When we were approached last year about doing a special edition of Magic Bites the original proposal was, I think, bundling Bites and Burns into a trade paperback thing. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say we were reluctant, but we did not want to do that. We decided that if we were going to republish it, it should have some extra goodies. Ilona included a bunch of new info like character bios and an FAQ. My contribution to the cause was an old Curran POV, I think it was the first one I ever did and a new one, Curran sees Kate and Crest in Fernado’s. I know the second one has never been seen other than in the Magic Bites SCI Atlanta Special Victims Unit thing (not the actual title, just something I call it). I don’t even know if I’m allowed to post it, but since I live by the rule that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, here it is without further ado. At least until they make me take it down.
I sat at a table in Fernando’s. It wasn’t my favorite place—too posh, too public—but Myong liked it. The service was good, the food was okay, but people didn’t really come to Fernando’s to eat. They came to be seen. Most of them were self-important people indulging themselves. It wasn’t my crowd, and I didn’t care to be seen by them.
Myong glanced up from her menu. She, on other hand, fit into Fernando’s quite well. She was beautiful, and she had that cultured elegance that went along with wealth and privilege. Any of the men here would’ve loved to have her on their arm. It was almost as if she were one of the rewards of power—a gorgeous woman suitable for a successful man, and she did nothing to break that impression. And now I was that guy with her. I was in a restaurant I didn’t like, among people I couldn’t stand, and I was bored.
I surveyed the patrons—men and women, sitting around identical tables, murmuring in quiet voices, drinking their wine. A woman walked between the tables, led by a waiter. She wore a champagne-colored gown, and something about the way she moved, perfectly balanced, caught my eye. Most people would be focusing on the waitress, but she seemed aware of her surroundings, not anxious but ready, cataloging the possible dangers and summing people up.
The waiter turned. The woman turned after her, and I saw her face.
Kate. Kate Daniels. Here, in Fernando’s. I put down my menu. Where in that really revealing dress was she hiding her sword? Did she have it strapped to her thigh?
Kate kept gliding in her heels. She looked stunning. Her hair was down, framing her face and falling past her shoulders and down her back. The dress fit her well, almost as if it had been tailor-made to flatter her lean, strong frame, displaying all of the things jeans and those ugly sweatshirts usually concealed. She looked, well, feminine. Long legs. Supple. Bare shoulders. The dress softened her, but she had definition on her arms. Don’t see that often in a human woman.
In the short time I had known her, she had struck me as many things, brave, competent, smart-ass, but tonight she looked beautiful. It made me regret that she had declined my earlier offer of joining me in the tank.
The waiter led her to the table, where a man sat alone. She was on a date. And the poor fool wasn’t even armed. He didn’t stand a chance.
Kate circled the table, giving me a lovely view of her backside. Mm. She stood by a chair that would let her see the door. Ha. I wondered for a moment if she would flip it over and sit cowboy style, with the back of the chair protecting her stomach.
“Is something funny?” Myong asked.
Her date, a handsome man in an expensive dark suit, stared at her, his mouth hanging slightly open. You and me both, brother.
The waiter held the chair for her. Her date didn’t even rise. Come on, fancy lad, stand up, say something charming, hold her chair for her. Did they not teach etiquette at Little Lords Academy?
Kate sat. The fancy lad kept staring.
Gods, man, act like you’ve been out with a lady before.
He finally recovered and said something. She said something back. He smiled. They managed to engage in some small talk.
I glanced across the table at my own date. Myong looked lovely as always, in her perfect little black dress. She caught me looking and as usual, she looked down demurely. Yes, yes, I get it, you’re not offering me a challenge. I didn’t need a show of submission every time I looked at her. This beauty and the beast routine was getting stale.
Where Kate radiated strength and a capacity for violence, Myong’s beauty was far more fragile, like an exquisite crystal bird. The contrast was striking. I glanced at Kate again. If I walked over to their table and started trouble, Myong would, despite being a shapeshifter, seek safety rather than risk injury, possibly under the table, clutching a fork as a weapon. She once confided that she found violence—how had she put it—“distasteful.” I was very frequently distasteful.
Still, she was intelligent and cultured, and I wanted her take on them.
“Glance causally at the couple two tables down and give me your impression of them both, please.”
Myong looked surprised but did as asked. She studied them carefully, and after a moment, she spoke softly.
“His haircut is in fashion and expensive. The suit is custom-made, and the tailoring is impeccable. His shoes are Italian leather. His hands are elegant and well taken care of. I don’t think he’s a fighter. He has no calluses or scars, and his nails are manicured. He seems at ease here, an important man. The waiter seems to know him, so he must be a regular. She is not. The dress is appropriate but seldom worn. The heels are the proper height and coordinate well with the dress, but she doesn’t like wearing them. If she has to run or fight, she will take them off.” Myong paused and allowed herself a small, slightly superior smile. “If something untoward occurs, she might use them as weapons.”
A waiter came by our table to refill Myong’s water. He took care to stand as far away from me as possible and look down. Once again, somebody recognized me, and the appropriate instructions have been issued to the staff. Don’t provoke the psychopath in charge of the shapeshifters, or he might slaughter us all. The violent animal can’t control himself. Ugh.
“Who’s that man over two tables down?” I asked.
“Dr. Maximillian Crest,” the waiter said.
“I believe he’s a plastic surgeon.”
The waiter fled, no doubt grateful to escape unharmed.
Crest, that was his name, was meanwhile droning on, while Kate seemed to be only half listening. I could not hear him clearly, but I could guess at the gist of it.
“Blah blah blah, I am handsome, I make a lot of money, this suit is expensive, and my shoes are made of the finest Corinthian leather hand-stitched by virgins under the moonlight. Of course, I could have gone into pediatrics, but for one of my amazing skill, really, plastic surgery was the only option. Beauty is so important, don’t you think? Oh, Kate, you are nearly as attractive as I. Why then should we not be beautiful together?”
The way he looked at her bugged me. As if he studied her face searching for tiny flaws that he could correct. Kate could do better.
I pressed Myong further. “What is your impression of them as a couple?”
Without a moment of hesitation, she said, “He could do better.”
“Really?” I allowed a slight edge to creep into my voice.
She seemed to shrink into herself, and I could tell she regretted the remark. “My lord,” she began.
Every time I gave my chain a little slack, she cringed. This just was not working out.
“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
It was not Myong’s fault that she found him appealing. He was handsome, and he was probably a decent human being. I had no reason to dislike him this much except that he was at the table. I offered her a dip in my tank. And she declined, so she could go and dress up like that for him.
Crest was wearing a custom-made suit and expensive shoes, while I, one the other hand, was dressed in faded jeans and a comfortable tee. The interesting thing was that Kate looked as uncomfortable as I did, despite her fancy dress and shoes. Hmm. I wondered what would happen if I walked over there and offered her to blow this joint and grab a burger with me. She’d probably laugh. But then again, she seemed to like the spotlight. Maybe she was enjoying being the center of attention at Fernando’s. There were enough men looking at her. Her clothes were crap, and from what Jim said, money was tight for her. This must’ve been her rare opportunity to shine, and she pounced on it.
Crest finally caught me staring and said something to her. Kate turned. Her eyes widened. Surprised to see me?
Her gaze lingered over Myong and slid back to me. I grinned.
Yeah, my date is almost as pretty as yours, baby.
Kate motioned to the waiter, while pretty boy looked at me. He was actually trying to stare me down. I hid a smile. Dear Doctor, you don’t want any of this. Trust me.
He kept looking. I returned the stare. I was kind of curious if he would have the nerve to come over and do something about it.
Then again, who knows, maybe he just was wondering if he could fix my nose. Believe me, Doc, you don’t wanna see my other face. I thought about giving him just a quick peek. Just a hint of a fang.
A waiter approached our table, carrying a silver tray with a bowl on it. Now what?
The waiter deposited the bowl in front of me. Milk. Ha! “Compliments of the lady at that table, sir.” Oh this was too good. I locked eyes with Kate and picked up the bowl. She was looking. I raised the dish and drained it. Salute! Your move, baby.
Crest was glaring now. He tossed his napkin on the table. Oh- oh. I wondered if I was supposed to faint or flee.
He shifted his gaze and let it linger over Myong. It was meant to provoke me, but instead he just looked at her, caught off guard, as if he just realized for the first time that she was there and she was gorgeous. He was wondering what she would look like out of her tight black dress. Your guess is as good as mine, pal. Every time I tried to touch her, she made this face, as if she was going to bravely endure. She didn’t have to worry. I would never put my “big rough hands” all over her unless I thought she wanted it. She would consent, but she didn’t want me, and that killed it for me.
I realized that another male was openly staring at my date, and I didn’t really give a damn. What did that say about me and Myong, exactly? Nothing that would ever go anywhere.
Kate had that look in her eyes that said she was contemplating punching me in the face. Settle down, buttercup. I’m not going to embarrass Dr. Dreamboat in front of you and ruin your chances of entering the upper echelons of society.
I gave Crest a little wink, just to screw with him.
He looked startled. He said something to Kate. She glanced at me, almost with regret, or maybe I was reading too much into it. They rose. He didn’t hold the chair for her again. Seriously?
They walked out. And just when we were starting to get along.
Where the hell were they going? He was probably going to try to impress her with the opera or something. I looked back at Myong. She smiled. Very dutiful.
Kate was leaving with Crest. Possibly she’d spend the night with him. And I was going home alone. I’d drop Myong off and try to salvage what was left of my evening.