Rod Tritone, left, and Kyle Rossini, at the Authors After Dark Book Signing
Scene: The overcrowded bar of a large hotel somewhere on the eastern seaboard. It's after midnight. There are mostly women talking, laughing and drinking. And drinking.
Kyle Rossini walks in, takes a look around and wonders if he wants a drink badly enough to brave the crowd. He'd been getting scary looks from some of the women at the Authors After Dark Paranormal Weekend reader's event. His writer, Stephanie Julian, had begged him to come with her. He'd agreed before Tam had told him she couldn't get away. One of the younger lucani had been injured in training exercises the other day. Kyle had wanted to cancel but Tam had smiled as she pushed him out the door and told him to have a good time. Traitor.
With a sigh, he figures he can do without a 7&7 and is ready to leave when he catches sight of Rod Tritone in a back corner, nursing the last of his beer and studiously avoiding eye contact with anyone.
Kyle: Hey, man. I was beginning to think I was the only testosterone in this place. I need a drink. All these women... (He slouches into the chair next to Rod, making sure his back's to the wall and he hasd a clear view of all the exits) I'd rather be out on a run but this place is a concrete jungle. Hell, even New York City has Central Park.
Rod: And an aquarium. I can’t believe I let The Council talk me into this. The last place I need to be is surrounded by a bunch of Humans. I’ve got an ocean to run. (Drains his beer and nods to the waitress for another.) So how’d you get roped into this?
Kyle: Hell if I know. Tam and Steph were talking one night and the next thing I knew they were eyeing me like a side of beef. Then the lucani king decided I should come, have a look around. See what the humans say about us. I don't have time for this shit. I've got three new sicari to train. Assassins don't grow on trees, you know. Although I've got one who I swear was born to it. What about you?
Rod: Angel—you remember my younger sister, right? She’s all over me about doing some Human-Mer “dialogue” to get relations going between the races. I, frankly, think it’d be better to wait another few hundred years at the very least before we begin to even consider letting them know we exist, but Val and Judi mentioned this gathering. (Inclines his head toward the readers milling around the bar.) Their argument is that the Humans most likely to accept new “beings” would be paranormal readers. I’m getting the lay of the land, so to speak. Must say, these women do have some very open minds.
Kyle: Yeah, that masquerade party last night was wild, all the wings and vampire fangs. I swear some of them actually believe in magic. I had a brief moment of insanity where I thought about giving them a real show. Just shifting into my pelt right in the middle of the dance floor. Would have loved to see their faces. Hell, most don't believe we exist. But I know some of them wish we did. My daughter Cat would have a ball talking to all these writers. She loved Judi's IN OVER HER HEAD.
Rod: I’ll have to mention that to Reel. Some of the readers jokingly asked Judi where Rod and I were, and they thought she was kidding when she said we were in her room. Good thing no one thought to check. My wife would have had serious issues with that. Being descended from the gods is one thing. Having people think I am one, entirely another. (Takes the frosted mug from the waitress as Kyle orders a 7&7.) Good thing Reel headed back to Ocean City. Two mermen walking around the place would be a bit much. Of course, I see Scarlata managed to convince everyone her pink wings were part of her costume. Wonder what they’d say if they knew there was a real Etruscan fairy hanging at the party with them.
Kyle: (snort) Yeah, Scarlata had way too much fun playing with the humans. I think pregnancy has softened her up. Of course, she'd have my head if she ever heard me say that. Too bad Justin couldn't come. He would have had a field day with all these people talking about werewolves and fairies and Mer people. I'm surprised Scarlata showed up at all but Steph promised she'd torment Tivr in more stories, so she agreed. Scarlata really doesn't like that god. Don't know why. He's been a good friend to my daughter. Cat's got a serious case of puppy love for the guy. Of course, if he hurts her, there's gonna be trouble. I don't care if he is the freaking Etruscan God of the Moon. I'm sure you'd feel the same about Angel.
Rod: I hear you. My problem with Angel is that she’s always been so gung-ho on Humans that I’m worried she might go looking for her “catch of a lifetime,” and you know what kind of havoc that can cause. You’d think she’d realize after the shit Reel and I went through when we were kids and pulled the prank that almost exposed our world to Humans, that Humans aren’t ready for us, but she keeps insisting they are. It takes a certain type of Human to accept that they’re not the only swimmers in the sea. (Raises his beer halfway to his lips, but then stops and smiles ruefully.) Although, I guess the fact that Reel married one and my wife is half-Human doesn’t really help my argument, does it?
Kyle: (pauses as he takes his drink from the harried waitress) I know what you mean. My Tam doesn't have any magic at all. But she's coming up to speed pretty fast. She doesn't get freaked out when Cat or I come home in our pelts. She's still having trouble with the whole Gods and Goddesses thing, though. And I'm still damn worried about whoever tried to kidnap her It pisses me off that I don't have a clue where to even start looking. And I don't think they're finished.
Rod: You might want to start with those closest to you. Drake was the last person I’d have suspected when that albatross turned mercenary and recruited half the bird population of Kansas to derail our run for the coast. Guy’s just not that bright. Which he proved with his ridiculous plan, but still— (There’s a disturbance at the end of the bar. A man joins the women, sporting a red leather hat with horns.) Hey—did you get a load of him? Think he might be your guy?
Kyle: (gives an amused laugh) Yeah, probably not. But that writer, Joey W. Hill, she looks like she might know more about secret societies than she's letting on. Have you seen those vampire books she writes? (shakes his head and downs half his drink) The woman has some serious inside information. Anyway, when I get back tomorrow, I've gotta get Kaine out on the trail. She's an even better tracker than her father, and that's saying something. And Nic and Duke need to shake a few trees, see what falls out. You heading out tomorrow?
Rod: Out of the hotel, but not too far. Reel and Erica brought in another load of Blackbeard’s treasure from my old place in the wild blue under. I dole it out every so often to keep up the stock in Val’s mother’s gift shop and fund their operation of keeping Humans away from the kimberlite veins and Mer kingdom. I told them I’d stop by to help catalogue some of that stuff. I found that pile when I was a teenager out manta-surfing with some friends. Never would have figured it’d come in handy to keep Humans away from our world, you know? Of course, that Joey Hill you mentioned… Looks like someone clued her into my world as well as yours. Wonder where she gets her information.
Kyle: No idea. But we definitely don't need the humans figuring out there are people like us in the world. It's be all pitchforks and lab instruments for us. Hey, thanks for the company. I'm gonna head back to my room, hopefully get some sleep. Hate sleeping without Tam. (shakes his head with a rueful grin) Yeah, I know. I'm pathetic.
Rod: (pats Kyle on the back and stands) Yeah, without the women we love, aren’t we all?
The guys depart, oblivious to the leaving behind a couple of hungry gazes checking out their assets, more than a few "check-them-outs," and a roomful of female sighs.