As soon as she knew the foyer was cleared, Cara tried to extricate herself from Godric’s firm embrace. She was just too pissed off and too hurt to be near him for one more moment. She refused to consider how cherished…and protected…she felt in his arms.
Godric closed his eyes and inhaled deeply one final time. Then, instead of letting her go completely, he merely loosened his grasp and let her take a step back. She brought her hands up to his chest as she met his deep, sad gaze. He gently cradled the back of her head in his hand and softly, slowly, intoned, “You will forgive me. That did not go at all as I had planned.”
She felt a little dizzy, and shook her head to clear it. “You turned on me, Godric! In a split second, you went from fun and normal straight into attack mode!” She didn’t notice the shock on his face as she tried to shove him away from her. Moving a brick wall would have been easier. “Is that why you invited me here – to question me?” Shock, hurt, and anger warred on her distraught face.
Godric gathered his thoughts and tried again, this time with even more force. “We will start this evening over. You arrived, we have toured my house, and we will now sit in my study and have a nice conversation.”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “Godric? What is wrong with you? You accuse me of horrible things and now you want to act like nothing’s wrong? Let me go!”
He was stunned – it didn’t work! No human had ever been immune to his mind tricks – none! In his shock that his glamoring didn’t work on her, his hands loosened enough that Cara was able to free herself. She quickly backed several steps away from him, grabbed her purse from the table and turned toward the front door.
He had to act, and he had to act fast. “Cara?” Her name was a gentle, anguished plea in his soft, dark voice. “Please, I ask you to stay. I truly and deeply apologize for what happened earlier this evening.” She paused near the door. “I swear to you that such things will never happen again. I do not blame you for wanting to leave, but we have more to discuss…” His voice faltered at her involuntary flinch.
“Please.” He held an unnecessary breath as he waited.
He was humbly grateful when Cara slowly turned to face him. He hated the guarded, remote expression on her face, but, sadly, understood that he had earned it.
He started to return to his study, collected himself, then abruptly headed toward the large, open den instead. Perhaps an area with no disruptive memories would be better.
As he indicated the way, he silently bid his child to warn the others to stay away. When Isabel silently enquired how things were going with Cara, he did not reply but found solace in the sympathetic support she sent him.
“Would you care for a drink?” Godric indicated the many shiny bottles of spirits arranged around the bar area.
“No, thank you. If you want to fix something for yourself, go right ahead.” She didn’t smile as she folded her arms around herself and leaned back against the bar. He was obviously neither forgiven nor trusted.
At least she had not rushed out the door, although he would not have blamed her. Godric felt that odd, tight, pressure in his chest ease just a fraction. He still had such a long way to go, though. He wondered if he would ever be able to make up for all that he had ruined this night. She was so skittish as it was.
After heating himself a bottle of blood and collecting his thoughts, he chose a chair very near the entrance to the den. He made himself as non-threatening as he could, then invited Cara to have a seat.
After a long moment of indecision, she let her innate laziness win out and stiffly sat in a chair across from him. And waited.
“DesChamps is packmaster over the MoonTracker pack.” Godric thought the direct approach might be best. “He has tasked his best trackers with locating the missing Weres, and has also provided guards for us…and for you.” Cara inhaled sharply, and the look on her face told Godric that he’d better talk fast.
“Two Weres escaped, Cara. They know what you look like, and they know your scent. You are not safe so long as they roam free.”
She thought for a minute, then asked unexpectedly, “Earlier you said ‘maim unto death’. What did you mean by that?”
“The Were you paralyzed died.”
“Good.” She didn’t blink.
“Good?” Godric just had to go and raise that brow. He wasn’t as attractive as she’d once thought. Really. He was so much more so after the way he’d held her and..wow…Gervaise sure had landed with a very loud crash!
“Yes. He was watching the other two eat her. To me, passive acceptance is the same as active participation. Although I’m not big on being the whole judge and jury, fact is, he deserved to die.”
Godric finished his bottled blood and nodded, fascinated to hear what she would say next. “Please, elaborate.”
“Why?” She angled her head a bit. She wasn’t comfortable yet, but wasn’t quite so ready to run cursing out the door, either.
“Because I find myself extremely curious to hear what you will say.” He started to say something else, but changed his mind and said instead, “So although you do not wish to consider yourself “judge and jury”, as you say, you feel no remorse for their deaths? I am glad to hear this as they obviously deserved to die.”
He knew that humans generally viewed killing in a different light than vampires, that the only acceptable reason for killing was usually self-defense.
“Well, I wish I hadn’t had to step in. I wish their deaths hadn’t been necessary. But even though I don’t really know anything about fighting or whatever, I knew that the only way to save Isabel was if I stepped in. And the most effective way to help her was to take out the two closest to me. I had the element of surprise on my side for the first Were. The second one was just a lucky shot. If I hadn’t done anything, the two closest to me would have taken me out, and the other two would have finished killing Isabel. I couldn’t let that happen if I could stop it, so I did what I had to do.”
Godric had to agree with her reasoning. He nodded, encouraging her to continue.
“I don’t know what else to say, Godric. I didn’t like killing the one Were, and I didn’t like hurting the other one, but they chose to be there, and they chose to help the other two out by not stopping them. To me, their lack of intervention made them as guilty as the two who were chewing on her.” Cara took her handy-dandy car drink out of her purse and took a sip. It was flat and room temperature, but wet.
“Just because their hands weren’t bloody doesn’t make them any less culpable than the other two,” she restated as she looked Godric directly in the eyes. “And, honestly, I hope you guys catch the other two, and I really don’t care what you do with them. They would definitely have killed her, and probably me, too. Just don’t tell me what you end up doing with them.” She shivered delicately. “Just because I will kill in defense of myself or someone in need doesn’t mean I want to think about it.”
After another shiver, she took another sip of her drink and put it back in her purse. “Is there anything else?”
Godric was torn between admiration of her bravery and the internal strength it must have taken for her to kill to protect a total stranger, and pain that she no longer cared to spend time in his company.
“Yes, actually, there is. You know I have called upon DesChamps’ Weres to help with locating the other pack and to provide security for all of us, right?”
Cara nodded slowly, knowing he’d get to the point eventually. She really needed to get out of there. And stop noticing how his eyes were so incredibly blue. And stop wishing he wouldn’t look so down and depressed over the fight. He started it! She rubbed her upper arms where that asshole Gervaise had grabbed her, and wished they’d stop hurting.
Godric noticed the movement. “Are you in pain?” Cara thought he looked like he was about to cry, but quickly disregarded that theory. She knew he felt bad over that whole…situation…but damn. Couldn’t a girl hold onto her righteous indignation for at least a little while?
“I’m fine,” she replied cooly as she shrugged her shoulders. And winced.
He instantly whipped his phone out and dialed a number, which was answered immediately. An order was too quickly given for Cara to decipher, then he shut his phone off and looked expectantly toward the entrance to the den. A minute later, Isabel appeared with a bottle of Advil, a bottle of Tylenol, a bottle of aspirin, and a glass of water. She placed them on the table nearest Cara, patted her shoulder gently, then left without saying a word.
“I was not sure which pain reliever you would want,” he explained.
Godric oversaw every motion in minute detail as she blinked a few times, shook her head, chose her pain reliever, took the dose with the water, tried not to smile, took another sip of her water, then finally spoke.
“So you’ve got Were guards now?” Were his eyes actually magnetic? She had to force herself to not get lost in their deep, sad depths. She really wished he’d quit looking at her like that. Like he’d move heaven and earth to change the way things were. Like he’d rather hurt himself than her. Like he’d love it more than anything if she would crawl back into his arms for just a little while.
Godric stared at her for a very long, intense moment, then sighed quietly. “It is my sincere wish that we could put the events of this evening behind us.” He paused, then rose and started pacing. She didn’t say a word.
“DesChamps’ Weres are going to be here for the foreseeable future. They will be providing day guards for this estate, and for you.” He immediately stopped pacing and flashed his blue gaze to Cara when she started to protest. “I’m sorry, but this is not negotiable, ma petite. I cannot allow you to remain unprotected during daylight hours. Your guards will not be intrusive, but they must be allowed to do their jobs. Which brings me to a favor I must ask of you.”
Cara started to say something, then stopped. After watching Godric intently for a few long moments, she finally blurted, “A favor? From me?” Damn curiosity.
“Yes. Night before last you mentioned that you are currently unemployed. I would be pleased to offer you a decent, non-strenuous, post, which will not only solve your current employment situation, but will also solve a bit of a problem for me.” Godric seemed unaccountably pleased with himself.
Immediately suspicious and more than a little confused, Cara gave him her second-best “dead eye” stare. She had no idea how endearing Godric thought she was. “What sort of job?”
“I would have you as my chatelaine,” he said quietly, then a moment later, added, “I suppose you would be something of a day man, erm, woman.” His lips twitched with the brief resurgence of his humor. “I have a day man, only, he is not, shall we say, qualified to care for the sudden increase in the Were population here at the estate. He also has numerous other duties to perform. I have agreed to provide the Weres with meals during their afternoon and evening hours here. However, I do not cook. Honestly, precious few vampires would even if they knew how,” Godric stated with an elegant shrug of his muscled shoulder. His gaze never left Cara’s face. “DesChamps has stated that he will provide his own cook if needed, only, I do not wish for a stranger to be left unattended in my home during the day. If this does come to pass, you would consider her your assistant.”
“So…I would just be, what, cooking lunch and dinner?” As intrigued as she was, Cara knew breakfast was out of the question. That whole “get out of the bed early in the morning” routine was so not her. She would if she had to, though. She’d just complain bitterly about it.
“Yes, you would be in charge of the Were’s afternoon and evening meals, as well as all shopping relevant to this task plus general household purchases, and anything else that might arise during their stay here. I would be in your debt if you would agree to assist me in this situation.”
Cara bit her lip as she considered this opportunity? Situation? It sounded too good to be true. She loved cooking, and household crap in general. She didn’t consider herself overly talented in the kitchen, but there was something deeply satisfying about creating a good, Southern meal from scratch with her two bare hands. She supposed it was like painting or sculpting, but with pots and pans and herbs and spices instead of brushes or clay. She had no one to cook for now, no one to appreciate or savor the efforts of her hard work and imagination. There was no one, and there wouldn’t be.
Godric gazed in concerned fascination as a flash of melancholy briefly saddened Cara’s sweet, lovely face. It was immediately replaced by a cool, calm facade, but had come from a very deep a place. Her next words quickly brought him out of his revere.
“Why would you want me to work here, Godric? Not even half an hour ago you basically called me a traitor and that other one, Gervaise, acted like I was vermin to be exterminated. This doesn’t sound like a happy work environment, I gotta say.” Cara pinned him with her painfully accusing stare.
Excellent question, he silently conceded. Now how was he going to answer it? Even he had no idea how the previous situation had degraded so very quickly. Eyes burning blue with intensity, remorse, and promise, Godric caught and held her wary gaze with his own.
“I humbly beg your forgiveness, Cara. I would sooner claw mine own eyes out than bring tears to yours. I would do anything in my power to recall the words I said in my earlier frustration, but alas, I cannot. I can, however, give you my complete protection and care should you grant me the opportunity.” Godric took a deep but unnecessary breath and a moment later expelled it. “Gervaise has an innate distrust of humans, especially women. However, he will not be a problem as my complete trust in you is more than sufficient to silence him. Should the need arise, I will end him.”
Cara shivered, trapped in his gaze and stilled by the deep warmth in his soothing voice. His apology should not have touched her so profoundly. The promise of his protection, of being in his care, should not have been so hypnotically appealing. His mesmerizingly blue eyes should not have been so exceptionally persuasive. The lip she was biting should not have ached for the touch of his own.
She took a deep, clearing breath as she refused to think about Gervaise being “ended” and pondered instead the truth behind his words. Shit.
“How many Weres at a time are we talking about? Are you sure you can trust these Weres? How long would this job last? How many hours per day or evening would this be? What is the likelihood that he’ll send someone else over?”
Godric was acutely relieved to see the return of Cara’s endearing habit of asking many questions quickly. To him it signified a lessening of the cool reserve she had shown since the incident. He would consider the perplexing intensity of his…feelings…at a later time. Apparently he was not as accustomed to such things as he had thought.
“Three or four Weres at a time, although that number could change depending on need. Yes, as much as Weres can be trusted. As long as it takes to neutralize the threat. They have requested lunch be served at approximately an hour after noon and dinner to be served between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Those hours, plus shopping and clean-up…so at a guess perhaps around ten hours a day? You will have to plan your schedule as you will, naturally. At this time I do not know.”
He happily answered her questions in his usual way: promptly and in the order asked.
“You will not be bothered with any sort of housekeeping tasks as we have our regular maid service for such things,” he hastened to clarify. “Your only concern would be with satisfying the Were’s food requirements, as well as the purchase of whatever you desire. Your salary will start at $2000 a week, and will of course increase as needed. If at all possible, I will need you tomorrow.” Godric held his unnecessary breath…and could not remember the last time he felt the need to do such a thing.
Cara pondered his proposal. The good (Godric, easy job, doing something she enjoyed anyway, Godric, lots of money…Godric) barely outweighed the bad (Godric’s eyes, Godric’s scent, Godric’s quirky eyebrow, Godric’s strong broad chest, Godric’s way-too-comfortable embrace). Deep breath in…deep breath out.
“Ok. And you want me to start tomorrow? Is there any food in the house for this yet?”
Godric exhaled the most relieved breath in his memory. “Your guard will escort you to the market early tomorrow afternoon for supplies so you can start with dinner. I will have you a credit card within the next few days, but until then, you will have to bother with cash.”
Cara thought for a moment, nodded, then excused herself to the restroom for a quick “human moment”.
Godric blurred to his study then, a moment later, blurred back to the den. He inhaled her scent lingering scent in the air. And started pacing. He came to an abrupt stop when Cara returned.
He handed her a well-stuffed envelope. “If you would like, you are more than welcome to search the kitchen to see what you might need for tomorrow’s evening meal. If there are other items for the kitchen you need, please, purchase whatever you want tomorrow.” She nodded, so, side by side, they headed for the kitchen. Godric barely stopped himself from placing his hand on her waist during the short walk. If he happened to walk a bit closer to her than normal vampire custom allowed, no one was around to notice.
*So…how’d Godric do? Think he’s on the way back into Cara’s good graces yet? Love it? Hate it? Let me know! Reviews are always welcome!**