I gave her a call, and we met up at a café just off I-5. Tawny was easy to spot when she entered the place. Despite the fact that Tawny had been kind of a con artist when she was a mortal-a profession you'd think would lend itself well to succubus work-she was actually pretty horrible at seduction. Oh, she could still get guys to sleep with her, but it was more thanks to her availability rather than any particular wiles on her part. In particular, she was convinced that the most alluring form she could take was that of a six-foot blonde with br**sts that would have given a human a back injury. Tawny also had a penchant for spandex and metallic fabrics that I found disturbing but that delighted Hugh and the vampires to no end. I made a mental note to tell them about the chartreuse hot pants she wore today.
"Georgina!" she exclaimed, dancing over to my table on gold stilettos. "I'm so happy to see you." She held out her arms, like maybe I was supposed to stand and hug her, but I remained sitting. Taking the hint, she sat down as well. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm going to Vancouver," I said, wrapping my hands around my white chocolate mocha. "Jerome wanted me to stop by and see how things were going."
Her eyes lit up. "Great! I've been spending a lot of time over at Western." She leaned forward and spoke in a sage voice. "You know, if you're ever having trouble getting someone into bed, you should go check out college guys. They're so easy."
"Thanks for the tip," I said dryly. "I'll keep it in mind."
She pursed her lips and eyed me. "Doesn't look like you need it, though," she added wistfully. "I could never get a glow like that."
Too bad she hadn't seen the glow in full effect yesterday. It would have blown her away. "You will," I said. "Someday." Some day far, far away. Tawny had miles to go before gaining the subtleties required to land really moral guys.
"I don't know how you do it. You aren't even blond. I mean, maybe a little, but mostly you're a brunette. I just don't see guys going for that."
My hair was long and light brown, lightly highlighted with gold. My eyes were a hazel-green that I also suspected didn't fit in with her worldview of what was sexy, at least if her baby blues were any indication. "Yeah, well, some people are into kinky stuff, I guess."
The waiter showed up and took our lunch orders. I made myself comfortable and prepared to do some mentoring.
"So," I said. "You got any questions?"
Tawny titled her head, long-lashed blue eyes filled with thought. "Yeah. There's something I've been wondering about."
"Okay, go for it."
"These colleges guys...they're kind of, like, fast."
"Yeah. You get them into bed, and it's over before it begins."
"They're eighteen or twenty. Still pulsing with adolescent hormones. They don't really know what they're doing yet."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," she said. "Except, when you're going down on them, it takes forever . You know what I mean?"
I forced a straight face. "It's one of the mysteries of the universe, Tawny. You just gotta roll with it."
"But my mouth gets sore," she whined. "Makes my jaw ache the next day! Isn't there any way to speed it up?"
My immortal friends would die if they could hear this conversation. "You can try the 'don't stop' trick. Or maybe tell them you want them to come on your face. That'll get things moving."
"Ew! That's disgusting."
I shrugged. "Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer."
"But how can I even say anything when my mouth is, well, you know..."
Thus went the rest of our lunch conversation, and blow jobs turned out to be the mildest of topics. Fortunately, no one sat within listening distance. I ate my chicken salad as fast as I could, eager to be on my way. As we were paying the bill, a thought came to me.
"Hey, Tawny. You're practically on top of Cedric's turf here. You ever see any signs of him and Jerome fighting?"
She shook her head. "No. I've never even met Cedric. But there's a vampire here in town who's mentioned them fighting before. He seems to think it's a big deal."
"Everyone seems to, and yet...I don't know. I have a weird feeling about all this. Like that someone's trying to cover up something."
Tawny placed some cash on the table, her clawlike nails lacquered and red. For half a moment, she looked remarkably wise. "Back when I was doing cons, the best way to pull one past people was to make a big deal about something else. Misdirection."
It was quite possibly the most intelligent thing I'd ever heard Tawny say. "Yeah, but if so, what are we being misdirected from?"
"Hell if I know. That's for smart people like you to figure out. I'm just trying to get college guys to speed up their blow jobs."
My first minute in Canada, I got pulled over.
Right after you go through customs, there's a short stretch of the freeway with an incredibly low speed limit. Every time I drive through there, I try to drive that speed. And I'm the only one who ever does it. All the locals zip through that area, already driving the speed that the freeway clicks up to about half a mile (or kilometer or whatever) later. Every time, just before I officially hit the higher speed zone, I finally crack and speed up too-and that's always when the cops get me. I've been pulled over three times.
This was my fourth.
I handed over my license and other pertinent paperwork to the cop. "American, eh?" he asked, like it wasn't perfectly obvious.
"Yes, sir," I said.
"You know you were speeding, don't you?" He mostly sounded curious, not harsh.
"Was I?" I asked blankly, looking at him with doe eyes. I saw the succubus glamour seize him. "But the sign said sixty-five."
"Sixty-five kilometers per hour," he corrected gently. "We use the metric system here."
I blinked. "Ohhhh. God, I forgot. I feel so stupid."
"It happens a lot," he said. He handed my stuff back without even running it. "I'll tell you what. I'll let you go this time. Just make sure you get the units right, eh? Your speedometer's got kilometers per hour underneath the miles per hour."
"Oh, that's what the little numbers are for, huh-er, eh?" I gave him a dazzling smile. "Thank you so much."
So help me, he tipped his hat. "Happy to help. Be careful now, and enjoy your stay."
I thanked him again and headed off. It's worth noting here that while I've been pulled over four times in this stretch, I've also gotten off four times.
Canadians. So nice.
I made it into downtown Vancouver without further incident and checked into my hotel. It was a boutique one over on Robson Street, and I decided maybe Jerome didn't hate me after all. Or at least, Hell's travel agency didn't hate me. Robson was a fun neighborhood, full of restaurants and shopping. I threw my stuff into my room and then headed off to meet Cedric. He would have sensed me crossing into his territory, but I wanted it officially noted for the record that I was here so that I didn't get in further trouble with Jerome.
Unlike Jerome, who was impossible to find sometimes, Cedric actually had a suite of offices over in the Financial District. I kind of liked that. The front desk was staffed by an imp named Kristin. She seemed pleasant enough, just incredibly busy. She told me I'd lucked out and that Cedric could fit me in right now. Walking into his office, I found him at his desk, reading something on Wikipedia. He glanced up.
"Oh. Jerome's succubus." He turned from the monitor and gestured to a chair opposite his desk. "Have a seat."
I sat down and immediately began assessing the office. Nothing about it screamed evil. It was neat and sleek, with an expansive window full of office buildings beyond him. Silver perpetual motion balls sat on his desk, and one of those framed motivational posters hung on the wall. It had a picture of a struggling pine sapling in front of a larger tree and read, DETERMINATION .
Cedric himself didn't look too evil either. He had an average build and pretty blue-gray eyes. He kept his hair shaved army-style, and like Kristin, the biggest vibe I got off him was busy. Inasmuch as one could be busy surfing Wikipedia, that is. I glanced at the screen, curious as to what he'd been looking at. Demonic takeovers, perhaps?
"Oh, that," he said, following my gaze. "Just a hobby of mine. It's the entry on marsupials. I just like going in sometimes and putting in incorrect information. It's always fun to see how long it takes them to notice. They're better about it than they used to be, but that just makes it more of a challenge. I just wrote about how marsupials are an integral part of the Lutheran Eucharist." He chuckled at his own ingenuity. "God, I hated the Reformation."