Happy Holidays to and from all my friends at
Weekend Writing Warriors!
Amber stepped inside, immediately turning on the welcoming glow of the kitchen overhead, illuminating an image that burned from widening eyes to the pit of her belly, and below.
Frederick Terriot stood on her doorstep, hair plastered to his skull, raindrops hanging from his obscenely long lashes, the rain turning his white dress shirt all but transparent as it clung in graphic definition to his divinely sculpted torso. Her mouth went dry, probably from hanging open like a gawking teen-age girl, but another part of her came awake as if from a long winter slumber.
Rico Terriot was the stuff of dreams . . . lately, all of hers.
“I shouldn’t,” he began, wary now and worried about her, about taking advantage of a situation she’d been trying to push on him like a frontend loader since the first day she’d seen his lovelorn features on the other side of the bar.
“Don’t be silly,” she coaxed with a smile. “You’re drenched and more than a little drunk, so come in to dry off and get some coffee for the road.”
“I figured this would be a late night so she’s at the sitter until morning.” She didn’t confess she’d hoped it would be a night she didn’t spend alone, and because of the friendship she used to artfully disguise a rather desperate seduction, Rico shrugged and stepped in from the cold.
It was the bravest damn thing he’d ever seen. She was only a little bit of a thing, so delicate she might have been confused with a girl as she’d dashed in front of his stopped car. While others watched, himself included, she’d scrambled into that compact, heedless of the danger, to bring out the little boy, and if that wasn’t enough, she’d gone back toward certain death to save the kid’s parents, which she couldn’t, of course—Jess had known that the moment he saw the fuel ignite, but it hadn’t stopped her from trying. She’d fought him like a madwoman when he’d pulled her away, barely seconds before she’d have been engulfed in the same fiery ball that consumed the car, fought with such an amazing strength in such a tiny package, that he’d been awed by her. Until this event had played out before his disbelieving eyes, he’d shunned stories of heroism, and then he’d felt the frantic beat of her big, big heart against his chest, felt the helpless trembling of her despair as he held her in his arms, and never had anything touched him so strongly, so powerfully, so tenderly as that moment, as that woman.
Why had she taken the money?
He saw so much ugliness, so much greed, he’d wanted to believe unselfish goodness was possible, to believe the tears he saw on her face were genuine, in her anguish over others instead of her own pain, and he’d wanted to hold on to the emotions that filled his soul with such possessiveness as he’d cradled her close and tried to give her comfort. In that brief slice of time she’d reached inside him and torn out his heart . . . and then broke it by proving all his illusions false. Charlene Carter wasn’t a saint willing to throw down her life to save another’s. When she’d been quick to snap up the fee for her bravery, in his jaded eyes that made Miss Carter a mercenary, not a Samaritan, and Jess hated her for it . . . because he’d wanted to believe.
“Now, I may not be able to convince anyone that you are a . . . a vampire, sir, but, if I give this information to the newspapers, they will hound you unmercifully, and without access to your monies, you’ll have no means to flee the city.”
Silence as the dark night creature pondered this, unperturbed, and that alarmed Percy, as did the words that followed.
“And if I were to just tear out your throat before you could give that information to anyone?”
The casual way he presented Percy’s death made the lawyer’s blood run icy because it was no idle threat when dealing with a dangerous being who’d survived centuries by preying upon human lives, and would snatch his soul without a moment’s remorse. But prepared for that, too, the solicitor told him, “The original papers are in a safe place with instructions to turn them over to the authorities should anything happen to me, and be assured, they might not believe what you are, sir, but they take murder very seriously.”
A frustration of rage pulsed from Gerardo Pasquale in palpable waves. Suddenly, Percy knew an instant of true terror as the solidity of Pasquale’s figure seemed to flicker before his eyes, becoming so faint as to be transparent, edges shifting, transforming into something else, something horrible, alien and monstrous, but exactly what was not quite clear. Standing frozen, Percy feared he’d made an irrevocable error in believing himself safe.
Then, to his relief, Pasquale assumed his human shape once again and with a deadly quiet, asked, “What do you want?”
“I want you to marry my sister.”