When Darkness Falls


Page 42









She realized that Lucian was behind her.


"I could have done this alone," she said. "In fact, 1 should be doing this alone."


"You shouldn't be doing anything alone."


"We're in a busy hospital."


"I need to see your friend."


"He was doing much better. He might be conscious. He and Liz have had symptoms so much alike, and she's doing so very well...."


"Let's hope," he murmured.


She stopped dead, placing a hand against his chest. "Lucian, I-"


"You're worried about your friend meeting me?" he inquired, his fingers sliding around her wrist to pull her hand away, his eyes cold. "Do you really think you could just go back to the way things were?"


"No... yes... perhaps. You still... I still know nothing about you. You've just barged into my life-"


"You know everything there is to know about me. If you admit it," he said, walking by her. She felt chilled.


He knew the way. They reached Rick's room.


He was still in intensive care. A nurse stopped them from entering. Jade said that she had sat with him for hours already, and the nurse said, "Oh, you're the fiancée!" Her cheeks reddened as she felt Lucian just behind her, but she said, "Yes."


"He's still unconscious, but holding his own. Go on, talk to him. Maybe it will do him some good." Jade slipped in. Rick still looked pale. She gazed at the different monitors connected to him; his vital signs seemed stable enough. She squeezed his hand. "You're going to make it. You are!" she encouraged him.


Through the glass window to the room, she could see Lucian talking to the nurse. The nurse smiled, opening the door for Lucian to enter.


She stared at him. "What did you say to her?"


He shrugged. "Nothing much. I said I was a friend." He paid her little attention, but walked straight to Rick, observing his face, then searching his neck. He seemed perplexed.


"Bite holes, right?" she mocked skeptically.


He motioned to her. There did seem to be two little pinprick marks in his neck, but not the big red circles she had seen in movies.


"Shouldn't they be bigger?" she whispered, thinking she was really losing her mind now.


"She's playing."


"What?"


"Sophia is just playing. He's holding his own, though. For the moment. But he shouldn't be alone at all.


I'll tell Sean."


"I don't understand any of this. And I don't believe he's sick because of those little pinholes in his neck.


This is crazy."


"Very," he agreed.


And he turned around and left her.


Chapter Fourteen


By the light of day, in the sterile and well-ordered world of the hospital, Jade felt as if she were letting the bizarre get the best of her mind.


She wasn't running after Lucian.


She simply wasn't going to believe so easily. There were always logical answers in life.


Sometimes they were just hard to find.


Stubbornly, she remained with Rick. She sat by his side as time ticked slowly by. She held his hand; then she gently touched his cheek. "I'm so sorry. I would never purposely hurt you. Never." She looked outside the room again, thinking that maybe Lucian was waiting for her.


He was not.


A few minutes later she saw a handsome young man come, take a chair, and settle with a newspaper outside Rick's door.


She exited, looking at him. He rose, a friendly smile on his face. "Hi, Jade, is it? Jack Delaney; I work with Sean."


"Naturally," she murmured. "You're going to watch over Rick?"


"For now," he said cheerfully.


"That's good to hear." She watched his eyes carefully. "He isn't being hunted down by a mafia chieftain or anything. He came in here sick."


"Right. Well, he's a cop, and a good one. One of our own. I hope you don't mind my being here with him."


"Of course I don't mind. I'm glad."


"Good."


Jack Delaney wasn't going to give her any more information. Nor was he going to wink in a conspiratorial manner and tell her he was well armed with stakes and holy water.


"I guess I'll go back to my family, since Rick seems to be in good hands." He waved good-bye to her. She started down the hall and turned back. Jack was already engrossed in his newspaper.


When Jade reached her stepmother's room, she found Sean and her sister waiting, but Lucian had left the hospital. His exits were becoming very annoying. Downright irritating.


"He had some things to attend to," Sean told her. "Maggie wants to meet you. I've asked your sister already. I hope you'll come to my house for something to eat and a few hours of rest.''


Jade looked at her sister. Shanna looked perfectly comfortable with the arrangements.


"I don't know," she said, wondering why she felt so argumentative. "Dad, what about the boys? I have baby brothers, you know."


"They're fine for the afternoon, Jade," her father said . "Why don't you get some lunch, some rest. We may need you and your sister in the days to come."


"Sure, then. I'm just dying to meet your wife, Lieutenant Canady."


"We'll be back then," Sean promised her father and stepmother. As they left the room, Jade saw that there was a very tall, exceptionally good-looking black man outside the room. He was wearing shades, casual clothing, and carrying a book. Sean introduced him briefly as Mike Astin. "My stepmother needs a guard?" Jade demanded as they left the hospital.


It was all just too strange. When they had returned to her place that morning, both Canady and her sister had been frantic. Her father had been leaving messages, and she was gone. Canady looked really ragged-trying to figure out how she had gotten past him.


She had tried to explain it. "I guess I was sleepwalking. Having bizarre dreams." Canady knew Lucian, and wasn't at all surprised that he had brought her home-carried her home, her white nightgown draping dramatically over his arms as he entered the apartment with her. Shanna, who had been ready to dislike him on sight, made an amazing turnabout, introducing herself, watching him, querying him, and appearing generally fascinated by him. All too strange, Jade thought again as Canady drove them toward his house on the outskirts of the city.


"How do you know Lucian DeVeau?" Jade demanded as they drove.


His eyes met hers in the rearview mirror. Then they touched the road again.


"He's an old friend of my wife," he said.


Shanna leaned forward. "Did they date?" she inquired.


"Shanna," Jade remonstrated.


"Not exactly," Sean said, and the way he said it, the case was simply closed.


Sean Canady lived with his wife in a stunning grande dame of a plantation. Exiting the car, Jade wished she'd met the Canadys at a different stage of her life. The place was terrific. She could have taken rolls of pictures, and written a history on the architecture and the owners through time. It was beautiful, and restored rather than refurbished. Walking up the steps, she couldn't help but move slowly and admire the old-fashioned elegance of the house, an elegance that belonged to a time long past.


At her side, Shanna whistled softly.


"Hey, we grew up in a very decent home in the Garden District," Jade reminded her sister in a whisper.


Shanna elbowed her. "Shush. Whispering is rude."


"So is gawking!" Jade admonished her.


They had barely climbed the steps to the front door when it opened for them.


A woman stood there with a toddler in her arms. She looked as though she belonged in Vogue. She was tall, elegant, and wearing a casual at-home outfit that might have been on a Paris runway.


The baby was unmistakably Sean's. He had curious blue eyes and a cap of curly dark hair.


"So my husband managed to lure you out here!" she called.


Great voice. Soft, low, sexy. Jade smiled. "How do you do," she said. "Thank you for the invitation." Had it been an invitation, or a summons?


"Thank you for coming," she said, smiling. "And you're Jade, and you're Shanna," she said, naming them correctly.


"Right," Jade said. "And this is .. . ?" She indicated the baby.


Maggie's eyes were luminous as she gazed at the toddler in her arms. "This is Brent. Mr. Brent Canady."


"How do you do, Mr. Brent Canady," Jade said, reaching out to the baby. He was at that age when he might have turned away, pressed his face to his mother's arm, but he studied Jade and let her take his hand and shake it. He let out a little laugh and gazed at his mother with pleasure.


"He's adorable," Shanna said.


"Thanks. We think so," Maggie said huskily.


Sean came behind them, meeting her eyes strangely at first, then greeting her with a kiss. They seemed to have said a million things with a simple look. That, Jade thought, was what life was all about.


"Late lunch is nearly on, or early dinner, whichever," Maggie Canady told her husband. "Please come on in."


The house was even more wonderful inside. A grand staircase rose from either side of the foyer to meet at a halfway landing, then split again to rise to a second level. Arches and molding adorned walls and doorways. The house was both elegant and lived-in.


It also had a strange ...


Odor.


When they reached the kitchen, Jade realized that there were large gloves of garlic hung around the windows. When Maggie moved through the kitchen to set the baby down in his play area, she saw that the French doors there also seemed to be surrounded by vines.


Not vines. Garlic.


There were a number of wooden sticks or poles leaning against the door as well. Jade tried to inspect them without appearing to do so. They looked as if they should have been attached to brooms or mops.







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