The storm had abated to a mere drizzle when Damien reappeared on the road. Victoria sighed with relief. Even though he was under an umbrella she could see that heightened color had infused his lean cheeks, and his quick strides as he approached warned her to tread carefully.
“Why are you still here?” he demanded.
“I need an interview.”
“Leave! Get out of here!”
A spark of anger kindled inside her. It was his fault that she was here in the first place. If he would have returned her phone calls, she wouldn’t have had to come all the way to Devil Falls to speak to him.
“Where do you suggest I go?”
He ground his teeth. “To. Your. Hotel.”
“There is no hotel on this island.” How could he not know that?
“Take the ferry then. Go back to America. You’re not welcome here!” he shouted.
“Mr. Kirk, please.” She pressed herself against the wet iron rods. “I need your help to write the book. Look, it’s an authorized biography, so you’ll have a say in what’s going to be between the covers. I won’t even have to bother you much. It’s almost done. I just need you to fill in some blanks.”
He looked at her, his eyes dark and mysterious under his umbrella. What she wouldn’t give to know what he was thinking.
“If you don’t cooperate, I’m going to write one anyway. An unauthorized version. Then I’ll get to write whatever I want. Without your input.”
Something flickered in his eyes and he smiled slightly, but she didn’t like the smile. It was different from the one she had seen so often in photographs, the pure and triumphant smile that had shone like the sun after his many brilliant concerts. This smile had an edge of cruelty to it.
“Feeble,” he said. “Your contract is for an authorized bio only, which my manager signed without my permission. I won’t let you write lies and speculation about me. I’ll have you sued for breach of contract.”
Victoria’s knuckles turned white on the bars. He’d called her bluff. She should’ve known better.
Time for Plan B.
Relaxing her hands, she shrugged.
“Then I’ll counter-sue.”
His eyes narrowed. “For what?”
“Breach of contract.”
“I didn’t sign any contract,” he said, enunciating the T’s very clearly. “My manager did. Without my permission. You can write her damn bio if you like.”
“But you still–”
“Goddamn it, I’ll fire her and sue her for gross negligence and breach of the contract she signed with me!”
Victoria bit her lower lip. She didn’t want Miranda to get in trouble over this. They’d been friends since college, and Miranda had contacted Victoria for the book even though she could easily have chosen a more famous and experienced writer.
Okay, Plan C.
“Well, it won’t matter. I’ll just sell an unauthorized bio to my editor. Trust me, with the public interest in you so high it’ll sell like hotcakes, especially when the media finds out why I couldn’t write the authorized version like I was supposed to.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“Not at all.” She gave him a bland smile. “Just stating the facts.”
Damien looked at her in silence for a long time. It was his move, so she said nothing. The rain had stopped and the sun came out again. After a time she started counting the drops of water that condensed, hung, and then fell off the gates. Finally he said, “I don’t want you coming into the house. It’s not even mine.”
If he thought that would deter her, he was in for a shock. “Fine. We can do it here.”
“How long is it going to last?”
She blinked. “Excuse me?”
“This interview. How long?”
“A week or so. No more than that.”
The ghost of a smile hovered at the corner of his lips, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “So you intend to camp out here for a week?”
She raised her chin, staring him full in the face. “If I have to.”
She nodded. “It comes with age and ugliness.”
Irritation mingled with something softer flickered in his eyes. Finally he sighed. “I’ll let you come in, but you have to leave tomorrow morning.”
She opened her mouth to tell him she wasn’t leaving tomorrow but closed it without saying a word. Getting inside was the first step. Standing by Devil Falls’ gates and arguing with him wouldn’t solve her problems.
“What was that?” he asked.
Victoria frowned. “Nothing. I didn’t say anything.”
Damien gave an irritated flick of his head and punched a few keys on a numeric pad on the other side of the gates. They unlocked with a buzz and he pulled them open. She righted her suitcase from where it had fallen and stepped inside before he could change his mind.
“Thank you.” A lie. She was anything but grateful.
Without responding, he relocked the gate and walked past her, folding his umbrella. “Follow me. And mind your step. I don’t want you to fall into the water.” He looked at her. “I don’t need another death on my conscience,” he added, his voice full of condescension and mockery.
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t anyone tell you?”
When she shook her head, he laughed and guided her toward the manor. Was someone supposed to tell her something? Some special local gossip about Damien?
And what did he mean by another death?
Devil Falls by Angelle Trieste
2008 © Angelle Trieste
Available October 28, 2008 from Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
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