She'd intended to relax, shop, indulge in a day at a spa or salon. She'd intended to do as little thinking as possible for three days and three nights. To focus on her own emotional and physical well-being. She had not intended to take the time and effort to gain admittance into the federal facility where Evan Remington was being held.
But since she had done so, she could rationalize the decision. Time was growing short. If fate was leading her to Remington, she would follow the path. She was in no real danger, and there was the possibility, however slight, that something good could come out of the visit. She didn't question the fact that she was able to set up a meeting with him with relatively little trouble. There were powers at work that scoffed at the tangled red tape of bureaucracy. And she was part of them.
She faced him across a wide counter split down the center by a barricade of thick, reinforced glass. Mia picked up the phone that would link them, as he did.
"Mr. Remington. Do you remember me?"
"Whore," he hissed.
"Yes, I see you do. And that the months you've spent in here haven't improved your disposition. "
"I'll be out soon. "
"Is that what he tells you?" She leaned a little closer. "He lies. "
A muscle began to twitch in his cheek. "I'll be out soon," he repeated. "And you'll be dead. "
"We've beaten him twice. And only a few nights ago he ran from me with his tail between his legs. Has he told you that?"
"I know what's going to happen. I've seen it. I know you'll all die screaming. Can you see it?"
For a moment she could, reflected on the glass between them. The dark, boiling storm, the rips of lightning, the swirl of roaring wind as the sea opened like a hungry mouth and swallowed the island whole.
"He shows you his desire, but not reality. "
"I'll have Helen. " His voice went dreamy, like a child repeating a rhyme. "She'll crawl back to me. She'll pay for her deception, her betrayal. "
"Nell's beyond you. Look at me. At me," she demanded. She wouldn't allow even his thoughts to touch Nell now. "There's only me to deal with. He's using you, Evan. As he would a puppet, or a vicious little dog. He uses your illness, your anger. He'll destroy you with it. I can help you. "
"He'll fuck you before he kills you. Want a preview?"
It happened fast. Pain ripped through her breasts as if claws had dug into her flesh. A spear of ice jabbed with one hard thrust between her legs. She didn't cry out, though a scream of rage and horror spewed into her throat. Instead she drew her power down like armor. Punched it out like a fist. Remington's head snapped back, and his eyes went wide with shock.
"He uses," she said calmly. "You pay. Did you think threats and ploys would make me tremble? I am of the Three. What works in me is beyond your scope. I can help you. I can save you from the horror he will bring you. If you'll trust me and help yourself, I can close you off from him. I can shield you so that he can't use or harm you. "
"To save myself and what I love, I would save you. "
He inched closer to the glass. She could hear his raspy breathing over the receiver. For a moment true pity stirred in her.
"Mia Devlin. " He licked his lips, then they spread into a wide, mad smile. "You'll burn! Burn the witch!"
He cackled even as the guard rushed over to restrain him. "I'll watch while you die screaming. "
Though Remington dropped the phone when the guard dragged him away, she heard his wild laughter long after the door slammed and locked behind him.
The laughter, she thought, of the damned.
Sam had a meeting with his accountant. Revenue was up, but so were expenses and overhead. The Magick Inn was operating in the red for the first time in thirty years, but as Sam saw it that would change. He'd booked two conventions for the fall, and with the winter holiday package he was putting together, he expected to recoup some of the loss over that historically slow reservation period. Until that time he could, and would, continue to plow his own money into the hotel. If the hotel, and the island, went down in a matter of weeks, it wouldn't be because of lack of faith on his part.
Where the hell was she? Couldn't she have waited to go off on some shopping spree until after their lives, their fates, their futures were more secure?
How many pairs of shoes did the woman need, for God's sake?
It was just an excuse to get away from him, he thought. He'd told her he loved her, and she'd run like a rabbit. Things got a little bit sticky, and instead of staying put and dealing with it, she'd bolted to the mainland and . . .
He stopped, scowled down at his own half-finished signature on the correspondence in front of him.
"Moron," he muttered.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Nothing. " He shook his head at his assistant and completed his signature. "Check on the winter brochures, Mrs. Farley," he told her as he signed the next letter. "I want to be certain that the corrections are made before the end of the month. I want to meet with the head of sales tomorrow. Find me the time. "
She flipped through his calendar. "You're free at eleven, and at two. "
"And send a memo to Housekeeping re . . . How long have you been married?"
"You want to know how long the housekeeping staff has been married?"
"No, Mrs. Farley. How long have you been married?"
"Thirty-nine years last February. "
"Thirty-nine years. How do you do it?"
Mrs. Farley laid her pad down, took off her glasses. "I could say it's a bit like alcoholism. One day at a time. "
"I never thought of it like that. Marriage as an addiction. "
"Certainly as a condition. It's also a job that requires attention and work, cooperation and creativity. "
"That doesn't sound particularly romantic. "
"There's nothing more romantic than going through life, with all of its spins, with someone you love. Someone who loves and understands you. Someone who'll be there for the big bouquets. Children, grandchildren, a new house, a well-earned promotion. And for the weeds. Illness, a burned dinner, a bad day at work. "
"There are people who get used to taking care of the bouquets and the weeds alone. "
"I admire independence. The world would be a stronger place if we were all capable of handling life on our own. But being capable of it doesn't mean being unable to share and depend on someone else. It shouldn't mean being unwilling to. That's the romance. "
"I never saw my parents share much more than an affection for Italian designers and a box at the opera. "
"That's a shame for them, isn't it? Some people don't know how to give love, or how to ask for it. "
"Sometimes the answer's no. "
"And sometimes it isn't. " The faint edge of irritation worked into her voice. "Some people expect things to fall into their lap. Oh, they might work a bit for it. I'll just shake this tree, and if I shake it long enough that pretty red apple will plop right into my hand. Never occurs to them that they might have to climb the damn tree, fall out a couple of times, get some scrapes and bruises before they get to that apple. Because if the apple's worth wanting, it's worth risking a broken neck. "
On a huff, she got to her feet. "I need to type up this memo. "
He was so surprised when she strode out of his office and shut the door smartly, he didn't call her back to tell her he'd never dictated the memo.
"Look what happens when I have a conversation about marriage," he thought aloud. "My assistant bites my head off. And I know how to climb a damn tree. I've climbed plenty of trees. "
And right now, he felt as if he were hanging by his fingertips from a very unstable branch. And the prettiest apple was still just out of his reach.
He picked up a file, intending to bury his frustrations in work. And a light went on inside him. Mia was back on the Sisters.
She'd called Lulu from the
ferry and had gotten an update on bookstore business, and on island news. As she'd asked Lulu to come up to the house that evening to fill in the gaps, there was no need to drop by work. Tomorrow was soon enough to face the pile of phone messages and the backlog generated over her three-day absence.
She'd called Ripley as well, and Nell. Since she thought the best way to pass on the details of her meeting with Remington was during a civilized meal at her own house the following evening, she needed to drop by Island Market for some supplies.
She'd yet to call Sam.
She would call him. She wheeled her cart over to the produce section and stared at the arugula. As soon as she figured out how to handle him, and what had been said between them, she'd call him. Life ran more smoothly with a clear-cut, but flexible, plan.