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


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

26. Chain of Events

     Several blocks away, at the precise moment Lily’s hand touched Daniel’s chest, Dominic jerked awake, Katy stirring in his arms at the sudden movement. He murmured soft words, stroked her hair until she drifted back to sleep, then cocked his head and listened intently, wondering what had startled him from a deep, sated sleep.

     Hearing nothing, he smiled to himself—there’s a disturbance in the Force, Luke—as he played with a long, silken strand of Katy’s hair, twining it around a finger before bringing it to his nose. Her scent was on his skin, in his head, weaving into every corner of his body. Somewhere between wild sex in the living room, the shower, and her bed, Dominic had finally unraveled her braid, pleased beyond reason when her hair fell in a thick curtain of chestnut waves to her waist.

     “I smell smoke,” his enchantress murmured, interrupting his thoughts.

     “Thought you were asleep, Red.” When she tried to lift her head, he pressed it back into the hollow of his shoulder, not yet ready to relinquish the soft warmth of her cheek against him.

     Throwing her leg over his thigh, she wiggled tighter into his side, then began stroking her hand in gentle circles over his chest. “I was, but then I smelled the smoke. Don’t you smell it?”

     “The only thing I smell is you.” He pulled her on top of him, smiling at her squeal of surprise. “One kiss, then I’ll go see if we started a smoldering inferno in your apartment while we were—” Chuckling against her lips, his words were drowned in her hungry kisses.

     Several minutes later, all thoughts of leaving the bed forgotten, Dominic suddenly caught a faint whiff of…brimstone?   Carefully rolling to the side, taking Katy with him, he kissed her softly, then said casually, “Let me check that we're not burning the house down.” When she tried to keep him close, he laughed and slid away, rising from the bed in a smooth, fluid motion and headed for the living room. “Keep the bed warm,” he murmured, “I’ll be right back.”

     Once his back was turned, a fierce scowl replaced the grin he’d given Katy. The stench of brimstone could only belong to his father’s Hound—another secret his father didn't know he was aware of.  Fuck. That meant his father knew he wasn't in London, knew he’d lied.  His hands balled into tight fists.  He would not allow his plans to be foiled, would not accept that his years of work and scheming might be for nothing—

     No. No, this was just a minor setback. Squaring his shoulders, he strode to the large window in the living area that overlooked the park, a perfect place for the Hound to hide, to spy for his father. Dom felt a feral growl begin to climb up his throat. Katy. His father would know about her now, but worse, the Hound knew as well.

     Eyes narrowed, he stood clearly, boldly, at the window, making no attempt to hide. His eyes quickly searched the landscape of old, gnarled trees, thick shrubbery and the tall forest ferns of the deep ravine until he caught the glimmer of red in the impenetrable darkness. As his sight sharpened on the twin orbs, the Hound stepped out of the gloom, staring up at Dominic with hellish, glowing eyes.

     Dom returned the look, baring his teeth in a rabid snarl as his vision suddenly honed to a diamond-edged clarity. He could see everything, down to the smallest leaf, as if it were broad daylight…well, if broad daylight was a bright, fiery red. Dom didn't know what was happening, but apparently the Hell Hound did. Eyes wide for a fleeting moment, he abruptly dropped his head, stumbled back into the shadows and disappeared.


     Jamieson Cantrell boarded his Gulfstream G650, settled into his butter-soft leather seat and barked instructions to the pilot, his voice cold and authoritative as always, not betraying for a moment how furious he was.

     When he’d received the call that the Hound had found Valentine in Seattle, he hadn't been too surprised that the thief had somehow discovered the book’s owner. What else he’d discovered remained to be seen, but before Cantrell had been able to give the Hound further orders, the creature had informed him Dominic had also been found. In Seattle. With a woman.

     Leaving a message for his secretary to cancel all appointments until further notice, Cantrell had immediately scheduled a flight, packed a small bag and had his driver take him to the private hanger at San Francisco International where he kept his planes.

     He didn’t know what his son was up to, or why he’d lied about being in London, but by all appearances it seemed Dominic was doing nothing more than chasing some female and wasn’t involved in the Lily Donovan business. Jamieson, however, didn’t entertain for a single moment that random chance had taken Dominic to Seattle.

     As the plane rose into the air and turned north, Cantrell closed his eyes, calming his thoughts as he put aside his anger.  No, he didn’t believe in coincidence. He would find out what his son was up to, and perhaps this mystery woman would be a nice incentive to accomplish that. A smile of anticipation curled one corner of his cruel mouth.


     Standing in an alley, Taurin leaned against a brick wall, staring across the street at a business called Enchantments. From the light of the street lamp, he could see through the front windows, could just make out shelves filled with books. Though it was dark on the first two floors, lights were softly glowing from the top floor of the old Victorian house. He knew Daniel was somewhere inside that building. The medallion had brought him to this alley, so Valentine must also have stood in this very spot, maybe staring at the house just as he was now.

     Taurin didn’t want to overplay his hand or harm an innocent. All he wanted was to return Daniel Valentine and the book to the Ethereal. Arms crossed over his broad chest, he was running several scenarios through his mind, searching for the right approach, when a strange current of energy rolled down the building, followed by a light so powerful he had to narrow his eyes against the glare.

     Looking up, Taurin could see the entire third floor was ablaze with the blinding illumination. Clutching his medallion in a taut fist, Taurin closed his eyes and with a thought was inside the building. Quickly scanning the area, he saw the stairs and raced up two flights, taking the steps three at a time. He hit the top landing and focused on the brilliant light seeping through the cracks around the wooden door. When he heard an agonized moan coming from the other side, he took a determined stride forward, prepared to break the door down, but staggered to a halt when the light unexpectedly went out, leaving behind an ominous silence in the darkened hallway.

     Taurin carefully laid a hand against the door, half expecting to feel heat, but it was cool to his touch.  Trying the knob, finding it locked, he was considering his next move when there was the sound of a heavy thud, another moan, then fear and panic in Daniel Valentine’s deep, rough voice as he yelled hoarsely, “Lily!  Lily!"  Taurin heard the man draw a shuddering breath, heard his damning words when he groaned, “God, Lily, I’ve killed you!”

     Jaw clenched, no more hesitation, Taurin backed up a step, then kicked hard at the door with a large booted foot. It flew open and banged sharply against the back wall as he rushed into the room. A woman was crumpled on the floor, pale and still, as Daniel kneeled beside her, his shirt hanging off his frame in burnt tatters. At the loud crash from the door, his head jerked up. Eyes haunted, he pleaded with the man who by all rights had come to kill him.  “Help me, Taurin. I don’t care what happens after, just please, help me.”



  1. Oh, what a tangled web you weave...

  2. Becoming even more tangled as paths converge...