"You should have been smarter; you shouldn't have come!" he insisted.
"Jade," Shanna said, but Jade stepped around her sister.
"No. You needed us. Because you don't know everything! Power isn't always everything; Renate was right- knowledge is strength!" She brought her hands up in fists to pound against his chest. Her hands fell flat upon his chest, and he enveloped her into his arms.
She felt a beating, beating, beating....
Her heart? His? Did he have a heart that could beat so?
Did it matter? The pulse and fever she felt seemed a part of them both.
"I heard you calling me," he said very softly. "I barely came in time." Lucian was shaking.
"He got away," Shanna said. "Jade! I was so stupid, and so lucky. Darian is Dave, the fellow I met at the coffee shop. Jade, I could have wound up like ..."
They all turned. Rick was standing in the doorway. There was grass in his hair, Jade noted. She broke from Lucian, running to Rick, hugging him fiercely. "Rick, I'm so, so sorry. You can't begin to imagine-"
"Jade," he said kindly. He held her away from him. "Some things, maybe, are destiny."
"It's not okay. You're really ..."
"Dead?" he whispered. "It's not a four-letter word- oh, yes, I guess it is. People, we need to think fast for the moment."
"I beg your pardon?" Lucian said, scowling.
"Excuse me, but I still know law enforcement and the 'protect and serve' routine. Security is coming up-the broken window."
"What do we do?" Shanna asked.
"Play innocent!" Jade said quickly. "It just suddenly shattered. We figured something had to have been thrown into the room, but we can't find it."
"When did Renate get here?" Jack asked. "And why is she out cold?"
"Put her into the bed. I'll explain later. And Rick, Lucian-"
"We'll be in the bar," Rick said quickly. He grinned. "I can have a Bloody Mary, right, Lucian?" Lucian groaned. "Get out, Rick."
"We'll meet you down there," Jack told him.
The two exited just in time. Two security officers with great, broad accents arrived. Jade showed them the window. She said she couldn't find what had done it. She was thankful they seemed merely perplexed-and apologetic. It was obvious that the window had been broken from the outside in-the way it had shattered was proof. They would need a new room for the night, so that the window could be fixed.
That didn't sound like a bad idea. They changed rooms, Jack carrying Renate and explaining how she was very, very tired from jet lag. Luckily she moaned, almost opened her eyes and smiled vaguely, and made them look legitimate.
"We're due downstairs," Jack said, when they were settled.
"What about Renate?" Shanna asked.
"Nobody's going to threaten her. She's really out."
"I guess she'll be okay for a few minutes, but..."
"We won't leave her long," Jack said.
When they made it down to the bar, it was amazing to see how well Rick looked. Amazing that his sense of humor seemed the same. Amazing that his eyes could remain so kind when he looked at her. He squeezed her fingers briefly as they sat across the table. "Thanks!" he said softly.
"Thanks? I involved you with ..."
"It's a new direction for me, that's for certain." He smiled at her again, then turned to Lucian. "Is Renate all right?" he asked.
Lucian was quiet a minute. "I believe she'll be fine tonight. There's no reason for him to come back for Renate. She's served Darian's purpose."
"To get Jade," Lucian said.
Jade sat between him and Rick at their bar table, watching both. Strange, it was as if they had been best friends forever, instead of forced companions for less than forty-eight hours.
"Bloody Mary?" Rick asked her.
"I'm sorry. Really. Want wine?"
"A beer tonight, thanks."
"Seriously, why are you here, Jade?" Lucian demanded when the waiter had left. "I left strict orders that you were to stay-"
"You can't leave orders for me, Lucian, I'm not your subject." He inhaled patiently. "Jade, it was foolish and dangerous for you to come. I had Ragnor there watching out for you, knowing that Sophia and Darian would have to follow me to protect the talisman."
"But you don't understand, Lucian. Renate looked up the talisman and there's a whole long history to the creature on it. It's the symbol of a cat goddess that received human- blood-sacrifices. The goddess was so terrible that her images were all destroyed; she was wiped away, no matter what the cost, what the labor. She was supposedly burned, but the talisman has her ashes, and it won't do any good to simply take the talisman from Sophia
. Sophia must be burned." He watched her as she spoke, and when she finished he looked down at his drink. Whiskey, she thought. Good Scottish whiskey.
He looked up at her again. "You came here to make sure I was aware of that."
"Well, of course. I said that. Knowledge. It can work miracles."
"You shouldn't have, though. You really shouldn't have."
"But she did," Jack said. "And we're all here. And-"
"Tomorrow. Tomorrow, we'll go back to the cemetery."
"Did you look for Sophia and the talisman tonight?" Jack asked.
"We started to. Something called us back," he said, looking at Jade. "Someone."
"So you might have found the talisman if it hadn't been for me," she said.
"I didn't say that."
"You meant that."
"It wouldn't have mattered that much if I found the talisman. It still belongs to Sophia, right? According to what you're telling me."
"That's the information Renate found on the Internet."
"So we start tomorrow," he said softly, his eyes on hers.
He suddenly tossed a key across the table to Jack. "We've a double on two. Jade and I will take one of your rooms."
"That leaves me ... that means I get ... Renate?" Shanna said.
"Do you think she's safe?" Jade murmured, worried about her sister.
"Renate is safe. She hasn't turned, and she isn't in Darian's power. He left her-deserted her. Besides, we'll be in the next room. Tomorrow we'll have to figure out if we have to keep her with us for her safety, or if she'll be just too great a danger to have with us. For tonight we'll have a room with Renate and Shanna just down the hall, and Jack will be down the hall from Rick, and we should all be close enough if there were to be any... happenings. Tomorrow ..." he said softly, his voice trailing.
"Tomorrow. It is tomorrow, has been tomorrow," Shanna murmured.
"Halloween," Lucian said dryly. He lifted his glass. "Cheers, everyone." They lifted their glasses grimly. "People will be out everywhere by nightfall," Jack said glumly.
"Children," Shanna added.
"Pranksters," Lucian murmured. "All Hallow's Eve. It's natural that tricksters will be out as well. Along with those who mean much worse harm."
He drained his drink. "Happy Halloween. One hell of a night. We'll need to be prepared for it, really prepared. It's late. My human friends, frayed by jet lag already-you need some sleep." He left a note of Scottish pounds on the table and turned away. Jade looked at her sister and shrugged.
"He has just a bit of a problem with this arrogance thing," she murmured.
Lucian had turned back. "Coming?" he inquired.
They all trailed after him.
In the room, Renate remained asleep on the bed. She was pale, but her breathing was even.
"She isn't going to turn into a monster in the middle of the night and bite my neck off?" Shanna asked in a worried whisper.
Lucian, studying her, shook his head. "She's tainted, like Rick was tainted. But he has not entered into her veins badly enough to bring about death. There are two ways to feed-one is to chomp down, drain the body, kill the victim, rip him to pieces."
"Charming," Shanna said. "And the other?"
"Steal a little blood every night. Enter the body and soul of the victim. Hypnotize, seduce, control. That was his plan with Renate. Now he's lost interest."
"Great," Shanna said.
"He's abandoned her. I think she'll be all right" He looked at Shanna. "Are you all right? We could get another room, but I'd rather have you near."
"Oh, I'm just thrilled to pieces here," Shanna said.
"Shanna," Jade began worriedly.
"I'm all right. Seriously."
Lucian smiled at her. Jade thought her sister smiled back. She knew her sister's thought processes. Go for it, guys; tonight might be the last night for any of us....
Shanna yawned. "Well, guys, good night."
Lucian kissed Shanna's cheek. She kept her head lowered, hiding her grin as he took Jade's hand, traversed the hall, and entered the second room.
He didn't say anything to her. Nothing at all.
With his knuckle, he lifted her chin.
He kissed her lips.
His eyes met hers. He undid the buttons on her sweater. His fingers slid around her nape and her collarbone, sliding the garment from her shoulders. His lips molded themselves to the flesh there. She felt the sweet burning. A sound escaped her; her arms were around his neck, and she was kissing him, holding him, tearing at the cashmere of his sweater, the tailored cotton of the shirt he wore beneath it. The bedclothes wound up on the floor, entangled with their own.