“You’re worried about her.”
She stared at him.
“Maybe. Ann isn’t the suspicious type. I wouldn’t want her to be too trusting—of anyone here. And she doesn’t particularly believe in evil or things that go bump in the night”
“I thought you were far too logical to believe in what you couldn’t see yourself.”
“But I can be very suspicious.”
She was startled when he didn’t reply. It was suddenly as if she wasn’t there. His eyes were on the dance floor. He didn’t rise at first, but he was tense as he might have been if thugs armed with repeating rifles had just walked into the place.
“We’ve got to get your cousin out of here,” he said, standing then.
“You heard me. We’ve got to get out of here.”
“Why?” she asked, startled by his sudden change.
He looked down at her, features taut, yellow eyes an intent blaze. “For once, trust me.” She didn’t know what power of force or sincerity lay in his gaze. She found herself rising—trusting him, and just as anxious as he to leave the bar.
Trusting him ...
They hurried out to the dance floor together, weaving their way through to Ann. While Tara talked to her cousin, she noted that Brent was studying everyone on the dance floor.
“So early? Why must we go now?” Ann shouted. “It’s the best night I’ve had in ages. Oh, don’t worry, I’m not taking any of these wolves seriously, Tara, but I am having a very good time. All right, well, maybe there is one wolf I’m taking seriously. Revenge. God, is it sweet. Tara, you could let Brent take you home, and I’ll come along within an hour or so.”
“No! I’m not leaving you alone.”
“But, Tara, I’m out alone, meeting friends or whatever, all the time when you’re not here!”
“We’ve got to go,” Brent interrupted. He was staring at Ann.
Ann suddenly smiled and shrugged. “Sure. If you say so.”
Tara was perplexed and amazed at the instantly acquiescent tone in Ann’s voice. Linking arms with Tara, Ann started straight for the door.
“Oh, the bill!” she said.
“Lucian covered it before he left,” Brent said curtly. “Let’s go, now.” When they were out on the street, Tara noted that he was staring at the bar, still tense, and perhaps, still trying to determine exactly what it was in there that he had suddenly found so disturbing that they had to leave.
“The fellow with the very blond hair was quite nice,” Ann said, walking along in the direction of the car.
The girls remained together. Brent was behind them.
“Ah, let’s see ... I think he must have been about six feet two or three. Great, sculpted features. Nice shoulders... different” She was smiling as she watched Tara. “It was the same man, Tara, the American I met today.”
“Why didn’t you introduce me?”
“I barely know him,” Ann said. “I wasn’t sure he would come, though I had thought that he might And guess what? Willem was there ... at least I think he was there. I’m almost certain I saw him sitting at a corner table. I like the blond. I hope to see him again. He is ... very handsome. And macho. I like broad shoulders and muscles.” She glanced over her shoulder to see if Brent remained several feet behind him.“I mean, really, I’m quite old enough to judge a man for his mind and his manner, but... well, voila, there it is, I cannot help but be impressed with good muscle as well. But this man, Rick, ah, he’s courteous as well. With such a sense of humor! And his accent! When he speaks English, and when he speaks French!”
“The French hate American accents,” Tara said absently. She paused, looking back at Brent
“Tara! I never look down my nose at an American accent! All right, well, maybe now and then. But for this man ...”
“Brent, where’s your car?” Tara asked.
“In the lot. And so is yours.”
There wasn’t a great distance between the bar and the lot where people parked for La Guerre. But once they had left the neon glow of the bar behind, the street suddenly seemed very dark.
It wasn’t the center of Paris, where lights burned brightly at all hours of the day and night.
Old buildings, some ancient, and some only a century or two old, mingled with a few modern structures.
By day they were businesses, some with apartments atop them, but by night...
They were closed. And dark. And the street lamps here were few and far between. Only a few pale lights— quite beautiful, actually, Art Moderne, from perhaps the nineteen twenties—stood guard over the parked cars.
The lamps should have created an area of light and safety.
Instead, they helped create a world of shadow and shifting dark shapes.
Brent had paused. He was listening. And watching the shadows.
Tara looked around, as he was doing. She felt a strange dread growing in her, seeming to make her muscles heavy, constricted.
They appeared as giant wings, dark sweeps in the night that played from building to building. The breeze suddenly seemed to stir, cold, though they were barely into autumn.
“Go,” Brent said suddenly, and very softly.
“What is it?” she asked. Nothing, there was nothing around them. It was just a shadowy street.
The weather was changing, the seasons were shifting.
And the shadows . . .
Were nothing more than shadows.
She could still feel that sensation. That prickling at the nape of her neck. The heaviness of fear, the paralysis of terror.
She tried to get a grip on herself, to let her usual common sense and logic slip into place. Her certainty that the dangers in the world were known.
“Go!” he repeated.
Ann suddenly gripped her arm. She realized her cousin was feeling the same inexplicable sense of dread that had seized her.
Brent looked at her, and gave her an odd, disarming smile. “Go on, please, and quickly. I’ll be by later, just to make sure you’re all right.”
“Allons-y!” Ann insisted, her fingers digging hard into Tara’s flesh.
Then she didn’t know what force galvanized her into action. She grabbed her cousin’s hand and started running. They could see Ann’s car, ahead.
Ann had parked under the lights that gave off a gloomy yellow glow.
Tara had never run so fast in her life, and as they streaked across the walk and the grass and onto the asphalt again, she didn’t look back. She feared that, like Lot’s wife, she would be turned to salt.
Or she would see something that she didn’t want to see. Something that she could deny, as long as she didn’t turn ...
Into the night, into the glow by the car, she saw the sweep of the shadow. She heard something behind them, close behind them. The soft fall of padded footsteps, moving with a greater speed and force than that which drove them.
Overhead, a great wing of darkness was rising ...
She heard ... something.
A sudden cry of the wind that had been nothing but whispering ...
Ann was rattling her keys in her hands, trying to find the key for the car door.
“The clicker!” Tara shouted.
For a split second, Ann stared at her, horrified at her own stupidity in forgetting that she could beep her locks open. She hit the clicker. The girls both jumped into the car, and slammed the doors.
They both shrieked, as something hit the roof of the car.
They stared at one another.
“Go, go, go!” Tara said.
With shaking fingers, Ann inserted the key into the ignition. The car roared to life.
Another thump came. Ann stepped on the gas. They heard the sounds of whatever had been on top of them falling from the car ...
They didn’t truly hear the sound of anything falling.
lips taut and serious, Ann stared ahead at the road. She jerked the car out onto the street, and they sped down the length of it.
Tara turned back. There was nothing behind them. Nothing at all. The neon glow advertising La Guerre continued to burn softly. Cars remained in the lot.
Shadows were just shadows.
There were no people just outside the door, nor were there any on the street. Not even Brent Malone.
“What did we hit? What was on the car?” Ann demanded.
“Nothing,” Tara said.
Ann stared at her incredulously.
“There’s nothing back there, nothing back there at all,” Tara said.
“I’m telling you—Ann! What are you doing?”
Her cousin had nearly braked, and was turning the car around.
“I’ve got to see. I don’t know why I was so panicked back there. But I heard... what if I hit someone, something? What if I’ve wounded a dog?”
“There’s nothing there!”
But Ann was determined. They drove back down the street, hesitating near the bar and the parking lot.
Ann drew to a halt, laughing, leaning her head on the steering wheel.
“Ann, what is the matter with you? Let’s get the hell out of here!”
“Why?” Ann demanded. “There’s nothing here! We let the darkness and shadows make silly little geese out of us.” Her laughter faded. She swallowed hard, and suddenly rubbed the back of her neck. “I don’t feel really well. It’s bad to drink wine, smoke cigarettes, and run like an idiot.”
“Ann, drive,” Tara said.
It seemed that the shadows were moving again. And the gloomy light beneath which they’d parked suddenly made a popping sound.
The shadows fell like a cloak of sweeping vengeance all around them.
“Drive!” Tara said.
Ann didn’t hesitate. She hit the gas again, and didn’t let up until they had reached the chateau, roaring past stop signs and red lights.
In front of the chateau, she put the car in park and sat still for a minute. “Are we crazy? Are we letting Grandpapa get to us?”