It’s easier than stealing candy from a baby, she thinks as she pulls up just outside Emma’s flat. A couple of drinks, the tiniest bit of innuendo slipped into an otherwise rather dull conversation, and here they are now – and for all that she’s only too aware of how approximately ninety-nine percent of the world’s female population falls into the broad category of ‘being Roy Steel’s type’, she can definitely get behind what he must have seen in this particular specimen.
As soon as the door clicks shut behind them, Emma’s lips are on her neck, trailing open-mouthed kisses down the side of her throat.
“I have never – with a woman, before,” Emma breathes in the hollow where neck meets shoulder, and she almost throws her head back and laughs in triumph.
“Nothing easier, darling,” she promises, her fingers tracing the contours of the other woman’s breast through the flimsy fabric of her low-cut dress. “You will enjoy it very much, I promise.”
Later on, as they lie in a tangle of limbs and crumpled sheets, she lights up a cigarette, watching as the puffs of smoke twirl lazily towards the ceiling. “My sister, she’s got a live-in partner,” Emma murmurs apropos of nothing, her fingers still draped lazily around her hip. “It’s a good job the boy’s father is a hopeless good-for-nothing and a drunkard, otherwise she might get into some serious trouble.”
She inhales another mouthful of smoke, staring pensively at the ceiling. Last time she checked, he didn’t even know about the boy; this simplifies matters much to her advantage, so much she can already taste the delicious flavour of revenge in her mouth.
“I’ve always loved children,” the lie slips easily from her tongue, as smooth as a sip of expensive champagne. “Pity I can’t have any of my own.”
That much is true, at least – Dr Grind had seen to that, back in the day, and she’s deeply grateful for small mercies. You hardly have time for mundane concerns such as birth control when you’re busy sleeping your way into world domination, although she cannot say she hadn’t occasionally thought what an offspring of her own would turn out like. There would be only one man for the job, of course – that’d be only fitting, and besides, with her brains and his fists, the creature would have the world at their feet in no time at all.
(Except that’s not how biological inheritance works, and besides, this is but a vessel to her, albeit an extremely slinky one.)
“Martine’s off to Cumbria tomorrow morning,” Emma supplies helpfully, her fingertips idly tracing convoluted patterns on sensitive skin. Griselda reaches over to crush the cigarette in the cup of stale coffee resting on the nightstand, then purposely guides Emma’s hand back between her legs.
Stewart is nothing like she imagined him; oddly enough, he reminds her of the scrawny little boy she used to be, what for all intents and purposes is an actual lifetime ago. Oh, how she’d love to dress him up in Roy’s old clothes, like Reg Steel used to do with young Greg – she finds she can finally distance herself from those memories, just a little, her new body unmarred by the weight of furtive touches in dark rooms, the wrongness that used to cling to his skin for days afterwards.
Not that she wants Stewart to call her Daddy – that’s too much even for her standards, and besides, she hasn’t quite decided yet whether she’s planning to murder the boy for her own pleasure, or take him to her new secret hideout and raise him as her heir.
He’s got Roy’s eyes, she realises with a start, when he finally glances up long enough for her to get a good look at his face. He’s the spitting image of his mother, that much is true, but the eyes are all Roy, and for the fraction of a second she experiences an unfamiliar sensation, like molten lava pooling in her guts, only less painful.
Don’t you dare get all soppy on me, old girl, she chides herself, even as she bends down to greet the boy with a warm smile. “Hello there, young man,” she extends her hand for him to shake. He touches his palm to hers, just for a moment, like he doesn’t know what to make of her, which again reminds her of his father – the first time she introduced herself to him as Griselda, and he looked at her like he was having some sort of apparition.
“Are you a friend of my auntie’s?” Stewart asks, as politely as a boy his age can manage, and she laughs at the unspoken implications. That’s not at all Roy, which delights her more than it probably ought to. “You could say that,” she grins, her gaze lingering on the purpling mark peeking out from under Emma’s tie neck blouse. The faint blush spreading on the woman’s cheeks is yet another boost to her ego – not that she needs any, but she’s only human after all – and she makes a mental note of it. She didn’t set out to seduce every single one of Roy’s previous lovers, exactly, but it never fails to give her a little rush of pride when that happens. It’s such a pity that Stewart’s mother is in what appears to be a committed relationship with that there Lauren, or she would have attempted to work her charms on her as well.
(She even slept with Virginia once, back when she was still a man, and Virginia a serial adulterer, just like her husband. It’s not the same thing, but then again, she’s on a somewhat tight schedule here, what with her world domination ambitions and all that.)
By the time Emma realises they’re gone, they will be far from Cambridge, and on their way to the nearest airport. Stewart didn’t raise any objection when presented with her convoluted explanation about an imaginary phone call from his mother, and Roy wanting to spend some time with his son for a change.
“Are you a friend of Dad’s, too?” Stewart breaks the silence at one point, eyes still trained outside the passenger window. “I thought he didn’t have any.”
She turns to look at him, then, her throat doing something funny at the sight of the boy’s sad little face. “What about that Chesterfield chap?”
“Mum says Lorrimer’s still angry about that time Dad had so much to drink he caused a scene right in the middle of his wedding.”
“Oh, what I wouldn’t have given to be a fly on that wall,” she almost chuckles, then notices the way the boy’s lips are trembling, and she’s suddenly reminded of how volatile the old Lord Powers used to be, after a bottle of scotch too many. “Listen, Stewart,” she clears her throat, the first sliver of uncertainty insinuating through the cracks in her armour. “That’s just how it is, sometimes. None of this is your fault, you know that, right?”
(She thinks of a little boy hiding under his bed, hands pressed on his ears to block out all the shouting. Of the same boy, just a few years later, so desperate for attention he didn’t dare to question the sickening whims of an old bastard.)
“I just wish I could have a proper Dad,” Stewart manages around the lump in his throat, and she’s surprised to find that she can’t, not like this. Roy will still have to pay for turning down her offer of an immortal life together; she never had any moral qualms whatsoever and she’s not about to start having them now, but she owes it to the frightened little boy that still haunts her dreams, sometimes.
“Hello, darling. Good to see you again. How are you?”
The look on Roy’s face is utterly priceless; she would burst out laughing, if it weren’t for the guileless boy still holding onto her hand, like she isn’t a cold-blooded murderer as well as a self-proclaimed megalomaniac. “You,” he utters, terror and hope warring for control of his voice. “This can’t be. Just – how much did I have to drink last night?”
“Too much for your own good, I expect,” she smiles sweetly at him, and honestly, it’s such a pity that he didn’t take her up on her offer, back on the island. “I’m afraid I must dash – give my love to Emma, will you?”
“Goodbye, Miss Promogrew,” Stewart waves her off, still clutching the plush Muppet monster she bought him when they stopped at the motorway services for lunch. She’s out of the door before Roy can do so much as utter another word; she climbs into her car, switches the radio on, and drives away.