Demon's Kiss (Page 8)

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“Now, once you've consciously closed your mind to entry by anyone,” Reaper said, “you can, very carefully, direct a message to one particular person at a time. It takes practice. But you just put their face in your mind, think of them, and then think the words you want to say to them.”

Reaper was in the fourth row, all the way in the back. Seth was sitting in the second row, with his eyes closed. Learning to block his thoughts from those he didn't want in on them was, at least, a way to pass the time. They were still heading in the right direction; he sensed that. But his patience was wearing thin. He hadn't dreamed about the redhead or felt that connection with her in far too long now, and it worried him.

“Try it, Seth,” Reaper encouraged. “You've got the blocking down. I haven't been able to read your thoughts for at least ten miles now, and that's important. Now try sending a message to Topaz, but not to me.”

Seth licked his lips, kept his eyes closed, brought Topaz's face into his mind's eye and thought about how hot she was, and tried to come up with a message to send to her.

“Got it,” Topaz said.

Seth's eyes popped open. “But I didn't think anything yet.”

“Uh, yeah, you did. And can I just say, in your dreams, Sol.”

He frowned. “It's Seth. And I didn't-“

Reaper glanced at him and nodded once. “I got it, too, kid.”

“Damn. I swear to God, I didn't think anything. Not on purpose, anyway.”

“Right,” Topaz said. “Roxy, we need to get off at the next exit.”

Roxy followed the instructions, just as she'd been doing all along. She took the exit, made it to the stop sign at the end of the ramp, and sat there waiting.

“Well, this is it,” Topaz said.

Roxy was still waiting. She turned in her seat, looked sideways at Topaz with a look of ever-thinning patience, and said, “What do you mean, this is it? This is an off ramp.”

“This is all I know.”

Roxy made a circular motion with one hand. “More, please.”

Sighing, Topaz looked behind her, to Seth and then Reaper. “All I know is that Jack has been seen around Savannah several times lately.”

“That's it?” Seth asked. “Savannah's a big place, hon.”

“Don't call me hon. And I know it's a big place. I'm not stupid.”

“Well, jeez, Tope, what do you suggest we do, start a door-to-door search?”

“Did you just call me Tope?”

“Don't take it personally,” Reaper said from the far back. “He has, on occasion, referred to me as Reap.”

“Excuse the hell out of me while I make a list of the things I'm not allowed to call you two!” Seth folded his arms and slammed back against the seat.

They all fell silent and turned to stare back at Reaper, who shrugged, his face just as stoic as ever. “Roxy, take a right here, and start looking for a safe haven for the daylight hours. Shelter is the foremost concern at the moment. There's not much darkness left to us.”

Roxy flipped on the signal.

“No, left,” Topaz said. And when all eyes were on her again, she went on. “Well, you don't think I was on my way down here without having made arrangements for my comfort, do you? I rented a little place. A friend's winter home.”

Roxy flipped the other signal light on, glanced both ways and pulled out just as the driver behind them grew impatient enough to blow the horn at her. Seth grinned as he wondered whether they would have been so quick to honk if they knew they were behind a van full of blood drinkers.

“How long did you arrange to use this little place of yours, Topaz?” Reaper asked.

“Indefinitely,” she said. “I mean, they don't come down here until after Christmas, and it's only September, so…”

She said no more, and Roxy drove. Topaz pulled a slip of paper from a pocket and began reading from it, a frown between her brows, as Roxy followed her directions. About twenty minutes later they were pulling into a paved circular driveway that led to a ranch worthy of the world's biggest country star. The house was a huge Georgian, white and flat-roofed, with tall pillars holding up the front, and wide steps and giant windows. There was a garage with at least a half-dozen bays, and beyond it, white wooden fences, meadows, barns, stables-not an animal in sight, but plenty of room for them.

“This is a little place?” Seth asked, gaping at the back of Topaz's head. “Your friend's winter home?”

“Mmm-hmm. Cute, isn't it?”

“Cute isn't quite the term I would use,” Seth said. “Who the hell is your friend? Donald Trump?”

“God, no.” She rolled her eyes as if he were an idiot. “Sissy Spacek.”

Seth thought he would be damned if he could tell whether she was kidding or dead-on-balls serious. It was impossible with her.

Roxy pulled up to the front, passed the house and followed the strip of pavement to the endlessly long garage. “This is great. We can keep Shirley out of sight.”

“A blessing all its own,” Reaper muttered. When Roxy shot him a sharp look, he went on. “Let's find an empty spot and park this thing. No point in drawing any more notice than we have to.”

“All right.” Roxy looked up to the row of overhead doors on the six-vehicle garage and shrugged. “So, Monty, should I take door number one, do you think?”

“What?” Reaper looked confused.

Topaz said, “The doors are automatic. All the bays are empty, too-or all but one. She said something about leaving a car here for the season. There should be a remote…” She looked through the van's side window, and then pointed to a plant hanging from an ornate wrought iron bracket between doors four and five. “There, in that ivy. Do you mind, Seth?”

“Hell, at least you got my name right this time.” Seth slid open the side door and got out, then took his first breath of Georgia air. It was potent. He could smell about a million flowers and then some. Sweet, sweet air. He went to the ivy, a ceramic pot overflowing with the stuff, and reached in, feeling around the moist soil until he found the small remote control. He picked it up and pointed it at the door closest to where Roxy and her van had come to a stop, then hit a button.

The door opened, and the interior lights came on. “Nice,” Seth muttered. Shirley rolled inside as Seth stayed outside, pushing buttons, opening other doors, curious to see what was behind them. And then he was standing there, feeling a rush of something very close to lust, and staring at his dream come true-well, his second best dream, at least-and muttering, “Damn nice.”

The others came out to join him, gathering around, gradually picking up on his state of arousal and following his hungry gaze to where she sat, teasing him with the sultry expression in her headlights.

“Holy moley,” Roxy said. “Is that a…?”

“Mustang,” Seth whispered. “Shelby GT.” He walked into the garage, moving slowly around the car, holding a hand out as if to touch it, but stopping short, not quite wanting to mar its gleam with a smudge. “Mint condition. Nineteen sixty-eight. I've never been this close to heaven in my life.”

“Oh,” Topaz said, “that's the one my friend left here. She said I could use it if I want. Keys are in the house.” She wrinkled her nose. “It looks kind of old.”

Seth swung his head toward her, gaping.

“And that color. It's like blood. Don't we get enough of that?” Topaz shrugged. “Whatever. I suppose it'll do.”

“It'll do?” Seth repeated. “That car is a freaking work of art. Do you have any idea-“

“Not much legroom. We'll be cramped in there if we all squeeze in together.” Topaz tilted her head. “At least it won't draw as much notice as the van.”

“People will fall on their knees in the streets and worship it as we pass!”

Topaz looked at Seth, and broke into a full-blown smile. “You're kind of cute, for an irritating rookie, you know that?”

He rolled his eyes and headed to the van to fetch her bags, much as he hated doing it. She was still the woman who'd led him closer than ever to his redhead, and although she was dumb as hell about cars, he was pretty sure she'd just paid him a compliment.

Roxy eyed the surroundings as they trooped toward the front door, nodding in approval. “This place is defendable. That fence-Okay, it'd be easily scaled, but you couldn't drive up to the house. We'd see anyone coming for quite a ways, too. Good visibility. Up on a slight rise. Yeah-” she nodded “-I like it.”

“I'm hoping it won't need to be defended,” Reaper said. “But it's good that it can be, just in case.”

The van was put away, and Seth had discovered the joys of projection TV. TV? Hell, this place practically had its own theater. He was flipping channels, and the others were running around making their own discoveries. If he had to guess, he would say Reaper was probably looking for the safest place to bed down for the day sleep, while Roxy was likely checking out the security system. As for Topaz…hell, Topaz was probably soaking in a Jacuzzi, sipping A Positive from a margarita glass with a little umbrella in it.

Eventually, though, they all came to him, as if he were their center somehow, and sank into comfortable chairs to stare at the images flickering across the screen at the far end of the room as he flipped channels. There had to be three hundred to choose from. Maybe he should just choose a DVD from the thousand or so in the custom-made case that took up most of the wall to his left.

“It's time to retire,” Reaper said.

Seth glanced at him. “I don't feel the lethargy coming on yet.”

“Best to be secure before you do, don't you think, Seth?”

With a grin, Seth said, “Aw, c'mon, Dad. Five more minutes?”

Reaper didn't smile, but he did roll his eyes. Finally, Seth thought, a joke the guy actually gets. Seth kept flipping channels, so the flashing images and the partially uttered phrases of a hundred actors had to be irritating to everyone else, but he liked the noise. He kept pausing for a second or two on the interesting-looking programs, before moving on to see what else he could find. But then he heard something that made him stop.

It sounded like a groan-like a tortured, pain-racked groan from the depths of hell itself.

He turned slowly to see that Reaper, who was still in the center of the room, was bent over now, holding his head in his hands, and it looked as if he was starting to shake.

“Hey. Reap, what's up, pal? What's wrong?”

Reaper lifted his head from his hands. His face was contorted into a grimace of utter hatred, utter vicious rage. And his eyes were glowing.

Seth felt his own eyes widen, and he rose from the sofa, dropping the remote. “What the hell?” He glanced past Reaper at Roxy, who had gripped Topaz by the wrist, and was watching Reaper and looking downright terrified. Seth didn't know much about Roxy but he didn't think she scared easily.

“Get out of here,” Roxy said.

Topaz didn't hesitate. She turned and ran from the room. Seth couldn't, because Reaper stood between him and the doorway.

Hell.

And then Reaper lunged. Seth tried to dodge, but he wasn't any match for the other man. Not in age, not in power, not in experience. Hell, he thought belatedly-just about the time Reaper's big, meaty and oddly hot hands closed around his throat-he really shouldn't have given that Noisy Cricket to Topaz.

And then he was feeling his windpipe being crushed in a merciless grip as Reaper stared at him with unseeing, bulging eyes full of nothing but murder.

And then it was done. There was a slight hissing sound, followed by a pop, and all of a sudden, Reaper's grip relaxed. His eyes bugged wider for just a second, and then he was dropping, first to his knees, his hands falling away at last, and then-as Seth pressed his own hands to his neck and sucked in breath after breath-forward onto his face.

Seth looked across the room at Roxy. She was standing there with the Noisy Cricket in her hands. He noted the dart sticking out of Reaper's ass. “Hell,” he muttered.

“Yeah. I guess he was right to insist we carry these babies.”

Seth knelt beside the man he had begun to think of as more than a mentor-as a friend-and touched his shoulder. “What the hell is this, Roxy?”

She didn't answer.

“Hey, it's my neck he tried to wring just now. Don't you think I ought to know?”

She pressed her lips tight, then nodded once. “All right,” she said. “He'll be mad as hell that I told you, but the man needs to start sharing something with someone sooner or later.” She lowered her eyes. “Seth, Raphael used to work for the CIA.”

“He already told me that,” Seth said. “Well, more or less.”

“Did he tell you what he did for them?”

Seth nodded. “He was…an assassin.”