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“The manager didn’t sign for several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment, or leave it sitting unguarded for a day.” She yawned and leaned her head against his shoulder. “But the room service was nice. So was that shower.”

“I favored the bed.” He’d allowed her precious little sleep in it, even after the sun had risen, but couldn’t stir himself to feel guilty. “I should have compelled him to deliver it to the site.”

“We’ll push ours together.” She straightened as a long dark limousine came to a stop in front of them. “I thought you called a cab.”

“Car service,” he corrected, nodding to the driver and opening the back door for her.

“I’ve never ridden in a limo.” Once inside, Alys had to inspect everything. “Hylord—I mean, the high lord—must pay pretty well.”

“He pays nothing at all, but no one dares complain.” Beau gave the driver directions to the site before closing the partition between the seats. “Come here.”

Alys perched on his lap, resting her cheek against his shoulder as she traced the leering skull on the front of the new T-shirt the manager had given him to wear. “You never told me how you found me at the park last night. Can you sense where I go, or something like that?”

“I can track you by your scent when you are on foot.” He smoothed her rumpled hair back from her face. “But I already knew what you meant to do. Just before we left for the city, when I went back into the cloister to get my jacket, I checked the history on your laptop.”

She sat up. “You didn’t. You sneak.” Her indignant expression eased into a rueful look. “I didn’t think you knew how to use a computer.”

“I dislike them, but I have learned.” Beau tucked her back against him. “I can also drive—I prefer horses, but I have learned to operate any vehicle—and read children’s books, and sign my name.”

“Why do you read children’s books?”

“I could not read at all until a short time ago, when I began taking night classes.” Beau told her about his solitary quest to become literate, and added, “Writing is my new challenge. It’s not as easy as it looks, and I think I hate cursive more than plague. But such things were not required of me when I was mortal.”

“And I taunted you about it.” She hugged him. “I’m sorry.”

“You are a child of this time. I am not.” He kissed the top of her head. “But if you need a sword wielded, or a horse shod, I am your man.”

Once the limo dropped them off at the site, Alys waved to the driver and then took Beau’s hand. “Damn,” she said as they walked past the parking area behind the church. “I forgot I left the van at the convention center. Well, at least we still have the Jeep.” She glanced at the camp and frowned. “Did you reset the timers on the generators? They should have come on by now.”

Beau breathed in and smelled burnt metal, smoldering plastic, and the scent of several unfamiliar mortals. “Wait here.”

He was glad of the darkness when he came upon the GPR trolley, smashed into pieces, and the mounds of equipment that had been destroyed. From the stink, the intruders had doused everything with petrol and set it alight; the camp must have burned all day. Every workstation had been rifled through and toppled; the lab tent lay in shreds. Artifacts, some still in their bags, lay strewn everywhere.

Beau saw the beam of a flashlight, and intercepted Alys as she came around the mission. Immediately he tried to turn her away. “You’ll not want to see this, love.”

“Please.” When he stepped aside, she went to the wrecked trolley, crouching down to touch it before she turned her flashlight over the rest of the encampment. “They torched everything, didn’t they?”

“The equipment can be replaced.”

“Of course it can, but…Oh, no.” She stood and dashed off to the cloister.

Beau found her standing beside the empty trunk in their cellar chamber. The mattresses of both beds had been ripped open, all her garments and belongings thrown to the floor.

“My laptop’s gone. So are all my discs and books.” She bent down to pick up her red cap, turning it over in her hands. “They got my research notes, the reports I wrote for Tremayne, and every other record of the work we’ve done here. They took everything.”

“This is my doing.” Beau put aside his own fury and tried to comfort her. “We can begin again. I will call Tremayne, and tell him what has happened.”

“Are you going to explain where we were while it was happening? I should never have left.” She pushed her hair back from her brow. “I’ll have to go back into the city and let the students know. Some of them have other commitments.” She gave him a wan look. “Do you think Taylor will let us use that room for another night?”

He bent his head to kiss her. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Together they collected their garments, which Alys carried up out of the cloister to the Jeep while Beau used the solar shower bag to soak down the still-smoldering equipment. When the last wisp of smoke dissipated, he tossed the bag on top of the pile in disgust.

The danger has only begun, lad.

Beau’s head snapped up as a shimmering cloud of golden light appeared a few feet from him. It solidified into the shape of a man who was part flesh, and part light. “Cristophe. Show yourself.”

Your lady is about to die.

Beau bunched his hands into fists. “If you go anywhere near her—”

They have already seen to it. Go to her. Save her.

Beau took a step toward him before he remembered what else they had left behind last night. The Jeep.

He saw Alys sitting behind the wheel of the Jeep and digging through her backpack. He reached her just as she was putting the key in the ignition.

“I think the battery is—”

He scooped her out of the seat, flinging her over his shoulder as he fled from the vehicle. A moment after he ducked around the stables, the Jeep exploded, sending a huge ball of black smoke and fire into the air.

Alys cringed against him as Beau turned, pressing her against the old brick. He used his body to shield her from the rain of flaming shrapnel, but once it had abated, she wriggled out from under him to look at the fiery ruins.

She turned to him, her eyes shocked. “How did you know there was a bomb in my car?”

“Our mutual relative warned me.” Beau took out his satellite phone and began punching the buttons.

“Who are you going to call?” Alys demanded. “Ghostbusters?”

He eyed her. “What?”

“Never mind. It sounded funnier in my head.” She pressed a hand to her brow. “Not even shock can make me into a comedienne.”

“You may be anything you wish, love, but we cannot stay here.” He lifted the phone to his ear. “This is Beaumaris. Send the car back for us. Yes, now.”

Alys walked over to where she had dropped her backpack, and bent down to collect everything that had fallen out of it. When she straightened, she gave the flaming wreck of the Jeep a helpless glance. “Where can we go?”

“The one place where I know you’ll be safe.” He switched off the phone. “Home.”

Beau wouldn’t let go of her, even when the car returned and they were safely on their way, but Alys didn’t mind. She’d come within seconds of being blown up with the Jeep; her hands were still shaking.

“Where do you live, anyway?” she asked him, wondering whether he had a house or a condo, and whether she’d put him in danger by staying with him.

“’Tis not far from here.” Beau looked as if he wanted to say more, but turned his head to watch the limo’s side mirror, which he’d been doing since they’d left the site.

“Maybe it would be better if we went to a hotel,” she suggested. “I don’t want whoever did this to come after you and blow up your house.”

“They’ll not be able to get at my home, love.” As the limo slowed, he lowered his window and reached out to input a series of numbers on a security pad.

Alys couldn’t see through the dark glass of the partition, so she leaned over him. An artfully painted sign behind the keypad showed two horsemen in armor jousting beneath lettering that read KNIGHTS REALM. “You’re taking me to another theme park? Pirate World wasn’t enough?”

“The Realm is more than a park.” He took her hand in his. “This is where we live.”

“We? As in the Darkyn?” She gaped. “There are more of you around here?”

He nodded. “Many more.”

Another man dressed in a medieval guard’s costume walked up to the window and bent down to peer inside. “Beau, what do you here? Harlech said you would not return for another fortnight.” The man’s eyes shifted, and he grinned. “Hello, pretty thing. What are you called?”

Beau scowled. “Mine.”

“As you say.” The guard winked at Alys. “If you tire of him, sweeting, ask for Gowain. I love ginger-haired gels.”

“Lay a finger on her and I’ll gut you.” Beau raised the window, shutting out the guard’s leer.

“You’ll gut him?” Alys repeated, fascinated now. “For touching me? Really?”

Beau gave her a narrow look. “Really.”

It was as if she’d been transported to her own private fantasyland, Alys thought as the gates opened and the driver moved the car up to the edge of a moat surrounding an enormous castle. She heard the hum of hydraulics as the water parted and a gleaming drawbridge surfaced.

“I can’t believe you live in a medieval theme park.” She admired the gatehouse towers, and the two armored guards standing at attention in front of them. “How do you keep the tourists from finding out what you are?”

“Mortals are easy to convince; what you see is what you believe.” Beau sounded slightly less testy. “Our visitors think they come to a theme park, which permits us to live as we wish.”

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