Beyond Twilight (Page 5)

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“I'll keep this impersonal, Ramsey.”

“What?” He finished the whole-wheat muffin, washed it down with a gulp of remarkably good coffee.

“As long as you find the idea of laying a finger on me so frightening-tempting, but still frightening-I'll try and make it as easy on you as I can. But we have to talk.”

“We talked last night. I don't see that it's helped matters any.” He wanted to correct her, tell her he didn't find the idea frightening at all, anything but, in fact. But it was probably better to let her hurt a little, let her hate him.

And he wasn't satisfied with what he'd gotten out of her last night. He wanted to know more.

“I talked, you didn't.”

He stiffened a little, watching her. “What do you want to know?”

“How you wound up working for DPI. When did they approach you, Ramsey?”

“My senior year at military school.” It was a lie, but he figured the less she knew about the truth, the better off he'd be.

“And don't you find that a little odd? DPI's a secret organization. Even most of the CIA's top dogs don't know about its existence. They obviously don't make a habit of announcing their Presence, or drafting high school students. So why you?”

He took another sip of the coffee. “How do you know so much about DPI?”

“Their exploits are well documented. I probably know more about them than you do.”

“How? Where is all this documentation you keep mentioning? Where's the proof that they're guilty of all the crimes you accuse them of?”

She sighed and got up from her seat. Walking to the bookshelf he'd so closely examined last night, she pulled several titles from it, brought them to the table and set them in front of him.

The vampire books. He frowned up at her. “You call this proof? It's fiction.”

“The world in general seems to believe that. Those of us who know better have good reasons to let them keep believing it.”

He glanced down again at the books, shaking his head in disbelief. He picked one up.

“You ought to read them, Ramsey. See the whole hunt through the eyes of the prey for a change, instead of the predator.”

He riffled the pages, scanned a few, felt his blood chill. “There's classified information in here! Hell, this is a blow-by-blow account of a DPI investigation!”

She only shrugged. “Like I said, the world thinks it's fiction.”

He slammed the book down on the table and stood, facing the bookshelves. “What about the rest of them?”

She smiled slightly, lifted her eyebrows. “What, my fairy stories? Who knows?”

She turned to a shelf lined with pewter figurines, picked up a winged dragon and lovingly stroked its fierce-looking head. “I like to think they could be real, that there could be some other world where fairies and magic exist. I mean, why not? Vampires are real, and most people consider us fantasy.”

He should be angry. He had been for all too brief a time. Why, then, was he feeling so enchanted all of a sudden? Couldn't DPI have sent him after a monster? Why the hell did they have to pick a beautiful pixie who believed in fairy tales? He cleared his throat and tried to focus on business.

“Does DPI know about these books?”

She shrugged. “I don't know. Are you going to tell them?” She looked at him with those huge dark eyes, all innocence and beauty.

He lowered his head. “I have to, Cuyler.”

She was standing in front of him before he knew she'd moved. Her small hand lifted his chin a little, and she stared up into his eyes. “Why are you so dedicated to them? What did we ever do to you to make you hate us so much?”

He only shook his head. He couldn't tell her. It was bad enough that these traitorous feelings for her assaulted him with every breath he drew. His betrayal stung, and if he spent much more time with her, it would be complete.

“Tell me about your childhood, Ramsey. What was your family like?”

He stiffened. Was she reading something in his eyes, his thoughts? “There's not much to tell. I was my mother's only child. Never knew my father.”

She lowered her head, walked slowly away from him, then reached for a battery-powered boom box on a low shelf. She pushed a button and soft, hauntingly beautiful music filled the room. A woman's voice, like a gossamer strand wavering in a slight breeze, singing in what sounded like Gaelic. New Age stuff.

Cuyler closed her eyes for a second, listening. Softly, she prompted him. “Tell me about your mother.”

Hot blades ran through his chest. “She died when I was twelve.” He turned his back to her, walking into the front room and sitting down in a chair near the fireplace. He stared into the flames, remembering.

Her hands closed on his shoulders. “She was all you had, and you lost her. No wonder I see so much pain in your eyes.”

He said nothing, and tried not to feel her soothing touch as she began a rhythmic massage.

“How did she die?”

“I don't remember.” His eyes wanted to close. He hadn't slept much, and when he did, he didn't rest. He only dreamed about making frantic, hot, imaginative love to Cuyler.

“Why are you lying to me, Ramsey?”

Her fingers kneaded the sides of his neck. He let his head fall sideways to give her more access. “I'm not going to talk to you about my mother,” he said, but his voice lacked conviction. He sighed as the image of her danced through his memory. “She was beautiful, all carrot-colored curls and pale blue eyes. And she'd sing… Sometimes, right before I fell asleep at night, I can still hear her singing to me. Wild Irish Rose, that was her favorite.” For a few seconds his mother's lilting voice played in his memory. Then he felt Cuyler's lips on his head. She bent and pressed her cheek to his, and he felt the dampness on her skin.

“I'd take the pain away, if I knew how.”

“I know you would.” Why did he say that? And why did it sound so true? He swallowed and tried to regain his strength. “We all have pain, Cuyler. Just part of life. You must have hurt, too, when you lost your sister.”

She sniffed, and her hands slid down his chest to rest near his heart. “For a while I wanted to die. Then I wanted vengeance. I thought about hunting down every man involved in that raid. But it wouldn't have eased the pain. It wouldn't have brought Cindy back.”

“Might have stopped them from snuffing out another life, though.”

She straightened, came around the chair and knelt in front of him. He shouldn't have been surprised at the tears on her cheeks, but he was. Her kind wasn't supposed to have human emotions, wasn't supposed to care. Wasn't that what he'd been taught? And hadn't that particular bit of DPI doctrine been losing validity with every second he'd spent near Cuyler?

“What happened to you then?”

“A military school. Some benevolent organization foot the bill. I lived there, stayed with relatives who'd rather not have had me during vacations. Then the DPI academy, for training.”

“And indoctrination.”

He shook his head slowly, staring down into her beautiful face. “It wasn't like that.”

But it was. Since he'd been twelve years old, he'd been educated under the organization's watchful eye, beginning with the debriefing right after his mother's murder. They were the ones who'd paid for his education, who'd provided a private tutor to teach him the things he wouldn't learn in any school. He'd been filled with hatred already, and that hatred found validation in his secret lessons, the ones he'd been warned not to talk about. He supposed now, that they'd seen him as the perfect candidate. He'd had a score to settle. He'd been seeking vengeance all his life. They'd known that, and offered him the means to achieve it.

And now he was sitting here with one of those he'd spent his life hating. He was sitting here wanting her with every cell in his body, talking to her like a cherished friend, finding a kind of understanding he'd never expected shining from her teary eyes.

But it was all a lie. It had to be.

“I don't want to be here with you, Cuyler. You're too damned convincing.” He pushed her hands away from him and got to his feet. Leaning against the hearth, he closed his eyes.

“Why do you hate me so much?”

Lifting his head, he looked down at her, still kneeling in front of the chair.

“My mother was killed by a vampire. One of you. Someone that feeds on the innocent without a hint of remorse. A killer.” He hoped his words would rekindle the hatred in his soul, reinforce his resistance to Cuyler and her wiles.

Her eyes widened and for a moment she only stared at him in stunned silence.

Finally she shook her head. “It wasn't me.”

“You're all the same.” He looked away from her. Dammit, he couldn't spout DPI policy while he was looking into those eyes. “So now you know. Nothing you can say is going to change it. You can pretend to be just like us all you want, Cuyler, but I know what you are. And I'll never stop hating you.”

She rose slowly, anger beginning to simmer in her eyes. “You're lying. You don't hate me. If anything, you hate yourself for not being able to-“

He lifted a hand, cutting her off. “Don't bother. You're only trying to convince yourself.”

“But it's so stupid! Ramsey, one of your kind murdered my sister and pumped enough bullets through my body to kill an elephant. But I don't hate you for it.

I don't lump all mortals in with the few truly evil ones. I don't go out hunting them down like animals to exact vengeance.”

“Don't you?”

She flinched as if he'd slapped her. “How can you ask me that?”

God, the hurt in her eyes… He looked at the floor, at the bean-bag, at the fire.

Anything but at that pain he'd caused. “Look, you got what you wanted. We've talked. Do you think we can get the hell out of here now?”

She stood so still, stunned maybe. “I don't have what I wanted. I still don't know why there's this connection between us. I still don't know what misguided force makes me give a damn about a man like you.”

“Let's chalk it up to physical attraction and call it even.”

“It's more than that and you know it!”

He faced her, forced his expression to remain hard as stone. “Maybe for you it is, but not for me, Cuyler.” He strode to the stairway, started up it. “I'm packing my things. You line up whatever means of transportation got us here, and have it ready.”

“I won't.”

He never broke his stride. “Then I'll go on foot.”

“I won't let you!” She came up the stairs behind him.

“You have to sleep sometime, Cuyler. One way or another, I'm out of here.” He went into the bedroom, slammed the door and turned the lock. He couldn't look at her, listen to her, for one more second or he'd break. It was all a game, some mind game she was playing to win his trust, and it had been working all too well. Until he'd brought the memory of his mother's death back to burning life, anyway. Damn Cuyler for making him talk about his mother, for stirring up that old pain, and especially for acting as if she cared. Damn her.