Home > In the Company of Vampires (Dark Ones #8)(10)

In the Company of Vampires (Dark Ones #8)(10)
Author: Katie MacAlister

I glanced over my shoulder at Naomi. She smiled a slow “Ben is my lover because he’s so over you” smile. “He’s in my bed. He was so exhausted after our night together, he went right to sleep.”

I gritted my teeth, my fingernails digging into my palms even through the two layers of gloves I’d replaced. I toyed with the idea of turning her into a toad or bug, but spells had been my mother’s forte, not mine. The only power I ever wielded came from the Vikingahärta. With much reluctance, I pushed away the thought that I could get it from Imogen’s trailer, then turn both the she-devil and Ben into what they deserved.

I turned back toward the door. With every step, the pain in my heart morphed into anger, a fury so hot I thought I would spontaneously combust by the time I flung open the door.

“Nrrf?” a voice said from the bed, then yelped as sunlight streamed in around me. “What the hell are you doing, Naomi?”

The man who rolled over onto his back and sat up, his short hair mussed, his eyes confused and sleepy, brought me to a halt.

“I just came to tell you that I was here, and I never want to see you again. Not that I had planned on doing that, because I thought Günter was saying Imogen was in this trailer, not you, but as long as we’re both here, it’s as good a time as any to get a few things off my chest. So I will. I never want to see you again, you two-timing, cheating rat bastard.”

His eyes widened as they focused on me. “Fran?”

I stared at him for a moment, pain and anger roiling around inside me. “I’m so glad to know I was right about freeing us both. I’m delighted to see that it took you absolutely no time to find a replacement for me. I’m nigh on ecstatic that I meant so little to you that you couldn’t wait to screw the first girl you could find!” I ripped off the ring I still wore on my middle finger and threw it at his head. “I’m so happy I could bloody well burst into a Broadway show tune!”

“Francesca—”

“I told her, but she wouldn’t listen to me,” Naomi said from the doorway, her smile gloating and so evil I wanted to smite her as she’d never been smited. She strolled past me, then sat on the edge of the bed next to Ben, putting a proprietorial hand on his chest. “Now do you see, little American? He is mine, not yours. Aren’t you, lover? Why don’t you tell her? She clearly needs to hear the words.”

I saw red as she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his mouth. Ben’s eyes were the color of honey oak, and filled with an expression I couldn’t read.

“Yes, lover, why don’t you tell me?” My voice came out croaked and hoarse.

His lips tightened. “I’m sorry. I was going to tell you what was happening. I just . . . I didn’t expect you to come to Europe yet.”

Naomi nibbled on his ear, cooing softly into it. I stared at him for a few seconds, not believing what I was seeing, not understanding the words he spoke. I had left him, I had told him I didn’t want to be his Beloved, and yet somehow, I had remained true to his memory. I hadn’t dated, hadn’t been interested in other men, I hadn’t even seen other men. I had left him, and he had done just what I had wanted him to do—he had gotten on with his life.

While I remained in limbo, bound to a man who now didn’t want me.

Anguish overrode my anger and I choked on the bile of my own hypocrisy. I spun around and ran blindly from the room, the mocking laughter of Naomi following after me.

I dashed past Kurt, who was emerging from a car with two lattes in his hands. I ignored his surprised greeting as I ran straight to a familiar navy blue trailer decorated with gold stars and moons. Just as I was fumbling in my pocket for the key I’d brought with me, the door opened and Eirik started out.

“Ah, virgin goddess. We were just leaving off our things before we go to the ninja store. Finnvid was concerned someone would pillage our laptops. We will—What is the matter?”

“Nothing,” I said, pushing past him into the trailer, tears spilling down my cheeks.

“You are crying,” he said, frowning as he followed me. Isleif emerged from the tiny bathroom, pausing next to Finnvid as I yanked open a cupboard and snatched up a couple of tissues.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s just something personal,” I said, trying to stop the tears, but it was as useless as trying to quell the pain that wrapped around my heart.

The three men exchanged looks. “It is the Dark One, is it not?” Eirik asked, putting his hand on my arm to gently steer me toward one of two curved club chairs that sat at a tiny table.

“Yes. But it doesn’t matter, as I said. That’s all over now.”

“All over? You are his Beloved,” Finnvid said, looking confused. “You cannot cease to be that.”

“No? You might tell Ben that, because he’s gone and found himself a new girlfriend. Probably a new Beloved, for all I know.” The last couple of words were a bit shaky, but I managed to speak them without wailing, which I thought was pretty good, considering everything.

All three men shook their heads. “Dark Ones have one Beloved. He cannot change them. Everyone knows that,” Isleif said, sitting down opposite me.

“Please, don’t start on that again. I am not a victim of fate; I make my own way. And besides, it’s clearly not true because Ben at this very moment is shacked up with a French—” I bit back the word I wanted to say. “He’s shacked up with a woman who told me he was hers now. And he agreed.”

“Then he will die,” Eirik said simply, reaching for his hip. He swore when he remembered he’d had to leave his sword back in Oregon.

“Aye. He will,” Finnvid said, looking around the trailer. He picked up a small red object. “What is this?”

“Fire extinguisher,” I said, sniffling into the tissue, making a heroic effort to get hold of myself.

“Would it kill an immortal?”

“No.”

“Ah. What is this? It looks like a stone grinder.” He pulled an old-fashioned egg beater from the drawer below the tiny microwave.

“That’s an egg beater. It wouldn’t be effective on stones at all.”

Finnvid’s lips quirked. “It would on a man’s stones, I’m willing to bet.” He spun the handle around vigorously a couple of times.

Isleif crossed his legs. “You cannot kill a Dark One by grinding his stones.”

“No, but we can make sure he doesn’t rut with anyone but the virgin goddess,” Finnvid answered.

“True.”

“Look, I appreciate this, but no one is going to kill Ben, or grind his stones. I’m a big girl now, remember?” I gave a loud, wet sniff. “He’s moved on, and I’ve taken steps to do the same, so now I’ll just get down to it. Besides, there are more important things I should be doing. I have to find my mom. I have to beat the living daylights out of Loki.” I have to figure out how I’m supposed to go on living with the thought of Ben with another woman.

Never once during the last year had I pictured Ben actually hooking up with another woman. I bowed my head, sick at heart over my idiocy. I had given him his freedom; I couldn’t now berate him for taking it.

“What about this?” Finnvid pulled a piece of frozen meat from the minuscule freezer section of the refrigerator.

“That’s the wrong kind of stake for a vampire,” I told him.

“Not if we hone a sharp edge to it,” Eirik said thoughtfully, taking the slab of meat from Finnvid. He ran his finger around one edge of the package. “If we got it sharp enough, could we cut off his head?”

Isleif rose to consult with them. “No. But it could be used to pierce his heart.”

I debated the folly of trying to point out the unlikelihood of them using a piece of frozen steak to murder Ben, but decided that both my wounded ego and my sanity deserved a little break. “Knock yourselves out,” I told them. “Once I have a few minutes to pull myself together, I’m going to go find Peter and see if he knows anything about my mother. Why don’t you guys go into town, like we planned. We can rendezvous later tonight.”

“Yes,” Eirik said, giving his buddies a look filled with portent. “We will do as you suggest, virgin goddess Fran.”

“Don’t kill anyone in the meantime,” I warned them as Finnvid and Isleif filed past me, the latter pausing to give me a fatherly pat on the shoulder.

“Your daughter Anna,” I couldn’t help but ask. “The one who you told me about when you guys were giving me dating advice—did she ever get married?”

Isleif looked surprised at the question. “Yes, three times.”

“Did she ever . . . Did her husband ever . . .” I couldn’t put into words what I wanted to ask. It just hurt too much.

His smile was filled with pride. “Aye, the first, Bruni. She caught him one morning rutting with a sheep. She was so furious, she struck him down with a hoe. You take her actions to heart, virgin goddess. She did not suffer a fool, and neither should you.”

I gawked at him. “Your daughter killed her husband because he had sex with a sheep?”

“No, not because of that,” Isleif snorted. “Bruni used her best gown when he made the sheep a dress.”

“I remember that dress,” Finnvid said thoughtfully. “She looked very nice in it.”

“Anna?” I asked.

“No, the sheep.”

“Which dress?” Eirik asked, his brow wrinkled. “The red or the gold?”

“Oh, the red. The gold was all wrong for the sheep. Made her look too bulky.”

“Aye, the red was best,” Eirik agreed. “She had a pleasant face, that sheep.”

“I like bulk on a woman,” Isleif commented. “But I agree the gold dress did not flatter the sheep. Now blue, that would have been nice.”

I shook my head, amazed that we were having this discussion. But then, I frequently felt like that when I talked with the Vikings. “I know things were different then, but I just can’t believe that your son-in-law had sex with a sheep.”

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