Chapter Twenty One

The Uninvited

Sarah didn't feel any different when Colin stepped away from her, but Colin was different. Calmer, peaceful, and no longer wild-eyed, he was appeased, at least for the time being. The fingers relaxed and he loosened his grip on her. "Thank you," he said calmly moving away from her. "Let's get started." He moved to the computer, placed a hunk of obsidian that was on the desk on the tower. "Don't ask," he warned as he opened a program. Sarah pulled up the chair he pointed to. "I'll print out all the information I have here, and you can reassemble it on your own. Put everything in your own words! Make sure you list your references."

"How much information is there on Fae Court?" Sarah looked at the screen.

"More than you need, but I'm giving you information anyway. You may find information on the five known kingdoms of use at some later date." He looked over at her, "Did I hurt you?"

"No, in fact I didn't feel anything."

"You say you were last with him on Samhain?" He looked bewildered. "Funny, it tastes fresher than that."

"As far as I know, Samhain was my last contact." Sarah read notes he brought up. "Then again, he does have a habit of keeping invisible when he wants."

Colin tapped the hunk of obsidian on the tower. "You want privacy, get some of these… In fact I'll give you some before you leave. The high iron content means they stay away from it." He pointed to chunks strewn about the room. "Anytime you use the computer for this work, place a hunk on your tower, or you'll fry out the mother board. Six boards taught me a lot." He leaned back in his chair, more at ease. "In fact you can come here to work if you prefer. The protections are here already. Just bring your disks and you can complete your work."

"It's like you're two different people," Sarah commented.

A long sigh and he nodded, "Yes, it is." He reached a hand over and touched her cheek. "Fae magic is like a drug for me, and I'm an addict." His touch was apologetic.

His touch was apologetic, "What about Mora?"

Colin shook his head, "She was born a year later, after my encounter." His hand continued its moderate stroke. "She's free of the taint."

"You think of it as a taint?" Sarah felt pity for the man. "I've never felt that way."

"You've not been abandoned. The Fae who marked you keeps a close eye on you. He comes to you, spins his magic round you." Colin looked at her with a rouge eye, "Not that I blame him, 

you're quite the pretty little thing… And the fact that he's kept you virginal for six years, shows not only restraint on his part, but devotion." Sarah began to protest, Colin silenced her with a look, "Let me make this clear. Had he wanted to, he could have taken you, with or without your willing consent. The fact that he has not shows he knows you are not like other mortal women."

Sarah looked disturbed. "Colin, he's always saying I belong to him, that he owns me."

"You're Fae-Marked, in many ways he does own you." Colin agreed.

"But I'm seeing a mortal man, one I am…" she paused not sure of how to describe the relationship with Garrett.

"One you are coming to love?" Colin offered with sympathy.

Nodding she took a long breath. "Enough to put my degree in jeopardy."

Colin looked sad. "I envy you that. I've never had normal relations with mortal women. I don't think I'm capable of it any longer." He snickered. "In fact, Sarah Williams, this is the longest I've spent with any mortal woman… But you're not really just mortal are you? No, like me you've been loved by the Fae…and changed."

"How could she abandon you?" Sarah asked, "I mean, don't take this wrong, but you're gorgeous."

Colin accepted the complement. "Thank you kind lady." He took his hand away just as slowly has he'd placed it on her skin. "When can you return here to work on your paper?"

Sarah pulled out her pocket calendar, "Would tomorrow at ten be too soon?"

Colin looked distressed, "Mora will not be here. Do you feel you can trust me?"

Sarah looked round the room, "Do you think any of this would stop Jareth if you threatened me?"

"No." he laughed without humor. "If he's intent on having you, and it would seem he is… why he's taking his time is beyond me." His eyes filled with a hungry yearning, "Were it I, you'd have been deflowered long ago." He sent information to the printer and stepped away from the desk. "And what a pleasure that would be."

"Do you do that on purpose?" Sarah stood up and walked to where pages were being printed up. "Make suggestive comments… or are they threats?"

Colin smiled. It wasn't human, it was more the look of a hungry animal, "Promises pretty, promises." He reached over and pulled her to him, pressing his body to hers. "Given half a chance I'd steal you away from the Fae King, I'd use you until you were all used up. And I'd make you like it, crave it, and demand more.

"As it is, I need what he gives you. So you are safe, for now." He warned. "Never trust me completely pretty. I'm tainted."

Sarah waited until her released her, then she stepped quickly away. "I'll keep that in mind."

Colin opened a draw, pulled out a bag full of chunks of obsidian and handed them over to her. "I'd start with the bath if I were you. I suspect he's already played the peeping tom. I know I would"

"You'd put these in a bathroom?" Sarah asked as she looked at the rocks.

"No," his tongue flicked out. "I'd play the peeping tom!"

Sarah blushed. "Oh."

Once the pages were all printed out, and the rocks and books hand been placed in a bag, Colin walked Sarah down to the front entrance. She turned and suddenly embraced him. "Stay safe Colin," she whispered.

He swallowed hard, returned the embrace. "You too, my kindred." He brushed the hair from her face as he released her from the impromptu hug. "That's what you are now… My kindred." He opened the door, "Go, before I weaken and forget who lays claim to you."

Sarah took the items he'd given her and placed them on the passenger seat. She arrived home, to find Karen in the kitchen talking to Toby's teacher on the phone.

"Yes, I know he's sensitive." Karen was defensive. "No, he's not killing birds. He just likes owl feathers." She hung up and counted to ten. "Can you go pick him up? If I do, it will erupt."

"Not a problem." Returning to her little car, she drove to the school and awaited her brother's exit from the building. The crush of children leaving the building didn't include him. Sarah sat for a few moments, feeling panic rise. It was a great weight lifted when he appeared in the door with one of the teachers. It was not however a happy child who stood beside the man with the grim features. Clearly the man was expecting someone to address him upon retrieving the child. Sarah groaned and exited her car.

"Mr. Lancing, I don't know if you remember me. I'm Toby's older sister, Sarah."

Lancing looked at her with as much disdain as he felt for the boy. "Ah yes, Tobias' elder sister. You may take him. I had hoped to have a word with your mother."

"I'll be sure to tell her." Sarah promised then winked at her brother. "Come along, Tobias."

Toby sunk down in the front seat after pushing the bag Sarah had left on it to the floor. "I hate that name."

"It means 'The Lord is good'. Not a bad name at all, kid." Sarah said quietly. "So what was it this time?"

Toby pulled a handful of feathers out of his pocket showed them to his sister only to shove them back in.

Sarah smiled. "You got style, kid." She pulled in front of the house. "Go face the music." As her brother faced his "doom", she took her bag of rocks up to her room. She took the bag directly to the bath. In each of the candleholders that now graced the room, she placed a good-sized piece. Looking at them she wondered if they would work, and hoped it would not back fire and cause her more problems with The Goblin King.

She was coming down the back stairs, when the voices in the kitchen told her they were again being 'blessed' with Bowen for dinner. Sarah wondered to herself when the court case was going to be finished so she could eat a meal and enjoy it. Even Toby didn't like having this guest for meals. She greeted her father with a kiss on his cheek.

Robert teasingly said to Bowen, "See now, old man, if you had a wife and family that's the kind of greeting you'd be receiving."

Bowen smiled, "I suppose you're right."

Sarah set the dinner table placing Toby beside her. She knew she didn't want Bowen there, and could not wish him on the kid either. She wondered if obsidian could make Bowen disappear, thinking it was worth running up to her room to grab one of the pieces out of her bath. It didn't, and she just placed it in the pocket of her skirt.

Wednesday was pasta night in the Williams house, and tonight was no exception. Karen had made a salad as there was a guest for dinner, but that was the only exception she'd made to routine. Toby picked at his plate, his appetite gone. Sarah ate lightly, wanting to limit the time she had to spend in the same room with Bowen. Karen dismissed them both, with a warning that neither was likely to receive dessert. She didn't seem to notice neither minded that at all, which was unusual enough to have caused comment.

Sarah cleared her plate and Toby's and took him up to check his homework. When he was settled in front of his tv, she went down to the kitchen where Karen was finishing the clean up. "Mom, I'm going for my walk." She hugged her stepmother, grabbed her wool wrap and headed out. Coming to the street, she stood for a moment. Which way? One way led to the park and perhaps a meeting with the Goblin King. The other was sure to mean a meeting with Miles. Sarah weighed the options, Goblin King, Miles… Sarah stood in front of the house, tapping her foot. Reaching in her skirt pocket her fingers moved over the smooth obsidian, she turned round and went back in the house. She didn't see the owl in the tree outside her bedroom. She didn't see the way it rested in the tree, smiling, if an owl could smile.

Sarah had one class on Thursdays, Classical Literature with Dr. Benson. It was an early class starting at eight and was usually over by nine thirty. He seemed rather distracted today, and Sarah worried about him. In the months since she'd come to the university she'd become very fond of the older man. When at last he dismissed the class, she went to his desk. "Dr. Benson… are you alright? You seemed a bit off this morning."

He looked up. "I'm fine Miss Williams… don't worry." But he had a sad worried look on his face. "Perhaps you should be more worried about yourself. End of Term is nearly upon us." He packed up his notes. "I hope you are working on that paper of yours, not just flittering about."

"No sir, I am working on it!" Sarah considered complaining to him about the library situation. She doubted he could help, though. Matiland apparently had some powerful friends. She also didn't want to put Dr. Benson in an uncomfortable position, considering she was still moving in the same social circle with Garrett King's little discussion group. Sarah instead told him she hoped what ever seemed to be on his mind was going to take care of itself. He nodded, and she turned to leave.

The morning was gray and heavy with the promise of rain as Sarah headed across the parking lot.

"Hey, Williams, hold up!" A voice cut the relative quiet.

Sarah turned at the sound. Rushing toward her was James Lawson. He smiled at her as if they were lifelong friends. "Professor Lawson, good morning." She greeted him.

"So formal," he teasingly complained. "I thought you'd be calling me James by now."

"Not in public on campus, sir. I have enough problems." Sarah had heard he was a bit of a wolf and thought her comment would not give him encouragement.

"We could go off campus for coffee," he suggested.

"Nice as that offer is, I have an appointment I really must keep." Sarah kept her voice professional. "Is there something you need?"

Lawson shook his head, "No, just wanted to tell you how much I'm looking forward to seeing you at Professor King's tomorrow."

"I'll see you there, then. Have a nice day, sir."

Lawson watched her walk to her car. He wondered if Garrett could truly appreciate the young woman who'd just so politely put him in his place. He made a mental note to keep an eye on that woman. The first sign that Garrett was no longer interested, Lawson planned on making a move to let her know that he was.

Sarah checked her watch: it was not quite ten. She stopped at a bakery in the old section of town. Not knowing Colin or his sister's taste in sweets, she went with the safe choices of Danish and sweet rolls. Karen had told her years ago, one looking for a favor should show up with an offering of some kind. Instincts told her sweet rolls were a better offering than what he might demand. With the sweet rolls in hand she marched up to the door of the old Queen Anne. She entered the store and called out. "Good morning."

"Says who?" Came the grumble in return. Colin was coming forward from the back with a mug of coffee in his hand.

"Maybe this will sweeten your day." She handed him the box of baked goods.

Colin opened the box with mild amusement, "Seems the day is looking up." He took a bite from a cheese Danish and washed it down with a gulp from his mug. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"

"No, I'm good." She smiled at him. "I am ready to work however."

The dark brooding eyes held understanding. "I've got the computer set up for you. It's already, I'll take you up. We are always slow at this time of day." He continued to eat the Danish as he led the way up the stairs.

Sarah felt a bit unnerved when they reached the top of the stairs, remembering him trapping her there yesterday. Part of her wondered just how dangerous Colin was. She watched him as he walked leisurely down the hall to the room with the markings on the door. He opened the door, and stepped out of the way so she could enter. Why did he have to make her feel like a fly in a spider web? One thing Sarah was sure of, she didn't like the way Colin looked at her.

Colin closed the door, "If you need more disks, you have only to ask."

Sarah shook her head. "I've got plenty. I always have extras." She took out the notes she'd worked on the night before. "I started your book by Granger last night."

The man with the wild eyes watched, body tensing as the young woman sat down at his desk. Hunger was gnawing, and anger building a heat he needed to keep under control. "Finding it of use?"

"I still wish I could find a copy of the Sikes book." Sarah confessed. "I am dying to know what that blasted book contains."

Colin moved to stand behind her and began to read some of her work. "You don't really believe that do you? That the Goblin King is not as black as he's been painted?"

The words held more than just anger, they held hate.

Sarah turned to look up at him, "It is not nice to read over ones shoulders, Colin."

Crouching down he came level with her. "Sarah, you are playing a dangerous game."

"I don't think I am."

His face hardened and his eyes narrowed as the nostrils flared, the beast lurking within coming to the surface. "We are nothing to them, just play things," he warned.

"Colin, this is my paper, not yours. It has to be my words." Sarah deliberately turned her back on him and returned to the work at hand.

Colin stood up, looked again at the screen, and then down at her. "I'll be back to check on you later." He left without so much as looking at her again.

Sarah watched from the corner of her eye as the door closed again. She took a long breath. That was one tightly wound man. He would bear watching! She had to admit his work and research had been brilliant. What a shame it was so deeply seated in anger and hate. His notes and his links leading to information were better than even the work she'd done. He had found places with information others didn't even know existed.

Colin listened from the hallway. He could hear her fingers ticking off the keys. So she was going to defend the Fae? Colin found that laughable. Still, he thought as he went back down the stairs, the woman had not been abandoned. He envied her that ecstasy. She was still…what? Beloved.

Sarah went though his notes making corrections to her notes, and adding the resources that Colin had supplied. After two hours, she had gone as far as she could for the time being. She copied notes to her disk and printed out what she could use for now. Colin entered the room, still fuming. Sarah pointed to the screen. "I've gotten as much done as I can today. Thank you Colin, your notes really help."

He moved like a panther, halting when he reached the center of the room. "Come here," he ordered.

Sarah looked up at him, not liking the way he was glaring at her. "Of course, Colin." She kept her tone calm. Rising from the chair, she crossed over to him. The hand that gripped her was trembling, the fingers dug into her arm as he pulled her against him.

Sarah cried out even though she didn't want to. He pulled her closer, but it was far from an intimate embrace. There was nothing sexual about it.

His hand moved down her back, from neck to her lower back. He made strange noises as he pressed her closer, and shuddered. In her ear he growled, "I despise that he comes to you still."

Standing stock still was all Sarah could do. Pity and consolation were the last things Colin needed right now.

Colin breathed in her scent mixed with that of the Fae who'd marked her. It was a heady mixture. "Does he kiss you, pretty? Does he savor your sweet mouth?"

"Colin, don't." Sarah warned. "You go too far. Remember who he is." Sarah felt a sudden concern for just how far Colin was willing to go to get his 'fix'.

Colin looked at her, eyes devoid of feeling. There was no sign that he even cared if the Jareth discovered him. He placed a hand to either side of her face. "Too far, you say. Not nearly far enough." His mouth was cruel as it came down with force on hers. His tongue shot into her mouth, refusing to be kept out. Sarah was never sure who was repulsed more; Colin who'd pulled away as if struck by lighten, or herself. Nearly as quickly as he'd forced his mouth on her, he moved away from her. He quaked, and trembled. Hugging himself tightly, he backed further away from her. "I'm sorry."

Sarah looked at him with sympathy, "Colin don't ever do that again."

Troubled eyes burned into her. "Do you think I want to? I get no pleasure from this, and little satisfaction." The man began to pace the room. "You are saturated with Fae essence. What I just did was stupid…it didn't feed…. It… damn near over powered me…." He sank into the big leather armchair to regard her. His fingertips traced his left eyebrow. "You were right, Sarah. I go too far… I forget that my protections are a ruse at best. I offer you my apology. Sad and sorry as it is."

Sarah didn't move. "Colin my being here seems to be making you…worse."

Colin nodded, "You're saturated with Fae essence, and because you are…beloved of him…"he spat the words. "I must be more careful of how I…harvest that essence. If you are done, you'd best go pretty." He closed his eyes.

Sarah wondered if there was anything she could do for him, but his body language made it clear all he wanted was for her to be gone. She didn't even stop in the store to say anything to Mora, she just quickly took her leave of the house and its troubled master.

There were still a few hours left to the afternoon, and she didn't have to pick Toby up today. She drove over to the park, and left her car in the lot. It was still beautiful weather, and as it was already early November, one didn't know how long that would last. Pulling the overcoat out of the back seat, she slipped her arms in and buttoned up. A walk in the brisk fresh air was just what she needed, especially after being locked up in that room with the smell of those vile candles Colin insisted on burning. The damn smoke seemed to permeate everything, and coat everything with an oily film.

The park seemed a bit on the surreal, the trees mostly bear now, and the flowerbeds all turned. The swans had been taken from the little pond and sent to wintering quarters. Still the fresh air and the walk put her more at peace. It gave her time to sort though thoughts and feelings. She stood on the bridge, and smiled. She was like the park in many ways, in a constant state of 

change. As on other occasions, she lost track of time. It was the chimes from the bell tower that told her she would be late for dinner.

Arriving home she found the all too familiar car of Bowen in the drive. Sarah wondered when Karen was going to start charging that freeloader rent. She entered the house and put her coat in the closet. The table was already set of dinner, and she could see that Karen was in the kitchen making last minuet preparations.

"Sorry I'm late." She offered as she entered the warmth of the kitchen. "Need a hand?"

"Thank you," Karen sighed. "If you could go to the study and let them know we're ready, that would be a big help."

Sarah tapped on the closed door of her father's study, opened it slightly and popped her head in. Both men were bent over the desk discussing the upcoming court case. "Excuse me," she said softly. "Dinner is ready."

"Be right out." Her father said.

Bowen just looked at Sarah, not saying a word.

Sarah made sure Toby was seated and taken care of. His discomfort with Bowen was becoming worrisome for her. The little boy would watch the older man with animosity. He was polite, but just. If he talked to the man at all, it was in short, curt syllables, and only to answer some question. With Bowen at the table, he was falling into a deep, despairing quite.

When the meal was over her father and Bowen again disappeared into the study. Sarah went up after clearing the dinner table, to see is Toby needed help with his studies. He was done, and watching a program on his little TV. Going back to the kitchen, she shared a cup of coffee with Karen.

"The weather seems to be holding." Karen observed. "I hope it stays this way until the holiday is over."

Sarah sighed. "That would be a blessing."

Karen picked up the cups and gave them a quick rinse in the sink. "Why don't you go for your walk? You don't have to keep me company, Sarah." Her stepmother smiled. "I can see you're restless. I'm going to bring some coffee into them. Go ahead. The walk will do you good."

Nodding, the younger woman went to the front closet, and pulled out her wool wrap. She didn't plan on going far, nor did she want to put on her overcoat. She was just going to go around the block. She started in the direction of the park, then turned the corner to come up the backside of the block. She didn't pay attention; she didn't look at the houses. She was looking down. When her head came up she was again on the path that would take her to Miles' estate. She stopped and glared. Why was she being drawn that way? No, she was not going to let something play mind 

games with her…after all if that was what she needed she had a Goblin King to do so. She turned with the intention of returning home. The crossed armed figure in her path halted her.

"Well, if it isn't you…" Jareth said with affection. "Take a wrong turn, my love?"

"I seem to do that a lot these days… too much on my mind."

Jareth sniffed. "Such as?"

"School… the paper I'm working on… that blasted man my father keeps bringing home with him…" She shrugged. "Things."

Jareth moved closer. "And me, my love."

Sarah smiled softly. "You are my constant companion. Even when I don't see you." Gloved fingertips reached for her chin. Her fingers closed over the gloved ones.

"Good night Jareth." She began to walk back toward her home.

"Goodnight, my love."

Friday morning Sarah awoke to frost on the windows. She smiled. How she loved the strange patterns they formed on the windowpane. She took time to go through her closet, wanting something for this evening's dinner that was quiet and understated, but didn't look doughy. At last she chose a vintage 1950s brown satin dress that had been designed by the house of Winston. Her mother had found it in a thrift store and could not believe the low price. The cream, mink and chocolate satin panels made the dress distinctive. It was simple and elegant, and easy to wear. She set the dress aside with the shoes she'd wear. Then she dressed for her day at the bookstore. She chose a long reddish brown skirt and a romantic blouse that went well under the princess vest in muted fall colours. The outfit always made her feel special, like a princess.

There was bright sunshine when she arrived at the shop. Emrys would of course be in after noon. That gave her time to do the invoicing, the billing and the reorders. The little bell on the front door rang. Sarah looked up from the computer screen, and held her breath for an instant. Something instinctively told her it was Miles. She steeled herself, rose from the chair and came out of the office. She hoped she'd schooled her face enough, so that it would not betray her. The moment he turned and flashed that smile at her the schooled face dropped. "Mr. Fairchild." She greeted him formally.

"Sarah," he bowed to her slightly.

She approached him with extreme caution. "Good morning."

"Good morning," he returned. "I have not seen you out…in my neck of the woods of late. The scenery there does not agree with you?" He teased.

"Not particularly," She tried to keep the chatter down to a minimum. "What may we get you today?"

He could see she wanted to keep it to business, but he was feeling playful. "Oh some light reading, I think. I was looking for several titles. The first is 'The Sibari '. I'm not sure who wrote that. The second title is 'Slaves of the Emperor'. Also I'm interested in finding a book called 'Ladies of Question'."

Sarah wrote down the titles and began to enter them in the computer on the checkout desk. "We have 'The Sibari', it's a good copy. We also have 'Slaves of the Emperor'. However the last one, 'Ladies of Question' is a rare title, there are a few copies available, but I'd have to special order it from New York. It may not get here for a week or two." She looked over to the man. "Would you like me to place that order?"

"Yes." He nodded, nonchalantly, as if asking her to order a phone directory for him. "Oh, can it be delivered when it arrives?"

"Yes, Mr. Fairchild, it can." She keyed in the order. "I'll just ring it up when I bring the other two up front for you."

Miles let his eyes wander to the adult section door. "Are they in there?"

Sarah wanted to run and hide. The last thing she wanted was to admit that she had to go back to there for his purchases. She didn't want him following, and she knew there was no way to stop him. "Yes, sir. They are, but you don't have to go back there…I can go bring them here."

Miles gave her a half smile. "Now Sarah, you know I enjoy inspecting the books before I decide. And why should you have to drag books all the way up here if I decide I don't want that volume?"

The argument was so reasonable. His tone was gentle, not condescending. He was hardly threatening. Still Sarah felt him a threat, but she was not sure what kind of threat.

Gathering all her dignity she worked at keeping a schooled face. "If you prefer, then of course you are welcome to come back and inspect the books before you purchase them."

"I really do prefer," he stated.

He followed her at an even pace, unhurried and completely at ease. Sarah, on the other hand, was working at keeping her breathing under control. She unlocked the door to the adult section, allowing him to enter. She looked at the note she'd just jotted down, giving her the location of both the books in question. Even though the room was not overly large, the books were stacked from floor to ceiling on shelves that were full. Some had more than one copy of a particular volume. As luck would have it, or her luck at least, both volumes were on the top shelf. Fortunately they were close to each other, and it would mean only one trip up the dreaded ladder.

With both books pulled, she found the ladder for some odd reason to be more difficult to navigate this morning. Sarah looked down, the cool ocean blue eyes were watching her. "Excuse me, could you take one of these books, please." She handed the book 'Slaves of the Emperor' to his up reached hands, hoping to avoid his touch. Their fingers brushed in passing. Miles didn't appear affected, but Sarah knew she had been. She was finding it hard to keep her mind on maintaining her composure. Long, even, steady breaths and she descended the ladder a bit shakier then when she'd gone up. She put the second book, 'The Sibari', down on the table for Miles to look over.

Miles took more time opening a book then she'd ever know any one to do. His fingers stroked the covers like a lover would stroke someone's skin. He made the opening of a book an erotic performance. "You seem disturbed, my dear." He said casually.

"Do I?" she asked, then chose to put things in a context he could not turn to his advantage. "I have been focusing on my work toward my Masters. I have a very important paper due soon."

"Ah, higher education, I applaud your efforts." He never took his gaze off the book. "You should try to relax though. Perhaps you'd consider attending a concert with me this evening."

Sarah felt the air being sucked out of the room. "That is kind of you, but I'm afraid I'd have to decline."

Miles paused, then inspected the book further. "Does Emrys have a policy against seeing costumes for social events?"

"No." she admitted.

"Then why should you have to decline the invitation?" Miles closed the book.

"I've a previous engagement. I belong to a discussion group that meets for dinner and conversation. I had to miss one discussion already, and I do not wish to miss another." Sarah chose her words with great care, not mentioning where or with whom she'd be dinning.

"Ah, well of course, if you are committed, you are committed." He handed both books to the quaking young woman. "I will miss your company. Perhaps you'll consider attending a concert with me another time."

"Perhaps." Sarah didn't quiet know why she'd even said it. "If that will be all, I'll be happy to ring up your purchase. Including the book that will be delivered at a later date."

"Thank you, Sarah." Miles bowed to her.

He watched as she walked, watched as she rang up the purchase with care, and watched as she placed the two books in a bag and handed them over to him. His eyes drinking her in like a fine wine. "Thank you again, Sarah." Bowing one last time, he turned and went out into the street.

Sarah slumped against the wall behind her. "What is it about him?" She asked out loud. "I can't think clearly when he's in the room." Pulling herself off the wall, she shook off the last influence of the disturbingly handsome Miles. She had important tasks to complete, and didn't want his having been there to detain her. Instead she chose to think about the gathering she was to attend. She wondered if Garrett would appreciate how much care she took in her appearance.

Sarah picked up Toby as she did most Fridays, drove him home and listened to his banter. Having told Karen the previous day that she'd not be home for dinner, she freshened up and dressed. Having a mother who had connections in the fashion world was an advantage she treasured right now. Not only did she have an amazing wardrobe, but also she had compiled it at a fraction of what it was worth. Though they were not strapped for cash, Sarah had long ago been taught the value of a dollar. With one last look in the long mirror, Sarah applied a bit of lip rouge. Gathering her evening bag, she went down to get her parents approval on her dress.

At the bottom of the stairs she came eye to eye with Bowen. He looked at her neckline, not reveling but striking all the same, and he got a very hungry look on his face. "You look…" he paused, not sure what superlative to use. "Beautiful." He settled on the obvious.

"Thank you, Mr. Bowen." She could not move past him as he blocked her way. "Excuse me."

Bowen seemed determined to block and hold her back. "Seems a pity to waste it all on a group of doddering old professors."

"Better a doddering old professor that a perverted old man." She hoped the words had as much sting as she thought they did. "Get out of my way." She was losing patience, and it didn't matter that he was still a guest in her parents' house. He was becoming a real pest.

"Perverted old man." He snickered as if told a joke. "You've no idea, little girl, no idea at all." He moved when he heard Robert coming out of the study. "Robert, I was just telling Sarah how nice she looks, don't you agree?"

Robert was distracted. Looked up at Sarah, muttered something about her dress, and handed a page to Bowen. They wandered back to the office and Sarah made good her escape.

The sun had set when Sarah entered the drive of the estate. She was not the first, nor the last to arrive. She parked, locked up and walked up to the front door. Glisten was most pleased to see her.

"Good evening, Miss Williams." He greeted her. "It is so nice to see you returning again. The Master and his other guests are in the Salon."

"Thank you, Glisten. I can find my way." Sarah patted his arm. "You don't have to announce me."

"Very good, Miss Williams." He bowed to her.

Sarah followed the sounds of the voices in the Salon. As she entered Garrett stood to greet her. "Good evening." She said in a cheery voice.

"Good evening, Sarah." Garrett returned her greeting.

Margo smiled up at the girl. "Sarah, how nice to see you with us again."

"Nice to see you again as well, Margo." Sarah flashed her a smile. "How are you this evening Dr. Benson?"

Benson had gone stiff and quiet. "I'm well."

Garrett took no notice of the change in his friend. "A drink, Sarah?"

"No, thank you," she said as she took a seat in an empty club chair, smoothing the satin skirt of her dress. She smiled at the other couple beside the Bensons. "Good evening Professor Truson, Molly."

Molly smiled back. "Sarah."

Truson was looking at Dr. Benson and then greeted Sarah. "Evening, my dear."

Garrett looked from Benson to Truson and wondered just what was transpiring.

He looked at the entrance of the salon as the Durst's arrived. Lawson appeared in the door just as Garrett handed a drink to Marie Durst.

"Scotch and soda, neat." Lawson said as he entered, not waiting to be asked. His solo entry seemed odd. He looked slightly overthrown, as he took a long drink. "Thank you, old man." He then greeted everyone. "Good evening all."

Garrett moved to where Sarah was seated, and sat down on the arm of her chair. "What now, Lawson? The women of the town decided you're poison?"

The younger man with the close trimmed beard nodded. "Something very like that." His eyes moved to Sarah. "Now I ask you, Sarah. You're young and single. Do I seem menacing to you?"

"Honestly?" She asked. He nodded, thinking he was about to get sympathy. "Yes, you do."

"Sarah, you wound me!" He complained.

Garrett smiled down at her, "She's on to you." He looked back at Lawson. "So what happened now?"

"My date at the last moment, remembered that her current fella does not like her seeing other men." Lawson took a seat in the chair opposite Sarah's.

Marie, Molly and Margo all snickered at the younger professor.

Lawson flicked imagined dust from his sleeve, "So what are we tearing apart tonight?"

"Modern writers." Benson said though grinding teeth.

"Lovely." Lawson sighed, "Not only do I get stood up, but I get torn by the palace guards as well."

Sarah listened to Benson begin his argument on the need to keep the classics. And Lawson's defending the modern writers.

Glisten came to the door and Garrett rose to his feet, seeing the look of concern on the manservant's face. Garrett left the Salon with the man. Lawson had risen to freshen up his drink, and a voice in the hall drew his attention as he poured.

"Garrett, this servant of yours does not think I'm welcomed." The voice was that of Liz Matiland. "I seem to remember an open invitation issued."

"Liz, that was some time ago. Why is it you choose now to accept?" Garrett kept his tone cold and impersonal.

Everyone in the Salon heard the voices in the foyer, and the eyes of the wives went to Sarah.

"Why Garrett, you know I've always meant to come to one of your famed gatherings. This was my first opportunity." Liz's voice was tight.

Margo groaned. "Dear god, she's come for dinner."

Molly shook her head. "She's come for blood."

Lawson sat down on the arm that Garrett had vacated, and passed his glass to the girl. "Drink," he ordered. "I've a feeling you're going to need it."

The female voice in the foyer rose just slightly. "Am I to take it I'm not welcomed, Garrett? What reason could you possibly have for not wanting me here?"

Sarah looked at the offered drink, and pushed it back at the man. "Thanks but I think I better keep my wits."

Lawson shrugged, "Suit yourself." He then drank deeply. "Me, I'd drink."

Garrett ushered Liz into the Salon. "Dr. Matiland has…graciously offered to join our discussion tonight," he said as he entered. His tone was devoid of any emotions, a warning sign to those who really knew his moods. "I think you know everyone, Liz."

She smiled at the wives of the other professors, and the professors. Then she looked directly at Sarah. "I see your star student is also present. How nice to see you again, Miss Williams."

"Nice to see you again, Dr. Matiland," Sarah said in return.

Garrett glared at Lawson who ignored him and stayed put on the arm of Sarah's chair. "Would you like a drink, Liz?" Garrett asked.

"Dubonnet. Thank you." Liz followed him to the drink cart.

Lawson offered his glass to Sarah, who again shook her head. Lawson winked at her and mouthed. "Brave girl."

Margo picked up the conversation. "What I don't understand is what the push for modern writers is."

Liz settled in a chair, "I'd say it has to do with the modern student. After all the classics are rather irrelevant to someone of say, Miss Williams age. Don't you agree, Miss Williams."

"No, I don't."

Liz looked down her straight nose, "Really? I would have thought one as young as you would prefer the modern authors take on life."

"I find a lack of imagery." Sarah said coolly. "Modern authors often rely on the use of shock value. They don't even tell a good story."

"Really?" Liz sipped her drink, "So you prefer something old fashioned, like a Victorian Romance novel to something cutting edge or politically relevant?"

"Politics doesn't change, just the candidates do," Sarah countered quietly.

Garrett felt the line of his jaw tighten. "What's wrong with a Victorian Romance?"

Liz simpered. "It so trite. I much prefer today, where a woman is free to let her feelings be know. Where she can defend her territory." She looked at Sarah.

"Victorian women showed their feelings." Sarah stood her ground. "They did so with grace and honor. A Victorian woman didn't have to resort to behaving like a man. She was on a pedestal." Sarah leaned back. "Besides the language was much more powerful, it had more meaning."

Garrett breathed a sigh as Glisten announced dinner being served. Liz stood up, expecting him to offer her his arm. When he didn't she looked very hurt. He entered the dinning room and took his place at the head of the table. Liz moved to the seat at his right hand, and he halted her yet again. "That seat belongs to Sarah."

"I'm sure she won't mind giving it to me this evening, will you Sarah?" Liz asserted.

Sarah never got the chance to say yea or nay, Garrett placed his hand on the back of the chair, "I prefer for Sarah to be in this seat."

Liz leaned closer, "Garrett."

He glared right back, and quietly stated. "My house, my table, my guest placement."

"Your student," she hissed hatefully, thinking he needed reminding.

"Not much longer," He said. "Sarah, take your seat beside me." Sarah moved forward. Liz was forced to move down the table to a place that had been set for Lawson's absent date. Sarah looked at Garrett and wondered if he'd lost his mind. Garrett held her chair for her, a first. When she was seated, he took his place. The others, having already seated them selves looked at the master of the house. "Glisten you may serve now." He said, pouring wine first in his goblet, then in Sarah's as his habit had been. He passed the wine bottle to Benson.

Sarah could feel the glare from Dr. Matiland. Garrett was ignoring the woman's efforts.

"Garrett," Lawson leaned on his elbow. "I would never have guessed you liked Victorian novels."

"I never said I did." He sipped his wine. "I asked what was wrong with them."

Margo looked over at Sarah. "What do you read Sarah?"

Feeling all eyes go to her she answered quietly. "I read a good many things. My tastes are rather … eclectic. Anything from poetry and novels to sociology and history, and by many different authors."

Not willing to let things lay, Liz leaned forward. "And who is your favorite author?"

Sarah placed her fork down, "He's rather an unknown, I doubt if you've heard of him."

"Oh come now, educate me." Liz challenged.

Sarah took a sip of the wine, and sighed. "His name is Robin Zaker."

Benson shook his head; "I don't know him."

Lawson tapped his chin, "Can't say that I do either."

Durst shook his head, "No."

Liz smiled like a cat that had eaten a canary. "Seems you're right, he's an unknown, so his writing can not be very good."

Garrett countered, "He's actually very good, but not widely know."

Sarah looked up at him, he'd heard of Robin?

"He's a bit of a playwright, and poet. Wrote a piece some time ago, called Meanders Queen. Not a bad offering really." Slowly he turned his gaze on Sarah. "He also did another book, that was used as a play, however I don't recall the title."

"Labyrinth," Sarah whispered, surprised that no one seemed to hear her.

Liz was not willing to let it go. "So what kind of imagery does he use? Can you quote anything from his book?"

"Is it you?" Sarah looked still at Garrett; the words came before she thought about them. "Your Highness! Do not be swayed by my pleasure at the sight of you, my lord. For though my father, the Duke, has promised you my hand, I cannot consent to be yours until the evil that stalks our land from highest hill to deepest dale is…" she paused, feeling as if she were wearing an elephant for a hat.

His eyes on Sarah as if there were no other person were sitting at his table. "From Highest hill to deepest dale, the width and breath of this land hath never know another like unto thee."

Dr. Benson leaned forward. "I see why you like him. He uses classical imagery."

Garrett nodded, "The man was on the verge of being recognized as someone with a true vision. He was gifted."

"Was?" asked Liz not happy to see the color rise in Sarah's cheek.

Sarah nodded, looking at her now. "He disappeared twelve years ago."

Liz shrugged, "So he stopped writing, so what? Maybe he didn't find it paying the bills."

"No, Liz, he didn't just stop writing." Garrett there was a deep sense of loss in his voice.

At the same moment Sarah spoke, "He disappeared, left his home one morning and was never seen or heard from again."

"You mean he just vanished?" Margo asked interested in the mystery.

"I for one detest waste, and his absences has been just that. A great waste," Garrett sighed. "The man knew folk lore better than most writers of fantasy." He poured more wine. "The man understood the need mankind has for its lore."

Liz leaned back. "Need for lore? Rubbish!"

Sarah looked down at her plate of untouched dinner. "Each age has its lore. Today they call it 'Urban Legends'."

"Silly storybook stuff! And Fluff. It does not pay the bills, it does not keep the roof over one's head." Liz's words were cold, and calculated. "People put far too much stock in those silly stories. Stories of Fairies and Elves are for idiots. Next thing I know, Miss Williams, you'll be telling us you believe in Goblins."

"What's wrong with that, Liz?" Asked Lawson, suddenly feeling like he needed to jump in. He saw how angry Garrett was getting.

"Grow up, Lawson." Liz said with dislike in her tone.

"I believe in Fairy stories." Margo said with strong dislike for the woman sitting across from her. "Does that make me an idiot?"

Marie glared at her also. "I for one think there's far too little fantasy in today's world, Dr. Matiland." She pointed to her husband. "Where but from fantasy comes the greatest poetry?"

Her husband agreed, "The more complex the mind, the more the need for fantasy. That's well proven."

Liz gave a haughty laugh. "Oh and I suppose you believe in magic too."

Molly now joined the argument. "And what would be wrong in that?"

"Magic is trickery used on feeble minds to win ones' way." Liz argued hotly.

Professor Truson glared at the math major. "Lady, do you know that all the fairy stories and myths have deep roots in some truth? They gave the first moral lessons, and they have lasted longer than most governments." The usually unflappable man was leaning dangerously. "As for Magic, with out it, life is dull and dead and not worth living."

Molly saluted him with her wineglass, "That's telling her Toddie!"

Dr. Matiland turned to Dr. Benson, "Is your entire department out of their minds? Little wonder the board of regents chose to change the curriculum!" She shook a finger at him. "The bottom line is what will make or break the university! New students coming in don't care about classical baby stories."

"I suppose you stack Tolkien in there." Professor Truson slammed a hand flat on the table.

"It's make believe." Liz said flatly. "The students today want the real world. They want subjects with relevance to today's world."

"I don't believe that!" Lawson protested.

Liz glared at Sarah. "Some students are suffering from arrested development. So tell us, do you believe in the Boogie-man and Goblins Miss Williams?"

Sarah felt all the eyes at the table on her. "Dr. Matiland, I doubt that you care what I believe in." Sarah, feeling the need for a tissue, opened her purse only to have owl feathers pop out like a jack in the box. Every eye at the table went to her. Sarah whispered her brother's name. Garrett reached over, picked up a feather.

"Liz, did you know that the Celts feel that an owl protects the virtue of young maidens?" He asked, taking the feather he'd picked up and tucking it into Sarah's hair. "They say the owl keeps evil at bay."

Liz gave the feathers a look of utter disgust. "They kept people at bay for fear of disease. Where on earth did you get those horrid things?"

"Horrid?" Sarah raised the longest feather in her hand and gazed on it with wonder. "This Dr. Matiland is a thing of natural beauty! It's complex and exquisite! The color, the texture, and the strength of this one feather are something you will never understand. The bird that grew this flies proudly, silently. He is a warrior among his kind. He hunts the night, keeps valiant watch, and protects his nesting grounds. Did you know that a barn owl takes but one mate? That they never look for another? That they tend to hold nests for generations upon generations? They are staid and true. The Celts say they can see into to soul, and know true from false. I'm proud to be associated with such a noble bird."

Liz bit back the words on her tongue.

Garrett raised his glass, as did the others at the table.

The rest of the meal was spent in near silence. Liz glared at Sarah who picked at her meal with little satisfaction. Garrett shook his head, "Ladies, if you'll adjourn to the Music room? Gents, the port will be brought in shortly. Sarah, kindly pour the coffee for the ladies." Sarah obediently exited with the wives of the professors. Liz stayed behind for a moment.

"Garrett, you shouldn't have done that." Liz warned. "That girl is going to get ideas." When he made no sign of even listening, she went after the other women.

Sarah was pouring from the coffee service Glisten had brought in. "Would you care for a cup of coffee, Dr. Matiland?"

"Thank you." Liz was getting the cold shoulder from the others.

Margo placed herself next to Sarah, clearly warning Matiland to leave the kid alone. "Sarah do you feel up to playing?"

Sarah moved quietly to the piano, opened it and sat down. Liz sipped her coffee, and felt her dislike of the girl grow by leaps and bounds. Carol Towage had been right about the threat this chit of a girl posed. After the girl was finished. When Glisten had come to retrieve the ladies. Liz blocked Sarah's passage.

"How nice of you to be the entertainment for this evening." Liz narrowed her eyes, "I'll be sure to let Garrett know how much it was appreciated when I'm alone with him later this evening."

Sarah wondered if she'd be out of line if she hauled off and slugged the older woman. "You do that."

The mood in the salon was somber, at best. The Dursts made their apologies and exited very early, as did the Trusons. Dr. Benton glared at Matiland as he said his good nights to King. Margo held a hand out to Sarah, "Come my dear, we'll see you safely to your car."

Lawson shook his head, "Hang on, I'll be leaving now as well."

Liz smiled, having effetely chased off one and all, thinking she was going to be alone with the handsome master of the house. "Good night." She said overly sweetly.

Sarah saw Matiland head for the Salon, tugging at the zipper on her dress. Lawson had to run to catch up to her in the driveway.

"Sarah, don't let that bat get to you." James Lawson held her arm, looking at the troubled face. "Don't you see? She's nothing." Margo was about to say something, when the lights in the Salon went off. Dr. Benson cursed, under his breath. Lawson gripped Sarah. "He didn't invite her… remember that Sarah. Garrett didn't invite her."

Sarah could not speak, but nodded as she opened the door to her little car and climbed in. She waved to them, keeping on her brave face until she was out of the drive and then the floodgates opened. Even a whole purse of owl feathers could not cure the ills she was facing. She was on the road headed home, and Liz Matiland was seducing Garrett. Invited or uninvited, she was with Garrett right now, doing what? Sarah didn't want to know.