To her dismay, since she did consider herself a logical and businesslike, competent and assured woman, she stuttered.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“How—how did you get in here? Without being announced?”
“I spoke to the receptionist outside. Told her that I was trying to surprise you, take you to lunch.”
“Lunch,” she murmured, afraid that she sounded a little stupid, as if she didn’t comprehend the word in English.
“I’m sorry, maybe a surprise wasn’t such a good idea.”
“No, no, it’s lovely that you’re here,” she said, quickly collecting herself. “I hadn’t thought about going to lunch. I have stacks of work, and I’m afraid that it hasn’t been my most productive day.”
“Maybe a break will get you going.”
She stood up. The hell with work. She gave her job eighty hours some weeks.
“Perhaps you are right”
She collected her purse. The weather was beautiful, a little cool, but sunny. She didn’t need a jacket She walked around her desk. He took her arm, smiling. A warm, wonderful smile.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked him.
“Wherever you would like to go.”
A discreet hotel room, she thought. But she didn’t say the words out loud. His smile deepened, as if she had.
She was delighted as they passed by the outer offices of the very contemporary Paris high rise. The receptionist and a few workers were about They watched her with envy.
She paused by the receptionist’s desk. Henriette, young, pretty, and now, somewhat bug-eyed, apologized quickly. “Ann, the gentleman said that he was an old friend and wished to surprise you. I should have rung through...” She paused, looking a bit perplexed. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t, and I hope ... I guess ... that it’s all right?”
“Yes, Henriette, it’s all right” She glanced at Rick. “My old friend and I are going to lunch. I may run a bit over. But I’ll be back for the art meeting this afternoon.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Thank you, Henriette,” Rick said. He smiled at the receptionist Ann could almost see Henriette’s heart flutter.
Then Beaudreaux took her arm. The electricity shot through her arm.
They walked to the elevator. Others were leaving for lunch. She felt their eyes, and knew that she and the American made an attractive and appealing couple.
They reached the street.
Rick looked down at her. Dear God, what wonderful, powerful blue eyes he had. She couldn’t have looked away if she had desired to do so.
He asked softly, “So, where would you like to go?”
She met his eyes, and answered simply and honestly.
“Somewhere ... anywhere ... with ...”
“With what?” he asked her.
She’d meant to say, with a nice salad and warm bread.
Somehow, those words eluded her.
“Somewhere with ...” he prodded in a warm whisper.
She let out a long breath, her eyes still locked with his.
“Somewhere with a bed,” she said.
The library door was closed when Tara returned. She ignored the fact, and, without bothering to knock, walked in.
Her grandfather was behind the desk.
And, as she had surmised from the battered old BMW in the driveway, Brent Malone was still with him.
He stood, leaning over her grandfather’s shoulder, as Jacques made marks on a map of the area.
“What are you two doing?” she demanded.
“Studying a map of Paris and its environs,” Brent said.
Her grandfather was looking up at her, too. He didn’t appear particularly frail—rather, his cheeks were flushed, and his excitement in his work was apparent
“You need to leave,” she told Brent
“Tara!” Jacques said firmly.
“My grandfather has been very ill lately. If you tire him, he could well have a relapse of pneumonia.”
“Tara!” Jacques repeated.
“Perhaps it is time that I left,” Brent said.
“I have told her exactly what is happening,” Jacques refuted firmly.
“Yes, but she doesn’t believe you.”
She folded her arms over her chest and walked to the desk. “If you have come here to further encourage my grandfather in his belief in vampires, you are certainly not welcome.”
“She doesn’t believe,” Brent said softly.
“Whether she believes or not, they exist,” Jacques said, “and she must not interrupt our work.” Malone gave her a shrug. “Well, then, I guess you’re the one who has to pitch in and help—or leave.”
“You’re telling me that you actually believe in vampires? In real demons that rise from the dead?”
“Some are demons, and some are not,” Jacques said.
“However, Louisa de Montcrasset may definitely be described as a demon,” Brent told her. His eyes were level on hers. He might have been agreeing that there was definitely going to be rain in a day or two, or that, yes, winter always followed autumn.
Infuriated, and more than a little unnerved, Tara turned on her heel and walked out of the room. The temptation had been to grab Brent Malone by the hair, drag him out of the room, and throw him out of the house.
She wouldn’t have the capability. And she was afraid that touching him would be dangerous.
As she left the room, slamming the door behind her, she nearly tripped over Eleanora. The shepherd had come to the door. She didn’t try to slip past Tara and run into the room; she stood still, as if she were an ancient Egyptian guard dog, sensing the death of the Pharaoh.
“Eleanora, come, let’s get away from here,” she said, stooping to pat the dog.
But though she didn’t growl or protest Tara’s touch, she didn’t move, either. And she didn’t jump all over Tara with excitement, as she was prone to do, remembering her every time she came and left, no matter how long she stayed in the States.
“Even the dog has gone mad!” Tara muttered, striding across the hall and heading for the stairs. She continued to her room, needing to be somewhere she could pace and explode without making matters worse for her grandfather.
She entered her room, slammed the door, then locked it. She began to pace, and tried to make herself slow down. She had just done the worst thing possible. She had come home and lost her temper instead of sensibly explaining to them both that corpses didn’t rise up and kill the living. Greedy people, those with their own agendas, committed murder. And some people were cruel, heedless of human life, and some were psychotic and very sick. That’s why terrible things happened. She should have humored them, she should have kept a level tone and a level voice.
She threw herself down on the bed, pounding the mattress in sudden fury. She closed her eyes tightly, shaking her head, wondering what the hell to do.
Did she go back down and have another fit, force Malone out of the house? Or did she go back and try to be calm, rational?
As she lay there, she became aware of a peculiar odor. Looking up, she saw that garlic bulbs had been hung over the doors to the balcony. For a few moments, she just stared at the new adornment in her quarters. This is too much! she thought.
“He’s been in my room!” she exclaimed aloud.
That was it. Tara jumped to her feet and ran back down the stairs. Eleanora remained before the door.
When she strode toward it, the dog rose. To her amazement, the massive shepherd growled at her.
“Eleanora! It’s me, Tara, what on earth is the matter with you?” she demanded.
The dog held her ground, proud brown eyes razor sharp.
“If you’re guarding Grandpapa, you’re guarding him from the wrong person!” And still, the dog refused to move. Tara took a step to reach over her and pound on the door. The dog began to snarl with a warning sound once again.
“Hey!” she yelled furiously.
A moment later, the door swung open. Brent looked at her, and at the dog. “Silly girl,” he told the shepherd, patting her head as if he were the animal’s master. “It’s Tara. She wants to come in. It’s all right.”
As gentle as a kitten, Eleanora moved aside, sliding down for a nap by the wall. “So you’ve decided to join us?” Brent said.
“I’ve decided to wring your neck! What the hell were you doing in my room? Why is there garlic over the doors?”
“I haven’t been in your room,” he told her. “And I didn’t put garlic over your doors.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Jacques called out.
She passed by Brent, standing before her grandfather’s desk. “There’s garlic over the doors to the balcony.”
“Yes, of course,” he told her.
“You put it there?”
“No, no, of course not. Katia put it there.”
“Great. So Katia believes in vampires.”
“Katia has an open mind, and knows that the world in its entirety is not always plain and visible to the naked eye,” Jacques said.
She turned away, flinging herself into the ancient armchair between her grandfather’s desk and the large hearth. She made a steeple out of her fingers, staring at her grandfather. “Jacques, a man was brutally murdered in a tomb. A tomb that you didn’t want opened. That you went to great pains to keep from being excavated.”
He narrowed his eyes at her.
She leaned forward, ignoring the fact that Malone was in the room.
“Javet! Inspector Javet. Do you know that they suspect that you might have paid someone to kill that worker to keep any more work from being done at the crypt?” Jacques was not in the least concerned. “Javet!” he said, dismissing the man with annoyance.
“And not just Javet! The inspector from Paris may be questioning you as well.”
“So you went to the police,” Jacques said. He was angry. He shook his head with tremendous disappointment.