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Dark Carousel (Dark #30)(2)

By:Christine Feehan

“Same here. The one named Vince, Vince Tidwell, touches me with one finger every time he gets close enough. He just runs it over my skin. Instead of giving me any kind of cool shiver, it gives me the creeps, and the image of the testing center is right there in my mind. I keep telling myself we tested in France, so would they really follow us here? But I’m fairly certain they did.”
“So maybe we should leave and then wait for them outside and try to follow them,” Charlotte suggested. “Lourdes is safe for tonight. I’ve called half a dozen times, and Grace assures me all is quiet on the home front. We could track them tonight and find out where they’re staying and who they really are. Maybe we’ll find out what they want from us.”
Genevieve’s vivid green eyes lit up. “Absolutely. I need to do something to make me feel like I’m not sitting on my hands, just waiting for someone to murder me. I have to do something positive to help myself.”
Charlotte nodded. She knew better. She had Lourdes. Responsibilities. One huge responsibility. She’d always been adventuresome. She pursued her dreams with wide-open arms, rushing headlong where others were afraid to go. She hadn’t stayed home with her brother. She worked hard from the time she was very young so she could finance her trip to France, where she’d always wanted to go. She learned French early and worked hard at it until she could speak like a native. She’d left behind her brother and come back only to help him when his wife died. And then she left again.
“Selfish,” she murmured aloud. “I’ve always been selfish, doing the things I wanted to do. I want to go after them, too, Vi. I swear I do.” She had to put her mouth close to Genevieve’s ear to be heard over the music. She wasn’t the type of woman to hide in a house with the covers over her head, but what was the right thing to do? She honestly didn’t know.
“Lourdes would be a lot safer if we figured this out, Charlie,” Genevieve pointed out.
She wasn’t saying anything Charlotte hadn’t already told herself, but Charlotte still didn’t know if she herself was making excuses to jump into action because she wanted to justify taking the fight and shoving it right down the throat of their enemy.
Charlotte made up her mind. She couldn’t just keep hiding. It wasn’t in her character and Genevieve was so right—Lourdes needed to settle into a normal life. They couldn’t keep moving and trying to cover their tracks. “Let’s do it, then, Vi. We can follow them and see if we can find out what they’re up to. You can’t look like you, though. You draw way too much attention.”
Charlotte risked another quick glance at the three men. The one named Daniel Forester appeared to be the leader. His two friends definitely deferred to him. He was tall and good-looking and he knew it. He was staring at her even as he danced with another woman. The woman looked up at him with absolute worship, and he was ignoring her to stare at Charlie.
She raised an eyebrow at him to let him know she thought he was being rude. He grinned at her as if they shared a secret. “He is an arrogant prick,” she hissed.
“So are his friends. Players. All three of them,” Genevieve said. “They know they look good and they use their appearances to pick up women.”Charlotte couldn’t help it; she laughed softly, breaking the stare with Daniel to regard her best friend. Genevieve was in full makeup and looked like a runway model. “Seriously? We’re really getting bad here, Vi. We both know we look good and we came here hoping for a little fun.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Charlie,” Genevieve protested haughtily. “I look like this all the time. Waking up, I look like this.”
Charlotte blew her a kiss. “Truthfully, you do look like that when you wake up. It makes me sick.”
“Uh-oh, here they come. They’re bringing drinks. Vince and his friend Bruce at your nine o’clock. They’re carrying one for their friend Daniel as well,” Genevieve lowered her voice until Charlotte could barely make out what she was saying over the music.
Both women plastered on smiles as the two men toed chairs around and sat at their table without asking.
“I know you must have missed us,” Bruce Van Hues said. “So we came bearing gifts.” He put the drinks down in front of them, flashing them smiles as if that would convince them he was merely joking.
“Pined away,” Charlotte said. “Could hardly breathe without you.”
Vince laughed, nudging Genevieve playfully with his shoulder before pulling his chair very close to hers, making a show of claiming her. Charlotte saw Genevieve’s eyes darken from her normal vivid emerald green to a much deeper forest green, like moss after a rain. That was always, always a bad sign with her best friend. Genevieve had a bit of a temper. She flashed hot and wild, but it never lasted long. Charlotte, however, could hold a mean grudge. She wasn’t happy about it, but if she was honest, she could. For a long time.
Charlotte knew Vince was genuinely attracted to Genevieve. Most men were. She was gorgeous. But she was fairly certain the three men had followed them to the club. They hadn’t just picked them out of the crowd of women. Four stories’ worth of women. Many were beautiful, and most were hungry, looking to take someone home. Genevieve and Charlotte had made it clear several times to the trio of men that they weren’t there for casual hookups. That hadn’t deterred them in the least.
Daniel sauntered over, pulled out the chair beside Charlotte’s and dropped into it. “I think I’ve done my duty for the night.” He picked up the drink in front of Charlotte, grinned at her and took a sip. “You haven’t done yours, though, woman. You’ve hardly danced at all. Think of all the disappointment that’s caused so many men.” 
Charlotte shook her head, flashing a small smile at him. He really thought he was charming. He pushed the drink toward her and deliberately she wrapped her fingers around the glass, her fingers automatically finding the exact spots where his fingers had touched as she lifted it to her mouth and tipped some of the contents down her throat. The jolt hit her like it always did when she opened herself up to a psychic connection. Her mind tunneled and she found herself in the void, looking at the fresh memories of the men who had touched the glass before her.
The bartender first. His touch was imprinted there. He was worried about his mother and didn’t like his father. He wanted a raise and was very tired of drunken women coming on to him. He wished he could come out openly and declare he preferred men, but his father had made it clear if he did so, it would ruin his family and he would be disowned. The bartender wished he had the guts to tell his father to go to hell, and just walk away from his family instead of living a lie.
Charlotte felt bad for the man and risked a quick look in the direction of the bar. There were too many bodies dancing to the music for her to see the actual bar, and she knew she was putting off the inevitable—allowing herself to read Daniel’s memories. Quick flashes of horror movies pushed at her vision. A stake driven into a man’s chest. Blood erupting, spraying like a fountain. The victim’s eyes wide-open, revealing shock and terrible suffering. Daniel swinging a hammer to drive the stake deep. Voices urging him on. Distaste for the task but determination.
Charlotte gasped and let go of the glass, leaping up, knocking her chair over in the process as she backed away from the table. Not a horror movie. Reality. She couldn’t breathe for a moment, couldn’t catch a breath. There was no air in the room. He had done that. Killed a human being by driving a stake through the man’s heart. Vince had been there. So had Bruce. She recognized their voices.
She was aware of the men standing, of Genevieve grasping her arm. Daniel’s fingers settled around her neck, pushing her head down, afraid she would faint. His touch only made matters worse. She didn’t get anything off human beings, only objects, but she imagined she was right there, watching him hammer a stake through a man’s heart, torturing him while he was conscious. The idea of it made bile rise and she pushed one hand over her mouth.
“I’m going to be sick,” she whispered.
Genevieve caught her around the waist and began moving her away from Daniel and the others, toward the restrooms. “What is it, Charlie?” she whispered. “What did you see?”
“He killed a man.” Charlotte choked the words out. “Tonight. Before they came here. He drove a stake through his heart while the man was alive. Awake. The other two were with him. And then they came here. Drinking. Dancing. Laughing.”
Genevieve stopped right outside the ladies’ room and glanced over her shoulder. “They’re watching us, Charlie. Let’s get inside, out of sight.”
Charlotte nodded. She had to pull herself together. “It was just a shock. They killed a man and then came here to dance.” She let Genevieve lead her into the ladies’ room. “Or pick up women.”
“Specifically us,” Genevieve pointed out. “I get the vibe off of them that they’re totally targeting us. Not any women. They certainly had their choice. Several women made it clear they’d be willing to go home with them tonight, but they keep coming back to us.” She glanced around the crowded ladies’ room and lowered her voice even more. “Do you think they could possibly be the ones who murdered your brother and my grandmother?”Charlotte frowned and forced herself to quit leaning on Genevieve. Her stomach still churned, but she had it under control now. “I’m sorry, Vi—it was just so shocking. I let go before I could get any more. I shouldn’t have, although the murder was so fresh that it probably would have covered everything else.” She rubbed the frown off her mouth and sent Genevieve a wry, halfhearted smile. “I panicked. I’ve never done that before in my life. It just goes to show what happens when you have a child. You get soft.”