"I don't know. You showed up at my home. I apparently didn't do that much eluding." When he only waited expectantly, my smile faded. I sighed, studying him and trying to figure out his motivations. "Roman, you seem like a nice guy and everything - "

He groaned. "No. Don't start that with me. It's never a good sign when a woman says 'you're a nice guy' It means she's getting ready to let you down easy."

I shook my head. "I'm just not interested in getting serious with anyone right now, that's all."

"Whoa, 'get serious'? Slow down there, sister. I'm not asking you to marry me or anything. I just want to go out with you sometime, maybe catch a movie, have dinner and drinks, that's it. Kiss at the end of the night if I'm lucky. Hell, if that still freaks you out, we'll just shake hands."

I leaned my head back against the wall, and we stayed like that a moment, each of us sizing up the other. I knew it was perfectly possible for men and women to go out on dates without automatic sex, but my dates generally didn't work that way. My instincts drove me to seek sex out, and looking at him, I realized that urge might be strong independent of any sort of succubus need to feed. I liked the way he looked, the way he dressed, and the way he smelled. I especially liked his goofy attempt at courtship. Unfortunately, I couldn't turn off the destructive succubus absorption, even if I wanted to. It would happen of its own volition, probably strongly with him. Even the kiss he joked about would still steal some of his life away.

"I don't know anything about you," I said finally, realizing I'd been quiet too long.

He smiled lazily. "What do you want to know?"

"Well... I don't know. What do you like to do? Do you even have a job? You must have lax hours to be able to hang around me all the time."

"All the time, huh? You're being presumptuous again, but yes, I do work. I teach a couple of community college linguistics classes. Short of when I'm there, I get to make my own hours with grading and stuff."

"Okay. What's your last name?"


"No way."


"That hardly goes with Duke Roman." I tried to think of another appropriate screening item. "How long have you lived in Seattle?"

"A few years."


"I've got some." He paused and cocked his head toward me when no more questions came. "Anything else you want to know? Should I dig out my college transcripts perhaps? A full curriculum vitae and background check?"

I waved a hand of dismissal. "I have no use for inconsequential information like that. I only need to know the really important stuff."


"Like... what's your favorite song?"

The question obviously caught him by surprise, but he recovered immediately, just as he had last night. I loved that. "The last half of the Beatles' Abbey Road.'

"The last half of Abbey Road?"

"Yeah, there are a bunch of songs, but they sort of blend into one song - "

I cut him off with a quick gesture. "Yeah, yeah, I know the album."


"So, that's a pretty good answer." I tugged at my ponytail, wondering how best to navigate this. He nearly had me. "I -  no. I'm sorry. I can't. It's just too complicated. Even the one date. It'll turn into a second date, then another, then - "

"You really do jump ahead. What if I gave the super-secret Boy Scout promise to never bother you again after one date?"

"You'd agree to that?" I asked skeptically.

"Sure, if that's what you want. But I don't think you will once you've spent an evening with me."

A suggestive tone in his voice did something to my stomach I hadn't felt in a very long time. Before I could fully process this, my cell phone rang.

"Sorry," I apologized, digging it out of my purse. Glancing at the Caller ID display, I recognized Cody's number. "Yeah?"

"Hey, Georgina. Something weird happened tonight..."

Lord. That could mean anything from another death to Peter shaving his head. "Hang on a second."

I stood up and looked at Roman, juggling the vase of flowers as I did. He rose with me, looking concerned. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I mean, no. I mean, I don't know. Look Roman, I need to go upstairs and take this call. I appreciate the flowers, but I just can't get involved right now. I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me. Honestly."

He took a few steps toward me as I started to walk away. "Wait." He dug in his pockets, pulled out a pen and piece of paper. Hastily he scrawled something and handed it to me. I looked down and saw a phone number.

"For when you change your mind."

"I won't."

He simply smiled, inclined his head slightly, and left the lobby. I watched him only a moment before heading upstairs, anxious to hear Cody's news. Once inside, I set the flowers on my counter and put the phone back to my ear.

"Still there?"

"Yeah. Who's Roman and why'd you use the old 'it's not you, it's me' line on him?"

"Never mind. What's going on? Is someone else dead?"

"No... no. It's just, something happened, and Peter doesn't think it's a big deal. Hugh said you thought there might be more going on than we think."

"Tell me what happened."

"I think we were followed last night."

Cody related how, not long after leaving my place, he'd kept hearing footsteps following him and Peter on the street. Whenever he'd turned around, no one was there. Peter had written the matter off, as they had sensed no other being present.

"Maybe you don't know what a vampire hunter feels like."

"I'd still have felt something. And Peter certainly would have. Maybe he's right, and I was imagining things. Or maybe it was just a regular mortal, wanting to mug us or something."

I doubted that. We couldn't sense mortals the same way we could sense immortals, but one would be hard-pressed to sneak up on a vampire.

"Thanks for telling me. You did the right thing."

"What should I do now?"

A strange, anxious feeling played through me as I thought about some freak stalking Peter and Cody. Dysfunctional they might have been, but I loved them. They were the closest I had to family anymore. I couldn't let anything happen to them.

"What Jerome said. Be careful. Stay with others. Let me know immediately if anything happens."

"What about you?"

I thought of Erik. "I'm going to clear things up, once and for all."


Paige was all smiles when I went in for the early shift the next day.

"Nice work with Seth Mortensen," she told me, glancing up from the neatly stacked paperwork on her desk. The desk Doug and I shared in the store's back offices tended to look like an apocalyptic war zone.

"How so?"

"In convincing him to write here."

I blinked. With our assorted U District and Krystal Starz adventures, I'd never said a word about him becoming our resident writer. "Oh?"

"I saw him upstairs in the cafe just now. He said he had a great time yesterday."

I left her office, baffled, wondering if I'd missed something from yesterday. It hadn't seemed like that stellar of an outing, but I supposed he felt pleased and grateful over the discounted books. Had anything else notable happened?

Unbidden, the memory of touching Seth's hand suddenly rushed back to me, the odd shockwave of familiarity it had sent through me. No, I decided, that had been nothing. I had imagined the moment.

I went up to the cafe for a mocha, still puzzled. Sure enough, Seth sat in a corner, laptop spread out on the table in front of him. He looked much the same as yesterday, save that his shirt today sported Beeker from the Muppets. His fingers moved furiously along the keys, his eyes locked on the screen.

"Hey," I told him.


He offered no more. He didn't even look up.

"Are you working?"


I waited for elaboration, but it never came. So I kept going.

"So, um, Paige told me you're moving here."

He didn't answer. I didn't even know if he'd heard me. Suddenly, he looked up, his eyes sharpening. "Ever been to Texas?"

That took me by surprise. "Sure. Which part?"

"Austin. I need to know what the weather's like there."

"When? This time of year?"

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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