Ashleigh spoke with Nathan, “So…tell me more about this man who wants to meet me.” She walked into the kitchen, excitement in her voice.
“Oh…” Nathan laughed nervously as he glanced behind him and then back at her. “That guy.”
“Spencer told me you were all hired to find me.” She reached into the fridge and grabbed a soda. When she popped the top, the bottle fizzed a little.
“He’s a nice enough guy. Easy going, for the most part. He and I get along pretty well.”
“What’s he like?” She took a drink then looked briefly at Spencer and Natalie, who were following them.
“You’ll see soon enough.”
“Why does he want to meet me?”
“He’s a huge fan of your books, so he’s an admirer.” Nathan leaned up against the counter next to her. “He’s got a crush on you.”
“A crush?” She laughed with the can to her lips.
“Oooo…” Natalie giggled as she selected a bottle of beer for herself. “A crush. Is he hot?”
“No.” Spencer crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes not leaving the prize that had been denied him earlier. “Not at all.”
“Don’t listen to him.” Nathan’s hands gripped the counter behind him loosely, “You’re gonna love him. He’s easy to get along with, and he’s an awesome guy to work for. That guy throws the best parties, too.”
“He’s not a stalker, is he?”
“Naww…” Nathan snickered as he caught Ashleigh’s suspicious expression. “He’s just a big fan.”
“So, all he wants to do is meet me? Nothing else?”
“Here’s the deal.” Spencer spoke, taking over the conversation. “Our master is offering you twenty-five K for a private interview. All expenses paid, round trip to the beautiful, historic city of Vice. Natalie can go along, too.”
“Ooo…so, it’d be like a vacation?” Natalie giggled. “Do we get shopping money?”
“Sure.” Spencer’s gaze was still focused on Ashleigh.
“Well…” Ashleigh paused, her eyes going from Natalie to Nathan, and then to Spencer. “I don’t want to do an interview. I use a pen name for a reason. So people don’t find me.”
“Come on, he only wants to meet you.” Nathan playfully nudged her shoulder with his. “It’s not an official interview or anything. It’ll be a casual thing. Like meeting someone for lunch type of thing. And we’ll make sure you get home safe and sound after the interview. No worries.”
“We could use the money to put in a hot tub out back,” Natalie spoke excitedly. “Come on, Ash.”
“One night with our Master in exchange for a vacation to Vice and twenty-five K. It’s a good deal.” Spencer’s voice grew more upbeat, his hands crossing over his chest casually.
“Only one night?” Ashleigh gazed down at the can in her hand. “And then we can go home?”
“Yeah.” Spencer nodded. “Just one night.”
“And we’d be meeting in a public place?” Her eyes narrowed on Spencer, and though her tone was strong, it wavered a bit and showed her underlying fear. “Somewhere I can easily escape if he’s a psycho bent on making me his wife?”
“His intentions are innocent, I promise.” Nathan’s voice was reassuring. “He’s a sweet guy, and you’re his idol, so he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you.”
“He won’t bite me?” Ashleigh’s eyebrows rose, a stern expression on her face.
“He’ll be good,” Nathan answered.
“I said I don’t do any private interviews and I mean that,” Ashleigh retorted snarkily. She went to turn from him, but Natalie stood in her way.
“Come on, Ash,” Natalie’s voice was whiney. “Just do it. It’ll be a free vacation for one stinkin’ interview. And Nathan promised you’d come home safe.”
“And you believe him?” Ashleigh laughed limply as she motioned toward the men. “A vampire?”
“Hey.” Nathan sent her a dirty look. “Just because I’m a vampire, doesn’t mean I don’t keep my word.”
Ashleigh was about to say something, but she caught Natalie’s puppy dog expression and she cracked. It was a lot of money, and a trip like that would be fun. Sighing, she turned back to Nathan. “And this guy’s an Elder, right? So, he’s not immortal or anything? Like, he’s been around since time began kind of thing?”
“No, he’s not immortal, just an Elder.” Spencer took her drink and snuck a sip. “The guy’s like, forty, or something.”
Nathan chuckled, shaking his head at Spencer’s answer.
“Only forty?” Ashleigh’s eyes narrowed on Nathan.
“Not even that,” Nathan reassured. “And he’s harmless, I promise.”
Natalie leaned in and whispered to Ashleigh, “Isn’t Armageddon doing a concert in Vice soon?” Natalie smiled when she saw Ashleigh’s surprised look. “Let’s see if we can catch the concert while we’re there, too.”
“So…” Ashleigh smiled, her eyes going to Nathan’s. She then spoke with hand gestures, a happiness in her voice now that hadn’t been there before. “Add Armageddon tickets with backstage, all-exclusive passes to that and we’ll do it.”
“I can definitely do that,” Nathan assured. “And I’ll be your escort. Spencer hates the band, so he won’t want to go along.” He glanced at Spencer, who wore a sour expression.
“Okay, deal. But this can only be a casual interview. It has to be in a public place—nothing private,” Ashleigh added.
“Okay.” Spencer took her hand and shook it. “You got a deal.”