Adrien walked back onto the main street and over to the curb, where someone caught his eye. A man with short black hair walked toward him. Dressed in dark jeans, with a white shirt and dark wool jacket, he wore a single diamond stud in his left ear. A woman hurrying down the sidewalk dodged Adrien as he stopped, but the man behind him knocked him to his knees.
âAre you all right?â someone said with a hint of a French accent.
Adrien looked up into familiar brown eyes. Adrien inhaled slowly, hoping to head off the bloodlust that buzzed at the back of his brain. Heat tingled at the back of his neck, raising the hairs there. His palms felt suddenly sweaty. He felt sick. Not nauseaâshock at seeing Nicolas here, realizing it really was Nicolas.
âYes, Iâ¦.â Adrien took the hand Nicolas offered and struggled back to his feet. The world spun and he grabbed Nicolasâs arm to steady himself.
âYouâre not all right. You look ill. I should call an ambulanceââ
âNo ambulance.â Adrien righted himself. âI just need to eat something. Itâs hotter than I realized.â
Nicolas glanced around, frowned, then said, âThereâs a coffee shop at the corner.â He didnât appear convinced by Adrienâs words. âWhy donât I help you over there?â
As if Adrien would object. âThank you.â
Five minutes later they sat at a booth by the window, Adrien drinking coffee with a trembling hand. Adrien had watched Nicolas as theyâd walked the short distance to the restaurant, his swordsmanâs muscles straining against the fabric of his shirt. He looked only slightly older than heâd been when they met. âIâm sorry,â he said, coming back to himself and wondering why Nicolas was sitting with him when he could have left. âI must be keeping you from something.â
âNo,â Nicolas answered. âIn fact, I just came from a meeting. Iâve got the rest of the afternoon free.â
âIâm Adrien.â He forced a smile and set the empty mug down.
âItâs good to meet you, Nicolas,â Adrien said in French. He drew another long breath and his heart slowed its gallop.
âPlease call me Nico,â Nicolas said, also in French.
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