”Kill me, Wilson. Just slay me now. Put me out of my misery. ” My eternity notwithstanding, the emotion was

sincere.

”Christ, Collins, what did you say to him? ” whispered Wilson.

We stood off to the side of Gabriel Loftbroks audience, along with many others. All the seats had packed, putting space and view at a premium.

I was fortunate to be with the staff in our reserved section, giving us an excellent view of Gabriel as he read from The Glasgow Pact. Not that I wished to be in his line of sight. In fact, I really would have wished that I never land face to face with him again.

”Well, ” I told Wilson that keeping an eye on Warren so as not to draw awareness to our whispering, ”I yanked on his fans and on how long it takes for his books to come out. ”

Wilson stared at me, his objectives exceeded.

”Then I said not knowing who he was that I had be Gabriel Loftbroks love slave in exchange for developed copies of his books. ”

I did not elaborate on my immediate flirting. To think, I had imagined I was boosting a shy guys pride! Good Lord. Gabriel Loftbrok could possibly sleep with different groupie every night if he wanted.

Not that he seemed like the type. He had indicated much of the same initial uneasiness in front of the crowd as he had with me. He grew more relaxed once he commenced reading, however, warming to the material and allowing his voice rise and fall with intensity and wry humor.

”What type of a fan are you? ” Wilson asked. ”Didn you know what he resembles? ”

”There are never images of him in his books! Besides, I thought he had be older. ” I guessed now that Gabriel was in his early-thirties, a bit aged than I looked in this body, but younger than the forty-something writer I had always thought.

”Well, look on the brilliant side, Collins. You accomplished in your goal: you got him to notice you. ”

I muffled a groan, letting my head fall pathetically onto Wilsons shoulder.

Warren turned her head and gave us a fading glance. As usual, our manager looked impressive, wearing a pink suit that set off her chocolate brown skin. The palest swellings of pregnancy revealed under the jacket, and I could not help but feel a tug of jealous longing.

When she had first declared her accidental pregnancy, she had laughed it off, saying: ”Well, you know how these things can just occur. ”

But I had never known how it could ”just happen. ” I had tried desperately to get pregnant as a mortal, it remained impossible, instead becoming a subject of pity and carefully hidden, albeit not well enough jokes.

Becoming a sex demon had killed whatever lingering chance I might have had at motherliness, though I had not realized that at the time. I had forfeited my bodys ability to create in trade for eternal youth and beauty.

One type of immortality traded for another. Long centuries give you plenty of time to acknowledge what you can and cannot have, but being reminded of it stings nonetheless.

Giving Warren a smile that guaranteed good behavior, I veered my attention back to Gabriel.

He was just finishing up the reading and pushing on to questions. As expected, the first ones asked were, ”Where do you get your opinions from? ” and ”Are Cady and Jerald ever going to get together? ”

He looked briefly in my direction before answering, and I trembled, recalling my remarks about him jabbing himself when those questions were asked. Turning back to his fans,

he handled the first question seriously and dodged the second one.

Everything else he answered concisely, often in a dry and subtly absurd way. He never spoke any more than he had to, constantly providing just enough to fulfill the questioners prerequisites. The crowd clearly startled him, which I found a bit disappointing.

Supposing how punchy and smart his books were, I guess I had expected him to speak in the same way he wrote.

I wanted a hopeful outpouring of words and wit, a charisma to compete my own. He had had a few good lines earlier while we spoke, I presumed, but he had taken time to warm up to them and to me.

Of course, it was foolish to make comparisons between us. He had no remarkable knack for dazzling others, nor centuries of training behind him.

Still. I had never visualized a slightly scattered introvert competent of creating my favorite books. Unfair of me, but there it was.

”Everything going okay? ” a voice behind us asked.

I looked over and saw Micke, the stores owner and my occasional sex mate.

”Perfectly, ” Warren told him in her crisp, profitable way. ”We will start the signing in another sixteen minutes or so. ”

”Good. ”

His eyes flicked casually over the rest of us staff and then shot back to me. He said nothing, but as he explored me with that gaze, I could almost feel his hands undressing me.

He had come to expect sex on a periodic basis, and usually I did not fight it since he procured a quick and reliable albeit small fix of energy and life. His low moral personality erased any guilt I might have for doing so.

After the questions stopped, we handled crowd control issues as everyone lined up to get their books signed.

I offered to help, but Wilson told me they had things under control. So, instead, I stayed out of the way, trying to avert eye contact with Gabriel.

”Meet me in my office when this is all over, ” Micke mumbled, coming up to stand close beside me.

He wore a tailored, charcoal black suit tonight, looking every inch the intricate literary tycoon.

In spite of my unpleasant opinion of a man who cheated on his wife of Twenty years with a much younger employee, I still had to recognize a certain amount of physical charm and attraction to him.

After everything that had transpired today, though, I was not in the mood to be plunged across his desk when the store closed.

”I cannot, ” I answered back softly, still seeing the signing. ”I am busy afterwards. ”

”No you are not. It is not a dancing night. ”

”No, ” I concurred. ”But I am doing something else. ” ”Like what? ”

”I have a date. ” The lie came handily to my lips.

”You do not. ”

”I do. ”

”You never date, so do not try that line now. The only appointment you have is with me, back in my office, willingly on your knees. ”

He took a step closer, speaking into my ear so that I could perceive the warmth of his breath on my skin. ”Jesus, Katharina. You are so **ing sexy tonight, I could take you right now. Do you have any idea what you are doing to me in that attire? ”

”Doing to you? Im not doing anything. It is behaviors like that that result in women being veiled around the world, you know. It is accusing the victim. ”

He chuckled. ”You crack me up, you know that? Do you have any panties on under that? ”

”Collins? Please, Can you come help us over here? ”

I turned and saw Wilson sulking at us. It would figure. He needed my help, now that he saw Micke hitting on me. Who said there was no bravery left in this world? Wilson was one of the few who knew what passed between Micke and me, and he did not endorse. Yet, I wanted the departure,

belated or no, and thus temporarily removed Mickes lust as I walked over to help with the book sale.

It took almost two hours to shuffle customers through the signing line, and by then, the store was sixteen minutes from closing. Gabriel Loftbrok appeared a little tired but seemed to be in good spirits.

My stomach flib-flopped inside me when Warren beckoned those of us not affected with closing to come over and talk to him.

She introduced us matter-of-factly. ”Micke Lloyd, store owner. Wilson Sato, assistant manager. Thomas Newton, café manager. Andy Gaus, sales. And you already know Katharina Collins, our other assistant manager. ”

Gabriel nodded reasonably, shaking everyones hand. When he reached me, I averted my eyes, waiting for him to just carry on. When he did not, I mentally winced, clamping myself for some comment about our last encounters. Instead, all he said was, ”G.K. ”

I winked. ”Huh? ”

”G.K., ” he repeated, as though those letters made excellent sense. When my idiotic expression remained, he gave a swift head jerk toward one of the promotional flyers for tonights occasion. It read:

If you haven heard of Gabriel Loftbrok, then you obviously have not been living on this planet for the past eight years. He is only the hottest thing to hit the mystery/contemporary fiction market, making the tournament look like scribbles in a childs picture book.

With various bestselling titles to his name, the famous Mr. Loftbrok writes both self-standing novels and lasting installments in the stunningly popular Cady & Jerald series.

The Glasgow Pact continues the explorations of these intrepid investigators as they travel abroad this time, continuing to unfold archaeological mysteries and

engage in the persistent witty, sexual banter weve come to love them for. Guys, if you can find your girlfriends tonight, they
e here with The Glasgow Pact, wishing you were as civilized as Jerald.

—G.K.

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