When Darkness Falls


Page 6









Maybe it was the color of her eyes. So much like the sea.


Like a cat, she moved slightly-and sensually-to the light. She obviously loved the outside, the heat of the sun.


He sat inside, where the doors were closed, where the air conditioner hummed, where the light from a cheap bulb illuminated the menu and the inner world of the little restaurant. Dark glasses protected his eyes, but from the glare of day, not from her. It was simple logistics. He could watch her. She could not see him.


He had followed her for a few days now.


Funny, the temptation to do so had been there a long time.


He had resisted. Until now.


Because his enemies were surfacing again.


She had asked him once if he knew this city.


Did he know it? Yes, certainly. Very well. It was one of his favorite places. It had been easy to find her.


He knew where she lived. Knew who her friends were, where she went, what she did. He knew her habits. And if he knew ...


Others could know as well.


"More coffee?"


He looked up. His waitress, an easy smile on her pretty face, had made the inquiry. She was young, with short blond hair, big brown eyes, well-muscled legs-and a uniform that showed them off very well.


Once upon a time she would have been as delectable and tempting a treat to him as a truffle to a chocoholic. She wasn't from New Orleans. He'd learned, over the years, to place accents, especially American accents, rather well.


"Yes, more coffee, great. Thanks."


She poured it, smiling. "You're not from around here," she told him.


"No," he agreed, allowing a smile. He lifted his cup. "Neither are you. Pittsburgh?" he asked.


Her eyes widened. "How did you know?"


"It's a fairly easy one."


"Well, you're right." She was surprised at first, and then distrustful. "Hey, my folks didn't put you up to this, did they?"


"Put me up to this . . . ?"


"Watching me, following me?"


She was staring at him suspiciously. He grinned, shaking his head. "No. I wasn't watching you or following you. I'm afraid I don't know your folks."


She blushed furiously. "Sorry. I'm really sorry. I just... I'm going to Tulane. They think it's a party school. I love it, and I'm serious, and I'm working hard . . . and they think the better schools are back north."


He felt rather at a loss. "Ah. You're doing well at Tulane?"


"Dean's list," she said proudly.


"Stick to it, then. Your folks will see the light."


She nodded, still embarrassed. Then she smiled. "You're not even from this country," she told him.


"Not originally."


She offered him a hand. "I'm Cathy."


He accepted the intro, but hesitated slightly. "Call me Luke."


"Luke." She said the name as if she were tasting it. "Well, nice to have you here, and I hope I didn't make too much of a fool of myself." She studied him a moment, grinning. "You're too pale to be a Southerner, too, you know."


"Actually, I have a lot of friends from the North who look like Floridians or Californians-tanning beds," he told her.


"Right. Of course. Well... be seeing you, Luke."


"You bet."


She walked on by. He sipped his coffee, staring across the street again.


Something had happened. She was standing up. Her coffee cup had spilled; she hadn't noticed. She was staring down at ...


He had to rise himself to see. A horse-drawn carriage bearing a rowdy family wheeled between them on the street.


He threw money down on the table-way too much, but he was sure Cathy could use it-and exited the restaurant. He hurried across the street.


She was gone.


He walked to where she had stood, and saw the headlines on the newspaper strewn over the table, covered in the spilled coffee.


"You're taking this far too seriously!" Shanna called to Jade.


Jade walked back into the living room/dining room, where Shanna was busy folding napkins for the buffet table.


In a light cotton blouse and form-hugging jeans, her sister was beautiful. She had tawny hair, the color of pure honey, with sun streaks thrown in. Her eyes were huge and deep blue. She was Jade's junior by just one year, and though they had fought like cats and dogs through eighteen years of home life, they had become best friends when Jade left the family colonial in the Garden District for college in New York City. Shanna had gone to UCLA the next year, but after obtaining degrees, they had both returned to New Orleans. Shanna had modeled her way through school and still did photo shoots, but to her own surprise, she had found out that, like her sister, she loved the written word more than anything else. She had dabbled with screenplays, sold a few, then fallen head over heels in love with Tolkien and turned to writing novels in the fantasy genre. She was a financial realist, and quick to drag Jade into print work when it was available, which was fine with Jade-she liked the extra income . Not that they were in danger of being destitute; though their mom had passed away from pneumonia when Jade was sixteen, their father was still living in the house in the Garden District, and making a decent income as a newspaper man. He had remarried, and so Jade and Shanna now had brothers at last-two-year-old twins Peter Jr. and James, or Petey and Jamie. Peter MacGregor continued to adore his daughters, and his new wife, Liz, was willing to turn somersaults to make them a full family. Still, neither girl wanted to rely on her father-he now had two new babes to get through to college and adulthood. They had both worked to get through college, and their work ethic was a good one. Jade had also wanted her publishing concern to be her venture and her venture alone-except that she had been more than happy to bring her sister in on it. Other than the devastating loss of her mother, she'd had a life filled with normalcy and love, and she knew that she was lucky.


Lucky, yes.


She had a great family.


And she'd survived a slaughter.


"Shanna, did you read-actually read-that article?"


Shanna set down a napkin and stared at her. "Yes. Four people were brutally murdered in New York City. Jade, do you know how happy New Yorkers would be if they could say that murder almost never happened there?"


Jade sighed. "Murders happen. Yes, we know that. But murders in a graveyard? Corpses found naked, torn to shreds-and beheaded!-on the gravestones?"


"There are very sick people in this world, Jade." Shanna turned back to the napkins.


"It could be related," Jade insisted, heading back into the kitchen for champagne glasses. When she returned, Shanna wasn't folding napkins. She was leaning back against the antique buffet, waiting for Jade to return.


"Jade, when you came home from Scotland, you really scared me. I thought we were going to have you under psychiatric care for the rest of your life. You were convinced that evil creatures came to life out of the graves-"


"Wait!" Jade said, lifting a hand. "I woke up hysterical; I know that. So frightened I didn't know what happened. I said many things that were very wild. But Shanna, I awoke in a shroud-on a gravestone!


They never caught the people. Don't you think they might be the same?" Shanna looked as if she didn't want to answer. Then she said, "I've heard that they have excellent Homicide detectives in New York City. Not to mention the fact that the FBI will be in on it all."


"But maybe I can help in some way."


"How? By drawing attention to yourself? By saying, 'Hey, here I am, guys; you missed me last time!'


Jade, I just..."


"What?"


Shanna shook her head. "Do you really remember anything? Could you really help? It's not as if they have any ! suspects now." She hesitated. "I read it, really read it. Yes, I see why you're upset. Hell, no, I don't want you involved again."


Jade shrugged. "It's unnerving."


"I agree," Shanna said. She studied Jade, then grinned. "So sleep with the cop. Heaven knows, I've been thinking you are entirely insane for a long time now, holding that puppy off! Honey, he is ...


yummy."


"Oh, really? You think?"


Shanna sighed impatiently. "Well, I don't know it for a fact, but I sure am assuming. He's cute as hell.


He's got a steady income. He's built like the Hulk. And he's not even a jerk or an asshole. If I had him, I guarantee you I wouldn't risk letting him go."


Jade smiled. "Shanna, men trip over themselves to get near you. Cute ones. Rich ones. Built-like-Hulk ones."


"Yeah, but the ones after me thus far have been assholes. Sleep with the cop. You get good guard coverage during the night, and a bunch of orgasmic pleasure as well."


"I've been thinking about it."


"Good for you."


"You invited him tonight, right?"


"Yes, I did."


Shanna started folding napkins again. "When's the group coming?"


"Eight."


"Is Matt's head as big as a pumpkin yet?"


Jade laughed. "No, he's like a little kid, all excited. He's buying caviar, despite the fact that he hates it." Shanna grinned, then turned back to Jade. "And you! Hey, am I glad I'm a partner in MacGregor Publishing Company, L-T-D. All right!"


"Thank you, ma'am. Thank you. Soon we'll be publishing you, with your fiction." Shanna laughed. "No, thank you, not soon. I want to stick with the big commercial guys at first, get zillions of readers-and hit the lists topside like our buddy."


"Hm. There are people who think you should work long and hard and pay lots of dues to do that."


"And there are people who pick up Lotto tickets off the floor and become millionaires overnight," Shanna said. "Let's pop a bubbly, though. I'm restless. In the mood for champagne." Jade shrugged. "All right." She headed back into the kitchen once again.







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