Chapter 2

No wonder you're late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow. ~ The Mad Hatter/Alice In Wonderland

Lost in the throes of a nightmare, she couldn't escape from the carnage. Bodies littered the floor of the basement where she'd been helping catalog the contents of a crate, that had come in that morning from Walachia. The rotting grayish green colored flesh of the fingers just missed her, before the decaying hand clamped around her wrist and threw her backward into a wall. Somewhere close by a male voice was screaming hysterically yelling, "Run!"

The snarling face had looked away from her but only for a moment, distracted by the wild eyed man, in the striped shirt with bright crimson splotches. It was strange how they looked against the black and white material. It was as if some crazed artist, had dipped his brush into a bucket of bright red paint and flung it carelessly at the man.

With the creature distracted, she managed to push herself up, but rather it heard her or caught a glimpse of movement, she didn't know, for it's head snapped back and it stared at her out of it's glassy black eyes. Taking a step toward her, it's jaws opened impossibly wide, displaying two razor like canines, each dripping a viscus like-saliva. Reaching out, the thing grabbed her, pulling her close, so close she could smell it's breath. Blood and rotten meat. That's what it smelt like, she told herself and that thing was what was going to kill her. She flinched when the other clawed hand touched her face. Fighting back the only way she knew how she doubled up her small fist and struck out.

The surprised yelp was followed by a male voice howling in pain. 'Owww! The wee hellion done went and broke my damned fookin' nose!"

Caitlain's eyes popped wide open, only to be met with the sight of Borias Bearach clutching at his nose and storming back and forth.

"That will teach ye to stick it somewhere it dinna belong in the first place," Michael laughed, then turned to the dark haired young man next to him and held out his hand. "Ye owe me twenty pounds, Fallie me fine boyo. She hasna been here at Maidin Realta Grianán a week and she already nailed the auld fart in his neb. So pay up."

Strange she thought. She hadn't noticed it before, but the auld fart, as Michael had called him, didn't look old. In fact he didn't look much older than his early thirties. He was also quite handsome aside from yelling. His long dark hair was tied back into a ponytail that hung to his waist and was sprinkled lightly with strands of silver. Maybe that's what Michael had meant about being old. He had a proud, chiseled face like she'd seen on some of the paintings in the museum. Smooth olive skin stretched over high cheek bones. His brows and indigo eyes were startling against them and they made her feel, as if he could see into her very soul. Even though that was a little unnerving, it made her feel safe for some unknown reason she couldn't grasp.

"Leave it be! Owww! Dinna touch it ye wee daemon!" he snapped, batting Caeoimhin's hands away when he wanted to have a look.

"He be worse than a wee babe with a belly ache," Michael snickered, sitting down next to her on the bed and making himself at home. "Once Caeoimhin had to stitch him up and ye could hear him yellin' all the way down to the stables and back." He shook his head and gave her a quizzical look, when his eyes slipped down to the cast on her left arm.

"How do you feel, other than havin' to listen to His Nibs bellowin' like a outraged ox that is. Better I hope. I dinna mind tellin' ye though, ye had us all worried the night we landed, Lassie." He patted her hand as he leaned closer to whisper conspiratorially in her ear. "Ye scared the shite out of the auld fart, ye did. He was fair havin' himself a fit, when ye passed out cold in his arms."

She blinked up at him, stunned not only by the fact she'd passed out, but that she'd did it in Borias' arms. She rubbed at her temples shaking her head. Maybe this was another strange dream and she was in the hospital still. Maybe she was even in a looney bin, locked in a rubber room and shot full of weird drugs. Whatever was going on, she couldn't quite take her eyes off Borias stalking back and forth across the room watching her.

"Just what the hell do ye think ye are doin' sittin' on the bed, Pup? The last thing she needs is ye, hangin' about her like some great lap dog. Get up and go make yerself useful. Go find her a bit of breakfast."

Michael gave her a bright smile. "I should think this is one time he's right. A bit of breakfast is just what you need to put the color back in yer cheeks, Lassie." He winked at her before he looked back at Borias. "We will have some ham and sausages, and eggs and scones. Oh and dinna forget the toasted fry bread and jam, and some fried tatties, ye auld fart. Oh and a nice pot of tea with honey and cream, if ye please. Now be a good laddie and run along and fetch that."

"Ah am no lady's maid, ye wee deamon!"

"Yer right, but what ye are is a great pain in the arse," Faolán informed him. "But if I remember just right, ye informed Mick his cookin' was atrocious, Caeoimhin's was uneatable and mine tasted like...Well, I willna repeat what you said about mine in front of the lassie here. So that leaves you to do the cookin'. Unless of course you want her to get a belly ache."

"I say we ask wee Caitlain, a'cause lookin' at Bri, tis apparent that we'll not get anywhere," Michael snickered and looked back at her. "What would ye like, Lassie?"

There was an old saying somewhere that went, Be careful what you asked for, she thought, but she needed answers. She needed to know she wasn't losing what little sanity she had left. She gathered her courage and looked at each of them. "Vacations? Elves? Faeries? Vampires? Hunters? I want to know what the hell's going on. I find myself taken out of a hospital, by him," she told them pointing at Borias.

"Then I'm flown halfway around the world and wind up in a bedroom, with three men I don't even know, that look like they fell off the covers of romance novels. And what do they want? They want to know, what I want for breakfast? Oh geeze, I do sound like a lunatic! Just please, please tell me, I didn't step through some crazy looking glass with Alice, and wind up in some twisted story where Legoglas and his cronies meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

It wasn't the looks that passed between the four of them, that bothered her the most. It was the deafening sound of silence, that made her heart do a skittish little tattoo in her chest. When Michael's arm slipped around her, she moved away from him and scooted to the other side of the bed. Pushing off the covers, she stood up defensively wrapping her arms around her. "I suppose if you do even say anything at all, you'll try to tell me I'm here for my own protection."

Again there was only silence and she felt the panic growing inside her. She'd never been prone to hysterics or been one of those silly females that fainted at the drop of a hat, like they did in books. Nineteen year old Caitlain Rose Mackenzie was stable, practical, sensible and right now, scared half out of her mind.

"Uh-huh," she mumured under her breath, hurrying past Michael. "Okay. That's it. I've had enough. Time to make like a drum and beat it, Kimosabe." She grabbed for the nearest doorknob and pulled it open. The closet, she nodded to herself and low and behold, there was her clothes and her two suitcases. Her luck was changing, she half giggled to herself, reaching for an arm load of hangers.

She tossed them on the bed and started back for her suitcases, when Borias stepped in front of her blocking the way. He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Just what do ye think ye be doin', Lassie?"

"What does it look like I'm doing, Skippy?" she asked, using the name she'd heard Michael call him. "I'm leaving. I'm going home. I'm breaking out of the looney bin!"

From behind her she heard Michael taking bets. "Twenty pounds says she pops him in his neb again. Thirty if she nails him in the nads."

Caitlain's eyebrow arched in defiance at the stoney faced man in front of her. "Better listen to your friend, cause I'm still armed," she warned Borias when she held up her arm, showing him the cast. "I'll crack your nose the other way for you, if you don't move it, Buster. Your nads I'll crack for free."

He shot his companions a dirty look that meant no arguments. "Get out, ye hellions! The lassie and I are goin' to have us a wee talk."


He ignored the quiet warning. "No, Caeoimhin! She wants answers, now she'll get them! Now get out. All of ye!" He turned that stormy expression on back on her. "And ye...So help me, Woman, if ye hit me with that damned thing again, I will personally pull yer drawers down, turn ye over my knee and paddle yer wee skinny arse, till it be a nice rosey shade of red!"

As Michael, Caeoimhin and Faolán made their way out of the room, it was Faolán that grunted. "See? What did I say, lads? Tis no wonder that after eight hundred and thiry-two years, the heathen still canna find himself a woman. Hey Mick? Forty says, she turns his nads into peanut butter."

"I'll take that bet!" Caeoimhin piped up, when the door slammed shut behind them.

Borias slowly turned to face her. His eyes flashed a strange blue fire in their indigo depths. "So tis answers ye want, do ye? Well now, can ye handle them? That be the question, aye? Caeoimhin doesna think yer ready, but I do. Oh aye. I do." He took a step toward her, but she didn't move, didn't even flinch. "Brave are ye now? Ye best be. Ye best believe in that bravery, ye be wavin' about like a shield, Woman. Although with the foolishness ye be displayin', it willna save yer skinny little backside."

He took another step toward her and this time she stepped back away from him. "Yer bavery be flaggin', Woman. Could it be, ye be a wee bit scairt?"

She straightened stiffly, not at his words but at his attitude. "I'm not afraid of you."

"Then ye be a damned fool, but tis true, tis not me that be yer problem. Tis that thing that killed yer friends, that ye should be worried about. Fer the strigoi still be out there someplace...still huntin'."

Her stomach rolled uneasily. "Hunting what? No wait," she demanded. "Are you trying to tell me, that was a real vampire? A really real vampire? I'm a freshman in college dammit! I'm not some poor peasant in a third world European country, that believes in the boogey man, Junior! And I sure as hell ain't some little kid, you're trying to tell ghost stories to around a campfire and scare the hell out of!"

"Even though ye saw it with yer own eyes, ye dinna want to believe it!" he snapped accusingly, while reaching in his tunic pocket. He stalked toward her and the back of her legs bumped into the bed, trapping her against it. "It was real enough alright. Real enough to rip out throats," he ground out, thrusting a picture up for her to see. "That thing's claws took out her windpipe and her jugular vein."

Borias heard the tiny whimper, knowing Caeoimhin would raise hell with him, but he wouldn't relent. He shoved another picture up in her face. This time it was a security guard that had been working that night. "He's a pretty sight is he no? That filthy fookin' thing dinna use it's claws. It just ripped his throat out with it's fangs and took a nice big chunk with it, it did."

He watched her closely, letting his words sink in. "Just what do ye think his wife will tell his newborn son someday, when he asks how his Da died? Hmmm? Sorry I dinna know, Johnny. They put yer Da in a wooden casket. Then they burnt it, like the rest of them poor bastards in that damned basement. Oh and did I mention, Johnny? They pounded a stake through his fookin' heart and cut it out, right after they cut off dear auld Da's head."

Her eyes stung with unshed tears. She wouldn't cry in front of this man, she told herself. She'd never cry in front of him. "You're a bastard, Bearach," she murmured. "Do you know that?"

"Oh aye," he ground out, tossing the pictures on the bed. "I do and now that we agree on that part, mayhap just mayhap mind ye, we can keep yer skinny arse alive fer a bit, if that thing comes lookin' fer ye. Now put yer damned clothes back in the closet where they go. There be no maid service here."

Borias walked to the door and jerked it open, then looked over his shoulder before he stepped out. "Then ye get back in that damned bed, a'fore ye fall on that wee homely mug of yers. Caeoimhin has other things to do, than tend to ye right now, lassie or no."

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