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Months passed, the spring of my rebirth turning into fall. Just when I was beginning to doubt Mariska’s words, they came. The general with a half smoked, well chewed cigar in the corner of his mouth, looked me over like I was his prize bull. I didn’t like it, not one little bit.
His attaché was a young feller with a high opinion of his self. He doffed his hat, ran a hand through his long yellow hair before removing a white glove which he used to dust off his chair before sitting. He held it delicately afterward, as if it had been dipped in hog shit, although even my eyes couldn’t detect any soil. Mariska was a fiend about keeping a tidy house.
I noted the worry lines etched around her eyes and lips. What did she fear? I’d be on my best behavior. She needn’t be concerned I’d show myself the fool. My nature made me a natural mimic and my uncouth speech and mannerisms no longer marked me as the illiterate son of Irish immigrants…unless I wanted them too. I would watch and listen before I decided who I would be this night.
“Is he in complete control of his faculties?” The general asked Mariska, as if I wasn’t standing at her back. He watched her warily as he sipped his tea. His man sat holding his cup, but I had yet to see the liquid approach the well trimmed mustache which almost hid his sneer.
Something was definitely amiss. Mariska never failed to proclaim my slightest achievement, yet she had answered in a word. Curious.
“What do you have to say for yourself boy?” The question was clipped round the cigar. His eyes intent on mine as he waited, watching, like a hunter stalking his prey.
I couldn’t help but smile. He thought of me as prey? A mistake he might not live to repeat. It peeved me to see Mariska upset, so I bit my tongue and spoke politely, “What would you have me say, sir?”
He yanked the cigar out of his mouth and tossed at the fireplace. “Don’t pussyfoot with me, son. Are you up to the job or not?”
His rudeness rankled. “How am I to answer when I have no idea of what job you speak?”
He turned a hard glare at his attaché. “Captain?”
The nonplussed blond merely waived his glove in an affected manner. “I sent my second lieutenant—they must have eaten him. They are animals.” He stood hurriedly, tripped over his chair, landing in an untidy heap against the far wall as we descended upon him.
“I have a mind to furnish their dessert, but fear you might upset their stomachs. Wait outside,” the general growled.
“But sir, it is past midnight and there are others –” His face shone with perspiration.
I hid my fangs behind closed lips as the smell of his fear coursed through me. I had fed, luckily for him, but the rich scent of terror in his blood made him oh, so tempting. The others, ruled by their lusts, did not share my restraint. Smiling out of spite, I enjoyed his gasp before turning to his superior. “Are good assistants easy to come by? I fear you will need another if he sets foot outside before dawn.”
Retrieving a fresh cigar from his pocket, the general stubbed it between his teeth and nipped off the end. Mariska fetched a burning twig from the fire to light it. “Brave woman,” he commented as he accepted her gesture, ignoring the captain who righted himself, then the chair and after a moment’s hesitation, offered it to the lady. “So, have you taught him as well?”
Mariska dipped her head to acknowledge his compliment. Few things could kill a vampire, fire, foremost among them. “Thomas required little training. He is very quick. I would ask a boon. This job you speak of will be his first. May I be permitted to accompany him?”
“Far too dangerous– for a lovely lady like yourself.” The general’s smile was gentle, but his eyes cold and calculating.
Mariska’s lips were a firm line and fear shone from beneath her hooded eyes. Did she think they planned to hold her hostage to insure I completed this untold mission and returned to the fold?
“And if I refuse to go without her?”
He chewed at the cigar and raised a brow in question. “You are still a soldier, boy-o. You will follow orders and do as you’re told.”
Anger seethed through me. “Or what, you’ll kill me—again?”
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