The town confused her, to be honest. So it didn't take very long for Kate to get lost. She retraced her steps and found her way back to the hotel. The pool area was desolate, since today the water was a murky green, so no one bothered her when she decided to sit there.
"Got sun screen on, I hope."
The sun was setting.
Kate slowly turned her head to look up at him, glaring. He blocked the dim light for a second and sat down next to her. Big step for him; his suit was white.
"I won't lie to you, Kate: I am an asshole." When she only snorted but did not say anything, he sighed and took off his sunglasses and turned to look at her. "But I am an asshole with morals. Limited ones, mind you, but morals. So I'm in a tight spot here."
If he thought she was going to forgive him, he was dead wrong. Putting her hands to the hot, rough pavement, she pushed up and unfolded herself, wandering away towards her room. He followed.
"You know that I'm sorry, Kate. I'm sorry I didn't say anything, but please, you have to realize-"
"An apology would suffice, and you've given it, so this conversation is over." She was in front of her door, rummaging for her keys in her purse. Seth reached a hand into the outside of her purse and pulled it out. He ignored the look she gave him.
His foot was in the door. Literally, so he pushed his way in. Kate
"Part two of my apology is dinner tonight. With me."
She looked up from busying herself with fluffing a pillow. "You just took us out to lunch, and I seem to remember a conversation where we swore that the feat was one that should be left alone from now on."
"No," he said, slowly. "I mean just you and me. Or Nina, too, if you don't trust me."
Oh, what a loaded statement.
"Fine," she spat, tiredly. "Fine, dinner then. But we're discussing this. So be prepared. And no wise-ass remarks as filler."
"Adate? But you stormed out of his place earlier," said Nina, long legs kicking back and forth behind her on the bed. She was watching Kate sort through the few pieces of clothing she had for something decent. It turned out to be black slacks and an acceptable top. Nothing leggy, nothing to frumpish, either.
Kate yanked the tag out of the back of the shirt before slipping it on over her head. "It's not a date," she said, with a frown. "Just dinner."
"He saved your life."
"That's what he does."
"Oh, like you'd know, Kate. You just met the man."
What was it about friends? Kate couldn't think of what she had done to clue her friend in, but she must have done something. Nina clamored off of the bed and followed the petite brunette into the bathroom.
"Squeal," Nina said, firmly, meeting Kate's reflection in the mirror. Kate threw her eyeliner down with a little more force than necessary; it broke and left a brown smear on the side of the sink.
"Nina, the story doesn't even make sense to me sometimes. Let's just let it go."
Nina cocked her head to the side. "He knows, doesn't he? About whatever it is that you're always going over in your head. Heknows." Things were clicking into place. "He met you, when you were here."
More make up on the counter. Kate's fingers fumbled with the small wand as she tried to pass it over the powder in the compact. "Nina, I don't w-"
The girl threw her hands up. "I know what to leave alone. But give me some points for knowing when to."
"Nomination for Best Friend of the Year," she responded, gratefully.
Seth looked good. Dark suit, blue tie, and a nervous air. Kate hadn't exactly told Old Ms. Schafer about her date. With an older man. Who owned a bar.
The restaurant was sinfully decadent, but neither really spoke through the meal. It wasn't until after the meal, when they got into his car, that he truly broke the silence.
"I know we're supposed to talk tonight, but I just want to take you back. I'd feel safer."
Kate turned in her seat, leather sighing as she did so. "You are not backing out of this, Seth Gecko. We need a game plan."
He muttered under his breath, but it sounded like he was echoing her last words. He pulled the car into a driveway and turned it off. For a second, she thought he had picked a random house. It was his.
He let them in.
The furniture was sparse, and it all appeared to be the sort that came with the house. It reminded her of those time shares in better locals, the sort near mountains or Disney parks. The rooms were probably named different things, each themed.
He slumped into a chair with a tired sigh and Kate sat across from him, eyes careful and cautious.
Seth sat up, suddenly. "You're going home. All of you, tomorrow."
"Damn it, Kate, they already killed one!" he said, shooting out of the seat to pace, wiping at his face, desperately. "One of my dancers is missing."
"Running late?" she said, hopefully.
He shook his head, and looked defeated. "Short, dark haired. Looks a bit like you."
Oh. The room seemed to be a little closer, the silence a little more suffocating.
"That's why I need to get you out of here. Sure, the other girls, but you."
For a second, Kate thought about it. Imagined getting on that bus, pulling away from wherever Seth would be inevitably watching. She'd leave it all behind, bury this part of her life, and move on. Maybe in a decade from now, as she watched her normal children-happy ones who were not afraid of Things That Went Bump in the Night-play in the backyard and her husband who was already balding but loved her terribly, she'd think about Seth Gecko.
And she would hate herself for leaving him to this.
"No," she breathed, surfacing. "I'm not leaving."
"Kate," he pleaded. She crossed the room and put a hand on his arm. "You have to leave."
"There's got to be somebody who can help you with all of this."
"Since it's absolutely the easiest thing on the planet, walking up to someone and saying 'Hello, I'm wanted for armed robbery, kidnapping, murder and manslaughter, but enough about that, could you help me kill a couple of guys-yeah, one little thing, they're vampires'? That's a level of crazy I will not delve into. Dip a toe in, maybe. Test the temperature, perhaps. But I will not dive into that. I like to tread in the kid section. With those inflatable arm things on."
"Oh be serious," the young woman huffed.
"I've found that to be a very fallible emotion, seriousness. Especially when you're dealing with something that should not- cannot exist."
"I was talking about me."
He turned and looked at her with an empty look. "No," he said coldly.
Kate shook her head. "I can hold my own, Seth. And I know what we're dealing with. I'm not stupid."
An eyebrow rose. "You got yourself kidnapped within how long after crossing the Border?"
"That's not vampire related. This I can do. And you know it."
Seth brushed her hand off of his arm, and he sat back down. Kate followed him. She perched on a glass coffee table so that she could make eye contact with him, steadying herself with a deep breath. "You can't do this alone; you'll die."
"I might still, even if you stayed."
She shrugged. "Then we take out as many as we can before that." The motion of her shoulders pushed whatever had been riding on them for several years off, and suddenly her vision was clearer, her sense of center more apparent. This was what she was supposed to be doing.
"Flippancy isn't a survival tool," he retorted, but Kate bit her tongue. When she didn't say anything, he sighed and agreed.
Seth watched as Kate said her goodbyes, the group scared and their leader suspicious. The other missing chaperones appeared and boarded the bus, knitting needles in hand.
"But are you sure?" Nina said, wiping stringy blonde hair out of her face just as quickly as the wind pushed it back to its original place.
Kate gave her another hug, and Seth help down the need to roll his eyes. Nina was the sort of girl who adopted Cambodian babies and abandoned kittens. Kate somehow fell into that second category.
Kate waved them off, then wandered over to where Seth was leaning against his car. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see she was tired. He never thought that the girl would have the balls earlier to tell Ms. Schafer that, quite frankly, there was no one to notify back at home, so why the hell did she care? She was making a decision to stay here. Seth hadn't gotten friendly looks since.
The young woman seemed to shake herself out of her quiet, and turned to him. "Come on," she said, plucking at his suit jacket. "We've got work to do."
Did they ever.
The next several days were spent preparing, spent ignoring the newspapers that reported missing girls and the warnings to stay indoors, spent barely sleeping.
He didn't touch liquor once. There was maybe a cigarette or two, but that was it.
He drove Kate out to the shooting range. He ignored how she felt in his arms when he helped her steady the gun, or how she properly exhaled just as she took her shoot. At night he'd press his head against her door, remind himself of what he had said all that while ago. He wasn't a fucking bastard. He wasn't.
Kate had become quiet, but the other night, as they had eaten microwave macaroni and cheese out of a large bowl and watched Zorro: La Espada y La Rosa, she had said she had come to terms with what they were about to do.
"I'll see my family again," she said, tersely.
He didn't sleep that night.
Urges came and passed. There were times where he simply wanted to throw down the paper they were planning on and kiss her senseless, make her feel, make himself feel, just one last time. And for a second, her eyes would widen and he swore she was fucking psychic.
Then Kate would brush dark hair back and return to work.
The note came with a finger attached, still fresh. There were bite marks around the edges, though, like a left over piece of meat. It wasn't some clean cut for show. Seth grabbed some hydrochloric acid and stuck it in the tub. The smell was horrific and he locked the door. Did it really matter? They might not even make it back.
The note had said tonight, at dusk. They decided to sleep for a few of the hours that they had, and then drive in. In his own room, Seth spent most of it staring at the ceiling. He bet that Kate had done the same.
"We just have to lure them into main room, babe," said Seth as they drove. "If it really comes down to it. And I told you about-"
"It's not going to come down to that, Seth," she snapped, looking out at the streets of El Ray. People were hurrying indoors. Her neck was a long line intersected by a seat belt. "We're not blowing up your club."
He laughed at that. They'd be doing him a favor if they did. He was planning on closing it soon, anyway. Not that he'd say that to Kate. And that wasn't a lie, it was simply not telling her something.
He parked his car close to the emergency door, just in case. Kate was squinting and looking out as an orange sun started it's descent, bright and furious.
"We're going to see that again," she said softly. Then she slung a rifle over her shoulder. "Let's go."
Seth slipped the sack's strap over his arm and followed her inside.