“I’ve been having these dreams.”
“About this man. Very intense dreams, if you know what I mean.”
Sosata relaxed. “Me and every other warm-blooded woman in the world. You don’t need me. You need a girlfriend to gab and have coffee with. Or a date. That would work too.”
“It’s not like that,” Claire said. “This man, I just met him today but I’ve been having the dreams for two weeks. Don’t you think that’s too much of a coincidence?”
“That depends. Who is this fella?”
“Nobody special. He works for this Celeste Rieke—”
“Celeste?” The ease that had settled in Sosata’s stance vanished, and her cheeks went ashen. “Why would you know anything about her?”
“She contacted me after Grandfather’s funeral. She wanted to give me some mementos. Do you know her?”
“Anyone with an ounce of self-preservation in the Bay Area knows her.” Sosata waggled a fat finger in Claire’s face. “You mustn’t see that man again. It’s too dangerous.”
“But…” Sosata’s reaction took her aback. “The note she sent was so gracious. She made it sound like he’d changed her life somehow. I assumed Grandfather saved someone she loved.”
“Celeste Rieke loves no one. Her kind isn’t capable of it.”
“What do you mean her kind
“I mean she’s a vampire.”
Throughout her life, Claire had witnessed the unthinkable occurring on a near-daily basis, magic that altered nature’s course for Antonio’s purposes, people so desperate for what he could do they would sell their own children to make it happen if necessary.
Anything was possible. That was the biggest lesson she had learned from the moment her parents were killed. Though the idea of a vampire living in Napa sounded like something out of a bad horror movie, it had to be true. Sosata’s black eyes gleamed with the fervent burn of a believer, and she had no motivation to lie.
“Why would someone like that claim to have something of Grandfather’s?”
“So why ask me to go and see her?”
“Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. This man you dreamt of. You said he was there?” At Claire’s nod, her lips tightened. “She’s using him to get to you. Seducing you with dreams of him to lower your guard.”
“I didn’t know vampires could do that.”
“There’s much you don’t know. That’s the way Antonio wanted it. Ever since your parents died, his goal was to protect you.”
“But from what?” This was the part she couldn’t wrap her mind around. “I’m just an accountant. Unless she wants me to do her taxes, I don’t have anything she might want.”
“Anybody with a pulse has something a vampire wants,” Sosata countered. “My advice? Enjoy the dreams and stay as far away from her as you can possibly get.”
Easier said than done
. Because if she was going to have nightly reminders of Seth, images of Simon wouldn’t be far behind. Did they know what Celeste was? At the very least Seth would have to. They couldn’t be vampires themselves though. She’d seen both men in the sun. She’d shaken Seth’s hand and it had been warm and alive. Why would they work for someone with a reputation like Celeste’s?
Her silence damned her. Sosata frowned.
“I know that look,” she said. “And I think you’re an idiot if you don’t run as far as you can in the opposite direction.”
“How can I? If I don’t meet with her, who’s to say she’ll just give up on whatever she’s after?”
“And if you do, who’s to say she won’t get exactly what she wants?”
Claire lifted her chin in defiance. “Forewarned is forearmed, Grandfather always said. Now that I know what she is I know what to keep an eye out for.”
Shaking her head, Sosata turned away with a disgusted snort. “Antonio is turning over in his grave,” she muttered. “But he’ll come back to haunt me for sure if I let you face Celeste unprepared.”
Sosata moved quickly for a woman of her size. She would’ve disappeared into the store’s bowels if Claire hadn’t jogged to follow her and keep up. “I’m pretty sure I can rustle up a cross for the next time I see her.”
“If all it took was a bauble to stop Celeste Rieke, do you really think I’d be so terrified for you?”
The confession was scarier than knowing a vampire was seeking her out. Nothing fazed Sosata.
Claire crossed mental fingers she’d never need whatever defenses Sosata came up with.