The next morning, Jessa had questions. A million of them. She didn't even wait for Cameron to get up, but barged right in and planted herself on the bed until Cameron agreed to answer them.
She ran a hand over her bleary face and commanded her head to stop throbbing. It didn't listen. "Jess, before we talk about this, make me some coffee. I can't think without it."
"You and your caffeine addiction," she sighed. She rose off the bed and glided out Cameron's room into the kitchen. Cameron heard a drawer slam, then water started running. Something rustled.
She sighed, flopping back against her pillows. She still didn't know what to make of her dreams from the previous night. Too many questions… and no answers. Wasn't that how it always worked? It irked her, much like sinking in sea of quick sand. Some way to get free existed, but often the solution came too late. This problem may not be quite as dire, but Kieran's promise haunted her. In both situations, death was imminent.
Despite the innocence that seemed to touch his soul, she knew without a doubt that Kieran was the one they searched for. If she killed him first… She would be missing half of her soul. Or rather, a third of her soul, if she had interpreted last night's dream correctly. But she would be alive.
She sat up, one hand reaching out to grab a sweatshirt. The apartment was cold, not that the vampires in their group often noticed that sort of thing. She swung her legs over the bed and pulled the sweatshirt on, wincing as her unused muscles stretched.
"Coffee's done," Jessa called. Cameron flinched at even her soft voice. She pulled herself out of bed slowly, praying she could find the Advil when she got into the kitchen. Remy thought it was candy, so they ran out frequently.
By the time she managed to drag herself in the room, Jessa had laid out a mug, a spoon, sugar, and a doughnut. She was pouring cream into the mug. "Cameron, you really don't need this stuff," she said. "I've seen what it does to you."
She moved out of the way and Cameron sat at the table, which was empty save for the cordless phone, a flower arrangement Remy had insisted on, matching placemats, and breakfast. Jessa dropped down across from her. Spooning sugar into the steaming coffee, Cameron retorted, "Caffeine is good for me. It helps me function."
Her friend shook her head. "The stuff is awful," she muttered. She paused, watching as Cameron bit into the doughnut, then continued, "About last night…"
"What about it?" Cameron asked evenly. She calmly picked up her coffee, sipping at the hot liquid. Her eyes met Jess' over the rim of the cup.
Jessa raised one elegantly arched eyebrow. "Why did you tell your soulmate you were going to stake him?"
Cameron had the grace to look uncomfortable. "Because I needed him away."
"Cameron, he's been searching for you since dinosaurs roamed the earth. You could have at least given him five minutes." She rolled her velvety brown eyes, heaving an exasperated sigh.
"He got ten," she replied, her voice flat. "Fifteen, actually."
Jessa simply looked at her, her expression as unfathomable as the oceans in their deepest, darkest depths. "But did you let him talk?"
Cameron was stunned. Good point, Jessa, she applauded silently. "No, I didn't," she admitted out loud. "I wasn't exactly thinking rationally."
"Excuses, excuses." She shook her head, her heavy blond hair swinging wildly, and propped her elbows on the table. Her eyes were distant. "But if it was Deven and I was in the situation you were in, I would have done the same." She sat back then, looking idly at the ceiling, the walls -- anywhere but at her friend -- as she continued, "Maybe you should go look for him."
"Jessa, this is Boston," she reminded, laughing. "I could be dead before I found him." Sobering up, she waited. Avoiding her gaze was something Jessa always did when she knew her suggestion would be met with opposition.
Jessa finally met her eyes. "But you don't think that if he knew you were looking, he would find you?"
"Not now that I've threatened to kill him," she muttered. Her mouth twisted wryly and her face grew sad.
Jessa shrugged delicately. "Then make it known that you've had a change of heart." She picked up the spoon, letting the grainy sugar fall away, staring at it like it was a new plaything.
"I don't even know where to start," Cameron admitted. She, too, was watching the light shine off the spoon, sending its beams in every direction, only to fade away. Like every one of her lifetimes.
Flinging her blond hair over one shoulder, tucking the other side behind her ear, Jessa didn't say anything. Instead she stood and walked over to a drawer. She pulled it open quietly. Cameron heard the items in the drawer rustle and jingle softly. Some keys, maybe, or some pens banging against one another. Then Jessa pulled out a small slip of white paper, turning to face Cameron. She hesitated, then walked back to the table, resuming her previous seat.
Without a word, she handed the paper to Cameron. She followed Jess' example, remaining silent and unfolding the paper. Written on it in Jessa's slashing handwriting was a number.
"What is this?" she asked, curious.
Deadpan, Jess replied, "A phone number. What does it look like?"
She ignored Jess' tense voice, looking at the number more closely. "Maybe I should be more specific. Whose number is it and why did you give it to me?"
"Her name is Erin. She's a witch. Give her a call. She'll find him without any problem." Jessa picked up the phone and held it out to Cameron. She obviously meant to make sure Cameron did it now.
Cameron took the phone from her hand reluctantly. Looking down at the number, she punched it into the phone and lifted it to her ear, listening to it ring. She was about to hang up when a voice that reminded her of the vast night sky, enigmatic and full of knowledge, spoke.
"Erin here," the voice said coolly.
She glanced helplessly at Jessa, who simply shrugged and nodded. No help coming from that corner. "Hi, this is Cameron Aderyn. My friend gave me your number--" she started, only to be cut off in mid-explanation.
"Right, that would be Jessa," Erin interrupted. "What can I help you with?"
The phone crackled. "I need to find someone," she replied, wondering what she had gotten herself into. She looked over at her friend, staring at her with promises of retribution in her eyes.
"No problem," the voice on the other end of the phone answered. "We can do it now. I'm booked solid for the rest of the week. Can you meet me by the Courthouse?"
Now? She didn't want to do it now. But Jessa was staring at her with that expectant look on her face and Cameron really didn't have much choice in the matter. "Sure," she said finally. "I'll be there in about an hour."
"Bring something you don't mind burning," the witch replied. "I'll see you then."
The call was cut off abruptly. She lowered it from her ear, pressing the button and staring at it in shocked surprise. Something she didn't mind burning? Well. It seemed she would be finding Kian sooner than she had thought.
"What are you waiting for?" Jess chided softly. "You've only got an hour. You can answer my other questions later."
Cameron glared at her, but rose and walked into her room to change nonetheless. "You'd better hope I don't regret this," she warned. Goddess knows what would happen if she did.
Jessa watched the apartment door slam behind her with satisfaction. Someone -- Cameron, to be more specific -- was not happy. She'd get over it. Eventually she might realize Jessa had her best interests at heart, even if she wanted to stake her in the meantime.
She was so stubborn. She'd been that way in every lifetime Jessa had known her. Every suggestion Jessa made was met with opposition and every warning smiled at, but ignored. Jessa had never seen someone run headlong for death as often as Cameron.
This time she refused to let her die.
Cameron had more lives than their cats -- all eight of them put together. But it didn't mean that something couldn't change. Jessa would not lose her charge this time, no matter what else happened. If she had to stake every damned vampire in the state of Massachusetts, the witch girl would stay alive.
Jessa didn't take her responsibilities lightly, and especially not ones that came in the form of one Cameron Aderyn. And the girl was not only her responsibility, but also her friend. Had been in every one of her lives, as far back as the one where Deven made Jessa a vampire.
Her name had been Aeliri then and she had been human, much like Jessa herself. There the similarities ended. Whereas Jessa was innovative, determined, and strong, Aeliri was confused, innocent, and helpless. Once Jessa had realized this, she'd taken Aeliri under her wing. And that was how it had started.
They had been inseparable, helping each other at inopportune moments, picking each other up when they fell. And the depths to which Jessa sank when Deven had died had been almost unreachable. Aeliri hadn't given up on her. Then she had found Aeliri not a month later, drained of all her blood.
Needless to say, Jessa had been devastated first at the loss of her soulmate, then the loss of her friend. When the old witch had approached her, asking her for more than a simple favor or an easy task, she hadn't even hesitated. The answer had never been a question. And so, with very little persuasion and minor responsibility shock, Jessa had become what she still was today. A Guardian.
After all, what else did she have to live for?
Certainly not her soulmate, who Kieran had killed. She knew Kian hadn't been the one to do it, although Cameron wasn't aware of it. The whole mission had been nothing but a ploy to reunite the two of them. Jessa had known what Cameron's excuse would be, but she'd had to come up with a damn good one for her own.
It really hadn't been that hard. She'd simply used one twin's name in the place of the other's, told Cameron her story, and then informed her that "Kian" had a penchant for pseudonyms. She hadn't told her any lies. Just altered the facts a little. And in reality, it was the only way Jessa could think of to counteract Cameron's untimely habit of dying. Always right after her soulmate found her.
Besides, Cameron unconsciously seemed to realize that she was tired of death. She might not remember her past lives, but they were certainly a part of her. Jessa, who had been there for all of them -- with a little help from Erin -- was especially aware of the similarities, as well as the things Cameron had grown out of.
Erin played a big part in Jessa's role as a Guardian. She was just full of spells that Jessa found endless use for. Erin, in fact, was the reason Cameron was still alive today. Jessa's face grew sad, remembering the first meeting with her charge in this era.
Sick, frail, weak… and lovely. That was how Jessa would always think of her. Big, blue eyes had dominated a thin and ravaged face and Jessa had been angry. Angry that her life was always like this, angry that she couldn't do anything about it. And angry that Kieran had let her suffer. She still wasn't sure why he hadn't killed her in this life, but she did know one thing. If he had, he would have been doing her a favor. No one deserved to suffer through that.
So she'd fixed it. She'd made a trip to Erin and come back with a heart. Not in her hands, of course, but she and Erin had rigged it so Cameron would get it. Her name was moved up a little on the waiting list, then there it was. A heart that was compatible with her blood type and everything else. One that her body wouldn't reject.
After that it had been easy to befriend her and eventually talk her into joining their mission. Damalis, Xanthe, and Remy were really just along for the ride. Everyone had been content. Remy was happy staking vampires for a living. Jessa and Cameron would help Xanthe fulfill her mission as a Guardian in exchange for her and her charge's help now. Cameron and Damalis were the only ones in the group who didn't know this, but that was part of the price the Guardians paid, one of the few rules they had.
In short, being a Guardian was simple. You only had to keep your charge alive. But… When you factored in the part about not being allowed to tell your charge who they were, why they were there, or let on that you knew anything about them, things got a little difficult. Remembering to draw the line between what you knew and what you were supposed to know sometimes got confusing.
Jessa hoped she had been careful enough this time. She didn't think Cameron had caught on. But, one never knew… And it could be that Cameron was fully aware of Jess' role in her life. As long as she kept the fact that she knew to herself, everything would be fine.
A door slammed somewhere in the apartment. She could hear Remy's light, padding footsteps -- always with that hint of stalking grace -- coming toward the kitchen.
"Jessa, darling, you should have seen the delicious specimens we found last night. Gorgeous bodies… And their necks were simply divine." Remy sighed, walking into the kitchen. He stretched like a lazy cat, his muscles rippling across his naked shoulders. "I would have brought one home for you, ma petite, but I took them out for dinner instead."
She raised an eyebrow. "Took them out for dinner?"
He grinned, glints of gold twinkling in his tawny eyes. "Took them to dinner, had them for dinner…" he shrugged. "It's all the same."
"Incorrigible," she muttered, shaking her head and leaning back in her seat. "Remy, one of these days you're going to meet someone who's got you eating out of his hand instead of what that hand is attached to."
"Found him," he responded cheerfully, unperturbed. "The silly man won't admit he wants me."
"I don't know why," she said blithely, shaking her head. "It couldn't have anything to do with that episode in New…"
"Not a thing," he interrupted, cutting her off and sending her a warning glance.
She bit her lip to keep from laughing. "Next time you see him, you might have to start by apologizing."
"I will do nothing of the sort," he replied. "It would take me years to atone for everything I've done."
She raised an eyebrow, but didn't question. She was probably better off not knowing. "Just remember that when you watch him walk away again," she warned.
"He'll give in eventually, " he grinned. "He couldn't possibly hold out much longer." Then, changing the subject, he asked, "What about you and your soulmate? Where might he be found?"
She was saved from answering by a knock on the door.
He groaned, walking towards the door. "It's probably more of those damned bill collectors looking for that sorry excuse of a--" he paused, throwing open the door. "Well, well… I stand corrected. What have we here?"
Kian stood framed in the doorway, the light streaming at his back and shadowing his chiseled features. Jessa didn't miss the uncertainty playing across his face. "Is Cameron here?" he asked quietly.
Remy shook his head. "Sorry, sweet cheeks," he answered. "No luck. But I would be more than happy to fill in for her if you're looking for some company."
Kian blinked. "That's okay," he responded. "I'll just come back later."
"Oh, there's no need to do that," Remy answered, opening the door wider. He stepped back to give Kian just enough room to get by. "Why don't you come in?"
Amusement blossomed in Kian's eyes. "I'm really not interested," he emphasized, much to Remy's dismay.
"Well, mon cher, if you ever get lonely, you know where to find me," he said, smiling suggestively and licking his lips.
"I'll keep that in mind," he muttered.
"Leave him alone, Remy. Kian is taken." Jessa had moved to the doorway to get a closer look at him and now stood at Remy's side.
Remy's face fell, his gaze sweeping over the vampire one last time. "Oh, you're the Kian Redfern." With a long suffering sigh, he took another step back to let Kian past. "Cameron always gets them first."
Kian stepped into the apartment, arching one slashing burgundy eyebrow. "Will Cameron be back soon?"
"She's out looking for you." Jessa gestured vaguely at one of the chairs. "Why don't you have a seat? She should return shortly."
With one cautious glance at Remy, he uneasily complied. The chair he chose was large, but he somehow managed to dwarf it. He sat back, letting his hands slide down to rest on his knees, where his fingers drummed nervously or impatiently -- Jessa couldn't tell.
"We don't bite, you know," she said gently. "At least not those of our own kind."
An unholy light entered Remy's eyes, but he kept his mouth shut. Jessa knew he was dying to say something. From the look on Kian's face, he knew it, too.
Finally he admitted, "I'm not worried about you. I'm concerned what Cameron will do when she finds me here. Remember? Last time she threatened to stake me."
Remy sighed dramatically and clucked his tongue. "That's terrible. Someone needs to teach our little Cameron how to treat a man right." He sent a sly glance in Kian's direction, opening his mouth to continue.
"No, Remy," Jessa interrupted, cutting him off before he could say anything. "You've said enough."
He shook his head and walked out of the room.
Kian glanced at her then, amusement still shining in his eyes. "He's very obvious," he volunteered conversationally.
"'Obvious' is not the word," she responded. "Remy goes far beyond blatant." She hesitated a moment, then changed the subject. "She won't stake you, you know, but she's not going to be happy."
He only looked more determined. "Then that's something I'm going to have to deal with."
"You've got balls," Jessa admitted, impressed. "But I was referring to the fact that she's spent the entire morning in the cold trying to locate you, when you're right here. That's what she won't be happy about."
Comprehension dawned on Kian's face. "Boston's a big city. Maybe she'll just be glad she's not been searching for days."
Jessa grinned. "Let's hope so."