The new generation, ah ... I But then, each generation was a new generation, and surely, his own had been the same as this. What mattered, always, was knowledge. And a very careful sharing of that knowledge. He sat back in his chair and, for a moment, closed his eyes.
He opened them, a slow smile curling his lips.
He had felt... yes!
Oh, yes. He wasn’t so old ... he wasn’t all used up yet.
The time was coming.
The word rang in his head again.
And his elation faded.
He should have known, should have suspected. He should have taken steps, and stopped this from happening.
He leaned his head on his desk.
And began to pray.
By morning light, the world always seemed different.
Her fears from the dark of the night had evaporated, and Tara became convinced anew that any talk of evil and vampires was delusional. It was time to get a better grip on what was really going on.
She was going to the police.
She showered and dressed, thanked Katia for the cafe au lait and croissant she brought to her room, and determined to leave the house and head for the station in the village.
Ann had left for work already, Katia informed her. Jacques was awake, and working on a new book, she believed. She had brought him breakfast, and he looked very well and industrious.
In fact, he looked hale and hearty.
Katia loved Jacques, and she was pleased.
Tara warned her again that she was not to let the strange woman in, and Katia informed her that she was not to worry, she had no intention of doing so.
Tara knocked on the library door. She had to knock twice to get her grandfather’s attention. He bid her enter.
She poked her head in. “I have a few errands in the village. Do you need anything?” His computer was open and a number of books were piled around him. He stared at her, frowning.
“You’re going to the village? I need to talk with you.”
“Of course. I won’t be long—I’ll come in and spend the afternoon with you when I get back, if you like.”
He was still frowning. She didn’t want to tell him what she was really doing; she didn’t want to be dissuaded from going to the police.
“We really need to talk.”
“I am always happy to talk with you.”
“To talk with me, yes, but as to believing me ... but, this afternoon will do. You will not be gone too long?”
“I promise, I will not be gone long.”
He nodded, apparently very absorbed in his task. “You will be very careful, and you will come right back?”
“Yes, Grandpapa, I promise.”
She fought the temptation to tell him that she was over twenty-one and she lived in New York City, had been on her own quite a while, and was very capable.
He nodded again, barely aware when she closed the door. She called to Katia that she was leaving, but would be back. She hurried to the door then and threw it open, then stopped short with surprise and a bit of dismay.
Brent Malone was standing at the door.
“Good morning, Tara.”
She stepped outside, forcing him back on the steps. The door to the chateau remained open, an escape route should she feel she needed it. She meant to be entirely challenging, and was alarmed to feel a warmth churning from somewhere deep inside her. There were a million things she wanted to shout at him. She was equally tempted to reach out and touch his face. He appeared tired, and yet, more compelling than ever. He had not worn a jacket that morning. He wore a long-sleeved black silk shirt and chinos. Showered and shaved, hair tied at his nape, bronzed features grave and arresting. Even when she walked away—which she assured herself she would do—his scent would linger in her memory, and the temptation to touch would remain.
She forced her voice to be level and determined. “What the hell went on last night?”
“There were a few toughs in the bar.”
“And you took care of them?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“Why did we suddenly have to get out? And why did it seem that...”
“That... I don’t know. That we ran over someone. That someone had jumped on the car.”
“Did you see anyone?”
“No. And we went back, and we didn’t even see you.”
He shrugged. “I’m quick.”
Today, his green-gold eyes seemed veiled.
“Well,” she murmured, “I can’t talk to you now.”
“I haven’t come to see you.”
She took a step back, startled, and admittedly, somewhat dismayed. Was he hoping to see Ann?
“My cousin isn’t here. She works, you’ll recall.”
“I’m not here to see Ann, either.”
“I need to see Jacques.”
She inhaled sharply. “No. No, you are not going to go in and upset my grandfather.”
“He will be upset if he does not see me.”
“All this talk about vampires! All right, so perhaps you believe that you are among their number. Well, then, you must be invited in.”
“I don’t think I’m a vampire. And, if I were, Ann invited us all in last night. But that’s far beside the point I need to see Jacques. And I assure you, your grandfather wants to see me.”
“I will not let you in—”
She was startled when her name was spoken sharply from within the house. She turned to see that her grandfather had come to the entry.
“Tara, there is no need to be so rude. Invite Mr. Malone in, please.” Brent Malone arched a brow to her, his expression one of superior amusement. She wanted to hit him.
“Grandpapa, I didn’t think you should be disturbed.”
“Nonsense, invite Mr. Malone in. Sir, please, you are very welcome.” Brent extended an arm courteously, indicating that Tara should precede him inside. She shook her head angrily, but her curiosity piqued.
“I have business in the village,” she said curtly.
Brent’s face hardened. He looked for a moment as if he would argue.
“My granddaughter is insistent upon doing her errands, Mr. Malone. And this time of the morning is definitely the best to be about such business, don’t you agree?” Brent Malone stared at Tara and nodded slowly. “Fine, sir, we shall speak alone.”
“Tara will be back soon.”
“Ah, yes, and Mr. Malone will be gone then,” she said. She was irritated with herself as she heard the slight wobble in her words. Yes! She wanted him gone. Since she had first seen him, everything had seemed crazy.
And nothing was more crazy than her desire to throw herself against him, no, much more than that. She wanted to cast a quick apology to her grandfather, she wanted to forget that she should know anything, that she should be suspicious, afraid, and protective. She simply wanted to take Brent by the arm, insist that he shut up, just shut up about evil and danger, shut up completely, and take her somewhere, anywhere, well, hopefully, private, and just. . .
Touch her. Consume her.
“I’m leaving,” she said curtly. “Mr. Malone, I do assume you’ll be gone when I return!” She marched out to her car.
As she did so, she knew that Brent Malone entered her house.
A cold chill swept through her.
“My God,” Jacques said, staring at Brent. “I believe you’ve known that I was here,” Brent said softly.
“I’d thought you might be.” Jacques kept staring at him. Then he said sharply, “Yes, you are here, and there are others. How many, I don’t know.” An inadvertent spasm shook him. Jacques hoped it wasn’t obvious. Then he realized that his visitor saw everything there was to see.
But Brent made no comment about Jacques’ evident frailty.
“Yes,” Malone said slowly, “there’re more here, I think, than we begin to fathom.”
“The years have been kind to you, Mr. Malone.”
“The years have been long,” Brent said, his tone flat “Years spent... waiting.” There was a note of pain in his tone, and perhaps even hopelessness and confusion. He shook it off sternly, and perhaps, to regain his own sense of strength, he made note of the state of Jacques’ health. “And you, my friend,” he said, his tone then soft, “you have not fared so well.”
Jacques stiffened. “I’m quite well, thank you.”
“That’s not what I’ve been told.”
“A man’s family worries about him. I am stronger than I appear.”
“Are there more of you?” Brent asked him.
Jacques waved a hand in the air. “Perhaps. Maybe. But time, you know, the world rushing on. I moved to America. I wrote books.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard. Very good ones. Fantasy, science fiction, the occult. All with a message for humanity.”
“You’ve read my work?” Jacques could not help but be pleased.
“I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.”
Not exactly the compliment Jacques had expected.
“There was not much contact after ... the end. Perhaps the writing was my way to stay in touch with the world.”
“So ... there is none of the old guard about?”
“I am afraid not And yet... well, I cannot say right now. Somewhere, the Alliance must still be strong.
There were more. But the threat was ended.”
“The threat has never ended. It has been low, stirring.”
“We are not as gifted with communication as your kind.” He felt defensive. “But you—you were there.
You were late.”
Brent arched a brow. “You forget that I was working on an assumption. A hunch, if you will. But there is more here than we’ve seen as yet. I believe that the situation in the crypt was a plan, long and carefully conceived, and that we must find the orchestrator of the plan.” Jacques waved a hand in the air. “Come into the library. I’ll tell you everything I know.” Tara found herself ushered into a small office and seated before a French detective. He introduced himself as Inspector Javet, in charge of the murder case, and asked her to sit. He started speaking in French, but aware of her accent, slipped easily into English.