Excerpt: The Incarnates – Crossroads

Bethany would have liked to have been here for the holidays. The Christmas decorations and trappings around Rockefeller Center had come down. Still, there was a festive atmosphere about the place. Couples ice-skated hand in hand while the statue of Prometheus looked on. Red was the color of the day and decorative hearts could be seen everywhere. She was glad they had come to the meeting early.

There was something about this place that lightened her spirits. The last couple of weeks had been hard on her. Things had changed between her and Caine, but not for the better. It wasn’t anything Caine had said or done. The quest and Hagan’s death had taken its toll on her. Something was missing and she wasn’t sure she could regain it. She had lost hope. It was replaced with a need for closure and revenge. It helped that Caine had never abandoned her, even when she as at her worst. His willingness to put up with her foul mood showed that he still cared about her.

As the meeting time drew near, she and Caine made their way to one of the benches that across the street from the Today show studios. He remained standing while she sat down to rest her feet. The frown that darkened his expression said as much as his words.

“I don’t like this.”

Bethany nodded. She didn’t like it either. This was an odd place for a meeting. It was a bit too public for her taste. Maybe that was the point? No one was going to start a fight in Rockefeller Center unless they were looking to go to jail. There would be none of the ambushes which were a real possibility in a more secluded place. No one would pay attention to three people having a quiet conversation, especially as people rushed around them to get home. She imagined it would be different if the meeting was during lunch time.

After a few minutes, a man walked towards them. He was well dressed. His suit was dark colored, more suited to a night out on the town than work. It allowed him to blend in with the business men around him. The one thing that made him stand out was his signature long coat. It was cashmere and more expensive than his suit. All in all, Count Albritton looked very impressive but she wasn’t one to judge a person solely on appearances.

As he got closer, something troubled her about him. He had a smile that never touched his eyes. It reminded her of a salesman looking to make a sale so he could get a commission. When he spoke, she was less impressed.

“Hello. My name is Count, Count Albritton,” he said.

The greeting came across as if it were rehearsed. It became clear to her that Count was a persona for this man, and not who he really was. Bethany wondered how he and Hagan had become friends. Hagan wasn’t one for games or for people who hide behind masks. It didn’t add up.

For his part, Caine also seemed put off by Count’s greeting. He didn’t accept his offered hand. In fact, Caine took a cautious step back, as if he thought he might catch something. It made her wonder what he sensed about their host.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Caine said. She was quite sure he didn’t mean it.

Count continued to smile, making small talk. As he spoke, she started to warm to the man. Bethany still didn’t trust him but she had to admit he was a charmer. If she considered herself single, Count could have tempted her, despite the warning signs. He was a user, someone out for himself. She didn’t know what inner demon drove him, but she was quite sure that she didn’t want to know.

“So what did you want to see us about?” she asked.

“Well, I heard you were looking for me.” Maybe Rook and Nightbringer told him to expect them? She thought it was more than that. Count had sought them out as soon as they arrived in the city. “I figured setting up a meeting would work better than bumping into each other.”

Caine nodded. “You didn’t want there to be any misunderstandings.”

Usually such misunderstandings resulted in a fight. It was one of those things that seemed to happen a lot in the supernatural community. Given a choice, Bethany would rather avoid a fight. Caine was the same way.

“So about Hagan.” she said, not knowing what she really wanted to ask Count. So many questions came to mind. She didn’t know which one to ask first.

As she thought about what to say next, Count said, “I managed to track down his killer.”

All thoughts of wanting to avoid a fight were banished by thoughts of violence and vengeance. Justice would be served.

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