Chapter 25


Liam drove to a large estate set far from the main road. As we drove up the long driveway, some nerves settled in the pit of my stomach at the thought of seeing Callum again. They were the good kind of nerves, the ones that made you feel like you were in middle school again, the ones that were usually accompanied by a slow blush and an increase in body temperature. My fingers gripped my purse a little tighter and I focused on breathing.

The estate came into view and my eyes widened. It was an enormous place, like a miniature version of a French chateau. The outside was whitewashed brick with large, paned windows, and the sides were rounded into turrets. I noticed a big tent was set up in the yard on the right side of the house. People dressed in white uniforms were bustling around under it.

Gravel crunching, the car pulled into a parking spot on the left side of the house. Liam turned off the car and we were emerged in darkness. It had been a completely silent ride and even though most of the tension had subsided, some still lingered.

"What is this place?" I asked in the hush of the car.

Liam opened the door, and muttered, "Where Mr. Knightley's birthday party is going to be."

That made sense. I stepped out as well and followed him as he passed by the front door and headed for the tent. We walked underneath it and I tried to take it all in at once.

Even in the process of being decorated, the place already looked spectacular. There was a very earthy feel to the theme. The people in uniforms were setting up round wooden tables, smoothing white linen tablecloths on top of them, constructing centerpieces out of wood and lilies, and stringing up little white lights. There was an open patio next to the tables, obviously meant for dancing. Two men over there were squabbling over how to set up the speaker system.

Liam stopped a few feet into the tent. "Where is Mr. Knightley?" he barked at the staff.

Everyone looked at him with startled expressions on their faces. Liam looked out of place in his leather pants. He did not fit into the earthy theme at all. I had to control the smile on my face.

An older Hispanic woman arranging plates on a table spoke up, "I believe he is inside, sir."

Liam turned on his heel and walked out of the tent. I gave the woman a "thank you" nod and followed him out. I felt like I had been chasing after Liam all night.

We went through an open glass door on the side of the house, stepping into a huge dining room that was in the process of being decorated as well. The whole theme, with the centerpieces, white high-backed chairs, and cream-coloured flowers in tall glass vases, went very well with the stone floor and walls. Round tables were being set up by three women who glanced at us as we came in.

"Mr. Knightley?" Liam asked rudely.

One of the women pointed to a room adjacent to the one we were in. My stomach was twisting itself into knots. I licked my lips and trailed behind Liam as he stalked through the open archway. The room seemed to be part of the same dining room, just a little smaller. The tables hadn't been arranged yet and were all on one side of the room. This room was empty of people, though, and Liam made an annoyed sound. The woman from the dining room poked her head around the archway and looked around.

"Oh, I was wrong, sorry," she said. She stepped fully in the room and wiped her hands on her pants. She was a cute blonde girl with enviable dimples. "I thought I saw him come over here. He's probably in the kitchen, then."

"You idiot," Liam muttered as he walked past her, back into the dining room and through a door.

I smiled apologetically at the girl, who looked a bit horrified, and went after Liam. We crossed the foyer, went around a wide, marble staircase, and headed into the back of the estate.

"You didn't have to be so mean to that girl," I said to his back.

He glanced over his shoulder and gave me a scathing look. "I was just being honest," he replied.

I frowned at him. "I think there's a line between being honest and malicious."

"No," he said, "I don't think there is."

"Of course you don't," I said. "You're lucky I'm not 'honest' with you, then."

He pushed open a door and it led us into a kitchen that any restaurant would kill to have. Large and open with chrome appliances and state-of-the-art technology, it wasn't what I expected of a kitchen in such an old-style house.

Liam turned and looked at me. "Oh, yeah? Are you saying you haven't been honest with me, sunshine?"

"Not honest in the way you define it, I guess."

He laughed and leaned against one of the counters. He raised his eyebrows expectantly. "Out with it, then."

I shook my head and grinned. "I wouldn't want to hurt your feelings." I glanced around for Callum, but I didn't see him. "Where's Callum?"

He waved a hand dismissively. "He's in the back," he said. He could probably smell him or whatever vampires did. "Hold on. First, I want to hear this."

"No."

"If you want to be friends again, we're going to have to be honest with each other," he said teasingly. I was glad he was in the mood to attempt some joking.

"Ha," I let out, pretending not to be amused, but I was actually extremely relieved that we were settling back into our normal bickering routine.

"Do you want me to be completely honest with you?" he asked with a glint in his eye.

My eyes widened and I adjusted my purse on my shoulder. "Oh, hell no. I don't even want to know. I already know you have some issue with my hair. That's enough for me."

He stuck out his bottom lip. "It's just all…wild," he explained.

Glaring at him, I said, "And yours is all greasy. How's that for honesty?"

He tried to look wounded and touched a hand to his hair. "This—" he pointed out, "—this is called gel, sunshine."

"Uh-huh," I said, unconvinced. I knew it was gel, but I wanted to give him a hard time.

"Obviously, it's something you've never heard of."

I clapped a hand to my chest. "Ooh, straight to the heart."

Flashing me a toothy grin, "You know, I think the only nice thing I have to say about you—"

I groaned. "I'm serious, Liam…I don't want to know."

"—is that you're surprising well-armed most of the time." He looked at my purse on my shoulder. I didn't even want to know how he knew my Firestar was packed in there. "For a girl, at least."

My head fell back in exasperation. "Jesus."

He chuckled. "Come on, your turn. Say something nice about me."

"Something nice?" I said sardonically.

"Yeah, something nice. I'm sure there are plenty of things that you like about me."

"Tons."

"Go on, then."

"Fine," I gave in. "I like that you wear leather pants no matter what."

Liam looked slightly surprised, then a slow smile spread across his face. "I'm touched."

I exhaled a laugh. "Yeah, well…"

He pushed himself off the counter and came to stand in front of me. We looked at each other for a few moments.

I blinked, and said, "Maybe when you see that girl again, you can apologize?"

He rolled his eyes. "Apologize for what? Being honest?"

I sighed in frustration. "Yes—"

Shaking his head vehemently, he interjected, "I won't do it."

"Liam—"

"Don't tell me what to do," he demanded, much less pissed off than the last time he had said that sentence to me.

"I'll stop telling you what to do if you stop being an asshole," I said.

"An asshole?Oh, here comes the honesty—"

I hit his upper arm lightly. "Oh, come on, Liam, that's not what I—"

He clutched at his arm like it hurt. "And now you're resorting to violence?" he questioned with mock distress.

"Grow up," I retorted.

"I'm dead. How much more grown up do you want me to get?" he questioned.

I made a sound and shook my head. Liam was definitely back to his old self. "Oh, shut up."

"Make me."

"I wi—"

A deep voice came from my right side and asked, "Do you two need a babysitter?"

I let out a small gasp and put a hand on my jumpstarted heart. Callum was standing beside me, dimple out, with a large bowl clutched to his stomach with one hand, the other stirring whatever was in there.

My stomach turned over. I forgot to breathe for a few moments. All I could think was, "I had sex with this man." Talk about growing up.

Liam bowed his head. "Master, we've been looking for you."

"I apologize. I have been with the caterers, trying to decide on the food for tomorrow," Callum replied. He looked at me and gave me a smile that I couldn't help but return. I had a flash of us in that bed, my hands running down his back, his mouth on mine. I touched a hand to my lips subconsciously. They were still slightly swollen. Callum eyes dipped to my mouth and lingered there as if he was remembering, too.

Liam let out an exaggerated sigh and I snapped back to reality. Callum looked down into his bowl, smiling at it.

"Well, here she is," Liam said bluntly, motioning to me. "We didn't encounter anything suspicious. And there were no signs of Lilynn Blaise."

"Thank you, Liam," Callum said. "Would you mind finding Ophelia and help her pick out the music for tomorrow?" He turned to me. "I always let Ophelia decide. I don't have a single idea of what's popular these days."

I smiled. How quaint. He sounded like my grandfather. It hit me that he was much, much older than my late grandfather. It was still hard to wrap my mind around that.

"Sir," Liam responded, a bit sarcastic.

"I don't know…" I began, thinking back to when Liam turned on the radio in the car. "…Liam's taste in music is a little…what's the word? Oh, yeah. Obnoxious."

Liam's face split into a grin. "Oh, I didn't really like that song, sunshine. I just wanted to annoy you."

"Well, thank God."

"But I'll make sure they play it tomorrow night." He smiled wickedly.

I grimaced.

Liam took a step backwards toward to the door. "Just for you."

I scrunched my nose. He chuckled and pushed through the door, letting it swing shut.

Callum and I were alone for the first time since the early hours of this morning. I bit my lip and looked up at him. He jerked his head towards the back of the kitchen. "Come," he said lightly.

There was a mess in the back of the kitchen. Pots, pans, plates, utensils, eggshells, milk, a bag of sugar, measuring cups, and sacks of flour were strewn all over the counters. Callum set his bowl down on one of the counters and picked up another. With his back turned to me, I couldn't help but check him out. He was wearing washed-out black jeans and a simple white tee-shirt. I loved the way it clung to his broad shoulders. I felt my face get hot, but I walked to the counter next to him and set my purse down in between a casserole dish and a bottle of canola oil.

He turned to me, holding up a spoon with what looked like frosting on it. I faced him and raised my eyebrows.

"Can you taste this?" he asked. "I would taste it myself, but—"

"I get it," I said delicately.

He held the spoon up to my mouth and I tasted it. He waited for my reaction.

"Wow. That is…amazing," I told him after I swallowed. "Did you make that?"

Callum smiled and turned back to the bowl. "Yes," he said. "I always make the cake on my birthday. I can never seem to get the frosting right, though."

"I think you got it right this time," I reassured him. I wasn't lying. "Where did you learn to cook? It's been way over two hundred years since you…well, ate, right?"

"Right," he repeated. "I used to be a cook."

My mouth dropped open. "No way," I said, astonished.

"Mmm-hmm," he murmured, turning those green, green eyes to meet mine.

I realized how much I didn't know about him. He had two hundred and ninety-nine years of history that I needed to catch up on. I would have never guessed that he had been a cook.

"Can you tell me more about it?" I asked hesitantly. I was so curious. "Who were you a cook for?"

He put down the spoon and took a step closer to me. "In a minute," he said.

He stepped close and slid his hands into my hair, cradling my face. My breath caught in my throat. I closed my eyes and I felt his cool lips touch mine. He kissed me gently but my heart pounded fiercely in response. I deepened the kiss, pressing my body closer to his, reveling in the feel of him being so close. I gripped the front of his tee-shirt and he let his hands drop to snake around my waist and pull me even closer. I sunk completely into the kiss. It really couldn't get much better than this.

In one smooth move, he gripped my hips and lifted me onto the counter. A couple of empty bowls clattered around.

I let out a surprised laugh, grabbing his shoulders. He lifted a hand to smooth some of my hair behind my ear and pressed a kiss to my temple.

"It's good to see you," he murmured.

"You, too," I replied in a breathless voice.


Callum set the timer for the red velvet cake batter he had just put in the oven, which was a huge, professional-looking piece of chrome. He handed me a bowl and a whisk and told me to mix up the ingredients. I did as he said, and the ingredients smoothed out into a cream cheese frosting. I scooped some up with my finger and tasted it.

"God, this is good," I said, crossing my ankles from where I sat on the counter.

Callum chuckled, voice deep and reverberating. He turned back to delicately placing the second layer of cake on top of the larger bottom one. It was going to be a layered cake, which seemed much too complicated to me. It was his birthday. He shouldn't have to spend so much time worrying about his own cake that he wasn't even going to eat.

"So," I said, "tell me about being a cook."

"Well, I worked in Kensington Palace under King George the second," he said, adjusting the cake slightly. "It was in the late 20s…the 1720s, that is."

I coughed. "Oh?"

"You have to understand…back then, we did not have much choice in what profession we had," he continued. "My father had been a cook for King George the first, King George the second's father."

"Uh-huh," I managed. I didn't remember much from history class. "So, you weren't a vampire yet?"

"No, not yet." He turned back to the cake. "I started cooking when I was fourteen. My father would teach me at night after he came home from working at the palace. I had barely learned the basics before he passed away."

"I'm sorry," I said softly.

Smiling wistfully to himself, he said, "It's all right. It's been a very long time since…"

The nostalgia in his voice made me feel sorry for him. Living almost three hundred years sounds like it would be a wonderful thing, but seeing several lifetimes' worth of death? I couldn't say I envied that. I put the bowl down and waited for him to continue.

"So, at seventeen, I apprenticed with my uncle, who was also a cook. At nineteen, I was taken on as one of King George's personal cooks. I was so proud," he said with a wry curve of the lips. "My father would have loved to see that."

"I'm sure he would've," I said.

He walked over to the oven and peered in. "I cooked for the King for about two years, and then my wife—" he looked over at me, judging my reaction, "—she fell ill."

I couldn't hide the shock on my face. Of course he had a wife…he had probably had several over the course of two hundred and ninety-nine years. I straightened my back. "What was her name?" I asked.

Callum had an uncertain expression on his face when he replied, "Anne."

"Anne," I said quietly.

"I decided to resign when she got sick," he said, closing the oven and leaning against it. "It was a marriage of convenience. She needed money and I needed a wife with good family connections. Anyways, she was a good woman and she needed someone to take care of her. Her family had been killed in the war, so I—I tried to give her what comfort I could."

"I see," I said slowly. I wasn't surprised that he had done the righteous thing. Callum was just like that. "Did you two have any…children?"

He shook his head. "No, I've never had any children," he answered. I nodded, stomach light with relief. He smiled over at me. "When I was human, I always thought I would. How about you?

I gave him a look. "No, no," I said, "I don't think I'm made for children."

"I don't know about that."

"Oh, no, I'm quite sure," I said. "When I see a kid having a tantrum…oh, no, you couldn't pay me to have kids."

He made a "mmm" sound like he wasn't convinced. "You don't want a little Dahlia running around?"

My eyebrows rose. "A little Dahlia?"

"Yes."

"Definitely not," I said. "I was a bratty little child, always making a mess and lying about it."

His dimple popped out and he said, "I have never asked: do you have any siblings?"

"None," I replied, shaking my head. "But I like to think that growing up by myself made me more independent."

"You're about as independent as they come, Dahlia," Callum said, crossing his arms as he leaned against the oven. "It's one of the things I like most about you."

I grinned, all cheesy and pleased. "Yeah?"

His mouth twitched and he replied, "Yeah."

Well, at least someone appreciated it. I felt a small stab as I thought of Will. He was always telling me to let someone in, but it just wasn't part of my personality. Mentally shaking my head, I waved a hand at Callum. "So, anyways, back on track," I said. "What happened when you left your job cooking for King George?"

"Anne died about eight months later. She had caught the fever—typhoid fever," he explained. "Afterwards, I went back to the Lake District, where I had some family left. While I was there, I didn't miss London, but after a year passed—" he sighed and ran a hand over his face, "—I felt I couldn't intrude on my family for any longer. I wrote to my uncle and he secured me a position in the King's kitchen."

Scooping some more frosting on my finger, I asked, "And what was it like? Did you ever get to meet the King?"

"Yes," he said, nodding. "I served him mutton once when a servant had broken his foot. He was an arrogant sort of man, but then again, he had been bred to be king from an early age." He turned to look in the oven. "But I never had to interact much with the royal family. I just helped cook the food, ate what I could without being noticed, and tried to save my money."

"Saving it for something in particular?" I inquired.

He glanced at me with a vaguely sad look, then smiled. "Well, I promised my sister Catherine I would build her a house away from the city," he said. "I never did, though."

I did the math in my head. "You didn't have much time before you became a vampire, did you?" I asked, gently, not knowing how sensitive a subject this was. "Not much time to save up money for something that big?"

"No," he said. "No, I didn't. And after that…well, I—I moved away from my family."

"I see," I said. I could tell he didn't want to expand any further than that, and I respected that. "Well…wow. I can't believe you cooked for a king."

"Trust me, it was not as glamourous as it sounds," Callum said.

I hopped off the counter and walked over to inspect the bottom layers of the cake, trying to see how he was constructing it. "Hmm," I said, grinning up at him. "Well, I'm still expecting a lot of out this cake."

"I am going to blame you if the frosting is inedible," he retorted, picking up the bowl of frosting that I had stirred together.

I laughed and shook my head. "That's not fair," he said. "So, why are you cooking a cake you can't even eat?" I asked.

"There are a lot of human guests," he explained. "More humans than vampires, even." He shrugged, a gesture that looked out of place on him. "And a birthday party has to have a cake."

"Maybe a big bowl of blood would be more suiting?" I joked, and then grimaced at the thought.

He stirred, chuckling. The low rumble of his voice sent me back to visions of him pressed on top of me, holding my hands above my head as he kissed his way down my neck. Goosebumps ran down my arms at the memory. I blinked, coming back to real time. Callum was focused on the cream cheese frosting, thank God.

"A big bowl of blood would give away the fact that I am a vampire," he mused, looking up at me. "Many of these humans do not know about…my secret."

"Oh," I said distractedly. "Yeah. That wouldn't be good."

The smell of the cake in the oven was beginning to fill the kitchen with its warm, sweet scent. Callum gave it a look, then busied himself with preparing the already-cooked cake for its next couple of layers. I just watched him, happily lounging against the counter, biting my lip. How did I get so lucky? Mr. Callum Knightley, mysterious entrepreneur, secret bloodsucker, manly cook. I didn't know what we were to each other exactly. Just lovers? Boyfriend and girlfriend? I didn't know where he stood. He probably thought about things differently than I did.

I chided myself. I shouldn't overthink this. Whatever happens, happens.

I had only been in one serious relationship before. It had been in college with the very charming Dave Cataldo. It lasted a year and a half and it was great until Dave started talking about the future. The "bigger picture", as he called it. He slipped in comments about getting married, having at least three kids, and possibly buying a minivan. At age twenty-one, the minivan and the "bigger picture" scared me to death. I broke it off, only to belatedly realize that Dave had been talking about the very distant future. I had thought way too much about it, freaked myself out, and lost something that could have worked out in the end. I moped around and regretted it for a couple of months, but eventually moved on just fine. Last I heard, Dave had settled down with a very nice girl.

The timer beeped, startling me out of my thoughts. Callum opened the oven and pulled out the three large pans out one by one, without any oven mitts.

"What are you—" I started, rushing over to him.

He set down the last pan and looked puzzled. I grabbed his hands, turning them palm up, expecting to find burns. They looked fine.

"What—" I gave them another look over and looked up at him, "—oh, what, so you didn't even get burned? I thought there would be—"

His confused expression cleared and he patted my hand. "Oh, no, Dahlia, they've already healed."

"Already?" I asked incredulously.

"Something so minor…" he said. "And I've fed recently." He looked a little sheepish. "I heal very quickly."

I dropped his hand. "Didn't that hurt, though?"

He reached up and smoothed his thumb across my cheek. "No, not really," he said.

"Oh," I said, feeling stupid.

He laughed quietly. "I don't even notice small pains anymore," he said. "I suppose I have become desensitized over the years."

"I guess that makes sense," I said. "It has been a couple of centuries…" I stepped back so that he could tend to the cake.

"Yes, well…" he said, touching my shoulder before picking up a knife and loosening a cake from its round pan.

I still had so many questions to ask about his past, but didn't even know where to begin. "I—do you—?"

He cut me off, lips curved slightly upwards. "Enough about me," he said. His face became blank all of a sudden. "I am…disappointed…that you did not stay at my house today, by the way."

I crossed my arms. "I told you I wasn't going to stay," I said.

"You did," he unwillingly agreed.

"So, I didn't stay."

"My human guard, Mike, told me he accompanied you today."

"Yes, he did," I said. "He was very professional, and I told him I would vouch for him if he let me out of the house, so here I am, vouching for him."

He ignored my statement and his face hardened as he said, "He also told me you visited the human in the hospital?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. I wasn't surprised that Mike had told Callum all about my day. "Uh-huh, Will, you mean?"

"Will," he said not-so-kindly. "And how did your visit go?"

I could feel my face shut down, but I told him the truth. "Not well."

"Mike mentioned that you were upset," he said, setting a pan down louder than necessary.

"Yeah, well," I said. "Will just…said some things."

"What kind of things?" Callum rumbled.

Shrugging, I replied, "I don't know…just things. I couldn't—couldn't really answer his questions and he had a problem with that, understandably. He doesn't really want to—" I inhaled slowly and exhaled, "—see me for awhile."

"He is," he said, stilling for a moment, "an idiot."

"No," I said, shaking my head. "No, he's right. I've been a terrible friend. His life will probably be better off without me in it—"

"You saved his life," he interrupted.

"Hardly. He was only put in that situation because of me."

Callum's jaw clenched and he said nothing. He went back to work, placing the next layer on the cake. He finished putting the other two on, and bent down to make sure the cake was level. "The human is still an idiot," he muttered.

Tucking my hair behind my ear, I reached for a bowl of frosting and handed it to him. He took it, picked up a narrow spatula, and began smoothing the frosting on the bottom layer.

"Speaking of idiots," I said into the silence. "Liam was in a bit of a mood today."

Callum peered up at me. "I noticed earlier tonight," he said. "I sent him to pick you up, thinking that maybe his 'sunshine' would cheer him up." He gave me a small smile.

Glowering a bit, I said, "I think his mood was actually because of me."

"And why is that?"

"Well, uh, I think it had to do with last night."

"Hmm?"

"You know, with the whole—I think he heard us in the room downstairs and he just seemed upset about—"

A thoughtful look crossed over his face. "Ah."

"Ah?" I repeated.

"Liam has never done well with change," Callum explained, moving the spatula to the second layer.

"Oh."

"Which is something that is quite difficult when you live forever," he added.

"Yeah," I agreed. "I bet it is."

"It took a while for Liam to warm up to you," he continued. "I don't know if you know that he only referred to you as 'garlic girl' in the beginning?"

I let out a laugh. "Because vampires don't like garlic…" I shook my head. "I can't say I'm surprised."

"Yes, well, I made him put a stop to that immediately," he said with a glint in his eye.

"I guess I should be thankful that he now calls me 'sunshine'," I said.

"It is one of Liam's nicer nicknames," Callum said. "And I have heard quite a few over the years."

I smiled. "I'm sure."

Discarding the empty bowl in his hands and picking up a new bowl, he went on, "You and me…we changed the dynamics last night and Liam is struggling to adapt."

"Dynamics? What do you mean?" I asked, admiring the curve of his shoulders as he worked.

"In Liam's eyes, last night made things – well – more serious between us?" he responded a little uncomfortably.

"Oh," I said, brow furrowing. Serious? Is that what we were? "But who cares?"

"Ah, I would say Liam does." Callum stood up straight. "You are his 'sunshine'. And I believe he likes you—" He put up a hand to stop my protest, "—not necessarily like that—but Liam doesn't like many people, so we might have hurt his feelings."

"By having sex?" I said bluntly.

He laughed at the frankness of my words. "By crossing a line that Liam will never cross with you."

I grimaced at the thought. "I don't understand him."

"Nor does anyone else," Callum said.

I debated telling him about Liam's attempt to bite unwilling humans, but I didn't want to get him into trouble. Then he would be really pissed at me. "Garlic girl", indeed.

Callum finished frosting the cake and we began cleaning up the kitchen. When we were almost done, a tall man in a white uniform burst into the kitchen, eyes frantically searching for Callum.

"Sir—sir!" he panted, coming up to us. "We need your assistance immediately."

"What is it, Mr. Matthews?" Callum asked, putting down the towel in his hand.

Mr. Matthews put a hand to his heart, as if to slow its quick beating. "There is a big tear in the tent. Robbie just discovered it. It's right in the front, completely visible. I don't know why no one noticed it before. We need to know if you want to order a new one, sir. But since the event is tomorrow—it's such short notice—"

Callum didn't look stressed about it. He put a hand on Mr. Matthews' back and said, "Let me take a look."

"I'll just finish up in here," I told Callum, gesturing to the few dishes that were left in the sink.

"Are you sure, Dahlia?" Callum said, frowning slightly. "You did not make this mess."

Smiling reassuringly, I replied, "Don't worry about it. I'll meet up with you in a few minutes."

Giving me one last look, Callum escorted Mr. Matthews out of the kitchen. I heard Mr. Matthews expelling every concern he had about the tent, followed by Callum's low, calm voice soothing his worries. I turned to the sink, put on the faucet, and finished washing the bowls and pans.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the task at hand, especially when my life was so complicated. I breathed in the lingering smell of cake batter and the citrusy scent of the dish soap and closed my eyes.

There was definitely a feeling of impending doom hovering around in my head. There was no doubt Lilynn was going to strike again. She was going to try to kill me or hurt me or the people in my life until she was dead, frankly. I had my fair share of qualms about killing a human being, but if it came down to it, I would pull the trigger. Maybe that said something about me, I don't know.

"I don't know," I muttered, picking up a towel and drying my hands. I walked over to my purse and took the Firestar out, gave it a quick admiring look, and tucked it into the back of my waistband. The cold metal against my skin was a comfort. Perhaps idiotically, I felt safer.

Sneakily swiping some frosting from the middle layer of the cake, I pushed the kitchen door open with my index finger in my mouth. A member of the staff looked up from sweeping and I quickly dropped my finger, giving the man an embarrassed smile. An older man with a comb-over, he waved a hand in acknowledgment.

As I was making my way back towards the tent, I looked into a room off the foyer and saw Lester and Raven sitting on a couch, looking bored. I hadn't seen either of them since that night at Damien's house. They had both been through a lot since then; Raven dealing with killing her sister and Lester with his poisoning.

I stuck my head in. "Hey, guys," I greeted. "Lester, I'm glad you're feeling better."

Lester turned his body to face me. "Thank you, Flora. It was not the way I prefer to spend my evenings, but…" he said, trailing off with a smile.

"I'm really sorry that you got involved in all this," I said. "With Lilynn and everything."

He shrugged. "It is a hazard of my job," he said simply.

"Still," I said.

Raven's teenaged face looked tired and drawn as she plunked her black boots up on the coffee table in front of her. She crossed her arms and stared me down. "You're making our lives miserable," she said crossly.

"Yeah—yeah, I know. Sorry," I replied with some discomfort.

"Yeah, you should be," she said. "It's your fault Liam's in a mood."

I laughed, relieved that she wasn't directly blaming me for everything going on.

Her dark eyes twinkled a bit as she asked, "What did you even do? We haven't seen him like this since someone totaled his Lamborghini." Lester nodded in agreement.

Chuckling awkwardly, I responded with, "Well, I don't know. He just got a bit—a bit upset at something I did, and well—"

Raven's eyebrows rose skeptically. "'Something'?" she repeated.

"It was nothing," I lied.

"Oh, no, no, I think I know what this 'something' was," Raven teased.

Wincing, I leaned against the doorjamb, feigning nonchalance. Raven let out a loud laugh and said, "I knew it."

I put up both hands. "Think what you want," I said.

"So, how was it?" she asked. It was good to see that smirk on her face.

"Oh, hell no—"

"I have only heard favourable reviews but I'd love to know the truth—"

"I'm outta here," I said, grinning at them as I turned and walked across the foyer.

Spotting a bathroom next to the large dining room where they were setting up, I went in, locking the door behind me. It was big and as elegant as the estate itself, with its marble floors and countertops, impeccably cleanliness, and glistening surfaces.

As I was washing my hands with the very expensive soap, I heard a distant yell. Frowning, I used the towel without looking at it, my eyes on the door instead, trying to listen. I didn't hear anything else, so shrugging to myself, I picked up my purse, threw it over my shoulder, and leaned closer to the mirror, checking for smudged makeup. It felt like such a girly thing to do with a gun tucked into the small of my back.

With my hand on the doorknob, I heard another yell. I yanked open the door and strode out into the foyer, looking for the source of the sound. I looked around and didn't see anyone. I could see that Lester and Raven weren't in the room that had just been in, and the dining room seemed empty. There was a crash that came from the direction of the tent and I started in that direction.

"What is going on?" someone behind me said in a thick accent.

I stopped, whirling around to find the man who had been sweeping outside the kitchen. Broom in one hand, he frowned at me. I shrugged and said, "I'm not sure. I thought I heard some yelling—"

"Si," he said, nodding, "I heard it as well."

I pointed into the dining room. "I think it's coming from over there."

He nodded again and came to stand by me. A faint feeling of dread began to coil itself in my stomach. What was going on?

Another yell came from outside the large wooden front doors to my left, but the words were incomprehensible.

"What are they saying—?" I began, brow furrowing.

The screaming got louder. I could finally make out the words. "Everyone get out!" they were shouting. "Everyone get out! Bomb! There's a bomb!"


A/N: And I sincerely apologize for leaving it on that note. It was not intentional, I promise! The next part was just too long to add to this chapter.

Just a shout-out to anonymous reviewers: I'm sorry I can't reply to you guys, but thank you so much for your feedback!

Hope you enjoyed the chapter...next one will be out soon!

~Carm~