Nightshine, p.52
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       Nightshine, p.52

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
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Page 52

 

  “Oh. ” She pursed her lips and pretended to look around. “Well, this isn’t bad, for a compact. ” She yawned. “Probably gets better gas mileage, too. ”

  “I’ll have to consult my mechanic. ” He lifted the arm between her seat and the other two beside it, and adjusted those so they reclined at the same angle. By the time he took off his jacket and sat down beside her, Charlotte was asleep.

  The flight attendant silently offered him another blanket, but Samuel shook his head. She nodded and retreated to the front of the cabin.

  Samuel could sleep whenever he wanted, but as he had discovered on the island, he no longer needed to. It seemed to be the final gift of his transformation, one that worried him until he’d discussed it privately with Matthias when he had met them on the yacht.

  “It is the same for me, Samuel. ” The former Roman soldier, who had survived two thousand years buried in an icy grave, looked out over the water. “After I came down from the mountain, I did not sleep for months. Lifting weights before you retire helps quiet the mind. ” His expression softened. “So does lovemaking. ”

  Samuel took out the card Agraciana had given him and handed it to him. “This was left for us in Mexico. The number is unregistered. Michael Cyprien is the name of a reclusive, mysterious billionaire who apparently owns enough of the U. S. to secede from the union and form his own country, and yet has never once been interviewed or even photographed. ”

  Matthias read the print. “I think this is an invitation to talk. ” He returned it. “Are you going to accept?”

  “I don’t know. ” He tucked the card away and glanced at the islanders, who had gathered in one of their circles on deck to silently commune with one another.

  “The time ahead will not be easy for them,” Matthias said. “To avoid unwanted attention, we must separate and settle them in different locations. From what Charlotte has told me, they have never before lived apart from one another. ”

  His comment made Samuel consider an alternative. “Perhaps they don’t have to. ”

  Still yawning from the ridiculously long nap she’d taken on the jet, Charlie stepped out of the terminal and surveyed the waiting limo and the uniformed chauffeur. “Looks like we’re right back where we started, Sam. ” As they walked over, she peered at the smiling face of the driver. “Hey, I know you. James, right? How’s the lung?”

  “Working perfectly, thanks to your care, ma’am. ” He touched the rim of his cap before his expression sobered and he regarded Taske. “Sir, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for what happened on the bridge that morning. If you want my resignation—”

  “Not in this lifetime, Findley, or any other. ” Taske pulled the driver into a careful bear hug before resting a hand on his shoulder. “You still look pale. Are you certain that you’re well enough to drive?”

  “I won’t be running any marathons for a while, sir,” Findley admitted ruefully, “but I can manage the drive home. ”

  Once they were on the road, Charlie felt a fresh surge of apprehension. “You never told me exactly where home is. ”

  “I own several properties here and abroad, but I spend most of my time at Tannerbridge. ” He picked up her hand and frowned. “You’re cold. ”

  She nodded. “I’m a little clammy, too. Nerves. ”

  “You’ve survived a sniper attack, an abduction, the island, and the American media,” he reminded her. “All with the courage and fortitude of a tigress. I’m sure you can manage a visit to my humble abode. ”

  “If the abode were humble, which it’s not,” she guessed. “No one names a duplex or a town house or a double-wide trailer. ”

  “My parents were sentimental. ” He rubbed her hand between his. “Don’t be afraid. If you hate it, we’ll leave and find a nice, quiet hotel. ”

  She hmphed. “Now you’re trying to distract me with sex. ”

  A groove appeared in his cheek. “Is it working?”

  “Could be. ” The foot of space between them became unbearable, and Charlie unbuckled her seat belt to shift herself over onto his lap. Once she had her arms looped around his neck and her face tucked under his chin, she sighed. “Tell me about your bed. ”

  “It’s a custom-built double king. ” He bent his head to whisper, “With silk sheets and a down feather duvet. They smell like sunshine. ”

  “Okay. ” She closed her eyes. “Forget the hotel. ”

  Findley drove for more than an hour, leaving behind the city for the back roads through the country, where the forests seemed to march on forever. Now and then she would see a private road leading off through a gate, most crowned with a curving sign proclaiming the property’s name in elegant letters: Emerald Acres, Hudson’s Folly, Feathersound.

  “Feathers don’t make any sound,” she grumbled to Samuel as Findley turned and brought the limo to a halt before a towering pair of gates fashioned out of wrought iron to resemble a bridge.

  For a moment she felt a spike of terror, until she saw the forms of the diminutive couple walking hand in hand over it.

  “My parents met on Tanner Bridge,” Samuel said, tightening his arms around her. “But I’ll have it taken down today, if you like. ”

  “No, that’s okay. Not everything that happens on a bridge is bad. ” As the gates opened and Findley drove through, she glanced back before meeting Samuel’s worried gaze. “We found each other on one, remember?”

  The drive stretched another two miles before they reached the main house on the estate. Charlie eyed the stately brick structure, which was too large to be called anything but a mansion. A slim man stood waiting by a gigantic, merrily splashing bronze fountain, its pool-size basin edged with dozens of petite red rosebushes. As soon as the car stopped he came to open the door.

  “Welcome home, sir. ” He turned to Charlie. “I’m Morehouse, Miss Marena. It’s a pleasure to meet you. ”

  His British accent made her scowl. “I bet you’re the guy who came up with those evil chocolate-cherry scones that Sam e-mailed the recipe for. ”

  “I’m afraid I am. ” Morehouse looked a little flustered. “I’m sorry if you didn’t enjoy them. ”

  “You see this?” Charlie patted her hip. “At least ten pounds of this is your fault. ” She grinned. “So, you got any more stashed away in there?”

  Morehouse suppressed a smile. “I’ll serve them with your tea this afternoon, madam. ”

  “I know you want to give me a tour and all,” Charlie murmured as they followed the house manager inside, “but I need a shower, and you to scrub my back. And my front. And anything else you feel like scrubbing. ”

  Samuel’s eyes darkened. “I would be delighted, but I do have something to show you first. ”

  She sidled up against him. “Is this a fast something?”

  “If we stay inside,” he said.

  While Morehouse took their cases up to the master suite, Samuel led Charlie through a bewildering labyrinth of magnificent rooms to a long, wide atrium. Glass skylights provided sunny light and glimpses of the sky, while a wall of French doors offered a panoramic view of the gardens beyond the main house. “Wow. ” Charlie stopped and smiled as she looked out at the maze of flowers, arbors, and trees, and the ring of picturesque cottages in the distance. “This is gorgeous. ” Her eyes shifted as a man and woman came walking out of a bower of sweet peas, their arms around each other. “Uh, your gardeners are really friendly. ”

  “They are. ” He sounded amused.

  As the couple walked into the sunlight, the woman’s neatly trimmed red hair blazed, and the man’s dark skin glowed like melting chocolate.

  “Tlemi and Colotl. ” Charlie turned to stare at him. “What are they doing here? I thought Matthias was going to take them to his farm in Tennessee. ”

  “I persuaded him to bring them here. ” He gestured toward the cottages. “As you can see, I have more than enough space, and they’ll have the time th
ey need to adjust to our culture, learn English, and decide what they want to do with their lives. ”

  “That’s really great. ” Charlie saw Pici and Ihiyo joining the other couple. “Wait. How many of them did he bring?”

  Samuel smiled. “All of them. ”

  “So you’ve basically adopted twelve grown-up kids. ” She tucked her arm through his. “It’s going to be a lot of work, and probably cost you a large fortune. ”

  “Luckily I’ve made several. ” His smile slipped. “If my wealth is still an issue, I’ll give it all away tomorrow. I have everything I need now. ”

  “You are a crazy man. ” She squeezed his hand. “But there might be others like them out there. We can’t help them if we’re living in a one-room apartment on my salary. ”

  “What about you?”

  “You mean, do I want to live in the mansion or the one-room apartment?” She pretended to think. “You know, I really need to see this bed. ”

  He bent his head and kissed her before guiding her around. “Right this way, madam. ”

  Epilogue

  Anyone hoping to get a table at the most popular French restaurant in Manhattan usually had to make reservations six months in advance. The food at D’Anges, however, was rumored to be well worth the wait. So it was odd that on the night of September 29, passersby noticed that the front of the restaurant remained dark, and every table stood empty. The only explanation had been taped to the front door: a small white sign that simply read, CLOSED 9/29 FOR PRIVATE FUNCTION.

  “They’re late. ” In the restaurant’s kitchen, Rowan Dansant-Meriden glanced at her watch. “The snapper bisque won’t be fit to eat soon. ”

  “Then we will serve it chilled. ” Jean-Marc, the owner and head chef of D’Anges, as well as one of her lovers, took off his apron before he ran a soothing hand along her tense back. “You do not have to do this. ”

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