Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(5)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(5)
Author: Katie MacAlister

A woman whumped into me with enough force that it sent us both reeling, my books and her large bag falling to the ground.

She excused herself in French.

"Do you speak English? I'm afraid my French is pretty rusty," I said, kneeling to help her gather up the things that had spilled out of her bag. I handed her back the usual assortment of items - keys, cell phone, compact, and a paperback - before gathering up the couple of books I'd purchased.

"Oh, thank you. Yes, I do speak English. I am so sorry, I am very late for an appointment and wasn't watching where I was going," the woman said in a delightful French accent, her delicate-boned face perfectly framed by fluffy blond hair. She had that air of fragility common to Frenchwomen, the one that screamed "gamine." That she plowed into me with the force of a Mack truck mattered little, I suspected, to the men who no doubt flung themselves daily at her feet. "Did I step on you? No? Good. I am very distressed, you see. I've lost the address where I'm supposed to go, and none of the bookshops seem to be the right one. Ah, there is another one. I will try there."

"Beware of spiders," I warned as she tucked her belongings away in her bag.

The smile she flashed me faded. "Spiders?"

"Yes, evidently some big hairy ones."

She shuddered. "I detest spiders! Perhaps that shop is not the one..." She eyed the bookstore with obvious distaste.

"If you're looking for a current book, they probably aren't going to have it. It seemed to be mostly old and antique books."

"Antique," she said thoughtfully. "That does not sound correct. The Zenith was most specific it was an English book with the man and woman on the cover dancing... oh, la la! The time!" She had glanced at her watch, hoisting her bag onto her shoulder. "I will try another one; that does not look like a shop to have the dancing books, does it?"

"Naw, the only thing I found there was an old Agatha Christie and some Regency romance," I said, gesturing at my books.

"Bien, It is good I run into you, I think!"

"No problem," I called after her as she started off. "Always happy to save a fellow tourist from death by dusty spiders. But you're not going to the fireworks? The park is that way."

She paused and looked at where I was pointing. If she was a tourist like me, perhaps she didn't know where the festivities were to take place.

"Fireworks?"

"They're supposed to be having some fabulous fireworks show that you won't want to miss. For the Independence Day stuff."

"I cannot, I'm afraid," she said over her shoulder as she hurried off across the square. "I'm so very late, you see, and I lost the name of the shop. The light be within you, sister."

Her voice trailed behind her even after she was gone from sight.

The light be within me? That was an odd thing to say. "She must belong to one of those religious groups, like the celebrities are always touting," I said to no one.

I shrugged and turned back to the men, who were still standing in close conversation.

"Boy, I give you guys a chance to go away and cut me a little slack, and you refuse. Fine. Be that way. I might as well get this over with, not that Denise is here to witness it."

I clutched my books and took a deep breath, then without any further dillydallying, marched myself toward the two men, determined to... I didn't know exactly what I was determined to do. Maybe smile at them as I passed, and hope one of them smiled back? If I did that, at least I could face Denise with a clear conscience over the breakfast table.

"Well, hell," I said out loud, stopping abruptly as the two men split up, heading in two different directions, neither of which encouraged them to so much as glance my way.

Denise's crow of laughter rolled over the square. She had come from the side nearest the park, arriving at the perfect moment to see the two men walk away from me.

"Worst timing ever," I ground out through my teeth as I forced a smile, waving a hand at Denise to show that I heard her and admitted defeat. "I don't have to take anything more than that, though," I added softly to myself, hoisting my bag, camera, and books higher.

With one last look at the nearest of the two gorgeous men as he melted into the shadows of a connecting street, I lifted my chin and took myself off to the park.

I was going to have a good time, dammit, even if it killed me.

Chapter 2

"Is she gone?"

"One sec." Audrey, our tour leader and co-owner of Sgt. Patty's Lonely Hearts Club Tours, peeked out from behind the statue of a Viking explorer to scan the immediate crowd. Most people were sitting on the grass, watching with appreciative oohs and aahs as fireworks etched brilliant paths into the equally colorful night sky. Children ran around with the usual array of sparklers, the fireworks spitting glitter as they trailed brief-lived images into the air. The acid smell of the smoke hung heavy around us, slowly dissipated by the breeze blowing in from the water.

"I think that's her over on the other side. She's been prowling around all night looking for me, no doubt to complain about one thing or another."

"She didn't seem too happy about missing the trip out to the ruins," I admitted.

"Happy?" Audrey snorted. "She bitched so much about missing the fireworks, I decided it just wasn't worth it, and canceled the trip just to suit her. She certainly ought to be happy. Oh, lord, she's spotted Magda and Ray. They haven't seen her, poor things, and she's making a beeline straight for them. I wish I could just refund her money and boot her from the tour, but Patty would have a hissy if I did anything to piss off a client."

I patted Audrey on the arm. "You have my sympathies, and I wish I could help you with the truculent one, but I'm pretty much Denised out. I think I'll toddle back to the hotel."

She turned a distraught face to me. "Oh, Pia, don't go! The fireworks aren't over yet, and after that there's more music. You don't want to miss your chance at having a romantic encounter with a handsome Viking, now, do you?"

I thought of the two men whom I couldn't quite steel myself up to approach, and gave her a grim little smile. "I think I'll pass for tonight. You have fun, though."

"I'm sorry if Denise has made you feel uncomfortable," she said, clearly upset.

"Don't be. It's not your problem. I'm a big girl and can handle myself, even with Denise. I'm just a bit tired from seeing Reykjavik this morning, and then all the wandering around the town I did this afternoon. Happy Iceland Independence Day!"

   
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