Blair pulled the Volvo into a parking space in front of Celtic Anam, next to a silver Porsche. After dropping the pills off at the station, Jim had taken him to get his tire fixed. Then it had been back to the PD to put the repaired tire on the Volvo and he'd been on his way to Sky's store. He glanced at his watch. In fact, he was about ten minutes early.
Sky was already waiting for him. With a wave at someone inside the store, she jumped into the passenger seat as Blair held the door open for her. "Hi again. You can leave early?"
She climbed in and shut the door, giving him a smile. "Yeah, Pepper's going to close up for me."
"That was nice of her." Blair gave her a grin back and started the car. He turned to look at Sky again just as her smile faded. He followed her troubled gaze to the entrance to the Toy Box. A tall, stocky man with close-cropped silver hair was standing in the doorway. Letting go of the open door, he crossed the narrow sidewalk and climbed into the Porsche.
Why had seeing this guy wiped the smile off Sky's face? "What's the matter?"
"Him. He makes me so mad. I went to talk to him this afternoon, about the pills--"
"What!? What does he have to do with the bottles we confiscated?"
"It's a long story. I asked Pepper about the last delivery of XTC we got. She said it didn't come UPS, that some delivery service brought it. I went looking for the packaging, and found the address on the box was for the Toy Box, not my store. I tried to ask him about the package, but he got a phone call and blew me off, didn't even let me say what was in it."
The Porsche started up, then with a squeal of tires, peeled out of the lot. "Do you have a pen, something to write on?" Blair asked.
Her expression puzzled, she dug in her purse, then handed the requested items to him. "CFD 573," Blair muttered as he wrote the license number down. He handed the pen back to her. "Let's go see that box."
Ninety minutes later, Blair and Sky were finally on the way to their date. After getting the shipping carton the XTC pills had come in, Blair had run it by the station and dropped it off at forensics. Jim hadn't been there, but Blair had left a voice mail for him to check out the license number he'd gotten off the Porsche, as well as the employees and owners of the Toy Box.
It was almost 6:30 when he pulled into the nearly deserted parking lot of the Natural History Museum. Getting out of the car, he waited for her to join him, then they walked up the stairs to the entrance together.
"Blair, um, I hate to point this out to you, but the sign says the hours are until 6 p.m. on Saturday."
He gave her a grin. "That's okay. I called Dr. Matthews from the station. She's agreed to let us go through after hours. One of the few perks that come with being an anthropologist."
Laughing, Sky linked her arm through his. "Really? Are there other perks?"
Blair's smile grew broader. "I haven't really thought about it, but you're here, so I'd say beautiful women are a perk."
She jostled him with her shoulder as he opened the door for her. "If you think I'm here because I'm impressed by your brains, you're mistaken. I'm much shallower than that. I was drawn to your physical beauty." She winked broadly at him, then skipped ahead into the museum.
Blair shook his head, still grinning. This was going to be a fun evening.
When in the hell did Sandburg have time to come up with more evidence? He'd just left for his date a little over an hour ago. "Did he say what it was?"
H shook his head. "Not really. He had something for forensics. Said he'd leave you a note."
"Okay." He turned his attention to Rafe. "Let me know when you're ready to go, Brian, and I'll tag along to that rave with you." He'd had a long talk with the other detective about raves over lunch. It turned out that Rafe had worked a number of them as a DJ.
There was a rave going down tonight, and Jim thought it might be good if he attended, just to get a feel for the scene, and to possibly stop anyone else from taking any of the bad Ecstasy. Rafe had told him about a group called DanceSafe, which offered free testing of pills kids purchased at raves. They might have some info on whether the PMA was widespread, or perhaps be able to test for it, if they knew what they were looking for.
"Sure, Jim. I just have a little paperwork to finish up, then I'm gone."
As Rafe walked off, Jim looked through the stack of files on his desk for the note from his partner. Not finding one, he thought about it for a moment, then noticed the message light blinking on his phone. Picking up the handset, he punched in his access code and listened as Blair gave him a rundown on the box Sky had found in her trash, and the suspicious behavior of the guy from the Toy Box. Hanging up the phone, Jim punched the license number from the silver Porsche into the computer and found himself looking at the DMV records for a Lars Thorvald, Swedish citizen. Great. Now he was going to have to deal with Interpol.
Sighing, Jim picked up his Rolodex and began looking for Interpol's phone number.
He found himself drawn to a striking figure of a warrior, dressed in the garb of the god Tezcatlipoca, carrying the dart and shield associated with the deity. As Blair approached the exhibit, his presence triggered a motion detector, and the pounding of drums and an eerie whistling sound echoed in the empty room. The figure was posed as if running, the ceiling above him dark with twinkling pinpoints of light. On his wrists and ankles, he wore bracelets of bells, and around his neck hung a whistle or flute.
Fascinated by the image, Blair jumped as Sky came up behind him and touched his shoulder. "Hey, Blair, you're awfully quiet all of a sudden."
He shook himself. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Just not very often you see this kind of detail."
She peered at the mannequin, and the smaller figures of people some distance behind the warrior. "What's this supposed to represent?"
Ah, lecturing, Blair could do that. "This is a representation of the festival of Toxcatl. A year prior to the festival, a victim was chosen among the best war captives of the year. For the year, he lived as an earthly representative of the god Tezcatlipoca, treated with reverence and awe by the people. He rested by day, and traveled the roads as the god of the night winds at night. Over the course of the year he was mated to four high born women, and lived a life of luxury. Then during the festival, he was sacrificed to Tezcatlipoca."
"Sounds like a cushy job, but the severance pay is a killer." Giggling, Sky tugged him by the arm toward another scene. "That must be what this represents, then."
Blair stared at the second diorama, his laughter fading. At the top of a teocalli, or temple, the warrior from the first scene was laid out on a chac mool, a statue of a reclining god the Mayans used as an altar, his arms and legs outstretched. Swirls of colorful paint covered his body, and at the base of the altar were the broken shards of the bells and flute he had worn before. A priest stood over him, an obsidian blade raised high overhead.
The stone of the steps was cool against his heated skin. It had been a long climb to the top of the pyramid, but he was a young, strong warrior, the bravest of the brave. Tezcatlipoca had chosen him for this honor, and he went willingly, knowing the sons he had fathered would be raised with the respect due the children of a god.
As the priest chanted, he removed the bells and whistle that had marked him as the chosen one and smashed them against the sides of the teocalli. A bowl was pressed to his lips, and he tasted the strong sweet fire that was pulque burning his throat. His thirst quenched, he was helped upon the chac mool, lying down on his back, gazing up at the jewels shining in the night sky.
Acolytes held down his arms and legs; as if he would struggle, would disgrace himself in front of his god and the faithful gathered at the base of the teocalli. The priest raised the dark, mirrored blade in the air, torchlight reflecting from its polished surfaces, much as light reflected from the smoking mirror that was the face of Tezcatlipoca.
A streak of black flashed through the air, then he screamed the name of his god in praise as the knife tore his heart from his body---
"Blair! Blair!" He came back to himself with a start to find Sky's face in front of his, her hands on his shoulders. "Are you okay?"
"I--uh, yeah, I think so." Blair ran a hand over his face, and turned away from the diorama of the sacrifice. "That was really, really weird."
"What happened? You were like a million miles away." Her expression was worried.
"You ever have one of those moments when--" he paused, knowing how flaky he was about to sound. "Just forget it."
Sky pulled him over to a bench and pushed him to sit, then sat down next to him. "A moment when--what? Deja vu? I've had plenty of those."
He glanced up at her, more confused than before. "Yeah, like I was someone else, somewhere else. For a moment, I was there." He pointed toward the scene and shuddered. "I was lying on that chac mool."
Reaching up, Sky rubbed the back of his neck. "Creepy. But not unusual, not for someone with your talents."
Now he was seriously freaking out. Jumping to his feet, Blair paced away from her. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! What in the hell are you talking about? What talents?" He whirled back around to face her.
Sky's brow was furrowed in concentration and she seemed to be staring at some point behind him. Finally her eyes raised to meet his. "I would have thought someone would have told you, you being an anthropologist and all. I mean, I'm assuming you've lived among, or at least studied primitive cultures, Native American even. I'm getting a really strong 'vibe' off of you, a strong connection to the earth, to the mother of all things."
"Can you speak English? I'm like, totally lost here." He knew he was being rude, but he was suddenly scared, both of what had happened, of the little 'trip' he'd taken, and whatever she was hinting at.
"You know I'm a practicing druid, right? And I sense some of the same gifts in you. No one's ever told you that you had shamanistic leanings?"
He shook his head vehemently, feeling a chill run through him, the same chill he'd felt when Incacha had laid his bloody hand on his arm and spoken the words Jim had translated as passing the way of the Shaman to him. "I'm not a shaman," he replied sharply, his intensity surprising him.
Shrugging, she got to her feet. "Okay. You're not a shaman." Reaching out, she rubbed his tight bicep. "But don't tell me you haven't had any brushes with the mysterious. Wasn't it Einstein who said something like the most fascinating experiences of our lives are the ones with the unknown--"
Blair swallowed tightly, surprised to have his own words, the ones he'd uttered to Jim after the fountain incident, tossed back at him. Why was he so freaked by this? He'd wanted it then.
"--And shamanism can be an enriching and fulfilling life choice." Changing the subject, she said, "You ready to go, or you want to look around some more?"
He took a final glance at the sacrifice diorama and suppressed a shudder. "I think I'm ready for dinner."
Sky slid her arm around his waist as they headed for the exit, and he felt relief wash over him. At least she didn't think he was mental, and she didn't show any more interest in his little 'moment', obviously sensing how uncomfortable he was with what had happened. Maybe some day he would be ready to talk about his experiences with the unknown, but it wasn't today.
Jim climbed out of Rafe's Toyota and stretched. It wasn't quite as cramped as the Volvo, but it had already been a long, frustrating day. Forensics was down to a bare bones crew in the lab, basically there just to flag stuff for the people coming in on Monday. Same thing with the medical examiner's office. He'd hoped Dan Wolf would have been able to do Amy Kettering's autopsy that day, but Dan's daughter's wedding had been that afternoon. And on top of that, he hadn't gotten anywhere with Interpol. Someone would call him back on Monday. He hated when crime happened on the weekend. Nothing got done in what he considered a timely matter. Of course for him, timely was yesterday. He snorted at his own joke. Now he was beginning to sound like Sandburg.
"Private joke?" Rafe asked.
Jim gave him a tight smile. "You could say that. I just had a Sandburgian thought." Rafe quickly crossed himself, and Jim laughed out loud. "Funny, very funny."
The younger man shrugged. "Better safe than sorry. It could be contagious."
Jim looked around at the scenery. They were in the middle of the woods outside Cascade proper. He estimated at least a hundred cars were parked among the trees. "So this is a rave."
"Well, it's the parking area. This is the largest outdoor rave in the Pacific Northwest. It's on private property, and not a part of the Cascade National Forest. This rave isn't too bad, actually. They frown on alcohol use, and that cuts down on a lot of the problems." Rafe was talking over his shoulder as he walked through the trees into a huge, semi-cleared area.
Dozens of makeshift booths lined the edges of the clearing, hawking everything from CDs and T-shirts to bottled water and soda. A large lighting rig had been set up, and colored lights and strobes were bouncing off the foliage. At one end of the area was a raised stage, and Jim could see several DJs manning the turntables. The smell of pot wafted by his nose, and he sneezed.
"Let me get this straight. Alcohol is taboo, but drugs are okay?"
"Well, within reason. It's mostly marijuana and Ecstasy around here. Coke's a little much for this crowd."
Jim looked at the sea of sweaty, gyrating bodies. Most of them did seem to be college age or younger. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the DanceSafe people."
Jim followed Rafe around the edge of the area, to a simple folding table with a banner draped over it. A couple of college kids were manning the very low-tech testing facility. It consisted of a small ceramic plate, an exacto knife, some paper towels and a small bottle of liquid. A large sign was lying on the top of the table. It read:
As he watched, a boy who couldn't have been more than 15 offered up a pink pill with a Playboy bunny logo pressed into it for testing. The girl behind the table instructed him to read the sign as she took the pill, wrote down a description of it on a form, measured it with calipers, then placed it on the plate and scraped a small amount off of it with the exacto knife. Handing the pill back to the boy, she then added a drop of the liquid to the scraping. The liquid quickly turned a black-purplish color. She carefully explained that meant that the pill contained some form of Ecstasy, but that it did not mean it didn't contain anything harmful. Once he had left, the next person in line stepped up and, wiping off the plate, she began the process all over again.
Ellison shook his head. He didn't understand it. To him, it looked like the DanceSafe people were condoning drug use. He said as much to Rafe.
"Look, Jim, the kids are going to take the drugs anyway. This is just a way of giving them more information about what they're taking, more information with which they can decide whether or not they want to take the risk. These people aren't condoning drug use; they're making kids at least think before they pop the pill." Rafe was nearly shouting to be heard over the loud music.
It still didn't make sense to Jim. Kids shouldn't be taking drugs in the first place. Their lives shouldn't be so horrible or so boring that they needed drugs to lift their spirits. The Sentinel within growled. This was his city, his kids were putting themselves in danger, and he couldn't see a way to effectively stop it. Jim rubbed his temples. He was going to have one hell of a headache before this night, and this case, were over.
"Headache?" Rafe yelled in his ear.
"Yeah!" he yelled back. The thumping bass was making his fillings vibrate.
"Here!" The other detective pressed something into his hand. "You'll be okay for a little bit? I'm going to go talk to the DJs."
Nodding in response, Jim opened his fingers to find a pair of foam earplugs. He quickly inserted them, and turned his hearing down, giving him some relief. He cut in front of the next kid in line and leaned over the table. "Can someone take your place for a few minutes? I need to talk to you." He discreetly raised the bottom of his jacket and flashed his badge at her.
"Yeah, just a second. Jorge! Take over will you?" The girl got up from her seat and followed Jim a few paces away, under the boughs of a tall fir. "What's this about? We already got permission to set up our booth."
"I understand that. I just wanted to make you aware that there is a new drug out there." He gestured at the crowd. "A girl who took it last night died."
The young woman nodded slowly. "I'd heard something about that. Do you know what the drug looked like?"
Jim clenched his jaw. There was so much he wanted to be able to tell this woman, to help her protect the kids, and yet he didn't have all the answers himself. Forensics probably wouldn't be done with their chemical analysis until later in the week, and he had no way of really knowing if what Amy had taken had come from the pills confiscated from Celtic Anam. "No. It was some kind of tablet, probably white, and is supposed to be an herbal substitute for Ecstasy. Instead, it makes a person's temperature rise so high that convulsions and internal bleeding can result."
She ran a hand through her loose blond hair. "Shit. PMA? DanceSafe made sure all the local chapters knew about it after those people in Australia died. But I haven't seen any of it here. And it doesn't react with our testing kit. It gives no reaction, just like a dozen other chemicals." She stuck out her hand. "I'm Janice Tartovsky, by the way. I head up the chapter here, Officer--?"
He gripped her extended hand firmly. "Ellison, Detective Jim Ellison."
Even in the dim light under the trees he could see the blush that crept across her cheeks. "Oh, wow! You're that guy!"
Puzzled, Jim shook his head. "Uh, what guy?"
"That guy with the eagle eyes and the super nose. From TV. Professor Sandburg's friend." She made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a squeal. "Sorry, sorry! I'm probably embarrassing you. It's just I've never met a celebrity before."
Jim wasn't quite sure how to handle the sudden fawning. "Um, I'm not really a celebrity. I'm just a cop who doesn't want to see any more kids get hurt."
"Right, right. So we're on the same side then." There was awkward silence for a moment, then Janice seemed to realize she'd been holding onto his hand for longer than necessary. She snatched it back, and Jim had a vision of her never washing it again.
"Hey! I just had an idea!" She fairly beamed and did a good imitation of the Sandburg bounce. "You've got a really good sense of smell, right? As good as a dog's?"
Jim grimaced. Only last week Simon had called him a 'human bloodhound'. "Probably," he answered warily.
"You ought to be able to learn to identify drugs by their scent, the way dogs do. I'll bet with some practice, you could probably separate out and identify all the different ingredients that go into some of the pills we get here for testing. You'd be amazed at what people will put into a pill and call Ecstasy."
The Sentinel felt his headache increasing. Wonder if Sandburg knew he had a twin? "I'll just bet you're studying anthropology, right?"
She did a double take. "I'm in my senior year. How did you know?"
He gave her a world-weary smile. "I'm familiar with the species. How about I hang out here for a while, and you can teach me what you know about the different variations on Ecstasy?"
"Sure. That would be great." She bounced again, then headed back toward the table, Jim following.
The clock on the sign for Cascade Bank was flashing 11:14 when Blair pulled into the parking lot outside Celtic Anam. He parked next to Sky's Cavalier and turned off the engine. Staring out the windshield at the neon lights of the Toy Box, he tried to gather his thoughts. Sky had been great. Bright, witty, fun--and he felt like he'd been a disappointment. The thing at the museum had stayed with him, bothering him all through dinner. What did it mean? Did it mean anything? Had he just been daydreaming, or had it been something more? Was it a spirit vision? He didn't particularly want to have spirit visions; that was Jim's area.
"Blair--" Sky's voice interrupted his turbulent thoughts.
"I'm sorry. This date has pretty much been a bust. I know I haven't been very good company tonight, and I was kind of hoping that--"
Leaning across the space between them, Sky cupped his face in her hands, then her lips captured his in a gentle kiss that built slowly to searing. When she pulled away, Blair inhaled deeply, feeling his eyes widen, then squeaked out the rest of his request, "--I might get a do-over."
She simply smiled at him and grazed her thumb over his lower lip. He felt like he'd just landed on the sun.
"Tomorrow's Sunday, and my shop is closed--"
At the mention of Celtic Anam, Blair's gaze automatically flicked to the entrance to the store. What he saw instantly broke the mood. "I think the store's been broken into."
"What?" Letting go of him, she turned in the seat to stare out the windshield. When she flinched, he knew she'd seen the same thing he had; the glass in the door was shattered. "Pepper!" Sky started to get out of the car, but his hand on her arm stopped her.
"I know you're worried about your friend, but stay put for a minute, okay? Let me call it in and get some cops out here." Grabbing his cell phone from the glovebox, Blair called 911 and reported the break-in. He tried to contact Jim as well, with no luck. Reaching under the seat, he pulled out a heavy-duty flashlight. "Okay, now we go look around. Pepper's car isn't still here, is it?"
Sky shook her head as she got out of the car. "No."
He tossed her the cell phone. "See if you can reach her." While Sky was dialing, Blair approached the broken door and shined the light inside. The place had been trashed. All the shelves had been pulled down, and the merchandise was scattered everywhere. Deciding it would be better to wait for backup, he walked back to the Volvo.
Sky was leaning against the hood, talking into the phone. "Yeah, someone smashed the door. No, I don't know if anything was taken. I'm just glad you're okay, Pepper. I'll call you when I know something." Snapping the phone shut, she looked up at Blair. "How bad is it?"
He grimaced. "Bad. Everything's been smashed."
"Everything?" Her voice quavered on the word.
"Looks like it." He slid his arm around her shoulders. He could feel her shaking against him as she pressed her face against his chest. Blair was still holding her when the squad car pulled up.
Sky sat in the relative quiet of her car, watching the flashing lights reflect off the raindrops rolling down the windshield. Sometime in the preceding hour the beautiful clear skies had clouded over, and rain had begun to fall. The weather was in harmony with her life.
It's just things, Sky. Things can be replaced. People can't. How very, very lucky she had been, then. Pepper had been long gone before the vandals arrived, and she and Blair had probably just missed them. A knock on the window interrupted her thoughts. A young woman with dark auburn hair was peering in at her, holding up a badge.
Getting out of the car, she stood under the umbrella the female detective held. "Yes?"
"Ms. Kullien, I'm Inspector Connor. Sandy called me in when he couldn't get hold of Ellison. He seems to think this might be related to some drugs that were confiscated from your store today."
Sandy? That was different. So was the Australian accent. "I don't know. I took a brief look around in there after the other officers arrived, and it doesn't look like anything of value is missing. We keep the drawer to the register locked up in the storeroom, and it was still there. I don't know what to think."
The taller woman looked back at the shop. "I think I'm going to agree with Sandy, that this is personal. Do you live alone?"
Sky shivered. "Yes, why?"
"Might be in your best interest to stay with some friends tonight, if at all possible."
Nodding, she asked, "Do you think you'll find who did this?"
"I've got officers going door to door now, but not much is open this late. We'll probably have better luck finding any witnesses tomorrow." One of the forensic technicians waved at the inspector from just inside the building. "Sandy went to find some plywood to patch the door with. He should be back soon. Please wait for him before you go home."
As the woman walked off, Sky climbed slowly back into her car. Shutting the door, she watched as a uniformed officer tried the door to the Toy Box. It was obviously locked, and no amount of knocking brought anyone to the front. That was strange. Normally they were open until 4 a.m. on Saturday night, and--she checked her watch--it was a little past midnight now. She filed that peculiarity away for Blair's return.
Sky shifted her overnight bag higher on her shoulder. "I really appreciate this, " she said to Blair as he unlocked the door to his apartment.
He looked at her as he opened the door. "No problem. And I feel better knowing you're here with me instead of alone at your place."
Blair took her bag from her as they entered, and disappeared down the hallway just past the kitchen. Returning with an armful of clothes, he said, "Make yourself at home. I'm just going to grab a shower and change."
Smiling at him, Sky walked into the large living area of the apartment. "I'll be fine. Go get out of those wet clothes." They had both gotten soaked by the rain while putting up the plywood over the door of Celtic Anam. She'd dried off and changed when they stopped by her place to pick up her stuff, but Blair had been shivering and miserable for nearly an hour.
He padded down the hallway. She heard the bathroom door close, then the shower start.
She slowly wandered around the apartment. It was a little bare, but Blair had told her he'd just moved in a few weeks ago. To her left, French doors opened onto a balcony. Crossing the room toward the doors, she examined the object that had drawn her eye. A wood and metal spiral staircase led up to, and through, the ceiling. Weird. She'd have to ask Blair where it went.
To the left of the front door sat an ungainly umbrella stand in the shape of an elephant's foot. Instead of an umbrella, it held a baseball bat, a couple of golf clubs, a hockey stick, and some kind of spear. Between the front door and the balcony doors, four dining room chairs were arranged in a circle around a nonexistent dining table, and she chuckled at the sight. Most of the room was taken up by a futon couch and a long, dark red sofa. The two couches outlined an "L" shaped living area in the center of the room, flanked at either end by one blue and one green beanbag chair. Opposite the front door, under several high windows, sat what looked to be the beginning of a large bookcase/entertainment center. The bare frame was completed, and pieces of shelving and cabinet doors leaned haphazardly against it. A cardboard box sat on the floor in front of it, the picture on the side showing a TV set.
Her tour finished, Sky entered the open kitchen, and spied the teakettle sitting on the range top. Filling it with water from the tap, she set it back on the stove to boil. Starting with the cupboard closest to her, she began opening them until she found some tea. She blinked in astonishment. Lots and lots of tea. Nearly a whole cabinet full, and all of it from her shop. He liked her. He really *liked* her.
Blair chose that moment to reappear, wrapped in a terry cloth robe. "Sky, you--"
She pounced at him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. She pressed her face against his neck, inhaling the fresh scent of Tropical Seas shower gel, a line of products she knew she was the only supplier for in Cascade.
Blair's arms went around her hesitantly as he asked, "Sky, what's the matter?"
She pulled away just enough to look at him, not ready to let go. "You have tea. And you smell good." Leaning in again, she took a big whiff of his still damp hair. It smelled like the rainforest after a storm. Her eyes met his soulful blue ones, reading confusion, and interest. Definitely interest.
This time Blair initiated the kiss, his lips meeting hers tentatively at first, then deepening the kiss until she could feel the sparks all the way to her toes. The shrill whistle of the teakettle broke the spell. "What the--?"
She brushed her lips against his lightly. "Tea. You were cold, so I was making you tea." Letting go with one hand, Sky reached behind her, fumbling along the edge of the stove until she found the burner knob and turned off the flame. The whistling faded. Her hand returned, this time going around his neck instead of his waist. "Where were we?" He blinked at her, and suddenly she wasn't quite so sure of the signals she thought he was sending. Releasing Blair, she stepped back. Turning away from him, she opened a cupboard. "Where do you keep the mugs?" She felt his hand on her shoulder, and she didn't resist as he spun her slowly around to face him.
"Sky, what the heck is going on?"
Running a hand over her hair nervously, Sky seemed to be pondering her reply, as if saying the wrong thing now could kill whatever future they had. "Chemistry," she finally said.
Blair shook his head, damp curls softly flying. "I'm still lost."
"Chemistry. You know, that thing that two people have together that makes them electric, that draws everyone's eyes to them. Simpatico, karma, body heat--"
"Ah, pheromones." He smiled, visions of Jim in a coatroom flashing through his mind.
She frowned. "Uh, well, sorta. But not exactly. I mean, you have tea, and Tropical Seas Rainforest shower gel, and---" she flushed "--you have lots of tea," she finished lamely. She moved away, opening another cupboard and taking down two large cups. Grabbing the closest box of tea from the still open cabinet, she pulled out two teabags, dropped them in the mugs and poured hot water over them.
Blair's gaze followed her hand to the cabinet, noting the chipped polish on one nail, the result of struggling with plywood in the dark. He finally noticed the brightly colored packages cramming the shelves. Oh! Tea!
Pleasant warmth suffused his whole body, a smile tugging at his lips until it spread across his face. He stared at her, entranced. Her head was bent in concentration, a tendril of hair that had escaped her ponytail lying along her cheek. He was reaching out to touch it when a clatter made him look down. Water was puddled on the countertop, dripping onto the floor.
"Sorry, sorry. It slipped," Sky apologized.
Blair relieved her of the kettle gently. Setting it down on the range top, he took her hand. "Sky, it's okay, really. I know just what you mean. About the tea. About chemistry." He leaned in closer, his free hand reaching up to lightly stroke her cheek.
She closed her eyes at his touch, and he moved closer still, sensing the warmth of her breath against his skin. His lips brushed over her cheek, then his mouth covered hers, and as her arms went around his neck, he knew they understood each other perfectly.
Jim tossed his keys in the basket by the door as he entered the loft. A glance at the clock in the kitchen showed the time as 3:23 AM. He ran a hand over his face, then shrugged out of his damp jacket, hanging it on a peg. He toed off his muddy shoes as well, then walked down the hall to the bathroom, where he deposited his wet clothes in the hamper.
Jim and Rafe had left the rave when it had started to look like it was going to rain. Rafe had driven him back to the station where Jim picked up his truck. From there, he'd intended to go home, but had found himself driving sometime later along the back roads of Cascade County. He guessed he'd just needed time to think, to turn over the facts of the case in his mind. He hadn't come to any conclusions. They had pieces of the puzzle, but as yet no idea of how they fit together. Once again, he cursed the fact that it was the weekend. Come Monday morning, he would be camped on Forensics doorstep.
Pulling on his bathrobe, he tied the belt securely around his waist, then walked back out to the living area. Crossing to the spiral staircase, Jim descended quietly to his partner's darkened apartment. The thought briefly crossed his mind that maybe he could tone down the protective bit now that Blair had his own place. Smiling to himself, Jim shook his head. Nah.
Checking the deadbolt on the front door, the sentinel nudged his hearing up a notch. He picked up the sound of two people breathing in the slow, even pattern of sleep. Now he was seriously curious. He crept down the hallway to the open bedroom door and looked inside.
The room was dark, the shades on the windows shut, the scent of candles long snuffed out lingering in the air. Blair lay on his side on the queen-size bed, facing the doorway. Tucked under his arm was Sky, her cheek pressed against his shoulder.
Slightly embarrassed, Ellison headed back toward the stairs, grinning ruefully. Whatever the kid had, Jim wished Sandburg would figure out a way to bottle and sell it. He'd be first in line to buy a bottle.