Simone went after me, and I hoped she'd get "Cuban Missile Crisis" or "Bohr's Law." The timer started, and she drew a circle with lines radiating out from it.
"Sun," said Peter immediately.
"Right!" she said.
I glared at Carter. "You. Are. Cheating."
"And you're a bad loser," he replied.
We played for another hour, but after my team got "Oncology," "The Devil and Daniel Webster," and "War of 1812," and theirs got "Heart," "Flower," and "Smile," I decided to go home. At the door, I heard a wistful sigh in my ear.
"You're on your own," I growled to Roman in an undertone.
I left amid protests about being a bad sport and considered myself lucky when Carter said they were going to play Jenga next.
The drive back to West Seattle was quiet this time of night, and after parking underneath my building, I was happy to see that today's unseasonable heat still hung in the air. Being so close to the water had cooled it slightly, bringing it to a perfect nighttime temperature. On impulse, I walked across the street to the beach, which was actually more like a park: grassy with only a few feet of sand. In Seattle, there were few places that offered much more.
Still, I loved the water and the soft sounds of waves against the shore. A light breeze stirred my hair, and those costly glittering lights shone in the distance. I'd moved here partially to get away from Queen Anne and its regular proximity to Seth, but also because the ocean always brought back memories of my mortal youth. Puget Sound was a far cry from the warm Mediterranean waters I'd grown up near, but it soothed something within me nonetheless. That comfort was bittersweet, of course, but it was an unfortunate tendency of mortals and immortals alike to gravitate toward things we knew would cause us pain.
The water was enchanting, glittering in both moonlight and street light. I stared off at a lit ferry moving toward Bain-bridge Island, then returned my gaze to the lapping waves before me. They seemed to be choreographed into a dance, an alluring pattern that urged me to join in. I might not be able to draw, but dancing was an art I'd carried from my mortal days. The water beckoned, and I could almost hear the music it danced to. It was intoxicating, filled with warmth and love that promised to ease that constant dull ache in my chest, the ache I'd carried since losing Seth....
It wasn't until I was calf-deep in water that I realized what I had done. My high heels were sinking into the sand, and warm day or no, the water was still at a low temperature, its icy touch seeping into my skin. The world, which had before seemed dreamy and hazy, now snapped into sharp relief, no longer an inviting dance that promised comfort and pleasure.
Fear sent my heart racing, and I hastily backed up, something that wasn't easy as the sand wrapped around my heels. I finally stepped out of them and reached down, pulling them up from the water and walking back to the shore barefoot. I stared out at the sound a few moments more, startled at how much it now scared me. How far would I have walked in? I didn't know and didn't want to think about it too hard.
I turned and hastily headed toward my condo, oblivious to the rough asphalt against my feet. It wasn't until I was safely back in my living room - having locked the door behind me - that I felt some measure of safety. Aubrey walked up to me, sniffing my ankles and then licking the salty water that still clung to them.
I'd had one drink almost two hours ago, a drink that had long metabolized out of my system. This had been no buzzed delusion - neither had last night's sleepwalking or near-balcony jump. I sat on my couch, arms wrapped around me. Everything around me seemed a threat.
"Roman?" I asked aloud. "Are you here?"
My only answer was silence. He was still out with Simone and probably wouldn't be back the rest of the night. I was astonished at how suddenly and desperately I wished he were here. My condo seemed lonely and ominous.
Water had splashed against my dress, and I changed out of it, swapping it for the soft comfort of pajamas. I decided then that I wouldn't sleep. I'd wait in the living room for Roman. I needed to tell him what had happened. I needed him to guard my sleep.
Yet, somewhere around four, my own fatigue overcame me. I stretched out along the couch, both cats curled against me, and gradually lost track of the infomercial on TV. When I woke, it was late morning, and sunlight warmed my skin. Roman was still gone. I hadn't been able to wait him out, but I was still on the couch. For now, that was the best I could hope for.
I spent the whole morning waiting restlessly for Roman. Surely he had to come home at some point to sleep, right? Of course, being part greater immortal, he'd have a lot of the traits of his angelic parentage - and angels and demons never needed to sleep. Roman could likely get by on very little rest and simply chose to sleep in as often as he did for the fun of it.
I left a message on Jerome's cell phone, which was useless more often than not. I also kind of wished I hadn't parted from Carter so soon. Caught up in the Pictionary absurdity, I'd totally forgotten about my siren song encounters. Indeed, I'd nearly written them off until last night's repeat. But if Jerome was hard to get a hold of, Carter was impossible. He kept no cell phone and seemed to take personal pride in showing up at unexpected moments.
Left with no other options, I called my friend Erik. He was a human who ran a store specializing in esoteric and pagan goods. He was often my backup for bizarre supernatural situations, sometimes knowing more than my friends did. As I dialed his store's number, I couldn't help but marvel at the circles my life seemed to run on. I was repeating the same pattern over and over. Something weird would happen, I'd fruitlessly attempt to contact my superiors, and end up seeking Erik for help.
"Why the f**k does this keep happening to me?" I muttered as the phone rang. Cody never got stalked by paranormal forces. Neither did any of the others. It was like I was specifically being targeted. Or cursed. Or simply imbued with bad luck. Yes, my life was a never-ending spiral, doomed to repeat the same patterns of annoying immortal threats - and miserable romantic situations.
"Erik? This is Georgina."
"Miss Kincaid," he said in his usual genteel voice. "A pleasure to hear from you."
"I need your help with something. Again. Are you around? I wanted to swing by before work."
There was a pause, and then I heard regret in his voice. "Unfortunately, I have to run errands and close the store today. I'll be back this evening. When do you finish work?"
"I'll probably be free at ten." Another evening shift.
"I can meet you then."
I felt bad. His store usually closed around five. "No, no...that's too late. We could try tomorrow...."
"Miss Kincaid," he said gently, "I'm always happy to see you. It's no difficulty at all."
I still felt guilty when we disconnected. Erik was getting old. Shouldn't he be in bed by ten? Nine? There was nothing to be done for it now, though. He said he'd do it, and I'd seen him when he was obstinate. I had nothing to do but wait now and hope Roman would surface before I had to work. When he didn't, I simply left him a note saying I needed to talk to him immediately. It was the best I could do.
At work, no one was out or - best of all - hungover. I was caught up on my paperwork, which gave me a lot of free time. Whether that was good or bad, I couldn't say. It kept me from messing up my job but merely left me in a cycle of rumination.
It was nearly closing time when I noticed Seth at his usual station in the café. Maddie had worked the day shift, which meant I didn't have to face their cute couple antics. He caught my eye as I walked through, and against my better judgment, I sat down across from him.
"How goes it?" I asked. My usual romantic fixation with him was put on pause when I saw that he looked agitated.
He tapped the screen in annoyance. "Bad. I've been staring at this screen for two hours and haven't gotten anything done." He paused. "No, that's not quite true. I ordered a Wonder Twins T-shirt and watched some videos on YouTube."
I smiled and propped my chin up in my hand. "Doesn't sound like a bad day's work."
"It is when it's been going on all week. My muse is an ungrateful harlot who's abandoned me to actually come up with my own plots."
"That's a record for you," I observed. I'd seen him have fits of writer's block when we dated, but it never lasted more than a few days. "When's your deadline?"