Home > Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(5)

Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power #2)(5)
Author: L.H. Cosway

“Tegan’s an old friend, she’s come to visit for a while.”

“How nice,” says Maria, arms folded, a smile touching her lips.

Then we say our goodbyes and get into Finn’s car to drive to where ever it is we’re supposed to be meeting Pamphrock. As it happens, Finn pulls into the car park of some big warehouse, which is not exactly what I’d been expecting. I thought we’d be meeting him at a nice café for brunch or something like that.

I peer out the window at the massive brick building. “What is this place?”

“One of the new DOH training compounds,” Finn answers. “As you might imagine, there’s been a recent need for new recruits, what with all the casualties we’ve been having.”

I don’t know what to say to that, especially since I played quite a large part in the events leading up to this war that’s been going on. All those young men and women dead. It makes my heart hurt to think about it.

Inside there are lots of people dressed all in black, wandering about the place urgently. There are windows all along one of the back walls, through which you can view a shooting practice range. Other than that, there are various assault courses where budding slayers are undertaking their training. I feel like I’ve just entered some kind of surreal super-secret military layer. Well, I sort of have.

Finn leads me up a set of stairs to the closed door of an office room. He knocks and a middle aged man with a neat haircut wearing a smart navy suit answers.

“Ah,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for you two. It’s good to see you Finn,” he says happily, taking Finn’s hand and giving it a firm shake.

“Governor Pamphrock, this is Tegan Stolle, the girl I told you about.”

“Of course,” says Pamphrock, turning to look at me now. “You’re very welcome Miss Stolle, and I’m grateful for your help.”

Pamphrock’s got that refined beauty I’ve come to associate with the dhamphirs, it reminds of both Delilah and Gabriel. Dhamphirs are attractive in a less shocking way than the vampires. Even though he doesn’t have any stand out features, you can tell that he’s a man of power, that he has authority over a large group of people. Perhaps it’s in the way that he holds himself. I wonder about his age, since dhamphirs can be anywhere up to five hundred years old. Suddenly I feel as though I’m in a room with a person who’s a piece of history, like a sculpture or a piece of rock from an archaeological dig.

Finn and I sit down in front of Pamphrock’s office desk, he comes in and stands by the window, then he eyes me closely.

“Do you mind me asking how exactly it is you know Ethan Cristescu?” he asks.

I’m about to answer when Finn cuts in. “Tegan moved away from Tribane because Cristescu had been pursuing her.”

Pamphrock comes to sit down at his desk now. “Right, so you were frightened of him and you ran away. How are you going to explain your return? Clearly, someone who was so scared of a man is not going to willingly walk straight back into his life.”

I stare directly at Pamphrock now. “We were involved romantically, when I discovered what he was I broke things off. I can pretend that I’ve come to terms with him being a vampire, tell him that I want to give things another shot.” This is a half-lie, but it’s necessary if I want to avoid explaining to him about my blood.

Pamphrock considers it for a moment. “I suppose that might work. But what about you, why are you agreeing to help me find my daughter, Miss Stolle?”

“I need the money,” I answer, my face expressionless.

“Yes, perhaps you do,” says Pamphrock, then he draws closer and takes a deep breath, his brow furrows. “Have we met before?” he asks suddenly. “You seem familiar to me in some way.”

“No we’ve not met before,” I reply, confused.

Pamphrock is quiet for a long minute. “You know, this might sound strange, but in a way you remind me of Rebecca.” He pulls open a drawer and retrieves a photograph. He slides it across the desk to me. I pick it up.

“This is the most recent picture I have of my daughter,” says Pamphrock.

I look down at the photo. She’s a pretty girl, with long blond hair, tanned skin and big brown eyes. She looks absolutely nothing like me, in fact, we’re polar opposites. I don’t know how Pamphrock could think I remind him of his little girl.

“Memorise her face. I’d let you keep the picture with you, but I can’t risk it if Cristescu finds you with it and realises what you’re up to.”

“All right then,” I reply, committing Rebecca’s features to memory. I hand the picture back to Pamphrock, who’s currently staring at Finn.

“I would like to speak with Finn alone now for a moment, if you don’t mind Miss Stolle.”

“Sure, I’ll wait outside,” I say, rising from my seat and leaving the room, closing the door behind me. About five minutes later Finn emerges with a face like thunder.

“What was that all about?” I ask, as we walk back to his car.

“Pamphrock was just reminding me of the consequences if you happen to betray us.” Finn answers, then turns to me. “You better not screw this up, Tegan.”

“Hey, I’ll do the best that I can.” I tell him irritably. “By the way, where is Rebecca’s mother? I thought I’d be meeting her too, since so much responsibility is being placed on me.”

Finn glances in my direction. “As far as I know she’s not on the scene. Pamphrock’s got a lot of kids with a lot of different women. Rebecca is his youngest, that’s probably why the vampires targeted her, she’s where Pamphrock’s most vulnerable.”

When we’re in the car, Finn takes an envelope from his pocket and drops it onto my lap. I peer inside and my eyes widen, it contains five grand in clean, crisp notes.

“You’ll get the rest once we’ve gotten Rebecca back safely,” he says, before driving me back to his house. He hands me the front door key and tells me he’s got some errands to run and will be back in the evening. I go inside and decide to have a long soak in the tub. I spend an hour in the bath reading a novel, but I get out just before my skin has the chance to turn into a prune. I wrap myself in clean towels and try to decide what I’m going to wear to Crimson tonight. In the end I decide on a tight black pencil skirt, a cream lace top, fifties tights with a stripe down the back of the leg and some black heels.

At around six Finn gets home, I’m in the living room watching television when he carries in a bag with Mexican takeaway. He hands me a fancy cardboard ticket for the Christmas party at Crimson.

“How did you get your hands on this?” I ask, because I’m sure it wouldn’t be an easy task for a slayer to get a ticket to an exclusive vampire event.

“I have my ways,” is all he says, before he dishes out the dinner and we eat in comfortable silence.

Later on I go upstairs to get ready. My hands are almost shaking as I put on some black eye-liner, mascara and red lipstick. I have no idea what’s going to happen tonight. For all I know I could die at the hands of a hungry vampire. From what Finn told me about the party, the place is going to be jam packed with vamps from all over the city. I dress quickly and head downstairs. Finn lets out a low whistle when he sees me.

“It’s a damn shame you’re going to Crimson tonight,” he says, his voice slightly husky.

“Where will you be?” I ask, I’m jittery and nervous now that the time has come for me to see Ethan again.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be nearby. I’ve put my number into your phone on speed dial, so all you’ve got to do is hit a button if anything goes wrong and I’ll be there in a flash.”

I swallow down a big gulp of saliva. “Okay then.”

I pick up my coat and hand bag, double checking that I have everything I need, even though I’ve already checked three times at this stage. I’m so unbelievable anxious. I stand in front of the mirror in Finn’s hallway, taking in my unusually glamorous appearance. It seems that I’ve subconsciously made an effort to look my best, and it irks me to think that the mere prospect of seeing Ethan has me acting like one of those ridiculous, desperate girl clichés.

A minute later I hear the taxi driver beep his horn to let me know he’s arrived. I say goodbye to Finn, who assures me that I’m going to do just fine, and then I step out into the cold December night.

Chapter Four

People Are Strange

I sit fidgeting in the taxi as it brings me closer and closer to Crimson. When I finally arrive I eye the long queue of people waiting to get in. I pay the driver, put on my coat, sling my bag over my shoulder and across my body and go to join the well-dressed bunch who are eagerly waiting to get to the party that’s going on inside. I wonder how eager they’d be if they knew that there are going to be vampires drifting among them, most likely targeting them out as prey.

I’ve got a small flick knife in my bag, just in case anything happens to go awry. It takes about twenty minutes for me to get to the door, and the relief I feel when I see that Lucas isn’t around slides off my body in waves. I want to get inside and have a look around first before any of the vamps notice I’m here, see if I can find any clues as to Rebecca’s whereabouts. And my dad’s.

I hand my ticket to the girl at the door and then go to leave my coat in the cloakroom, where a dark haired man who is quite obviously a vampire hands me a small numbered slip. I shove it into my bag and walk away quickly, before he has the chance to smell me.

There are lots of sparkly Christmas decorations around the place, but beneath that there’s still Crimson’s trademark Gothic look. The dance floor is teeming with bodies, some people wear tinsel around their necks or in their hair, perhaps to get into the festive spirit. The DJ is that same girl from the very first night I’d come here two years ago, seeing her gives me a distinct case of déjà vu. At the moment she’s playing Pinball Wizard by The Who.

I step up to the bar and order a white wine spritzer. There are several attendants on duty since it’s so packed tonight. I actually recognise Judy, her hair has grown long and she doesn’t have a nose ring any more. I see her glance at me for a moment, perhaps wondering if she knows me from somewhere. But my hair is different and I’m not as thin as I had been before, so she probably can’t remember who I am. Which is a good thing, because I’m not ready for anybody to know I’m here just yet. She dismisses me and turns away to serve her next customer.

In the distance I can see the VIP section high above the dance floor, and it’s absolutely jam packed with vampires. I can’t take my eyes off of the beautiful but deadly creatures, as they sip on flutes of champagne and laugh and watch the unsuspecting humans dancing and getting drunk below them. I wonder how hungry they are.

I’m completely mesmerised by them, because they are so entirely different from the humans present. You probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know what to look out for. They have these eyes that seem to shine and glitter as they take in their surroundings, they look at every person and thing around them with a level of deep intensity, as though they can sense so much more of the world than humans can. It almost makes me jealous. Then I remember that they need to parasite blood to survive, make people addicted to their bite, perhaps not killing them out right but definitely killing them slowly, and I shiver. It’s quite insidious when you think about it.

I want to find some way to get closer to the VIP section, so that I can study the vampires in more detail. I don’t know how I’m going to get any information about Rebecca without speaking to them. Super hearing would come in handy at a time like this, that way I could listen in to their conversations to see if any of them mention a kidnapped little girl being held prisoner.

I knock back the last of my drink, place the glass down on a nearby table and then I enter the dance floor. Slowly, I make my way through the pulsating crowds, bodies brush off mine as I pass them by. When I’ve gotten about midway through the distance between the dance floor and the VIP section, I glance up again at the celebrating vampires. It’s at this very moment that my eyes lock on something familiar. A head of golden blond hair. Then I see his face, handsome and beautiful as ever. Ethan.

I stand glued to the spot, unable to tear my gaze away from him, my eyes drinking him in. Tonight he’s wearing a crisp dark shirt, and he’s standing beside another vampire who is clearly reciting some important information to him. Both of their heads are close as they speak, while others laugh and smile and get drunk around them.

I take in every detail of Ethan’s form, it seems like it’s been decades since I last laid eyes on him. His tall, lean frame, and his olive toned skin. The music is loud in my ears, and there’s the tiniest moment of silence as one song ends and leads into the next. It’s within this moment that Ethan’s gaze shifts away from the man he’s speaking to, his eyes flit to the side and then down, as if he’s sensing something. Or someone. I gulp.

Then his eyes flash to mine, and the moment seems to last for an eternity. Confusion and disbelief colour his expression, then something else takes shape. Determination. He says something to the man he’d been speaking with and then he begins to descend the stairs, down and away from the VIP section and directly towards me. I stand utterly still in the centre of the crowded dance floor, not able to move an inch.

The next song begins to play, People Are Strange by The Doors. Jim Morrison’s deep voice fills my ears as Ethan gets closer and closer, closing the distance spread out between the two of us as if it were an endless ocean. I listen to the spooky melody of the song, and the lyrics float over my brain. Then the beat of the song picks up and Ethan is standing before me, the people around us don’t move into our space, as though sensing that Ethan is not someone you would want to brush up against.

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