Home > Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(5)

Dark Dancer (Rosie O'Grady's Paranormal Bar and Grill #3)(5)
Author: B.R. Kingsolver

On the other side was Franklin Jones and his allies, who had put a stop to the bounties being offered for vampires and werewolves. Elections were coming, and it seemed as though both factions of the club wanted control of the mayor’s office and the state governor’s office, with the Illuminati backing Westport’s mayor in his bid to become governor.

As part of their strategy to disrupt the city and use the resulting chaos to consolidate their power, the Illuminati faction in the Columbia Club had brought in a Hunter, who killed at least three members of the club who opposed the mayor, in addition to killing the city’s head vampire.

Lizzy was right. Gavin Edmundson’s appearance could be explained as a continuation of an Illuminati plot to gain control of Westport. And in fact, that was a more logical explanation than Master Rudolf dropping everything to find and kill one girl. I knew that he disapproved of my special place as Master Benedict’s personal Hunter. He had told me once to my face that my magical and fighting skills weren’t very impressive so I must be damned good between the sheets. So, why would he obsess about me?

Or I could just be rationalizing because I didn’t want to face the tough choice of starting all over again in another town.

The one thing I was sure of was Gavin Edmundson being Illuminati, and I would bet he was also a Hunter. And if he planned on resuming the murders of Franklin Jones’s allies, I had to find a way to tell Frankie.

When Lizzy dropped me off after dinner, I did a thorough survey around my building, and sure enough, found my stalker standing in the trees by the stream in the back. I was torn between giving him a piece of my mind or simply ignoring him. Deciding the latter was better for my blood pressure, I started toward the front door, then stopped.

Using my own skills as a stalker, I circled around by the creek and came through the woods behind him. When I got within arm’s reach of him, I grabbed his cloak and jerked on it.

Cunningham whirled about and found himself staring at the point of my long dagger.

“Just calm down,” I said. “I only want to talk to you. Okay?”

He nodded. “Okay.”

I lowered the knife and put it away. He followed it with his eyes until it disappeared from sight, then I saw him relax.

“There’s a Hunter in Westport,” I said. “I assume he was sent here by Rudolf Heine. His name is Gavin Edmundson. Do you know who Francis Jones is?”

“Yes, the assistant district attorney.”

“Good. Have you met her?”

“No, but Constance has.” Constance Gardner was Gabriel Laurent’s other dhampir. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for Frankie’s conversation with Gardner after she was discovered running a vampire bounty operation in the city.

“Unless you have warm feelings for the Illuminati and Rudolf Heine, I would encourage you to have Laurent inform Ms. Jones of Edmundson’s affiliation,” I said.

“Why don’t you?”

“How would I know anything about the Illuminati and their Hunters? I’m just a bartender.”

“Ah, I see. And what do I get out of this?”

“You say you’re human,” I said. “Even a small bit of revenge tastes good. Besides, I doubt Laurent would feel very comfortable if he knew a Hunter was here in the city.”

“That is true.” He hesitated, then said, “You assume that I don’t blame Gabriel as much for Stephanie’s death as I do Heine.”

“No, I don’t. But if you serve a master, you accept what they do. When you stop accepting, then you stop serving.”

“Is everything so black and white with you?” he asked.

“No, the world is shades of gray. But you either serve the Dark or you serve the Light. That is a choice, not a sliding scale. Vampires are creatures of the Dark.”

I brushed past him to go home. I didn’t know whether he would tell Laurent as I hoped, but at least I tried.

His hand caught my shoulder. I spun around, pulling power from the ley line.

“I would like to get to know you better,” he said.

I shook off his hand. “I’m not interested in getting to know a vampire’s thrall, especially the way you mean,” I responded. “I’m only interested in free men. But I’ll give you some advice. Stalking a woman is not the way to endear yourself to her.”

He didn’t try to stop me again. When I reached my apartment, I looked out the window and he was gone.

I called Michaela Gallagher the following morning and invited her to lunch. Michaela had been one of the big winners coming out of the vampire succession battles, although she did lose her father. We agreed to meet at Rosie’s.

I showed up ahead of the appointed time and grabbed a table that would allow us to converse privately. Not unobserved, however. Michaela was impossible to ignore. When she came through the door, conversations halted as everyone turned to stare.

Blonde, six-feet tall, with a curvy but athletic body, she could have been a supermodel—as long as she didn’t have to smile. A dhampir’s fangs weren’t as obvious as a vampire’s, but they were still far larger than my teeth.

She bent down and bussed my cheek, tossed her coat over an empty chair, and settled into her chair with a grace that a swan would have envied.

“Long time, no see,” she said. “I thought you’d forgotten me.”

I grinned. “I didn’t realize your phone only received calls. You should get yourself a fancy one like mine that calls out, too.”

She laughed.

After the waitress took our orders, Michaela leaned forward and asked, “What’s up?”

“There’s a Hunter in town.”

She leaned back in her chair. “Ooo. That’s not good. Has anyone warned Laurent?”

I shrugged. “I told David Cunningham.”

Michaela cocked her head a little to the side and seemed to study me. “That one is a real looker. Only the second male dhampir I’ve ever heard of. But young. You do know that, right?”

“How would I know that? You hardly look older than I do, but I know you’re well over a hundred.”

She chuckled. “I’ll be a hundred forty-five this spring. David’s only thirty.”

I waited for the punchline, but she didn’t say anything else.

“How old is Constance?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Two hundred? Two-thirty? Definitely on the downside of the curve.”

“It sounds like you’ve gotten to know them.”

Michaela shrugged. “I have to see Laurent fairly regularly. Business. He expected more, but I disabused him of that notion right away. If I have my way, I’ll never sleep with another vampire again. But a couple of my sisters have kind of a crush on David. They invite him over and take him out with them.”

“And Constance?”

“She’s a bitch. We’re civil to each other. No point in tearing each other’s throats out, but if she had a fatal accident, I wouldn’t mourn for more than a few seconds.” The ghost of a smile crossed her face. “She needs to watch her tongue around Eileen, though.”

Eileen Montgomery was a vampire and the proprietor of Necropolis, a vampire-goth nightclub. She and I got along, but I hadn’t seen her in a while.

Our meals came, and after the waitress left, Michaela asked, “Does this Hunter have a name?”

“Gavin Edmundson. He’s presented himself to the Columbia Club as a representative of a similar club on the east coast.”

She nodded. “You’ve met him? I don’t know all the Columbia Club members, but some of them aren’t nice people.”

I pulled out a list and pushed it across to her. “Yeah, I met him while he was having dinner with Franklin Jones. Anyone you might care to identify as being interested in stirring the pot?”

Michaela reached in her purse and pulled out a pen, then quickly made checkmarks next to half a dozen names. “Wouldn’t put it past any of these. Word is that at least some of them were involved in that bounty business.”

After we ate and she got up to leave, she asked, “Do you mind if I tell Eileen about the Hunter?”

“I was hoping you would, as long as you don’t say where you got the information.”

After Michaela left, I went to Sam’s office, where I closed the door and told him about Edmundson. At that point, I figured that I had dropped the information as widely as I dared.

Chapter 5

With two nights off, and having just finished reading my latest novel, I felt restless. I wondered if vampires read vampire romance novels. I assumed their thralls did, at least before being enthralled.

Two of the small cities Lizzy had suggested as hiding places were university towns. I had checked them out and discovered the tuition costs of those universities were half what I would pay in Westport. I calculated that if I was frugal, it would only take me two years to save one year’s tuition. At that rate, I could graduate in fifteen years. Their financial aid was a joke. I would have to quit my job and starve for a year to qualify. No matter how powerful I was, I couldn’t eat magic, so that option was out.

But rather than dismiss the relocation idea completely, I decided to spend some time around the university in Westport to try and get an idea of what living in a university town might be like.

I went out to the clubs with Lizzy and Jolene sometimes, but Lizzy had a big assignment for one of her professors, and Jolene was spending a lot of quality time with her boyfriend of the month. Since Trevor wasn’t being very friendly, I figured he probably wouldn’t want to take me dancing either.

But if I moved to a new city, I wouldn’t have any friends there at first, so I throttled my insecurities and went out on my own. I put on a pair of black leggings and a frilly rose-colored tunic top that made me feel girly, then took the trains out to the university. It was a Tuesday night, so things were rather quiet, but there were still plenty of students in the bars. I also noticed there were a lot of cops on the street and patrolling in cars.

   
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