"Mee-ya? Darling, it's past nine."
The kerosene lamp beside the old four-poster bed sputtered. My eyes opened on Kurt's in the flickering light. Paul Newman in his prime on a really good day couldn't compete with those big blues. "Hello, gorgeous."
He chuckled and eased his slender body over mine, lips searching my throat for the landmarks, while something warm, hard and smooth begged for entrance below.
"I dreamed about Ethan."
He paused in his delicious pursuit to scowl. "Again?"
"I still chose you."
A smile fluttered over his alarmingly pale mouth. "I must go out tonight to meet Carol." He gestured to a plastic bag filled with red liquid sitting in a bath of warm water. "Only a pint left."
"You take it. I had two last night." I stroked the warmth poised to enter me. "Amazed you still manage. Better wait." His lower lip pouted. "I'm not going anywhere."
He pulled away sighing and sat up, stretching and running his fingers through tangled golden curls, a marble angel with a single blemish, inky and obscene on his left forearm, a vestige of his captivity long ago in Dachau. He lifted the plastic bag out of the basin and inserted a straw, drinking it down. The white linen napkin he used to wipe his mouth came away smeared with red. "I'll take the bike."
"I'd feel better if you took the car."
Brushing damp hair back from my eyes, he kissed me. "The wind feels like freedom." He pulled on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Despite the late August temperatures of Northern Virginia, it was necessary for him to conceal the tattoo. People might not take too kindly to what looked to be a boy in his late teens making an apparent mockery of others' misery. Unfortunately for Kurt the misery was all too real and personal.
I rolled over on the huge bed, sheets sticking to my skin. "We really need an air-conditioner."
Kurt frowned as he buttoned his shirt. "We been through this--no electricity--no noise."
"I'm tired of tepid baths. I'm dying for a hot shower. Jesus, even Ethan believed in hot running water."
"Darling, no one must know we're camping out here. I don't like it, either. Hopefully, it won't be much longer. Carol says she has a meeting with the Justice Department next week about a safe house."
"Yeah, real safe--level four maximum security."
"We simply won't agree to it. We'll figure out something." He lifted my chin to kiss me. His lips were chilly. He needed lots more than the pint he'd just consumed. "Back in half an hour."
"Be careful. Take a gun."
He patted a slight bulge under his shirt in the vicinity of his hip. "Don't worry."
Kurt left the room. Moments later, gravel crunched as he walked Ethan's motorcycle down the long drive and through the gate to the road. The bike growled and then buzzed into the distance. I worried about Kurt out there where our enemies might be lying in wait. Where did he get off becoming so annoyingly male and protective on me? He wasn't trained to fight. He was small and slight and against a bigger, stronger vampire he was no match. I was a better shot than he and I'd already saved his life once.
I rose, washing with lukewarm water from the china pitcher on the rosewood washstand. The pitcher bore the initials SAS entwined with pink morning glories. It once belonged to Sally Anne Sinclair, my late progenitor's mortal bride, almost a century and a half ago. This was her old room. The master bedroom stood next door, shut up and shuttered, Ethan's personal effects still laid out on the vast mahogany dresser, as if he might return at any moment. I almost expected to hear his voice drawling out orders to me. But Ethan was never coming back. The brief Norwegian winter sun had made vampire soup out of him eight months earlier.
Due to the heat, I eschewed my usual uniform of black jeans and t-shirt for a gauzy skirt and camisole, pulling my unruly dark hair up into a ponytail. For added safety, I strapped the Glock to my hip before blowing out the bedside lamp.
Making my way in the dark downstairs to the kitchen, I grabbed a pear and a hunk of foil-wrapped, shelf stable cheese from the pantry and wolfed it down before heading out the front door into the moonlight to get some air.
The dog days were in full swing, the night air filled with the buzzing of mosquitoes, our miniature rivals in the blood-sucking niche. I sank on an old stone bench under the oaks attempting to catch an errant breeze, slapping at the insects and wondering if the symbiote in my blood could create super-powerful, immortal bugs. Not likely, I surmised, or else it would have happened long ago. I sat for a long time, just lounging, not wanting to do much of anything in that stagnant air, scanning my surroundings for possible danger.
The red brick Georgian house looming before me was a bequest from my master. Some two hundred years worth of Sinclair ghosts whispered in its walls--or might have if I were the superstitious type, most likely it was mice. Caithness drew its name from the ancestral homeland at the Northeastern tip of Scotland where the family, at the time named St. Clair, settled with the Norman conquests. But all these Sinclairs past were long gone when he'd first brought me here as a newborn Immortyl.
A swath of stars sparkled beyond the canopy of oaks overhead. On nights like this, when they put on a spectacular light show, I couldn't escape Ethan's presence. He'd taught me we were made of the same stuff as the stars. Well, with Ethan you could believe it. He blazed through the darkness, with his icy eyes and undeniable beauty.
Technically, I'd been his property and our relationship had been rocky until the end of his long life, when he sacrificed himself so Kurt and I could carry on this fight for freedom. And I was having one hell of a recovering Catholic guilt trip about it.
The farm around me lay fallow now. No blooded horses trotted in its paddocks, no crops grew in fields now turned to meadows of wildflowers. It looked abandoned and neglected, which was our intention. Needless to say, I was surprised when the scent of mortal male drifted from the thick woods to the left of the house.
Now what business did a mortal have on my property? Although he wasn't one of us, I drew the pistol and slipped into the shadow of the trees. Immortyls occasionally hired mortal thugs, to make daytime ambushes and burn a house down around the inhabitants. This was alarming.
I trained my weapon on the sound of crackling vegetation. I almost dropped the gun in shock when the mortal emerged into in the moonlight. It was as if I'd seen a ghost. His shape and size recalled my late progenitor. When the moon caught his blue-white eyes there was no doubt. This was one of Ethan's mortal descendants.
Tossing back his longish, wavy brown hair, he pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. From the smooth look of his golden-brown skin, I guessed he couldn't be more than nineteen or twenty. I lowered the pistol, not wanting to frighten the boy. Ethan had charged me to always protect his mortal progeny. I wracked my brains to recall requests from the trust Ethan had set up for their benefit and of which I am trustee. Dozens of young Sinclairs, black and white, qualified for financial benefits, yet I didn't recall one fitting this description. The boy fell somewhere between races, yet looked so much like Ethan that my heart was wrung bloody.
I slipped out of the shadow to confront him. "What the hell are you doing here?"
He jumped, glancing at my pistol. "Sorry, didn't know anyone lived here."
He checked out my figure and grinned, evoking the same tingling sensation all through my body as Ethan once had. "Woulda come sooner had I known." He took a step closer. Wow, even taller than Ethan.
I emitted a cloud of pheromone. It's not something I can control. It's a reflex when potential prey is near. I backed away. "Who the hell are you?"
He held out his hand. I didn't take it. In my present state of growing hunger he was better off if I kept my distance. "Name's Rob Sinclair, actually Ethan Robert Sinclair, but no one ever uses my first name because it's cursed. I'd be careful if I were you. Folks say the ghost of my ancestor, a confederate spy who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, haunts this place. My great-great grandfather was the son of the so-called ghost. I'm the eldest son of an eldest son and so on. Who the hell are you?"
"I own this place."
"A little young to own a piece of real estate like this."
"The man I lived with left it to me."
He took a long drag on his cigarette and pushed back the hair from his eyes in a gesture so Ethan-like I nearly swooned. He exhaled, making even the act of blowing smoke seductive. I coughed. Yes, we cough and sneeze. A lazy Sinclair smile settled over his mouth. "You believe in ghosts, Miss?"
"Mia. Not until tonight."