Reflections on a Mystery

by Serafine Roche
01 May 2012 18:14 (updated 23 Aug 2012 00:18) | 0 comment(s)

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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