Vampire Agápe 01 - Blood of Anteros, page 8
“Crosby! How could you?” Chansey screamed.
I made no move to retaliate and the crowd seemed shocked by my tolerance of Crosby. “I’m okay,” I said, as I wiggled my jaw up and down, then side to side. I was impressed with him because it was a hard lick for a drunk, but I feared his fist might not have faired quite as well as my face.
Crosby was speechless as he laid on the sand holding his hand. Drew jerked him to his feet and recruited assistance with getting him to the car, then turned and said, “Sorry, man. I don’t know what got into him, but I know he’ll regret it tomorrow.”
I doubted it would be tomorrow before he regretted it. He’d be waking up before morning with an aching head and the pain of a broken hand. “It’s okay, Drew. It wasn’t your fault.”
Chansey attempted to inspect me for injuries, but it was useless by the light of the bonfire. “Come on, let’s go back to the house and clean you up because I can’t see anything out here in this dark.”
We said our goodbyes and walked back to my apartment. Chansey followed me inside and suggested we go to the bathroom to inspect my injuries. She closed the lid on the commode and ordered me to sit as she retrieved a washcloth from the linen closet and wet it, then wrung out the excess water.
She ran her fingertips under my jawline, lifting my face for a better inspection while she stood between my knees. The exhilaration of her touch returned, only this time, multiplied times infinity and the light brush of her soft fingertips across my face sent charged tingles up and down my skin. Her hazel eyes searched my lips, as she washed the blood from my mouth, looking for the source of the bleed. When she finished washing the blood away, she used her finger to trace to outline of my lips and her eyes pleaded for something unfamiliar to me.
The moment was interrupted by a knock at my door, returning both of us to reality. “I don’t know who could that be.”
I answered the door and saw Whitney, one of Chansey’s friends from the beach. “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I really need to use your bathroom. That beer has gone straight through me,” she giggled.
“Oh, sure. No problem.” I showed Whitney to the bathroom, then joined Chansey in the living room.
“I honestly don’t know why you don’t have a huge, gaping cut on your face because he hit you so hard. When I heard the pop, I just knew we were about to head to the ER for stitches,” she said, confused.
“I guess I have a hard head. That’s what my parents always said, anyway,” I laughed.
“Well, I’m proud of your good genes, or whatever.”
Whitney returned from the bathroom. “Hey, Curry, you weren’t kidding about being an artist. That painting of Chansey by your bedroom door is awesome.”
Oh, no. Idiot, you left it out.
“What kind of painting is she talking about?” Chansey asked.
“That fabulous painting of...,” she trailed off.
“It’s not finished,” I said, rudely interrupting Whitney. This girl needed to go and fast.
“It looks finished to me. Chick, it’s gorgeous,” Whitney said.
“I want to see it,” Chansey said as she stood to walk to my bedroom.
I intercepted her and stood between her and the entrance to my bedroom. “Please, don’t,” I pleaded.
“Why don’t you want me to see it?” she asked, going toe to toe against me.
“I told you, it isn’t finished,” I lied.
Whitney called our attention back to her. “Alrighty then, I’m gonna ease on back to the beach while you two have your little lover’s quarrel.”
We simultaneously said together, “This isn’t a lover’s quarrel.”
I heard Whitney sneak out the door as she said, “Sorry I said anything.”
I was sorry, too. Chansey saw the seriousness on my face and backed off, asking, “When can I see it?”
“When I decide it’s finished and not a second earlier,” I said with a smile, attempting to return a lighter mood.
“You promise?” she asked.
“I promise,” I lied, sorta. I didn’t tell her it would never be finished, but I knew the battle wasn’t won. It was just postponed until another day.
I awakened to a knock at my door and as I walked to answer it, I ran my fingers through my unruly waves to make them lay down and behave, but as usual, they rebelled against me. I opened the door to find Anna on the other side.
“Oh, Curry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” she apologized.
“I should have gotten up already. I’m afraid I’m guilty of being a little lazy this morning,” I admitted.
“Well, there’s no harm in being a little lazy every now and then and I reserve the right to be a little lazy next week. I don’t know if Chansey told you, but our grandson is getting married here this weekend, so it’s going to be a very busy couple of days.”
“Actually, Mr. Emerson told me about the wedding. Do I need to find somewhere to stay for a few days?”
“Oh, no, but I do need to ask a favor of you. We have several guests coming to stay the weekend, so I need to use my studio as a bedroom. Would you mind terribly if I stored my studio supplies in your apartment while our company is here? It’s only for a couple of days and I’ll get everything out of your way when they’re gone.”
“Of course. I’ll keep your things safe, for as long as you like. I don’t mind at all,” I assured her.
“Oh, thank you so much.”
“I’ll even move your supplies for you,” I offered. “I know you must have a lot to do with the wedding being so soon.”
“You are so considerate, Curry Brennan. Some young lady is going to be very lucky to have you as a husband one day.”
“I don’t know about lucky. Maybe, unlucky,” I laughed, knowing I would never be husband material for any woman.
“Well, I disagree with you and I bet you’d be surprised at exactly all the things I do know,” she said, flashing her all knowing grin, and I took her at her word because I had seen that mischievous little grin a little too often lately. Intuition told me she knew much she kept to herself.
* * *
I knocked on the kitchen door around lunchtime, but Chansey didn’t answer, so I knocked again, still with no answer. I opened the door, saw her standing in the kitchen with her back to me and heard the light buzz of music from the earbuds she wore. While she prepared her lunch, she hummed and danced to the beat of the music. Unaware of my presence, she began singing into the banana in her hand and I leaned against the doorway and enjoyed her impromptu performance while she finished making her lunch.
She shimmied across the floor and opened a cabinet door to retrieve a glass. As she turned to go to the refrigerator, her eyes caught view of me and was so startled, she dropped the glass from her hand, shattering it into a million shards across the kitchen tile.
I did it again. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
She took her earbuds out of her ears. “What?”
I repeated myself, “I said I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. I did knock, twice, in fact.”
“It’s okay.” She squatted, barefooted, and started picking up pieces of glass.
“Please don’t cut yourself. I would feel even more rotten if you did. Let me clean up this mess.”
I walked over to her and said, “I don’t want you to step on a piece of glass and cut your foot.” I placed my hands on her hips and understanding my intentions, she placed her hands on my shoulders and jumped as I lifted her to sit on the countertop. She allowed her hands to linger on my shoulders as I stood between her knees and her touch ignited wonderful, tiny flutters of heat under my skin.
Without consideration for how it might sound, I asked, “What are you?”
She mistook my question as a joke, leaned forward and said, “I’m just a girl...with broken glass all over her kitchen floor.”
She licked her lips, applying a wet sheen and a new wave of heated sensation coursed thr
She smiled and answered, “Tell me what I’m doing to you and I’ll consider telling you how I do it.” The look in her eyes declared her innocence and I knew she was completely unaware of the things she did to me.
I stepped away and asked, “Where do you keep the broom?”
She pointed to a door in the kitchen and I retrieved the broom, then began sweeping the glass into a dustpan. She broke into a big smile and said, “I assume you didn’t come up here for the free show,” and I knew the free show comment referred to her song and dance performance.
“Your grandmother needs to store her studio supplies in my apartment while your wedding guests are here this weekend, so I volunteered to move it for her.”
In between bites of her sandwich, she said, “Well, she volunteered me to help you move it. You know, the way she weasels free labor out of us is illegal in forty-nine states.”
“Is Mississippi one of the forty-nine states?” I jested.
“I’m afraid not,” she answered.
“Then, you don’t have much of a case, Miss Leclaire.” I took a look around for remaining glass on the floor and my perfect vision didn’t find one sliver of glass. “I think I got it all.”
She hopped down from the counter and said, “Let’s get to work because the old lady will be back any minute and I don’t want her to find us lazing around on the job.”
“Yes, the mean lady scares me,” I joked, earning a laugh out of Chansey.
She lead me up the stairs to the studio and her portrait remained in it’s same location and was no less incredible than the first time I saw it. Chansey saw me admiring it and said, “Granna worked so hard on it, and I don’t know how, but she nailed it perfectly.”
“It is perfect, absolutely perfect,” I complimented.
Chansey’s phone rang. “Oh, this is my friend, Shelby, so I need to take this,” she said, and walked out of the room to take her friend’s call.
Anna had courteously packed her supplies, so we only needed to take them to my apartment. While Chansey spoke with her friend, I carried the first box of supplies to my apartment and when I returned to the studio, Chansey was finished speaking with her friend.
“Shelby’s brother is in a band and they’re playing at Beach Park tomorrow night. They’re actually pretty good, so do you think you might want to go with us?” she invited.
“Sounds like fun. Sure, I’d love to go,” I accepted.
“Shelby invited Drew and the two of you seem to get along well.”
“Yeah, we have a lot in common. He’s a cool guy.” I hoped she wouldn’t mention Drew’s brother, Crosby, so I quickly added, “Are Drew and Shelby dating?”
“They’ve have kinda had this on again, off again, thing for years. I noticed they talked a lot at the beach the other night, so I guess it’s on again. They make a great couple and they get along great, so I don’t know what the deal is with them always breaking up.”
When we finished moving Anna’s supplies, Chansey looked at her watch. “Time has gotten away from me today. I should have already started getting ready for work.”
“I suppose that means I have chauffeuring plans,” I happily guessed.
“I know you said you would, but you don’t have to drive me. I’ll be fine,” she said, giving me the chance to withdraw from my obligation.
“You can’t know that for certain with that fruit loop lurking around and I know I don’t have to. I told you that I want to,” I argued and continued to refresh her memory of what Julian could be capable of until she finally conceded. I should have felt a little guilty about using her fear against her, but I didn’t, because I would use any means necessary to keep her safe.
* * *
She insisted we take her car, so I took my turn as the relinquisher. I followed her to the passenger side, reached to open the door for her and she asked, “Do you always do that?”
“Every chance I get, so get used to it,” I replied and wondered why such a simple, courteous act seemed so foreign to her.
Before she got in, she said, “Good, because I like it.”
Driving Miss Chansey turned out to be the perfect opportunity to spend time with her, but it was much too short for my taste, so I’d have to remember to drive slower from here on out. “What time should I be back?”
“My shift ends at midnight, but I change clothes before I leave, so be here about a quarter after.”
“Do you want me to pick you up at this door?” I inquired.
“That would be perfect.” She got out, but before she shut the door, she leaned and said, “Thanks again. I really do feel a lot safer.”
“Don’t mention it.” She shut the door and I watched her walk toward the entrance to the casino, then she smiled at me over her shoulder before entering the building.
The next eight hours were long and boring and I tried to work, but my thoughts kept wondering back to Chansey and the feelings she ignited in me. Her touch was addicting, and like nothing I had ever known, with the briefest touch only making me want more.
I knew this was a dangerous game I was played, and it was my duty to contact Solomon for counsel, but fear prevented me from making the call. Chansey was a secret I didn’t want to share with anyone, even my closest friend and mentor.
I anxiously watched the hands of the clock and returned to the designated pick up spot early, so I parked until she was ready to leave. When I saw her emerge from the building, her safety was confirmed and I felt my tension ease. I started her Jeep, pulled to the door and was ecstatic about the smile that formed on her face when her eyes found me.
She got into her Jeep and said, “I think I’m liking this front door service.”
“To your home, Miss Chansey?” I asked in my most professional, chauffeuring voice.
“Home, please, driver,” she laughed as she answered.
I had driven about five miles when I noted the car behind us followed our same route. I slowed to see if it would pass, and when it didn’t, I was certain it was Julian following us. He trailed us all the way home, but continued on past the drive when I turned in and parked. Tonight was clearly a scare tactic for Chansey, so I decided to keep it to myself. He didn’t intend on leaving her alone so I would need to deal with him soon, but first, I needed to solidify my plan.
I spent most of the night thinking about how to handle Julian, although I was too emotionally involved to make a rational decision concerning Chansey’s safety. I needed Solomon’s guidance, but to request his assistance would mean telling him what was happening between me and Chansey. I feared my attraction for this girl, but I feared being told to never see her again more and until I knew what this was between us, I couldn’t involve Solomon.
I noticed Chansey’s Jeep was gone when I walked outside so I knocked on the backdoor and entered after hearing Anna’s invitation.
“Good morning, Mrs. Emerson. Is Chansey home?”
“No, she left early this morning going to Abby’s house in Gulfport because her grandmother passed away last night,” Anna explained.
“I hate to hear that.”
“She told me to tell you she would be back around four. Does that mean you have plans for tonight?” she continued.
“Yes, ma’am. We’re going to Beach Park with Shelby and Drew. Shelby’s brother is playing with his band,” I explained.
“Oh, I guess that would be Jessie, but I didn’t know he was in a band. Sounds like ya’ll will have a fun time.”
It occurred to me that today would be the perfect day to take care of something I had put off for too long and I informed Anna, “I have some things to do today, but if Chansey returns before I do, would you tell her I’ll be back in time to go to the park?”
After Anna agreed to relay my message, I got into my truck and drove toward Biloxi where I believed I would find the
I believed my parents left New Orleans and lived in Biloxi at the time of their deaths, so I hoped to find their burial locations in Old Biloxi Cemetery. With any luck, I might also find my brother and sister.
I parked my truck and started my search through the cemetery for the Brennan headstones. I quickly found them, and was surprised when I unexpectedly found my own that read, “Beloved Son and Brother. James Curry Brennan. Born August 11, 1824. Lost At Sea June 5, 1850. Age 26.”
The date was wrong. I died on May 28, not June 5, as the headstone read and certainly not at sea. What did my family believe happened to me? I always wondered how they believed I died or if they thought I disappeared without a trace. I moved on to read the headstone next to mine and found my brother’s headstone, reading, “Beloved Son and Brother. Sullivan Augustus Brennan. Born February 21, 1826. Died June 25, 1850. Age 24.”
I was shocked to see my brother died a few weeks after Marsala changed me. My poor mother must have been devastated to lose two children, only weeks apart, and my father, he would have put on a strong front for my mother, but I know he was destroyed by both of our deaths.
The markings of my tombstone were identical to my brother’s. Each stone was adorned with the symbol of the oil lamp, meaning immortality. My parents would not have chosen that for me because it would have meant nothing to them. I didn’t even know it’s meaning until after I spent years studying with Solomon.
I placed a bouquet of light pink roses, symbolic of grace, at the foot of the tombstone my mother shared with my father. “I miss you all so very much, even after all of this time. You were both such wonderful parents. I love you both and I wish I had told you more often.”
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