Remembered Kisses: Chapter 12: The Professor's Vampire
Sam ran his fingers through his hair as he sat at his desk after class. After his conversation with Marcus, and then Methuselah, everything felt off-kilter. The conversation with the dean had only made it worse. Anger was mixed with worry was mixed with disappointment and confusion. You’re thinking too hard about it, Sam, he thought. Got to focus. Pull yourself up. The conversation with the Dean hadn’t made it any easier. The man is a toad. Afraid to rock the boat lest we drown… but if the flood’s already coming, we need to know. What if the treaty is broken, and we just haven’t caught on yet? What are we enabling?
“Is everything okay, Professor?”
Sam looked up his desk. Lily was standing over him, a worried smile on her face. “What’s that? No, Lily. I’m fine. Thank you.” He picked up his briefcase. “Just a lot on my mind. How are you?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s hard. I still miss her. We all do. The coven isn’t the same without her. And with how she died…”
“What do you know about how she died?” Sam asked sharply. Details of her death had been tightly controlled. The last thing the Collegium wanted was a panic.
“Marcus told me,” she said. “As if we needed him to tell us.” She shook her head. “She was one of us, Sam. We felt her passing.” Her voice fell low. “And we know it was something dark that did it. We shared a bond. It was terrifying, and it was…” She shuddered. “I still feel tainted by it.”
Sam gave her a sympathetic look, and he put his hand on hers. “It will be all right,” he said, more gently now. “We’ll find out what happened. Would you like to come over tomorrow? I’ve got a few more books you should look it.”
She nodded and looked away to hide the glistening in the corner of her eyes. “Thank you. I, um. I’ll see you then.”
Sam watched her leave, and rubbed his forehead. “It’s all a mess, Sam,” he muttered, and walked out of the class.
He found who was looking for on the quad. Saul grinned as he settled down across the table at him.
“Hello, Sammy. Pleasure to see you.”
“I’m glad you came quickly, Saul. I need you.”
The one-eyed prophet laughed. “That’s what all the boys say.”
Sam sighed. He had no patience for this today. “I need you to get a word to the dead court to me.”
“I’m no messenger boy, Sammy.”
“Don’t give me that crap. I know you know people, and you can do this damn thing for me. And you’ll do it for free, because the task itself reveals a dangerous secret about myself.” Sam met Saul’s gaze. “One you’ll find valuable.”
Saul raised an eyebrow over the eyepatch. “Aye?”
“Aye,” Sam responded, looking away again. There was only so long he was willing to look into the eye of something he couldn’t quite identify. “I need you to get a message to Sofia of the Lorenzo. Tell her Sam wants to talk to her. On top of Saint Raphael.”
“At one of the parapets? Really. Isn’t that a wee bit…”
“If you say cliché, I will slug you. I am not in the mood. I’ll be there tonight, waiting.”
“Tonight? That’s a little fast?”
Saul shrugged. “All right, Sam. But you still owe me that favor. The Dead Court is dangerous, even for me. And the Lorenzos might get nervous about one of their own just being summoned up out of the blue by a magus. Especially after last month.”
“Just do it, Saul. And don’t worry about the rest. I always pay my debts.”
Saul studied the bookish mage for a moment, a weighing look in his eye. “So far, at least. You’d better. You don’t want to have me disgruntled.” He picked his hat back up and put it on. “You’re a good professor. Ever think about doing it full time?”
Sam shrugged. “If the college would pay more than an adjunct’s salary to a mage, I would. But they’re not quite true believers yet.”
“Give them time. When the Prince of Winters opens the way, and the star-queen’s children run free through the town. They will believe, and they will curse your name.”
“The star-queen? First it was the prince of winters, and now a there’s a star-queen? How many dark nasty beings of utter destruction are out there?”
“How many do you need, Sam? How many nightmares does mankind have? And she’s been mentioned before. You know of whom I speak.” Saul shook his head and stood up from the bench. “I’ll be back. Be waiting. And be ready for me to call in my tab.”
Sam’s stomach was churning all day as his rendezvous approached. He was distracted trying to grade papers, barely touched his supper, and after making sure his thick black hair was combed and his coat was clean he still made it to the church before the sun had even set. But Saul was as good as his word, and Sam had not been standing in the bell tower long when quiet footsteps coming up the stairs announced her approach. He sensed her next, there was a gentle ripple of the hairs on the back of his neck, an unmistakable chill running down the base of his spine.
“Hello, Sam,” she said, her voice a low purr, full of subtle textures that hinted at everything and promised nothing. “It’s been a while.”
Sam turned, looking over his shoulder, and drank her in. Her leather pants had to have been painted on, and she wore a white lacy blouse underneath her faded leather jacket. Not that it mattered to Sam. The way she stood, the way her soft lips curled into a knowing grin: she could have been wearing a royal gown or tattered rags. It still would have had the same effect.
She was devastating.
“Sofia,” Sam said, fighting the quiver in his voice. “It has been awhile." He forced his lips into a grin and hoped he wasn't shaking. "Leather pants. Lacy bodice. You’ve really given into the look, haven’t you?”
She snorted and rolled her eyes. “No more cliche than meeting atop a church parapet. Really, if any of us has a desperate need for the theatrical, it's you. Besides…” she twisted her hips towards him. “Don’t these pants make my ass look good?”
It was true. Sam couldn’t deny it. He couldn’t keep from looking, either.
That grin spread on her face again, but it never touched her blue eyes. “ It is nice to see you, Sam,” she added, her voice softening to a gentle sincerity. “You look good. Really good.”
“Good enough to eat?” Sam asked as dryly as he could manage. His heart was racing. He could feel her presence, just like he used to, but it was different. She still oozed the same palpable sensuality with everything she did; she still smelled the same, that gentle touch of lavender and spice. But there was something else. A predatory grace was there now, lurking just at the corner of her movements. She smelled like the girl she had been, the girl he had loved, but that subtle edge was intoxicating. Dangerous, Sam, he thought. She moves like a predator because she is one. She's one of them now. She's not that girl you knew. But his mental warning to himself made no difference. That different quality that should have been repelling was drawing him in, and he could feel it.
And he didn't care.
Her grin never wavered. “You heard, then, I take it,” she said, quieter. “It doesn’t change anything, Sam. I’m still the girl you knew.”
“It changes everything," he said, shaking off the second chill that ran down his spine. Is she reading my thoughts? Impossible. "You’re one of them now. You're a vampire.”
“Well I was never going to be one of you, was I?” She asked, stepping up to stand beside him, looking out over the town. “ Not all of us are born with gifts like yours. Some of us have to work at it. Some of us have to find other ways to protect ourselves.”
“I could have protected you,” Sam said, looking at her.
“Because you’d done that so well in the past,” she shot back.
Sam fell silent.
Her expression changed slightly and her voice softened. “I don’t mean that, Sam. But I couldn’t be a mage. You know that. And no one listened when I called, so I couldn’t be a theurge. I had to find my own way.”
“But they’re monsters.”
“Not all of them. Some of them are different. You can’t judge them all the same. It takes all types.”
Sam turned away, then, turning from the city to look down into the cathedral courtyard. “At least they let you come when I called you.”
“Who better to meet with you, Professor Lawrence?” She teased. “You have a dangerous reputation.” Her eyes widened just slightly in mock wonder. “And when the great and powerful slayer of goblins and nightmares, known opponent of the magi-hemovore treaty, seeks to contact the Dead Court’s leading family, it’s... intriguing.” Her voice turned sultry “Incredibly intriguing.” She laughed. “I asked them to let me come. I wanted to see you.”
“I wasn’t sure if you would. Not after last time.” He ran his hand along the iron rail and forced himself to look at back her. To see her face and her eyes and remember that he was talking to a twisted spirit in a dead shell, not the girl he used to know. “And now that you have?”
“You look good, Sam. Just like I remembered. But tired. You take too much on yourself. You can’t do it all alone.”
“So they tell me.” He shrugged. “But if not me, who?” He sighed.
She shook her head but let the matter drop. “So. Why did you want a meeting?
“You always are.”
“A girl. Named Kendra. She disappeared a few months ago.”
“We are aware.”
Sam paused, his eyes suddenly sharp. “You’re aware?” He asked.
“Don’t give me that look, Sam. We didn’t do it. We play by the rules. The treaty is very important to us. You made an inquiry and we answered.”
He watched her carefully, trying to read her face. But she was like a statue. Like a dead thing. He gave up. “Then what do you know?”
“I know you shouldn’t get involved. I know that if you dig too far, it will hurt. Everyone. There is a game going on here you’re not ready for.”
“I can’t accept that.”
She turned away. He saw her long white neck, pale under the pink ribbon around it. “Fine. I’m bound to keep the Family’s secrets… but you may want to ask your young ward if she has any family in town.”
Sam’s blood ran cold. “That’s all you’ll tell me?”
“That’s all I can tell you.”
He nodded and turned away, toward the stairs, his thoughts racing.
He turned back.
”I shouldn’t have left like I did. I’m sorry.”
He shrugged helplessly. “It is what it is. You were hurt. You did what you had to.”
She nodded and bit her lip. “I miss you. Call me.”
“I’ll think about it, Sofia. I really will.” He turned away one more time and walked down the stairs.