History doesn't always die. Sometimes, it lives on. Discovering it can be too seductive to resist, and Jesse Madding could never resist find the answer and solving a mystery.
A chance encounter on their first vacation in years introduces Jesse Madding to Marcus Brooker, a man who claims to have known the woman for whom vampire Gideon Keel abandoned his evil ways to fight for good. He says all the right things to tempt Jesse into a forbidden betrayal. Jesse pursues the truth about his love the only way he thinks he can, and arranges for a trip to New York to find the answers he thinks he wants.
Gideon agrees to the New York trip, hoping for three weeks of pure pleasure with his human lovers. Pleasure is not all they find ... and the pain discovered there eclipses any pleasure he has ever known.
"How did you know Gideon?" Emma asked.
Her eyes were large and guileless, and Marcus warmed to her in spite of the directness of her question. "Mutual friends. Which is probably why he doesn't remember me. I was too busy hanging in the background, worshiping the ground he walked on."
An odd little smile played on Jesse's lips for a moment, and then was gone. "Perhaps. There's also the fact that Gideon can be very ... focused at times. It's very possible if you met him under different circumstances, he would have a different reaction." Dakota arrived and set their orders down in front of them. "But you must have been very, very young when you knew him."
"I think we all were. Back then." The ghosts of Mary and the others rose in his mind's eye, and Marcus picked up his coffee, grateful the distance of years kept his hand steady. "I have to admit, I'm surprised Gideon stuck with it after all this time. I mean, he is a vampire. I would've thought he'd revert to his true nature, sooner or later."
Jesse's shoulders straightened. "I suppose that's a common enough misconception. That Gideon wouldn't have the integrity or desire to do good because he's a vampire. But it's not true. Vampires have complete control over their actions, and Gideon is committed to his fight."
It was the mantra of a believer. Marcus had heard enough of those in his lifetime to recognize one when he heard it. He almost wished he had the heart to tell this earnest young man and his lovely girlfriend the whole truth about their so-called friend. Almost.
"Well, like you said, he's very focused. Good for Chicago."
Jesse smiled wryly. "Yes, it is good for Chicago. But you think I'm being foolish, or at the least, very naïve. Right?"
Marcus shrugged, more amused than not. Perhaps this discerning ability to read people was one of the talents Jesse brought to Gideon's table. "I think, perhaps, you're a bit of an idealist, yes. But then again, you haven't seen what I have, so who am I to judge?"
"Such as?" Jesse asked.
He answered without pause.
"Friends come and go. Friends turning their back on each other, just when they need them the most. Friends getting killed because choices were made that should've been different." He offered a sad smile to Jesse; he mostly believed it. "Gideon might be committed to his fight now, but he wasn't always. And the only reason he ever had to stick to it is long dead. Time will eventually fade those memories for him, and then where will he be? Where will Chicago be?"
He watched both Emma and Jesse closely for any sign that his words had hit their target. Emma's features remained smooth, but she seemed to be holding onto Jesse's hand tighter. Jesse still wore the same expression of wry amusement.
"I think, perhaps, you're a bit too cynical. But then, you haven't seen the things I have."
His coffee was getting cold. He had a very strong feeling he could sit here and drink with these two all afternoon, and he wouldn't learn much more than what they had already shared. There were some barriers he couldn't break right now. But he would eventually. And when he did, he could find out more of what he wanted, what he needed, to exact the revenge he deserved.
Smiling, Marcus drained his cup, even though it was thick going down. "You'll have to tell me about some of the things you've seen some time." Rising to his feet, he pulled out his wallet and tossed enough money onto the table to cover all their drinks and more. "But cynicism is just the not nice way of telling the truth, you know. Ask Gideon about Hal some time. See if I'm being too cynical then." He nodded at Emma. "It was nice having the chance to meet you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation."
He walked out of the café without looking back. He didn't need to. Jesse Madding wasn't the only person who could read others. Marcus had learned a long time ago how to figure out what made a person tick.
Curiosity would get Jesse, sooner or later.