Something to Watch over Me


by Aidan Boyle
1297811045|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z|agohover (updated 1300552263|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z|agohover) | 0 comment(s)

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that simply cannot end soon enough for my liking. Truthfully, I should like the holiday, it’s one of the more profitable ones at the restaurant. I’ve never been one for paper hearts and flowers and a special day set aside for sweet sentiment, even on those occasions where I have been involved in a romantic relationship of some kind. If you truly love the person you’re with, every day should be a celebration of that love – minus the saccharine and cavity causing sentiment and cards full of purple prose requiring an insulin injection. Besides that sort of over the top, heart bursting, sweaty palms and quivering knees sentiment never lasts forever.

Some say that I’m a cynic. I prefer to think of myself as pragmatic.

It’s almost amusing that one of the busiest nights is also the one where Flare closes down the quickest as well. Those on staff with significant others were quick to make their exits tonight. The usual banter and employee exchanges which can carry the various crews — from kitchen staff to bussers — into two or three in the morning was absent. People wanted to salvage what they could of the evening of romance, even Aidan managed to soundlessly and seamlessly disappear around midnight. While speculation — and more than a little bit of envy — abounded regarding our missing employer and the bevy of beauties at his disposal, I know that whatever Aidan’s pursuits are tonight there is nothing romantic or whimsical about them. He tends to lean towards more creative expressions on Valentine’s Day, the sort of which his naive employees would never imagine.

Then again, it amazes me the number of people whom surround Aidan on any given day who just don’t seem to have a hint that something is different about him. I’m not sure why it still does. If anything it’s illustration of the theory that exists among those schooled in the truth behind the darkness and shadows of our world: people will see, hear and believe exactly what they want, and will shape it to fit into their logical view of the world.

Somewhat of a small comfort that I wasn’t the only one with no place to go and no one to snuggle up with tonight. There were three of us who stayed after the rest trickled out, who ticked away the hours at the bar with tequila shots, scotch and wine reminiscing about crap relationships and wondering who has time for such pursuits anyway when you’re building a career.

But it’s near on about or after two in the morning, and after another round of cleaning — this time the bar — we’re dribbling out into the night. I’m the most sober of all of us, and it takes me three times to set the alarm and properly lock up the restaurant. Owen and Jules, Aidan’s second in command in the kitchen and the woman who’s just waiting for an opportunity to move up the kitchen ranks respectively, are too distracted by leaning on one another to stay upright to notice.

“Aidan’s going to be mad,” Jules slurs once again. She’s annoyingly preoccupied with how Aidan will react to our impromptu bar party. Then again, once she started floating in her cups, she was just annoyingly preoccupied with Aidan over all.

I check my coat pocket for cell my phone and have to check twice for my purse, which is over my shoulder where it should be. I fish out my car keys and shove them in my coat pocket. Easier to access for when I reach my car.

“Aidan won’t be mad.” At least, I think that’s what I say. The words don’t quite sound right, and watching Jules try to climb Owen before going arse over tits is a distraction that sets me to giggling.

“You should laugh more often, Kim.” Owen’s a big bloke. He should have been a footballer or a rugby player. Certainly isn’t the sort you picture in a kitchen making delicate and beautiful dishes. A big bear is what he is, with a soft rumble for a voice, that somehow he manages to keep pitched low even when slurring his words and fishing up Jules from her ungraceful sprawl. “Suits ya.”

“If I did that I’d lose my reputation of cold-hearted bitch to make you lot quiver in fear.”

“Won’t ever ‘appen.” Owen tucks Jules under his arm. She is mostly upright now, thanks in no small part to Owen’s girth and solidity, I’m sure. “You’ll always be the bitch that brings on the fear.”

“Owen, luv, you say the sweetest things.” I have a genuine fondness for Owen. He’s been with us since the beginning, back when Aidan relaunched his “father’s” restaurant with a new name and a new style. He’ll probably be with us until he retires, which will be long past the time people would start to notice that Aidan isn’t getting any older. Owen knows he has it good here; most other chefs would be ready to leave the nest after learning all they can, wanting to shine on their own. That’s not a worry for Owen. He’s not in the shadows here, and Aidan encourages him to shine. Owen’s head chef more often than Aidan, and it’s an arrangement that works for both men.

He laughs, a deep rumbling sound and lists a little to the right. “I’m a silver-tongued devil, I am.”

I watch as he and Jules half-walk and half-stagger down the block. “Are you two going to get on all right?” I’m more concerned about Jules than I am Owen. He looks imposing enough to make any number of ruffian types take a second and third thought before approaching. Jules is small and slight, and giving out any number of all the wrong drunken signs.

“Eh, we’ll be fine. I’ll make sure she gets home a’right.” Sometimes I think that Owen might be a mind-reader. Given Aidan’s existence and his free sharing of the fact that other dark things — things darker and far scarier than Aidan — do exist as well, then it’s not such a stretch to believe that maybe Owen has other skills in addition to his culinary ones.

Owen gives me a friendly wave, and then urges Jules onward. I watch them until they disappear ‘round the corner, Owen’s call for a taxi ringing out in the night. Spinning on my heel, I immediately regret it. The four inch heels compliment my dress and my legs, but do little for my balance in this state. Fortunately, I’m close enough to a lamppost to reach out and steady myself before starting onward again.

By the time I finally make it to my car, which seems to be parked further away than what I recall and also defying physics by not sliding down the car park incline, I realize that I’m quite likely not in better condition to drive than were Owen or Jules.

“Well, bollocks.” I fumble my key out of my pocket. I’ll just sit here for a bit, maybe kip off and sober up enough to drive home. That seems a much more manageable feat than walking back to Flare. However, the lock keeps moving away from the key, and the world isn’t slowing down any either. The key tumbles from my fingers and I hear them clatter to the ground, though I haven’t a clue where exactly they fell.

The next few words I utter are things that would peel paint.

“Trash mouth.” A voice drawls from behind me.

I whirl around, not a terribly intelligent idea when I’m already off-balance and very nearly collide with a large, solid black obstacle. The alarmed scream working its way up from throat is only stifled as my failure to compensate for the invasion of my personal space sends me reeling. The inevitable fall never comes however, a pair of strong hands around my waist holding me safely and securely on my feet. The recovery time is all I need to register the obstacle as a chest, and then to drag my eyes up to a pair of all too familiar, laughing blue eyes.

“What are you doing, Kimmy?” Aidan leans forward, and while I might be severely intoxicated, I know that I’m not imagining him sniffing my hair. Which yes, is just as disturbing and creepy as it sounds. “Not driving, I hope. Because you are certainly in no condition to drive.”

“I wasn’t going to drive.” I push back away from him, squaring my shoulders. It doesn’t have the indignation and attitude that I’m going for considering the door to my car is the only thing that keeps me upright. “I was going to sleep it off a bit.”

“That’s one of the things that is so quaint about you humans,” Aidan’s mouth twitches. “You make these supremely illogical choices when you’re drunk, and actually believe that they sound like good ideas.”

Aidan has this ability to speak a thousand words, and convey a thousand emotions with single, simple facial gestures. A lift of a brow, a curl of a lip. After years of association, I’m not yet entirely fluent in the full language of Aidan Boyle when I’m sober. When I’m this pissed, one smirk is as same as another, but I think he’s amused with me. Much the same way parents are amused by their toddlers performing stupid baby tricks.

It’s infuriating as hell.

“Oh shut the hell up and sod off.” I turn back to the car, remember I dropped the keys and groan.

“Looking for these?” In the reflection of the car window, I see my car keys dancing and twirling through Aidan’s fingers.

Involuntarily, my eyes dart to the ground and then back to his hand. I don’t ask. I refuse to give him the satisfaction. I turn, carefully this time and reach for the keys. It’s a stupid idea. Aidan is taller than me and I’ve already discovered my lack of balance in this state in these heels. Before I can catch myself, I’m being righted by Aidan — again — and yes, I know now that is definitely patronizing amusement on his face.

“Aidan. My keys.” I pause a beat and add quietly. “Please.”

Aidan considers. Then, “No.” He tosses them in the air and I watch them arc, catching the glittering nightlight and moonlight before being easily plucked out of the air by the annoying Vampire before me. “However, because I am the rational and sober one of the pair of us, I will drive you home.”

Even if I want to argue — and I haven’t really made up my mind whether or not it will be worth the effort — I don’t get the chance. Aidan’s arm is around my waist like a vice grip, and my feet are slip-sliding over the pavement as he deftly half-guides, half-pulls me around to the passenger side door. He unlocks it and sticks me inside, and all the fight flees as the seat solidified beneath me right before my knees give out.

I want to yell at him for mucking about with my mirrors and adjusting my seat, but even with my eyes closed the car is spinning and it’s taking all of my concentration to not throw up. Surprisingly, the motion of the car doesn’t make it worse, and is somewhat soothing. Enough so that after a few moments, I roll my head towards him and open my eyes.

“What are you doing here, anyway?” It’s still early yet by Aidan’s clock. “It’s Valentine’s Day.” Well, technically, it’s now after midnight and therefore it’s February fifteenth, but that’s not the point. “Shouldn’t you be out torturing some poor lonely single woman?” A beat, and I sit up a little, tiny alarm bells sounding in my head. “Wait, is that why you’re here? Clean up detail?”

Aidan rolls his eyes and gives me a look that says, You’re pissed to the gills if you’re asking those kinds of questions and You really should know better by now. Which means I must be sobering up, because my English-to-Aidan mental dictionary is starting to function again. “No,” Aidan blows the word out in a puff of breath. “That’s not why I’m here.”

“But you left earlier. Thought you were off happy hunting.” I instinctively slide further down in my seat, adjusting my collar at my throat. It’s the alcohol and my cluttered thoughts that do it, all human instinctual self-preservation at the thought of being alone with a hungry, peckish Vampire.

“Oh please.” The words a bored drawl. “Don’t flatter yourself. I haven’t disregarded my rules and standards.”

I lift my chin with more than a little indignation. “I’m not good enough to eat, then?”

“If I wanted to capture that old brewery taste, sure.” Aidan rolls his shoulder in a half shrug and takes the bend in the road a little too quickly for my liking. My hand wraps around the door handle, but I say nothing. I don’t want to encourage him. “I ate. She’s currently sleeping it off in a decadently posh hotel suite.”

“You’re springing for posh hotel rooms, now? Is this a new wrinkle in your hunt and seduce plan?”

I didn’t pay for it.” The naughty twist to his lips is set off by the saucy waggle of his eyebrows. “Society girls are so much fun, most especially when they are just dying to use Daddy’s credit card. Who’m I to deny them?”

“Who was she?” I’m asking not because I care whom Aidan was with, not in that way at least. No, I have to ask because I have to make sure that some politician’s daughter or old money girl isn’t going to get it in her head to find the bloke who shagged and dumped her. It hasn’t happened yet, but there’s always a first time.

Aidan’s laughter is low, but strong enough that it shakes his shoulders. “I don’t know. I didn’t get her name. Well,” he pauses and cuts his eyes toward me again. They are a haunting, near silver in the dimness of the car. “I’m sure she told it to me, but I really wasn’t paying attention to much beyond how good she smelled. Plus, she was hot. Dumber than a box of rocks, but hot.”

“You realize when you talk like that, you sound like an overgrown teenager?”

“So says the woman who spent the wee hours of the morning getting pissed with the help.”

Which brings us back around full circle. He never did answer my question. “What were you doing there again?”

“I was in the neighborhood.”

Aidan is a very good liar. He lies everyday, he lies about what he is — Vampire — and what he isn’t — human. Lying comes as effortlessly to the man as breathing does to the living. That thought stands out in my mind as I wonder why someone who is so particularly good at lying is telling a lie that a three year old would have no trouble seeing through.

“You were in …” I trail off, rolling my attention toward the urban fading into suburban sprawl flying past the window. It’s one of those times when I know that it’s better if I just leave it alone.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I realize that I must have drifted because when I blink my eyes open, I’m lying on something soft. The streets of London are no longer blurring past me and it takes a few seconds for my nightstand and bedroom lamp to come into focus.

“You were in a mood tonight.” I hear Aidan’s voice, but I’m too tired to try and find its source. Instead, I burrow into my pillow. There’s a tug on my foot and my toes curl instinctively against the sudden cold. The other shoe follows. “I thought it was probably in my best interests to make sure it wasn’t going to translate to alcohol poisoning at Flare or passing out wankered in the tub. Someone needed to be around to call for an ambulance.” He sounds annoyed and almost petulant, as though somehow I’ve put him out of his way.

“Aww, Aidan, I didn’t know you cared so much about me.”

“I don’t.” To emphasize the point, he jerks the sheet and comforter up over my body and shoulders. “I care about me. Anything happens to you, it’s a huge inconvenience to me.”

We’ve been here before. We’ve had this conversation — or one like it — before. I know that Aidan is not human in any way. I know that he’s a creature born from darkness and evil, and that probably each and every thing he does is somehow calculated to serve him. Yet, I’ve known this man — this monster — long enough to know that despite his words, there’s more to it than that.

Aidan doesn’t — is incapable — of caring about me in the same way that I care about him. I’m human and he’s a Vampire, and he thoughts and twisted emotional processes don’t even begin to translate into human standards or understanding. I accepted that a long time ago. But however he paints it, I have some sort of importance to him.

I snuggle down into the layers sheets and blanket. “Thank you anyway.”

“Whatever.” I know he’s gone when I feel the rush of wind in the room. The sound of the front door closing only confirms it.

I smile and fall asleep, oddly comforted by the knowledge that — whatever his true motivations — there is a dangerous and deadly Vampire watching over me.


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