Drina hardly noticed the rhythmic tap of her heels as she descended the stairs from the plane. Her attention was shifting from the winter-dead trees surrounding the private airstrip to the man leaning against the back of a small golf cart on the edge of the tarmac.
With dark hair and skin and a black leather coat, he could have been mistaken for a shadow if it weren't for his glowing gold-black eyes. They peered at her, steady and cold from between his black wool hat and scarf, and he remained utterly motionless until she stepped down onto the paved runway. Only then did he move, straightening and walking forward to meet her.
Despite the cold, Drina forced a smile. A greeting was trembling on her lips, but died there when he took the small bag she carried and turned wordlessly away. The abrupt action brought her up short, and she watched blankly as the man walked away with her luggage. When he slid behind the wheel of the small, open cart and dropped her bag on the front passenger seat, she managed to shake herself out of her surprise and move forward, but couldn't resist muttering, "Hello, you must be Drina Argenis. Such a pleasure to meet you. Please, allow me to take your luggage for you. And here, please take a seat so I can get you to the enforcer house and out of this cold."
With their hearing, she knew the man must have heard her sarcastic mimicry of what she would have liked him to say, but he didn't react by deed or word. He merely started the engine on the cart and waited.
Drina grimaced. It seemed obvious from where he'd set her suitcase that she was expected to sit on the back bench seat. Not welcome in the front, apparently, she thought with disgust as she settled on the cold, stiff seat. She then grabbed the supporting bar to keep from sliding off as the cart immediately jerked into motion. The icy metal under her fingers made her think, not for the first time, that she should have researched North American winters more fully before making this journey. It was a bit late for that, however. But she would definitely need to take a shopping trip or two as soon as she could if she didn't wish to end up a Popsicle while here.
With nothing else to look at, Drina watched the small plane that had brought her here turn on the landing strip and start away. The moment its wheels lifted off, the lights on the field suddenly blinked out and darkness crowded in. For one moment, she couldn't see a thing, but then her eyes adjusted and she took in the knee-deep snow and skeletal trees lining the path and wondered how long she would be on this contraption and out in the cold.
The woods weren't as deep as they'd seemed from the plane. It only took a matter of moments before they left the woods behind to follow a small path along the side of an open snow-covered yard holding what looked like a long garage and a house. It was the garage her driver steered them toward. The tires crunched on the hard-packed snow as they came to a halt beside a small door. The man who hadn't greeted her, then grabbed her bag and slid out from behind the steering wheel. He moved toward the door to the garage without a word.
Eyebrows rising, along with her temper, Drina followed him inside and up a short hall. She spotted an office and a hallway leading to cells on her left, but he led her to a door on the right and straight into a garage, where several vehicles sat waiting.
Drina cast a quick glance over the few vehicles inside. They were all the same, SUVs, she thought they were called. She followed Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Mute to the back passenger door of the first vehicle. When he opened it, and then simply waited, she eyed him narrowly. It seemed obvious he was going to be her escort to Port Henry, but she'd be damned if he was going to stick her in the backseat like some unwanted guest for the duration of what her uncle had said would be a two-hour journey.
Smiling sweetly, she ducked under his arm and moved past him to the front door instead. Drina pulled it open and quickly slid inside, then turned to eye him challengingly.
His response was to heave a long-suffering sigh, toss her bag on the floor at her feet, and slam the door closed.
"Great," Drina muttered, as he walked around the vehicle to the driver's side. But she supposed she shouldn't be surprised at the man's attitude. He worked for her uncle, after all, the most taciturn man she'd ever met. On this side of the ocean at least. She added that last thought as Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Miserable slid behind the steering wheel and started the engine.
Drina watched him press a button that set the garage door in front of them rolling up, but waited until he'd shifted into gear before asking, "Are we heading straight to-"
She paused as he suddenly slid a letter from an inside pocket of his fur-lined coat and handed it to her.
"Oh here, I was to give you this," Drina mimicked dryly as she accepted the envelope.
Tall-Dark-and-Rude raised an eyebrow but otherwise didn't react.
Drina shook her head and opened the letter. It was from Uncle Lucian, explaining that her escort was Anders and he would be delivering her directly to Port Henry. She guessed that meant Lucian hadn't trusted Anders to pass on this information himself. Perhaps he really was mute, she thought, and glanced curiously to the man as she slipped the letter into her pocket. The nanos should have prevented it . . . unless, of course, it wasn't a physical problem but a genetic one. Still, she'd never heard of a mute immortal.
"Do you speak at all?" she asked finally.
He turned an arched eyebrow in her direction as he steered the vehicle up the driveway beside the house, and shrugged. "Why bother? You were doing well enough on your own."
So . . . rude, not mute, Drina thought, and scowled. "Obviously, all those tales Aunt Marguerite told me about charming Canadian men were something of an exaggeration."
That had him hitting the brakes and jerking around to peer at her with wide eyes. They were really quite beautiful eyes, she noted absently as he barked, "Marguerite?"
"Dear God, it speaks again," she muttered dryly. "Be still my beating heart. I don't know if I'll survive the excitement."
Scowling at her sarcasm, he eased his foot off the brakes to cruise forward along the driveway until they reached a manned gate. Two men came out of a small building beside the gates and waved in greeting. They then immediately set about manually opening the inner gate. Once Anders had steered the SUV through and paused at a second gate, the men closed the first one. They then disappeared inside the small building again. A bare moment later, the second gate swung open on its own, and he urged their vehicle out onto a dark, country road.