Twilight fulfilled, p.10
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       Twilight Fulfilled, p.10

         Part #18 of Wings in the Night series by Maggie Shayne
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Chapter 10


  Brigit waited for him to return. The bedroom was dark except for the soft yellow glow of a night-light, its candle-size bulb glowing from a miniature lamp beside the bed.

  It had been the better part of an hour. And she was worried. He was far too trusting of Nash Gravenham-Bail and his DPI cohorts. He had no idea what those bastards were capable of.

  She did. She'd seen it firsthand. Her own mother-

  No, she wouldn't think about that now. Not now. And why was she spending her time worrying about the well-being of her enemy, anyway? The man she'd been sent here to kill.

  And yet, when he still hadn't returned ten minutes later, she worried all the more. Getting up from the mound of downy soft pillows, a bed so luxurious she'd decided she was going to create one for herself one day soon, she paced to the window and, parting the curtains, looked out.

  But this bedroom didn't overlook the gardens behind the mansion, and she saw nothing but the waning moon and star-dotted sky.

  And then, quite suddenly, the amber glow of the night-light flickered, dimmed to almost nothing, and then surged brighter than before. Then it went out with a soft popping sound, leaving the room dark.

  Frowning, no longer content to wait there, Brigit spun to the door and was about to yank it open, not even thinking about the fact that it was locked, when her superhuman hearing picked up the radio crackling on the guard's belt. She paused and listened.

  "Zone Three here. The First is down hard. "

  "Shit," the guard muttered. "Zone One. On my way. What happened?"

  "About twenty thousand volts happened," came the reply. "He grabbed the garden gate. " And then she heard him jogging at a good clip down the corridor.

  Brigit didn't hesitate. She pulled the door open and followed, only a few steps behind. And the guard, who quickly realized she was there, seemed to decide in an instant not to waste precious time doing anything about it. Luckily he seemed not to even wonder about the lock.

  Despite their hurry, they didn't even make it halfway down the stairs before they were stopped by the sight of four guys coming toward them, carrying Utana between them, one at each arm, one at each leg, grunting as they started up the stairs. For a moment she couldn't take her eyes off Utana, unconscious, perhaps dead. But then some kind of psychic warning kicked in, and she glanced up in time to see Scarface rushing behind them.

  Quickly she turned around and ran back up the stairs to the bedroom.

  Seconds, only seconds, and they were stomping into the bedroom and dumping the big man onto his mattress, which sank beneath his weight. She quickly located one of the scarves from her belly dance costume and considered wrapping it around her face and head, so that only her eyes showed above it. But that would be suspicious. The room was dark, lit only by the lopsided moon outside the windows. And Nash was focused on Utana, not her. She tried to produce a quick glamour, enough to keep him from recognizing her should he happen to look her way, but her focus was on Utana, as well.

  "Is he. . . is he alive?" she asked, as the men backed away from the bedside, giving Scarface him self access.

  He didn't even look at her. "The fake concern is great, but you're supposed to be a prisoner here, right? Shouldn't you be happy about this?"

  Swallowing hard, she nodded, moving closer to the bedside, despite the danger of being recognized.

  "Quiet, he's coming around. " Gravenham-Bail leaned closer. "Utana? My king, can you hear me?"

  Utana's eyes moved beneath his closed lids. His lips moved, too, and his false friend tipped his head, listening intently, his ear near Utana's face.

  "You were electrocuted," his vizier said, staring down at Utana in utterly false concern. "I'm so very sorry, Your Highness. I blame myself for not warning you of the electrified fences. "

  Utana's eyes opened then, but only to mere slits. "Wh-why?" he asked.

  "For your protection, my friend. You're an important man. In this age, world leaders are not safe in their own homes. " He shot a look across the bed at Brigit, then at the men who'd carried Utana. "I want everyone to clear out of here. I have a private physician on the way. Bring her up here the minute she arrives. "

  "N-no. " Utana clasped Brigit's hand even as she turned from the bed. "She stays. "

  Licking his lips, Nash frowned. "All right. Yes. That's fine. "

  "You. . . Nashmun. . . go. "

  Nash blinked in shock. Catching Brigit's eyes before she quickly averted her face, his own narrowing, he nodded once, then turned and headed toward the door, motioning for her to come with him. "I'll bring Lillian up when she arrives," he said.

  "Lillian?" Brigit asked, trying to pour her energy into the glamour she'd cast.

  "The doctor. Same one who did the physicals on your dance troupe. She'll be here any minute. Try to keep him calm until then. "

  Brigit nodded, knowing this was going to be yet another problem, and waited until the man left the room, then quickly pushed the door closed. Turning, she hurried back to the bed. "Utana-are you all right?"

  He nodded. "The blast was. . . not unlike yours. This garden gate nearly did your job for you, Brigit. " Then he lifted a hand to gently stroke her cheek. "He did not recognize you?"

  "No, but I think he's getting suspicious. " She took hold of his wrist, turning his hand palm up and looking at the blackened flesh across his palm. "My brother's healing gift. You took it from him. Use it to heal yourself. "

  "I. . . tried. I know not quite how to. . . wield it. "

  "Then give it to me. "

  He frowned at her. "You. . . would heal me?"

  "I want you in good shape so I can kill you later," she said, before remembering they were probably under surveillance. Her voice had been low-low enough, she hoped. Still, she dropped it to the merest whisper. "Can you do it? Can you give powers as well as take them away?"

  "I can. "

  "Then do it. And hurry up about it," she whispered, leaning closer. "Apparently this doctor they're bringing saw all the dancers. She'll know I wasn't one of them. "

  "Trick her mind, as you did his. "

  "I can try, but it doesn't always work. Not all humans are as weak-willed as he is. " Which was, in itself, a matter of some concern for Brigit. Why would the DPI put a man whose mind was that easily manipulated in charge of a case involving the Undead, masters of mind control? It didn't make sense.

  He nodded. "I will suffer this pain until the. . . doctor. . . goes. She will know something is wrong if I am well. Then. . . we shall see. Go now. Hide yourself. I was wrong to make you stay and risk them finding you out. I wish no harm to come to you, Brigit. "

  She nodded and then retrieved a robe from where it hung on the far side of the bed. Her fingers brushed over his skin as she picked it up, and his eyes flared briefly in reaction, despite the pain he must be in. Pulling on the oversize robe, Brigit headed for the hallway.

  As she stepped out of the room, Utana bellowed, "And do not return until I send for you!"

  She scrunched up her face. "Damn men and their damned egos," she muttered. Then she looked at the guard, back in his spot outside the door. "Well, you heard him. Is it all right if I just go. . . I don't know, find a vacant bedroom and get some rest? It's not like I can get out of here, unless I want to get myself fried like his kingness just did. "

  The guy lifted his wrist mic, passing along the question.

  "Gee, I love a guy who makes his own decisions. "

  He was unflappable, didn't even act as if he'd heard her. Then he got his answer and gave her a nod. "The next three rooms are vacant. Pick whichever one you want. But don't try to go any farther or go downstairs. "

  Then he looked up at the sound of voices. "Here comes the doc. "

  By the time he looked her way again, Brigit was gone.

  Utana lay in the bed and marveled at the intensity of the pain. His hand felt as if he were gripping a hot poker. And bolts
, like powerful echoes of the initial blow, kept shooting through the rest of his body, pulsing up his spine and hammering the base of his skull. Lesser shocks, much the same but on a smaller scale, shot out into his limbs, into his fingers and toes. It felt as if he were touching that damnable gate again and again.

  Before long Nashmun entered, accompanied by the doctor, a woman with long, white-streaked jet-black hair. She immediately leaned over him, pressing an instrument to his chest.

  He closed his hand over the thing, startled and not trusting these people. But as he cupped the thing with his uninjured hand, its meaning and use came clear in his mind. It was a tool, used to listen to sounds inside the body. She could hear his heart beating, and the air rushing in and out of his chest, depending on where she placed it.

  She met his eyes. "It's all right, it won't hurt you. "

  "I know," he said, and he removed his hand and allowed her to continue. After a few moments she lowered the ends of the device from her ears, letting it hang around her neck, and pressed her fingertips to his wrist. Again she listened, looking at the time-keeping device on her wrist. Wristwatch, he reminded himself.

  Finally she turned his hand over, and examined his scorched palm. "This is nasty. "

  "It. . . pains me," Utana said, understanding now that she was this society's version of a healer, and wondering what prayers and chants and herbs she would use to ease his suffering.

  Turning, she opened the small black bag she had brought into the room with her and took out several items. She removed the top from a container of water and extended his hand over a small bowl made of that odd material that had not existed in his time. Plastic, Nashmun had called it. Everything seemed made of it today. Squirting the water from the bottle, the healer woman cleansed his burned palm.

  It burned like new fire! He hissed and jerked his hand away.

  "If infection sets in, it will be worse," she told him, and her tone was harsh, until Nashmun elbowed her. She glanced sideways at him, then met Utana's eyes, schooling her own features into those of a loving and devoted servant. "What I'm doing hurts now, my king, but I'll be fast, and it will feel much better when I've finished. "

  Utana did not see that he had any other options but to allow her to continue tending his wounds. He found himself wishing Brigit were there to mind-speak to him whether or not these people were telling the truth. Truly, she knew them and their ways far more than he did.

  But that was not the only reason he wished for her presence. He thought there was no situation, nor time, nor place, nor environment, that would not be improved by her presence. His longing for her to be by his side was becoming a constant pang within him. A need demanding fulfillment.

  Slowly he relaxed his hand and extended it once more for the doctor. If nothing else, her ministrations would at least distract him from thoughts of his would-be assassin.

  The healer-woman finished her painful cleansing of the wound, and then she opened a tube and squeezed from it an odd-smelling unguent. Quickly she coated his seared flesh in a thick layer of the stuff. Utana's eyes widened, as the magical concoction eased his pain, cooled the burn, providing unexpected relief.

  "See?" she said. "That's better, isn't it?"

  "It is," he agreed.

  "Now we have to keep it clean. So it can heal. " She was capping the tube as she spoke; then she unrolled a length of thin white fabric, and wrapped his hand around and around with it.

  "A glass of water, please, Nash?" she asked.

  Nashmun nodded, rushing into the bathroom. As he brought the water, the doctor pulled a bottle from her bag and shook out two tiny white objects. "Take these. They'll help with the remaining pain. " She held them near his mouth, so he presumed he was to eat them. He accepted the pills, chewing them as she turned to accept the water from Nash.

  When she turned back to him with the glass in hand, Utana was making a terrible face and running his tongue over his teeth to try to dislodge the clinging bitter bits. "These taste terrible," he complained. "What are they?"

  "Don't spit them out. Here, drink!" She held the glass to his lips, and he drank, then drank again, eventually rinsing all the pieces down his throat. Gods, the things were awful.

  When he could speak again, he asked, "What poison did you feed me?"

  "It's medicine. We call it aspirin," she told him, and then she sent an apologetic look toward Nashmun. "It's all I dare give him. We have no idea how his physiology will react to any medication, after all. "

  "Understood. Thank you, Lillian. "

  "You're welcome. " She looked at Utana again. "You will need to rest. You'll be tired, and your muscles will ache, for a few days. If you have any more pain than that, you need to tell Nash, and he'll send for me. All right?"

  "Yes. "

  Nodding, she began repacking her bag.

  Nashmun focused his attention on Utana. "Where were you going, Utana?" he asked. "Were you trying to run away from us?"

  Utana narrowed his eyes, wondering if, at last, he might glean the truth from his so-called vizier. "I thought to go in search of clothing for Br-for my harem slave. " He realized that he had no idea what name Brigit had given Nashmun, but he was sure it would not have been her true one.

  Lillian looked up from her task, sending an unspoken question to Nashmun.

  "One of the dancers," the vizier explained. "He took a liking to her, decided to keep her as his personal. . . maid. "

  Lillian crooked a dark eyebrow. "That's extremely inappropriate, Nash. "

  "We'll discuss it outside. "

  "You cannot ask the girl to-"

  "I said we'll discuss it outside. "

  Lillian bit her lip. It was clear to Utana that she knew more than he did about events here. About who the dancers truly were, and what their duties entailed. Sending a quick look around the room, she let her gaze linger on the bed of pillows where Brigit had slept, and then on the clothes she'd worn to dance for him, hanging over the back of a chair.

  "I'm going to want to speak to this girl personally," she said.

  Nashmun said nothing to her. He spoke to Utana. "I'll be back momentarily, my king. " Then he went to the bedroom door and opened it, standing there, waiting.

  Lillian huffed, snapped her bag closed and strode out of the room. Nashmun went out behind her and closed the door.

  Quickly Utana flung back his blanket and got to his feet. Weakness hit him as if it were a wave in the great sea. He gripped the headboard to keep from falling, closed his eyes and willed it to pass.

  When it did, he moved as quickly as he dared to the door. His gait was unsteady, weak. Why did this have to happen to him now, just when he'd been beginning to regain his strength? He cursed the power of the garden gate anew in his mind, then reminded himself that he had asked his gods for an answer. And apparently they had delivered it.

  Near the door he stopped and, bending, pressed his ear close to the wood.

  "-think you're forgetting who's in charge of this operation," Nashmun was saying.

  "And I think you're forgetting," Lillian replied, "that I've been asked to report to the director personally. And I don't think he's going to like this. There was nothing in the plan about providing him with a consort, for God's sake. "

  "I am aware of what was in the plan. Hell, I wrote the fucking plan. "

  "Then you know better. "

  "I know it's working," Nashmun said. "Look, he trusts her, is even attached to her already. She could be our strongest weapon. We can use her to control him. "

  "Why would she be willing to let us use her that way?" she asked. "Have you asked yourself that?"

  "She's bucking for a promotion. Why else?"

  Utana sensed the change in Nash's tone. He was lying to the doctor. He knew something more about Brigit than he was letting on.

  "Why else?" The woman sounded surprised by the question. Then she sighed. "You're a straight male, so perhap
s you haven't noticed, but this king of yours is a handsome man. A powerful, beautiful, sexy man. You're playing with fire here, Nash. This girl could turn from our strongest weapon into our biggest problem faster than you can even imagine. "

  Nash was silent, his mind closed to Utana.

  The woman sighed, then spoke again. "On the other hand, if she's truly loyal and as ambitious as you say, you're right, she could prove extremely useful in controlling him. "

  "That's all I'm saying. And besides, we won't need him much longer. The Dymphna Project is almost ready to go. I just need to remove another obstacle or two before we can launch Phase Two. If there are any vampires left alive, this plan will flush them out, bring them right to us. And once we have them all together, in one place. . . " He said no more.

  Utana shivered.

  The woman outside the door sighed. "Just to be sure, I'd like to go over this dancer's records, her psychological profile, her history with the Division. If I don't find any red flags, then. . . I'll back you on this with the director. "

  "That's fair enough. "

  "Which girl is it?"

  "Um. . . hell, I don't recall her name. "

  "Have you seen her. . . during the day?"

  Nash released a soft chuckle. "Yes, I've seen her during the day. I'd know if she were a vampire, for God's sake. Do you think I'm a rookie?"

  Lillian sniffed. "All right. Get her name and text it to me. I'll pull her records when I get into the office tomorrow. "

  Utana had heard enough. And his head was swimming yet again. He managed to shuffle-step himself back to the bed and fell onto it. But even as he righted himself and pulled the covers over himself once again, he knew that there was a problem. A very large problem.

  Brigit's identity was about to be exposed.

  Brigit didn't come out of hiding until she saw out the window that the doctor and her shiny maroon SUV, which looked like something a soccer mom would drive, were gone. But she'd heard every single word.

  And it was a damned good thing she had.

  She had to get out of this place-and she had to do it tonight. But before she did, she had to find out exactly what they'd been talking about with this. . . Dymphna Project. What could they be up to?

  If she were smart, she would find a way to get what she needed and get clear of this place without once setting foot back in the bedroom of her sworn enemy. Already, in searching the bedroom for anything she could use, she'd located clothes to wear as she made her getaway: a pair of jeans only a little too big, a sweatshirt, even socks and a pair of slightly tight tennis shoes. She should just go, just find a way out and go.

  And in fact, that was exactly what she intended to do. Until she heard him calling to her mentally.

  Brigit. Come back to me, Lady Moonlight. I have information you must know.

  She frowned, going still, part of her wanting to block him from her mind and the rest of her wanting to run to him as fast as humanly possible. And all of her was just plain curious. What information could he possibly have for her?

  Had he overheard Nash and the doctor's conversation, too? Would he actually warn her? Help her to avoid capture? And if so, why, when he was sworn to kill her in the end?

  She pulled her borrowed robe tighter and tucked her borrowed clothing inside. Tiptoeing, she left the safety of the vacant bedroom and walked quietly back toward Utana's room. The same guard was still outside the door. Over the railing, she saw Nash Gravenham-Bail walking through a door on the far side of the circular atrium-slash-great room into what looked like an office. She paused, watching him. In the quick glance she was afforded while he moved through the open door, she saw a desk, bookshelves, a computer screen and a row of tall filing cabinets.

  She needed to get in there, she realized suddenly. And then she resumed moving toward Utana's room.

  The guard saw her approaching, and she smiled nervously, wondering if he'd seen the direction of her attention just then. He tapped the door twice, opened it slightly and said, "Your lady is back, my king. "

  "Good. "

  Nodding, the guard opened the door wider, letting her pass without more than a cursory glance. She couldn't tell a thing from the expression on his face.

  Utana stared up at her when she reached the bed. "Are you feeling better?" she asked.

  "The doctor eased my suffering, yes. But I'm. . . weakened. And flustered. And. . . " You need to get out of here, Brigit. The healer-woman is going to check your name and learn you are not one of them. "And I've missed you," he said aloud.

  Her response to his words was a softening. A believing. Her response to his warning was even warmer, but her questions were still wary. Why are you warning me? You are my enemy.

  I do not wish to be your enemy any longer, Brigit of the Vahmpeers.

  If you are an enemy to my people, you are my enemy. You can't have it both ways, Utana.

  She waited then. For what, she wasn't sure. Did she really expect him to betray his gods just for the sake of a passing attraction that he'd probably felt a hundred times before for a hundred other women? His real harem slaves. His real dancers. His real wives?

  "Sit here beside me," he said, patting the bedside. "Please. "

  She turned away to take off the robe, letting the clothes inside fall to the floor, then kicking them under the bed. Then she sat near him, even knowing it was a dangerous thing to do. "Of course, my king," she said. Did you hear anything else I should know about?

  His eyes shifted away from hers. I need you to heal me, Brigit. I do not trust them.

  If he meant to distract her, he was doing a damn good job of it. Finally he believed her. Then again, it was kind of hard to deny what she'd told him, now that his so-called friends had electrocuted him for trying to leave. You'll give me back my powers, as well as my brother's?

  No. I will give you the power I took from your brother. The power to heal. Not to destroy, for if I do, I fear you will destroy me.

  She looked at him quickly, about to lie through her teeth and promise that she wouldn't. But he only shook his head. You've just told me I am the enemy of your people, and therefore your enemy. And your honesty is. . . of value to me.

  "I won't help you if you don't give it back to me," she whispered, tears welling in her eyes.

  "Then I will suffer," he whispered back. "But at least I will not die-only to be trapped in a rotting body, my consciousness held prisoner by the curse of the gods. I cannot return to that. "

  Her eyes shot to his, guilty eyes, because she knew that was exactly what would happen to him if she killed him. And it was almost more than she could bear to think about. God, how could she sentence a man to that?

  And yet how could she let him live, only to know he would murder everyone she loved?

  This was impossible.

  His hand was on her upper arm, and then his fingers brushed over her cheek, compelling her to face him. And when she did, he was far closer to her than she had known, his face only an inch from her own.

  His hand cupped the base of her head, and his mouth found hers.

  And God, it was heaven and it was hell all at once. How could she want a man so badly when he was going to destroy her entire family?

  How could she be so weak?

  So full of desire?

  For him?

  She opened her mouth to him, and his arms wrapped around her, pulling her chest to his as he kissed her so deeply it felt as if he were trying to steal her very soul. Or maybe he already had. Maybe he'd somehow taken possession of it when he'd stolen her powers. Like the devil himself, maybe he had that power.

  God, she wanted him.

  Her hands buried themselves in his long hair, and she fed from his mouth, thinking nothing had ever tasted so good. Nothing had ever made her want more so desperately.

  His arms around her felt completely possessive, encompassing and safe. So powerful and strong, so very strong. She wa
s protected, though that was not something she had ever wanted, much less needed. She was strong, self-sufficient and proud of it.

  Why, then, did it feel so good to be wrapped up in him, safe from all the world?

  When he lifted his head away, her eyes were glowing, and she knew it. She saw him see that glow and react in surprise. Passion brought out the vampire in her. Her fangs had elongated, and her mouth was hungry for a taste of him. The need burned in her, demanding satiation, as her eyes fixed themselves on the powerful pulsing in his throat.

  "Beautiful," he whispered. "Even this part of you. So very beautiful. "

  She forcibly averted her eyes. This was not the time. "All of my kind are equally beautiful. Why won't you let them live?"

  "I begged the gods to allow it. I asked them for a sign. And then the gate nearly killed me. I have my answer. "

  "That wasn't an answer from the gods, Utana. That was a trap, set for you by the evil people in this place. " She lowered her head, blinking tears from her eyes. "Give me the power and I'll heal you. "

  "It is already done," he said softly. "Will you help me now, my moonlight lady?"

  She nodded. "I owe you a favor. For warning me. Thank you. " She rubbed her palms together until they were warm and tingling, and then she opened them and stared into them. "I'm not exactly sure how this works, but. . . "

  His hands closed on her wrists, turned them until her palms were facing his chest. Then he lay back and closed his eyes.

  If there had been a blade nearby, a dagger, she could have plunged it straight through his heart quite easily, she thought. And then she saw the silver letter opener on the nearby nightstand, and her mind got stuck on it. Its blade was sharp and four inches in length. Big enough, she thought, if her aim were true. She stretched out a hand to pick it up, barely moving the rest of her body, her eyes affixed to his broad, beautiful chest, expanding as he inhaled, tempting her hands and lips to touch and taste.

  Her hand closed on the letter opener, and the pain in her chest was as deep as if she'd plunged it into her own heart.

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