SUSAN WALKED DOWNSTAIRS, wondering if she would see Ryan or Victor today. She saw Edward standing in the doorway of the balcony, looking out onto the patio below. She moved to his side and her musings regarding the two were answered immediately. Ryan and Victor sat at the table underneath the umbrella, looking less like mortal enemies and more like two lovers enjoying a late morning repast. They were talking and laughing, and Ryan appeared more relaxed and animated than Susan had ever seen her.
Edward seemed to almost read her thoughts. "You find their relationship very disturbing, don't you?"
Susan sighed, trying not to be judgmental. "Perhaps I'm just being too clinical."
Edward glanced over at her. "What do you mean by that?"
Susan gazed at the two through the window. "Do you know, physiologically speaking, what an o.r.g.a.s.m is?"
Edward, despite his patrician appearance, was not at all shocked by the question. "My expertise is in law, dear doctor. No, in physiological terms, I don't know what an o.r.g.a.s.m is."
Susan turned to look at him, pausing only for a moment.
"It's a blood rush."
Edward gazed at her with his unblinking eyes, then turned his attention back to the two on the patio.
Susan gazed down at the them. Ryan and Victor were not touching but there was an unbearable intimacy about the two of them. Their ease of conversation and coordination of movement bespoke the extraordinary depth of their relationship.
"Why," Susan began, addressing Edward again, "is Ryan so reluctant to take her place amongst your Kind?"
Evidently this was not a simple question for Edward to answer. It was several moments before he could frame a reply, and even then he chose his words carefully.
"I would not presume to speak for Ryan, but I believe her reasons are as complex as she is. I know Ryan does not think much of our Kind because they are so manipulated by their own pa.s.sions. I think that, in a way, she fears the loss of control she sees within them, knowing that it lies within herself as well. I also think that the burden of their desire is very great on her. Ryan is extraordinarily sensitive, and it exhausts her to be the object of such unbridled l.u.s.t."
Susan was astounded at his level of insight, as well as the empathy and compa.s.sion he displayed for Ryan. When she spoke, she spoke softly.
"Why does it not affect Victor this way?"
Edward's reply was soft as well, his British accent p.r.o.nounced. "Victor's personality is much different than Ryan's. Having never met Ryan's mother, I am guessing that in some ways Ryan is very much like her."
Edward settled into silence, but evidently he was still contemplating Susan Ryerson's question. It wasn't long before he began again.
"Ryan's relationship with her father is also infinitely complex. I think that at times she rebels against him, and at the same time, lives to serve him. I don't think that anyone, with the possible exception of Victor, knew how deeply Ryan mourned him. And I don't think that anyone except for Victor knew how extraordinarily happy Ryan was to see him alive. Ryan will do whatever Victor asks her to."
Susan gazed down at the two on the patio. "So Ryan will take her position within the hierarchy?"
Edward turned to her with a keen expression. "I think that Ryan will remake that position."
Susan's brow furrowed. "And will Victor approve of this?"
Edward turned away from her, placing his hands on the railing in front of him. "If I know anything of Victor, he's counting on it."
Edward was silent for a moment, then changed the subject. "Speaking of your earlier *blood rush,' dear doctor, have you thought at all about Victor's offer?"
Susan nodded. She had thought about little else the last few days. "I was somewhat caught off-guard by the whole thing." She shrugged, thinking aloud. "But there are other considerations. What about Jason? Ryan's father was quite blunt about the dangers of the Change. He said he could appoint someone who could increase my chances of survival, but I risk dying horribly. What would happen to Jason?"
Edward glanced at Susan knowingly. Ryan would care for the boy under any circ.u.mstances, and the young woman standing before him knew that.
The two fell into contemplative silence, watching the golden-haired youngster and her dark-haired father. The silence was just beginning to weigh heavily when Susan again spoke. She began hesitantly, but her words grew stronger as she continued.
"You know, some African cultures divide people into three categories: the living, sasha, and zamani. When a person dies, they become sasha, the recently dead, or more colorfully, the *living dead.' When all those who knew this person are they themselves dead, the person becomes zamani, or the truly dead."
Susan turned to Edward. "Do you know what's so strange about your Kind?"
Edward turned to look at her, but did not speak.
"Popular myths call you the living dead. But according to these African terms, you're not the living dead, but still the living." She turned back to gaze at the light reflecting off the window in front of her. "But all of history is sasha to someone like Ryan. All of history is the living dead."
Susan fell silent and Edward bowed. "I will leave you to your thoughts, Dr. Ryerson."
Susan nodded back and Edward departed. Susan felt a sense of disquiet as she gazed down at Ryan and her father, an unease that had begun stirring long ago when Ryan first told her of the Others. No indication had ever been given that they would be interested in human affairs.
No indication had been given that they were not.
She had always been concerned about Victor, at least until Ryan had told her he was dead. Then her thoughts had turned to Marilyn, or perhaps Abigail...
Susan's thoughts trailed off as she gazed at the pair seated on the verandah, then coalesced into a single, frightening thought.
Now she was not so certain she had been concerned about the right one. Ryan had seemed so distant from the human race, so uninterested in either humanity or her own Kind. But now that she had connected with both, it was possible her attention could become more focused.
Susan stared down at the two on the terrace. She felt a slight chill as Ryan c.o.c.ked her head to one side, a contemplative look on her face. With an enigmatic expression that did nothing to soothe Susan Ryerson's fears, Ryan gazed directly upward into the other woman's eyes...
And she smiled.
« Previous My Bookmarks Chapters Next»