed, Savannah. Indeed it is."
She couldn't hold back her smile either. And for the first time all day, she felt relaxed. She felt happy. She felt hopeful, as odd as that seemed. Not weighted down with grief and numb with shock and confusion.
All it took was a chance meeting with a stranger, some unexpected conversation. A few moments of kindness from someone who had no inkling of what she'd been through. Someone who wandered into her workplace on a whim and ended up making the worst day of her life seem less awful simply by being in it.
"Nice to meet you, Gideon."
This time, she was the one who held out her hand. He didn't hesitate to take it. As she expected, his grip was warm and strong, his long fingers engulfing hers easily. As they broke contact, she wondered if he felt the same jolt of awareness that she did. God, their brief connection went through her like a mild electrical current, heat and energy zinging into her veins.
And she couldn't escape the fact that something about him seemed so vaguely familiar...
"I should go," he said for the second time tonight. She didn't want him to leave so soon, but she couldn't very well ask him to stay either. Could she?
"Maybe I'll see you around again sometime," she blurted, before she had the bad sense to let impulse take over her brain.
He stared at her for a long moment, but didn't respond one way or the other.
Then, like the mystery he'd been the moment she first saw him, he simply turned and strode away, out the door and into the waiting night.
Gideon waited, crouched low like a gargoyle on the rooftop corner of the library, until Savannah exited the building a few minutes later.
He meant to leave, as he'd said he would. He'd decided after talking with her for just a few minutes--after learning that she was an eighteen-year-old college freshman, for crissake--that his quest to find out more about whoever had that damned sword would need to unfold without involving a bright, innocent young woman.
He couldn't use Savannah for information.
He wouldn't use her for anything.
And he sure as hell didn't need to be lingering around her place of work, following her in stealthy silence from one rooftop to another, as she made her way from the library to the T station. But that's just what he did, telling himself it was a need to see a vulnerable female home safely in a city rife with hidden dangers.
Never mind that she might rightly count him among those dangers, if she had any idea what he truly was.
Gideon leapt down to street level to slip into the train station a healthy distance behind her. He boarded a different car, watching through the crowds to make sure she was unmolested for the duration of the commute. When she got off at Lower Allston, he followed, tracking her to a modest five-story brick apartment building on a side street called Walbridge. A light went on behind a curtained window on the second floor.
He waited some more, keeping an unplanned vigil from the shadows across the way, until the dim glow of Savannah's apartment light was extinguished an hour and a half later.
Then he melted back into the darkness that was his home and battlefield.
Art History class was cancelled that next day, of course.
The department building was quiet, no students inside today. Just professors working privately in their offices. Rumor around campus had it that Professor Keaton was expected to make a full recovery. He was still in the hospital, but someone had heard another of the professors mention that Keaton could be discharged and back to work in a couple weeks or less. It was the only good news to come out of the whole, awful situation.
Savannah only wished Rachel had been as fortunate too.
It was her friend's death that brought Savannah back to the Art History department that morning, even though there was no class to attend. She slipped inside the building, inexplicably drawn to the scene of the terrible crime.
Why had Rachel and Professor Keaton been attacked? And by whom?
The antique sword was valuable, certainly, but was it enough to warrant such a heinous, lethal assault?
As Savannah climbed the stairs to the second floor of the building, she felt a bit like she was heading for her own Seat Perilous, on a quest for a truth she wasn't certain she was prepared for, or equipped to face.
The police detectives were long gone, the barricades and tape removed from the scene. Still, simply being there put a chill in Savannah's veins as she neared Professor Keaton's office door down the hallway. But she needed to see the room again. She hoped to find something inside that she'd overlooked, something that would provide some sense of understanding of what happened, and why.
Keaton's office door was closed and locked. So was the archive and study room next door.
Savannah jiggled the doorknob, for all the good it did. There would be no getting past the locks. Not unless she wanted to head downstairs and try to persuade one of the department professors to let her in.
Even though she made it a practice to avoid lying and manipulation, her mind started working on a host of excuses that might win her access to the rooms. She accidentally left one of her books for another class inside and needed it for an upcoming exam. She lost her student ID and thought it might be with her notebook in the study room. She needed to finish cataloguing one last item in the archive collection to make sure she got her extra credit for the project once Professor Keaton returned to school.
Right. One idea more lame than another.
Not that the honest answer would be any more convincing: She wanted to go through Professor Keaton's office and touch everything in sight with her bare hands, to see if she could pick up any clues that the police might have missed.
Deflated, Savannah started to pivot away to leave. As she turned, something caught her eye farther down the hallway on the floor. A thin circle of metal.
Could it be what she was thinking?
She hurried over to look, feeling both excited and sickened to see the delicate bangle at her feet. She recognized it immediately. One of Rachel's bracelets. It must have fallen off her wrist when they were wheeling her body away.
Savannah's whole being recoiled at the sight of the bloodstained evidence of Rachel's suffering. But she had to touch the bracelet. Whatever the tragic memento had to tell her, Savannah had to know.
She picked it up off the floor, closed her fingers around the cold metal ring.
Her extrasensory gift woke up immediately. The jolt from the bracelet overwhelmed her, the memory housed in the metal so horrifically fresh.
She saw Rachel in Keaton's office. Her face was twisted in stark, mortal terror.
And it didn't take long for Savannah to understand why....
Without warning, she was suddenly looking into the face of Rachel's attacker as the beast closed in.
And it was a beast. The same kind of fiery-eyed, fanged monster that Savannah had been trying to forget since she touched the old sword. Except this monster wasn't dressed in a hooded cloak like the group that killed the little boys. This beast wore an expensive-looking dark suit and crisp white shirt. A gentleman's refined clothes and richly styled, brown hair, but the face of a nightmarish monster.
The creature lunged for Rachel, its razor-toothed jaws open as it went for the girl's throat.
Oh, my God.
Impossible. She couldn't be seeing this, not again. It could not be real.
Was she losing her mind?
Savannah couldn't breathe. Her lungs constricted, burned in her chest. Her heart slammed hard, drumming in her ears. She couldn't find her voice, even though her entire body seemed to be screaming.
She gaped down at the bracelet now resting in her upturned palm. Every instinct told her to throw it away, as fast and as far as she could. But it was all that remained of her friend.
And the fragile ring of metal contained what might be the sole evidence of Rachel's killer.
She had to tell someone what she saw.
Her psychometry ability was outlandish enough, but to expect anyone to believe her when she tried to explain the monsters she's seen--not once, but twice--through her gift?
They would think she was crazy.
Hell, maybe she was.
Savannah's sister, Amelie, had long said their mama was a little touched in the head. Maybe Savannah was too. Because right now, that was the only thing that made sense to her. It was the only way she could explain what she had witnessed over the past couple days.
She didn't know what to do, or who to turn to.
She needed time to think.
Needed to get a grip on herself, before she lost it completely.
Savannah dropped Rachel's bracelet in her book bag and dashed out of the building.
Gideon rapped a second time on Savannah's apartment door, not at all convinced it was a good idea for him to be there.
Then again, it also hadn't exactly been stellar logic to detour from his first hour of patrol tonight and swing past the Boston Public Library in the hopes of seeing her. Nevertheless, he'd done that too, and had been troubled to learn that Savannah was absent from her shift. Bad judgment or not, he couldn't keep his boots from carrying him across town to her modest apartment.
As his knuckles dropped against the door for a third time now, he finally heard movement from inside. He'd known she was home; his talent had betrayed her to him, even though she seemed determined to ignore whoever was at the door. The peephole shadowed as she moved in front of it now to look out. Then, a soft inhalation from the other side of the door. One lock tumbled free. Then another.
Savannah opened the door, her face slack with mute surprise. Gideon drank in the sight of her in an instant, from her pretty, dark eyes and sensual mouth, to her lovely curves and lean, long limbs. Tonight she was dressed for comfort in flared jeans that hugged her hips and thighs, and white rock band tank top under an unbuttoned, faded denim work shirt.
God's balls, she was braless beneath the bright red Rolling Stones logo. The unexpected sight of her perky little breasts almost made him forget why he was there.
"Gideon." Not exactly a welcoming greeting, the way her fine black brows were knit on her forehead as she looked at him. She sent a quick glance past him to the second floor landing behind him, seeming distracted and edgy. When her attention came back to him, her frown deepened. "What are you doing here? How do you know where I live?"
He knew that bit of recon would pose a problem once he arrived, but it was a risk he'd been willing to take. "I swung past the library tonight, thought I might see you again. Your supervisor told me you had called in sick today. She seemed very concerned about you. I hope you don't mind that I came around to check in on you."
"Mrs. Kennefick gave you my address?"
She hadn't, but Gideon neither confirmed nor denied it. "Are you unwell?"
Savannah's creased brow relaxed somewhat. "I'm okay," she said, but he could see that she was flustered, nervous. There was a pale cast to her cheeks, and her face was tense, lines bracketing her mouth. "You shouldn't have come. I'm fine, but this isn't really a good time for me right now, Gideon."
Something was very wrong here. He could feel her anxiety pulsing off her in palpable waves. Savannah's fear hung heavily in the two feet of space between them. "Something happened to you."
"Not to me." She gave a weak shake of her head, crossing her arms over herself like a shield. Her voice was quiet, small. "Something happened to my friend, Rachel, the girl I was rooming with here. She was killed a couple nights ago. She and one of the professors at BU were attacked. Professor Keaton survived, but Rachel..."
"I'm sorry about your friend," Gideon said. "I didn't realize."
It was the truth, or close enough. He hadn't known Savannah had been close to either of the victims. He could see that she was hurting, but there was something more going on too, and the warrior in him was suspicious of what else he didn't yet know about the situation.
"I did hear something on the news recently about a robbery at the Art History building on campus," he said casually. "Your friend and the professor were attacked during a break-in and theft of some type of relic, wasn't it?"
Savannah stared at him for a long moment, as if she couldn't decide whether to answer. "I'm not sure what happened that night," she finally murmured. She uncrossed her arms and moved one hand to the edge of the door. She took a step backward. The hand braced on the door now began to close it by fractions. "Thanks for checking in on me, Gideon. I'm not much in the frame of mind for talking right now, so--"
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