Sometimes, even the villains get to tell a story.
The light in the viewing room was subdued today. On display behind and under glass were examples of some of the oldest surviving textiles and tapestries in the world.
Renata Abeille leaned over one special display case, absently stroking one perfectly manicured finger along its edge. My beauty! It’s been so long. Soon, soon, she promised.
“Why would you be interested in that relic from the stone ages?”
She glanced up at her new husband, Thierry LeRoux, trying to look interested in the antiquities but failing miserably. She allowed herself a tiny smile. It wasn’t often that Thierry was out of his element, but board rooms were his natural habitat, not auction houses.
Renata arched an eyebrow at him.
“While it is old, it isn’t nearly that ancient. I made it sometime in the 1200s.” Seeing his inquisitive look, she added, “When I was living with the Swedes.”
His look of astonishment was priceless. It never failed to amuse her when she found some tidbit from her history that he didn’t already know.
“You made this?”
She lifted her couture-clad shoulders, as though creating this piece of art was something well within her capabilities.
“Yes, one of the many benefits of reincarnation. I worked on it over several lifetimes, until I finally finished it.”
He clicked his tongue in admiration.
“Now that is dedication, my dear,” he said in admiration. “I am curious though. How did you lose track of it until now? Surely you could have found and purchased it before now.”
In an instant, her expression changed from interested buyer to feral wolf. Her husband retreated a half step before he caught himself.
“Because, my love, in the last lifetime I spent working on the tapestry, my father stole it. He didn’t think a ‘real man’,” she said, venom lacing her words, “a real Viking man, should be working on a tapestry.” She allowed herself a bitter smile. “It was always easier to work on it when I was reborn a woman.”
Renata shook her head, the bitter memories of that life springing fresh to her mind, burning like an open wound.
“After years of working in secret, I finally finished it and begged my father to hang it in the great hall. My mother pressured him into indulging me. But a few weeks later, he flew into another black rage at his ‘weak’ son, had it torn down and taken away in the middle of the night.”
Thierry chuckled quietly.
“And how long did he live after that?”
She flashed him that feral wolf smile again.
“Five days. Five very long, torturous days.” She dismissed her memories of his death, choosing to focus on the tapestry itself.
Turning back to the display case, she traced a finger around a Viking ship in full sail, it’s sides supporting the shields of men she’d known personally.
“After he told me who he gave it to, I spent weeks chasing after it.” Her voice turned sad. “I never found it. I thought it was lost to the ages until one of my buyers alerted me to the online catalog for today’s auction. She thought I might be interested in some of the statuary, and I was, but when I saw this tapestry, my tapestry, I knew I must have it again.”
“Excuse me, my dear, but why did you not simply approach the present owner and purchase it outright? That seems far simpler than gambling on losing it in an auction.”
She sighed softly. “And I would have preferred to buy it outright. However, the man running this auction is a damned Tesham. When I approached him to get the owner’s name to purchase it…”
Thierry nodded with complete comprehension.
“The man instantly hated you and refused to sell it to you.”
Sighing, Renata said, “Yes, and there were too many witnesses for me to remedy that.”
A soft chime shivered through the air, indicating the start of the auction. The room began to stir as buyers moved to their seats. Renata and Thierry found places near the front of the crowd.
A sharply dressed man stepped up to the podium, proclaiming in a cultured British accent, “Our first lot today is this beautifully restored eleventh century tapestry. Bidding will start at twenty million dollars.”
Renata thrust her buyer’s paddle into the air.
“Thirty million dollars.”
* * *
“Thank you, Ms. Abeille,” the manager said through gritted teeth. “It was a pleasure doing business with you. The tapestry will be shipped to your home in Paris, as you requested. It should arrive within the week.” The man’s face, a mask of pure hatred, was completely at odds with his words.
For a professional, Renata thought smugly, he’s not very good at concealing his emotions.
Offering him her hand, knowing he couldn’t in courtesy refuse it, she waited for the inevitable outcome of this little charade.
The man hesitated, licking his lips and darting his eyes around the room. Finally, almost shuddering, he reached out.
An avid smile upon her face, Renata clasped his hand in both of hers, preventing him from pulling away. Her eyes rolled upward for a moment. Oh, the sweet taste of a Tesham, she marvelled, as she began to drain the man’s life energy.
Thierry extended his own hand, placing it companionably on the man’s shoulder. A brief smile of intoxication crossed his face..
When the man dropped to the floor, Renata accepted Thierry’s offered arm and they leisurely moved toward the exit.
“It’s been forever since we’ve dined together, darling,” she purred, as they reached the door. “That was lovely.”
Behind them, clerks rushed to help the man. The very dead man.