"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov


Thursday, March 28, 2013

21. Daniel Waits For Lily

     Daniel fled silently up the three flights of stairs, the low rumble of Cantrell’s voice following him like a wraith. Twice he had to stop himself from turning back, the urge to protect Lily nearly overwhelming his better judgment. Quietly easing into Lily’s apartment, he pulled the strap of his messenger bag over his head and clutched it in a tight fist as he locked the door behind him.

     Walking through the small foyer, he paused on the threshold of a large open room.  On the far wall in front of him was a stone fireplace, two sofas facing each other with a long, low table between them, and a set of floor lamps with tassels and embellishments in the opulent manner of the Victorians. The floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the fireplace let in soft, muted light from the street lights outside.

     Stepping into the room, he pulled the chain on one of the floor lamps and slowly surveyed the entire room in the subdued glow of a low-wattage bulb. Now he could see the smaller things, treasures and keepsakes that told the stories of a life. Daniel eyed the array of framed photographs that dominated the room: on the walls, standing upright on tables, and dozens that he could see tucked like exotic decorations and bookends on the many shelves of the astounding bookcase that covered the entire length of one long wall.

     Heading toward one of the windows, he dropped his bag on the floor at the end of the sofa and carefully pulled back the sheer curtain. The view revealed nothing in the quiet street save the occasional passing car. Daniel wasn’t sure how much time he had, but the sense of urgency and dread was growing. He didn’t know if the wardens could actually leave the Ethereal, though if they could and were after him, there was no doubt he was finished.  And that was if Cantrell didn't get to him first.

     But none of that mattered, he thought, grinding his teeth in frustration.  Only Lilith mattered, and if she wouldn’t listen, or worse, wouldn't believe him, well, he’d just have to find some way to safeguard her anyway.

     A distraction drew his gaze to the street below. He watched a tall, muscular man carrying a child—no, wait, not a child, he realized, but a small woman—toward a flashy car, carefully set her inside and buckle her seatbelt. He smiled at the sweet, tender moment between the couple. Until the man straightened and walked around his car. The street lights might have obscured him in light and shadow, but there was no mistaking who it was. Daniel abruptly moved away from the window, pressing himself against the wall.

     As he’d wandered in the shadows at the party, staying in the stacks, avoiding contact with anyone, he’d managed not only to watch Lilith, but glean information from overheard conversations and judicious eavesdropping about several interesting things, not the least being that Katy, Lilith’s best friend and sole employee had herself a new boyfriend.

     Seeing that boyfriend was none other than Dominic Cantrell had truly shocked him, though using the best friend to get to Lilith--a callous and cruel tactic--was no less than what he'd expect from the prick.  There was no doubt he was exploiting the woman's connection to Lilith and judging by the devious little scene just witnessed the remainder of the evening was headed right where Dominic could press his advantage.

     The light tap at the front door brought Daniel back from his reverie. Pushing away from the wall, he quietly crossed the room and stood waiting at the door. There was another tap, then a soft, hesitant voice murmured, “It’s me. I can’t get in without my keys.”

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