A/N: fictionpress is being weird, so the *** is a pagebreak when you see it.
Celine opened the back door of the restaurant, the warm smell of fries and steak wafting out of the kitchen to meet her. She loved that smell. Salt and meat. It made her mouth water as she stepped through the door, smoothing her shirt.
She waved at the cook and his staff before making her way to the front desk to sign in. The restaurant was busy, it was true, but not any more than a typical late-lunch rush. One in every four tables or so was open, which made her frown. Did they really need an extra person? Matt had made it sound like the place was packed.
Sighing, Celine shook her head and took note of the open sections. She was putting on her mini apron when someone tapped her on the shoulder.
"You made it," Matt said, smiling. His grey-masked eyes shimmered green for a second before he added, "I need the help."
Celine raised an eyebrow. "You make it sound like you are the only one here to bus tables, cook the food, and run the bar, which isn't even open yet," she said. When Matt glanced, rather indiscreetly, at the small, four-stool bar in the corner, she shoved him in the shoulder. Indeed, there was a man standing somewhat bored behind the counter mixing a drink. "You know that's not what I meant."
Matt grinned. "I know."
"So why didn't you just call someone else?"
"That's for me to know and you to wonder."
He just shook his head as someone called for him, and said, "I gotta go, talk to you later. Thanks again."
Rolling her eyes, Celine turned back to the counter. He could have called in anyone to help him. Maybe he just likes me, she thought, laughing to herself. If that were the case, I wouldn't have been lying to the wolf then, huh?
A couple walked in the door, causing a bell to ring, and she looked up from the desk with a smile. "Hi," she said, "Welcome to Jerry's Diner. Table for two? One moment... right this way please."
As she worked, her mind drifted back to her conversation with Raul. He'd seemed so... concerned. But he also seemed to instinctively know more than he should, she remembered, trying not to frown in front of the restaurant's guests. How could he possibly know that she hadn't been living in town for very long? Sure he'd probably lived there for years, but that didn't mean he knew everyone. There were ways of avoiding people weren't there?
A customer muttered something, and she asked, "I'm sorry, what was that?"
"Could we get some more ketchup?" he asked, holding up the empty bottle.
"Of course," Celine replied, taking the bottle. "I'll be right back."
The bottle was the classic, glass kind a large Heinz label on it. She smiled as she brought the container back to the kitchen to pick up a new one for table thirteen. Even the bottles were coordinated with the Diner's sixties theme. Everything seemed to match, from the checkered floor to the elaborate wall-paper and pictures hanging everywhere. And yet, it was all so different from the other side of the restaurant, the side meant to cater to the nightwalkers.
Her mind threatened to drift back to Raul as she reached table thirteen and placed the ketchup back on the table. Before it got the chance though, one of the men at the table said, "Now don' you look familiar."
The man leaned back in his booth, slinging an arm over the back, which got him and angry look from the booth behind him. "I was just tellin' the boys, I didn' notice it b'fore, but you look like some'un we know."
"Oh, really?" Celine said, trying not to look disturbed. There was something off about these men. Something about the man's voice that she recognized.
"Yeah," the man continued, fingering his hat. "In fact, we're lookin' fer her. 'Cause we got a message t' give her."
"Well, I don't think that message has much to do with me. Good luck, though," Celine said, backing up slightly. "I have to go clean some tables. Bye, now."
As she was leaving, she caught a frantic whisper. "It's gotta be her, boss... but she... in a diner...?"
"Shuddup, numskull... honestly I was beginning to think... guess he was right."
"I wouldn't trust... no good nightwalkers."
Nightwalkers? But they were just a but of humans. How do they know about nightwalkers? Celine wondered. There were only a select number of humans who were allowed to know of the supernatural, and most of those had blood relations among the nightwalkers. The others were usually officials of some sort. Judging by the men's appearance and tone, she guessed that they were neither, which meant that they were something else. There was only one other group that she could think of. Hunters.
She almost dropped the stack of dirty plates she was picking up as the realization hit her. What if they were the ones who had been chasing her? She'd thought the one man's voice had been familiar, but surely they wouldn't be so obvious? Or maybe they were trying to scare her?
As she was walking over to the kitchen, she stumbled over her own feet. Instead of falling though, she was caught by Matt. One of his hands grabbed her shoulder as the other moved to steady the plates in her hands. "Are you all right?" he asked, taking the dishes from her.
Celine looked up into his concerned eyes, which flashed green again. His glamour seemed to slip a lot when he looked at her, the grey fading into green for a split second. She'd always taken it to mean that his emotions were heightened, and she smiled at the thought that he might care about her that much. How sweet. "It's nothing, really, I must have just spaced out a little."
His eyebrows knit together, and he said, "Maybe I should have asked someone else to fill in for Pete."
"No really it's fine. Some customer just caught me off guard."
"But you're okay?" he said, placing the dishes by the sink. "You're a tough one."
"Always have been."
"'Kay, then. Let's get back to work."***
Celine picked up another shot glass and ran a towel over it to clean it. She'd waited tables all afternoon, and the nightwalker bar would be opening in half an hour. The last thing the restaurant needed was an unhappy nightwalker because someone forgot to clean the glasses completely. Most supernatural species had short fuses, and damage rates were high.
Other than that, cleaning gave her something calming to do, something to try and take her mind off of Raul and the hunters, because bussing tables hadn't helped. If she could just focus on making every glass sparkle, then maybe her mind wouldn't wander as much. It didn't work. Celine still found herself thinking about the napkin she'd shoved into her pocket, the voice behind the number on it. She'd changed pants before coming to work, but she'd, almost absentmindedly, slipped the note into her wallet before leaving.
Part of her wanted to call him. And part of her wanted to throw the scrap in the incinerator. Not knowing which option was better though, she left it in her wallet.
She was nearly done setting up the bar when the door to the restaurant opened and Matt walked in. As the door closed he behind him his glamour fell away, his hair becoming a more brilliant gold, his ears extending to points. His eyes held their vibrant green as he said, "Hey, so, Brandon and Jess have arrived, so you can go home now, I guess."
Celine laughed. "I guess I can finally enjoy my day off then?"
"Actually, while you're here, could you show me how to mix that one drink?" Matt asked, pointing to the glass in her hand.
"The fruity one?" Matt nodded. "I told you I'd show you it tomorrow though. Besides I'm planning on leaving tomorrow. It'll be my parting gift to you."
He looked taken aback. "What do you mean you're planning on leaving?"
"Bad premonition, you know? All that witchcraft divinity stuff," she replied waving her hands about.
"You're a night witch, not a fortune teller," Matt said, leaning over the counter on his elbows. She was sitting down on a stool, and with him crouched over, they were nearly the same height. His face so close to hers.
"Why do you want to know how to make the drink anyway?" Celine asked, changing the subject back.
Matt leaned in a little closer before saying, "Well, I figure it's a good chick magnet. Nightwalker girls love their fruity vodka."
Celine chuckled a little. "Only thing is, it's not vodka."
Matt grinned. "No wonder they never come back. So what is it?"
"I'll tell you tomorrow," Celine whispered. "I promise."
"I'll make sure of it," he whispered back. Straightening up, he added, "Now get on home to your books."
Celine laughed as she stepped out from behind the counter. Too bad she'd returned those books already. Oh well.
Picking up her purse, Celine headed for the door. Before leaving she paused to dig around for her keys, which she found laying at the bottom of her purse next to her wallet. She hesitated before grabbing her keys, her mind drifting back to the napkin.
What was it about Raul that made her mind wander so much? All thoughts of Matt, the bar, and moving left her mind as her fingers grazed the wallet. A small corner of the napkin stuck out as if begging her to open it and call Raul.
Giving in to temptation, she pulled out the note along with her keys. Grabbing her phone from her pocket, she punched in the number, double-checking to make sure she had it right before finally stepping outside.
It barely rang before someone answered, "Hello?"
"Raul?" Celine asked tentatively.
"Celine? Is that you? I didn't expect you to call so soon."
She frowned. "Well, I guess I could hang up now."
"No!" There was a pause. "No, I'm glad you called. I just thought you would be a little more obstinate."
That didn't make her feel any better. Maybe she did give in too easily. Maybe she should hang up. Burning the napkin was sounding better and better.
"Celine? Please don't hang up," Raul's worried voice filtered through her phone.
"I'm not going to hang up," she replied with out thinking. She'd just about reached her car, and fumbled with the keys.
"So, what did you call me for?"
Why had she called him? "I, uh-"
A hand clamped over her mouth, and another stole the phone from her hand, cutting the connection. Someone forced a gag between her lips as her hands were bound behind her.
"We got y' now, girl," A man said at her back, "and with yer hands tied and yer mouth gagged none of yer magic can work."
Celine's eyes flew wide open. The hunters! She should have known they'd be waiting for her. Goddamnit, why did she let her mind wander?
"Such a perty face," one man said, gripping her jaw with grimy fingers. "You don' think we waited this whole time fer you do yah? Ha! Thought so."
She shot a leg out at the man she could see, only to receive a fist to her gut. Coughing, and choking on the gag, Celine struggled to breathe, falling to her knees. Why was this happening to her? Witches were rarely ever hunted, and those that were were way more powerful than herself.
"We know what you are, girl," one man to her right said. "A monster."
Celine frowned, but her hair was yanked before she could really process what he'd said. She could feel hair follicles being ripped free as she was whipped around. Pain shot from her scalp down her spine, and hot tears started to flood her eyes.
Her face was pressed up against someone's leg, which reeked of garlic and musk. "I think we should have some fun with 'er first," said the one holding her, pushing her face closer to the zipper of his pants. Something strained against the stiff material, and the more she struggled away from it, the harder he pressed her forward.
"Later," came a deep voice. "We gotta get outa here first."
Something sharp stabbed into her arm. She would have screamed but for the gag in her mouth. A soft numbing sensation spread from the wound, and she gave in to darkness.