After Thomas hung up on Benjamin, it occurred to me that we should probably try to contact Fumiko and Dad. I wanted to make sure we were all heading for the same place — it wouldn’t do us any good, after all, if they decided to circle back and try to rescue me, or if they’d accidentally driven through a transdimensional vortex and wound up at Tokyo Tower, or just got lost or something. Unfortunately, my phone was so much scrap now.
“John, can I borrow your phone?” I asked. I still couldn’t look at him, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else, either. Especially since I wasn’t sure I could remember Fumiko’s number — I could recite Megan’s, and I knew Mom’s and Dad’s, but I’d been getting Fumiko’s by scrolling through my call history and calling her back.
The question of being able to remember it turned out to be moot, however. John cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Of course,” he said, “except it appears to have been shot a little.”
Without saying a word, Benjamin passed his over to me. For a moment I just looked at the sleek device in confusion. Then I took it. Ben’s phone was one of those fancy touchscreen ones that everyone has now. Mine had been an old fashioned flip phone. I knew how to unlock a touchscreen from watching Megan play with hers, but that was about the extent of my familiarity with the technology — and I couldn’t even show that off because it was already unlocked.
“Um.” I said. The screen was covered with obscure icons that didn’t mean a thing to me. “Does this thing have internet?”
Ben leaned over, which put his shoulder almost touching mine, and flicked a finger across the screen twice. It made the view pan until he got to a desktop — phonetop? — with a browser icon. He tapped it. The browser opened directly to a search engine.
“Thanks,” I muttered. The on screen keyboard had a similar layout to my fliphone’s, but it was much more cramped since it only took up half the screen. It also didn’t feel right under my fingers, but I managed to type out the printing house’s web address anyway. It just involved more fiddly hunt-and-pecking than it really should have.
Once the site loaded, I managed to get to the contacts page and find Fumiko’s number pretty easily. I even recognized it as the one I’d been using, once I actually had it in front of me. Thank god Fumiko works from home, I thought. And in public relations so they have to list her. I suppose I could have called Dad, but last I’d seen he was driving. Drivers should not take phone calls. Ever.
Once I had the number I was further stymied. I scowled at the tiny package of incomprehensible technology in my hand. “Okay. How do I get the dial pad up?” I demanded.
Benjamin chuckled. This time his shoulder did bump mine. I tried to ignore that. I mean: he was tall, but gangly. He had a sort of dark-punk look going for him, but it looked like it had been slapped onto a native geek. He was not sexy, and he was not dangerous.
At least, he wasn’t dangerous when he wasn’t starving for blood, and he wasn’t sexy when I wasn’t thinking about how damn good it felt to be nibbled on by a fellow vampire. Get it together, Abigail, I scolded myself. You have a boyfriend and Ben knows it.
“Are you sure you aren’t secretly hundreds of years old?” Benjamin teased. I scowled at him, so I missed what he did to minimize the browser. I did catch him swiping through a couple more screens before tapping an icon of a phone. It brought up a list of contacts, but tapping a tab on top of those reconfigured the screen into a dial pad.
“Jeeze, Ben, you sure know how to talk to the ladies,” my autopilot muttered. “Implying I’m old? You smooth cradle robber you.” Jeeze? When had I started talking like a teenager?
Benjamin laughed again, which for some reason made me start to blush. I hastily punched in Fumiko’s number and brought the phone up to my ear to cover it up. I inadvertently glanced at John, across from me, and caught him looking back. He looked away, but not before I felt a weird surge of guilt.
What? I protested internally while the phone rang on the other end. It’s not like he caught me flirting with another guy behind Hans’ back. I was just telling Ben that he’s a dork and I’m too young for him. That’s not flirting. It wasn’t. Right?
I was saved from having to come up with an answer by Fumiko picking up the call. “Hello?” she asked curtly.
“Fumiko!” I answered. “It’s Abby. My phone bit it. Sorry. I’m calling on Benjamin’s. You remember him? Anyway, we got past the blockade. You know where we’re meeting up, right?”
Fumiko let out a sigh of relief. Is that real or fake? I wanted to smack the part of me that asked that question, but I couldn’t shake my memory of her unnaturally tranquil aura. Whether she’s sighing because she can’t help being relieved, or she’s sighing because she wants me to know she’s relieved, it’s real enough, I scolded myself.
“Yeah,” Fumiko answered. “Your dad got the directions. He still wanted us to double back for you. He was freaking out, Abby: apparently that amulet you gave us stopped doing anything all of a sudden.”
I laughed weakly. Disaster averted. “No need to worry. I’m in a warded van now. It’s good to have confirmation that the amulets aren’t tracking me, though. We’ll meet you at the place, then?” I don’t know why I was feeling too paranoid to mention the funeral home: If Lewellan had thought to tap our phones then he already knew I was with Benjamin. Or had at least stolen his phone.
“Okay,” Fumiko answered. “See you soon.”
I hung up and exhaled in relief.
“Is everything okay?” Benjamin asked. It was a disingenuous question: he had to have heard both sides of that conversation having super vampire hearing and all. It was still polite, though, which I appreciated. And answering would put the answer out there for the people who didn’t have a supernatural sense of hearing.
“Yeah,” I sad. “Dad and Fumiko were worried when all of a sudden the amulet I’d given them stopped working, and were going to loop back to look for me. But they’re heading to the rendezvous now.” Wait. Rendezvous? And when did I start talking like I was in a spy thriller?
I handed Benjamin his phone back. “Thanks,” I said.
“You’re welcome,” he answered with a toothy grin. It gave me a brief shiver to see. Either that, or it was brushing his fingers when the phone exchanged hands. Maybe both?
Shit, I don’t want to deal with this! I yelled at myself. I kept my expression as neutral as I could, though. It was the teeth, I told myself firmly. Too blatant a reminder, too soon.
Fortunately, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to say after that. I looked away from Benjamin and tried to pretend I could just stare through the divider until my gaze reached Adam in the passenger side seat of the van’s cab. I wasn’t flirting with Benjamin, and he wasn’t flirting back. Or if he was, it was only because he’d experienced the same indecently intimate rush when I’d let him taste my blood as I had. It had nothing to do with whether he liked me as a person or not, or thought I was attractive or anything normal like that. In fact, I wasn’t attractive. I was ordinary looking.
And why was that disappointing? It isn’t, I insisted.
I’m good at lying like that.
Unless… maybe ordinary was attractive for supernatural beings, because ordinary meant mundane and mundane meant vulnerable and vulnerable meant edible?
Okay, that idea was going to freak me out.
Unfortunately, Benjamin didn’t shift back over to his side of the seats when I looked away. Before long, ‘there’s a bloodsucking fiend right behind me’ was jockeying with ‘there’s a man I barely know lurking right behind me’ for which could freak me out more. Which made it really hard to believe myself when I tried to insist that there was nothing improper going on between Benjamin and myself — least of all interest on Ben’s side. When the hell — why the hell? — had I started thinking certain sorts of scary were hot?
Okay, I told myself eventually. So I kind of sort of want to get bit again. While being ravaged. And making out with Emma. Who should also be being ravaged, because that was hot and she would like it. But dammit: I’m not pursuing anything with Benjamin until Hans dumps me. Between spending time in a curtained booth with Emma and kissing Melvin after scaring off an army of fae and getting bit in a hotel parking lot, I’d already accidentally cheated on Hans way too many times. And even though he’d said it was okay for me to have additional relationships, I still felt like I was cheating. Which meant I was. Right?
I was on the verge of spinning around and socking Benjamin in the jaw for getting me worked up by casually looming too much when the van suddenly lurched to a stop. Justin reached back and rapped on the divider between the back of the van and the cab. “We’re here,” he said. “Looks like your friend and dad made it too.”
This time my sigh of relief had absolutely nothing to do with knowing my friends and family were okay. After all, Megan and Emma were anything but safe — the only friends and family that I didn’t have to worry about were the ones right here, right now. No, this time it had everything to do with getting out of the van’s cramped confines.
Benjamin gave a kind of grumpy snort and sat up straight. He was the first to get out of the back, followed by Derrick and then John and finally myself. Justin and Adam joined us once we were outside, and I saw that the car with the rest of Benjamin’s donors had pulled up next to us. We were in a small lot next to a large, two-story building. Fumiko’s car was a few spaces down from our van, but it was empty. Some of the lights were on in the house, so I assumed she and Dad were already inside. On a porch outside of the funeral home there was a thin, weathered-looking old man waiting for us, leaning on a wooden cane that was carved in the style of those metal ones with the four feet at the bottom. He waved once he’d caught our attention, and John waved back.
“Mr. Kallaher?” I asked John in a quiet aside.
John nodded and took the lead. The rest of us fell into step behind him. “Mitchell, you old dog!” John called out as we approached. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
Mitchell Kallaher gave a creaky laugh. “You’re one to talk, Johnny,” he shot back. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” He asked. “Your friends inside seemed to want to play it a bit close-lipped until the rest of you caught up.”
John snorted. “They’re just being reasonably cautious,” he assured the old man. “I’ll spill the whole tale once we’re inside. If we may? My sister, I’m afraid, is currently the target of a number of tracking talismans that aren’t in friendly hands.”
Mr. Kallaher’s bushy eyebrows shot up. “First you needed a house warded, and now you need a warded house? Well, my parlor’s policy has always been to keep our doors open for the kin of the departed — even when the departed don’t have the decency to lie down and stay that way,” he added. He gave John a jab with his cane as he did, but it seemed to be a friendly gesture. John laughed, anyway.
Mr. Kallaher stepped aside and swept an arm toward the house. “Please,” he said, “be welcome. Is there anything I can get the lot of you? Tea? Coffee? Milk and cookies? Tiny sandwiches? I’m a bit low on blood I’m afraid, but I can call a few old friends if you need it.”
I shook my head fervently. John just grinned. “Any organ donors in the cold room?” he asked while walking up to the door. “It’s been a hell of a day,” he added in explanation. Mr. Kallaher fell into step with him.
“The stormy ones always are,” Kallaher agreed. “I got a fellow in last Tuesday,” he added. “Certified organ donor. That fresh enough?”
“Sounds perfect,” John said.
“Just don’t take anything that won’t be covered by his suit,” Mr. Kallaher chided gently, while John just nodded along. “The family wants an open casket viewing prior to the ceremony.” The two led the way into the funeral parlor while the rest of us followed.
I shivered. The conversation was leaving me more than just a little creeped out. But on top of that: In the distance, I heard a low rumble.
The storms, it seemed, weren’t over yet.