Authors: If Angels Burn
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Alex was staring into Cyprien’s eyes. When she was operating on him, she could have sworn they were blue. But now they had darkened, as if the pupils had expanded to crowd out the pretty irises. A delayed reaction to the trauma of the surgery, or maybe something else…
She stopped smelling roses, and started smelling him.
His scent was like his eyes, deep and dark and filled with secrets. Secrets that tugged at her like unseen clamps left in her chest and pelvis. His eyes seemed to be bottomless, stretching straight back through his skull into eternity, like those two strange abscesses she’d seen, endless and enigmatic and swallowing up the light…
His hands were still shaking when he cradled Alex’s face between them. “
.” He was lisping a little, but maybe it was because he had grown two enormous fangs.
. She frowned a little as strands of his white hair tickled her cheek.
I don’t remember giving him those
A NOVEL OF THE DARKYN
A SIGNET ECLIPSE BOOK
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, April 2005
Copyright © Sheila Kelly, 2005
All rights reserved
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Anne Rice, architect of dreams
I would like to thank Judy Hahn, Brian Stark, and Jordan Hahn of Metro DMA (
) for their efforts and artistry in creating the official Web site for the Darkyn series. To see their incredible work and find out more about the Darkyn novels, please visit
Be thus when thou art dead, and I will kill thee, And love thee after.
ot another letter from that Cyprien guy,” Grace Cho said as she placed the office mail on Dr. Alexandra Keller’s desk. She tapped the top envelope with one long fingernail. “The M. must stand for Moneybags. He doubled his offer.”
“Again?” Alex set aside the weighty nightmare that was Luisa Lopez’s medical file. “You’re kidding.”
“I never kid about four million bucks, boss.” Grace looked over the flat rims of her reading glasses, mild annoyance in her exotic black eyes. “Why don’t you just go down there and fix this guy’s face already?”
It wasn’t the money. Under different circumstances, Alex would have performed plastic surgery on M. Cyprien for one-tenth of his original offer. But anyone willing to part with that much money for a house call was not someone she wanted as a patient.
It hurt—four million would make a nice deposit in the pro bono account—but Alex pushed the letter to the edge of the desk. “Send him another no-thanks and our referral sheet.”
“Been there, faxed that, six times,” her office manager reminded her. “Plus I left a dozen messages on his answering machine. I’m starting to get a complex.” She slid the letter back. “Want to give it a shot? The number’s at the bottom there.”
Alex mentally reviewed her schedule for the day. She had two car accident survivors and a toddler with a cleft palate to see before she left to make rounds at the hospital. One very tricky surgery to perform that afternoon. She also wanted to check on what progress, if any, Luisa was making. She didn’t have time to waste on M. Cyprien and whatever portion of his anatomy he thought needed tucking or tightening.
Grace was right; the mysterious M. probably wouldn’t take the hint until he got it from Alex personally. But she was busy, and not in the mood to stroke some silver-spoon sucker.
“We’ll do another fax.” Alex pulled out M. Cyprien’s latest letter. Like the others, it had been typed on beautiful buff linen paper with an important-looking crest embossed in gold at the top. The crest, shaped like a shield, bore two distinct symbols: a stylized bird’s talon and drifting clouds.
“Faxes don’t work,” Grace said. “I’ll show you all the ones I sent.”
What does that crest mean
Caution, daydreamers, hawk zone ahead
? The paper had a faint, sweet smell, as if he’d sprayed it with perfume.
Maybe he’s a tranny
. She’d done plenty of gender corrections, and Hopkins had her at the top of their rec sheet. If M. Cyprien was dealing with the wrong body and a rich, homophobic family… “All right, I’ll call him.”
Grace removed two charts and a crumpled deli bag to unearth Alex’s desk phone. “
the Reillys get here.”
Alex scowled at her. “Bully.”
“Hassle dodger.” Unmoved, the petite Korean woman picked up the lab reports Alexandra had finished reviewing before she headed back out to reception.
Alex studied the letter again. Beneath the ominous cloud-and-claw crest was printed
M. Cyprien, La Fontaine, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A
. No house number or street address, no zip code, no e-mail address. The only contact point listed was a phone number at the very bottom of the page, the one Grace had repeatedly called.
Four million bucks for one op
, Alex thought as she dialed the number.
What could he want done that badly
? That reminded her of other work yet to be accomplished, and she parked the receiver between her cheek and shoulder before she reopened Luisa’s file to check some dates.
She’s gone two months without an infection, so I should be able to start grafts next week
. The main problem with operating on Luisa had little to do with her physical condition.
The pain management therapist won’t see her, not after what happened the last time
A friendly, lightly accented voice answered the other end of the line. “La Fontaine, Éliane Selvais.”
“This is Dr. Alexandra Keller.” Hopefully Éliane understood English; the only French Alex knew involved other, less socially acceptable uses of the tongue. “Is Mr. Cyprien available?”
. He is not. May I take a message for him?”
“Sure.” Maybe he’d even get it through his thick skull this time. “Please tell Mr. Cyprien that I have received his latest letter—and offer—but my answer is still the same. I can’t fly to New Orleans, and I can’t perform his surgery.”
“Indeed.” Ms. Selvais didn’t sound quite so friendly now. “Are you quite certain there is no exception you can make? Mr. Cyprien is in great need.”
What a weird way to put it
. “As I’ve indicated before, I don’t travel to treat patients. I’ll be happy to perform a preliminary consultation here in Chicago.”
“Mr. Cyprien is unable to leave New Orleans.”
“I can sympathize, because I’m unable to leave Chicago.” Why couldn’t he come to her? Was he afraid of flying? Under house arrest? On parole? “Please pass along my regrets, and have a nice—”
“Money is no object, you understand.”
“Yeah, I gathered that much.” The smell of the rosy perfume from the stationery was starting to get to her, so Alex balled it up.
. With a practiced flick of her wrist, she tossed it at the trash can across the room. It rolled along the rim before dropping inside.
And she scores
! “Money isn’t the issue here.”
“What is?” Ms. Selvais didn’t wait for an answer. “Doctor, it would only require a few days of your time, and of course only the finest facilities and equipment will be provided.”
Oh, of course. Guys like Cyprien could well afford the best stuff. Alex thought of Luisa, who couldn’t have paid for the box of Kleenex out in her waiting room, and her temper began to rattle the bars of its cage.
Her adopted mother’s ghost popped into her head.
Oh, no, you don’t, young lady. You’re a doctor now, Alexandra, and telling her to piss off is rude
Yeah, but it would be a lot more fun than this
. “I’m sorry. It’s just not possible. There are several very qualified plastic surgeons in New Orleans, and I’ve had my office manager fax Mr. Cyprien a referral list.” She could still smell the perfume; the flowery scent must have been transferred from the letter to her hands.
What did he do
the frigging paper in it
? “That’s really all I can do, Miss Selvais.”