Viehl lynn darkyn julian.., p.2

Viehl, Lynn-Darkyn (Juliana SS) 01-03 - Worthy, Willing, Wanted, page 2

 

Viehl, Lynn-Darkyn (Juliana SS) 01-03 - Worthy, Willing, Wanted
 


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  The memory ended there.

  “Juliana?” A bigger, stronger hand closed over mine, and I smelled something like incense. “Tell me what you remember.”

  Without hesitation, I told him everything. I described Eric, and how we’d met. I recounted every moment of the past night and everything I had seen. I told him how we’d made love, the bizarre things Eric had said and done, and even how it had made me feel, to be so helpless. I told that man things I wouldn’t have told a shrink, my best friend or the police. Yet the words came pouring out of me without hesitation.

  “Eric has lost his mind,” I warned the man in the suit. “If he finds me, I think he’ll kill me.”

  He nodded his head, which I saw was completely bald. “He will not touch you again. This I promise you.” He reached out and touched my wounded shoulder. “Who marked you, Juliana?”

  “There’s no . . . you mean my cameo?” When he nodded, I frowned. “I almost drowned once, when I was a little kid. I got caught in a rip current. This old man rescued me, but when we got to the beach he had a heart attack and died. He had a beautiful black cameo tattooed on his chest. When I grew up and went to get a tattoo with some friends, I thought I’d get one just like his. To sort of thank him for saving me. I sketched it and gave it to the artist.” I saw him exchange a look with the doctor. “What?”

  “You have a very good memory,” the man in the suit said.

  “We can’t stay here, my lord.” Gregory checked his watch. “I will take her to the hospital and admit her under another name. We can have her moved to another part of the country. The seigneur–”

  “No,” the man in the suit said. “She is innocent. I know Locke. Desperation has driven him mad.”

  “Actually I’m okay with leaving.” Waiting around here seemed about as stupid as hooking up with Eric, who could walk in any minute and start shooting all of us. I wrapped myself up in the sheet and slid off the bed. After a few queasy moments, I started for the door.

  Gregory stepped in front of me. “You can’t leave here wearing only a sheet. He could still be out there, looking for you.”

  “That’s why I’m leaving. Please give me some clothes.” When he didn’t move, I stepped around him. “Where is the telephone?”

  One of the windows exploded inward as something came hurtling through it. Gregory shoved me to the floor and covered my body with his. The man in the suit walked toward the window and looked through it, his shoulders twitching.

  Just as the doctor pushed himself off me and helped me up, Eric and Red came into the room.

  “You can’t have her yet,” Eric said to the man in the suit. His voice sounded nasal, and I saw he was wearing nose plugs. “You have to pay for her, Shamaras.”

  This man was Shamaras? Eric had sold me to him?

  “Mr. Locke,” Shamaras said, “As I have told you before, I cannot help you.”

  “There’s no more time for these games. All I want are three pints of blood. It won’t kill you, but it will save my life.” Eric waved one of his guns at me. “She’s worth it, I promise. I tested her thoroughly. She kept up her façade before the Brethren during the interrogation. She’s beautifully trained. She will protect you with her life. Now I want payment.”

  “She is not tresori, Mr. Locke,” Shamaras told him. “She knows nothing of the Brethren or us. You cannot sell her to me.”

  “She has the mark.” Eric’s face twisted with rage. “I saw it myself. She is worthy of you, Shamaras.”

  “It does not matter what she is,” Shamaras said. “My blood will not cure your cancer. It will only poison you.”

  “You’re lying. I read the old scrolls, I know the blood price,” Eric shouted. “Her life for mine. Now, give me the blood.”

  “Carpet,” Gregory murmured.

  I looked down. The edge of a big Persian carpet lay in front of us. Eric was standing on the other end. I glanced at the doctor, who gave me a slight nod. Together we dropped down, grabbed the edge of the carpet and jerked it up, sending Eric staggering back into Red.

  Shamaras shoved past the doctor and me as he crossed the room, faster than I’d ever seen anyone move, and knocked the guns out of Eric’s hands. I screamed as Red stabbed him in the chest with a knife. Metal snapped, and I saw Red pull back and stare at the broken blade. Shamaras picked him up by the front of his shirt and tossed him across the room. Red bounced off a wall, fell to the floor and stayed there.

  “You can’t cheat me,” Eric said, pulling out another knife, one made of dark metal. He whipped it at Shamaras, slashing his face. “If you won’t give me the blood, I’ll take it.”

  Shamaras’s mouth opened, and two long, sharp white fangs flashed. The cut across his cheek and nose closed like a Ziploc bag and vanished. “You may try.”

  I picked up one of the guns and aimed it at him, then at Shamaras. “I’ve had enough,” I told them both. “Doctor, get me a telephone. I’m calling the police.”

  “It’s all right, Juliana,” Gregory said, his voice soothing. “I can take of this and no one will get hurt. Just give me the gun.”

  “Don’t listen to him,” Eric said. “He’ll shoot me. The bullets in my gun are copper. It’s the only thing that kills vampires. All you have to do is shoot Shamaras in the head or the heart.”

  Eric had nearly killed me. Gregory worked for Shamaras, the vampire. Who did I trust?

  No one.

  "Back up, Shamaras,” I said. “Eric, put down the knife.”

  Locke’s black eyes shifted toward me, and he smiled. “Don’t worry, baby. I enjoyed fucking you. After I go through the change, you can serve me instead of him.” He turned and lifted the knife, and Shamaras lunged at him.

  I pulled the trigger.

  #

  The next morning I woke up in my bed, and thought for a few seconds that it had all been a terrible nightmare, until I saw the bandages and fading bruises. The morning paper carried the story of the unidentified man who had been found shot to death in a wealthy West Palm Beach neighborhood. Police were asking for help in identifying the body.

  After I read the article, I spent the rest of the day throwing up.

  I stayed inside the cottage until I didn’t look like the poster girl for battered women. No one came to question me, and the paper abruptly stopped carrying articles about the unidentified shooting victim. The first thing I did when I went out was to go to a gun shop. I intended to buy a handgun for my own protection, but the sight of them made me remembering the shooting. Sick with shame, I went to the hardware store, bought extra locks for the doors and windows and barricaded myself in the cottage. I thought about going to the police or seeing a shrink. But who would believe my story? And how could I explain the fact that I had shot a man to death?

  I went back to work, selling my paintings to the local gift shops, and gradually the worst of the fear faded. The guilt remained, though, and knotted inside me. No matter how hard I tried to justify what I had done, I had killed a man. I couldn’t sleep, and I started walking on the beach at night, trying to make sense out of what I remembered.

  That was where he found me. He came out of nowhere, appearing at my side and walking with me. As if nothing had happened.

  I didn’t see much point in running away, or talking to him. So we walked.

  After a few minutes, he asked, “Are you well, Juliana?”

  What a stupid question. “No.”

  “It was not your fault,” he said. “You should not blame yourself.”

  I stopped and looked up at him. “What do you want from me?”

  “I have taken enough.” He studied my face. “Why didn’t you kill me?”

  I started heading back for the cottage, but then I stopped and turned around to face him. “The old man who pulled me out of the ocean said one thing to me before he died. Your name. He smiled when he said it.”

  “He was my friend.”

  I wrapped my arms around my waist. “He’s the reason that I didn’t shoot you.
Let him figure that out, because I certainly couldn’t.

  “I see.” He stared at me, his face shadowed. “This is not finished between us, Juliana.”

  I had the same feeling. “It is for tonight.” I walked away. Just before I went inside the cottage, I looked back.

  Shamaras still stood there, watching me.

  Darkyn (Juliana Short Stories) 02

  Willing

  Lynn Viehl

  Copyright 2007 by Lynn Viehl

  For L., who wasn’t willing to let it go.

  “I respect your artistic integrity, Juliana, but if you want to show in my gallery, I’ll need more than a peek at your portfolio.” Jason Higginsbotham scooted back from his desk and unzipped his fly. “You don’t have a tongue piercing, do you? Renoir doesn’t care for the feel of metal studs.”

  I closed my portfolio and watched him take a rather small, flaccid penis out of the front fold of his plaid boxers. “You call your penis Renoir?”

  He showed me two rows of perfectly capped teeth. “Much more dignified than Mr. Johnson, don’t you think?”

  “Sure.” I needed money, but not this bad, so I stood. “I appreciate you taking the time to see me, Jason, but I think I’ll pass.”

  His face fell. “If it’s the piercing issue, you can just take out–”

  “It’s not the piercing issue. You and Renoir have a nice day.” I picked up my portfolio and walked out of his office.

  I stood outside for a moment to rebuild my wrecked composure. Higginsbotham Galleries had a long-established rep for backing new artists, and now I knew why. I wasn’t ever again going to look at any painter who’d shown there without imagining them on their knees behind that desk.

  Jason’s secretary, a thin, thirty-something redhead who wore suits so tailored and perfect that she resembled a display mannequin, peered at me through the latest trend in ugly horn rims. “I see you met Renoir.”

  “Briefly.” I shouldered my purse strap.

  “He’s a small but vital part of the firm.” Her lips twitched. “He’s also the reason I thank the Goddess every day that She made me a lesbian.”

  I chuckled. “Put in a good word for me next time you chat, will you?”

  “I think can do a little better.” She offered me a business card. “Daedelus Fine Arts, off Golden Beach. Selma Kessler has been looking for some new local talent. She’s got a twenty-five year old boytoy who keeps her Matisse happily occupied, too.”

  I accepted the card, thanked her and left the gallery. Outside twilight drew rose, cheddar and azure-tinted cloud curtains over the sunset, and painted the horizon over the sea a dusky wild plum. My fingers wanted a brush and a canvas, but the light and the colors would be gone before I got back to my cottage on Hollywood Beach.

  I needed to paint more commercial pieces, things I could sell in the local gift shops. All I’d been producing lately were dark, twisted abstracts for which no one, not even a shrink obsessed with inkblots, would pay a dime.

  “Are you Juliana Jones?”

  I turned my head and saw a tall, gorgeous brunette woman straightening from where she’d been leaning against my car.

  “That’s me.” Cop, my trouble radar told me, and was proven right again when she produced a badge.

  “Detective Samantha Brown, Fort Lauderdale homicide.” The black lenses of her Wayfarers completely concealed her eyes, but she owned the three B’s: brunette, beautiful, and built. She must have been just finished drinking a Cuban coffee, because she smelled of dark, rich espresso. “I’d like to ask you some questions about Eric Locke.”

  Eric Locke had been my friend, my lover for one night, and my kidnapper. Right after we’d made love, he’d gone psycho, abducted me, and had me beaten to within an inch of my life.

  Not that I was going to tell her any of that.

  “You’re from Fort Lauderdale homicide?” I put on my best bewildered face. “I thought Eric was murdered in West Palm Beach.”

  “His body was dumped there,” she said. “He was actually killed in a private residence in Fort Lauderdale.”

  A passing tourist slowed down to peer at us, hoping to hear more.

  I had a couple of bucks in my wallet, and eyed the Denny’s across the street. “You feel like having a cup of horrible coffee?”

  Detective Brown nodded and followed me to the diner, where a perky teenage waitress showed us to a booth. After she ordered ice water instead of coffee, Detective Brown took off her shades and exchanged them for a PDA she carried in her jacket pocket.

  “You first met Mr. Locke at a Starbuck’s off Hollywood Beach, is that correct?” she asked, tapping the stylus on the little screen.

  No one knew how I’d met Eric but me, or so I’d assumed. She must have tracked me down from the receipts for all the grande vanilla lattes Eric had bought me. Eric and I had always met at Starbuck’s late at night, when there was hardly anyone in the shop, so the baristas would have remembered me. “Yes.”

  Detective Brown had cool hazel eyes that seemed to put every word I said through some kind of inner polygraph. “Did he ever mention having any trouble with anyone, or receiving threats against his life?”

  “No. Eric and I only talked about galleries and paintings and shows, stuff like that.” I glanced down at my portfolio. “I’m an artist.”

  She graffiti’d something on the PDA’s screen. “You knew that he was dying of cancer.”

  “No, he never mentioned it to me.” Not even when he’d tried to trade me for another man’s blood, which he had been convinced would cure his cancer and save his life. I imagined telling her that, and how long it would take her to Baker Act me afterward.

  “When was the last time you saw him?”

  “About six months ago.” Truth. “A couple of days before he died, I think.” Lie. “We met for coffee and talked like we always did.” Before the wild sex, the near-death experience, and the murder.

  She nodded. “Did he seem worried or concerned about anything?”

  “Not that I remember.” I smiled at the kid waitress as she placed a cup of coffee and a glass of water on the table. “Thanks.”

  Detective Brown waited until the woman left before she asked me, “Are you Catholic, Ms. Jones?”

  “No.” Odd question. “I’m not religious.”

  She took a sip of the ice water and sat back. “I already know who killed Eric Locke. What I don’t know is why.” She watched my face. “I was hoping that you could tell me.”

  She was smart and devious, but I wasn’t stupid and obvious.

  “I wish I could.” I tested my coffee, which tasted like liquid tar, and tried to etch the enamel off my teeth. “Water was a good choice.” I put the two dollars left in my purse on the table and slid out of the booth. “I’ve got to get home and do some work. I hope you find whoever killed Eric.”

  Detective Brown followed me out of Denny’s and walked with me to my car. She watched me put my portfolio in the trunk before she said, “Eric left his entire estate, including his family’s pharmaceutical company, to a Catholic order called les Frères de la Lumière. They’re known around certain circles as ‘the Brethren.’”

  “Very generous of him.” I closed the trunk. “Is there anything else, Detective Brown?”

  “There always is, Ms. Jones.” She held out a business card. “If you change your mind, call me.”

  I’d shot Eric Locke in the face to stop him from stabbing Shamaras, a man whose blood Eric had wanted. A man whose friends had apparently saved my life twice. A man Eric had claimed was a vampire.

  A man who had bared fangs when Eric tried to kill him.

  I took the card. “Good night.” I hoped she believed me. I hoped this would be the end of it. I hoped the sweat collecting on my scalp and the tears filling my eyes would stay put until I drove off.

  I got one out of three.

  #

  I painted that night until two a.m., roughing out the skies and oceans for four beach landscapes and ending up
finishing one. I rarely slept through the night anymore, not since I’d killed Eric. As guilty as I felt, though, I never dreamed of him. My dreams, which had usually been of the silly, naked-at-the-grocery-store variety, had gradually become darker and more complicated.

  It was weird. I never remembered the details of what I dreamed, but I woke up a mess — shaking, or sprawled on the floor, or weeping into my hands. Once I opened my eyes and heard what sounded like French. It didn’t stop until I clapped a hand over my mouth.

  Not terribly strange, unless one considered that aside from oui and merci, I didn’t know a word of French.

  My arms ached by the time I finished the last painting, which in my head I had titled Stupid Beach Sunset No. Nine Hundred Ninety-Nine, and I went to the utility room to clean up my brushes. The sharp odor of mineral spirits usually cleared my head, but another scent, the faintest trace of blue hyacinth, spoiled things.

  Invisible static called the hair on the back of my arms and neck to attention, and my heart beat thudded a charge cadence against my ear drums. I dropped my brushes in the bottom of the sink and yanked open the utility room door. I saw no one and nothing to explain the hothouse of unseen hyacinth softening the warm, salty breeze and surrounding my cottage.

  I didn’t have to see him to know he was there.

  Juliana.

  My name twanged in my ears, and shivered through my bones. All I wanted to do was go out, find him, see him and know if the paintings in my head were real or just part of my nightmares.

  And I’d be damned if I would.

  “Leave me alone.” I closed the door and flipped the three deadbolts I’d installed last month.

  I took a shower, scrubbing my hands mercilessly with pumice until I erased the traces of paint from my fingers. I washed and conditioned my hair, shaved my legs, and gave myself a rubdown with cocoa butter before I dried off and dressed in my oldest, rattiest pajamas. I wrapped my head in a towel, grabbed a bottle of nail polish and a bag of cotton balls, and flung myself on my bed. Painting my toenails would take at least thirty minutes. Then I’d do my hair, and pluck my eyebrows, and–

 
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