Now I felt a frown creeping over my face. "Yeah...it's in Queen Anne, right around the corner from Emerald City. What was she doing there? I mean, aside from getting coffee?"
Roman's expression turned darker and - unless I was mistaken - sympathetic. "She was there hitting on a guy," he said. "Seth."
I stared at him, and the world stood still for a moment. "Wait...Seth was meeting Simone there?"
Roman shook his head. "I wouldn't say that exactly. It was more like she sought him out. He looked like he'd been working there for a while when she showed up."
"And then?" My voice was very small.
"Then, she walked over to him and shyly introduced herself as a fan, saying she recognized him from his website. Picture perfect demure coquette."
"She said she wished she had a book with her to sign and asked if he'd sign a piece of paper instead. He said he would, and then she sat down, all apologetic for bothering him. She said she had a couple questions and hoped he wouldn't mind if she stayed for a few moments."
I noticed then that I was clenching my fists. With a deep breath, I released them. "Seth wouldn't strike up a conversation with a stranger like that. Not without being horribly uncomfortable."
"Yeah," Roman agreed. "He definitely had some of that social awkwardness." There was a wry note in Roman's voice that I didn't like. The two men had once been rivals for my affection, and apparently, Roman was still holding on to some bitterness - and a feeling of superiority. Roman could be quite charismatic when he wanted. "But she did a pretty good job at playing just as shy and nervous. I think it made him feel better."
"So she did sit down?"
"Yup...and stayed for about a half-hour."
"What?" I exclaimed. My volume made Godiva jerk her head up from a nap. "Did she try to seduce him?"
Roman's expression turned considering. "Not in the usual way. I mean, she wasn't as boring as usual. But she put him at ease enough that he relaxed and seemed to like talking to her. She wasn't overtly sexual, and he didn't look like he wanted to jump her. It was just...I don't know. A nice conversation. Although, it had a few of those annoying facts she likes to drop." He paused. "Oh, and she went brunette."
That bothered me more than it probably should have. "But he sent her away, right?"
"No, Maddie showed up, and he left with her - after telling Simone it was nice to meet her."
Oh, irony. Never, never would I have imagined I'd be so relieved to have Maddie show up and take Seth home. I also never thought I'd be glad his devotion to her would keep him from falling prey to another woman's charms.
I took a step toward Roman, my fists clenching again. I didn't blame him as messenger; I was simply driven by my own fury.
"What the hell?" I demanded. "What f**king game is she playing?"
He sighed. "I don't know. Maybe no game at all. She likes coffee. I've certainly seen her buy it before. She could have ended up there by coincidence and thought he looked like a good catch. God only knows why."
I ignored the barb. "Oh, come on, Roman. You're not that stupid. Do you honestly think that in a city like Seattle, out of all the men here, it's a coincidence that she shows up and starts hitting on my ex? You know as well as I do that there aren't many coincidences in our world."
"True," he admitted, setting the remnants of his dinner on the coffee table. The cats went for it.
"Will you stop doing that?" I demanded. "They're not supposed to be eating that kind of stuff."
"Don't take your bitchy attitude out on me." But he stood up and took the plate to the kitchen. When he returned, he crossed his arms over his chest and stood in front of me. "Look, you're right to a certain extent about coincidences. It is weird that she would hit on Seth. But think about this too: don't you think there are a few things around here a little more important than your ex-boyfriend? Jerome's theory makes the most sense, you know. Hell let him keep his job, but that doesn't mean they're letting the whole incident go. They're the ultimate grudge-holders. They'd want to assess the situation. That's why she's here."
"Except that she's not assessing anything! Unless you consider my friends' Pictionary skills."
"You should have seen them play Jenga."
"This isn't a joke. I need to figure out what her game is. You have to take me with you when you spy on her again."
He raised an eyebrow. "I think that's a terrible idea."
"I can go invisible."
"She'll still sense you."
"You can hide my signature. You told me before that you could. Was that a lie?"
Roman grimaced. Just before things had literally blown up between us, he'd asked me to run away with him, promising he could conceal me from the greater immortals.
"I can," he admitted. "But I just think you're asking for trouble."
"What am I risking?"
"A lot. Whether it's Seth or Jerome, there's obviously something going on. Get tangled up in that, and you could be risking your life. I won't let that happen to you."
"Since when do you care what happens to me?" I asked incredulously.
"Since you became my ticket to rent-free living."
And with that, he turned invisible, hiding his signature as well.
"Coward!" I cried. My only answer was the front door opening and then shutting. He was lost to me, and I realized I'd again missed my chance to bring up my weird encounters from these last couple days.
I tossed and turned again that night, but it had nothing to do with my fear of walking off the balcony or into Puget Sound. I was filled with rage, both at Simone for making the moves on Seth and at Roman for abandoning me. When I woke up in the morning, I took comfort in knowing I didn't need Roman to confront Simone. I could do that on my own.
Of course, there were a few complications there, the first being I didn't know where Simone was. Her hotel was probably the logical place to start, though most succubi - even a bland one like her - wouldn't spend a lot of time hanging out there. Well, unless she had company - and I didn't really want to walk into anything like that. And anyway, I had one tiny commitment to attend to before I could go bitch-hunting.
I'd regretted my decision to go shopping with her the moment the words had left my mouth. Yet, somehow, I'd totally blocked out those feelings yesterday when I'd been sitting with Seth. A brief thought about the wedding had flitted through my mind...and then it had been gone. I'd spent the rest of the time laughing and talking with him as though there was no Maddie in the world. But as I headed over to the bookstore, where she and I had agreed to meet, I had to accept reality once more. Seth was no longer mine.
He also wasn't Simone's. But I'd deal with that later.
Maddie was waiting for me downstairs, but I used the excuse of needing coffee before we left, in order to dash up to the café. I wanted to see if Simone was lurking. No matter her shape, I'd know if she was there. Yet, as I casually waited in line for my white chocolate mocha, I sensed nothing immortal. Seth was there, engrossed in his work, and never even saw me. Apparently, his muse was still going strong.
I let him be and joined Maddie downstairs again. She had a list of eight store names and addresses. Most were dress shops, and I was skeptical that we could make them all before we were due into work. She was more optimistic, but then, that was typical of her.
"No point in worrying right now," she said. "We'll just do them one at a time and see where that gets us. Besides, the last few are bakeries, and we wouldn't want to eat a bunch of cake before trying on dresses."
"Speak for yourself," I said, sliding into her passenger seat. "I'm not trying anything on."
She gave me a wry smile. "Aren't you? You're my bridesmaid, remember? We talked about it at the party."
"No," I said swiftly. "I said and did all sorts of crazy stuff that night, but I never agreed to it. That I do remember."
Maddie's expression was still light, but I thought I heard a little hurt in her voice when she spoke next. "What's the big deal? Why don't you want to be one? You know I'd never dress you in anything horrible."
Why? I pondered the answer as she pulled into traffic. Because I'm in love with your future husband. I could hardly tell her that, of course. As it was, I could see my continuing silence was making her feel worse. She was reading it as a slight to our friendship.