A TWO MINUTE TASTER

Chapter 1

 

 

 

“The current rise of sea levels during the last century was recorded at a rate of 1.8mm per year. This has recently increased dramatically, due to our current era of Satellites. It has now increased to a staggering 3.1mm per year. This is, of course, all due to the thermal expansion of water and melting from the continental ice sheets.” Leif picked up his glass of water and took a sip, no doubt gearing up for yet another fact or lecture.

 

 “Did you know that each year 8mm of water from the entire surface of the oceans falls on the Antarctic ice sheets as snowfall? Topaz, are you listening to me?”

She glanced up sharply, bringing her attention back to the man seated opposite her. He was definitely not her type, with his greasy hair in stringy, mud brown dreadlocks and his horrible jumper. His glasses kept slipping down his nose as he talked and rather that push them back up with his finger, as most normal people would do, he instead would wriggle his nose and tip his head back slightly until they returned to their original position. This had given her an interesting, if disgusting, view right up his nostrils on several occasions already.

She let her psychic vision come in, un-focusing her eyes and squinted at his aura. Just as she had suspected. It was a bright lemon yellow, which indicated that he liked to be in control and feared losing respect. Well, he had certainly done that. She closed her sight down and caught his gaze.

 

“No, I didn’t know that, how fascinating,” she paused as she spotted their waiter working his way over to the table. The young man looked happy and eager to please. She guessed that he must be new, just wait until he had a few awkward customers. That would take the shine off. She had had a few of them in her time. She didn’t need to look at his aura to see that he was a happy person who was always ready to please.

 

“Are you ready to order?” he asked with a bright smile, his order pad ready in his hand, pen poised over the paper.

 

Topaz decided to let Leif go first and waved him on. She liked to have time to decide. He picked up his menu and looked up his selection.

 

“Yes, I’ll have the nut roast, with roast potatoes, peas and carrots.” The waiter nodded and wrote down the order, before turning to see what Topaz wanted to order.

 

“Now,” Leif carried on regardless of the fact that Topaz had opened her mouth to speak. The waiter turned back to him. She rolled her eyes behind his back, childish she knew but it made her feel better.

 

“Are the vegetables organic? I can’t eat anything else. And the potatoes are they vegan? Have they been cooked in a separate tray to the others? Also the gravy, does it contain any meat juices?”

 

He looked up at the waiter expectantly, who shifted uncomfortably under his questioning gaze, looking like he was back at school and had just had a surprise exam sprung on him, with no time to study. Damn, Topaz felt sorry for him, he was going to get a crash course in difficult customers right here, right now. She wiggled slightly in her seat, turning her head to look out of the window, sending the universal, He’s-nothing-to-do-with-me, I-just-met-the-guy, message out to the rest of the diners and wait staff.

 

“I don’t know, sir, I’m sorry I only started here yesterday. Would you like me to go and ask for you?” The poor lad was almost sweating under Leif’s stare.

 

“Well obviously I would or I would not be asking, would I?” Leif scowled at the waiter, and made a shooing motion with his hand.

 

“Very good, sir.” The waiter turned on his heel and scurried away in the direction of the kitchen.

 

Leif turned to Topaz, coughing to get her attention. Sighing under her breath, she turned back to her date. He immediately launched into a torrent of abuse at the expense of the poor waiter.

 

“Can you believe that he doesn’t know how the food is prepared? It’s just not acceptable; I shall be having a talk with his supervisor when we leave.”

 

Topaz was shocked by his attitude. There was no way in hell that she was going to let him get away with being a jerk all night. She tried appealing to his good nature, not that she was convinced he even had one, it was either very deeply buried or he’d misplaced it somewhere. She leapt to the waiter’s defence.

 

“Oh no, don’t do that, It’s not his fault. He said he only started here yesterday. Cut him some slack, he…” Leif held up his hand, cutting her off mid-flow and shocked, Topaz blinked. Oh no, he didn’t just hush me, she thought, and even as she glared at him, his face settled into lecture mode. Here it comes, brace yourself, Tope, my girl, block your ears, she mentally instructed herself, resisting the urge to stick her fingers in her ears.

 

“Topaz, my dear. You are too soft. These people should know their job. How do you expect the service to improve if you do not tell them what is lacking? Now he will know for future reference, won’t he?” Leif smiled triumphantly at her, pleased that he had made his point, taking her stunned silence as agreement. These people? I think he just insulted me too, she thought in amazement.

 

She spotted the waiter returning to their table, and the poor lad didn’t look happy.

 

Leif looked up as the boy approached and Topaz wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole. She glanced down at her feet, half hoping that a chasm had conveniently appeared that she could throw herself into. No such luck. The diners on the neighbouring tables were listening in unashamedly.

 

“Well?”

 

“I’m sorry, sir, I asked Chef and he said that the potatoes are all cooked together and the vegetables are not organic. As for the Gravy, it is made with beef stock.”

 

“And what are you planning on doing to rectify this problem?”

 

“We would like to recommend the salad, Sir, it is organic.” Topaz covered a snort of laughter with a cough and tried to look innocent of any wrong doing, but didn’t succeed.

 

Leif looked like he was about to offer yet another of piece of his mind, no doubt about to berate the poor man on his poor service and the skills the chef was lacking. Deciding there and then that enough was enough Topaz leaned over the table to whisper fiercely under her breath, beyond annoyed with his rude behaviour.

 

“Just take the salad.” She added a glare for good measure.

 

Leif sighed loudly, admitting partial defeat. “Very well, I’ll have the salad, but no cheese on it.” He handed his menu back to the waiter.

 

“And for you, madame?” The waiter turned to Tope. She bestowed a dazzling smile on him, trying to make up for Leif’s rudeness. Leif took a sip of his water, avoiding looking at her.

 

“I’ll have the steak please.” She answered the waiter, ignoring Leif’s shocked intake of breath and his subsequent chocking, as he coughed up his mouthful of water. “Medium to well done, with the vegetables and potatoes.” She handed the menu back to him with another smile.

 

“Very good, madame, an excellent choice, it is our speciality, very popular.” He winked at her and walked away to deliver their orders.

 

Topaz turned back to her date to see him gathering his things and standing up from the table. She allowed him to do so without comment. She didn’t want to spend another second in his company and was not about to stop him if he decided to leave.

 

“I’m sorry, but I can have no future with someone who would partake in animal flesh.”

 

“We had a future?” She muttered under her breath, but Leif continued with his rejection speech. She let him ramble on, stifling a yawn, bored now, propping her elbow on the table and resting her chin in her hand.

 

“You’re not what I thought you would be, Topaz Thompson, I’m very disappointed, you are nothing like Summer Rain said you were.” He turned his back on her and walked away, pausing at the front desk, no doubt to complain about the potatoes and then left.

 

Topaz let out a sigh of relief. “Screw you and the horse you rode in on,” she grumbled at his retreating form, resisted the urge to cast a small spell, just to freeze his vocal cords for the next day or two; personally she felt that she would be doing the whole world a big favour.

 

This had to have been the worst date of her life so far, and she had had some bad ones. The waiter, seeing Leif leave, made his was cautiously back to the table.

 

“Would you like me to cancel the orders for you?”

 

She looked up at him. “Yes, please, and could you bring me the bill for the drinks we had? The cheap git didn’t even leave enough to cover his cider.” Topaz wasn’t in the mood for food now, she wanted alcohol and lots of it, drowning her sorrows was the way to go.

 

“Certainly, madame,” he leaned down and said in a low voice. “I am sorry about your date.”

 

“What, that he was a pompous, arrogant arse or that he left me alone to foot the bill?” She smiled to show that she was fine with it and that she had had a narrow escape. She dreaded to think what he would have come up with to complain about if they had gone on to see the play as they had planned.

 

“The first one.”

 

Topaz smiled a little wider at his answer and nodded in agreement.

 

“So am I, and you should be grateful that you didn’t have to listen to his lecture on global warming. Don’t worry about me, my girlfriends are in the bar across the street and I think I might join them.”

 

While the waiter fetched her bill, she dug out her mobile phone and called her friend Geena (a member of her coven) the ‘Summer Rain’ Leif had referred to. The phone connected and began to ring.

 

When Geena finally answered, the background noise made it obvious that she was out on the town.

 

“Topaz, honey. How’s the date going? Isn’t he just fabulous? As soon as I met him I knew he would be just perfect for you.

 

Topaz was stunned, but not into silence. Did she not know her at all?

 

“Perfect for me?” She hissed into the phone, trying to control her temper and not disturb the other diners any more than they already had. “He was unbearable. He was rude, judgemental and a know-it-all. He didn’t let me get a word in edge ways and when he kissed me hello, he sniffed me, SNIFFED ME, Geena, then he proceeded to complain about the fact that I had showered and lecture me on the waste of water.”  Her voice had risen to a shrill yell and she took a deep breath to calm herself down. “Remind me never to agree to go on a date with someone you meet and think is perfect for me, ever again.”

 

“So you didn’t like him?” Geena asked innocently, but Topaz detected a hint of a giggle in her voice.

 

“I like him about as much as you like polyester.” She answered, putting the phone down on her so called friend’s reply. She dropped the phone back into her bag and yanked out her purse, glad that for once she had stopped on the way home to get some money out of the bank. She sighed deeply.

 

What had she learnt? Never let your friends set you up on a blind date, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. That, and the fact that all the men she met seemed to be losers of the highest degree and she was doomed to die alone with nothing but cats for company. Roll on old age.

 

As the last student finally left to go home, Topaz relaxed back into her chair and swung her feet up on the desk, a naughty luxury she never normally allowed herself to do. It was the end of term and it had begun to feel like it would never get there. She was looking forward to a nice relaxing break at home. She had lots to do, rooms to decorate and lessons to plan for her new students. Nowhere to go, and nobody to see, she could please herself, it was going to be fantastic. Topaz couldn’t wait to get out of there.

 

Don’t misunderstand, she loved her job teaching at the adult college. She had been on board right from the start and had seen it prosper and gain respect from others in their field. Athena’s Academy was no ordinary college. Athena’s specialised in all things weird and wonderful. Set up 10 years ago by her friends Andy and Clarissa Johnson, two of the world’s best known psychics. They dealt with the world of the supernatural. Andy gave lessons in Spiritual Healing and Clarissa in Meduimship. Other classes included Tarot Reading, Ghosts and Haunting’s, Angels and Supernatural Forces.

 

Topaz taught Mythology and Folklore, specialising in supernatural creatures from myth and legend. She had always had an interest in the supernatural world from a very young age. Becoming a Wiccan in her last year at school and reading up on every subject she could lay her hands on, eventually changing her name legally from Sarah to Topaz, her chosen Wiccan name.

 

She had drifted from one low paid job to the other for a few years before meeting Andy and Clarissa on a ghost hunt. They had gotten talking and they had been impressed with her knowledge. They had invited her to their house the next night and then explained about their new project, Athena’s. She had loved the sound of it and had agreed to join their staff straight away, that had been 9 years ago and she hoped that she was now a valued member of their staff.

 

Athena’s was not just a college, they ran a web site dedicated to their work and published a twice yearly newsletter. Topaz often went on fact finding trips and wrote articles for the magazine.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on the open classroom door. She looked up to find Andy lounging on the door frame. He was your average looking man, average height, medium brown hair cut short, warm brown eyes and an open, cheery face. There was nothing average about his talent though, and his average looks had been a great advantage to his work; people warmed to him almost immediately, making him a very popular medium for first timers. He always came highly recommended and was booked up months in advance.

Topaz smiled at him as he entered, grabbed a chair from the ring of chairs that formed her teaching space, she liked to sit in with her students as much as possible, spun it round and straddled it. She waited for him to settle himself comfortably before speaking.

“Hey, Andy, how’s it going? Looking forward to our holiday?”

“Yeah, I am, we have a few of our regular clients scheduled in but that’s it. You got any plans?” He asked innocently. She was not fooled for a second, Andy was up to something. He had that look on his face, that I’m-about-to-drop-a-bombshell look. Topaz saw her plans for the holiday fading before her eyes. But she was feeling generous today and decided to hear him out. Get the bad news straight away and get it over with, kinda like ripping off a plaster, do it quick and it’s done. She had a quick look at his aura and didn’t like what she saw. It was his usual gold colour but was pulled in close to his body, shielding from her. Damn, she thought, this man knows me too well.

“OK, spill it, what do you want from me?” Blunt, her? Never.

“We have a mission for you,” he began and Topaz groaned, she didn’t want to go on yet another fact finding trip.

“Oh, Andy, not again. Can’t you get someone else to do it? I just want a nice, quiet holiday at home. I don’t want to go rushing off on some wild goose chase yet again,” she whined, because that’s what most of them were, wild goose chases, normally engineered by a sad person with too much time on their hands. Pick on the ones with the radical ideas, it’s not like they have feelings or pride. OK, she was mentally ranting again, a bad habit of hers.

“We can’t send anyone else, we need you,” he looked at her pleadingly and she sighed and waved him to continue, might as well hear him out before she said no. “We need your special skills.”

Special skills, my butt, she thought, flattery would get him nowhere, she had fallen for that one too many times.  But damn her pride and curiosity, now she just had to know. She tried not to sound too suspicious when she answered.

“What for?” OK, that did sound suspicious, even to her ears.

“We have been contacted by someone, a man named Mason Barrett.” The name didn’t ring any bells.

“And?”

“He is a member of our online community and has been following our work, yours in particular. He has decided that he is fed up with all the rumours circulating about his kind and wants to set the record straight. He knows you are the authority on all things Supernatural and wants you to write the article for him. He wants you to visit with him.”

“Well what does he want me to do? What is so special about him?” Andy’s words came back to her. “What do you mean his kind?”

Andy looked at her for a second, seeing if he had hooked her yet, then cocked his head towards the door. Topaz waved her hand in its general direction and it slammed shut.

Once the door was closed he leaned forward to look her in the eyes. OK, she’d admit it, now she was very curious, it must be something big for Andy to be this cautious, he was normally so open, inviting anyone around at the time, to chime in with their opinion.

Andy finally opened his mouth and spoke.

“He’s a Vampire, Tope.”

She burst out laughing, she couldn’t help it. He’d been suckered in again.

“Oh, Andy, you’ve been got good. A Vampire? A real un-live Vampire? Yeah right. No one has ever met one. It’s probably some wanna-be Goth guy that stumbled across our website and decided to make trouble.”

Andy just looked at her, waiting for her hysterics to end. “We think he’s for real.”

“Why? What makes this time so different to the dragon sighting?” That one had been embarrassing, she had travelled all the way to Cornwall to find a bloke with a private collection of lizards. “And what about the unicorn that turned out to be a pony with a plastic horn stuck on for their daughter’s birthday? I’m not being laughed at again, Andy, no freakin’ way.”

“He gave us his name, place of birth, everything. It all checks out.”

“So what?” Anyone could look up public records, especially now everyone was looking into their family trees.

“The records are from 1890.”

That stopped her for a second, while her mind raced to catch up. Could it be true, a Vampire? She had dreamed of meeting one for years, having always been fascinated with the creatures. The idea of them existing was too good to be true. It had to be a wind up, someone’s idea of a joke.

“Anyone could have looked up old birth records, Andy.”

“Yes, but he provided the information of his death too.”

Topaz felt a little chill run down her spine at this comment.

“What did you find out?” She hardly dared to believe.

“He died in 1910, apparently in a fall from his horse. There was a photo of him in the records, a family photo taken the year he died.”

She could feel herself getting more excited by the second, but tried to control it, she didn’t want to get excited about some loser with a Vampire fetish.

“How do you know it’s him?”

“He sent me a photo of him taken 3 weeks ago in the bar he works at, he looks exactly the same, except his hair has changed.” She knew she was openly gaping at Andy by this point but didn’t care.

He pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to her. She looked at the picture of a young man. He was very good looking, with black hair, swept back from his face. He had sculpted cheek bones, so sharp you could cut yourself on them. His nose was fine and straight. He had a cheeky, flirty smile on his face and just visible under his lips was a pair of wicked looking fangs. She looked back up at Andy, disbelief written all over her face.

“Are you serious? Really and truly serious? He’s a real Vampire? Like with fangs, who drinks blood? That kind of Vampire?”

Andy was chuckling by this point; he knew he had her attention now. He knew she would do anything to know if he really was a Vampire. And he knew that she would have to find out for herself, believing no one else. Supernatural creatures were her life’s work. His aura swelled before her eyes. He was no longer shielding, he knew she wouldn’t yell now.

“Yes, that kind of Vampire. He wants to do an interview with you. He said in his email that he liked the articles you wrote on Werewolves. He liked the way you handled their situation and how you portrayed them in a good light. He wants people who matter i.e. our members and staff to know the truth. He thinks you’re the one to do it.”

 That had been a good article even if she said so herself, she had researched lycanthropes extensively and put together a pretty convincing argument for them being real, too bad all her adverts for a real Were to come forward had met with failure, but she still dreamed of one day meeting one.

“Well, yeah, I guess I could understand that. I’m kinda flattered. What do I have to do, where do I meet him?”

“That’s the catch, he lives in Scotland, Edinburgh to be exact. You have to travel to him. He wants you to meet him on Monday night at Night Walkers, the bar he works at.”

“Monday! He wants to meet on Monday? But it’s already Friday. I can’t get everything sorted out and get to Scotland in 3 days.” Topaz had jumped up and began to pace back and forth behind her desk, waving her arms around in the air above her head, doing a good impression of a demented windmill.

Andy watched her with amusement for a few seconds before deciding she had suffered enough.

“Calm down, love, it’s all sorted. We’ve booked you tickets on a flight to Edinburgh leaving Sunday lunch time. That way you will have time to settle into your hotel and explore before you have to meet him on Monday night. And as he doesn’t want to meet until midnight.” She made a face at this, how clichéd could you get?

“You will have all day Monday to yourself. Think of it as a holiday with a little work thrown in. You can go home tonight, relax, pack on Saturday and make arrangements to have someone pop in and water your plants and be off on Sunday, no problem.” Andy looked pleased with himself.

She looked at him, trying to look stern but failing, she was so excited to be meeting a real Vampire. Damn, she would be disappointed if he turned out to be a fake. Topaz shook her head to dispel the negative thoughts. Andy had done his best, sorting out everything for her so she wouldn’t have to.

“Looks like you’ve got it all planned out, don’t you, Andy? Bit sure of yourself aren’t you?”

           

“Just to make it easier for you, Topaz. It was purely a selfless act, I assure you.” He laid his hand on his heart and adopted a sincere expression. She wasn’t fooled for a minute.

           

“You are so full of bull, Andy, but I love you anyway.” She walked around the desk and gave him a big hug. “This is so big; can you imagine it? Real Vampires, just like I always dreamed. I have been trying all my life to prove that they exist and all I ever got for my troubles was ridicule. Well not this time, this time I’ll have proof.”

           

“Hang on a minute, darling, there’s another, little teeny, catch.” He held up his thumb and forefinger, leaving about a millimetre gap between them. “You can’t try to go public with your article. We have to keep it just for us. Not for the mainstream population. It’s one of his conditions, something about not being allowed to go public yet, he said he would explain more to you when you meet. Anyway, I had to promise that the information would be kept locked on our website, only people with the right clearance, namely our members, will be able to access it. And it will be locked so it cannot be copied or distributed without our knowledge.”

           

Topaz saw her dreams of worldwide notoriety fading before her eyes. All her hopes of silencing the sceptics that had made fun and belittled her, were shot to pieces. She took a deep breath and forced herself to think rationally, she would know the truth, and the people who mattered most would know, that would be good enough for her.

           

“OK, Andy, I’m in. I’ll go. I’ll meet the guy and do an interview. I’ll bring back our proof, I promise.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and another hug. He grinned at her.

           

“You get off home; I’ll pick you up at eleven Sunday morning, to take you to the airport. I’ll bring your ticket with me, and all of your hotel information.” He broke their hug and headed to the door, his bright gold aura almost blinding her now, and she quickly closed down her psychic sight.

           

“Thanks, Andy, I really appreciate this.” She waved as he left and sank back down into her chair. Her head was spinning. A real Vampire. Could it be true? Damn, she hoped it was.

“Shit,” she muttered to herself. This holiday might just change her life.