The candles glimmered off of the nacreous pistol trembling in Allana Nightshade’s hand. Creighton eased back onto the couch, holding her hands gingerly in the air, although she looked more like she was protecting a wet manicure than offering surrender. As she waited for Allana to speak, she idly mused that she’d never been held at gunpoint before. Knifepoint, yes; fangpoint, definitely, but never gunpoint. Oddly pleased by this addition to her repertoire, she leaned forward to fetch her glass. Allana’s squeak was echoed by an ominous clicking sound.
"Easy there, all I’m going for is the armagnac." She took a bracing sip. "Is that thing safe? Based on the inlay and the miquelet lock I’d say it was Napoleonic war era." Uncertainty crept over Allana’s face like a black cat. Creighton improvised wildly, shrugging on her inner Oxonian don like a gown. "Civilized nations ditched that model for the flintlock not long after yours was made. They had a rather nasty tendency of blowing up while you were holding them. Bad for armies. Own goal sort of thing."
Allana’s eyes got even wider and she flung the firearm onto the coffee table. Creighton picked it up and examined it. “Did you know that Louis gave you an unloaded pistol? Chekhov would be so mad.”
An hour later, dawn was turning the drapes a sooty gold and Creighton had managed to convince Allana that she was, at the very least, not an active threat for the moment. Brandied tea had been swapped out in favor of Irish coffee, and Creighton had unearthed some faintly stale croissants. All in all, a very civilized standoff.
"So, you’re seriously a vampire hunter? Like, Buffy?"
"Well, sort of." Creighton ran her hand through auburn hair with a deep violet underlayer, assuring herself that fright hadn’t given her blonde-highlighted 90’s bangs. "Except Google instead of Giles, Yale instead of Sunnydale, and contrary to any rumors you may have heard I have never schtupped a big bad."
"So, you’re really not into Gabriel?"
"My dear," Creighton drawled, "not to cast aspersions upon your recent folie d’amour, but the female authors on his bookshelf begin with Ayn Rand and end with Ann Coulter. I have literally never seen so many Raymond Carver anthologies in one place in my entire life. Give me some credit - I was just trying to figure out what he was up to.”
"I bet you would say that even if you were in love with him!" Her face took on a confused cunning. "How do I know you’re not lying to me?"
"It’s seven am," Creighton groaned. "I prefer never to see this hour, coming or going. Believe me or not, Ripley. You call Gabriel and Louis and get them to come over here somehow so we can sort this out. I’m going to take a nap."
Anybody standing outside of Creighton’s building that Saturday morning would have been excused for thinking that she was hosting a Druidic cult meeting, as not one but two separate figures cloaked in hooded grey emerged from town cars and muttered in incomprehensible languages while taking an inordinately long time to figure out how the buzzer worked. Eventually the door cicada’ed and they swept in, elbowing each other over who got precedence.
"Good morning, gentlemen," Creighton opened her door with a flourish. She had changed out of the cashmere onesie into a vampire negotiating outfit: black velvet blazer with brass buttons, pencil skirt, and lace-up black boots with chunky heels were finished with a severe topknot and plum lipstick. "I appreciate you coming out in daylight. Anyone need coffee? Pig’s blood? Sunscreen?"
"Let us just get down to the business," Louis hissed, vicious, eyes scanning her boot to hair and flicking coldly away. She tamped down a pang and blinked away glassiness.
"Good morning," Gabriel said, more gracious, although his eyes, too, chilled as he looked through the apartment and saw a single bouquet of chrysanthemums on the kitchen island. Creighton smugly pictured the trash chute choked with lilies. "Allana," he sketched a bow. "Creighton." She froze.
"Uh, who?" Gabriel flicked a ConEd bill filched from the letterbin, prominently addressed to one Dr. Creighton Crossley.
"Do not insult me. I knew who you were all along." He let the silence stretch to a sharp point and then laughed. "Don’t fret, pet. I found it adorable that you thought to fool me." Creighton narrowed her eyes; she hated adorable.
"You got me," squaring her shoulders, thankful for the extra 3 inches of height her lug heel offered. "And as long as we’re being honest? I know all about your minion-pimping. Do you really think that I - that Louis, for that matter - would let you get away with being the vampiric Heidi Fleiss of New York academe?”
"Louis?" Gabriel shook his head avuncularly. "Your darling Louis knows. In fact, he is on the waiting list."