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“It sounds as if it was.” He nodded at the tray. “That’s the last of the bread and eggs. I’ll make a trip into the city for more food supplies.”

“I’ll go with you.” She forced a smile. “I have some things I need to do, too.”

After he went to take stock of what they would need, Alys dumped the tea he had made for her down the shower drain, and stuck the food in a self-sealing bag under her mattress. In the process she remembered the back injury she’d sustained, and reached back to feel for the bandage.

She wasn’t bandaged or wounded, Alys discovered, and wavered for a moment. She had fallen into a very deep pit and blacked out. Concussions had a way of distorting memories. Is he telling the truth? Was it all a nightmare? She felt along her back again, this time more carefully, and felt a faint, irregular scar. She took the hand mirror from her backpack and held it, turning her head and positioning it so she could see the spot. She did have a scar, a brand-new one that had not been there yesterday. Somehow she had healed overnight.

No, he did something to me.

She remembered the strange heat of the antiseptic he’d used on her. If it had actually been antiseptic from the first aid kit, it should have stung; she knew because she’d used it several times herself on the cuts and scrapes she acquired while working the dig. And while she’d never had a problem recovering quickly from any wound, no one could spontaneously heal.…

Alys went to the trunk where she kept her books, and searched through them until she found the last birthday gift Robert had sent her, a memoir written by an ex–Catholic priest who among wild fantasies had claimed he’d discovered a second, secret society within the ranks of the Knights Templar. The author, an octogenarian whom the academic community had always dismissed as a madman, had insisted he’d even been attacked by members of the secret sect of Templars, who he claimed were not only immortal but also vampires. He’d prevented them from drinking his blood by hurling holy water at them.

She flipped through the chapters, skimming until she found the section on the evidence the priest had gathered about the sect he referred to as the “dark kyn,” and began reading.

Those who are damned for eternity will be comely of appearance, the men strong and handsome, the women delicate and lovely. They exude the precious scent of God’s gift of torment, that of flowers, but it is a lie to lure and trap their unsuspecting victims. They will partake of neither food nor drink but wine. When brought into the light of heaven they will shield their eyes and grow agitated; if left in shelter they will sleep without breath or movement. They have knowledge of the black arts and wield these against their victims, each with their own spell to create confusion of the senses and to enslave with but a few words. Few can resist their murmurings and touches. They fornicate freely and respect not the bonds of marriage or betrothal. Nothing may cut their flesh but copper, which burns them like fire. They heal from any wound, but thanks be to God may be dispatched back to Hell by beheading.

Alys closed the book and sat back against the side of her bed, building almost helplessly a construct that duplicated the priest’s claims: Strong and handsome. Smells wonderful. Avoids food. Only awake at night. He has every intern in love with him. He has me in love with him.

She shoved the book back into the trunk and slammed the lid down. Love wasn’t real, and neither were the imaginings of a disturbed mind. The priest had died more than a hundred years ago, committing suicide shortly after the publication of his wretched book. She could build another, completely logical construct to explain away the similarities. Beau had food allergies. He was charming. Hylord had insisted they work at night.

Beauregard York was not a vampire.

Last night I saw him jump out of the pit, just after he made me orgasm. But before that, he almost bit me. Alys reached for her shoulder, and felt a tender spot. With trembling fingers she pushed back her collar, and saw two shallow scratches surrounded by a fading bruise. Scratches that hadn’t been there yesterday. Scratches from two identical sharp objects scraping against her skin…

Alys retrieved her laptop and booted it up, watching the stairs as she ran several searches on Google and MapQuest. It would take hours, and if she was wrong, Beau would be furious with her, but nothing else would suffice. And if she was right, she needed incontrovertible proof with which to confront him.

She dressed and prepped her backpack before leaving the cloister, and found Beau stacking equipment cases in the church. “You don’t have to do that. We’ll only be a few hours.”

He gave her an odd look. “It’s no trouble. You’re ready to leave? Let me get my jacket.”

When Beau returned from the cloister, she shouldered her backpack and took out her keys. “We’ll take the van; it has more room in the back. Would you like to drive?”

“That would not be wise. The rental agency will have insured only you,” he chided. “If you’re not feeling well enough to drive, perhaps you should stay here.”

“I’m completely recovered, thank you.” He had a rational excuse for everything he couldn’t do, she thought. Of course he thought she’d never seen the two-week-old driver’s license in his wallet. “Let’s go.”

On the way to the city Beau turned on the radio, scanning the channels until he found the local classical music station. A dark and dramatic cello concerto filled up the silence between them.

“I liked that,” he said after the final, stark notes of the piece drifted into silence. “It sounded like a storm brewing.”

“Do you know the composer?” She glanced at him. “She’s a South Korean with a very memorable name.”

“What is it?”

“Unsuk Chin.”

“You’re jest—joking.”

He’d nearly said “jesting” instead of “joking”: another of his verbal slips. “You can Google her if you like. What sort of computer do you use at home?”

“Nothing special,” he said, turning his head to look at the scenery. “A laptop, like yours.”

“Is it Mac, HP, Texas Instruments?” she persisted.

“Texas Instruments.”

Who sold their laptop product line to Acer back in ’ninety-seven. Alys was almost beginning to enjoy herself. “So you like vintage tech.”

“Like you, I am very fond of old things.” He nodded at the windshield. “There is an excellent market on the next block, to the right.”

“I thought we’d stop and get something to eat first. Charles told me about this place near here called Hoolihan’s. Great food, and live music, too.”

“That sounds interesting,” Beau said, shifting around to face her. “But you just ate a full meal back at camp.”

Alys hoped her stomach wouldn’t give her away by growling. “I was thinking about you. You haven’t eaten anything yet.”

“I did, just before you woke,” he said through his teeth. “But I appreciate your concern.”

No, you don’t. Alys made a turn into the grocery store’s side lot and parked the van. She was tempted to leave the keys in the ignition, but Beau was watching her too closely now.

“We’ll need a shopping cart.” As she climbed out, she nodded toward a row of them sitting in a return slot several cars down. “Would you mind getting one for me? I need to use the ladies’ room. I’ll meet you over in the produce section.”

She breezed inside the store, heading directly to the restroom sign, glancing back to see Beau pushing a cart in through the doors. As soon as she was out of his sight, she changed direction, walking over several aisles and doubling back. At the end of the aisle she saw a clerk and hurried up to him.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Is there another exit other than one at front of this building? There’s a man who followed me in from the parking lot, and he’s acting a little creepy.”

“Sure, you can go out through the liquor store.” He pointed to a pair of sliding doors. “They have their own entrance. If this guy’s really bothering you, my manager can call the cops.”

“No, that’s okay. I only need to get away from him.” She smiled and hurried toward the sliding doors.

Back outside in the parking lot, Alys ran to the van, fumbling her keys out of her pocket and nearly dropping them twice before she got the engine started. Throwing the van into reverse, she backed out, turning her head to see Beau standing just outside the front entrance.

“Now let’s see you follow me, smart guy.” She sped off.

Alys drove to the first address she’d written down in her notebook, a busy hotel near the convention center, and parked the van in the visitors’ lot. Once she’d locked it up, she hurried over to the long line of taxis waiting by the main lobby.

“Hi,” she said to the driver of the first cab she reached. “My rental broke down and I need to get back to my hotel to arrange to have it towed. Can you take me to the Neptune resort?”

“No problem, lady. Hop in.”

She climbed in the back and hunched down as far as she could, waiting until they were on the road again before she sat up. “You know, I think it would be better if I go to the place I rented it.” She read the address to him from her notebook. “That way I can get a replacement car tonight.”

“Whatever you say.” The driver made a neat U-turn and headed in the opposite direction.

Once he’d dropped her off at the rental agency, Alys walked past the building out to the bus stop on the corner, where she waited for five tense minutes before the resort shuttle arrived. It was crowded with tourists returning from dinner, so she had to stand, but there were enough people packed around her to effectively block her from the windows.

She got off the resort shuttle at its first stop, taking a second to a satellite hotel, and then a third directly to a theme park, where she rode the tram to the ticket booths.

“You do know that we close in two hours, ma’am,” the girl in the booth warned her as she printed out her ticket.

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