Artistic License

Utilizing Resources

28 Jul 2012 14:12  |  by Serafine Roche
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The moment I get home, I kick off my shoes, toss my coat on the coat rack and head right to my office. In the multi-device charger on my desk there's a cell phone. Nothing fancy, just a little flip phone that mostly takes up space. One of those pay as you go devices, no contract, but I keep it charged on the off chance that I may just have to use it.

I debate for a full ten minutes before I finally make the call. Bryn is going to be stopping by, and though I've told Kieran it's not necessary, I know that doesn't mean that he won't drop by. Not because he knows Bryn is coming and wants to be a thorn in my side, but because I know this is an irritant to him and he'll want to brainstorm and toss theories around with me.

Kieran wouldn't be happy if he knew that I had this number. Hell, Bryn might not even be happy if he knew this method of contact was at my fingertips. But a girl needs her secrets and having this contact at my fingertips has given me peace of mind over the years.

It rings on the other end several times. It could be ringing halfway around the world and in the wee hours of the morning. Not that I care. Or it could be ringing in my figurative backyard. I have no way of knowing.
I'm ready to hang up when the phone finally picks up.

The voice on the other end is low, lazy. Not tired lazy, but the sort of relaxed sort of lazy that comes from over indulgence. The background is filled with the sounds of music and laughter and other sounds that are far more carnal and intimate in nature.

" 'Ello?" Curiosity tinges the greeting.

"It's me." I don't identify myself beyond that. There's no need. "Where are you?"

"Hold the line just a wee bit there." Movement, shuffling, more laughter and a soft pouting voice in the background that makes me cringe. The words are muffled, but vampire hearing, I can make them all out. "It's just a business call little luv, I'll be back. Keep the party going."

I wait, pacing the length of the office, listening as the 'party' recedes further into the background on the other line. I hear what sounds like a door clicking shut, and a different sort of music overlays the raucous party music in the distant background.

"A wee bit of privacy, luv. Is that your way of saying you miss me?"

I roll my eyes. It can't be seen through the phone but I'm sure it comes through in my voice. "That's my way of asking where you are. Currently. Location wise." I'm not explaining myself. I just want an answer.

"Calling on behalf of my dear elder brother?"

"James cut the crap. Are you Stateside or not?"

James chuckles softly and I want to reach through the phone and smack the smarmy grin off his face. Oh, I can't see him, but I know James. I know exactly how he will smile as he laughs and probably lounges with his feet propped up on some expensive bit of furniture. "No, my lovely Serafine, I am not Stateside. Though if you miss me that - "

"Is she?"

"No." Beat. "Now, you must answer a question for me: why are you asking?"

"You didn't tell me where you were."

"Touche, luv." James is quiet for a full minute. I wait him out. I know this game and I'm not going to repeat my question. "Gwendolyn and I are enjoying the spoils of England in all its finery. You should fly over and join us. Bring Kieran. We could all have such fun."

I blink and then I snort. "Like that would happen."

"We could pretend that it's Chicago, and that everything fun is illicit."

"How do I know you're in England?"

James exhales a much unneeded breath through the phone. "A better question would be, why are you so very concerned?"

"Because I don't trust you and it's been a while since I checked up on you," I point out. I will be asking Bryn to verify James and Gwendolyn's location, because I don't trust the vampire on the other end of the telephone.

"I could very well be in your backyard and be a very good liar."

"You could yes," I admit, "But you're too much of an egotist." If James snuck into the City, he'd want Kieran to find out about it. That's just the way he is. I tug my fingers through my hair, my mind flashing back to the alley behind Flanaghan's. It brings me to the second, and real reason for this call.
"I need to get in touch with Gideon."

James is silent for so long that if I were human, I would start to think that I lost the call. However, I can still hear the muffled sounds of the distant party, can hear the moment that James wets his lips and blinks. "That's the real reason for your call isn't it, Lovely?"


"Has my brother gone and gotten in over his head?"

"Your brother is the Master of the City's Sheriff. He's highly ranked and highly respected. You don't need to worry about whether or not he's in over his head." I lean against the edge of my desk, staring across the office at a little framed picture of the Eiffel Tower. Funny that should be in my line of sight. It was the last place I had contact with the man I'm seeking.

"Then why the interest in Gideon? You know he's not an easy bloke to find. I hardly have him on speed dial."

I give a half-amused, half-bitter laugh. No, Gideon is not an easy 'bloke' to find. He's like a shadow or a mystery, an enigma to those who've met him. I can't even say those who've gotten to know him, because you don't get to know Gideon. You meet Gideon. You work with Gideon, usually in the form of a deal, and you breathe a sigh of relief that he's on your side and loose the breath you're holding when he leaves town again.

It's no wonder that James is curious about my interest. It's not typical to seek out Gideon lightly. If at all.

Then again, half-hybrid vampire/non-vampires aren't typical. Nor is the ability to easily shake off a glamour. It's not that I don't trust Bryn. He's good at what he does, from what I've seen and heard. However, if I happen to have a resource that hasn't been tapped, I'm going to tap it.

"I don't expect that you do, Seamus." It's a power play. Seamus is his birth name, his Christian name and he doesn't use it any more than Kieran does Ciarán. "You have contacts, though. You know what doors to start knocking on and what rocks to turn over. "

"What's in it for me?"

I roll my eyes. I can hear the leer and lewd suggestiveness in his voice. "I still have it." Beat. "I won it fair and square in card game - "

"You took it off my finger while I was passed out after shagging me senseless!"

Yes, well, that's a little detail I try really hard not to remember. "Only because I won it and you didn't give it to me."

"It's my bloody family crest, Serafine!"

"And you shouldn't have wagered it away on a bottle of absinthe and a night with your brother's Child." James' appetites are his weakness and that was no exception. I didn't want the damn ring, though, Kieran did. Some point of contention between them rooted in the days before Kieran met me, but turning the tables on James was fun.

I know there's more to it than that, but I've never pried.

Maybe it's time I did, but that's a consideration for another time.

"Do we have a deal?"

I can hear James huff on the other end of the telephone. "A'right. Yes. We have a bloody deal. I'll be in touch when I find Gideon. I really hope it's worth it, luv."

Me too.

I don't say that to James. Instead, I simply smile sweetly and let it carry across the miles of air space. "It will be."

Then I hang up.

Now, I just have to wait.

Getting Over It

20 May 2012 04:56  |  by Serafine Roche
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I need to get over it.

I need to get over him.

I mean, what exactly am I doing? I’m almost two hundred years old. I’m not some teenager mooning over her first crush or pining away because the boy in second period math doesn’t know I exist. I’m not supposed to be waiting with baited breath for the telephone to ring and jumping every time that it does. (And feeling a huge wave of disappointment every time it isn’t him.)

We had one date. I thought it was fun. He kissed me, which I usually take as a good sign but maybe he got cold feet. Maybe he woke up and realized just how complicated being involved with me would be. Maybe he realized that he’s just not that into me.

Whatever. As of today, it doesn’t matter. I’m getting over him. I have dated and been with plenty of men. I’ve dated actors and athletes, computer geeks and executives, doctors and teachers, bartenders and horse trainers. Bryn Blackwell is just one man in a huge, fathomless sea of men and if I follow Kieran’s example, then the human sea is certainly bottomless. He’s never lacking for companionship, because he’s so damn flexible and he doesn’t get attached or interested in any of his arm candy for very long.

I don’t either. Usually. So why is he different?

He isn’t. That’s the point. He isn’t.

I don’t care what Maeve thinks, this isn’t some grand romance. He’s not my soul mate or twin soul or whatever the hell other nonsense I let her douse me with. I reacted to him like I did because he’s a good looking man and he’s the sort of man that I’m always attracted to. Dark hair, light eyes, presence and a take charge personality. That’s all it was. Nothing more.

The city is huge. It’s huge and breathing and alive and filled with opportunity. Dark hair, blonde hair, dark eyes, light eyes, male, female. It’s a smorgasbord just waiting to be sampled, and I’m not going to spend another night with my finger on my damn cell phone hoping his name flashes across the screen.

It’s his loss. I’m his loss. It’s time for me to remember who I am. Time for me to be what I am.

Tonight, I’m going to get back on task. I’m going to be me again, and I’m going to revel in all that city has to offer.

Hello New York … I’m back.

Waxing Romantic

19 May 2012 20:00  |  by Serafine Roche
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(OOC NOTE: Takes place Wednesday, May 9th, shortly before the log: It's A Date)

Watching the pretty woman at the bar check her cell phone for the fifth time in at least the last thirty minutes, Maeve Brennan sighs. She makes a last circular swipe at the bar top, and grabs the bottle of Southern Comfort Reserve from the shelf behind the bar. She pours more than three fingers into a glass, and slides it to patron.

“If you’re reduced to sitting around waiting on a call, Sera, then the rest of us dinna stand a chance,” Maeve teases lightly, though her words ring with a bit of truth. Even if the woman wasn’t a Vampire possessing whatever supernatural lure it is that surrounds both Sera and Kieran, she’s still a woman who turns heads and catches eyes. From what little she’s heard, Serafine was a coveted prize and appreciated sight back before Kieran ever turned her.

It’s rare to catch a Vampire off guard, but Maeve manages. Sera startles, her luminous green eyes flickering up from her iPhone to focus on the woman behind the bar. “What?” She blinks, and gives her dark curls a faint shake. “No, oh no, I’m not waiting on a call.”

“That isna what it looks like from where I’m standing.”

The vampire’s gaze drops to the phone again, and then she clicks the screen dark and sets it aside. She reaches for the bourbon, wrapping her hands around the glass but not lifting it right away. “Really, I’m not waiting on a call, Maeve.” Green eyes shift, a nail scrapes along the side of the glass. “I’m … working up the courage to make one.” The words come soft, slow at first and then in a rush of breath, tumbling over one another and colliding at the end in one final gasp.

That’s new, Maeve thinks. In the more than twenty years she’s known Sera - the first few back when Maeve was caught up in the affair with Kieran, and more recently now that Sera has relocated to the city - she’s never seen the woman uncertain about anything. Particularly not as it pertains to the realm of men.

“Still means there’s lil hope for the rest of us, duckie.”

“What … “ Sera frowns at her, and it’s clear that she’s still not entirely having the conversation with Maeve. She might not be entirely at Flanaghan’s at all. “No, it’s not like that. I don’t think.” Beat. “I don’t know.”

“Want to talk about it? This bloke who’s got you all tied up like so?” Maeve takes a look around the pub. It’s a Tuesday night, with a crowd of regulars, but it’s not very busy and the women have this little corner of the bar to themselves. “It is a bloke, innit?”

Sera laughs, and it’s halfway to genuine because it lights up her face a bit and makes her appear just a little bit younger. “Yes, it’s a ‘bloke.’ “ Her gaze darts to the cell phone she’s set to the side, and then she takes a few big swallows of the Southern Comfort.

“I like him,” Sera breathes out, holding the glass clutched in both hands.

“That’s plain to see,” Maeve laughs. “Else you wouldna be lingering over your phone like so.”

“No …” Sera shakes her head and bites her lip. The vampire closes her eyes and for those few moments, Maeve can see shades of a younger woman, a girl who grew up to be the woman that drew a dead Irishman’s attention. “I really like him, Maeve. I don’t even know him but … mon dieu, I like him.”

When the vampiress opens her eyes, there’s an intensity shining in them that takes Maeve completely by surprise. She blinks and looks away, simply to not feel as though she’s being sucked into all the intensity and passion the woman is feeling in that moment.

“It’s going to sound crazy, or like something I’d put in one of my books, but … when I met him? I felt something.

“Here I thought you knew what lust was better than any of us,” Maeve winks with a smile. She tops off the woman’s drink and then pours one for herself. She’s as careful about drinking on duty as she requires her bartenders and servers to be; pissed to the gills and in their cups bartenders and servers do not for good service make. Doesn’t mean Maeve won’t indulge in a glass of something or other, usually a bit watered down, simply for the camaraderie that it makes the patrons feel.

There’s a beat before Sera’s mouth quirks up in a half-smile. She spins the glass in her hands and then tilts it up to drink from it. “It’s not lust. I kind of wish that it was. I know how to handle lust. If that’s all it was, then I’d just lure him into bed with me and show him a night he’d never forget… so long as I wanted him to remember.”

That sounds like the woman that Maeve knows. Serafine Roche is never wanting for company, unless it’s a choice to be alone by her own design. A snap of her fingers and crook of a smile, and the vampire could have any man (or woman) in the pub that she wants. The fact that she’s preoccupied with this bloke that she won’t call when there’s a handsome bloke been giving her the eye all night? That’s unusual.

“What it sounds like ta me? Someone’s got a wee bit of a crush.” Maeve leans her arms on the bar and smiles at the nearly two centuries old vampire who doesn’t look a day over thirty - and never will. “Tell me about ‘im. Might feel better, clear your head if you talk it out.”

As Sera stares down into her glass, worrying her lower lip between her teeth, Maeve thinks that the woman will refuse. So it’s a pleasant surprise when the vampiress begins to speak. Her voice is low and soft, the dulcet southern tones heavier and more distinct - something Maeve has noticed emotions bring out in vampires as well as in humans, that return to a native tongue and dialect.

“Bryn,” Sera starts. “His name is Bryn.”

“A good Welsh name,” Maeve identifies.

Sera nods. “Maybe. He is British but there’s a hint of something else in his accent. Not really London or any parts close in. I’m not quite recalling the Welsh sound that well.”

When she says it, Maeve remembers to whom she’s talking. She always holds that knowledge in her mind, but it’s statements like that which remind Maeve that Sera is far older than she looks, that she has seen and traveled the world and watched it change.

“What’s it about this Bryn that’s got your eye?” Maeve asks.

“What doesn’t?” Sera gives a mirthless bark of laughter. “He’s handsome, he’s smart, he’s a good conversationalist, he …” Leaning on her arms, Sera rests on the bar. “You’re going to think I’m completely crazy when I say this, or just waxing poetic, but when I first met him … something … it was like the world just stopped for a minute. Like there was nothing else except him and I felt it. I felt this connection that just went right to my gut. The world and the universe just came to this grinding halt and then started up again, but when it started, everything made sense, for just a moment. It was like I met him before or knew him or was meant to know him and it should have scared me to death, Maeve, but it didn’t. It felt right.


Sighing, Sera tilts her glass back and empties it. “Crazy, right?”

“You have a way with words, don’t you?” Maeve teases and shakes her head. “No, I dinna think it sounds crazy. But I’m a romantic.”

She lifts the bottle in an offer and pours more when the vampire nods. “You know that there’s an old legend. That all souls start on a journey as one, but eventually broke apart. One soul became two that move on separate life journeys but always seeking reunion with our anam cara. The other half of our soul.”

The vampire stares at her. Just stares at her. She tosses back the second glass quickly and her eyebrows rise nearly to her hairline. “Are you trying to tell me that he’s my soulmate?

“You’re the romance writer. You don’t believe in soulmates?”

“I don’t believe that just because a man makes my heart skip and my panties wet means that we have some eternal mystical connection and are meant to be together.”

Maeve reaches out and pulls the cell phone closer to the “younger” woman. “Then why haven’t you called him, duckie? He’s not like other blokes for you, and you’re not behaving like he’s the usual bloke. He’s something.

“Yes…” Sera pushes the word out in a puff of exhaled air. “He’s … it’s complicated.”

“Anything worth having or going for usually is. If he’s gotten to you this much, then it’s worth exploring, yeah?”

Leaving Sera the bottle, Maeve turns to take the orders from a handsome couple who’s just walked into the pub. She’ll leave the woman to think about it. She is only a bartender, with the occasional fit of whimsy, after all.

Reflections on a Mystery

01 May 2012 18:14  |  by Serafine Roche
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After leaving the crime scene, I don't go home.

I make a telephone call, it's a requisite after meeting with anyone from The Priory, though the timing varies depending on what we talked about. This 'little problem' really isn't so little and it requires an immediate telephone call as I sit in the back of my rented car and the driver waits patiently for me to tell him where I would like to visit next. He's handsome, Latino, clean cut, well-paid and well glamoured so I'm in no hurry to finish my call or move on.

The first call is to Kieran. He doesn't answer, which isn't at all surprising. He's not covering any of his businesses tonight, which means he's hunting or prowling. I can send him an emergency page, but it's not an emergency. The dead body isn't going to get any more dead over the next twenty-four hours, and between The Priory and the dominoes that will be set in motion here, everything will be swept under the rug and forgotten by those who need to forget it come tomorrow night this time. It's urgent, but not an emergency, and I can just as easily get the ball rolling by going up the food chain.

I'm just loathe to do it. It's easier to deal with Kieran. He's familiar and my constant. Getting too close to Kostas isn't comfortable for me; it never has been. I've got two clear as crystal bad memories of being on the wrong side when a coup took down the regime in power, and that's two memories too many. Kostas has been here for a good long while, almost since my first visit to the City after being turned, but with what's happening now and the fact that twice before someone has tried to oust him … I'm feeling the first twinges of discomfort since allowing Kieran to sweet talk me into joining him here.

The crime scene has started to thin out in the time I've been sitting in the car. The coroner has come and gone. Squad cars have already left, and only one of the two unmarkeds is still there. Ash took off with his yummy Brit eye candy, probably for the Priory House, but I know that Curtis is still there. He'll be waiting, watching me to see what I do. Do I go back to the scene? Do I sniff around on my own? Do I go and find a bit of evidence that I'm not sharing? The detective is … an enigma. For all that he looks at me like I'm a steak and he's a starving man, I'm not sure he likes me. Certainly, he doesn't trust me, but that comes with the territory. I don't trust him either, not really. He's Priory, I can't really afford to trust any of them either. I like Ashcroft, and I respect him; but there are things I won't tell him and cards in my hand that I'll never show.

I give the driver directions and set the car in motion. Then I make two calls; the first one is to arrange for something to eat. I'm rarely in the mood to go out and play the socialite, party girl after meeting with Ashcroft and his team lately. It's easier to make arrangements and be done with it.

The second call is to Samira. It's short as I can make it; a recap of what happened, of meeting with Ashcroft.

For some reason, I don't mention Blackwell.

I don't go home, not to my quiet two bedroom loft. Where I do go is just as good as home and it means I won't be alone. It's not so much the killing that gets to me. I've killed. I have blood on my hands; a little of it purposeful and yes, pleasurable when I let myself tap into and acknowledge that darker baser nature. Most of it though, necessary or accidental. Never wasted. Never simply to leave a body to be found and inspire fear and unrest. That's my Maker's one penchant that I've never picked up.

Besides, given the choice between lust or fear? Lust is just so much sweeter to feed off.

The doorman doesn't challenge me, doesn't even look surprised to see me. Of course, he doesn't spend much time looking at my face either. I project, it's purposeful, because I can and I want to feel that power. I know that if I crook my finer, I could have the man at my feet and in my bed, but I don't want that. The show is the fun, and the thrill, and once I've key coded the elevator and swiped me key card, I let the lure drop back to normal levels.

Cory, the vampire whelp outside of the penthouse, doesn't challenge me any more than the doorman did. He's surprised, but knows better than to deny me entry. I can hear him scrambling to make his phone call once I'm inside and the door is closed behind me, but I don't care. The poor thing is only doing his job, and if I were in a better frame of mind, I might just feel a twinge of guilt for knowing he might be grilled depending on the mood of his employer.

My dinner, a fresh faced Asian girl who's twenty if she's a day, comes and goes. She's sweet like honey, and far too eager, and I do admire Ewan's work with recruiting for the blood pool. It's not normally the Herald's job, but I can see why he's maintained that particular duty over the years. He has an eye and scent, I think, for the good ones.

I'm soaking in the tub with a glass of wine mixed with blood - the bottled stuff is never as good as fresh, but the wine helps to spice it up - surrounded by candles and relaxing music, my head tipped back and eyes closed when I hear the bathroom door open. My mind has been like a cat chasing its tail; the point of the bath was to stop thinking and relax, but that hasn't been happening. There are too many bodies, and too few clues, and something has to give.


"If I'd known I was going to have company, I'd have come home sooner." My eyes open and I twist my head enough to catch sight of Kieran leaning casually in the doorway. His shoulder rests against the frame, arms folded across his chest, legs crossed at the ankles. His hair is mussed, his clothes slightly wrinkled. There's high spots of color in his cheeks and his crystalline eyes nearly glow as pale lighted dimes in the flickering candle light.

Almost one hundred and seventy-five years later and the man can still take my breath away. Kieran is beautiful when he's freshly fed and fully sated. Kieran is always beautiful, but even more so when he's taken care of his needs, and from the flush to his skin to the light in his eyes, there's no doubt that he's fed all his hungers this evening.

"No you wouldn't have," I take a sip from the wine glass dangling in my hand and tilt my head back again. "You might have tried to get me to come out and meet you, but you wouldn't have hurried home." Beat. "Besides, cherie, you knew. Cory reported in." I peel open the eye nearest to him, "You weren't too hard on him?"

"No, I wasn't." Kieran straightens with fluid grace and seems to literally glide toward the jacuzzi tub that takes up this entire corner of his lavish bathroom. The man does love his luxuries. He kneels just as elegantly beside the tub, easily lifting the glass from my hand and taking a drink as his other hand dips into the water. "You need to stop trying to get my help in trouble, though, mo thaisce1."

I blink at him, and then I laugh. It's not as flavorful or full as it usually is, but it is a laugh and it ripples through me, relieving some of the tension I hadn't realized I was still carrying. "If I wanted to get your help in trouble, I'd have a lot better ways of doing so." I steal back my wine glass, taking a slow long swallow and holding his gaze over the rim. His hand brushes my thigh beneath the water, and he rests his chin on the side of the tub. For a long moment, we're silent, the brush of his fingertips up and down my thigh leaving tingling trails along my skin.

"Bad night?" Kieran asks finally.

I roll my shoulders in a shrug, probably a barely visible shrug beneath the water and bubbles, but Kieran knows me well enough. "Frustrating night."

"The Priory?"

There's another laugh. Kieran considers any time that we have to deal with The Priory to be a bad time, but that could simply be because he and Ashcroft are such alpha males and neither one of them wants to give an inch. Ashcroft knows who Kieran is in Kosta's Court, and Kieran hates the knowledge that The Priory has about us, nearly as much as Kostas does. They're a necessary evil, but it doesn't mean he's happy with it.

I tug his shirt collar, lifting myself up to plant a light kiss on his lips. "Join me. I'll tell you all about it."

I don't need to issue the invitation twice.

There is something empowering about the way Kieran responds to me, especially after almost two centuries by his side. Oh, I know that his playboy facade is more than that; Kieran is a hedonist and a man-whore to the core, going back to the days before he was turned (at least, according to stories told by his brother James). He's not the sort that would ever deny himself anything, not without a very good reason, but I like to believe that there's more to his reactions to me than simple hedonism.

He's stripped out of his clothes quickly, and I've barely had enough time to admire the sculpted planes of his body, before he's sliding into the tub behind me and tugging me back against him. His fingers deftly tug the plethora of pins from my hair, the ones I put there to keep it from falling into the water, and he's combing through the steam and damp induced curls with a practiced, gentle touch. "Tell Daddy all about it."

His turn of phrase earns another giggling laugh, and then I sober and recount the night's events. From Ashcroft's call, to the body at the park, to the frustrating lack of anyone who's seen anything. We finish the entire bottle of wine together, and by the time I'm done, Kieran is no longer joking or teasing.

"What do you think?" Kieran asks. I'm leaned back against him, my head to his shoulder and the angle is just enough so that he can catch my gaze and I his.

"You know what I think." The words are more petulant than I might have intended. I just hate being summarily dismissed and that's exactly what Kostas did. "It could be an untrained Child… but he doesn't want to hear that." It doesn't mean we shouldn't consider it as an option.

I heave a sigh, pushing a damp curl back from my face. "Blackwell suggested it to Ashcroft. It means that they'll start looking in that direction." I don't know if it means we should look there first. I'm not sure the Priory is equipped to handle an out of control baby vampire, but I know what the outcome will be if that is what it is, and Kosta's Court finds him or her first. Unless someone is willing to foster the neophyte, their nights will be numbered. And the number will be very low.

"The new bloke?" Kieran asks. "Ashcroft listened?"

"He's Priory. He might be from across the pond, but he's one of theirs."

Kieran presses his lips to my temple, strokes his fingers lightly down the side of my arm. "Tell me about him."

Once upon a time, I would have gotten frustrated, and assumed Kieran wasn't listening to me. I know now that he is. His brain is processing everything that I've told him, but having a new player on the field is worth the extra consideration. I breathe in, it's habit, and try to ignore the way my breath catches in my throat as I breathe out again. "I met him for fifteen, twenty minutes?"

"That's long enough for you to form an opinion." Kieran's fingers still and he's peering at me curiously now. "He caught your eye." It's not a question.

"He's hot." Seems little point in lying about it. Blackwell is hot. Tall, takes care of himself. Dark hair, bright blue eyes. A bit formal, but it's a charming sort of formal. I certainly wouldn't kick him out of bed for eating crackers. He's a yummy meal, really, and I wouldn't kick him out of bed at all.

Something of my thoughts must show on my face because Kieran smirks. "You know that there's no snacking on the Priory."

"I won't eat him." Though really, figuratively speaking, there are all sorts of ways to accomplish that.

"No shagging The Priory either, luv." Kieran's hand dips beneath the bubbles and pinches somewhere sensitive that makes me gasp and squirm. "Focus, Sera." Which is easier said than done considering the way Kieran's hands are roaming. He knows how and where to touch me, and knows the effect he has on me. The only conclusion is that he's doing it on purpose. Damn his beautiful ass. "Why's this new bloke in town?"

"I … don't know." I hate to admit that. I bite my lip, though I hold Kieran's piercing gaze defiantly. "We were more worried about the body and the lack of killer than I was about grilling Ashcroft for dirt." I reach down, rake my nails over his thigh and parts higher. Two can play that game. "I'll find out."

"Xander will want to know."

"I'll find out, Kieran." My natural accent comes out strong, not an affectation in this moment. It's mid-century New Orleans all the way around, tinted with what people think of the bayou and more than a little Creole French coloring throughout. We learn to speak new languages, learn to disguise and change our voices and our mannerisms, but something of us always remains. So it has been with the vampires I've interacted with over the years.

I feel Kieran nod against my head, "The Colonel likes you. He forgets you're not human. If you bat your eyes, show a little leg and ask nicely, he'll probably tell you." It's a joke, because we both know that Ashcroft is not that easily swayed by my natural charms. No doubt I could turn up the magic, but it's been a lot of back and forth to reach this level of comfortable working with The Priory. Calling in my bloodline skills on any of The Priory wouldn't be fair or sporting.

As for the other … a good deal of the time The Priory forgets I'm not human. That's why Kostas chose me as his liaison whenever he needs a 'human' face on vampires. I don't see myself the way others do, but they all see something that I don't. Something that Kieran admits fascinates and appeals to him, something that sets me apart. I accept it, even though I question it and wonder.

"You really think that there's a wee baby vamp out there?" Kieran shifts gears fast enough to give someone whiplash, if they're not used to how his mind works. It's rhetorical because he continues. "Because if there is, it'll have to be put down."

I try to repress my shiver and fail miserably. "I know."

There's a splashing, sloshing of water and the room spins wildly. One moment, I'm leaning back against Kieran, the next I'm straddling his lap, the drip of water splashed over the side to the tub echoing against the bathroom tiles. His hands rest on my hips and eyes as clear as cut turquoise bore into mine. "Sera. Are you going to foster it? Do you think anyone is going to step up to foster a feral neonate?"

"No," I answer softly, unable to hold his gaze. I just wish he wasn't so matter-of-fact about it. This is one of us that he's referring to, after all. Though that's why Kieran is the Sheriff; he's willing to do those hard things.

Truthfully, we both know he revels in it and enjoys it.

"It doesn't matter, anyway, if Xander isn't even willing to consider that one of his vampires could do such a thing." I lift my eyes back to his, finding a spark of my annoyance and defiance. "He has to be more open minded." Kieran is the only person I would dare talk to about the Master like this. Which is ironic, because for the rest of our number, such close defiance would be met with reproach and a quiet meeting with Kieran and/or Samira. I won't speak openly, but I will speak here to my Maker. I may be a member of Xander's court, but my first loyalty is to Kieran.

Kieran is quiet a moment, his eyes on me, studying my face. He lifts one soapy hand and tucks a few curls behind my ear. "I'll talk to Sami. See what we can get him to listen." A gentle, but firm squeeze is given to my hip. "This conversation stops here, though, mo thaisce, yeah?" His hand drops to my shoulder, the other glides up my back and Kieran draws me, giving me a long, thorough kiss that has me dizzy with want, and wipes the conversation from my mind by the time it breaks.

Which is a good thing, because we don't do any more talking the rest of the night.


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