I could spend endless hours drinking in the sight of this strong, breathtaking man. I enjoy watching him sleep; his sheer, masculine beauty never ceases to amaze me. The hard, sculpted planes of his chest, the soft, sparse hairs, and the vibrant call of his blood beneath taut, golden skin. I still marvel at the fact this delectable man is mine. I don’t need him any more than he needs me. But I want him.
Love is a choice, and I choose to love everyday. The day I knew that, and that the choice was always mine, was the day I became a strong independent person.
When the same clarity happened for Rafe is anyone’s guess. At times, I almost think he was lucky enough to be born with an understanding of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Four a.m. rolls around and I get up from the bed, deciding to cleanse my body of the emotional trauma of last night through some yoga. Rafe has been a master yogi for years, thanks to the teachings of his mother and father. His parents lived in India for a bit and his father, Claude, studied under a master for a decade. Back at the turn of the twentieth century, only men were allowed to practice yoga. Claude taught his wife, Olga, in secret all that he learned. One hundred years has changed the face of an ancient practice irrevocably.
I change into some yoga digs—a pair of black pants with a matching top, and head out to the hotel’s real gym located on the first floor in the north wing. Passing no guests, I’m glad for the respite in hostess duties. I’m not up to being cheery and smiling just yet. I nod to Miranda at the front desk and she waves a pink slip of paper.
“A call came in for you from New York before two a.m. It was Cy.”
“Why didn’t you alert me?”
Miranda’s eyes get big. I’m guessing my tone was a little harsh.
“Rafe told me last night when he was carrying you to your suite that we should not bother you unless it was an emergency.”
In an instant, my guilt flourishes and if I still had the ability to blush with bright pink cheeks, I’m sure she’d see it.
“I’m sorry, of course that was the right thing to do. I certainly was in no state to argue.”
Real concern colors her voice as she asks, “Do you mind if I ask what happened? I was worried when I saw you earlier.”
Crap! I hadn’t anticipated this scene when I got my happy little ass out of bed a few minutes ago. My brain scrambles fast and I’m desperate to think of some type of valid excuse.
“I…er…I think I had some…” I lock gazes with her and push her a bit to believe my next words, “blood that had gone bad. That special old vampire blood we serve in drinks at the bar? One in the last batch didn’t agree with me.” I let up on imposing my will over hers and finish with, “I felt better after lying down for a bit.”
Her tone is light as she responds. “Well, good, I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better.”
She hands me the phone message and I turn to walk down the hall to the gym. It’s a good thing she didn’t disturb us with the call. I’d hate for Cy to worry more and I’m sure he’d have heard the tension in Rafe’s voice.
Damn, he’d probably send us additional young vampires and I really don’t want that. They annoy the hell out of me, wanting more old blood than I’m comfortable giving the whipper-snappers.
I’m not up to calling him back right now. I’d rather wait until I’m a bit steadier and then get whatever information he found. Either way, it’s mid-morning in New York and Cali would be the one I’d get on a call.
Switching on the lights to the vast machine-filled room, I lower the wattage via the dimmer to a more subdued glow. My head no longer pounds like it did before, but I prefer the softer light when I want to relax. Mediation has never come easily for me and I need all the help I can get.
I walk across the vast room, passing free-weights and stand-alone equipment. Rafe enjoys this space and I can usually find him in here five to six days a week, even if it is only for thirty minutes at a stretch. I grab one of my favorite sticky mats from a pile by the wall, placing it near the windows overlooking the same hot tub grotto view we enjoy from our suite. The exercise spot can fit about six yoga practitioners easily, but we never have more than three or four at the most.
The windows are dark now, and the glow from the subtle rope lighting around the pergolas appears faint. The bright landscaping lights aimed toward the windows to simulate daylight are off at this time of morning in imitation of the early pre-dawn hour. We’ve found the fake day helps the companions to stay on a sleep schedule and provides the giddy vampires staying up all day with a reference for when they look at their watches.
Working my way slowly through ten sun salutations, I monitor my form for exact alignment. The movements help to focus my mind on the day ahead. The facts of yesterday tumble through my head and I find that each pose helps to solidify the information we do have.
I push back into my last downward dog and my heels connect solidly with the mat as my hips aim for the far wall.
Originally, I thought a vampire would not have committed the murder, but who else here could have a motive? None of the companions or servants have been reported missing and I’d know if any of the employees had done it. There’s some benefit to them sharing my blood. The link may be tenuous, but it’s there, and I would know.
I look up between my wide-spread palms, jump my feet forward to my hands and straighten my legs till I’m in a deep forward bend.
Okay then, I’ve made some progress—the killer is a vampire. I think.
I place my thumbs in my hip crease, and root down with my energy as I straighten from the waist. My arms swing out and my palms twist to face each other as I reach for the ceiling.
Jon scented some unknown vamp on the grounds. A fact that helps solidifies my current belief that the killer must be a vampire—one who’s not a guest. What non-native human could come to this resort and be able to survive outside of a building for longer than a few hours? It took Castner’s Cutthroats to save over two-thousand ill-prepared soldiers in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Our modern-day murderer, if human, would need a ton of equipment to live and I’m sure Jon’s half-wolves would have tracked them by now.
I lower my hands together in a prayer position before my heart. Deep breath in.
What else stood out as odd?
The fact the vampire did not drain the victim when killing. What kind of undead would do that? All I can think of is one who was seriously pissed off, crazy, or both.
I let the air out of my lungs.
Hmm… something else is niggling the back of my brain.
A quiet peace seeps into me as I bow my head forward in a moment of silence. I reflect upon the words Olga sometimes repeated at the end of our sessions together:
I honor that place in you
where the entire universe resides.
I honor that place in you
of love, of light, and peace.
I honor that place –
where if you are in that place in you,
and I am in that place in me,
there is only one of us.
My voice echoes in the room, the thought complete with the utterance of that one word. I feel at one with life around me and have a peaceful tingle of energy in my heart, this one not associated with Were blood. I like to think whenever I say Namaste that Olga is in my heart with me.
She was the most peaceful, loving woman I have ever had the grace to know and I’ll always be grateful for the gift she gave me in Rafe. Olga was centered in her life and accepting of all around her. She became aware of what I am during the decade she taught me yoga, but I did not know the depth of her acceptance until over a decade later when she sent Rafe to find me.
I light the oil pot sitting on a low table near the wall then sit on the large square cushion before it. Closing my thoughts, I focus on the flame. The room around me fades as I sink into the dancing firelight.
Surprisingly, a face forms in the flames and I can see Drew’s wife clearly in my mind. She’s smiling, like he remembered her. I have seen this woman before, I know it now, but can’t place where because she looks different. Could she have been a guest here or at one of our previous properties?
No. Wait. She was human, so our last spot in Paris is out. Had to be here, but damned if I can recall. Maybe Rafe will remember. I’ll check with him when he wakes. I close my eyes to block out the flames and push her image from my mind.
I’ll never achieve Nirvana if I keep this up.
Crashing waves, deep breathing, counting sheep—none of it seems to help me. Today may be one of those days I will not be able to meditate. I’m not surprised. Reaching peace remains a difficult journey for me.
Time passes until I’m not sure how long I’ve been sitting. One task becomes clear to me as I rise to start the day: I need to return the phone call to New York.
I head to the small sitting area by the door and take a seat. There’s a side table with a phone between two chairs. I prefer calling from here over going back to our suite and risk waking up Rafe. From memory, I dial the number I’d recognized from the slip of paper. It’s Cy’s landline in his office.
After several rings, Cali’s voice comes over the receiver. “Hello? Vivian.”
Ah, the joys of caller ID.
“Yes. Hey, Cali. Got the message Cy left for me. You have any news yet?”
“And good morning to you too.” She says with a laugh. “Turns out John Pierre’s from Washington state. He flew in to Fairbanks a few days ago, rented an SUV, and got gas in Coldfoot on the credit card number you gave us.” She pauses a bit. “Do you want the details of where he lived over the phone or should I email you what we have?”
Washington is all I needed to hear. I know exactly where he lived and now I need to get the hell off the phone.
“Nah, what you’ve given me is enough for now. Emailing the rest will be fine. I’d like to go over it with Asa when he gets here.”
“Speaking of Asa, they should be at your place before nine a.m. your time—depending on tailwinds.”
I check; it’s almost six now. I’ll have to hustle to get some things done before he arrives.
“Great, thanks. Tell Cy I appreciate all the hard work.”
“No problem, Vivian. You know he’d do anything for you.”
“You’re fine with your nephew coming up here?” I decide to dig while I have her on the phone and Cy is not within hearing distance. “Cy didn’t even ask him first, so I’m hoping it’s okay with you as well.”
“Yes, well… Asa expressed an interest in leaving here almost as soon as he got back from the war last year. Cy taught him a lot about control and he’s definitely trustworthy, no need to worry on that front.” She sighs before she goes on. “Actually, it was my idea all along. I’ve wanted Cy to call you for months to see if Asa could come up there.”
Silence can sometimes get me more than rushing in and firing off questions, and this time it’s exactly what she needs. Cali continues. “I think the noise and people of the club are too much for him. He was always reserved as a kid and I think the frivolousness of the place sets him on edge. Combine that with the shock of being out of the military and newly undead, and you can imagine what it’s been like for him. Cy refused to call you because he knew you don’t really have a formal seethe, but I was tempted to do an end-run and call you myself.”
Damn, that wouldn’t have been good. I’d hate to have to turn her down and that’s exactly what I would have done.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Cali. He may like it here fine, but I’m not inclined to have more members in my seethe. Let’s see how it goes, okay?”
“Alright,” disappointment stands out clear in her tone, “I’ll leave you alone. But, he’s great with all the latest security advancements. You never know…” Her voice lifts at the end, hope shines back in her sunny disposition once more and I don’t have the heart to crush it out of her right now.
I can always let Cy handle the crushing task when I decide Asa has to go. If I can get Asa out of here with him none the wiser on my secrets, then that’s what I’ll do.
Hanging up the phone, one fact resonates with certainty in my mind. Salvador’s group hales from Washington. I think Sheba and her tears may be the key to the murder. I have a feeling many details will come together when I can question the elusive member of Sal’s group. For a polite hotel hostess, it’s still too early to knock on a guest’s door and wake her up.
I shut the lights off when I leave the gym and run into Paul on his way to the kitchen. Paul’s the best chef we’ve had here in two decades. He used to cook down in the lower forty-eight for years, until he answered my employment ad. He hadn’t wanted to come up here to this frozen area of our nation, but the money I threw at him was impossible to resist.
“Morning, Paul. Glad to see you up and at ‘em today,” I say with a cheeky grin.
I saw him last night on the dance floor with some of the other employees and he’s looking worse for the wear today with a haggard air about him.
“Ugh, no teasing. My head can’t take it right now.” He stumbles slightly and catches himself against the hallway wall.
A short, loud laugh erupts from me. After my emotional night, seeing him hung-over helps shake off my last lingering tendrils of heartache.
“Poor baby. You should know by now the morning shift always comes sooner than you think.” I take pity on him and try to give him a little nudge in the right direction. “You know what they say about water the next day, right? Drink plenty and you should be better by noon.”
“Yeah, that and a beer chaser with some Advil should do me.”
I smile and take my leave of him as we approach the lobby. Of course, I meant the small trace of vampire blood in the water would make him feel better. Whether he takes my advice, or his own, is up to him.