Concerto Chapter 11

 

Chapter 11 Making sense of it

 

“Are you sure you’re well enough to be here,” Mrs. McLaren said, watching me nervously as I stepped out of her battered Land Rover.

 

“Fine, I’m fine,” I lied. I’d been out of the hospital two days and had convalesced impatiently in a hotel room until, ready or not, I could stand it no longer and called Mrs. McLaren, who had promised to take me out to the cottages as soon as I was up to it. I had driven to Portree and endured another night and day in a hotel room in the pounding rain until the weather cleared enough that Mrs. McLaren would even consider taking me out. As it turned out, it was just as well. The trip up from Glasgow had exhausted me, and I wasn’t fit to do much but sleep and order in when I was hungry enough to eat anything. Every time I slept, I hoped that I would wake up back in the cottage with my piano player. But I didn’t. He didn’t even haunt my dreams during those nights of exhaustion and sickness.

 

The landlady watched me with a jaundiced eye as I walked slowly, carefully, through the cottage I’d stayed in, remaining close enough that she could catch me if I stumbled. Everything was exactly as I remembered it, but that was no real surprise. “As I said,” she reiterated, when I turned to her expectantly, “this is the only cottage that’s finished.” She didn’t repete the obvious, the obvious that I’d heard a thousand times, that there’d been no one here but me. She knew it would do her no good, and she wasn’t given to wasted words. It was just as well. I knew what I’d seen. I knew that I hadn’t been alone.

 

She opened the back door, and we stepped outside into the anemic sunlight. My first view of the other cottage felt like a gut punch. There was no patio. Instead a small earthmover stood to the side of a rectangular hole filled with muddy rainwater where the patio, no doubt, would be when the builders finished. To the side under heavy plastic stood several stacks of large paving stones.

 

“The place won’t be ready to lease until next summer.” She sounded almost apologetic. Then she gently threaded her arm through mine. I figured it was so she could catch me if I lost my footing. There was no disguising my trembling. Though more than a little of that was from the shock of what greeted me as I looked out at the other cottage.

 

With a bit of careful tugging, she pulled me away from the flooded would-be patio and around to the front door, which was not locked, the reason became obvious with the pounding of hammers and the mumbled curses of workmen coming from inside.

 

As we entered the front door, two men dressed in paint spattered jeans and ratty t-shirts, looked up, then laid down their hammers and nodded their greetings as though I were some strange creature they weren’t sure how to approach. No doubt they knew the tale. The story of the crazy American lady who was found wandering the cliffs in the middle of a storm had surely made its rounds in a place where I figured I was the most entertaining news that had happened in awhile. Mrs. McLaren motioned them to the door, and they left without a word.

 

Where the wood floor had been, there was, instead, bare concrete, and the fireplace had been newly bricked, the trowel and other tools of the trade still on the floor on plastic sheeting. There was no piano. In fact there was nothing but sawhorses and cans of paint with odd bits and pieces of lumber scattered around, along with a several half-empty bottles of water and sports drinks. The kitchen was exactly as I remembered it, unfinished and covered in drop cloths. As if she knew what I’d ask next, she led me to the bathroom. The tub in which I’d made love to my pianist was there, but sitting in the middle of the floor, and the plumbing was only half finished. Without waiting for me to comment, she led me into the master bedroom.

 

It was suddenly hard to breathe, and I saw the room through a haze of tears I blinked hard to control. The big bed sat in the middle of the floor exactly where it had been, but it was battered and weather worn. On top of a bare mattress that didn’t really fit the wooden slats, a sleeping bag and a pillow lay rumpled and tossed. An empty teacup and an open can of Red Bull sat on a backless chair to the side.

 

“Ian, he’s my nephew, he stays here when the weather is nice and he wants to work late, or get an early start,” Mrs. McLaren said. “Mostly though I think he just likes the place what with the sea and the cliffs.”

 

“The bed?” I managed, feeling like my throat was closing off.

 

“It was here when we bought the place,” she said. “No sense in having it restored until the cottage is a little closer to finished. Ian likes to sleep there.” She smiled indulgently. “Makes him feel a bit like a laird.”

 

There was little left to say after that. Mrs. McLaren walked me up to the cliffs where I’d been found, not far from the standing chimney and the ruined foundations of the manor house, all the while, in my head, flashes of the house in its glory days and broken strains of piano music made me dizzy and even more unsure on my feet. When I dropped down onto a rock near where Mrs. McLaren said I’d been found, she only stood next to me patting my shoulder, until the younger of the two men, the one I assumed was Ian, joined us. “Ms. Alan,” he said quietly. “You’d best go back to the cottage now, have some tea, get warm.”

 

I didn’t protest as he helped me up and the two flanked me, Ian close enough that if I should stumble he could catch me, even carry me if he had to. And to my embarrassment, he had to. We were nearly back to the cottage when a view of the earthmover and the whole where the patio should be made the ache in my chest bloom until it felt like the icy blasts of the storm that had raged all the while I’d stayed her with my pianist. “He asked me to find him and I don’t even know his name,” I whispered, and then the ground tilted around me and strong arms lifted me. I humiliated myself further by burying my face in Ian’s chest and sobbing all the way back to the cottage. Inside, he settled me on the sofa and covered me with a blanket. He sat with me until Mrs. McLaren returned with a cup of tea, which tasted like it might have had a nip of something stronger in it. “This’ll warm your belly and make you feel better,” she said.

 

When she was sure I wasn’t going to humiliate myself further, she motioned Ian into the kitchen, where I could hear them mumbling quietly. Occasionally their voices rose in what sounded like an argument, but it took me a minute to realize they were speaking Gaelic. Not that I cared that much. My own thoughts were too confused trying to sort reality from fantasy. But in spite of everything that I had seen, everything that was obvious, I was still certain that what I’d experienced with my pianist had been real.

 

In a few minutes, they returned to the living room and Mrs. McLaren sat down on the sofa next to me. “You’ve got no business traveling alone,” she said, “not in your condition. You shouldn’t even be out of bed yet. You’ve had a terrible shock. I’ve got guests coming and I can’t get away, but Ian will take you back to Portree and then on to Glasgow and help you arrange a flight home if you need.”

 

“I’m fine,” I said, setting the teacup aside and pushing to my feet.

 

“You shouldn’t be alone.” Ian gently took my arm with a rough hand and guided me back down. “If you don’t feel comfortable with me, I can get my sister, Mary to take you.” At this suggestion, I couldn’t help noticing that Mrs. McLaren stiffened.

 

“No.” I sighed half in defeat, half in relief not to have to make the trip by myself, one I wasn’t sure I could manage. “I’m all right with you taking me.”

 

Twenty minutes later, Mrs. L had me bundled up in Ian’s Land Rover like an invalid with a flask of tea and a basket of sandwiches. It was only after I was settled in that she handed me the coffee table book on the manor house and its history. “Maybe this will help,” she said, then waved us off.

 

If you’ve missed an episode of Concerto, here are the links.

 

Concerto Part 1: A little Night Music

Concerto Part 2: Distractions

Concerto Part 3: Too Much to Bear Alone

Concerto Part 4: Writing and Waiting

Concerto Part 5: A Duet in a Storm

Concerto Part 6: Remember How it Feels

Concerto Part 7: Unsettled

Concerto Part 8: Into the Storm

Concerto Part 9: Me, But Somebody Else

Concerto Part 10: Find Me

 

McKenna Dean Launches Ghost of a Chance with a Giveaway & Tour

 

 

Ghost of a Chance

Redclaw Security Book 2

by McKenna Dean

 

Madison has put together some really awesome Prizes giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here.

 

 

 

About Ghost of a Chance:

 

At sixteen, Sarah Atwell walked away from her love of horses and a promising career as a competitive rider after discovering she’d inherited the family curse. Years later, her grandmother stunned everyone by leaving Sarah her horse farm—worth millions—but with conditions Sarah might not be able to meet.

 

A former Redclaw agent, Casey Barnes retired when a security assignment went bad, killing his partner and leaving him as a partial amputee. His inner wolf is in hiding. He’s been living quietly as a horse trainer, but June Atwell’s death now pits him against her granddaughter for rights to the stable.

 

With both of them snowed in at the farm, a series of increasingly serious accidents draws Sarah and Casey closer together, but they both harbor secrets that might tear them apart.

 

Ghost of a Chance is a paranormal romance story.

 

Amazon Buy Link:https://amzn.to/2nbVC33

 

Ghost of a Chance Excerpt:

 

For some reason, he glanced back at Sarah where she waited by the door. The backlight of falling snow through the glass in the shadowed hallway created the suggestion of a black-and-white photograph. The only spot of color was the bright red scarf at the collar of her coat and the wine-dark lipstick she wore. She leaned against the wall with her eyes closed. Something inside him clicked, as though recognizing a scene from a movie. His heart stopped a beat, flipped over, and thudded again with increased intensity.

 

No. It couldn’t be. Not her.

 

He hurried away, head still reeling at his reaction.

 

When he returned with an armload of clothing, she was nowhere to be seen. Her laptop sat by her shoes, one pretty little pump turned over on its side. As expected, he discovered her in the living room, staring at the pictures on the wall. “There you are.”

 

She jumped at the sound of his voice.

 

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” He adjusted the heap of clothing piled over one arm and held out a pair of snow boots.

 

“She had so many photographs of me.” Sarah took the boots almost automatically, and indicated the walls covered with pictures, ones Casey had seen many times.

 

That had to be it. Why she felt so familiar. Why she seemed to be the one. Relief washed over him. Obviously he’d spent too much time alone if he thought Sarah Atwell was his destined mate.

 

 

The Panther’s Lost Princess

Redclaw Security Book 1

Amazon Buy Link:https://amzn.to/2LSf9UL

 

 

 

 

About McKenna Dean:

 

McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

 

She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.

 

She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

 

McKenna Dean’s Social Media Links:

Newsletter:http://eepurl.com/c8GDYX

Website: http://mckennadeanromance.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B075CRHQ7B/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/McKenna-Dean-Author-262328784224302/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/McKennaDeanFic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mckennadeanromance/?hl=en

Tumblr: https://mckennadeanromance.tumblr.com/

Email: mckennadeanromance@gmail.com

 

 

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Madison Michael Launches Besotted with Tour & Giveaway

 

Besotted

Beguiling Bachelors Series Book 5

By Madison Michael

 

Madison has put together some really awesome Prize Packages to giveaway during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may enter every day for your chance to win one of the prize packages. You may find the tour locations here.

 

 

 

About Besotted:

 

Time is Running Out…For Both of Them

 

Regan Howe, won her coveted CEO position through hard work and a willingness to buck family tradition. Now, Brandon Hockney, a handsome US Senator with his eye on the White House, wants her to give it up, along with her home, friends and family for a move to DC and marriage to him.

 

Regan wants marriage and family but this choice will require she leave everything she loves, including the alluring Tyler Winthrop. Regan has waited twenty years for Tyler to commit. He once promised her forever, then destroyed her trust and her hopes for a future together. Still, she cannot break the ties between them. Regan is besotted.

 

Tyler’s moment to win Regan is slipping through his fingers. He has remained on the outskirts of Regan’s life, reluctant to reveal his true past and expose her to danger. Despite their obvious attraction, Tyler has remained her friend and protector, keeping Regan at arm’s length for her own safety, When Regan determines to test the waters with Brandon, Tyler is tapped as acting CEO, throwing the pair together for one last chance at love.

 

Can Tyler shake off the thugs threatening to expose his past mistakes? Can he earn Regan’s trust and woo her away from Washington? Battling overwhelming odds and a racing clock, will Tyler be forced to release his one true love to find happiness with another man? How can he when he’s besotted?

 

Join Tyler and Regan as they seek their happily ever after in the conclusion of the steamy, contemporary Beguiling Bachelor romance series.

 

Besotted is a contemporary erotic romantic suspense story.

 

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2AiK2MQ

 

 

Excerpt from Besotted:

 

Regan was just too damn alluring in that dress for him to accept that he couldn’t have her if he wanted her.

He was an idiot. He should have told her years ago. He should have told everyone. Despite the tongue- lashing he was silently giving himself, Tyler was certainly no fool. “The professor” to his friends, he was generally serious and professional. He had the smarts necessary to obtain both an MBA and a law degree, and he was now CEO of LHRE and on hiatus from one of the fastest growing tech companies in the country. He kept his cool in general, but again and again he behaved like an idiot around Regan.

Since that damn frog almost thirty years ago, he had loved no one but Regan. Sometimes they made it work together, like in high school, but most times not. His feelings were unchanged, but something always stopped him from declaring his love and asking her to do the same. This time it was something insurmountable.

And yet Tyler couldn’t stay away. He was the proverbial moth to the flame, flirting with disaster every time he flirted with her. He had promised to stay away, to keep her safe,but the attraction was undeniable. Yep, prize idiot.

Returning to the ballroom after the latest threats, Tyler briefly considered sharing the conversation, coming clean with Regan and perhaps moving their relationship forward. He was at a fork in the road but remained silent, Tyler knew he was on the wrong path but couldn’t summon the will to fix it. Not only were his problems unsolveable, but she was involved with Brandon. Tyler felt hopeless.

He was preoccupied just as Regan accused, but Tyler tried to give Regan the attention she deserved. He failed miserably until Regan suggested they just leave. That got his attention. Who knew when he would hold her in his arms again.

“Come dance with me again. It would be a crime to waste that dress.”

Encircling Regan in his arms, his body responded to her nearness, even as his mind worried over the earlier texts. He was unaware of his hand stroking her back, fingers lightly skimming over her bare skin. He wasn’t thinking clearly when he pulled her close or when he dropped kisses on her hair. He wasn’t paying attention, just acting on instinct, Regan was responding, her breath growing uneven, her hands clinging to his shoulders.

 

 

 

 

Other Books in the Beguiling Bachelors Series:

 

Bedazzled (Book 1)

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2K3OL4D

Bedazzled is now on Kindle Unlimited

 

Beholden (Book 2)

Amazon Buy Link:https://amzn.to/2AjMtPg

Beholden is now on Kindle Unlimited

 

Bedeviled (Book 3)

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2uUHsYu

Bedeviled is now on Kindle Unlimited

 

BeWildered (Prequel)

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2uXZXeu

Bewildered is now on Kindle Unlimited

 

 

About Madison:

Madison Michael traded 28 years in Fortune 500 tech and management positions for
a chance to spend her days with sassy heroines, sexy, rich heroes and nothing but happy endings. Growing up the daughter of a librarian, she learned to love books, especially classics and romances, and spent winters cuddled under blankets losing herself in books.

 

Madison is the author of three novels in the Beguiling Bachelor series, as well as several short stories. She is a member of Romance Writers of America.

 

After living in the northeast, southeast and the west, Maddy returned to her Midwest roots. She lives in Evanston, IL with two feline editorial assistants and great views of Chicago’s famous skyline.

 

 

 

Madison’s Social Links:

Website: madisonmichael.net

Madison’s Blog: madisonmichael.net/category/maddys-blog

Maddy’s Romance Madness: madisonmichael.net/category/mrm/

Maddy’s Tours and Treats: madisonmichael.net/category/tours-and-treats/

Facebook: facebook.com/madisonmichaelromance

Twitter: twitter.com/madisonmichael_

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/Madison-Michael/e/B01EVUGG6G/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

 

 

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Interview with a Demon 9th Instalment

R&R is over, and I have been properly lectured by Magda Gardener on my flight
home from the States. I’m relieved that she knows about my interview with the Guardian, but she made it very clear she didn’t approve. That being said, in spite of Magda’s warnings, a few days later I returned to the penthouse for my next meeting with the Guardian for instalment 9 of the interview. Listing for previous instalments are at the bottom of this post.

 

Chapter 9  Anticipating

It was almost a month before I was invited to return to the Guardian’s dream prison. In those first days, I slept most of the time, and when I did wake up, I was ravenous. I ate and slept again. On the evening of the third day I woke, ate and showered, and boarded the plane for some much needed R&R with family. I thought I was prepared for whatever would happen next, when Magda Gardener showed up on my flight home to informed that not only did she know about my interview with the Guardian, but she was not best pleased.

 

For the next few days, I waited, expecting that any time I would get called back to New York to continue the interview. But when the call had not come by the third day, I found myself unable to settle, unable to relax, vacillating between hoping Magda had forbidden further meetings with the Guardian and longing desperately to see him again, to hear the rest of his story. On the fourth day, not only did I get the call, but one of the Consortium’s private jets had been sent for me. It seemed that after her stern talk to me, Magda had decided best expedite the whole interview under her watchful eye. I didn’t know how I felt about that, but I was more than a little bit anxious to get back to the Guardian.

 

I arrived in New York with more of a sense of excitement and anticipation than I would like to admit. That in itself frightened me. I told Magda Gardener that I had made a commitment and I would see it through to the end, but in my heart of hearts, I feared my desire to continue the interview had little to do with my commitment at this point.

 

At the flat in New York City, Talia met me at the door and invited me back to the big bed. This time it was Reese who sat in the wing backed chair, rising to kiss me on both cheeks. Then he held me at arms length and inspected me as though he were checking for physical wounds. “I’m all right,” I mumbled. “Better now that I’ve rested.” Then I added without waiting, “Magda knows.”

 

Reese didn’t seem surprised. “It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t know him as well as she thinks she does. He won’t hurt you,” Reese said, as he stepped back, still not taking his eyes off me. “But no matter what his intentions are, you’ll never be the same after being with him.”

 

“Thanks for that, Reese,” Talia grumbled. “You didn’t do too bad out of the deal. Besides that no one is forcing her to do this interview. She’s not so stupid as to think a demon is ever safe, and if she is, well she deserves what she gets.”

 

She motioned me toward the bed, but I balked. “Do you love him?” I asked Reese.

 

He took another step back, almost as though I had hit him, and rested a hand on the back of the chair. “I … think of him differently now.” Then he settled back in the chair, but avoided my gaze.

 

As I lay down to the bed, Talia crawled in next to me and pulled me close to her. This time she wore silk pajamas. “He’s a monster, K D,’ she whispered next to my ear. “It takes more than most people are up for to love a monster, whatever the hell that even means.” Her words were brittle, lacking in the usual humor that usually surrounded the succubus.

 

I wanted to argue that Reese was a monster too now and so was she, that they all were, but I fell asleep before I could say anything.

 

I awoke on my back in the grass looking up at the stars. The Guardian sat next to me looking out over the fells. “You appear much more rested now, K D,” he said without looking at me.

 

“I am, thank you.” I eased myself into a seated position, fighting a slight sense of disorientation. He let me get my bearings before he spoke again then he simply said. “I overheard the conversation. So our dear Magda Gardener knows of our meetings.”

 

I nodded. I’d begun to understand he didn’t need to see or hear me, and sometimes I didn’t really need to respond at all. That happened more often than it was comfortable to think about.

 

“Well, I’m delighted that our situation merited a plane flight and a motherly lecture. You should consider yourself among the blest.” I wondered if I was only imagining the strange blend of humor and bitterness in his voice. I was certainly not missing the hint of triumph when he added, “and you came back anyway. I am honored.”

 

There was another moment of silence and then he spoke without preamble as though I hadn’t been gone for nearly a month.

 

“She wrote my escape, Susan did. Of course I deceived her into thinking that she and Annie, in their drunken celebration after she had seen Chapel House, were only making up tales inspired by the place, and I was nothing more than the imaginary lover hiding in the dark. I was simply an idea for a story Susan would write later, put aside among her notes and documents to be opened and resurrected when she had time and when the inspiration struck her.” His laugh was forced. “You see to what levels I was willing to stoop to be free, and I would say that it was nothing, that I would have done so much more. That would not be a lie, I promise you. But you must understand I had never encountered a real Scribe before, in fact I did not believe that such a creature even existed in these secular sterile times.

 

“That she could simply write my freedom into existence was joy beyond joy for me. But that she had such power made her all the more desirable, for no matter how much I lusted for Annie, no matter how much I wanted her, she had no power other than her beauty, and beauty is a fleeting thing. A story well told, however, is immortal.

 

“In the night, she rose up from her bed, while Annie slept the sleep of the comfortably inebriated. She found the key to Chapel House and she drove there by herself. I knew that she would come. I knew that nothing short of death would keep her from me and, K D, I was then, as I ever am, insatiable. My freedom would never be enough, I would possess not only Susan, but I would take Annie as well.

 

“And there is more, another part of this story that makes me believe, in spite of all that has happened, that my experiences, all of our experiences, have led us to this point in our journey for a reason. That it was meant to be.” He chuckled softly. “How very human it sounds to say such a silly thing. But you will understand when I tell you. You will know why I believe such a thing to be true. You see, while Annie spoke of her plans for the renovation of Chapel House there in the crypt, she mentioned the builder who she would hire on for the project, Michael Weller. Oh yes, I knew full well who Michael Weller was, and my greed, my hunger, could barely be contained as I waited for my release.

 

“You see, I would have it all. Susan would make it so. I would have my freedom, I would have Annie, and then I would have Susan and Michael, and I would make them my own and keep them close to me for the rest of time.

 

“Dear K D, in the whole of my existence I cannot recall a moment when I was more beside myself with excitement, with anticipation of what would soon come to fruition because of my lovely little Scribe. I waited in the dark, a creature of infinite patience impatient as I had never known impatience. I waited with anticipation for my first proper taste of freedom, for my first proper taste of Susan.

 

Links to Previous instalments of the interview

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

 

A Scary Encounter on the Flight Home

As you know, I’ve been in the States visiting family the last three weeks. It’s been a happy time spent playing with the nieces and then later huckleberry picking and road-tripping with my sister. It’s been a restful, healing time away from the Guardian and the interview that, I’ll admit, had me pretty frazzled. The last thing I expected when I boarded the plane to Heathrow for the return flight was an encounter with Magda Gardener. Here’s what happened. 

 

“I know what you’re doing.” I’m instantly wide-awake. For a second I don’t remember where I’m at, but then the flight attendant brushes past me in the aisle and I can just make out the sonorous buzz of a snore coming from the man in the seat behind me. The too warm cabin suddenly feels like the arctic, and my arms prickle in a wave of goose bumps. I feel like my insides have turned to ice and the urge to run is cut off at the pass. I can’t run. I can’t even breathe. And just as panic sets in, the feeling passes and I’m breathing again, gasping like I’ve just run a marathon.

 

 

A warm finger nudges the hair away from my cheek. “Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” A breath of a whisper brushes my ear. I recognize the voice and I’m covered in goose bumps all over again.

 

Slowly I turn in my seat to find the empty space next to me filled with Magda Gardner, who’s smiling down at me as though we are just two girlfriends having a chat. “I know what you’re doing,” she repeats in a low even voice. “Though I doubt that you have any idea.”

 

“I figured you’d find out soon enough.” I try to sound like I don’t care, like it doesn’t matter to me one way or another that the woman knows I’m interviewing the demon who lives inside her vampire Scribe. Seriously, you can’t sound anything but bat shit crazy if you say something like that out loud in casual conversation.

 

“And you didn’t think it might be wise to at least give me the heads-up?” Her voice is still ridiculously conversational, bestie casual.

 

“I had no way of giving you the heads-up when I don’t even know how to get in touch with you.” Not that I really wanted that information. I’d prefer the woman forget all about me entirely, but Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa, never forgets anything … or anyone if she has a good use for them.

 

Without being asked, the flight attendant delivers her a whisky in a cut crystal glass. I assume Magda is back here with me because she’s slumming from first class. The attendant delivers me a flute of champagne. Magda Gardener is a lot of things, but she’s not cheap.

 

She thanks the woman, then dismisses her. Once she’s gone back to the first class cabin, Magda lifts her glass. “To lies and the nasty truths they uncover,” then she sips daintily.

 

I go through the motions of joining her in a drink. Enjoying what I’m sure is very expensive champagne is impossible under Magda Gardeners scrutiny. “I didn’t lie,” I say.

 

“Was it Susan who contacted you?” she asks, running a well-manicured nail around the rim of the glass.

 

“It’s not like he could contact me on his own.” I reply.

 

“You should have told her you wouldn’t do it unless I knew.”

 

“He didn’t want you to know. Any good journalist wouldn’t reveal her source.”

 

“You’re not a journalist,” she says, “and he’s not a source. He’s a demon, a monster, and you’re way out of your depth of experience no matter how good you are at what you do.”

 

“I didn’t say I was good.” I was neither smug nor arrogant about a situation that scared the crap out of me from the beginning. I would have gladly turned down the offer if I hadn’t feared the consequences of doing so.

 

“Believe me, there’s no question of your abilities or I wouldn’t have allowed you to write my story and the stories of my people. “But the issue is what contact with him will do to you. It’s already affecting you, whether you’ll admit it or not.”

 

“You owe him. All of you owe him.” The words slip out of my mouth before I could stop them.

 

To this she simply chuckles and sips at her whisky. “I rather think it’s the other way round. He owes us, and he knows it. He’s got a helluva lot to answer for, in case you’ve forgotten.” She waves a dismissive hand. “Of course he loves Susan and Michael, at least as much as a being like him can love anyone. And I dare say he’s very fond of Reese and Alonso too. He wants them to think better of him. His existence is easier if they do.” She waves a hand. “As for what he did in the fight against Richard Waters, he has no choice but to obey Susan’s commands. You wrote the story. You know this.”

 

I stare at my barely touched champagne. I know better than to look her in the face. “You think that’s all it is, he’s just obeying commands?”

 

She doesn’t answer immediately, and for a moment I wonder if perhaps she’s chosen not to, but then she sighs softly, pushes the ever-present Ray-bans up close against the bridge of her nose and says, “I don’t know. But he and I have a long and unpleasant relationship. Neither of us has any real reason to trust the other. But don’t you think a demon like him would take whatever pleasure he could get in whatever from it took, even if he is a prisoner?”

 

“You think I’m the entertainment.” A cold shiver ran down my spine at the thought I’d too often contemplated.

 

“I don’t think anything. But I do know that no matter how completely he’s incarcerated, he’s still dangerous.”

 

“So what exactly is it you want me to do,” I ask. “It’s not like I wanted this job, but then that’s never mattered much to any of you, what I want, has it?”

 

Her lips curl in a smile that’s nearly sentimental, as though in her mind’s eye, she’s fondly recalling all of our encounters to date. “No. It hasn’t.” She downs the rest of her whisky then turns to face me, and like it or not, I feel compelled to look at her, even with the chill creeping over my arms and throat. “As for exactly what I want you to do, first I want this conversation to stay between us. He doesn’t need to know we’ve spoken. Second, I want you to limit your time in his presence when you’re doing this silly interview. I’ve already talked to Talia and she’ll be monitoring you more closely.”

 

“No.” The word comes out lacking conviction and sounding almost like a plea. “I won’t keep our conversation from him. He knows you’ll find out eventually, and I don’t want to be the one caught keeping secrets from him. It seems to me that could be a whole lot more dangerous than being above board.”

 

To this Magda laughs out loud and the woman sitting across the aisle from me looks up from her magazine in irritation. “Choose very carefully which monster you refuse,” she says. “He fears me, and he’s a lot of things, but he’s not stupid.”

 

“The way I see it, my choices are pretty thin on the ground,” I replay.

 

“He would possess you, use you up and spit you out in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it,” she said. “Don’t believe for one moment that he doesn’t know exactly what effect he’s having on you. He knows how you crave his company, even as you fear it. He knows how he worms his way into your fantasies, even though you try to deny it. He knows that the longer he drags out the interview, the more danger you’re in. He knows all of this, K D, and he keeps inviting you back.”

 

“I won’t lie to him,” I say, not even trying to hide the trembling that seems to have taken control of me. “If you want me to stop the interview, then you have to put an end to it. Otherwise I’ve made a commitment. Up until now, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to, in spite of the uncomfortable, and dangerous situation it’s often put me in. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, but I’m not about to make it worse by lying to him.”

 

The glasses slip down her nose, and I nearly dump champagne in my lap I’m shaking so hard. My heart feels like it’ll beat me to death in its mad hammering. I can just make out the flutter of golden eyelashes before she pushes the glasses back into place. “All right. But we’ll all be monitoring you closely, and if I feel it necessary to put an end to the interviews, I will, no matter what you, or he, want. Is that clear?”

 

“Perfectly.” My voice is little more than a whisper.

 

“Good. Now drink your champagne.” She watches until I swallow it back in a single gulp, wishing I’d had her whisky instead. “That’s a good girl, now get some sleep.”

 

It’s the announcement of the descent into Heathrow that wakes me. The champagne flute is gone and so is Magda Gardener. There’s absolutely no evidence that she’s even been there. I return my chair to the upright position and close the tray table thinking about the encounter. With all that’s been happening to me since I began the interview with the Guardian, I’m well aware that it could have easily all just been a dream. But I’m certain that it wasn’t.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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