She could have gotten out okay, but rather than be blatantly rude, she accepted his hand. There were all kinds of nice guys working here; she just happened to have gotten stuck with Tony. He managed to brush her breast with his palm. The subtle grin he wore told her he had done it on purpose.
She ignored it. "Thanks," she told him, and started walking toward the rear exit.
"What's your hurry?"
"You just told me we're closing."
"Yeah, well. Soon. We could take a minute, you know. Fool around in the hay and the headstones."
"Thanks again, but no thanks," she told him.
Then she stopped, standing dead still. The new guy she had seen for the first time tonight was standing in front of her. He was in a sweeping cape. He hadn't put on any makeup, and still ... boy, something about his eyes was really still freaky. As if he were a cat. With night vision. With glow-in-the-dark eyes.
"Darcy, Darcy, Darcy ...," Tony was saying.
Suddenly he grabbed her from behind, his arms sweeping around her. He apparently didn't realize that she had stopped for a reason-that their path was blocked.
He seemed to think that she wanted to take him up on his offer to fool around in the hay after all.
"Come on, Darcy," he said huskily. "Come on, please, just give me a break. I know how you feel about me, and that you shouldn't see a guy where you're working, and that I'm kind of like the boss, being who I am and all...."
Tony was breathing heavily against her neck-slobbering on her nape. He still hadn't seen the new guy.
"What?" she said incredulously, trying to slide away from him. She answered him quietly, still staring at the caped figure ahead of her. She tried to whisper, not wanting the relative stranger to hear what was going on, although she wasn't sure why. Tony was acting like a jerk.
She didn't want to be left behind with him.
She didn't want to move forward.
"Tony," she murmured, "I really can't stand you, and I don't think that you're like the boss at all." What was the matter with him? He was still trying to jump her bones, while there was something really wrong with the corridor. They'd added more props. Gruesome stuff. Heads, bodies ... blood. She couldn't see well in the dim light and shadows. All she could really see were the eyes of the newcomer.
They were so startling.
And suddenly he spoke.
"Hey, now, enough of that," the newcomer said. He spoke lightly, teasingly. "I'm the only one who licks necks around here."
Tony was badly startled by the sound of the voice when he had thought himself alone with Darcy. He straightened and tensed like a springboard.
"What the hell are you doing here? And who the hell are you?" Tony said angrily. "I wasn't told that anyone else had been hired for this section!"
"Ah, how sad. They just don't tell you everything. And here I am, in your section. Scared, there, little boy?" the newcomer asked.
"Scared? You ass! Move on, Darcy. The bosses are going to hear about this guy," Tony barked. "Go on-move."
"No, don't move, not a good idea, Darcy," the tall man said.
She wanted to move; oddly enough, at that moment, she wanted to do just exactly as Tony had told her-move, get the hell out! But she couldn't move. She felt frozen, completely frozen. She couldn't draw her eyes from the face of the newcomer. In fact, she had done nothing but stare at him since he had arrived-and so it was hard to understand how, suddenly, he wasn't alone. There was a tall, slim, dark-haired woman at his side. She was dressed much as Darcy was herself. She was beautiful. Some logical part of Darcy's mind thought, Great contact lenses! And look! She's got them, too. Look at those eyes. So darned scary. Horrible, red, burning, compelling. . .
"Darcy?" Tony said softly. "Darcy, is this some kind of a joke?"
"No," she said under her breath.
"A bunch of you being jerks, trying to get to me-"
"No," Darcy repeated. She still couldn't tear her eyes away.
"Oh, do shut up, Tony!" the man said.
"That one is mine, I take it, darling?" the woman cooed to her companion, laughing softly. She looked Tony up and down, licked her lips, and shivered with delight. Then those eyes of hers touched Darcy. A chill went down her spine like nothing she had ever experienced. She felt... as if she were touched.
Worse. She felt as if she were being consumed. As if she were bared to the bone by those eyes. And the feeling was filthy, horrible. Those eyes ...
They touched her with evil.
They seemed to strip her down. They were awful. They somehow touched her inside and out. Invaded her. Raped her with their evil ...
"Not that I'm at all choosy as to sex," the female said, her voice low, guttural ... so sensual. She compelled just as she repelled.
And I still haven't moved, Darcy thought. I can't move! It's like being stuck in a bad B movie. The fog is swirling at my feet, the lighting is shadowy and purple, I'm surrounded by tombstones, and I know that they're only foam, but they seem real, as if they could be mine, and the sound system is working just fine, and they're playing that cursed music from The Exorcist!
And . . .
They're there! She's hungry, you can feel it, so hungry, like a wolf licking her chops, looking at me, oh, God, oh, God, there's a coffin behind me, my coffin, and I'm going to die. . . .
"Mr. Frat Boy goes first," the man said, "though I'm not that choosy as to sex either, my love. You know that. Ladies first, though. My little vampiress looks as sweet as chocolate. Powder blue eyes... I can feel her heart beating from here, like a rabbit, the anticipation is so, so sweet...."
"She does look delicious," the female said softly.
"Tony, no, you can't stay-"
"Go! You've got to go. Get out!" Tony insisted. But his voice didn't sound so assured anymore. Still. . .
"I know you!" he whispered to the newcomers.
He knew them? These were people he knew?
"What a memory, Frat Boy," the man said.
"How could he forget us darling?" the woman queried.
"Well, he'd been smoking a little weed, and jerking down hard on that Johnnie Walker," the man reminded her.
"Go!" Tony commanded Darcy. He suddenly pushed her. Pushed her hard. "Go, Darcy. Run like hell!" He broke the spell the hideous eyes had upon her.
And he gave her the momentum to run.
Through the cold. For it was cold. Icy, icy, cold. She ran past the newcomer. Saw his eyes again. Saw the amusement in them.
If he wanted to, he could stop her. He could just will it, and he would stop her!
Yet something in his expression changed slightly as he watched her. The amusement was still there, but there was something like a shrug as well.
He was letting her go.
Yes, he had chosen to let her go!
Her lips were bone dry; her lungs were heaving. She ran in pure, blind panic. She saw an emergency exit ahead. She plowed toward it. She heard Tony scream.
And she burst into the night, screaming hysterically herself.
Jade rose late on Saturday, waking with a start. He had been there; she had found him. He had been with her, in flesh and blood.
But when she turned to him, he was gone.
"Why was I expecting that?" she muttered aloud to herself.
She rose and showered and debated the possibility that she had imagined it all again. That she was losing her mind.
Whether she had imagined her erotic evening again, or whether it had been real, she was crazy either way. If it was real, she had spent the night with a virtual stranger, betraying one of the really fine and decent men in the world.
After she had showered, she dressed, made coffee, and looked at her answering machine. No messages. Lucian hadn't called.
Neither had Rick.
When Rick called, what was she going to say? She bit into her lower lip, drummed the table with her fingernails, and then sipped her coffee.
She had to tell him. He was too fine a person for her not to be totally honest. She was going to sound like the worst human being in the world, but that didn't matter. Hurting him as little as possible did.
But what if Lucian DeVeau really had no interest in her?
He did. Somehow she knew it.
As the clock crept past one in the afternoon, she picked up the phone and dialed Rick's house. His machine picked up. She left him a message, saying that she hoped he was feeling better.
She had barely hung up when the phone rang. When she picked it up, she heard a woman's voice. She tensed, thinking that it might be the same woman who phoned and then hung up on her yesterday.
But the accent was different.
And this woman didn't hang up.
She asked for Lucian DeVeau.
Jade wound the phone wire around her fingers. "I'm sorry, he's not here."
She stared at the phone, wondering how on earth anyone could have known that he'd been there, and then wondering why the woman sounded so distraught.
"He's not here," she repeated carefully.
"Look, I'm sorry to disturb you, but it's important that I reach him. Please, if you see him, have him get hold of Maggie. As soon as possible."
"If I should see him, I'll certainly give him your message." She set the receiver down, perplexed. The phone call meant at least one thing, she told herself: Lucian was real.
She tried Rick's number again. Once more she got his answering machine. When the beep sounded, she left her message.
"Rick, it's Jade again. I won't call anymore, but if you're still sick, you need to get to a doctor. Call me when you can; let me know you're okay."
She tried the station, asked for Rick, and wound up patched through to Gavin. "He didn't come in, Jade. Apparently he's really sick. He's at home."