Erinne flipped another delicate page and sighed. Her hair was sticking to the back of her neck. The humidity clung in her nostrils, along her arms, all over her skin, an ethereal dew. She blinked at the tiny print, then looked up to relieve her eyes. Her gaze landed on another gaze; if she had heard the contact it would have sounded like static electricity jumping from one sweatered arm to a another, a small, sizzling SNAP. She looked directly into the eyes of a young man. They stared at each other like lions who had surprised each other in the grass, then the contact broke. Erinne flushed and looked down at her book of ninth century poetry, trying to find a thought in the text to latch onto. She swallowed.
Don't look up, do NOT look up again, she thought. She tried to imagine the golden curls of the faerie residents in the poem, their magical blaring instruments, but her eyes moved up again without her permission. He was staring at his book, but his eyes zipped up to meet hers again. They were feline eyes, eyes that would glow in headlights, but they seemed dark. She grimaced slightly, looking down. Dammit.
What the Hell good was this doing? It was standard to research the oldest texts, but everything she needed to know about the First Evil she'd learned as a child. It wasn't acting like Itself, she knew that. Where were the ghosts? Where were the Harbingers? Why didn't it just come after her, if it wanted her so badly? She had the rock-sure sensation that It couldn't keep her parents in captivity for long. They were both just too powerful, their love was too powerful. It had a staged quality, the whole situation. She winced at a deep twinge of resentment. Why her, anyway? Then she thought of them somewhere, waiting for her, only her, and she swallowed panic.
"What are you afraid of?" the voice was soft, deep, melodious with the Western Irish accent.
Erinne jumped and contained the urge to bolt. He stood over her, and as she looked up at him she was filled with a comforting little rush. He was taller than her, she could tell even from her chair. Much taller. Lean, graceful. She looked him in the eye. The pupils were surrounded with a corona of light green, but the rest of the iris was a uniform color; that was what gave him the feral look from far away. His eyes weren't brown, and they weren't hazel. They were dark green. They were, in fact, hard to look away from.
Erinne opened her mouth with a little tisk, and had nothing to say. She recovered.
"Not you, certainly," she meant it to sound firm and chilly. It sounded warm and the words were framed with a smile. How could she be flirting with him without even wanting to?
He grinned. A nice row of white, square teeth, a generous mouth. His jaw framed his mouth with an even, elegant strength. Yikes.
"Glad to hear it. Shall we have a pint?" he said.
"Huh? I mean, what? I mean, no, thanks," She would never be that easy, and this was not spring break, forget this. But God, what a beautiful man. No. No, go away, I need to save my parents so they can keep saving the world. "I can't, really,"
"Wha-no. NO! Who the Hell are you?" Erinne was now annoyed. It was a relief to be annoyed at him. Shake up my world, will you. Not today. And anyway, I'm busy.
He smiled. "I'm Ian. O'Connor." his hand was big and warm. He knew exactly how much strength to use, it was a touch almost like her father's, gentle in a way that only very strong people can be, with complete intention.
"How do you spell it?"
She told him.
"Well, of course you'd say that. Why are you trying to pick me up?"
He laughed, showing his white teeth again. Upper-class, definitely; so many people in the UK still had hideous teeth, even since the reform. Force of habit, really.
"I was hoping to give you the opportunity to do that for me," he burred.
"Confident, aren't we?"
He put a business card on the table next to her. She looked at it, not seeing it.
"Take your time about it," he said softly, "Don't want to make it too easy for me,"
"Arrogance isn't cute in the States," said Erinne, "It's off-putting. Please leave me alone,"
He leaned closer to her; she curled her chin under slightly, pulling away from the heat in his eyes.
"As you wish," he whispered, and then he strode away. Erinne forced her gaze back to her book. Do not watch him walk away, do not. Jerk. She waited until he'd gone before she gathered herself to leave.
Erinne slipped his card in her pocket with a shrug and sighed, heaving books under her arm. Screw this. She needed to call Granpa. He'd know something. Somebody had to be able to help. It was so unfair for her to be stuck here by herself. She closed her eyes, picturing a beach, the sun, a cold beer. Once in a while she wished she could just bow out of this family, just run away for awhile, but they'd ruined that for her; they had made it an option. "You have choices," they'd say at every turn, "Go to the beach! Have some fun!" In the meantime her mother came home covered in vampire dust every night; her father would tiptoe in the door at dawn, often to bandage himself up before they saw him. They had picked Ann to be the hunter with them, because Ann had wanted to and because they wanted Erinne to have a choice. The choice to be unnecessary. Erinne chewed on her lip as she rounded the corner to the stairs.
She was stopped by a sharp hiss.
Erinne froze, scanning the shadows of the hallway quickly; she was poised to drop the books and fight. Her eyes landed on a tendril of red hair.
"Yes?" she said, as cordially as possible.
"You're the daughter. You're the ONE,"
Erinne took a step back, positioning herself against the wall. A good position to fight from. She glanced around her; there, a table close enough to sacrifice a leg. She let the books slide out of her arms and onto it.
"I'm not hungry, mo chride," the voice cloyed. Erinne glimpsed a wrinkled brow, the glisten of fangs. She frowned. No one called her "Mo chride" but her father.
"Why the game face, then?" asked Erinne, "Just hanging around to scare a few kids?"
"I have something to show you,"
Erinne's heart jumped. Did the vampire know where her parents were? It had to be a trap.
"When and where?" said Erinne.
A snicker. "They're running out of time. You'd better come now,"
Erinne leaned down, closer to the yellowed fangs and drawn face. "You're full of shit," she whispered.
"Smart, aren't you? Like him,"
Erinne's eyes widened in surprise, in sudden knowing. "You're Fiona,"
"I am. He told you about me,"
"We were...old friends," she lisped cozily.
"Yeah," said Erinne, "He always had regrets about you,"
Fiona's face softened into human mask, easing from monster to freckled girl. She took a step toward Erinne. "Did he?" she asked softly.
"Yeah. He always felt sorry for you. Said you had no mind of your own. No strength. No personality. No-"
Fiona's clawed hand shot out. Erinne caught her wrist and twisted it quickly. She pushed Fiona into the depth of the shadowed corner.
"Tell me why I shouldn't stake you right here and sweep the dust away. You tell me now,"
"I know where the Harbingers are,"
"You've been eavesdropping," said Erinne.
"Oh, yeah. You knew I was going to be looking. Who's whore are you now?"
Fiona groaned. "I'll tell you nothing if you don't let go," her lisp began to return, "Mo chride,"
Erinne was startled by the sounds of people coming up the stairs. She pulled Fiona closer, flinching only briefly at the coppery breath; it was like old pennies. She wrapped an arm around the vampire's rib cage very tightly until it began to buckle and creak. Fiona struggled.
"The next time you use that name on me," she whispered into the red curls as she smiled at two students who went past them, "I'll make you swallow my cross. It will burn all the way through," she pulled back to smile brilliantly at her, "Got it?"
Fiona emitted a small squeak of pain, then swallowed, "Yes,"
"Good," Erinne released her. "So, what have you got to show me?"
"First, a trade,"
"Fine. Your un-life for my-"
"Don't let him do it," blurted Fiona.
"Don't let him go back to the way he was. He won't be the same. There are things you don't know,"
"What do you mean," Erinne asked, glaring at Fiona, "Exactly?"
"Don't let you father become human,"