"I only replaced your tooth brush. There were two in the packet. I gave Cassie one and thought you would like the other." Lilith looked shocked and flabbergasted at Alex's reaction. "I'm a personal assistant, that's what I do. I do everything for the Professor including buying his toothbrushes. I assumed you wouldn't mind if I did the same for you."
"I'm not buying this good Samaritan crap you're selling lady, and I'd appreciate it if you'd get out of my room and leave my things alone."
"You ungrateful bastard. I'm doing you a favour."
"No. You did Cassie a favour. Here," he pointed at his open duffel bag with his underwear and the contents of his toiletry bag strewn on his bed, "You're snooping through my things for no good reason."
The muscles in his neck and shoulders began to bunch and a vein in his temple bulged as he took a closer look at exactly what she had been touching and the evidence of how she'd been touching it. His eyes narrowed on her as he lifted a pair of his briefs that had been turned inside out. What had she been doing, sniffing them? Sick bitch.
"Don't get your knickers in a knot. I was doing housekeeping, I have no interest in you personally," she defended, reading the expression on his face. "But, given your reputation with the ladies, I'm sure there'll come a time when you come knocking on my door," she quipped mockingly.
"Fuck me!" he exclaimed. Exasperation and anger rolled through him like a freight train. "You're so fucking up yourself, your own shit has fried your brain. You're delusional if you think I'd ever lower my standards enough to let you seduce me into your bed or for that matter, even let you put your slimy halitosis tongue down my throat."
"You disgust me. I would rather eat my own vomit," she snarled.
"Yes. I imagine you would," he sniped back. "Dogs are known to eat their own vomit. I just haven't worked out what breed you are. But the term Bitch certainly suits you, in both sense of the word!"
Whatever remaining pretence of civility between them evaporated under Lilith's arctic glare. Whether he realised it not, Alex was one comment away from a painful testicular downsizing.
"I promise you, I will make you regret your comments," she hissed, "Just you wait." Lifting her nose in the air she turned on her heel and headed for the door.
"Oh. I nearly forgot," Lilith stated sweetly when she reached Cassie and Alaric standing just outside in the hall. The smile in her voice however, was contradicted by the ice in her eyes. Cassie stood wide eyed and stunned at the explosive confrontation they'd just witnessed and numbly accepted a card she pressed into her hand.
"I ran into the police at your apartment. They need to you to go down to the station and give them a statement about last night," she said, shooting Alex another withering glare that could peel pain from a wall.
With her head held high, the three of them watched her rear swagger seductively down the hallway as she retreated from view. No doubt the exhibition was for Alex's benefit.
Alex and Alaric both crowded Cassie as they each reached to take the card from her hand, which she refused to relinquish. Neither was happy about the rebuff and both cursed beneath their breaths as she took a step back from them to read it herself.
Detective Bill Renkin, Homicide, Scotland Yard. That name rang a bell.
Handing it over, Alex grabbed it by the narrowest of margin, shooting Alaric a satisfied grin.
"Hmm. Detective Renkin. I think that's the guy who's handling Anil's murder investigation." Alex churned it over in his mind. It didn't make sense. Why would a homicide detective be involved in a home invasion case.
Obviously Alaric was thinking along the same lines. Their scowls mirrored one another on either side of Cassie.
"Don't worry about it. I'll handle it." Alaric informed them both, already heading for the stairs.
This could present a problem. He'd dealt with the landlord but should have anticipated the police would become involved with the amount of noise and property damage caused by his fight with Jarvis.
If Cassie was seen leaving the University the night Anil was murdered, the police may be investigating a possible link between the two crimes. If Jarvis' companions are still looking for her or even worse, the Guild is looking for her, a police investigation would likely lead them right to her.
If he needed more evidence of how badly he'd handled things, this was it.
He'd deal with the police and cut off their investigation before it gets started.
Hell would freeze over before he let anything else happen to her.
"Mrs P, I'm here to help you with dinner but first I need coffee. Strong coffee preferably laced with alcohol." Alex said as he marched into the kitchen and began pacing, still muttering a string of curses to himself.
"Well, thank you Alex," ushering him to take a seat on a stool at the bench. "I'd be delighted for the help but I'm afraid I don't have any fresh coffee made at the moment, love. How about I fix you something else?"
"Thanks. That would be great." Even seated he couldn't sit still. His knee jiggled incessantly keeping time with the teaspoon he tapped on the bench top.
"Now love, how about you tell me what's got you so riled up," she asked. Her soothing voice probed gently.
"I've just had a run in with Lilith, that's all." His handsome face twisted, his lips thinned and his dark eyes narrowed, barely containing the bridled anger in his voice.
"Ah. The lovely Miss Priss." Her chuckle could only come from someone having been in the same situation themself.
Mrs Philpot's tone softened. "That's not the only thing eating at you though is it love."
He raised his eyes to find her watching him intently.
"You're very protective of your cousin. You obviously love her very much and I'm sure it's very hard for you right now, knowing she's in danger and feeling helpless to fix the situation. Am I right?" Mrs Philpot asked.
He hesitated, measuring her for a moment.
"Yes." Alex confessed, his shoulders slumping on his exhaled sigh. "It kills me that I don't know what to do to protect her. I'm not strong enough to fight off vampires and I don't know enough about this war that we seem to have landed in the middle of, to find another solution. I feel like I've failed her," banging a frustrated fist on the bench.
She could hear the bitterness in his voice. It was more than mere male pride that was taking a pounding, it went way deeper than that.
He felt like he was in a counselling session with a grandmotherly version of Dr Phil. She had that painful box of his memories in her hands and she was turning the key in the lock.
"You've looked out for her for a long time haven't you, love."
And Pandora's box was open.
"I've always taken care of her. I don't know how not to." he began to explain, sighing heavily as he leaned against the kitchen bench.
"I never knew my father. To be honest, I'm not too sure my mother knew who he was," he confessed. "Cassie's father, Jonathan was like my father. Cassie and I grew up together, like brother and sister, not like cousins."
Mrs Philpot grabbed the kettle from the stove. A strong cup of tea was in order.
"When Cassie was nine, her father died and I became the man of the house, so to speak. I'd only just turned eleven." He grabbed a couple of cups and saucers and placed them on the bench, an insentient action, his mind lost back in the past.
"Cassie's mother, died two years later from ovarian cancer. She was barely sick a day until a month before her diagnosis. She was gone three months later. My mother took up drinking when Jonathan died and it became much worse after Anna passed away."
Mrs Philpot listened intently, sliding a cup of the steaming brew in front of him.
"My mother died of sorosis of the liver when I was eighteen but I've taken care of Cassie and both our mothers since I was eleven. There was no one else to do it," he finished, lamenting the memory.
It had been difficult staying under the radar of the Department of Child Services through those years, but they were determined to stay together in their own home. A couple of times it looked like they wouldn't make it, but luck had been on their side.
"Well. I can certainly understand why you're so protective of her. You're very lucky to have had each other by the sounds of it and you've both been through things in life that no young people should have to face," she said thoughtfully. "But, Mr Neumann is a good man. He won't let any harm come to her. He is very old and extremely powerful and I have no doubt he will use everything at his disposal to keep her safe." She said in her quiet motherly fashion.
Good man. Hah. Lecherous blood sucking parasite more like it, he mentally corrected her.
"I also think he will be careful not her break her heart. But she's a grown woman now and she is determined to make her own choices. Be careful not to tread on her toes or she'll push you away," she added, understanding his other frustration.
He had to concede though, she was right. He had to take a step back and let Cassie make her own choices, whether he liked it or not. Just not today. Not while her life was being threatened.
In truth, it was a deep sense of guilt at not being able to help his mother from self destructing at the bottom of a whisky bottle which drove him so hard to protect Cassie. As far as he was concerned, any potential relationship with a blood sucking vampire would be just another form of self destructive behaviour. Nothing good could come of it, only disappointment and, heaven forbid he even think it…maybe even her death.
A vampire can't be trusted.
She was the only family he had left and he'd fight tooth and nail to keep her safe. He'd lay down his own life for her if necessary.
Bruisingly aware that memories could make you bleed as effectively as any razor, she expertly changed the subject.
"Now, if you've finished your cuppa," Mrs Philpot said, clearing away the cups, "We have dinner to prepare."
"Mrs P?" Mrs Philpot turned to face him.
"Thanks for the chat." Surprisingly, he felt like some of the weight had lifted from his shoulders.
"You're welcome love." Her perceptive smile broadened.
"Now. The vegetable peeler is in that draw and the potatoes are in the box over there," she said. "You'll need to peel a few extras, the Professor and Lilith are staying for dinner too."
"Fucking nosy bitch," Alex muttered under his breath.
"Here. Here." Mrs Philpot seconded the remark, brandishing the butcher's knife and bringing it down on the leg of lamb in front of her. Lilith seemed to have that affect on people.
"So, exactly how many are eating?" he asked as he began peeling.
Mrs Philpot smiled broadly. "Six."
Six people eating. He quickly did the math. That would mean… "The blood sucker eats …ah, I mean Alaric eats food?"
Her perpetual merriment flashed in her eyes, her laugh was deep, warm and rich. "He's not so different from you, you know, just much older and has a few more tricks up his sleeve."
"Don't forget to add 'drinks blood' to that list."
Bugger me. He didn't expect that. Make that lesson one in his Vampire Education manual. They eat food.
He really had to learn more about vampires.
A short while later the smell of roast meat cooking lured Cassie from the study, her stomach rumbled. Spending money was hard work.
"Perfect timing." Alex remarked. "You can set the table."
Cassie rummaged through cupboards and draws under the guidance of the effervescent housekeeper. She was delighted to see Alex's mood had improved dramatically, no doubt due to Mrs Philpot's influence.
"You've heard there's a Tibetan Monk coming to stay." Alex asked the rhetorical question.
"I had heard something like that," she replied absently, as they finished setting the table.
Her mind was miles away.
The rain having stopped, ribbons of pink and grey clouds decorated the sky as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. Streaks of light shone through the dining room windows causing small rainbow prisms to be reflected onto the white lace table cloth through the crystal glasses laid out.
It was all very surreal just like the rest of her life had been lately.
Any time now she was going to wake up and find the past week had all just been a dream.
With the dinner dishes cleared away, the Professor and Lilith retreated to the sitting room. He had spent the afternoon contacting other members of the Alliance. Others like themselves who dedicated their lives to stopping the demons rising from the underworld. The Guild had always been a very secretive society and it had proven very difficult for the Alliance to infiltrate them.
Lilith rapidly took notes as he dictated.
When the doorbell rang, it was the Professor who moved to answer it. "I've got it," he called out, knowing Mrs Philpot had her hands full in the kitchen. He'd spent so much time here over the years, it had become like a second home to him.
The door opened silently, a chilly gusty breeze pushed past him as a dark haired man stepped up to the door.