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

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

“GothFaire,” I said, drinking in the sight. Somewhere in that collection of trailers and tents, Ben was sleeping. He usually stayed with Imogen unless she had a boyfriend with her, which it sounded like she did, and that meant he could be anywhere, most likely holed up with one of his friends at the Faire.

“Eirik, I will need to use your iPhone later, to call Sabeine and Siglinde,” Finnvid said, examining the paper that he’d retrieved from me. “They said the day’s competition would be over by sundown.”

“Quiet. The virgin goddess is having a moment,” Eirik said in a hushed voice, nodding toward me before suddenly looking thoughtful. “Did they say I could moisturize their udders as well?”

“Aye, there’s plenty there for both of us,” Finnvid answered with a knowing leer.

I gazed at the Faire, unable to keep from remembering the year and a half I’d spent there, remembering the good times with Ben . . .

“Good. I like a woman with large—” He made squeezy motions at his chest.

. . . Remembering Ben’s kisses, and the way his eye color changed, and how he seemed to like me in the gypsyesque outfit that I wore when reading palms, the one he said made him want to kiss me senseless.

“You can have Siglinde, then. She was bigger than her sister.”

I smoothed down my blouse and wondered if Ben thought I was large in the breast department, then told myself it didn’t matter what he thought, and that I really needed to stop thinking about him and focus on what was important.

“You examined them?” Eirik asked, looking somewhat put out.

My skin began to tingle, all of me, as if just being in the same town as Ben had electrified the air, especially my br**sts, which badly wanted his attention. I stopped that thought dead in its tracks, glaring at the Vikings. Damn their talk of br**sts.

“Of course. That’s the first thing I do with a woman I’m considering for bed sport. What sort of moment is the goddess having?”

“One that has been invaded by the mental image of you two oiling up those buxom ladies,” I said with a little glare at the two of them. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to indulge in soul-searching insight with people yammering away about br**sts?”

Isleif looked righteous. “I did not yammer, virgin goddess.”

“Oooh, oil.” Finnvid’s eyes went a bit glazed.

“Stop that. We have things to do,” I said, frowning at his twitching fingers.

“But oiled br**sts . . .”

“No br**sts for you!” I ordered, feeling a bit like the Breast Nazi. “Can we move past that subject?”

“Aye, we can. Our apologies, virgin goddess.” Eirik narrowed his eyes on me. “Are you finished having your moment?”

“Yes, thank you. It’s over. Come on, let’s see who’s—What in the name of all that is bright and glittery is that?”

We all turned to face the road. I had been aware of the faint sound of singing, assuming someone at the Faire had the radio on. But the volume was growing, and at last I realized that the noise was coming from the road, where a group of about ten young men clad in ragged cloth pants, bits of wool wrapped around their feet with leather thongs, and torn tunics jogged past us, singing as they went.

“This is Tuesday, yes?” Finnvid said, pulling out a pamphlet. He looked at his watch. “Ah. The schedule says they are the Brustwarze High School Athletic Pilgrim’s Chorus.”

We watched the track team as they sang their way past us. I applauded politely. A couple of them managed a bow in midjog before they continued off into the distance.

“What was I saying?” I asked Isleif once they were far enough away that we could speak without shouting.

“Something about seeing someone?” he asked.

“Ah! Yes, we will see who’s awake at this time of the morning.” And then I would find out where Ben was, so I could brace myself for what I knew would be a somewhat emotional meeting.

We marched across the large open field until we were up to the ticket booth, sitting on the fringe of the Faire.

“It looks just the same as it did before,” Isleif commented, eyeing the long U shape that was created by a big tent at one end and two rows of vendors and Faire performers.

I stopped for a moment, the sense of déjà vu so great it was almost as if the last five years had never happened. “It certainly does,” I mused. “There’s the aura photography booth. There’s Desdemona’s personal time travel tent. That’s where Tallulah talks to the dead. And there’s my mother’s booth.”

I walked over to the small canvas and wood tent that served as booths for the Faire folk, familiar with every inch of the structure. They were easily set up and taken down, each with brightly painted designs. Mom as the resident Wiccan offered to counsel people who wanted to get in touch with the goddess and god, provided products like do-it-yourself love potion kits, and benign spells and potions that she felt made the world a better place. The flap to the tent was laced down now, concealing the long table that was no doubt set up behind it with rows of tiny bottles of happiness, understanding, generosity, luck, and even forgiveness.

A little pain contracted around my heart at the thought of the years I had spent helping her dry the herbs and flowers that had gone into her potions and spell kits. Once I would have given anything to have a normal mother, but now I just wanted her back, with all of her irritating, irrational ways.

“We’ll find her,” Eirik said, obviously reading the distress on my face as I touched the bright red and orange tent. The other Vikings murmured their agreement. “We will force Loki to give her back.”

“I know we will, and thanks, guys. I really do appreciate your help with this. Well, I suppose I should find Imogen and see if there is any news of Mom.” Now that there was nothing but a short distance between Ben and me, my palms were suddenly sweaty. I had to stand firm. I had made my choices, and I would stick to them, no matter how annoying my br**sts were in their demand to be placed in Ben’s hands. And mouth.

I moaned slightly at the thought of his mouth on my flesh.

“Virgin goddess?” Eirik asked. “Is all well?”

“Yes.” My voice came out hoarse. I cleared it. If Ben was staying with Imogen, then the sooner I got a meeting with him out of the way, the better it would be for everyone. “Perfectly fine. This way.”

We moved off past a group of people standing in front of the aura photography booth. It wasn’t yet noon, and the Faire wasn’t due to open for another two hours, but I remembered from my time working the palm reading booth that there were always a few early folk who liked to stroll around and eyeball the various offerings.

A big blond man with a very square jaw strode by, calling something in German to the clutch of people. They answered and moved off, evidently having seen the wisdom of waiting until the Faire opened. The blond man started to turn around, then paused, casting a glance back toward me. His step faltered. “Fran? Is that you?”

I smiled and ruffled my now short hair. “Hi, Kurt. Er . . . Karl. No, Kurt?”

“Kurt is right,” he said and laughed, and before I could say anything else, he embraced me in a bear hug that just about squeezed the breath out of my lungs. “You are back now? You are done with your schooling?”

“I’m done with college, yes, but I’m not here to stay. My mother hasn’t returned, has she?”

His eyebrows rose. “I haven’t seen her in a few days. Is something wrong?”

“Possibly.”

His eyes slid past me to the Vikings. They bugged out a bit (his eyes, not the Vikings). “Those are . . . those are . . .”

“Those are the Vikings that I inadvertently raised almost five years ago in Sweden, yes.” I smiled at his look of shock. “You have to forgive their choice of clothing. They were in Valhalla until a couple of days ago, and they went a little nuts at the outlet mall.”

Eirik brushed his hand down his navy blue muscle tee and adjusted his white-framed sunglasses. I squinted a little as the sunlight glared off the brilliant yellow of his tight clam diggers, white belt, and matching white shoes. “You do not like our new clothes, virgin goddess? I noticed you did not comment about them at the airport, where others were clearly envious of them.”

I bit my lip for a moment. “Your clothes are just fine.”

“A woman on the plane told me she had never seen anything like them before,” Isleif said with obvious pride, grabbing either side of his neon blue-and-white-striped plus four pants and pulling them out to maximum fluffiness. He wore a scarlet angora sweater that he had decided was too hot, so he pulled off the sleeves and cut a strip from the bottom, leaving him with his arms and belly button exposed.

Kurt gurgled a little. We both turned to look at Finnvid. He wore what I had assumed was a swimmer’s full-length body suit, the tight spandex clinging to his body like a second skin, leaving little, if anything, to the imagination. Luckily, he had also donned a black and white polka-dot knee-length knit coat, and a black fedora that he wore tipped at a rakish angle.

I sighed and smiled at Kurt. “The Vikings have been sent to help me with a little situation. They won’t cause any problems with the customers. Right, gentlemen?”

“We have sworn to not slay anyone you do not authorize us to slay,” Eirik said with a frown. “Although I dislike you binding us to such an oath, virgin goddess. It makes us feel helpless.”

“You guys are anything but helpless, and you know it. Is Imogen up yet, do you know?”

Kurt blinked. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen her this morning. Did he say virgin goddess?”

“No, he didn’t,” I said loudly, narrowing my eyes at each and every one of the Vikings. They grinned at me, the rats. “She knows I was coming, so I’ll just go say hi and get my Vikingahärta from her.” And get the meeting with Ben out of the way.

Inner Fran could not help but wonder if he missed me.

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