I know you're embarrassed, and that was the last thing I wanted.
I handled it badly.
I should have forbidden you to wear that thing, but if I had you might not have understood the real issue.
I know I've already said it. But I'm afraid it might have sounded like disapproval, and it's not that simple.
Your beauty, like your mother's, is unavoidable. It will always be the first thing people see about you. Most people confronted with beauty will respond to it without thinking, lavishing praise and wonder that are not earned, scorn that is not earned, resentment that is not earned. I have seen many beautiful women in many situations. They are stared at, appraised without reserve, objectified, even assaulted. A lesser woman can have her soul stolen by this constant barrage of astonishment and longing and denigration. Some beautiful women believe that their beauty is currency for love and cling to the idealism of it, the elitism of it, the fear of losing it, twisting themselves into deformed personalities in order to accommodate the way other people perceive them. Beauty can harm a personality as much as disfigurement can.
I don't worry about that happening to you, for many reasons, but the subtle power of womanhood is within you and you aren't aware of wielding it. I'm not worried about you handling yourself. I'm not worried about you knowing what you want and what you don't want. You are strong in every way. You are intelligent and stealthy.
I'm afraid that you might not be ready for the consequences. When a woman reveals the power of her gender for the first time, there is a kind of magic aura around her, a vulnerability and force that works on men like a drug. They CAN help themselves, but they probably won't. You might be forced to use your strength in a situation, and then have to deal with those consequences. The remarks, the stares...they can act on your mind, on your heart. I want you to be armored. I want you to be anchored. You are loved, and you will be loved, by people who treasure the complete you. The beautiful, brilliant, kind, and adorable woman I know, the first reason I had to believe I was someone, my heart.
I'm sorry. I should have told you to change. I hope your night was bearable.
And I'm sorry I followed you. I wasn't ready for that...I guess...dress. I went over the line, I know that. Try to forgive me for that.
So I'm waiting up, if you want to talk. If you want to be left alone, just go to bed.
I love you.
Erinne sighed and closed the program. She sniffed, thinking of the argument and the reconciliation. She remembered the dress and was flooded with embarrassment at the mere thought; he'd been right. It was that new fabric that clung exactly to her skin and disappeared, so the only way you could tell she wasn't naked was the lack of nipples and body hair and a hint of web between her legs. She'd looked like a hooker. For weeks after the prom guys at school prodded at her, wheedling for dates. Girls had boycotted her. He'd been right again, but he hadn't rubbed it in. He'd told her he understood. And her mother had lent support, too; she'd told Erinne about a night when she dirty-danced with Uncle Xander just to flip Daddy out, and how she had never really lived it down. It had been OK after the humiliation had worn off, but now Daddy wasn't here to be right, Mom wasn't here to lend a memory. Erinne was all alone with this.
She dug in her pockets to empty them and found a card. "Connaught Greenery". Where had that come from? Then she remembered that handsome young man in the library. What was it? Ian.
She looked at her watch. Dark in one hour. She dragged her trunk out from under the bed and started to dress. She'd brought her mother's equipment. She'd watched her dress for patrol often enough when she was little, lying on her parent's bed and watching Mommy suit up every night; she knew how it all went together. Stakes up the sleeve and in the belt, cross around the neck, her mother's silver cross that Daddy had given her, throwing chain in the pocket, flask of holy water in the boot. Crossbow, and Velcro quiver of thin wooden arrows that hugged her back. She brushed her hair back severely and looked in the mirror. She stared for a minute, then put on mascara. Mom had never used slaying as a reason to be badly groomed, she always looked put together, and Daddy always loved that. He would have loved Mom covered in mud, but that wasn't the point.
Thinking was the point. She looked at the card again. Greenery. Seemed a little redundant in Ireland, but if this guy knew plants he might know where dead plants were, and so, where the Harbingers might be. Johnny hadn't been able to find anything, and neither had Erinne. Her appointment with Fiona at nine was a long shot at best. She didn't hope for much more than the opportunity to stake Fiona, but here was a lead worth a phone call.
It rang twice. Then his voice; she recognized it right away. It was a warm, velvety masculine voice, impossible to forget.
"Hi," said Erinne, "I'm-"
"The beautiful girl from the library,"
Erinne was stunned. She wrestled in silence for a moment.
"Umm, yeah. So, what sort of greenery business have you got?"
"Everything green," he said enigmatically.
"Know about local greeneries or gardens? Thier-uh-problems?"
"What sort of problem?"
"Unexplained mass plant death, basically,"
"We've had some of that,"
Erinne's heart jumped. "Where?"
"Why are you so interested?"
"I don't have time for this," she said, "Just tell me where. Please,"
"I'll give you directions. Where are you?"
"Very funny. I can find it,"
"Why don't you meet me at O'Connor's pub and we'll discuss it."
"I DON'T have time," she snapped.
"Then I'll meet you in twenty minutes," he hung up.
Erinne cussed eloquently under her breath as she drove through the tiny streets. She left her quiver on the back seat and bounded down the cobblestones, slowing herself at the last minute. Wouldn't do any good to draw attention. On an American street you can be in that kind of hurry and people ignore you. In Ireland everyone has to know what's wrong.
He was at a table, long legs stretched out, nursing a Guinness.
"If you keep chasing me like this I'll have to catch you," he said.
Erinne sat down, smiling. She held out her hand, palm up, on the table. His eyebrows shot up and a smile of astonished pleasure stretched his generous mouth. He laid his large hand over hers. She pulled it under the table and began to crush it slowly as she spoke.
"You will tell me right now where the dead plants are. You will not waste any more of my time. Where. Now."
"I'll drive you," he choked.
His thumb creaked toward his wrist. "NOW," hissed Erinne.
"Please," he gasped, pale and shaken. Erinne was taken off guard by this and she released him immediately.
"I knew how strong you'd be," he said, cringing over his hand, "But not how tough," he fixed her with a lion's stare, "Let me help you,"