Read Woman King Online

Authors: Evette Davis

Tags: #fiction, #romance, #vampires, #occult, #politics, #france, #san francisco, #witches, #demons, #witchcraft, #french, #shapeshifters, #vampire romance, #paris, #eastern europe, #serbia, #word war ii, #golden gate park, #scifi action adventure, #sci fantasy

Woman King (9 page)

BOOK: Woman King
6.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Both women exchanged glances. “You were
having a vision, but it’s extraordinary that you saw the Ohlone,”
Elsa said. “Your abilities are very strong, Olivia. You picked up
on a very old memory embedded in the land.”

“You were amazing last evening, but I did
have a brief scare,” Lily said, joining the conversation. “After
Elsa left and you began to run towards the lake, I thought at one
point that I’d lost you. You seemed to disappear from my line of
sight, but then I found you again at the foot of the water. I think
my eyes must have been playing tricks on me.”

“I was running around like a crazy woman,
maybe a tree or a bush blocked me from view,” I said as I nibbled.
“My memory of specific details about the evening is hazy, but I do
remember one thing. I heard a man’s voice. He asked me to leave
behind my old life and join him. I followed the sound of his voice
all the way to the museum, but never located him. I’m guessing it
was just a hallucination.”

My companions both laughed. “If we ever do
this again, I will remember to brew a weaker tea next time,” Elsa
said lightly.

Elsa shifted in her seat, and just for a
minute I felt apprehension coming from her. Then, very quickly, the
emotion disappeared from my radar, almost like a shadow that
disappears from the corner of your eye when your turn your head to
find its source. But it was clear that for the second time in one
day, Elsa was hiding something from me.

 

 

****

 

 

CHAPTER
12

That night I slept deeply and did not stir
from my bed for ten hours. I woke up feeling stiff, but otherwise
remarkably well, considering my discovery that I shared my city
with fairies, demons and vampires. At dinner, Lily had also briefed
me on witches, who seemingly find San Francisco especially
welcoming to their lifestyle.
We are not alone
, it turns
out. We are all actually walking side-by-side on Valencia Street,
although most of us have no idea. Few people realize they are
stuffed into the N-Judah streetcar during commute hours with the
undead.

What was I to do with this newfound
knowledge? Was I supposed to return to my old life, knowing there
were two worlds living side-by-side in San Francisco? I was
prepared to let those questions percolate at the back of my mind as
I got on with my day, but magic, it seemed, was in the air. No
sooner had I turned on the Giants game on television, that I
noticed that one of the pitchers was a vampire. With his long black
hair and pale skin, this starting pitcher had always caught
people’s attention. It was rare, I realized, that he ever pitched a
day game, and now I knew why.

Sure enough, as the sun began to retreat from
the plate and the shadows grew longer, his pitches gained in
velocity. In the ninth inning, he was relieved and as I stared into
the bullpen, I noticed one or two other members of the team were
also Others. A vampire and a demon playing for a major league
baseball team. It seemed the world I knew was really gone
forever.

Elsa had left the house earlier in the day,
and did not return until almost dusk. Normally a woman of few
words, she had not been in the house ten minutes when she suggested
we go out for dinner. “I was thinking The Moss Room,” she said.

“The Moss Room,” I repeated. “That place is
kind of pricey and it can be hard to get a table.”

“Actually, we’ve been invited to dinner,”
Elsa said, a bright smile on her face. “The director of the
Council, Gabriel Laurent, has invited us to join him.”

“What’s the catch?” I asked. “First he tries
to blind me, and now he wants to wine and dine me?”

“No catch,” Elsa said. “He wants to meet you
and, if there is time, discuss a job. I think we should go. Your
old job is going to seem quite boring now, anyway.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” I said, feeling
slightly bullied.

“It’s just dinner,” Elsa said lightly, but I
could sense some uneasiness. She needed me to go to this
dinner.

“OK,” I said. “What time are we meeting
him?”

Elsa looked relieved. “One hour.”

“Great. I will go upstairs and change.”

The Moss Room is named after the moss that
grows on one of the subterranean walls of the restaurant. Tucked
underground, below the California Academy of Sciences, guests dine
inside a snug room adorned on one side with moss and trickling
water, and on the other, brick and glass. It is designed as a
terrarium for the culinary set, and guests must descend a long
glass stairway that terminates at the broad elbow of a majestic
wooden bar to enter the dining room. As we came to the last step, a
man seated at the bar turned to face us. Instinctively, I knew this
was Gabriel Laurent. Impeccably dressed in a gray cashmere sweater,
jeans and a black sport coat, he was the picture of casual French
elegance.

“Hello, Elsa,” he said, revealing his accent.
“This must be Olivia.”

“Hello,” I said, turning to face him,
resisting the urge to show off and
parler
. Eventually, he
would come to know that I was fluent. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,
monsieur
.”

Gabriel stared at me for a moment, but did
not speak. He was glowing with a deep blue aura that sparkled like
a sapphire.

“You’re so blue,” I blurted out, before I
could stop myself.

I could sense his pleasure at my remark, but
like Elsa, he too held something back.

“I can see what they say is true,” he said.
“You are quite adept…I am anxious to discuss your gifts in greater
detail.
Alors
…Let me tell the hostess we are ready. I have
reserved a private room.”

His last word came out as “
Oh-stess
,”
spurring me on to speak in his native language. “
Comment
allez-vous
?”

Gabriel turned around and smiled. “
Bien,
merci. Vous parlez très bien, mademoiselle.

“Thank you. I’ve studied French for many
years,” I replied. “It was a sort of requirement with my
mother.”

Once again, he stifled some emotion, but I
felt a drop. It was curiosity.

“You must tell me about your mother,
eh
, your family sometime,” Gabriel said, as a hostess led us
to our private quarters. “I am curious to know about your
background. There are not many humans with the kind of powers you
seem to have.”

The private room, it turned out, was a clear
box off the main dining area. The small glass-walled salon was
soundproof, but transparent to the rest of the diners. It made for
interesting theater. We could see everyone as they came and went
through the dining room, and they could see us, but they could not
hear a word we uttered. I didn’t think this was a coincidence at
all.

Almost immediately after being seated I began
to feel nervous. It took a few moments to realize that the emotions
were not my own. Thanks to my training, however preliminary, I knew
the difference between my feelings and those of others. They feel
too sudden—the emotions—when they belong to someone else. The
question now was which one of them was nervous, and why?

Gabriel ordered a bottle of wine and asked
that it be decanted as we looked at the menu. Once the wine had
been arranged and we’d been sitting for a few moments, Gabriel
spoke again.

“You’ve had quite an eye-opening experience
in the last few weeks, Olivia,” he said, rotating his wine glass
gently between his fingers. “For most of us, the knowledge that the
universe is divided between two worlds is introduced gradually by
our peers as we grow older. You have had to absorb the entirety of
the situation quickly. Do you know why your parents never told you
the truth?”

Interesting. Elsa, it seemed, had not told
Gabriel about my mother. “I’m afraid you can’t blame my family,” I
said. “The blame, if it must be assigned, is all mine. My mother
and grandmother did try to educate me, but I refused.”

“Refused? I don’t understand.”

I snorted. “That seems to be a running theme
these days. I didn’t want to use my skills. I’ve watched my mother
nearly drink herself to death trying to avoid her feelings. She’s a
brilliant landscape painter. Her artistic skill, combined with her
gifts
, has made her quite in demand, but it has never made
her happy. She has been overwhelmed with her emotions, and everyone
else’s for a long time.”

“And your father?”

“I don’t have one, at least that I know
about,” I said, feeling a rush of anxiety. “My mother told me my
father was a man she loved deeply, but could never marry. Beyond
that, she has never said a word. I stopped asking after a while,
knowing she would say nothing further.”

“She never married?”

“No,” I said. “She’s had a few boyfriends
over the years, but she has never had a serious relationship with a
man. She often said she’d been in love once and it was enough.”

“And your
grand-père
?”

“He’s dead. So is my grandmother. I have an
uncle, but my mother and I are the last two of our immediate
family. I have no siblings.”

That brought an odd look to Gabriel’s face.
“I see,” he said, quickly recovering as he poured wine into our
glasses. “And now that you have learned more about your
skills?”

It was my turn to feel nervous. “I’m not
sure. It’s remarkable to see people in well, in a different light,
but I’m not certain how all of this will affect my life in the
future.”

“Your honesty is refreshing,” Gabriel said.
“Most humans would be eager to find a way to use their skills to
their advantage. To make money, or gain power.”

“Are you human?” I asked, knowing I was being
too forward with the Frenchman.

“It’s a good question, Olivia. One I will
answer in time.”

“Why does everything always take time?” I was
losing my patience.

“Because when you step out of the human
plane, you can see that time is infinite,” Gabriel said. “The world
is an old place and history is repeated every minute, every second,
that humans spend on the planet…in the tiny gestures and major
decisions they make every day.”

“Those who fail to understand are doomed to
repeat…?”

Gabriel nodded. “Exactly. When you are in the
stream of time, it is difficult to see all sides to an issue. One
advantage the Others have is the gift of perspective. When you have
lived a century, you can step back and examine issues differently.
War, religious intolerance and famine, they all take on a different
significance decades later. But as a human, you are bound by the
moment.”

I looked over at Elsa, who had remained
silent during the discussion. “Do you see humans as such frail
creatures?”

She nodded. “Not frail, but blind. They don’t
make decisions for the long-term, only for what feels good in the
moment.”

“This is fascinating, but what does it have
to do with me? I’m not sure how I fit into this discussion. I am
human, living in
this
time, mortal and destined for dust one
day. Not long ago, I had a successful business and a nice house
with a garden. But now…”

We paused as our meals were brought in. Once
we had taken a few bites, Gabriel spoke again.

“You want to know what comes next. It’s a
good question. You wonder if you can continue doing things the same
way, knowing what you know now? The answer is yes and no.”

Gabriel turned to Elsa. “Does she know about
the work of the Council?”

Elsa shook her head. “No. I was waiting for
you to tell her.”

“Are you familiar with the United Nations,
Olivia?”

“Yes, why?”

“You know that their mission is to promote
peace and stability among nations.”

“Well, their success is debatable, but yes,
I’m familiar with their mission.”

Gabriel responded with a grim smile. “As you
said, their success is mixed. Why? The governments of the world, in
my opinion, are no match for religious intolerance, xenophobia and
renegade dictators. Millions of dollars are spent globally, and
where are we? Half the world’s female population remains
uneducated; old wives’ tales and superstition still reign. Do you
know a person can still be accused of being a witch and stoned to
death in some parts of the world?”

This remark caused Elsa to involuntarily
flinch. “Have you been hunted?” I asked her.

Elsa nodded. “Small villages are breeding
grounds for that kind of hysteria.”

Gabriel continued. “Even here in your
country, religious zealots would like to dictate who you can
marry.”

I nodded. “Don’t forget banning abortions for
women,” I added.

Gabriel leaned forward to continue. “Can you
imagine how dangerous it would be if the religious extremists were
able to take the reins of your government?

“Can you imagine if the president of the
United States were a religious fanatic, or perhaps, the men and
women in your Congress were?”

“Some days it seems as if that is already
happening.”

Gabriel glanced at Elsa and I could feel
their anticipation as they finally came to the point.

“It could be much worse. Many of us have
lived through the days of witch-hunts and Inquisitions. We know the
damage one ambitious official can cause when he sows superstition
and distrust among the disenfranchised.”

“I can’t imagine the United States ever being
that provincial,” I said, feeling a little overwhelmed by their
comments. “After all, we were founded to avoid the rule of one man
or woman.”

Gabriel reached at his side for a small
canvas satchel. He unzipped the khaki colored bag and pulled out a
few copies of newspaper articles.

“I assembled these in preparation for our
meeting,” Gabriel said, as he slid the papers toward me.

“Evangelical Voters Courted in Presidential
Bid,” read one headline.

BOOK: Woman King
6.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Annotated Milton: Complete English Poems by John Milton, Burton Raffel
Juniper Berry by M. P. Kozlowsky
After Eli by Terry Kay
The Lamplighters by Frazer Lee
Force Me - Asking For It by Karland, Marteeka, Azod, Shara
Lucky Charm by Marie Astor
Medieval Rogues by Catherine Kean
I Think I Love You by Bond, Stephanie