Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday Snippet 6.22.07

My snippet for today picks up (almost) where we left off last week. Scott has taken Cynthia out for birthday drinks at The Mirage (they're in Vegas). I took out the travel between the two places, because I still don't want these snippets to be too long.


NOTICE: This material is coyrighted, probably buggy, and possibly not going to be in the final draft. Please do not reproduce it anywhere, in any form.

(Chapter One, part two)

We sat sipping our drinks in silence for a little while; I was enjoying the novelty of having someone fetch me a drink for a change instead of being the one doing the fetching. He eventually started the small talk with questions of the “do you have anything special planned for your birthday” variety. I didn’t, other than the visit home, which he already knew about. I almost let the conversation stop at that.
Scott was a good enough friend, however, that even the moment of panic he’d given me in the parking lot didn’t deserve the silent treatment. Especially since it was unintentional. And followed by a date—well, the closest thing to a date I was likely to get.

“So, what about you? Any plans for Labor Day weekend?”

“Nothing much.” His hair flopped into his eyes as he shook his head. I fished the cherry out of my drink to keep my hands occupied until he swept the lock of hair back into place. “I have to work, which is just as well. If I didn’t, Karly wanted to—”
He broke off, turned slightly green, and took a long sip of his drink. When he met my eyes again, his smile was firmly back in place.

“So sorry. This is supposed to be a special night out for you. Not a time for me to air relationship problems.”

Relationship problems? Forget my birthday; Christmas had just come early! If he and Karly broke up, this would be the first time since we’d met that we were both single. Maybe we could finally—no. I was not going to hope that their relationship crashed and burned.

“It’s okay, Scott. We haven’t had much chance to just talk lately.” It had all been either business, or Karly had been present. “Rant away if you want to.”
I tried to keep a sympathetic expression on my face as he aired the little grievances that make or break a relationship, but it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

“Hey, Cynthia!”

Oops. Guess I should have paid closer attention to what Scott was actually saying and less to the way his eyes flashed, the rhythm of his voice, the sensual twist to his lips when he was trying to not laugh or trying to not cry, the—


“I asked if you wanted another drink.”

“Oh, sure. Here.” I reached for my purse, but he grabbed my hands and held them clasped in his.

“Your birthday. My treat.”

One drink wouldn’t get me drunk. True, I hadn’t eaten recently, but I couldn’t be drunk. Yet if I wasn’t drunk, why couldn’t I concentrate?

I watched Scott at the bar, waiting beside a dark man who was looking a me with a penetrating stare as if he felt my gaze. This type of look, unfortunately, is nothing new. It happens all the time to women who are built like I am. However, just because I’m used to it doesn’t mean I have to like it. The last time I followed up on a stare like that I ended up getting my heart stomped on so hard that the depression drowned out all of the internal calls to duty I should have been getting. A vacation from Watcher duty sometimes sounds nice, but the timing was awful: I needed a task or two to take my mind off the heartbreak.

The man at the bar was not going to drop eye contact until I made some kind of overture, so I looked away. I risked another look back when Scott took longer than I had anticipated, and couldn’t see the other man anywhere. The bartender was in the process of pouring our drinks: another Tokyo Tea for me, and something that looked like a Black Russian. I had teased Scott once about using his minor Telekinesis to tip the Kaluah bottle when the bartender was mixing drinks, but he denied it with a faint smile. If I’d been paying more attention earlier, I could have used my new spell and caught him, but by the time I thought of it he was on his way back.

“So, did you strengthen the drink this time?” I realized as I spoke that my head had completely cleared. Just like magic.

“Not this time... I do have to drive home, you know.”

“Oh well, I’ll catch you next time.”

He grinned at me, eyebrows arching as he searched my face. “You will, will you?”

“I will. I bought myself a book for my birthday. Finished it yesterday.” This would have been a complete non sequitur if he didn’t already know that I was one of the Watchers who gained spells through reading books: regular, ordinary books. Fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. And there is no way to be sure what spell—if any—I will learn from a book.

“Very nice. What does it do?”

“Well, I have yet to test it, but it detects magic somehow.”

We spent the next half hour nursing our drinks and teasing each other about our magical limitations. By the time the last of my drink was too watered down to taste remotely like anything I would want to actually drink, there were people filling in the tables around us and our conversation had to switch to a more mundane topic.

“You really should be more careful,” Scott said during a lull in conversation when I was trying to rack my slightly-inebriated brain for a non-magical discussion subject. “It’s just a good thing for you that it was me behind you in the parking lot today, and not the guy who’s been kidnapping cocktail waitresses up and down the Strip.”

“They’ve all been—but—they figured out a pattern?”

“Well, the girls have all been waitresses coming off of a shift, and none of them had changed out of their work uniforms yet.” He swirled the ice around in the bottom of his tumbler and brought the glass to his lips. He lowered it again without taking a sip. “I think many of them have been about your height and build, too.”

My mind spun. I knew there was a kidnapper out there, but there were always going to be stupid people in the world who did dumb, and usually highly illegal, things. That’s what we Watchers were for, right? To help the victims? The possibility that I would fit into the pattern of the victim had never been a part of my world-view.
“Please, Cynthia, be careful.” His voice was low and earnest; his eyes pleaded with me to agree.

I tried to answer, but couldn’t find my voice. When he leaned forward, his expression getting even more anxious, I managed to nod. He sat back in his chair, and schooled his face and posture into a relaxed appearance. Only his eyes still betrayed his worry. It was still more than I could bear to see.

“Hey, don’t worry!” I put as much self-confidence and encouragement into my voice as I could muster. “I’ll watch out for myself. And anyone who does try to nab me will have his hands full with more than he bargained for!”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right! Besides, we’re here to celebrate my birthday. You had better start telling me how wonderful I am, not implying that I can’t take care of myself.”

“Uh huh. Just like you took care of yourself when you managed to overturn the entire buffet table on Mothers’ Day?”

That did it.

Amid my protestations of innocence, Scott started laughing, which chased the last of the worry from his eyes. Of course, he didn’t tell me how wonderful I was, instead regaling me with even more tales of the many mistakes I had made. I maintain that none of it was my fault, since no one had bothered to tell me that the Watchers as a whole were more concerned with picking up the pieces than preventing an actual disaster in the first place.

If Humpty Dumpty had come to us, we could have put him together again much neater than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. And yet, even though we were capable of even more than that, not one of us—myself and my brother excepted—would have lifted a finger to stop him from falling.

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