And what people we had. E. J. Putnam and Lorelei Biljan had each drawn in their respective science fiction and literary fiction crowds. That was big enough, but my advertising had drawn in even more. We were packed. We needed every inch of space rearranging the furniture had allowed. I couldn't remember ever having this many people in the store.

Putnam and Biljan had been a little shaken - and initially unhappy - to find themselves in the midst of the Emerald Lit Fest rather than an ordinary signing. I passed off the confusion as a miscommunication with their people and thanked them for helping the charity. I also reminded them this was a good opportunity to show off for people who normally read other genres, and it wasn't even like either writer was slighted...too much. Each of them got to read a ten-minute excerpt and then field fifteen minutes of questions. It was a bit expedited for a signing, yes, but it worked and gave us time to then have a Q&A session with our full panel of authors, consisting of the two headliners plus Seth, Maddie, and Abel. Prize-drawings occurred throughout it all, and I emceed everything myself, not even knowing what I said half the time.

"I can't believe you gave Seth second-billing to Putnam and Biljan," Andy remarked softly to me during the panel. Only those two authors had been given exclusive spotlight. "He's bigger than both of them put together."

"He's also extremely good-natured," I murmured back. Now that I had a momentary breather, I couldn't stop drinking Seth in. I felt like I hadn't seen his whimsical smile and brown eyes in ages. In fact, I hadn't ever seen that particular Captain and Tennille shirt he wore. I wanted to run up to him but held back. Maddie had been the one to ask him to participate, on my behalf. It was one of the things I'd asked her to do this morning.

When all the speaking was done, I had the staff more or less move everything back. We left the café cleared out and set up a table for each of the authors to do signings. Even Maddie, who was fairly obscure, had some takers. Womanspeak had sort of a cult reputation, and I think she'd gained a few fans during the panel.

Passing by Seth as he spoke to a fan, I caught his eye and paused. A moment of awkwardness hung between us that even my ambrosia-induced mania could not overcome. We had too much unresolved business between us yet.

"Thank you," I said simply. "Thank you for doing this."

"Well," he said after a moment. "You know me. I haven't missed an Emerald Lit Fest yet. I'm not about to start now."

The store was nowhere near emptying when closing came, so we let them stay, especially since we were doing a hell of a business. It was around then that Warren showed up.

He stood next to me and joined me in a survey of the crowd around us. "Why," he said after a moment, "do I feel like a parent who has just returned home and found his teens throwing a party?"

"Paige double-booked Biljan and Putnam. This seemed like the logical solution."

"And when did you discover the double-booking?"

"This morning."

"This morning," he repeated. "So, instead of, say, moving furniture on the first floor and simply having two concurrent signings, you decided - with less than a day's notice - to have a star-studded, massively advertised soiree with more people than this store can hold?"

I blinked. Wow. That really would have been a simpler solution. "It's a 'fest,' actually. Not a soiree. And don't forget it's for charity."

Warren jerked his head toward me. "We're donating this to charity?"

"Only 10 percent," I assured him. "But there's actually a woman here from the Literacy Project who was so impressed that she wants to talk about us getting involved in a much bigger fundraiser with them. It probably won't be until next year - in the spring, of course. We wouldn't want to conflict with the next Emerald Lit Fest."

"The next one?"

"Well, yeah. It's a tradition now." I'd been riding the high from all of this pretty steadily all night. I was still so high, in fact, I probably could have arranged and implemented the second Emerald Lit Fest for tomorrow morning. Something suddenly occurred to me. "Hey, am I in trouble?"

He rubbed his eyes. "Georgina, you are..." He shook his head. "Beyond words. And not in trouble. Definitely not. We won't do this much business on Black Friday." He gave me one of his nicer smiles, reminiscent of our more intimate days. "Why don't you go home now? You need it. Your pupils are really big."

"Are you throwing me out? Are you sure I'm not in trouble?"

"You're not in trouble. But I've heard about how much overtime you've been putting in, as well as...other things. Paige is going to be here next week, and we'll sit down and talk then." He suddenly did a double take. "Is that Garrett Foster working one of our registers?"

I walked home reluctantly. It wasn't easy abandoning one's brainchild. I still felt high and giddy, like pure adrenaline ran in my veins. I couldn't just go home. I needed to do something. Plan something. Anything active. A few guys glanced at me as we passed each other, and I smiled provocatively at them, nearly making one run into a garbage can. Maybe there were other ways of being active tonight.

My cell phone rang, and I answered without thinking. It was Bastien.

"Damn it. I forgot I was supposed to be screening my calls. I'm still not speaking to you."

"Don't hang up. I have to talk to you."

"No, I told you - "

" Fleur ,I'm leaving."

I heard a strained, weary tone to his voice. He wasn't talking about going out for the night. My euphoric glow dimmed a little. "You're leaving Seattle."



"Because it isn't going to work with Dana. We both know it."

I stood in front of my building now and stared at it blankly, waiting for some ambrosia inspiration to give me the insight that would help Bastien finally woo Dana. Nothing happened, so I did the only thing I could.

"I'll be right over."

I found his door unlocked when I arrived and walked inside. "Mitch" stood in the kitchen with his back to me, hands resting on the island, entire posture slumped. I walked up to him and wrapped my arms around his waist, resting my head against his back.

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

"Me too."

"The cooking thing didn't pan out?" I almost laughed at my own pun. God, this ambrosia was great.

"No. Although, I can make a lovely creme brulee now. I have some in the refrigerator if you want to try it." He sighed. "But no, it wasn't working. And you knew that, didn't you?" He turned around so that we faced each other.

I looked away. "Yeah. But I didn't want to...I dunno. I hoped, I guess. Hoped it would work out."

We stood there in silence for a while. No matter how angry I was at him, I hated seeing him like this. Devastated. Defeated.

" Fleur, I want to apologize about that night - "

"No, it's not all your - "

"Just listen to me first," he admonished. "There's something I have to tell you. Something about Seth."

And then, just like every other time I visited, the doorbell rang. The incubus waved an annoyed hand.

"Leave it."

"It could be her."

"I don't care. I don't want to see her."

Maybe he was pessimistic, but I'd eaten the Food of the Gods. I felt like I could do anything. I knew I could do anything. My confidence and cleverness knew no bounds. I had created a new tradition at Emerald City in a matter of hours. Surely I could still find some last glimmer of hope for Bastien if I had a chance to speak to Dana face-to-face.

"There still might be a way," I told him as I walked to the door. " Go invisible if you want. I want to talk to her. "

"If it's even her," he called after me.

But it was her.

"Tabitha." She smiled. "I thought I saw you come in."

I returned her smile with my own. A dazzling one. I wasn't going to be shy and idiotic around her anymore. I should never have been that way under normal conditions, let alone now, when I was at my finest.

"I'm so glad you could stop by," I told her, warmth oozing out of every pore. I beckoned her in as though I lived there. As much as she saw me over there, I might as well have. "Please, come inside. Let me get you something to drink."

For the first time, I saw Dana off guard. I was not the Tabitha she knew, and she didn't know how to handle it.

Tags: Richelle Mead Georgina Kincaid Fantasy
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