Anne woke to a light tapping on her door. She looked over to the clock. She’d been asleep for maybe an hour and a half. She rolled out of bed and walked over to her door. She scowled as she saw Kurt’s apprehensive expression. She tapped her foot impatiently.
“I’m sorry to wake you up after the events of last night, but Samantha would like to meet with you today to go over these murders,” Kurt said. There was genuine contrition in his voice, and Anne felt her anger with him dissipate like an ice cube on a hot stove. Damn it, she did not need this right now, whatever it was.
“Where? At the safehouse?” Anne asked.
“No, I told her you had not eaten yet, so she suggested Barron’s,” Kurt said with a surprising nonchalance. Barron’s was one of the city’s most exclusive restaurants. Rumor was that the only thing on the menu under $20 was the dinner mints. Not to mention getting a reservation took six months – if you were lucky.
“I believe that there is a standing reservation that we are using,” Kurt said, smiling at the shocked look on her face. “If it is alright with you, I told Samantha that we would meet her in two hours. That should give you enough time to fret about and figure out something to wear.” Anne’s shocked face twisted to a scowl at Kurt’s humorous tone. A smile broke across the German’s face.
“So, do you have a suggestion, or are you just going to stand there looking pleased with yourself?” Anne asked. Where the hell did that come from? She was supposed to be angry with this man, not bantering with him.
“That gray suit you wore to court two weeks ago would do nicely,” Kurt said. Anne’s jaw hit the floor. “What? I thought that was a lovely outfit.”
“Y’know what? I don’t want to know exactly how close you’ve been keeping me under surveillance,” Anne said, with a resigned tone. She shut the door and went to get ready.
“The reservations are under Hunter,” Kurt said as he pulled up to the door of Barron’s. “I will join you after I park the car.” Anne stepped out and looked up at the building’s dual spires. The restaurant was actually an old cathedral from the pre-Civil War days built to resemble the Notre Dame. An colorful awning covered the area between the street and the restaurant’s entrance. A well-tailored valet escorted Anne to the door and handed her off to the maitre-d. She gave the perfectly styled man the name Hunter. The maitre-d gave a pleasant smile and motioned for Anne to follow him.
What had been a sanctuary was now a wide dining room. Small semi-private alcoves lined the left wall, while the right was dominated by a large and exquisite bar. Even this early in the day, there were a few people drinking exotic-looking cocktails. Tables with rich, dark red tablecloths and elegant place settings were spaced throughout the floor. It was mesmerizing enough that Anne almost missed the maitre-d motioning her to an empty alcove. As she stepped into the box, Anne realized it wasn’t empty. It took everything in her not to yank her pistol from the holster at her side. Arem, the elf from last night, smiled pleasantly from the table.
“Please Detective Hearst, join me. This tea is so much better than anything those Avalonians can manage,” Arem said, motioning to a silver tea service and bone white china cups. His melodious voice seductively tugged at her mind.
“I should just shoot you, but from what I’ve heard, you’re supposed to be dead already,” Anne said, stamping down hard on the feelings Arem was stirring in her. It didn’t help that Arem was model-gorgeous. Long brown hair perfectly framed a long face. Smoldering dark eyes watched Anne with an interest that could be uncomfortable – or exciting.
“The Avalonians had every reason to believe I was dead. After all, they had just detonated a nuclear device,” Arem answered casually, “Please sit down. There is much we have to talk about.”
“What is there to talk about? You tried to abduct me last night,” Anne said. Arem gave her a curious look.
“Is that what Jaegar told you?” Arem asked with just enough subtle hint of injury. “That fool doesn’t understand who and what you are. He just assumes that because my people have an interest in you, that you must be dangerous and killed.”
“You were the one who told him to ‘give me the woman’,” Anne said, making air quotes for that last part, “That sounds like abduction to me.”
“Yes it did,” Arem said, “I do apologize for those words. Jaegar, unfortunately, brings out the worst in me.” The elf took a long sip of the steaming liquid. “His people have taken what belongs to my people and committed horrific atrocities in the course of keeping it from us. It makes what happened to your own Native American people pale in comparison.”
“They were defending themselves from your people,” Anne shot back, not sure why she was defending the Avalonians. After all, hadn’t they been tracking her to kill or snatch her back to across this gate thing?
“When the barrier came down, our armies went forward to claim the lands we won in our war with the Cairen, who also stole it from us,” Arem said, calmly, “We find humans occupying the Kel’tel’Cairen, and because our soldiers look monstrous to them, the humans slaughtered the lead forces. Even after my brethren tried to talk to them, the humans continued to fight. We understand that they were in the Cairen lands against their will. We could’ve made peace. Instead, their king insisted it was their land and that he would kill any of my people that stepped a foot into his territory.”
“That’s an interesting twist of the tale,” Anne said.
“It’s the truth,” Arem said, “I’m not the one who came to this world to kill you. I came here to show you your destiny. To explain exactly who you are and how the balance of our two worlds lie in your hand.” Anne was about to pull her pistol and put two rounds into the elf’s chest. His next words froze her.
“I can tell you the truth about what happened to you and your sister.”