It was a dark and stormy night.
Feeling jubilant at the success of a case that took them to Toronto, Amanda showed Nick to her favorite Toronto nightclub, only to find it was under new management and had undergone a major remodel. She shrugged and led Nick to a table. In England she knew three pubs that had been there since her youth, but things seemed to change faster in the Americas. She rather liked that.
The live music was gone, replaced with a sound system that played some pop song that lacked the pulsing erotic beat of the old nightclub bands. The crowd was subdued, perhaps by the weather, and a little on the thin side, but thick enough to disguise a bit of larceny as she passed through.
They claimed a small table near the wall, where Nick held out her chair, gave their surroundings the copper's search for threats, and moved off to get them drinks from the bar. Amanda smiled. His protectiveness pleased her as a woman and pleased her as his teacher, since caution was a healthy habit for an immortal. Her smile widened as she admired her new acquisition, a diamond tennis bracelet. She shielded it from general view as she turned it in her hands. It would go nicely in her collection.
She admired it for too long, though, since Nick reappeared out of the club's dusk, bearing drinks. He frowned as he set them down. "That's new. Where did—"
Amanda whisked it into her bag with professional ease. Nick's frown morphed into just a tightening of the lips as he sat. He knew her by now. "Why do you do that?" he asked, scanning the dancers on the floor, most likely looking for the bracelet's previous owner. Irked that his sympathies were with some unknown trust-fund kid, she gave him a defiant look. "I like shiny things."
Nick sighed and had a drink of his beer. "Is there anyone you wouldn't steal from?"
"Why darling, what a thing to ask," Amanda protested, with a coquettish twist of her shoulders. She couldn't answer, because she'd never thought of anything like that before. Why set limits on herself? She wanted to answer, yes, of course, she'd never steal from her friends, but Duncan MacLeod and even Rebecca flashed through her mind. Guilt was a rare visitor at Amanda's table, and she didn't care for it. She banished it with a regal wave and turned the conversation to their immediate surroundings. She scanned the people in the club with a practiced eye and found an interesting subject.
"There," she said, tilting her head to the side to indicate the bar area behind her. "I wouldn't steal from him." She sampled her own drink, a white wine spritzer. "Unless I had to," she added.
"Who?" Nick asked, peering toward the bar, and then his own instincts must have identified the man she meant. "The guy with all the women? Silk shirt, black chinos, Farrah Fawcett hair?"
Amanda nodded, enjoying Nick's surprise. The man at the bar was young, pleased with his own beauty and on the hunt for willing women, but that could describe half the men in all the world's nightclubs. "Why?" Nick asked.
"It's a matter of gauging the level of risk," she said as if she were coaching a young pickpocket, instead of a cop turned immortal. "He's not drunk, he's the center of a lot of attention and he moves like a dancer. Of all the people here he's the one most likely to notice if I tried for his wallet." She glanced over her shoulder. "Or his watch. Shiny."
As if the young man felt their attention, he looked directly at their table, past one of the women he flirted with. Amanda met his gaze expecting to see appreciation, even desire, but saw—
And she recognized him, in return.
She snapped her head back toward Nick, her heart pounding.
"What is it?" Nick asked, putting his drink down. He eyed the bar.
Amanda swallowed. "It can't be. It can't be," she murmured. She took a deep breath and chanced a glance back. Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Amanda didn't know how many other titles but most of all, bastard son of King Henry VIII, slipped through the line of his admirers and advanced on their position.
Amanda's thoughts whirled. Over the course of her long life, she'd often been struck by a stranger's resemblance to someone long dead, but this was not that. Every step he took closer showed him more like the king's long-dead heir presumptive, not less. And he recognized her; she could tell. Her fingers itched for a sword, even as her mind denied any possibility that this man was an immortal. She couldn't feel him – not at all. Panic took root and grew.
"We should go," she said, searching for a back exit. She pulled her little bag to her and pushed back her chair.
Nick watched the man approach as well, and stood as if to block his advance. Wonderful. Maybe he could stall while she escaped. She shook herself, dismayed. What was wrong with her? If this was an immortal threat, she couldn't leave her student to deal with it. She was responding like a woman being protected by her man, not like an immortal. But this Richmond clone gave off no immortal buzz, the thing that woke her own inner predator. The fighter inside her remained asleep. Confused, she let Nick stand between them.
"Hey, now," Nick said as Richmond strode up to them. Nick stood at least half a head taller than his challenger, but the king's son had not been tall even for his own time. Still stunned at seeing him, Amanda's thoughts continued: It's not as if he lived to get his full growth. He'd died soon after she last saw him, at seventeen years old.
Richmond turned his head enough to fix a haughty gaze on Nick. "This doesn't concern you," he said with all the power of royalty in his voice, and to Amanda's dismay, Nick was quelled. She felt goosebumps prickle on the back of her neck. But still no buzz.
Richmond returned his attention to her. "How dare you hunt in my town without my permission?" he growled.
"What?" There was nothing else she could say to something so ludicrous. "What are you talking about?"
His nostrils flared, and something changed on his face. He blinked, and she saw confusion, a moment of uncertainty. "You're—What are you doing here?" This demand was not so much regal as puzzled.
She couldn't be wrong. She remembered him, well. He was half raised at King Henry's court, which she had visited in a variety of roles. In the last one, she'd arranged to join a covey of young women like the group at the bar, brought in to please a private party of courtiers that included the young prince. She'd been instructed to "warme hys blud's fyre."
Unlike now, he'd been sickly and distracted. His friends were trying to lift his spirits with the age-old cocktail of wine, women and song, but Amanda knew at once that he was not only sick but sick at heart. The Tudor prince was pining for love, and that made him an easy mark. His royal father had favored him with riches, quite a few of which were on his person that night. By the party's end, fewer of them were. After that, she'd found it prudent to stay away from the Tudor court until his sister Mary's reign.
She checked on Nick. He looked all right; he stood watching them with disinterest, in keeping with the command, "This does not concern you." Amanda found herself wondering about Horatio and his philosophy. "What did you do to my friend?" she demanded.
Richmond looked cross, but to her relief, Nick spoke up. "What do you mean? I'm all right. But I think we should be going."
Amanda turned her most charming smile on him. "I agree. Would you be a dear and wait for me in the car? I'll just be a minute." Normally Nick would never obey such a request under a situation like this, not without a zillion questions, but—
"Okay," he said. Because this did not concern him. Amanda suppressed a shiver. He took a last long pull of the beer on their table, gathered his coat and left.
"How did you do that?" she hissed after Nick left. "What are you?"
"I think you know," Richmond said, his tone shifting from challenge to seduction. So far neither of them had said it, but the princeling dived right in. "You took something of mine," he said.
Amanda's mouth went dry at the confirmation. It was him. Was he an immortal who had learned to disguise his buzz? She briefly considered playing dumb, but that would get her no answers.
"It wasn't yours," she said. "Your father's pirates stole it from the sheikh."
Richmond tried to hide his own shock at her confirmation of her identity, but she was watching for it. So, not an immortal. Well, not her kind of immortal. If he had been, he would have felt her and known what she was. He would have felt Nick and wouldn't have dismissed him as unimportant. What was going on?
"Why don't you come with me to my place and we can discuss old times?" he said, glancing toward the bevy of beauties pouting in his direction.
"Does the invitation include my friend?" she asked, knowing the answer.
"Of course not." He took her hand and gave her his full attention. "You'd like to come back to my place, wouldn't you?" His hand was cold.
Oh yes, she would. He was very persuasive. By his clothes, he was still rich, which was always a plus, he glowed with youth and vitality, and something was making her knees feel weak. Worse, she was so very curious about the secret of his long life.
"Some. Other. Time." She said with effort, dizzy from resisting two of her most base weaknesses at once. "My friend is waiting."
He raised an eyebrow, and she wondered what surprised him. Abruptly she saw what he'd been doing. She snatched her hand back. "Cut that out".
He smirked. "I can't let you go."
"I wouldn't try to stop me." She lifted her chin, and let the confidence of twelve hundred years as a successful warrior woman ooze out of her. Richmond looked thoughtful, appraising her.
"That totem you stole from me—"
"Allegedly," she interjected.
"My father's privateers acquired it at great risk and expense. It was supposed to confer long life. It was for me, but it seems to have worked for you."
"Don't be ridiculous. You don't still believe in magic," she scoffed. Too late she realized she just refused a perfect red herring. Well, she could get it back by refusing even harder.
"Don't I?" he asked.
"It was just a piece of silver. I traded it to the first merchant I met." She shrugged. Now for the transparent forced change of subject. "What did you mean 'hunting without permission' in your town?"
He laughed, his eyes knowing. "Wouldn't you like to know? Come back to my place."
"Said the spider to the fly? I don't think so, Your Grace." She leaned hard on the title. "We're leaving your fair city in the morning. No hunting, I promise."
"Look me up when you come again," he said. "You want to know my secrets as much as I want to know yours."
So, so true. Amanda bit her lip. This was so hard, but she knew with every instinct in her that he was dangerous. She swallowed. "What name are you going by?"
His triumphant smile showed brilliant white teeth. "My own. Henry Fitzroy. But you won't need to look for me. I'll find you."
And that wasn't unsettling at all. Amanda gathered her dignity. "Good night, Mr. Fitzroy," she said, and hurried out into the storm.