I’m not sure what got my hackles up. I never saw the presence who was suddenly there. Never heard it. But I sensed it all at once and I went on alert in an instant. My upper lip wrinkled back from fangs that I knew appeared as alarm took away my control.
I pushed Lana behind me, getting between her and the dark shadowy figure just behind the heavy curtain at the back of the stage. I inhaled, getting copious amounts of Lana’s perfume. There was something else as well. Something sulfurous and burnt.
The shape moved forward, slow and sinuous, almost serpentine. It came into the light and solidified. I blinked. He was just a man, not some hell creature that I’d half-expected. In fact, I not seen a less presuming man before, but for the strange white-blue eyes he aimed at me. They were like the eyes of a Siberian husky, except human. Utterly human, like the rest of him.
Lana rushed to introduce this stranger, her tone fairly gushing. “This is Arthur Dragwald from Britain. He’s a friend of Augustus’. Arthur, this is Brandilynn Payson.”
Arthur bowed, as courtly and refined a gentleman as ever was born. I judged him to be in his forties from his slightly lined thin face. A bedraggled mustache and goatee, brown like his coarse hair that lay to the bottom of his neck, made his face appear longer, almost horse-like.
Wondering what had gotten into me a moment ago ... there wasn’t even a trace of that sulfur smell, if it had ever existed ... I nodded to the man. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Dragwald.”
He smiled a long, crooked toothed smile at me. Yup, horselike. However his British accent was impeccable. “Ms. Payson. A delight and an honor. Augustus has told me much about you.”
I stared at him to hear the name that was more dishonored than my own these days. When I realized my silence might be construed as rude, I recovered myself. “It looks like your timing is a little off for a visit. I suppose you’ve been told Augustus has gone off to Greece.”
Dragwald nodded. “I came at his request. He thought your little group might be able to use my talents in his absence.”
“Talents?” Despite the gorgeous accent and fine manners, Dragwald didn’t look to possess much of note. His clothes, though clean, looked nearly as threadbare and bygone as he.
Lana spoke up in tones that shouted ‘lovestruck teenager’. “Arthur is a pyrokinetic.”
“As in setting fires?” If he hadn’t held my undivided attention before, he had it now.
Perhaps discerning my sudden unease, Dragwald chuckled. “Do not worry, lovely lady. I am well aware of the great flammability of the body you are ensconced in. I will be judicious should I be required to – how do you Americans put it? ‘Light someone up’.”
No wonder my hackles had gone up when I first saw him. Somehow I’d sensed the danger the man posed despite the unassuming personality. Vampires are basically kindling. When the heat of a sunbeam can set your body smoldering, you learn to keep away from flames.
Dragwald’s horsey smile, while not pretty, was pleasant. I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He seemed almost, I don’t know, alien. He looked human, more human than Tristan or Gerald or me. Or perhaps it was a sense of a person lost in time.
That had to be it. I was thrown by those charming Old World manners. I’d heard that despite our shared language, Americans and Brits were worlds apart in some respects. Besides, if he was a friend of Augustus, it had to be okay. I glanced around, and no one else was giving Dragwald a second look.
I extended my hand for an oh-so American shake. “Welcome to Fulton Falls, Mr. Dragwald. I hope you enjoy your time here.”
No release date set.