The notes from today and yesterday is actually a background scene, set in September 2021, in Fredericksburg, VA. Cassidy Beckett seeks some help from some rather unusual sources…
Just Another Day in Fredericksburg
Location – café and coffee shop owned and operated by Kasey Greene Lord
The bell on the door jingled and Vellin tensed across the table from me, jaw tightening. “We have company,” he murmured, though he didn’t turn. I leaned sideways slightly, looking past him to the door. My brow furrowed slightly.
“I didn’t think they could walk around in daylight,” he continued. “Is it who I think it is?”
“In the flesh.” My chair scraped quietly against the floor as I stood up. It was early evening in Fredericksburg, the sun starting to slowly sink lower but full dark was still hours away. “Are you going to pick her brain?”
“Fuck no,” Vellin muttered. “I don’t have a death wish.”
“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting something,” Beckett said quietly, closing the door behind her. She moved away from the windows even as I walked forward, drawing some more of the shades. The vampire shot me a relieved smile as she took off her hat and sunglasses. “Thank you. The clouds help but it’s still difficult.”
“Have you been here since last night?” I asked, a ripple of shock fluttering through my guts. New York wasn’t an impossible drive, but it wasn’t exactly a short one, either—Vellin and his wife, my best friend, knew that very well, since it was a trip they’d made almost every weekend for four years after their summertime wedding nearly ten years ago. Vellin had gotten into Columbia’s law school and none of us had been willing to let him give that up.
I couldn’t imagine how Beckett could have made the trip down during daylight hours, though.
She gave me a smile that was thin, but real. “Since about an hour before dawn. I rested for most of the day and as soon as I felt it was dark enough, I came looking. You have children; I thought maybe it would be best to find you before full dark considering by the time it’s actually dark you’ll both likely be home for family dinner.”
She was right, though I was almost loathe to admit it. Sam had just taken our youngest with him when he’d gone to pick up the twins and Harrison from school, leaving me and Vellin alone at the coffee shop to talk Conclave business. Kasey would be doing the same, along with half a dozen of our other friends.
Truth be known, Beckett had picked the perfect time to show up without drawing too much attention to herself.
“You want something,” Vellin said. It wasn’t a question and I barely managed to suppress a wince at the slight edge to his tone.
Then again, he and Kasey both knew her better than I did in a lot of ways. Kasey had spent most of Vellin’s time at Columbia working at Beckett’s store in Hell’s Kitchen, keeping an eye on Order business—among other things—in the five boroughs while still somehow managing to keep up with the politics back here at home.
“You always were direct, Lord,” Beckett said, though her lips quirked into a slight smile. “How’s Mara?”
“She’s fine,” Vellin said. “What brought you here, Dr. Beckett? You don’t drive five and a half hours without warning for a social call.”
My gaze slid toward Vellin, lips momentarily thinning before I forced myself to relax. His magic was up and I could feel it—but then again, my shields had snapped into place as soon as I’d seen her coming through the door.
It wasn’t that I necessarily saw the vampire as a threat, but it never hurt to be careful.
“I have a favor to ask,” Beckett said, then sighed quietly. “Can we sit?”
I nodded, motioning to a nearby table. Vellin’s jaw tightened, but he followed my lead, taking a seat with his back to the wall even as Beckett settled into the chair across from him, leaving me facing the door.
“What did you come to ask us for?”
She stared at me for a few seconds, as if she was still processing my question. Then she cleared her throat. “It’s been ten years since she disappeared,” she said softly. “It’s been ten years since anyone’s heard anything from Rebecca Reid.”
My stomach gave an uncomfortable twist. She and I—all of us—had spoken on the subject over the years. “Dr. Beckett, we’ve tried to scry for her before and there hasn’t been a trace. The New York enclave doesn’t know anything? There hasn’t been any sort of changes? That’s where her pack is from and they would know—word would come to them before it reached any of us down here.”
“I know, I know,” she said. “And I didn’t come down here to ask you to try to scry for her again. It’s something different this time.”
Vellin eyed her. “What?”
“The New York enclave won’t listen to me, doesn’t trust me, and I can’t blame them. They still think I had something to do with Becca’s disappearance even though I didn’t and that sentiment has only gotten worse as time’s gone on. I can’t go to them and ask them what I’m going to ask of you and the enclave here in Fredericksburg.”
I felt another uncomfortable flutter and made eye contact with Vellin, though only for a second. He frowned and gave me an almost imperceptible nod.
“Then ask,” I said. “The worst I can say is no but you realize that I don’t speak for the enclave, right?”
“Only when they ask you to,” she said, her voice grave. “I need you to find Ioan Adam Griffon. Find the alpha and you’ll find the rest of them—or at the very least, a trace of her. As much as he and I didn’t like or trust each other, the one thing we agreed on was her and I know that he would never willingly let anything happen to her. Find him and you will find them. I’m sure of it.”
“What makes you think we can do that?” Vellin’s voice was heavy with skepticism and suspicion—and more doubt than I’d heard in his voice in a long time.
“I don’t know if you can,” she admitted. “But I also think that out of anyone, you have the best shot and frankly, you are my only shot. Please. I will beg if I need to. All I ask is that you try.”
“We’ll have to talk about it,” I said, fighting the sinking feeling in my stomach. It would probably end in some kind of argument, but at the end of the day, Vellin and I both knew what was going to happen, no matter how much we argued about whether or not we should or would.
We would do it—we’d find a way to at least try to help.
“You’ll owe us a favor,” he said.
Beckett smiled. “If you find him, I’ll owe you more than that. How long will you need to discuss it?”
“Give us a couple of days,” I said. “It’s not like we need to talk to one person. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
“Fewer here than in New York,” she said softly. “I’ll be back at the end of the week. Thank you, Wolf Shaman. Thank you, Lord.”
She stood from the table, donning her hat and sunglasses again before she stepped out the door, the bell’s jingle marking her departure, an oddly cheery sound in the wake of our conversation.
I looked at Vellin. “Have you talked to Solace about her at all?”
“Not recently. Not since the last time.” He took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “We’ll have to call the Conclave.”
“And I’ll have to talk to the pack.” I rubbed at my temple and shook my head slightly. “Life gets complicated whenever she shows up. Just when I think that maybe we’ll have a moment’s peace, something new.”
“We could have retired,” Vellin said, then cracked a grin. I punched him in the arm as I stood up.
“No one’s ever going to let that happen, Nick. You and I both know that.”
He just shook his head. “We can dream, right?” The smile faded. “What do you make of it, Haley?”
“Of any of it.”
I shrugged. “At the end of the day, she came asking for our help because there’s someone out there that needs it. I think you and I both agree on that piece of it.”
He nodded. “The Conclave’s going to be edgy about it.”
“So’s the pack. But she’s played everything straight thus far. Inches and miles, right?”
“Yeah,” he said quietly. “Inches and miles.”
I squeezed his shoulder and he smiled again, reaching up to cover my hand with his.
“I’ll see you later, okay?”
He nodded. “We still have to finish the conversation we started before Dr. Beckett got here. I do want to know how they’re doing.”
I smirked. “If you weren’t so concerned about the way your wife looked at him, I’d invite he and his sister down for a refresher course.”
Vellin snorted. “Are they still trying to recruit us?”
“It didn’t sound like it,” I said, then smiled. “Why, disappointed?”
“Fuck no,” he said, then grinned. “Though it’s flattering to be wanted.”
“Don’t you have a brief you should be working on?”
“Probably. Invitation for dinner tomorrow night still stands?”
I nodded, fixing the shades before I made my way to the door. “You and Kasey are in charge of dessert.”
“You bake better than I do.”
“Then bring ice cream.”
“Five-thirty. After soccer practice.”
He flashed me a thumbs up and I waved on my way out the door.
Just another day in Fredericksburg.