Sitting waiting for Davy to show up I noticed that Caleb's backpack was on the floor between his feet. Since I wasn't carrying anything that technically could be construed as a weapon, I liked my companions to be able to defend themselves in the event I grew distracted. I figured from the way he was guarding the pack either his pot was stashed inside or a gun. In the past I'd requested that he turn up with a gun, which ended up being a good call on one occasion because some morons tried to carjack me at a stop sign -- ignorant of who much less what I was -- he'd pulled out a rather sizeable automatic he'd stuck in the face of the stunned thief who'd been brandishing a shiny blade. So, I knew he owned a gun or two. And as we all know, don't bring a knife to a gun fight, and Caleb, despite his hippy dippy tendencies, had fully adopted that belief system without any prompting. Long story short -- I kept my car and the two morons ran off without my interference. There was a reason why Caleb was a fun "date."
My skin was now crawling with energy I only felt around strong, powerful vampires. My brain was still frantically searching for the vampire energy. I knew the flavor, but it was well over a hundred plus years ago I'd last felt this one. Not the exact same yet awfully familiar and my stomach was aching. Rarely did I miss my Master, but damn, I craved him inside my thoughts. I knew the vampire approaching but it was from a century or three ago. Time passed differently for us than humans. Decades and centuries merged and flowed in my mind as I tried to find a name to go with this man's blood scent. Definitely not female.
Most definitely not female, I concluded as a vampire slid next to me and was promptly joined by his pretty minion who snagged a nacho from the platter while sitting next to Caleb.
"Oh, yummy. Totes my fave here. Hi, I'm Valerie. You must be Caleb!" I could actually hear the exclamation point in her voice. She was chipper, and blood-tied to the vampire. Caleb sobered up even quicker than I'd thought possible as his eyes flew startled by her forward nature. Catching my eyes he pleaded for a bail out that wasn't forthcoming yet.
I kept still while absorbing the flood of information on levels both vampiric and visual. Valerie was a stunning red head -- a true ginger -- not box dyed. Her attire was an earie mirror to mine -- nothing flashy -- dark flat fabrics and shades of black. Yes, that's a thing.
I'd put her height at a bit under six feet with not an ounce of fat on her trim, tight frame. She exuded confidence while speaking lightly, her voice was melodic. She was a charmer for sure even without the vampiric tie, I could sense. Her pale skin was slightly darker than fine porcelain and her eyes were damn huge -- true green, not foggy blue green. Her hair was not long. There was not much to grab in a fight but an elfin cut. Something that I think was called a 'pixie cut' at some point in time. Heaven only knew what hair stylists called it now -- dull scissors in the dark. Stray wisps were caught at the corner of her lips, the kind models would kill for, hell, half the Botox crowd paid dearly trying to duplicate. I didn't hate her on sight, like most women automatically did others they deemed prettier or just balls out competition. But my stillness, that was due to her vampire.
Harry Fucking Adkison.
My brain was whipping around trying to remember the last time I'd seen him much less heard too much about him but rumors and assorted gossipy comments. His reputation as a vampire was truly legendary, both good and bad. It really depended on who you were talking with at the time. My personal history with Harry was from centuries ago. I hadn't seen him since America was a relatively new toy for all of Europe. My mind was blown. He just waited for me to catch up. From the slight smile gracing his lips I knew that I was broadcasting my racing thoughts. Sighing slightly in exasperation I finally said, "Long time, Harry darling. Or is it Davy now?"
His eyes danced as he answered, "No, just didn't want to broadcast my intentions. Email is rather like a free newspaper. Any idiot can gain access to it you know."
It wasn't a question but rather a straight statement. I'd heard that Harry found his niche in some sort of FBI -- Homeland Security gig. Ideal job for a high-powered vampire. Think about it, all that access to control and the ability to direct the flow of all investigations and information.
I knew Harry wasn't seeking any comment from me but Caleb -- still star-struck by Valerie nibbling on his nachos -- felt obligated to reply, "Dude, no way? Like you mean that?" Yeah, he wasn't quite fully functioning, but I could get his distraction given that Harry had a presence that the years hadn't diminished -- if anything he was even more a force of nature now than I'd ever imagined. Damn tricky for me.
Valerie's eyes widened slightly at Caleb's casual 'dude' but a glance from Harry had her keeping her mouth shut. Just then Jen, the good waiter, bounced up and asked, "Good evening, so do any of you need anything to drink?"
Caleb's eyes flew to mine, it finally dawned on him that I hadn't needed him to speak, I nodded towards his IPA and said, "Caleb, hon, have another one -- we aren't in any rush."
His eyes dropped from mine and he stumbled out with, "Hey, Jen, another one, please." Best manners now, but honestly, I did understand. Harry was more than distracting to say the least.
Valerie snagged another chip and said, "I'll have the same, thanks."
Harry replied to Jen's arched eyebrow, "Black coffee, if the pot's fresh, please."
On my own best behavior, I added, "Make it two but bring me some cream if you can, please."
Happily, Jen bounced off to put in our drink orders in her system as silence descended on the table. The background conversations of nearby tables rolled over as the surf pounded its waves onto the beach. The briny air mixed with food and high-end perfumes drifting on the ocean breeze. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the how and why I was sitting next to Harry beachside and if it had anything to do with my last 48 hours. Valerie turned to Caleb and asked, "So, like, you live near here? It's so beautiful!"
Caleb was positively transfixed by this creature. I knew she wasn't a vampire, but something was pushing at me. There was a difference to her I couldn't quite figure out. My eyes flew to Harry's as it clicked into place and my mind jolted with the sudden awareness of what Valerie was. His eyes sparkled and he gently thought, "Yes, she is."
Harry could mind speak. That wasn't something I remembered from our past. But then my Master had been a very active part of my complete world and could've easily blocked such knowledge from me either to protect me or Harry. He'd been a complicated Master. Keeping my face extremely calm so I mentally began erecting walls. From the smile dancing on Harry's lips he found my mental constructs mildly amusing. Damn I hated being mocked.
"Not at all, Bethany. I just forgot how stubborn you could be." His voice was deep and exceptionally low, while his comment was thankfully aloud it was meant just for my ears. I sucked in half a breath and it was then I noticed the ambient sounds had somehow become muffled. Valerie's eyes were glowing deeply -- unnaturally -- confirming my racing thoughts. Hell, Harry brought a different supernatural to our meeting while I'd brought an over-educated surfer. From all of my survival instincts I knew she was some type of witch. Harry whispered, "She's trustworthy. I had her fly out from the East just last week." That sort of answered my stray worries I was the problem. Last week I had been fighting with my contractor and sub-contractor over remodel issues. Nothing vampiric in the least, slightly relieved I shoved that comment from Harry into a mental box labeled 'And I give a damn why?' before tossing it all away. Harry was living up to his reputation. He had an agenda, but I had no clue what it was and how I was involved.
Caleb and Valerie had nearly devoured the entire appetizer just as Jen came back with a small tray. She pulled off one of the stone mugs of coffee and set it in front of Harry with a smile then slipped next to me and set mine down saying, "I picked it up from Crystal's personal stash. She has the beans ground locally at Pannikin. Free trade there you know." I smiled saying thanks while vaguely recalling that Pannikin was a local coffee and tea shop up the coast in Encinitas. It was in an old cute yellow and white building that used to be a train station, I think. It was trendy and overrun with beach kids and hipsters depending on the time of day, but not some mega chain. Sipping at the cup Harry said, "Quite delicious. Please pass our thanks on to Crystal." Jen beamed while placing a small pitcher of cream next to my mug and a container of sugar, saccharine and other assorted offerings. I just took a splash of the cream then sipped the coffee. It was damn good. I made a mental note to see if the coffee shop was open late. It was hard to find excellent coffee in my neighborhood. Most of the locals still were drinking diner style coffee being still an edgy hood. I don't think there was even a Starbucks near my house.
While we drank another waiter set down the IPA beers he'd brought for Valerie and Caleb while whisking the empty nacho platter away. I noticed that ambient noise had risen when the servers put our drinks before us. Admittedly Valerie's little trick impressed me. Jen indicated to the menus and asked, "Do you have any questions about our menu?"
Having not even picked up the menu I waited to see what Harry had decided. Was he staying just for coffee or was this actually going to be some kind of meeting? Looking up from his coffee he answered, "It all looks amazing. What do you recommend?"
Jen launched into a quick synopsis of her favorites with a gusto of a foodie fan. It was apparent from her descriptive words and over the top adjectives of a few dishes. If I was human a couple would've been tempting. Valerie and Caleb decided on the special she mentioned, a complicated explanation of the fish being used and the elaborate sauces offered along with the choices of sides. Harry asked for the ahi tuna and I asked for the fish and chips plate. Rapidly scrawling our order on her notepad, she dashed off to do her button pushing magic and again the background noises faded as Valerie flicked her wrist or whatever she'd done to create our private bubble. Caleb was glued to Valerie asking if she liked what she'd seen in California, if she'd ever been here before and then his real question, did she surf? They began an incomprehensible conversation about various breaks and where the best waves could be found.
I shut out their voices and shifted to see Harry was studying me. He didn't look angry but instead taken back by something he saw on my face or in my demeanor. Self-consciously my fingers flew to my lips, "What? Is there something on my face?" I found myself feeling like a mortal, young and defenseless. I really hated that sensation. I don't think I even liked it back when I was human.
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