Xanthe approached Griffins Bay – and the real object of her visit, Peter – from the ocean, having decided to search out her former colleague for a chat about her aggravating work problems. No, that wasn’t true. She hadn’t decided anything, was following this urge on instinct, not reason; although she thought a conversation with her former prince might resolve her deepening anxiety over her erratic loyalties these days. And Peter knew her and the burden of her professional obligations as well as anyone.
Earlier that day she’d sensed he was near the Blake home, and this thread of perception, slight though it was, had given her adequate impetus to leave her offices at Shaddox and undertake her current swim. She’d had to be sneaky in her exit from the palace since others there continued to ask her about him – they hadn’t stopped since they’d learned of his resurrection almost eight years ago. Peter apparently didn’t want to communicate with anyone, which stopped no one from trying to wheedle a meeting with him out of her.
They were kind of cute, often inventing some weak but plausible need for reconnection with their one-time regent – would he like any personal items from his life before exile? So-and-so had been an intimate and was frantic with worry for him, and could he or she get in touch? Surely she, Xanthe, could facilitate an encounter.
She couldn’t, but she didn’t blame any of them for trying. She understood their artless pandering, which was a combination of genuine concern and an over-zealousness none of them could help, both of which would be alleviated if Peter would deign to visit the seat of siren government and show his face. He wouldn’t and didn’t.
At first, she’d tried to persuade him with the contention he’d be left alone sooner if he’d cater to his former subjects in this matter; if he’d let himself be seen and answer a few questions to allay everyone’s curiosity. “You’ve been the center of our common life for over a century, and the drama surrounding your return is too seductive,” she’d argued. And it was true: even the most stable among them yearned to ferret out for themselves the truth in this part of their community’s history, to establish a more definitive resolution than the one they’d been given. Or at least come up with a palatable way to consider all that had happened since Peter’s faux suicide.
Peter hadn’t disagreed, but neither did he comply with their incessant requests for an audience. “I’ll think about it,” he’d answer blandly, or he’d say nothing at all, showing Xanthe he couldn’t care less about others’ need for relief, her own included. After her bids to lure him into a public appearance failed, she hadn’t known what to say to sirens who solicited her for a get-together. At this point, she just wished they’d stop pestering her.
“I have no influence on him,” she stated again and again. “I don’t know when – or even if – he’ll visit Shaddox. Ever.” Their eager nods were not an acknowledgment, because they acted as if she hadn’t spoken. She continued to be approached by folks who thought she had a unique in with Peter Loughlin.
She suspected she had more of an in than Peter let on, though. Because while she never had any indication where he was when others asked, she did sense him when she wished to locate him herself. Perhaps because he allows me this access? She wondered.
Several years ago, she’d asked him about the special radar between them. “Why can I always find you?”
“I will talk with you anytime,” Peter had replied… and that was all he’d say on the subject. She’d studied him to determine what he might be thinking but couldn’t guess. Although, he had professed loneliness for his own kind when she’d come upon him murdering their viceroy all those years ago. Peter drew her attention back to him. “You have nothing to worry about from me, Xanthe,” he asserted. “We’ve known each other a long time, and talking with you is a pleasure of mine. My reasons are that simple.”
“If you say so…?” Since she also noticed the easiness between them, she was inclined to believe him. After all, how many longtime, upper-level siren bureaucrats like the two of them were there, floating around these days? Not many.
She couldn’t help but feel wary around Peter given his past, epic deviances, though.
“Truly. You are safe in my company,” he insisted.
“Mmm,” she’d responded, wishing she were more convinced.
But back to her current personal crisis and the reason behind her impending visit to her old boss. She’d elected to search for him in Griffins Bay on the same whim that brought her to him every time no matter where he was, although she was aware he often dropped by the Blakes’ to check on Gabe, Kate, and little Henry. And sometimes Carmen and Michael when they were beachside, which they usually weren’t since their move to Shaddox.
Just outside the reef protecting the bay, Xanthe grabbed a waterpack with land supplies from one of the designated caches in the rock face.
She saw Peter from underwater just before she surfaced… and she felt his grin, his anticipation. He sat on the end of a dock at the base of the Blake beach house, one that served as a landing platform for siren visitors. It was low to the water – and often submerged during high tide, which was not the case at the moment. Peter had his linen shirt unbuttoned, the cuffs of his slacks rolled up to his knees. His bare feet dangled in the sea.
“Ah, Moonflower, how lovely to see you,” he crooned when her face broke through the waves. She hooked an arm around one of the dock posts to anchor herself.
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