“We left for this,” Gabe voiced what everyone was thinking. They might have had no choice, but some run-down old mansion didn’t seem like the salvation they’d been looking for.
Tye stretched his lean muscles out. “Looks like a piece of shit.”
“I can hear you,” Washington said. He had ambled up to the entrance and was prying the the front door open.
“We know,” Gabe said with a grin. “Doesn’t change the appearance of this place.”
“I’ll have you know that I have had this home since just after the turn of the nineteenth century,” Washington said, turning his nose up at them. “It has come a long way since 1805.”
Reyna’s mouth fell open. She sometimes forgot how old vampires could be. Beckham was so young for a vampire and yet he still was sixty-seven. The thought hit her like a sucker punch to the stomach. Past tense. He’d been so young. He had been sixty-seven. He was no longer.
She squeezed her eyes shut and rode out the pain until it subsided. It was easier in the moments when she didn’t have to think about the immediate consequences of him being gone. It was hard to wrap her brain around the fact that he wasn’t about to walk up the drive with his usual stoic look and burning broody passion.
“Hey,” Meghan said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You okay?”
Reyna didn’t want to think or talk about her feelings. “Let’s just get inside.”
She followed Washington into the cavernous interior of his wicked turn-of-the-nineteenth-century mansion. The foyer had vaulted ceilings that reached up to an impossible height. It was dark inside and when Washington reached for the lights, only a few flickered on, casting the entire place with an eerie glow.
“Creepy,” Reyna whispered.
“You can say that again,” Gabe said behind her.
“I thought you were bringing us to a rebel operation,” Tye said. “If you haven’t been here in fifteen years, what are we going to do here?”
“I have not been here, but I have a colleague who has been maintaining the premises since I joined Elle. It will suffice for the time being. Now, follow me,” Washington said.
Gabe and Meghan exchanged a look before pulling out their cellphones to use as flashlights. With the entrance fully illuminated, they could see the layers of dirt that said no one had stepped foot in here for years. It certainly didn’t look maintained.
Washington pulled open an enormous wooden door that led from the historic foyer into a gorgeous and stately living area. The furniture was carefully preserved beneath sheets and the windows were covered to keep the light out, presumably to save the antique artwork lining the walls. Reyna felt as if she had stepped back in time.
They toured the mansion, finding thirteen bedrooms on the second floor. The third floor was one big suite. Though the tree falling in clearly disrupted that. When Washington showed them the basement, Reyna was expecting a dark dungeon or prison or something equally medieval. But no…the basement was a fully finished medical lab with all the equipment he’d had back at the bunker. Plus, a store of firearms, communication devices, and pretty much everything else they would need to pick up where they’d left off.
“I’ve never worried much about upkeep in the main parts of the house, but the basement was completely refitted in recent years.” Washington seemed more comfortable now that he was back in a lab, downstairs, and away from the memory of his dead wife, upstairs. “All of my research has been uploaded to the servers, and the lab was created as a just-in-case option.”
“Wow,” Gabe said, admiring the impressive gun collection, “appearances are deceiving.”
“I’m glad that I pass your muster,” Washington said dryly.
Gabe tipped him a two-finger salute.
“I think that we should all pick rooms and clean up. I have superior olfactory and can tell you that everyone needs a shower,” Washington said with a small smile. “I will contact Genevieve to come by with food.”
“You trust her?” Meghan asked.
“She has been taking care of this house longer than you have been alive. She’s trustworthy.”
“All right,” Meghan agreed. “A shower sounds nice.”
Gabe, Tye, and Meghan immediately fell into a sense of normalcy, arguing among themselves over which bedroom to take. Reyna didn’t really care. They all seemed extravagant.
Washington stopped her on her way toward the stairs. “Reyna…”
“Beckham had been here before…in the past. Before I abandoned the place, he had a room here.” Reyna’s heart constricted at the words. “I thought you’d want to stay there.”
Reyna nodded, unable to form words.
“Turn left and it’s the room at the end of the hall.”
“Thank you,” she choked out.
“I am terribly sorry for your loss. Beckham was a good vampire. A great man. He…he deserved better than William Harrington,” Washington said. “As long as I was friends with William, I never knew him to get his hands dirty. He must have felt very threatened by you to do something so out of character.”