I Follow You
I’m sitting in this posh car of Baz’s and flipping through the radio stations. There’s not much music at Watford, not since the Mage banned electronics. I stop at the station playing Christmas carols.
It’s not felt like Christmas at all this year. The days have blended together so the fact that it’s almost Christmas has caught me by surprise.
I’d be hiding out in the den with Agatha if I’d been at the Wellbeloves. Their big party is on Christmas Eve and it’s always a madhouse there in the days leading up to the actual event. Mrs. Wellbelove never liked us underfoot.
Well, she didn’t like me underfoot. And Agatha hated helping Helen dust, so we’d skive off as much as we could.
I’m relieved Baz told his step-mum we’d miss the evening meal tonight. I guess relieved isn’t quite the right word. I’m a bit gutted to miss the food but thankful to be spared another awkward encounter with his family.
I suppose I’ll have to sit through Christmas dinner with them. Won’t that be a treat. I wonder if Baz will try to make me wear coat and tails, the tosser. I’d look like a damn penguin, I would.
And he’d look like a fucking prince, the prat. I can just see it. I shake the thought out of my head.
Baz is taking forever.
I look out the passenger side window but there’s no sign of him.
I’m glad he said I didn’t have to go in with him. His aunt Fiona creeps me out. She looks so much like Baz but with sharper edges somehow. Looks at me like she’d burn me to cinders with her eyes if she could. Baz has threatened to burn me to ash more times than I can count but somehow his eyes never look quite as disconcerting as hers do.
I can’t sit still. I think about getting out of the car to stretch my legs but I don’t want to risk locking myself out. Merlin, I’d never hear the end of it from Baz if I did. I’ve not got my wand to magic myself back in, even if I could spell it open without some disaster happening to the car itself.
Not something I’d particularly want to explain to Mr. Grimm.
I tap my fingers on the armrest.
What could be taking so long? He’s supposed to ask her about Nicodemus, not stop for tea and biscuits and a bit of a jaw.
I pull at the collar of my jumper. I don’t really want to stretch it out but the neck is snugger than I like.
Not that it’s even my jumper. It’s Baz’s. Soft and posh, a pale Nordic blue. Even smells like him.
Baz insisted I wear something other than my uniform. Said I looked twelve in my Watford gear, which is rot.
At least he let me wear my own trousers. Imagine the laugh of me wearing his posh jeans—too long in the leg and too tight in the arse, no doubt.
He does look imposing in the suit he’s got on. It fits him just right, like all his clothes do, the wanker. The only clothes that fit me like that are my Watford ones. In the summers I just make do with trackies, t-shirts and baggy thrift-shop jeans.
But even my magically fitted Watford clothes have never looked anywhere near as sharp as Baz’s stylish togs. Looks right fit he does.
Dr. Wellbelove let me borrow one of his posh suits one Christmas. I wasn’t as tall or as broad in the shoulders then. It looked good. I looked good. I looked like I belonged there, next to Agatha, even if the suit hung a bit loose.
I didn’t look like I belonged last night at Pitch Manor. I looked out of place—flushed and stammering, my wrinkled school uniform starkly plain against all their posh clothes. Even with Baz wearing jeans, rather than the waistcoat and silk scarf I’d always imagined he’d wear to lounge around at his ancestral home.
Like some brooding protagonist in a Gothic novel.
I didn’t belong there yet somehow it still felt like they were trying to make me feel welcome, odd as that may be. Mr. Grimm didn’t say much after greeting me, but he didn’t make any snide comments or asides about the Mage either. Baz’s step-mum just kept passing me platters of food and giving me these fleeting little smiles when I’d pile more on my plate.
I couldn’t say no. I always thought Cook Pritchard’s food was the best, but this was even better than the meals at Watford. I had to pop my trouser button before the pudding last night.
I wasn’t going to pass on eating that trifle.
Fiona was painfully resistant to providing much information about this Nicodemus. There’s more to his story than she’s telling me, that’s for damn sure.
Who would go to the vampires? It doesn’t make sense. A Mage has power in and of himself. Magic gives us so much. Why trade that to become a pariah and an outcast?
An eternal life being ostracized? Sounds more like hell. I think the immortality rumors are complete rubbish. We’d be overrun by vampires if they were true (I don’t want them to be true).
All I know for certain is that we have to go to Covent Garden. Fiona spilled that at least. I should be able to sniff them out. Follow the scent of a fresh kill.
I hate that.
I hate that they’re out there, lurking in the shadows. Preying on some poor sod who had too much to drink. Some girl who made the mistake of walking to the tube station alone.
I can’t save them all. I can’t save any of them.
Not by myself. Not even with Snow. What are we going to do—take on an entire pack of vampires on our own? I think the fuck not.
No. It’s not the time for retribution. I need to know the truth about what happened. Why my mother seems to trust this Nicodemus when Fiona—who was his friend (or more) (I don’t want to think about that)—can barely bring herself to speak his name.
I need answers. I can burn it all down another time.
Although this may be the only time I have Snow at my side.
On my side.
He’s all agitation and tumbled curls when I get in the car. “Did she tell you anything, Baz?”
“She told me enough.”
“What’s that mean?”
I sigh as I start the car. “It means I have an idea of where to find him.”
“So we’re off to the vampire lair, then?”
I give him a withering look. “No, Snow, not yet.”
“Well, why the hell not? You know where to look now, yeah?”
“I’d rather find them after they’ve fed. They might not be all that interested in me but you look like a tasty snack.” In more ways than one , but I keep that thought to myself.
He does though. Snow looks fabulous. He looks gorgeous all the time, but the sight of him in my clothes—there’s an intimacy to it that’s threatening to wreck my composure.
Breathtaking. That’s what he is.
Even now, in this old jumper of mine. It stretches over his broad shoulders, hugs his chest, in just the right way. The colour brings out the blue of his eyes.
I want him to keep it.
I know that’s stupid. But I don’t wear it and the thought of Snow having something of mine—something that brushes against his skin, that soaks in the scent of him, that is tangibly my own and now his--that’s tantalizing, I must admit.
I’ll make sure he takes it with him when he goes.
I don’t want him to go.
But what reason do I have to convince him to stay once we get answers from Nicodemus? None, really.
Not unless I can find a way to draw it out. Keep the truce going through the winter break. Make him stay by my side as we puzzle this mystery out.
Entice him with more of Daphne’s cooking? That actually might work. He’d certainly not stay for me.
Snow’s voice interrupts my fantasies of toasting New Year’s Eve with him at my side. “So what’re we going to do then? Just drive around until what, dinner time?”
My tone is sharper than I intend when I answer. “No, you berk, we’ve got research to do.”
So now we’re at the British Library. I’ve never seen so many books in one place. Entire floors of them. Galleries full. It’s a world of books.
Baz is striding around as if he owns the place, pulling books off the shelves, foraging through catalogues, going up on tiptoe to reach the higher racks.
I’m following behind, carrying books. I can barely see over the towering pile he’s burdened me with. “Can I put these down somewhere? Nab a table for us or something?”
Baz frowns, places two more books on the stack in my arms, then narrows his eyes at me. “You’d have to stay at the table, to make sure the librarian doesn’t reshelve them while I keep looking.”
“It would be a treat to stop following you around like your own personal book Sherpa.”
I think Baz almost smiled. His lips quirked up and it wasn’t a sneer for once.
“Fine, Snow. Your Sherpa duties are suspended. Find a quiet spot, and I’ll join you in a bit.”
There’s precious few people here besides us.
I suppose most people don’t willingly spend their Christmas holiday in a library. Baz looks as if he couldn’t be happier. It’s odd to see him so . . . well, maybe content is the right word? He’s more at ease here, almost smiling to himself as he pulls books out, carefully flipping through them, and then putting them back on the shelf. I think he actually patted one a moment ago, before setting it aside.
I can’t help but think of how similar he is to Penny. They’re both absolutely gone when it comes to books. Can’t get enough of them. I’ve been to Penny’s house before—I’ve seen how she gets when her mother brings home a load of new books.
Baz has that same gleam in his eye right now. But softer somehow, like his edges have been smoothed a bit.
Merlin, maybe the trick to getting him to soften up is to surround him with books. Distract him from his plotting to end me.
Although he’s not done much scheming since our truce. I haven’t had that feeling from him at all. It’s odd. Unnerving in a way.
I kind of like it.
Which is bollocks, because as soon as we’ve figured things out everything will go back to how it was. Stinging comments. Dirty looks. Spats about the window, the bathroom, the smell of my magic, my dismal inadequacies as a mage—all the miserable interactions we usually have.
Baz joins me a short time later, a tower of books in his arms. He pushes one pile toward me and keeps the other for himself.
“Any mention of vampires, Snow. That’s what we’re after. Get to it.”
And with that he buries his nose in the book he’s holding and it’s research time.
Bloody hell. He is just like Penny.
We leave an hour later with our stash on the table slightly diminished. Baz has pocketed at least three of the books and he’s ignoring my outraged looks.
“You can’t take those,” I hiss at him.
“It’s the British Library, Snow. It’s meant for all of us.”
“To read the books, you privileged prat, not steal them.”
“I’m not stealing. I’m borrowing. That’s what libraries are for, in case you’ve conveniently forgotten, Snow.”
“So you’re telling me you’ll bring them back, then?”
“I’m not a barbarian.”
“I’m sure you’re breaking some law.”
“It’s our taxes at work on the upkeep here, Snow. And I highly doubt they’ll miss them.”
“You’re overly self-righteous. It’s tedious.” He turns and raises one eyebrow. “Come along, now. We’ve not got all day.”
My stomach rumbles as we make our way to where Baz parked his car (illegally, I might add) (he spelled the no parking sign invisible, the wanker.)
I hope our next stop is dinner.
Our next stop is the fucking British Museum.
The Reading Room to be exact. Baz pilfers a few more books. I end up arguing with him again. He’s trying to get me to hide one of them under my jumper.
“Listen. You can’t just do this. You can’t just take those books.”
“I told you, it’s research.”
“it’s treason, is what it is .”
“Are you going to tell the Queen, Snow?”
I huff and make him steal his own books. I’ll not be party to theft against the Crown, for Merlin’s sake.
The museum closes and we wander around until my stomach rumbles loudly again. Baz rolls his eyes.
“Well, I don’t see why the vampires get to have a meal before we go searching for them and we don’t,” I complain.
“Ugh, fine.” He waves an arm around the square. “Find a place. Just not a chippy. I don’t want to get grease stains on the books.”
“Oh, now you’re worried about the books.”
We find a place where I can get a curry and some samosas. Baz doesn’t order anything. He sits across from me, sucking on his fangs and flipping through the pages of some dusty leather tome—the one he was trying to get me to pilfer.
I expect this is why he’s never had a girlfriend. At least none that I’ve heard about. Can’t imagine many girls would be up for dates that involve library research, outright larceny and being ignored all through dinner. Not bloody likely, even if he is all posh and fit.
Baz slams the book shut, startling me just as I’m scooping up the last remnants of my tikka masala.
He stands up. “Come along, Snow.”
He’s out the door in an instant. I don’t know how he moves that fast.
I scramble to follow him outside. “Are we going after the vampires now, then?”
“Would you keep it down? I don’t need our business broadcast through all of Bloomsbury,” Baz hisses as he sweeps past me, heading down the street in the direction of the car (illegally parked again ) (it’s getting to be a habit, this criminal activity of his.)
I buckle in and narrow my eyes at him. “So Covent Garden, then? That’s where she said they hang out?”
Baz glances at his watch (I swear to Merlin it’s a fucking Rolex). “Bloody hell. How can it only be eight o’clock?”
“What’s the problem? It’s dark out. The vampires should be on the prowl by now.”
I get another eye roll. The similarities between Baz and Penny are really starting to grate on me.
“No, Snow. They won’t start this early. It’ll be close to midnight before they’ve got easy pickings from the drunks heading home for the night.”
I frown at him and cross my arms over my chest. “How do you know this?”
Baz sighs. “I don’t know anything. It’s just conjecture. It’s sure to be a damn sight easier to lure someone into a dark alleyway late in the night, rather than when commuters are still crowding the streets and club goers are just heading out.” He meets my gaze, eyes grey as the winter sea, but lacking their usual spark. “It’s how predators work, Snow.” His shoulders sag as he leans back in his seat.
I think of all the times he slipped back into our room late in the night. I think about the hollowed-out rat corpses in the Catacombs. I think about the night I found him down there, fifth year.
I decide not to push Baz on this.
“So what’re we going to do now? Rob another library?”
That gets the flash back in his eyes as he directs a glare at me. “We’re going to go to the feeding grounds.”
That sounds sufficiently ominous.
It’s not what I expect.
It ends up Baz means the various dance clubs scattered around Covent Garden. The clubs that spill out drunk and boisterous revelers at all hours of the night. Revelers who need to catch buses or the tube or flag down taxis in the dark and twisty streets. Pretty girls who may not notice the unnaturally pale skin of their dance partners in the multi-colored strobe lights of a dance bar. Carousers who eagerly take the offer of a ride home from the bloke who’s been sitting next to them at the bar for the last few hours, making pleasant conversation about Arsenal.
There are a surprising number of people out and about in Covent Garden tonight, considering it’s Christmas Eve. It takes me an inordinately long time to find a parking spot. We could have walked from the restaurant, as Snow keeps unhelpfully reminding me, but I prefer to have the option of a quick getaway, should things turn ugly with the vampires.
This was probably a mistake, coming here with him.
Snow continues to badger me as we get out of the car. He’s far too hung up on this and I simply don’t have the patience for it.
“Crowley, Snow, it’s not like I spend all my time plotting your downfall. I do have a life that doesn’t revolve around you.” Not quite a lie but close enough.
“But dancing? You go dancing? You can’t be serious.”
I can’t believe this is what he’s fixated on. I give him a withering look. “It’s called having fun, Snow. Ever tried it?” I want to take the words back as soon as I see his face fall. Of course he hasn’t. His life has been an endless shuffling from care home to care home, except for when he’s at Watford where he spends any free time he has training as the Mage’s boy soldier—honing his skills as a weapon of destruction.
I feel like an absolute wanker. But I can’t take it back now. I can never take back anything I say to Snow. It stays there, written on both our souls in indelible ink.
“You can’t be serious,” I say. “I’m not going to a dance club.”
“Then you can sit in the car and wait, Snow.”
Well, I’ll be fucked if I let him go sneaking off on his own. I trot down the sidewalk after him. “Baz, this makes no sense.”
He whirls back to face me, the streetlights highlighting half his face, the rest of it shadowed. “Then let me explain it to you using small words. We go to the club. We watch for suspicious activity. When we see someone acting dodgy we follow them out.”
“But what if they’re… I mean, what if they’re...”
“Spit it out, Snow.”
“There’re dodgy people at clubs who aren’t vampires, is all I’m saying. They’re not the only ones who might be willing to get up to dubious behaviour in a back alley, if you get my meaning.” My face is hot. I can feel the heat rush all the way up to my ears.
Merlin, this is fucking awkward.
I can tell as soon as he realizes what I mean. His mouth drops open and his eyes widen. He schools his face rapidly and drops his eyes, making a show of adjusting his cuffs. “Well, we’ll try to make sure we don’t interrupt anything . . .”
He trails off.
“Right. Good luck with that.”
He squares his shoulders then lifts his gaze up to mine, eyebrows lowered, eyes hooded. “I trust that I’ll be able to recognize the difference.”
“You’d have to be bloody psychic.”
“Trust me, Snow, I’ll have a better clue than you will!” There’s a harshness to his tone and a pained expression on his face.
And now I’m the one making a realization. He can sense them. Or at least he thinks he can.
Has Baz ever met another vampire? Other than the ones that Turned him? Not like he actually met them , of bloody course. Doubt they bothered with introductions first.
So I don’t know if he’s ever come face to face with one since and I don’t quite dare ask him right at the moment.
I’ve got to get through this night with him. Antagonizing him isn’t the way to do it.
I can’t believe I’m agreeing to this. But I do know one thing--I’m not letting him out of my sight, not with other vampires around.
“Fine. I’ll trust you on this, Baz. But so help me, I do not want to stumble onto some randy couple getting it on in a back alley!”
I don’t particularly want to blunder into a vampire feeding on a victim either but at least I’d know what to do in that situation.
“Point taken, Snow. I’ll try to ferret out the blood-sucking versus the cock-sucking before your delicate sensibilities and virgin eyes are irrevocably sullied.” He stomps away, still managing to look effortless and graceful, while I scurry in his wake.
“You are such a fucking arsehole.”
I follow him across the street to the club and isn’t it just typical that he bypasses the regular line to queue up at the VIP entrance.
The bouncer greets him like an old friend. “Ah, seems like it’s been ages since you’ve been here.” He peers over Baz’s shoulder at me. “Not your regular company tonight, eh? The boys off for the holiday?”
The boys? Oh. He must mean Dev and Niall. Seems Baz keeps company with his minions even when he’s away from Watford.
“Unavoidably detained in the country,” Baz drawls, then slips the guy a tenner as he sweeps past him, motioning for me to follow.
Baz has practically admitted he’s a vampire, but somehow the revelation that he frequents dance clubs is harder for me to fathom at the moment.
“Shut your mouth, Snow. It makes you look far too thirsty. And I don’t mean for a drink. Someone will be whisking you into a back alley, if you don’t watch yourself.”
I sputter for an instant but I’ve got to keep my wits about me, because Baz is already striding toward the bar and I don’t want to lose him in the press of people.
He’s back, drinks in hand a moment later. I take the one he passes me and eye the glass dubiously. “I don’t drink, you know.”
I get a raised eyebrow. “Good to know you’re so virtuous, Snow.” He takes a sip from his own and gestures at my glass. “It’s soda water and lime, you utter berk. I’m not about to let either of us get muddled tonight. We’ve got to keep our wits about us, challenging as that may be for you.”
I take a cautious sip and relief floods through me at the bland taste of the soda water. I swallow the whole thing down.
“You’re a barbarian, Snow, really.”
“I’m thirsty is all. Those samosas were a mite salty.”
“Well, I’m not about to go get you another drink. That’s all I need tonight, you skiving off to the lav right when things get interesting.”
I turn away from him and take a moment to look around the club. I’ve never been to one before. It’s not the kind of place for a care home day trip.
The music is loud, the bass beat so intense I can feel it thumping through my chest. It’s early in the night but there are still masses of people here, hovering near the bar, gathered around high tables, pressed against each other on the dance floor.
I can’t say it fits with what I imagined, but I’ve never really thought much about places like this either.
I can honestly say I never imagined Baz at a dance club. I’m still a bit staggered at the thought.
I’ve lived with Baz for over seven years and I’ve somehow managed to discover more about him in the last twenty-four hours than in all that time before.
It’s unexpected. Everything about the last few weeks has been.
I move closer to Baz, going up on tiptoe so I can reach his ear. I probably don’t even need to bother, what with his vampire super senses, but I do it anyway. “So you weren’t kidding when you said you hang out at places like this? On a regular basis?”
I can’t tell if it’s the glow of the lights or if his face gets flushed at my question. He doesn’t turn to look at me and he doesn’t answer right away. I bump his shoulder lightly with mine, to encourage him.
He tilts his head down, bending close to my ear. I can smell his posh shampoo when he does. His hair is falling forward a bit, not quite as pristine as it was a few hours ago. It tickles my cheek.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to call it regular ,” Baz says. I don’t expect him to say more after that but he does. “It gets quite boring in Hampshire over the summer.” He pauses and then I feel his breath against my skin as he continues. “It’s just a lark. Dev, Niall and I come up for the night on occasion, have a few drinks, a few laughs, burn off some energy dancing. For fun.”
I think about that. I think about Baz doing something for fun. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about Baz doing anything for entertainment--other than finding ways to humiliate or enrage me.
It makes me feel odd, to think of him here, standing under the flashing lights. Grinning at Dev and Niall, letting his face relax into something other than a sneer. Making his way to the dance floor, as graceful and fucking ruthless as he is on the pitch.
I can almost see it. See him swaying to the music, shirt partially unbuttoned, head tilted back, eyes closed as he moves to the beat.
It’s right warm in here.
I can feel a trickle of sweat trail its way down my back. I dart a glance at Baz, who looks as cool and collected as he did when we left Pitch Manor. He raises his glass to me and smirks.
My face heats up. I jiggle the ice in my glass and sip a few of the drops that have melted.
We stand, shoulder to shoulder, pressed together by the growing crush of bodies around us.
Everyone looks pale and washed out under these lights. I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I don’t even know what a normal vampire looks like. I mean maybe they’re like goblins—fit buggers? Posh and fit, like Baz?
I’ve got no idea.
I don’t have much time to think about it. There’s a bloke standing right in front of us, all wavy blonde hair and tight jeans, with his silky shirt half unbuttoned. He’s smiling but it’s not at me. He’s only got eyes for Baz. I can’t quite catch what he says but Baz gives him a polite smile and a shake of his head.
The bloke shrugs and walks away, turning his head to wink at Baz before disappearing into the masses of people on the dance floor.
I’m whirling in Baz’s direction as soon as the guy shoves off. “Did he . . . did he just hit on you ?”
Baz gives me a side-long look, then leans down so I can hear him. “It’s a dance club, Snow. He asked me to dance. It’s what people do here.”
I’m still reeling from that when a girl sidles up to Baz and starts batting her eyelashes at him, twirling a strand of her dark hair with one finger and going up on tiptoe to make herself heard. It also makes her lean forward and flash a bit more of her cleavage in his direction.
He gives her the same smile he gave the bloke and the same shake of his head. She darts her eyes at me and then back to Baz before resting her hand on his forearm and nodding in my direction. He shakes his head again but his smile’s gone this time.
I wish I’d heard what she said to him. I hope she’s not going to turn around and talk to me now.
I needn’t have worried. She’s off a moment later, without a backward glance.
I scan the people around us, take in the bodies moving on the dance floor, and then I pause for a moment to really look at Baz. To take in the sight of him, as if I were seeing him for the first time.
As if I didn’t know what an absolute prick he is.
He’s striking, with his grey eyes and his shiny dark hair. That aristocratic nose (I’m likely the only one that can see the bump on it) (I put it there.)
How he carries himself, the set of his shoulders, so self-assured. The way the fabric of his suit clings to him, hugs every curve, accentuating his long legs, his slim yet powerful build.
He’s breathtaking, if you don’t know him, isn’t he?
Baz shifts, breaking my concentration. He gazes down at his watch and tilts his head at me. I can see his lips move, mouthing the words “let’s go.”
Seems it’s time to hunt down some vampires.
I almost regret it, when we leave the club.
For a moment I could forget the rest of it. For a moment we were just two blokes having a night on the town together.
I don’t know how many times I’ve come to these clubs to exorcise Simon Snow from my brain. I don’t know how many times I’ve danced with faded copies of him, in a vain attempt to pretend he’s the one with me.
I finally have him here, at a club, within easy reach. Steps away from the dance floor and inches away from my arms and it’s nothing like my fantasies.
We’re not here together. Not really. We’re not even here as friends.
We’re here hunting vampires.
We’re searching for clues about my mother’s killer.
We’re here because we’ve been forced into this uneasy detente.
No more than that.
I look at my watch. It’s early yet but I can’t stand being here any longer.
Not like this.
Not when I can feel every beat of his heart, every thrum of blood in his veins, the heat of his body next to mine.
I can’t even let myself look at him, for fear he’ll see the yearning in my face.
I bump him with my elbow, just to savor that one brief instant of contact.
His eyes meet mine. “Let’s go,” I say and then I turn away.