“I should go back to work.”
“Not quite yet...” he said.
And within seconds she was convinced that she needn’t go back at all.
There were other signs that the household was far from a sane one. As Tara went by the front door, she noticed that the little basket on the old oak stand near the front door, which was customarily filled with flowers, now held numerous small bottles. She paused to pick one up, studying it.
They had come from Notre Dame, and were filled with holy water. Exasperated, Tara set the little bottle back in the basket and continued out of the house. She walked to the stables, but realized when she entered that old Daniel had been let into the pasture. Even as she stood deep within the structure, staring at Daniel’s empty stall, she felt Brent’s arrival. She turned to find that he had come in after her, and seemed to be blocking the exit.
It was as it had been that first day in the crypt. At first, he seemed just a shadow, a silhouette. Far larger than real, a presence that eclipsed the entry, the daylight beyond, the world. And she felt again the same sense of fear, and she almost closed her eyes, as if she could hear the scream from within the tomb once again.
“I’m going back to the police, you know,” she said from her distance. “I’m going to tell them that I was in the tomb, and that I saw you there. I’ll be honest, of course, and tell them that I know you aren’t the murderer. But I’m going to make sure that they know you are a very frightening and dangerous man, and that you’re the one urging my grandfather into ... trouble and madness.” He didn’t reply. He walked in. He was no longer a dark silhouette against the daylight. He was a man again. He seemed no less menacing.
She had meant for her tone to be certain, hard, and a sure warning, but she could hear her own words echoing back at her and they were uncertain and halting.
She took a step back.
“Look, you’re dangerous. And you think you have some kind of hypnosis or magnetism and that people will believe your ridiculous words and lies. But we’re not all so easy.” He was still walking toward her, lean, smooth, agile, and now, as the silence in the stables and the shadows seemed to surround her, he didn’t seem as lean and lithe. In her mind, his shoulders grew with each step. He was coming to slip his hands around her throat and throttle her. He’d been charming at first, more than intriguing, as she had admitted to herself. But he had some strange agenda, and now, he was simply going to kill her.
There was a pitchfork stuck into a pile of hay bales behind her to the left. She saw it clearly from the corner of her darting eyes. As he took another step, she dodged back, dragging the tool-to-be-a-weapon into her hands, and before her, a warning that she would strike if he came any closer.
“I’m not afraid to use this!” she said, and managed to make the threat a real one.
Still, he merely smiled, but actually paused for a minute. Then he told her, “You’re not going to skewer me with a pitchfork.”
“I will—I swear that I will. Now, I want you off this property, and away from my grandfather.”
“It’s not going to happen, Tara.”
He kept coming toward her. Though she now held her weapon, and knew that she did have the strength to use it, she backed away, watching him with wary, narrowed eyes as he slowly, confidently, took each step.
“You have to admit that you’re insane. You need help,” she told him.
She could use it, would use it...
“You know that I’m telling the truth.”
“That there are vampires?”
“You know that I’m telling the truth, because you were there. You heard the cry in the tomb. And you knew when you left La Guerre that something was following you. You knew it. You knew that there was danger in the shadows. There was something that you couldn’t see, but you could feel it And when you came home, and that woman was at your door, you knew there was something wrong. You stopped her from entering.”
He was just feet away. She cursed herself, but felt the strange magnetism he exuded, and she denied.
Felt his gaze, the strange gold color of his eyes that was really just hazel, but seemed able to touch and burn as surely as any yellow flame of fire. She willed herself to move, mentally arguing against every word he had said to her. A killer was loose, it was natural to be wary when a killer was loose, she hadn’t been feeling any supernatural warnings of danger beneath the surface of light and shadows . ..
“Get away,” she told him.
He reached out a hand. “Give me the pitchfork.”
Her fingers tightened around the wooden handle. She bit her lip, desperate to hold on, to prove him wrong. But she couldn’t tear her eyes away from his. Her heart was hammering, and it seemed that every breath was an effort.
“You are definitely your grandfather’s descendant,” he said very quietly. “And you are stubborn and strong-willed. But you are going to give me the pitchfork.”
“You’re not all that wonderful,” she whispered in return. “Don’t think that you are.”
“But I am right, and that’s why you’re going to give it to me.” She didn’t intend to do so, but as he took the last step, when she should have pulled her arms back and tensed her arms to strike, she found that her limbs did not seem to be obeying the commands of her mind. Rather, her hands began to tremble, her arms to shake, and slowly, slowly, against her will, she began to extend the weapon to him.
His hands grasped the handle, and the pitchfork was his. For one wild moment, she thought that he meant to turn it on her, to strike and send the tines of the tool shooting into her abdomen and chest.
He flung the weapon far from him. She saw that strange glow of fire and gold in his eyes, and he came closer, now reaching out for her. She wanted to scream. The sound froze in her throat.
She had completely forgotten about work. As Rick Beaudreaux lay next to Ann DeVant, he propped himself easily on an elbow, and watched the woman at his side.
Such a beauty. And so easily his.
Ann DeVant. A woman so very important And so ...
Time had fled, minutes to hours. And yet...
Still time before dusk. She did need to rouse, and return to work. He glanced at his watch, reckoning the arrival of dusk. Twilight. And then the night.
He ran a finger down her arm, leaning over her. His whisper delicately touched her ear. “I hate to say it, but it’s late, you know. I... want more of your life, so much more, but... I don’t want to cost you your job.”
She sighed, rolling, moving against him again. Her arms locked around his neck. “I know, and I’m such a practical person. Why is it that I hate to leave you so much?” He smiled, holding his weight above her. “I promise you, I will be around,” he assured her. “In fact, you’ll be amazed. You won’t be able to get rid of me.”
Her lips curled beautifully in the contours of her face. He drew his fingers gently through her hair.
As he bent to kiss her, he smoothed a lock from her face.
There ... on the side of her neck, usually hidden by the fall of her dark hair, were two little marks.
Just pinpricks ...
Barely visible to the naked eye.
He stared at them a long moment...
He drew her into his arms.
That evening, Yvette Miret was off duty at five.
And at five, she was definitely ready to go home.
Paul had come by at three that afternoon. They had been planning to go to a rock concert in the city that evening.
But now, the rock concert was off, mainly because Paul was such an ass.
Yvette had known Paul since she was a girl. He’d lived down the street in their little village. He was a friend.
But Paul didn’t see any farther than the borders of his father’s farm. Yvette didn’t intend to spend her life working with sheep, or feeding the men who herded them, at the crack of dawn every morning of her life.
Though she had encouraged Paul at various points in their stormy years together, she had also told him several times that she did not intend to settle down in the village. She was going places, and she didn’t particularly care what she had to do to get there.
There had been a group of British students by that day, too; handsome men on holiday from their university. She had been flirting, laughing, and dropping napkins on the table with her phone number.
She hadn’t realized that Paul was across the street, just outside the police tape that still roped off the outer entrance to the old church dig, and that he was watching her. Just as she delivered a second round of drinks to the table, he had come storming over, gripped her arm, dragged her to the wall and called her a whore and a slut. At the end he shouted to her, “You’ll be sorry! You’ll be so sorry for the way you behave toward me— you bitch!”
She’d longed to slug him, really hard, right on the jaw. She could feel the blood rising to her cheeks.
But then, the owner had come out to yell at Paul. He had been duly chastened, but she had been threatened with losing her job.
And worse than anything, the whole scene had been distasteful to the British boys, and they had departed without so much as an extra franc left on the table. The cocktail napkins with her phone number remained beneath their cups. It was so humiliating she could have cried on the spot, but she’d also been furious.
Paul had called almost exactly an hour later, apologetic. But then he told her that she would wind up becoming a prostitute right on the street if she didn’t watch herself; he knew about the many times she had picked up customers, and met them at their hotel rooms late at night She would come to no good, and it hurt him, really hurt him, because he loved her so much. She thought of him with his wild brown hair and eyes, his endearing face. Somewhat of a handsome face, but too young, too naive for what she really needed from the worlds.
And he was wrong—she was attractive to other men, really attractive, and they didn’t all just use her and walk away. She refrained from asking him how he thought she acquired her designer coats and boots, and the earrings and jewelry she sometimes wore. He would only have worse things to say about her.