Megan waited. Waited and waited. Peter didn’t come. In terror she began to look for him.
Forty-five minutes later, she found him, slumped against a building.
She instantly looked at his throat, and leaned back, breathing far more easily. He was clean. She was about to seek assistance when he groaned and came to. “Megan. . . sweet Lord, Megan, I left you alone in this awful place and I... I just blacked out! What is wrong with me? Too many hours?
Am I losing my mind?”
“It was a blackout, Peter, nothing more. Come on, it’s nearly morning. If Laura wakens, she‘ll be worried.”
They went home. The light had come. It was early morning; the sun rose. She slept deeply, then felt a summons with a power unlike anything she had experienced in years. And she suddenly found herself before Lucian, who was in a cool, regal fury. Aaron Carter was there as well. She was grateful to realize that Lucian‘s fury was directed at Aaron. “You tempt fate with the games you play, Carter. Throughout the centuries we have made our rules, and the first is that we let each other live our lives as we choose— and keep our distances. Leave her be. The world is a vast place when we realize that we are perhaps no more than a few thousand, and the world is so very large.”
“We could be so many more!” Aaron argued.
Lucian shook his head. “If there were no rules, there would be no food!”
“Lucian! You are a fool, thinking you can turn lions to lambs!” Aaron told him.
“The lions perish if they eat all the lambs! We are prey to the balance of life like all creatures; the laws were written by the ancients, creatures before even my time! And my preferences are none of your concern, except that you are the fool if you can’t see that the world is changing. Perhaps not this decade or the next, but each year the world inches closer to a higher technology, and if we do not learn to live with it, we are doomed. I warn you, don’t let this quarrel affect our world. And remember! If either of you truly seeks to destroy the other, you will be condemned by your peers en masse, and hell will be all that awaits you—should those fires indeed exist.” Aaron lashed out furiously. “You took what you wanted, Lucian! Why can’t I?”
“Each new being must have a teacher; I was that with Megan. She has learned. She has made her choices; she is an entity in her own right.”
“Indeed? Because you have had what you want, Lucian? Because you call yourself king?”
“I am king, because I know the difference between desire and excess. I have survived, because I know that there are boundaries of sanity, even in our world. Would you test me, Aaron? Would you come after me? Come— come take me on!”
Lucian spoke quietly. He lifted his hands, his lip curling, and he invited Aaron to provoke battle between the two.
“The day will come, Lucian, I swear it.”
“The day will come when your sadistic excesses bring about your destruction.” Aaron swore vociferously, and stared at Megan. He pointed a finger. “You, too, will have your day!” he promised, and he disappeared then, into a swirl of spiraling mist.
“Well, he is gone. For the time.”
“Thank you,” she said softly.
He nodded. “I have a soft spot for you, you know. Even if you so foolishly prefer mortals. The time will come when you realize it isn‘t to be. And then I’ll be there. Waiting.” She laughed softly. “Waiting— with your harem.”
“Ouch, not fair.”
“I still love you, you know.”
“Lucian, in your own words, you don’t believe in love. You lust for me— but only for the seconds it takes you to find new entertainment.”
Lucian laughed. “Perhaps. Still, I do have that fondness for you.” She hesitated. “Lucian ...”
Lucian arched a brow. It had been a very long time since she had mentioned Alec.
“Alec did believe in love. Before .. . before I was changed, it was as if he believed we could have a life—”
“You do have a life.”
“No. A normal life. With death at the end. He told me that love was the greatest power on earth, that the only true freedom on earth was in love.”
“He was romantic. A believer in fairy tales. A beautiful, poetic young man. And he is dead. There lies your legend. Take care with Aaron. He is powerful,” he warned.
“Perhaps,” she told Lucian. “But then, so am I. So am I.” They awoke Saturday morning together. Maggie put the coffee on before she showered, and it was ready when Sean finally dragged himself up. It was delicious. While he sipped it, he watched Maggie digging around in his refrigerator. She was wearing nothing but one of his tailored shirts. The tails came to her midthighs. Her hair was wild, she looked great. He leaned against the refrigerator, just watching her.
She let out a sigh of pleasure, then stared at him, quite surprised.
“I just can’t believe it.”
“Your refrigerator is so well supplied.”
“Oh, that,” he murmured, then shrugged. “Danielle sees to my refrigerator.”
“Danielle?” she queried.
He nodded. “A friend. She owns the restaurant downstairs. She went to school with my sister.”
“Oh,” Maggie murmured, studying him. He decided not to tell her that although Danielle had grown into a very beautiful woman, she had been friends with his little sister Mary for so long that he’d feel incestuous if he ever gave her more than a brotherly hug.
“Well.” Maggie turned back to the refrigerator. “Mind if I cook? Kitchen-sink omelettes, grits, and English muffins?”
“It will be a slice of heaven,” he assured her. He wanted to watch her, but he finished his coffee and set down his cup. “I’m going to shower,” he told her. “I’m not sure what today will bring.”
“Do you have to go to the office—or the morgue?”
He shook his head. “I think I’m going to go spend the day in a bar.”
“I’ll tell you about it while we eat.”
Shaved, showered, and in jeans and a denim shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Sean told her about their latest victim while he sat across the kitchen table from her and munched on an omelette. “Anyway, I’ve finally got a real clue, a rendering of what this man looks like.” Maggie was staring at him, a piece of toast in her hand. “A rendering?”
“Well, I told you, the guy had dinner at Mamie’s place and asked about an escort. Mamie made the arrangements. It does appear that Bessie Girou was killed in that hotel room, and then her body was dumped out in the bayou.”
“How do you think the killer managed to get out of the hotel room with a body dripping blood?” Maggie asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe the guy in the bar wasn’t her killer. Maybe she had a visitor after he left.”
“Maybe. Maggie, what are you trying to do? Dash my fragile straw of hope?” he demanded. What she was saying was possible; he knew it well enough. Didn’t matter. They had a suspect, and he’d be damned if he wouldn’t comb the city, trying to find him.
Her eyes were on her food. “I guess I’m just trying to keep an eye on perspective,” she said softly.
“Have you got a copy of your sketch of this suspect?”
“Yes, the whole city should have a copy.”
“Hang on,” he said.
He left the table and opened the apartment door. His newspaper was sitting just outside and he brought it in. The headlines read: Possible Big Break in Ripper Case: Have You Seen This Man?
He cast the paper down in front of Maggie. She stared at it. He couldn’t see her eyes, but for some reason, the way she looked down at the paper disturbed him.
“Someone you know?” he demanded.
She shook her head, not looking up at him.
“Ah. Well, anyway, I thought maybe you’d like to spend a casual day with me.” She looked up at last. There was something carefully guarded in her expression. “A casual day? I thought that—”
“Let’s just take a long, leisurely stroll around the Vieux Carre. You know. Enjoy the architecture. Grab a cafe au lait, smell the flowers, sit down by the river. After noon, we can go to Mamie’s and have a drink in the bar. Catch a bit of a preseason game on the bar TV, and then have a long, elegant dinner.
How’s that sound?”
She nodded. “I take it we’re going to be watching for this man?”
She tapped the newspaper. “You know, once he sees this likeness of himself, he might turn tail and run to another city.”
“I don’t think so.”
“I think he’s the type who enjoys taunting the police. Half the thrill is knowing that we should be right on his tail, but that we’re stumbling around like idiots in the dark. We can walk to the hotel as well, take a look at the room, talk to a few more employees. You game? I don’t have any right to drag you along, you know. You can go back out to your plantation for the day and soak in some sun. But I would enjoy your company.”
“Umm, I’m not really a sun lover. And I hate the idea of you just walking around without my company.”
“Well,” she said lightly, “I get the impression that there are other women who wouldn’t find the task too challenging ... and frankly, as I said ...”—her eyes touched his over the rim of her coffee cup—“the sex is just really too good to jeopardize.”
He reached out across the table, finding her fingers, curling his own around them.
Then suddenly he was up, drawing her to him. She was naked beneath the tailored shirt. The buttons gave easily. His hands were all over her flesh.