Talulla Rising Page 44

‘You know what the weird thing was?’ Madeline said. ‘I told Trish the whole story, what I was, what I was going to do to him – and she believed me. Just believed me straight off like that. She said she wanted to watch. So I let her.’

The trouble was, even after Alistair had met his end, Trish couldn’t get the monkey off her back. ‘She’d been through too much,’ Madeline said. ‘You seriously don’t know. Stuff he did to her? Unbelievable.’ She shook her head, disgusted. ‘And after all that she goes and tries topping herself. Twice! Honestly, the woman was a wreck. In the end she just asked me flat out if I’d... You know. She said she’d seen what it had done for me. I mean I’m different to how I used to be. I used to be... Well. Anyway. You know. I mean you do know.’ I thought I did. Whatever else the Curse had done to me it had removed physical fear. You don’t know how much physical fear you’ve been carrying around until it’s gone. Imagine every time you find yourself alone with a man you don’t know. Walking on a street. At a gas station in the middle of the night. Imagine knowing he can’t kill you. Imagine knowing you can pull just enough wulf to the surface to let him know pissing you off will be a really, really bad idea. Madeline sipped her gin and tonic and continued: ‘So I thought: You leave her to herself, Mads, and she’ll be in a coffin in a month. And then what was it all for? Sounds barmy, I know, but I didn’t really see what she had to lose. So I did it.’

A maid pushed a tinkling trolley past the door. The world had receded from us. The room was dark. Getting up and turning on a light would’ve been brutal.

‘She’s off the shit now,’ Madeline said. ‘She’s gone completely the other way. You should see her. She’s like bloody Lara Croft.’

Lara Croft or not, Trish botched her kill last month, and now they had Fergus, a three-times-divorced fifty-three-year-old alcoholic sales rep, to add to the family. Like Lucy, he’d tracked his maker down. ‘That’s what’s different with you,’ Madeline said. ‘Lucy and Fergus, they could find us. I mean we’ve all got a feeling for where we are. Instinct or whatever. If I go out of here and start walking, pretty soon I’ll know which direction to go for any one of them. It’s not like that with you. It’s more confused.’

She wasn’t sentimental. When I told her about the birth and my dead heart, the empty space where love should have been, she didn’t say I mustn’t blame myself, or that it wasn’t my fault, or that there was nothing I could have done. She just sat, intrigued, hooked on the story. A couple of times I paused too long in the narrative. Then what happened? she demanded. I found myself liking her. She couldn’t disguise her satisfaction at the thought of never aging. She wanted confirmation of the four-hundred-year lifespan and immunity to disease. I told her that was what Jake had told me – and if anyone knew, he did.

It was a bitterish fascination to her that Jake had loved me. Not because she cared about Jake, but because she was compelled to find out what merits or skills other women had. I could feel her trying to imagine what it had been like between him and me. I could feel her getting it, reluctantly, that it was the other thing, the mysterious thing, the thing of which even fabulous sex was only a part. She’d never been in love. Not as an adult. She was unformed in that department. I’d felt it in the slim, tight shoulders. It was there in the appetite for things. It was there in the prostitution. There was a weird moment when I asked her if she was still working as an escort and she told me she was. Weird because obviously it brought Jake again, the images, the speculation (with you, did he like to... ?) and weird again because in spite of everything she thought I might disapprove (she put on a bright little pretence of pragmatic shamelessness at first); but weird chiefly because it raised like a hot flush in both of us the other, gentler atrocity of our condition: wulf libido. Suddenly the fact of Curse nymphomania was there, unignorable, and for a moment we didn’t know whether to acknowledge it. There was a brief silence. Then, as before, we found ourselves laughing. ‘I got three months off when I was expecting,’ I told her. ‘Now it’s on again.’

She was on her fourth Hendricks. ‘Way I look at it,’ she said, ‘why pack the job in now? At least there’s more to it than just the money.’

It was after eight o’clock when Cloquet knocked to see what I wanted for dinner. By which time I’d done what I could to drum into Madeline the need for extreme caution in all our movements and communications from now on. She’d also managed to reach two of the three others (Trish and Fergus) and arrange a meeting for nine tomorrow night, location (I insisted) to be called-in by me not more than two hours beforehand. She gave me her number, and didn’t make a fuss when I told her I couldn’t give her mine on the clean cell. I told her I’d sort another phone out tomorrow and thereafter we’d use that. I introduced her to Cloquet as a friend and said nothing about what she was. Partly to see if he’d be able to tell (it was one of the things I was never sure of, whether we didn’t – through some vibe or pheromone – give ourselves away to humans) but mainly because I couldn’t face going through the whole explanation again with Madeline there.

‘Did you notice anything odd about her?’ I asked him, when she’d gone. We were alone in my suite, him in the window seat, me on the edge of the bed. It was fully dark out, and raining. The TV was on, with the sound down. CNN, which Walker and I had been half-watching on his last visit, like two people looking back through time and space to the world they’d lost, long ago.

‘Odd? No. Why? What’s odd?’

He’d reacted oddly himself when I’d introduced them, said barely a word, seemed unsure whether to shake hands with her. Now he was reacting oddly to the question.

‘You seemed a little strange with her.’

‘Strange? Pas de tout. I know nothing about her.’

‘Oh my God,’ I said, with belated intuition. ‘You liked her.’

‘Don’t be absurd.’

His sexual self had been dormant for so long I was astonished at my certainty that that’s what it was. But no less certain, astonished or not. ‘Of course,’ I said. ‘She’s beautiful.’

‘She looks like someone I worked with once, that’s all.’

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies