Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(12)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(12)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

Michaela gave me a tour. She told me they were renovating the main house and building eighteen two-bedroom apartments with the new addition.

“I want to give them a sense of independence,” Michaela said. “We’ve always served the vampires and my father. None of these women have ever been farther from Westport than Seattle. If they want to have a real life, I’m going to give them the chance.” She grinned. “Liam and Sheila are practically living together now, and an apartment of their own will give them some privacy, while still providing the kind of support I think they need.”

Her grin faded into a gentle smile. “I’m sure you’ve noticed that Sheila isn’t the brightest girl in the class. Liam is the brains in that pair, but Sheila is his means of communication, and that can be a bit of a problem sometimes.”

I understood why she considered it a problem. Sheila had a habit of saying whatever popped into her head, whether it was appropriate or not. I wondered where they were living together but didn’t ask. I knew that Liam had always lived with his mother on the southwest side of town and didn’t drive.

As we drove to the sword club, which was a lot closer to my apartment than the new Gallagher estate was, Michaela told me about the place.

“Back around 1900,” she began, “Dad brought a sword master over from Europe to train me. Word got around, and a number of other people sought out his services. We bought the land and built the main building in 1914, added the dining room and bar in the 1920s, and put in the golf course in 1935. It’s obviously members only, by invitation, supernaturals and paranormals only.”

“How many members?” I asked.

“About two hundred, currently, and I think it’s thirty or so, plus my sisters and me, who work with Gilles.”

“Gilles?”

She grinned. “Our sword master. He’s going to love you.”

Something about that grin and the tone in her voice made me wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

Michaela parked the car in front of a one-story brick building next to what looked like a mansion and, I figured, was the main building for the golf course, restaurant, and all the rest of the club. Inside the smaller building was a large open room with fencing strips on the floor. Racks of weapons, including axes, spears, and halberds, lined the walls.

I should have guessed. Gilles Prudhomme was a vampire. A very old vampire. The power I felt from him was incredible. Not as old as Gabriel Laurent, but far older than any other vampire I had met in Westport. Not much taller than my five-feet-seven, he couldn’t have weighed much over a hundred fifty or sixty pounds. Lithe and wiry, he would have given me a run for my money when he was alive. With vampiric speed and a blade in his hand, I judged he would be a nightmare to face.

“Enchanté, mademoiselle,” he said, taking my hand and bowing to kiss it.

“Le plaisir est à moi, monsieur,” I replied.

He brightened. “Est-ce que vous parles français?”

“Oui.”

We continued our conversation in French. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a satisfied smile play across Michaela’s face.

“Mademoiselle Gallagher tells me that you wish to join us for work with the sword,” he said. “Do you have any experience?”

“Yes, mostly with the arming sword and the main gauche, but I have worked some with the rapier.”

“Let us start with the rapier then,” he said. He led me to a rack of various types of swords and selected two rapiers, handing me one. I noticed they were real swords, with sharp tips and edges. “Do you require protective armor?” he asked.

I shook my head. Pulling power from the nearest ley line, I shielded myself.

“Touch me.”

Gilles reached out and discovered his hand stopped six inches from me. He grinned. “That is good. We won’t need the first aid kit.”

It had been more than a year since I picked up a rapier, and I knew my form had never pleased my instructors. But I managed to spar with Gilles for half an hour without falling down, tripping over my own feet, or sticking him by accident. When he finally called a halt, he was smiling.

“You show some promise,” he said. “Now, select a sword that you would use for a battle.”

I put the rapier back in its rack and checked out the selection of swords available. Short swords, long swords, katana, sabers, and many more. I found a sword similar in weight and length to the one I had carried for four years. He inspected it, then selected a similar sword for himself.

“Are you going to wear any armor?” I asked.

“I heal quickly,” he said, “and besides, what kind of sword master would I be if you could hurt me? That would make you the master, would it not?”

He was fast. Blindingly fast. And though he touched my shield a half-dozen times, I never came close to cutting him. But at one point, I dropped into a crouch and pivoted three hundred and sixty degrees with my sword outstretched less than two feet off the ground. He leapt to avoid it, stumbled backwards, and almost lost his footing. He held up his hand for a stop.

“I think we should pair you with either Donna or Michaela to practice,” he said. “And wooden practice swords. Use the padded armor. I think their speed and strength will benefit you, and your quickness and technique will benefit them.” He shook his head and then pointedly looked around at others practicing, some of whom had been watching us.

“There are some here who have an unrealistic assessment of their own skills and a misunderstanding of masculinity. Do not allow anyone to spar with you using steel. Understood?”

I bowed from the waist and said, “Oui, Monsieur. I shall avoid unpleasant accidents.”

That answer earned me a delighted grin.

We arranged for me to come out every Wednesday afternoon, and Michaela said that either she or her sister Donna, or both, would come to practice with me. I envisioned a lot of bruises. Michaela was six feet tall and outweighed me probably by forty pounds. Donna was four inches taller and strong as an ox. Both were much stronger than I was, and faster. But sparring with dhampir would be preferable to sparring with Gilles or a human.

And if a Hunter team was in town, I needed to be at the top of my game.

As Michaela and I walked out of the fencing facility, I saw a familiar car pull up and David Cunningham get out.

“Does he work out here?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s fast, and incredibly strong, but lacks any finesse or polish. Mostly hack and slash with a broad sword. Gilles is tutoring him in rapier, trying to teach him how to use the sword’s point.”

Michaela drove me to my apartment. On the way, she said, “I’ll have to ask Gilles if he wants me to learn the broad sword, or if I can spar with you using a katana.”

“Is that your chosen weapon?”

“Rapier or katana. I used to be very good with the saber, but no one has fought from horseback since World War I.”

Chapter 10

On Tuesdays, I usually took Jolene to lunch, and in the afternoons, she tutored me in witchcraft at her house. Like me, she and Josh were half-witch, half-mage, and Lizzy was also half-witch. How magic manifested, though, was always a wild card.

I was a mage with an affinity for witchcraft. Josh was a mage with an affinity for fire—in other words, a pyromancer. Jolene manifested purely as a witch, with no mage magic at all. Lizzy was Lizzy—half-Fae, half-witch, completely bewildering.

But when I showed up at Jolene’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Josh answered the door.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Is Jo here? We usually do lunch and witchcraft on Tuesdays.”

“Oh. Well, she’s a little busy. Come on in, but you can’t disturb her.”

Okay. I entered the house and found Trevor sitting in the living room working on a laptop computer. Jolene’s voice could be heard chanting out in the garage, which was her laboratory.

“We’re working on a case,” Josh said. “A lot of kids have gone missing lately, and some of the parents hired us to find out what’s going on.”

“Yeah,” Trevor said, briefly glancing up from his screen, “and when we asked the cops, we discovered there were a bunch of norm kids missing, too. They all fit the same pattern.”

As they explained it to me, a suspicion grew in my mind. Nineteen teenagers between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, fifteen of them girls, had gone missing since Halloween—actually, since the night Cindy and I busted up the vampire ring terrorizing the area around the university.

In spite of Gabriel Laurent filling the void at the top of Westport’s vampire hierarchy, the strife of the previous year had left a lot of newly turned vamps whose sires had died and cast them adrift. They had banded together into what amounted to street gangs. In fact, Blair told me that the old-fashioned street gangs had almost disappeared, with many of the members either dead or turned.

“So, what’s Jolene doing?” I asked.

“Making scrying mirrors for each kid,” Josh said. “All of the parents gave us something personal from the missing kids, and she’s using that stuff to create finding spells.”

“Then we go get the kids, or at least their bodies,” Trevor said.

“I’ll bet they’re still alive,” I said. “Sounds like rogue vampires building their harems.”

“That’s pretty much our thoughts,” Trevor responded.

“According to my tracking spells, they are all alive,” Jolene said as she came into the room. “Hi, Erin. I guess you heard that we’re going to have to cancel the lesson today. Gotta pay the rent.”

I grinned at her. “Yeah, you’re standing me up in favor of these rough-looking guys.”

“Want to come along? Help us clear out a few vampire nests?”

Since I wasn’t doing anything else, I shrugged and said yes. The alternative was to spend the day by myself, and these were my friends, people I enjoyed being with. Besides, left to myself, I’d probably sit around obsessing over the Hunters.

   
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