The condo was dark as Vicki cracked open the door.
Good, she thought I have a few minutes. She eased the door open just wide enough to feel for the light switch and the room was bathed in a warm light. She closed the door gently behind her listening as the latch snicked home.
She leaned her head against the door frame and rested there for a moment gathering her courage.
This is a stupid idea, a spur of the moment, just do it, kind of an idea that I know I am going to regret, the kind of idea I always regret. What the hell am I thinking sneaking into a vampire's sanctuary on Valentine's Day, it gives a whole new meaning to the expression 'Love Bites', she thought just a little hysterically. I could leave now, just open the door and go, of course, if I did that he would know I had been here, there is no fooling that bloodhound nose of his, and then he'll know that I chickened out at the last moment, which is really what I am thinking of doing right this second.
"Cluck, cluck, cluck," she said under her breath as an image of Mike performing a scratch and peck version of the chicken dance spun across her mind. Funny Mike always had a way of tempting me to do whatever it was that I was afraid of.
Straightening, she opened her eyes and turned, to move a few steps into Henry's space. The shutters where closed, a blank dark surface filling the windows and blocking what she knew was a beautiful red gold sunset, from her view.
There was an air of stillness in the condo, a quiet feeling of separateness that seemed to sink into her spirit. Walking across to the shades she touched the satiny surface with a finger, here was his safety, here he was safe. A profound sense of security filled her; he was safe here from something that she could not protect him from. He could shut out the world that would hurt him, destroy him. She allowed her fingers to trail down the surface of the shutter, unwilling to allow her thoughts to wander further along that line. I would rather face the sunrise than…
She found herself tip toeing across to the kitchen and paused. What the hell Nelson, she thought, it's not like you're going to wake him, only the night can do that, he is a vampire after all,, a vampire… dead to the world.
What a stupid fucking argument that was, I can't believe that things blew up that way, he is just so…so…
It was a simple comment really; I didn't mean anything by it…just an observation nothing more.
Two days earlier…
The door of the office clicked closed and the cold air wafted in around Coreen's feet beneath her desk. She looked up to see Henry, leaning one jean clad thigh on the edge of the desk, as the scent of wool and frosty February air, clean and cold pervaded the room.
"Good evening Coreen," Henry lips lifted in a smile that ran all the way to his twinkling eyes. His best feature, Coreen thought, definitely his smile is his best feature…at least of those that I have seen.
Henry was tugging off his gloves, "How has your...day been?" He asked her, "Busy?"
"Yeah pretty much, we have a couple of new cases that we're researching and then there was a new lead on the missing teens in Brampton, I made a run to the stationary store. How was yours?" The words were out of her mouth before she thought, "Ahhh, I mean…" she said awkwardly. Sometimes I just forget, which is like so weird, how could I forget that this is a 480 year old vampire.
Henry chuckled, "My day? Rather on the quiet side, I would say." He said with a smile. I don't really know how my day was, I know that the time passed, between my last conscious thought and my most recent, because the world has moved on, the day changed slowly to night, …but where I was, while all the day's events happened, that question is…
He crossed the room to touch the red foil cupids and cardboard candy valentine hearts that Coreen had hung on the walls and window of the office, diverted he asked "What spell did you use, Coreen, to get Vicki to agree to you hanging these reminders of St. Valentine's Day?"
Now it was Coreen's turn to smile and she rolled her dark eyes towards the door of Vicki's office, "Oh just my most powerful, and even then, I thought I might require your powers of…persuasion," she said archly.
Henry had to laugh at the lewd innuendo in the young Goths expression, she really is most dear to me, he thought and he inclined his head to her regally and said "Your most humble servant, my lady."
"Are you expecting Vicki to return soon?" he asked, having already determined that she was not in the building.
"Yeah, she called a couple of minutes ago, she was down at the station going over some files with Mike, something to do with the new client that we got this morning, Phillip Dranger, some big-wig antiquities dealer."
With Celluci, I should have known, probably sitting heads together over the files, reminiscing about the good old days while I was lying oblivious to the world… the heat of jealousy washed through him, I cannot share her days…
"Phillip Dranger, owner of Dranger and Stanton Antiquities?" Henry asked. "I have dealt with that firm on several occasions; I hope that it is nothing too serious."
"They think an executive assistant or a banking intermediary may be funneling off funds from international transactions or something; they were looking at bank records and spreadsheets."
"Mmm-huh," Henry replied distracted, the door below closed with a slam and he heard Vicki's footsteps on the stairs, rapid, she was in a hurry and he heard Celluci's heavier tread behind. Damn.
She was through the door in one swift movement and asked hurriedly, "Did Henry call?" roughly in the direction of Coreen's desk.
Coreen cleared her throat loudly, nodding her head in the direction of the corner where Henry was standing, arms crossed, directly below a cardboard candy heart that was mounted on the wall, emblazoned with the words 'Kiss Me'.
Vicki turned, "You're early tonight, didn't you need to stop for a little something on the way?" she said with a slight grimace.
I will not rise to that bait. "No," he said calmly, "I fed yesterday evening, so my time is all yours this evening."
"So the citizenry of Metro Toronto are off the menu for tonight, Count?" Mike asked, shrugging out of his coat.
Henry smiled benignly in Celluci's direction. "Unless you would like me to make a personal exception, detective, yes they are."
Henry heard Coreen's soft sigh from across the room, and turned to glance in her direction, he was well aware of Coreen's infatuation with him and he could not deny that, if it wasn't for Vicki, his "warrior princess", he felt more than a spark of attraction to Coreen's joyous and indomitable personality.
Celluci passed through to the inside office, "Yeah, whatever, scotch in the usual place, Vic?"
Henry's gaze was brought back to Vicki with her exhalation "Yeah, lower desk drawer," then turning back to Henry, "It's just as well, we have a couple of new cases that we are working on, I'll show you what I have." She crossed to him and placed her palms gently on his chest and bringing her lips close to his, her scent and the scent of the night surrounding him.
He leaned towards her, and as their eyes met she smiled seductively and said "I didn't know you needed to advertise your desires, Hank."
At his puzzled look she pointed to the sign above him, craning his head around, he turned back with a wicked smile and said to her retreating back, "Does this mean that you're going to…Vicki?"
They had the file spread out on the desk and had been leafing through the documents for a few minutes, when Coreen came in with a carrier with three cups of coffee and a bottle of spring water under her arm.
"Henry said that he had done some business in the past with Mr. Dranger's company." She said placing a cup on the desk in front of Vicki, and holding out the water to Henry.
"Thank you Coreen," he said as he twisted off the top and raised the bottle to his lips.
"Really, that's interesting, what kind of business? Any insights into their operation?" Vicki asked as she sipped her coffee.
Henry lowered the bottle and said, "Dranger is a partner in a firm that I sometimes deal with, they acquire, items of some interest which they auction or sell privately depending on the item. I am more familiar with William Stanton, his partner. William knows that I am interested in artifacts from a certain period and will sometimes contact me when there is an item on the market that he thinks I might find of interest."
"Let me guess, the Tudor period, right?" Mike said. "Dranger and Stanton specialize in period antiques, very upper crust, and British in origin, just the sort of thing that a vampire prince would be into. We saw the catalogues, some of the gowns and doublets and coats heavily embroidered and jewel encrusted."
"Yes," Henry said shortly, rankled that Vicki and Mike had been discussing him however obliquely.
"So aside from filling up a very expensive, dress-up trunk, what other items would you find 'of interest?'
"Documents, weapons, books, artifacts, and in particular jewelry." Henry responded tightly.
"Ah yes, I heard that Henry VIII, liked to gift his lady friend's with jewelry. Like father like bastard son, would that be it? Mike sniped.
Henry was suddenly very close to Mike and leaning closer still said. "My father, was well known, for his generosity and his courtly attention to the fairer sex, detective. Many of the pieces I have acquired over the years, were indeed, gifts of the King's favor to women with whom I was personally acquainted, my mother, my half sister, my widow. At least we knew how to demonstrate appropriate regard for the women we loved."
"Tell that to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard." Vicki said.
Henry swung his head around to regard her coldly, "I yield, as it seems I am attacked on two fronts." He said with a sharp bow.
"May be you should retreat entirely, Captain Canine," Mike blurted out, uncomfortable with how intimidated Henry's proximity had made him.
"Shut up Mike. Enough already, you two!" Vicki barked, and then there was silence as she took a long swallow of her coffee. "Can we pay attention to the file at hand?"
Why is he staying? The night is mine. He has the day, the day when I can't be near her. Why is he still here, this is my time?
As if he could hear Henry's thoughts or as though in answer to his wish, Mike roused himself, from his seat. "I'm outa here, so Vicki, you are sure you're alright with Sunday?"
"Mike, you know I am happy for you and Sylvie. I am happy that you have someone in your life now."
Henry's head came up and his eyes narrowed as he observed Vicki. She continued and though her words were calm and even encouraging, her body language and her scent told a different story.
"I will say, though how you can stand your aunts lording over you about their matchmaking skills, I don't know?" she said.
"Actually, it's my sister that is the worst," Mike said with a lopsided grin, "Mike, we love Sylvie, such a nice Italian girl and a nurse, such a good, safe job." He said imitating the pitch of his sister's voice. "Then he sobered, "I feel bad though, it's our tradition on Valentines."
"Don't worry about it, Mike; come on, a hot date with your new girlfriend or a movie and Chinese with your ex-partner? That's not a really hard choice." Vicki smiled, but Henry could scent the tang of her discontent in the air and as he breathed deeper, Celluci's arousal and…sadness?
Henry pushed himself away from the wall, crossing to Celluci his hand extended. "I believe congratulations are in order."
Mike hesitated briefly before taking that cool hand in his.
"And when, may we expect, to meet your new lady, detective?" Henry asked with a smile.
Celluci's brow lowered. "Stay away from Sylvie, Fitzroy. I don't want you or any of this…" Mike threw out his arm to include the general surroundings, "weird shit that surrounds you, anywhere near her."
Henry was shocked at Mike's response, he of all people should know, that once your eyes were opened to what truly haunted the night, there was no going back to a blissful state of ignorance.
"Come on Mike, that is so not…" Vicki began but Henry over road her.
"I will respect your wishes, detective. If you view me as a threat, then, I will be sure to stay away." Henry said with a slight incline of his head.
"Good," Mike said, relief and embarrassment at war inside him, at Henry's serious response to his request. "I wouldn't want her to catch a glimpse of you wandering around in a doublet and tights, while you're playing dress up, Prince. I've heard those tights can be pretty revealing." He opted for the barb.
Henry only smiled and said, "I think that we should leave a discussion of your feelings of inadequacy, for another evening. Have no fear for Vicki's amusement on St. Valentine's Day, Constable; I am sure I will be able to think of something to…"
"You were leaving, Celluci." Vicki interrupted from her desk. "And if you want to stay, 'Sweet Prince', then make yourself useful, and help me with this file."
Henry raised an elegant brow to Celluci. With a mumbled curse; Mike turned and made for the door.
Crossing to Vicki, Henry placed one hand flat on the desk top and one hand on Vicki's shoulder leaning in to regard the papers on the desk. He was far too close for Vicki's comfort and as she turned to tell him so, she was struck by his profile as his eyes traveled across the pages.
He sensed her gaze and turned his face to hers, their noses only a few inches apart. His eyes were cornflower blue as he whispered. "Am I, Vicki? Am I your Sweet Prince?"