“You know, she might come for you one day,” he says.
I look at him sitting across from me, trying to be cool. I’m not impressed. I know all his secrets. “Anything is possible in the realm of the imagination,” I answer.
“If she does come after you, what are you going to do?”
“I might end it for her. I have that ability. Depends on how I feel.”
Duncan laughs. “She’s not that easy to kill.”
“Not for you she isn’t. But I know all her secrets. Just like I know yours.”
He lifts his glass of merlot. “Touché.”
We both look up as the next guest enters the room. She’s a tall sister, obviously of African descent. She’s wearing a floor length caftan and matching head dress. Her skin is a dark, rich brown, like coffee without cream. Her eyes are green. She’s beautiful, but she looks dangerous. In truth she is dangerous. People who’ve lost everything can be that way. Sometimes I feel sorry for her.
Always the gentleman, Duncan stands up. I introduce them.
“Duncan, this is Amarante,” I say. “Amarante, this is Duncan Gray.”
As they shake hands Amarante says to Duncan, “Our mutual friend is looking for you. She has unfinished business.”
Duncan looks at me with a cocked brow.
I shrug. “This isn’t a set up. If I wanted you dead, you’d already be there. And I wouldn’t need to use Nikira Horikoshi to do it.”
Duncan spits out a derisive laugh and looks away from me as more guests enter the room.
Eric Adams and Diane Clayton. They’re private investigators, business partners who are also sleeping together. It’s working for them right now. We’ll see what the future holds.
Here comes another interracial couple, Justin Reed and Erin Milano. Things seem to be on track for them in their careers and their relationship. But that’s today. Who knows what tomorrow holds?
Next enter the five women who call themselves The Group: Elizabeth, Robyn, Paula, Kim and Jamila. These sisters have more issues than Time Magazine. Jamila is looking at Duncan like she’s starving and he’s well done prime rib.
And there’s Mitch and Cynthia. She looks happy now that she’s with a man who doesn’t beat her down every other day. Mitch is a beat down artist, but only for other hard heads.
Gallery owner Maisha Templeton comes in with Duncan’s niece Simone. Simone has been chilling at Duncan’s second home down in North Carolina. She’s really looking good since she eased up on the alcohol, getting back in shape and all. I’ve got a feeling she’s going to have an exciting life.
Government agent Avery Silva slips into the room. As soon as he enters I catch him scanning the room, seeing who’s who and what’s what. Typical government cop. But I know he’s looking for Nikira, too. He wants to bring her down, not just because she’s a cold-blooded killer, but because after his one-on-one encounter with her he doesn’t sleep well at night knowing she’s out in there somewhere. Nikira tends to have that effect on people.
Now Lucas arrives. Smooth ass brother. Women’s heads turn his way. He makes them curious. He also makes them pay. You don’t get to play with Lucas without giving up some cash. That is, not unless you’re the woman on his arm tonight: Olivia Bettencourt. Olivia is not in Lucas’s business, but in one way or another, she still makes every man pay.
Right behind Lucas and Olivia comes Julian St. Christopher. He’s accompanied by four women: Victoria West, Grace Trouillot, Glenda Engerman and Bethany Arthur. One of the women—Beth—is Julian’s cousin. The others…well…what they’ll be to him in the end is a story yet to be told.
The room is starting to fill up. I have to stand up so I can see.
Oh man, there’s Elle. Damn. Fine ass sister. Likes to get naked—and sometimes bound—with the right man. Simon Bishop is the right man, and Elle is on his arm.
I see Elle’s receptionist Erica and her husband Ben with them. I wonder if Erica’s ass is still hurting. She’s a freak like that. It’s a thing that goes back to her childhood.
Simon sees me looking at Elle. I look at him, and he nods his head as if to say, “Yeah, we know how it is with the right woman, don’t we?”
Simon’s cousin Gordon comes in with the beautiful Aurélle. Heads turn again. This time it’s the men looking. Okay, some ladies look, too.
Now Doctors Evan and Freda Michaels arrive. They’re together but not together, still friends after their divorce. They’re trailed by their son Kyle and his friend with benefits, Dr. Britt Chandler. I wonder if either couple will find a way to get together.
Two gorgeous women enter after the Michaels, a statuesque blonde and a drop dead sexy sister. Gretchen and Ana. They’re two women who are so fine they look too good to be true…because they are too good to be true. They’re Dream Girls.
After the sun sets a new trio arrives, and I get a little nervous. Some of my other guests cut them curious glances. Some women instinctively move closer to the men.
The newly-arrived trio make a striking group; the man in his tuxedo under a floor-length overcoat and his two lovely companions adorned in midnight-hued cocktail dresses. One of the women—the youngest—is Abigail. She was born an American slave in the 1700s. The other woman is Linares. She was born in Spain when it was called Iberia, some five hundred years before the time of Christ. Neither woman looks her age.
They’re beautiful, but it’s the man who is most striking. He stands nearly six and a half feet tall. His skin is as dark as wet tree bark. Power radiates off him, so strong that one can barely stand to look into his eyes—eyes that like his beautiful companion’s seem to glint silver when they catch the light a certain way. His name is Abdiel. He knew Eve, and was a young man when she died.
Yes, that Eve.
I hope that tonight wine will be enough to quench this trio’s thirst. Usually they require blood.
Others come, and eventually they’re almost all here, all the lovers, the entrepreneurs, the cops and killers, those who have survived death and those who have never truly drawn a living breath; all but one. Every now and then those who know about that one steal nervous glances toward the entry.
I’m about to grab myself a glass of wine when a hush falls over the room. I look around, toward the door. The crowd is parting like the Red Sea in the tale of Moses, opening a path between the entry and me.
She’s there, standing in the entry, glaring at me with her lifeless black eyes.
I see Avery Silva reach inside his jacket. Duncan is pushing Maisha behind him. There’s murder in his eyes. I hold up my hand, signaling both of them to chill.
I look back toward the door. She’s coming toward me, striding confidently through the aisle of onlookers, not worried what any of them might try to do. Most of them she could kill before they knew they were dead. Without a weapon.
She’s wearing all black: a pullover and stretch jeans, like she’s working. Black that matches her ebony eyes and hair. Black that lets her hide in the shadows.
She reaches me and stops, and fixes me with her cold eyes, in which I see the emptiness of space. I wonder if there’s a soul in there somewhere.
I stare back at her, refusing to blink. She’s waiting for me to show fear. She’s a predator. She feeds on fear. If I show fear she’ll eat me alive.
I don’t break my gaze, because though I can’t see it, I do know what lies in those depths. It’s all the pain, the anger…and the fear. Yeah, I know her fear. I created it. We all have weaknesses; it’s a necessary ingredient in our psyches. Without fear there is no self-control, nothing to stop the beast from running wild.
After a moment she blinks. She’s uncertain now. It’s been a very long time since she’s seen eyes that understand her.
“Who are you?” she demands.
She moves around me. I turn with her, not wanting to lose sight of her, not wanting her behind me. “You know who I am,” I say.
“No, I don’t.”
I’d forgotten how beautiful she is. Sometimes evil can make a beautiful one ugly.
“Tell me,” she hisses. “Who are you? What are you?”
She’s stopped moving now. She clenches her fists. From somewhere in the room I hear a gasp.
I smile at Nikira. I’m not afraid of her. But I give her what she wants. I tell her who I am.
She’s satisfied with my answer. She actually smiles. Then she asks, “Do the people in this room know about me?”
“Some do. Others don’t need to.”
“What about the people outside this room, all those readers? Are you going to warn them about me?”
“I have to. They need to know you’re out here, and that they’re not safe.”
Behind Nikira, in a far corner I see Agent Silva speaking into his Bluetooth. He’s calling for backup.
“You’d better go,” I say.
“I know. He’s scared, and he should be, and so should you. I’ll be back. I’ll visit you again. You’re going to pay for making me wait.”
Ice cold dread trickles down my spine. “When?”
Nikira smiles and says, “Next year. But don’t bother looking over your shoulder because you won’t see me coming. No one sees me coming until it’s too late.”
And then she’s gone, vanished into the crowd.
Lucas steps to me, and looking amused, says, “Woman problems?”
“Not the kind you deal with.”
“If it involves women, I deal with it,” he says. He looks at his watch. “We on schedule, man?”
“Yeah, your thing will drop any day now.”
“I’ve got more associates willing to help promote our endeavor if you need it.”
“Okay, clients. I don’t brag, but some of them like to kiss and tell. And some are straight up exhibitionists.”
“I’ll let you know, man. Enjoy the party. I’m getting back to work.”
I leave the room and leave my characters to their party.
In my car I fire up the engine and tune the radio to some smooth jazz. Before I back out of my parking space I check my rearview mirror, and my heart clutches up when I see cold black eyes staring back at me from the back seat.
“Don’t worry,” she says, “this is just practice.”