Talulla Rising Page 95

‘He’s guessed the missing verb.’

And so, with sudden embarrassment like a sickening roller-coaster drop, had I.

‘Vor klez mych va gargim din gammou-jhi. “When he drinks the blood of the werewolf.” It’s not mych. It was never mych. It was fanim. Present tense of the humble little verb fan, meaning “to join”. Vor klez fanim va gargim din gammou-jhi. “When he joins the blood of the werewolf.” I’ll see you another time.’

Walker was on his feet, moving with purpose. I was seeing what he was seeing: me gone, the kids too. I could feel him feeling the house keeping a secret. I looked down at the twins. They opened their eyes, simultaneously.

‘You haven’t told me anything,’ I said, looking up – but I was talking to myself. The vampire was gone.



‘It’s old money, Dad, I keep telling you,’ I say, quietly. ‘His father’s side was originally from England. Microelectronics back through steel through coal through cotton through rubber. That’s the official family line, but ask Walker and he’ll tell you it really began with selling Indian opium to the Chinese.’

‘Jesus, I’m not asking him that.’

‘Well, stop pestering me about it, will you?’

We’re in loungers by the pool at a luxury villa in the Napa Valley, just north of Calistoga (south of the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park – Jake would’ve approved) on a hot, static, blue mid-August day. Sunlight on the water. The smell of clean concrete, lavender, pine trees. We’re drinking; a Hendricks with lime on ice for me, a Bushmills and soda for him. Zoë and Lorcan are in a big sunshaded playpen, Zoë with immense frowning concentration pushing different yellow 3-D shapes into their appropriate holes in a red globe, Lorcan sitting cross-legged and sucking catastrophically on a sliver of mango. In two months, they’ll celebrate their first birthday.

Walker is indoors getting chips and salsa, since we’re mid-cycle and eating regular food like normal people. I’ve got a whole calendar worked out around this for when my dad can see us.

‘Look, you can’t expect me to just absorb all this like a... You can’t expect me not to be curious.’

‘I know, Dad. I get it. But this is months now, with the same shit. You’re spilling, you’re spilling – wait.’ He can’t stop monkeying with the lounger, and his latest adjustment has lost him half his drink. ‘Wait. Let me. There. Okay?’

Cloquet has been sent on a month-long all-expenses-paid vacation around the Caribbean. (You won’t need me any more, he’d said, after Crete, once it was apparent Walker was going to be more than a fling. I’ll look for something. It’s fine. I understand. Rubbish, I told him, my unhardened Pharaonic heart in a sentimental mess. Go if you want to, but not because you think I don’t need you. I’ll always need you. Always. I put my arms around him. We both cried. It was ridiculous. So he stayed with me. Practically, not much has changed anyway: Walker and I don’t, technically, live together, nor, with the exception of fuckkilleat, are we sexually monogamous, though we still do it with each other a lot more than we do it with anyone else. So Cloquet’s role has remained approximately the same, familiar, logistician, babysitter, friend. The kids adore him.) Anyway, he’s off in the Caribbean. Madeline (who told me the sex was ‘as a matter of fact fan fucking tastic’, and who descends every now and then, fucks Cloquet’s brains out, then disappears) will be ‘bumping into him’ in Barbuda. All planned by yours truly.

‘I don’t know why you’re obsessing about the money, anyway,’ I say to my dad. ‘Just be glad we’ve got it.’ Since Jake’s financial history was spare I put it to use and made it Walker’s. My husband’s. The father of my children. Lies, lies and lies again, but the old man needs a picture that’s safe, secure and sensible. Doubly so after the shock of me presenting him with twin grandchildren eight months ago. ‘You worried about money when we had enough,’ I tell him. ‘Now we’ve got more than enough and you’re still worrying. It’s depressing.’

‘All right, all right, fine. Jesus. Did you sign a pre-nup at least?’

‘Dad, for God’s sake. Yes. Yes. We divorce, I get a lot. Trust me, more than I’ll ever need.’

Walker, tan, lean, wolf-fit, in Bermudas, comes out of the house with the chips and salsa on a tray. ‘Nikolai, you look more than ready for a refresher there. Here, let me get that.’

My dad’s amazement at Walker’s alleged wealth regularly short-circuits his basic social functions and he ends up, as now, gawping at him, as if he expects to see fifties and hundreds sprouting from the man’s head.

‘Dad!’ I say. ‘Do you want a refill?’

‘What? Oh, sure, sure. Thanks, Robert.’

‘Miss D?’

‘Hell, yes.’

The afternoon melts away in heat and sun and alcohol and increasingly frank and freeform conversation. The sentence I wrote in my journal last night after Walker had fallen asleep keeps tugging at my brain: Talulla Demetriou, you have been a Very (pause) Bad (pause) Girl. My dad, drunk, cooks lamb with red and green peppers in a rich tomato sauce – arnaki kokkinisto – my favourite from when I was small. The sight of him in paunchy, grey-quiffed, long-eyelashed profile at the stove with one shirt tail out, cooking, calm as God, gives me profound pleasure. It’s a risk, of course, having contact with him. WOCOP (or SLOW COP, as we’ve taken to calling them) are lately wise to the existence of a new generation of werewolves (current count is fifty-plus: Fergus found out about the lovebite, and somewhere out there Devaz has been running amok) and Helios remains bent on cracking the daylight magic of the lycanthropic gene. Either organisation could get to me through the old man. But I know if I gave him the choice he’d want to see me and the kids. So I’ve made the choice for him. We just have to be careful. Very careful. Jacqueline Delon, rumour has it, survived the raid on the monastery, though with a Fifty Families price on her head she’s choosing her friends carefully. Mia hasn’t shown her face, but I know she’s been close. Sorority says she can’t quite bring herself to assassinate the woman who saved her (and her son’s) life. Wulf says she’s taunting me for fun. Something between sorority and wulf says that for the time being fascination’s sweeter than revenge. That’s what it feels like: the death of either of us would be an impoverishment to the other, the subtraction of a bitter but compelling magic.

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