Chapter 92

               “I think you two should go grab coffee or something,” Mary suggested. She’d remained silent for their first bout of long-lost-reconnected kissing, but the longer she mulled over the situation the more she saw the necessity for compartmentalizing problems. First off, Vince was in no state to deal with Nicholas tonight, so she needed to get him clear of the bar. Next up, she’d have to explain her friend’s sudden absence, as well as why Eliza went with him. Then, unfortunately, she’d have to deal with Camille. That was not a duty she was looking forward to.

                “Huh?” Vince finally looked away from the girl he had clutched in his arms, staring at Mary for a few moments before finally seeming to come back to himself. As he did, it dawned on him that he’d been making out with a woman in the middle of a bar, for all to see. The tips of his ears burned as if they were about to release fire, and Vince slowly set Eliza down onto the floor. His only stroke of luck was that, since the club was so packed with people, they'd only drawn attention from those immediately around them.

                “Coffee. So you can go talk and catch-up. Since you seem to have history.”

                “We do have history…” Vince’s mind was slowly clicking back into action.

                “But it’s not the kind that can be dealt with over a cup of coffee,” Eliza finished. She caressed his hair one more time, then the softness faded from her face, leaving the sort of hard expression Mary had expected to see on an associate of Nicholas’s. “Tights, I need a little time to regroup. I wasn’t expecting to see you here. We can meet up and talk, just not tonight. I’d make you a promise, but you have too good a reason not to trust me at my word.”

                Vince stood there, impassive. He wanted to believe her, yet the idea of letting her out of his sight again, of risking that she might vanish and he’d be left without answers, it was torture to imagine. He’d have to be a damned fool to fall for the same trick twice.

                He licked his lips nervously; realizing the taste of cherries and root beer still lingered on them.

                “One condition,” Vince said at last. “Tell me your name. I’d like to know you as something other than Thief, if I’m going to trust you.”

                A bit of warmth ran across Eliza’s face as she heard his demand. “Eliza. Eliza Tracey.”

                “Nice to meet you, finally, Eliza. I’m Vince Reynolds.”

                “Vince, huh? I like that. You look like a Vince.” She leaned in and kissed him once more, this time gently on his cheek. “Okay Vince, I’ll be in touch soon.”

                “How are you going to find me?”

                “I’ve got my ways. And if I take too long, Mary over there knows how to get in touch with me.”

                Vince glanced at Mary, who nodded. The idea of helping them wasn’t exactly something that made her jump with joy, but it was better than having the whole thing come crashing down right now.

                “See you soon.” Vince released her from his arms at last, and action that seemed to sadden her almost as much as him.

                She dissolved back into the crowd, only her thoughts telling Mary that she was heading around to scoop up Nicholas and Jerome. The small telepath wasn’t certain how Eliza would get her friends to leave so quickly, and truthfully she didn’t care. The waves of confusion and sorrow billowing off Vince were a far more pressing concern.

                “Do you want to talk about it?” Mary asked.

                “I really, really don’t,” Vince said. “In fact, I need to ask you a favor. Can you tell Camille I had to leave? She’s across the bar waiting for me to bring waters, and I’m afraid if I see her right now I’ll break down and spill everything.”

                “Is that such a bad thing? You need to let it out Vince; that much is obvious.”

                “I know I do, but not like that. Not to her. I know she… cares about me. If I go over and start talking, she’ll listen without objection. She’ll spend the entire night trying to make me feel better while I drone on about a lost first love, ignoring her own feelings and pain. I can’t do that; I won’t, not to Camille.”

                Mary gently put her hand on Vince’s arm and squeezed. “Fine, I’ll do it, but only if you tell me that you are going to go do something to let all this out. Bottling is dangerous, and not just for you.” She didn’t need to elaborate; Vince remembered all too well the fires that had come blazing out of him last time he lost control of his emotions.

                “I’m going to run all the way back to campus for a start,” Vince replied. “Then I’m going down to the gym.”

                “That’s not the healthiest method for dealing with things.”

                “It’ll get me through the night.” Vince covered the hand she was resting on his arm with his own fingers. “Trust me Mary, the best thing for me right now is to go wear myself out, and I can only do that if I know you’re handling things back here.”

                “Fine, but you should talk to Dr. Moran in the morning. At least try to make an appointment.”

                “Deal.” Vince said. He released her hand and headed straight for the exit.

                She listened to his thoughts as he went, heard him pick up speed once he was outside, and then began sprinting for all he was worth down the paved blacktop roads. She didn’t envy the gym equipment once he was done for the evening. Then again, she didn’t envy herself and the duty awaiting her.

                Pausing only to grab a glass of water, Mary made her away around the bar to where Camille sat, angrily glaring at anyone who so much as dared glance at the open stool next to her. Setting the glass down first, then pushing her red cloak back so she wouldn’t sit on it, Mary plopped down on the seat.

                “How’s the night going?” Camille asked. She was flushed and a bit sweaty from all the dancing, but the girl practically beamed after spending an evening chatting with Vince.

                Mary took a deep breath, firmed her resolve, and cursed whatever gods or chance had saddled her with the job of den mother to her friends.

                “It’s been… complicated.”