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Dark Carousel (Dark #30)(10)

By:Christine Feehan

“I’m well aware of it. He admitted killing my brother.”
“Let me take you and your friend to my home. I have several houses on my property, and you are welcome to stay there until the danger has passed.” Still playing the role of a human nightclub owner, Tariq had to make the offer. “You can call the police and talk to them, tell them what Fridrick admitted to you. I have security at my home as well. There are a few families living on the property. Children for your niece to play with.” Then he added the sweetener. “While you’re there, perhaps you’d be willing to take a look at my carousel collection. If you’re interested, you could work on it. In his letter, Monsieur Beaudet mentioned a Charlotte Vintage as his leading protégé. He actually said you had surpassed the master.”
Charlie stared up at him in shock. “He said that?”
“I have the letter sitting on my desk. I kept telling myself I would ring him to find out what the delay was, but my work kept me so busy I continually put it off.” He knew his explanation sounded plausible, because it was the truth. “Come home with me, at least for the remainder of the night, until both of you feel safe and you know your little niece and other friend are as well.”
He stepped back, giving her room, letting her make up her mind. It was difficult to refrain from using a compulsion when normally it would be so easy, but he didn’t want to risk making her uncomfortable. She was already leaning toward accepting his invitation.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Genevieve said. “Charlie, he has security. You saw his men. They totally intimidated that psycho. I haven’t felt safe in months. And since we’ve been here, between those creepy men following us and Fridrick the murderer, I could use at least one night of really good sleep.”
Tariq spun around. “What creepy men following you? Fridrick’s men?” Daniel Forester, Vince Tidwell and Bruce Van Hues had been conspiring in his club, but he had to pretend he didn’t know.
Genevieve shook her head. “No. As if it wasn’t bad enough to have a serial killer on the loose—he admitted to being in Paris and killing Ricard Beaudet—and I’m certain he not only killed him but Grand-mère and Eugene Beaumont as well. I was dating Eugene and he died in the same way as Monsieur Beaudet, Grand-mère and Charlie’s brother.”“What men are following you?” Tariq stared down into Charlie’s eyes, forcing her to look at him. She had to tell him everything so it would appear as if he’d gotten all information from her and Genevieve.
Charlotte sighed and swept back stray tendrils of hair. He noted her hand was shaking. Just a little, but it was there. “Three men. They were in Paris as well, but I don’t think they had anything to do with Fridrick. We went to a psychic testing center for fun. Just kind of a lark—you know, like getting our palms read.”
Faint color swept up her neck into her face and her gaze shifted from his. Tariq realized she was afraid he would think she was crazy for believing in psychic abilities, and she was making excuses. He nodded, his expression somber to show her that he took her seriously. “Keep going.”
“We both supposedly tested very high, and they asked us to take more of their tests. We agreed at first, but they were so pushy, asking us very personal questions about private things neither of us wanted to disclose. Then they wanted to separate us. We were in a little room at that point and both of us had the feeling we were being watched and recorded. We decided to leave. For a few minutes there, it didn’t seem as though they’d let us go. We actually had to push past a couple of men and be very belligerent about it.”
Genevieve nodded. “They kept saying we were making a mistake and that we needed to finish the testing with them. We just grabbed on to each other and made a run for it. We felt a little foolish once we were on the street with people around us, but even before we got home, we knew we were being followed.”
“You saw these three men?” Tariq prompted.
Charlotte shook her head. “Not right away. We saw them there, at the psychic testing center, but off in the distance. We didn’t even recognize them when we first saw them again in your club.”
“These men following you were in my club?” Feigning shock, he took a step away from them as if he might go into the nightclub and drag the three men out. “Did they approach you?”
“Tonight they did,” Genevieve said. “They flirted and danced with a lot of women, but they kept coming back to our table, even though we made it plain we weren’t in the market for a hookup.”
“And you’re certain these men are the same men you saw in Paris?”
Charlie nodded. “Absolutely positive.”
“What time of day did you go in for testing? Was it dark?”
“Midday,” Genevieve said. “What does that have to do with anything?” 
“Fridrick likes to come out at night. He thinks the cover of darkness will keep everyone from ever seeing his crimes.” Tariq glanced at his watch. “Will you come back to my house with me? That’s where they’ll bring your friend Grace and your young niece.”
Charlie glanced back at Genevieve, who nodded. “We’ll stay the night,” she agreed. “And thank you for the invitation. We can talk about the rest of it tomorrow when things are more settled.”
Tariq didn’t want to leave her, not even for a moment. He didn’t feel any of the vampires close. The hunters were on the heels of the vampires and four humans Fridrick had left behind. Being pursued by Carpathian hunters would keep them from the two women, but he would have to leave his car behind because he wasn’t taking any chances with his lifemate’s safety.
“Maksim brought me.” He murmured the lie, uncomfortable with telling an untruth to his lifemate. It wasn’t done, but he knew it was necessary. She had every reason to be leery of strangers, and for all intents and purposes, he was that to her. She didn’t have the same reaction to him that he had to her. She was already his world. There was no going back for him. He had searched through centuries to find her, and she was everything and more than he could have ever expected. He wasn’t losing her.
Charlie took a deep breath, her green eyes moving over him slowly. “Then I guess you’ll have to ride with us.”
She knew he was lying. His heart jerked in his chest. Pride in her abilities shook him. Who would have thought a human woman would be able to read him so easily? He sent her a quick grin.
“I guess I will. Let me just give my car keys to the valet and tell him to make certain my car that I didn’t bring with me is safe here in the parking garage.”
Charlotte smiled at him, a genuine smile for the first time. She pulled her cell phone out. “I have to call Grace really quick and tell her to expect your friends. I want her to pack a couple of things for us as well.”
Genevieve pushed closer to Charlie, adding her list of items for Grace to pack for her. “And the men coming for you are really hot,” the two women assured their friend.
Tariq frowned. “You find my friends hot?” His eyes were on Charlie. Assessing. Something moved inside of him, something not good. His belly tightened into several hard knots.
Charlie shrugged. “They’re good-looking, Mr. Asenguard, of course we noticed. That will make Grace happier—to have her rescuers be hot guys.”
“Call me Tariq. And it would please me immensely if you would not find my friends ‘hot.’ I would be okay with you having that assessment of me, but not of them.”
Genevieve laughed.
Charlie’s eyebrow shot up. “So I have your permission to find you attractive?”
He nodded solemnly, staying in step with her while they covered the short distance to her car. “More than attractive. More than hot. Is there such a thing as more?” He scanned continually to make certain no vampire was close to them. The four humans were hanging out inside his club. He thought it was a good thing that Dragomir and Siv had gone with Maksim to keep Fridrick from Charlotte’s niece. He couldn’t imagine either of them in a nightclub, nor did he altogether trust them with all the pounding heartbeats. They were both far, far too close to the end. Those in the monastery could no longer even hear the whisper of temptation to feel. Not even that. Putting Dragomir in the nightclub would be like putting a fox in a chicken coop.Charlie laughed, the sound sliding inside of him, restoring his good mood. She sounded a little flirty. He liked that. “If there is something that’s hotter than hot, you’re it, Tariq,” she assured. “But then you already know that. You have a bit of a reputation as a playboy.”
Uh-oh. Not so good. “I do? Really? Because of a few publicity photos and charity events I attended? I assure you, Charlotte, I live quietly.”
She slid into the driver’s seat and Genevieve slipped into the backseat, leaving the passenger front for Tariq.
“You live quietly?” Charlie echoed. Her tone was quite frankly disbelieving.
She waited to start the car until he’d put on his seat belt, something he was reluctant to do because he needed to move fast if there was trouble. Still, it was expected of him and he’d lived in the world of humans a long time and had learned to fit in.