\ 20:23 Alison, Pablo, Anne and Cadee | unlimitedi.net
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“Pablo, there you are.” Alison found Pablo filling up his plate, juggling the platter with a glass of some concoction or other. “What are you having? I could use one, whatever it is. I didn’t think those photographers were ever going to stop asking for me to pose suggestively with Sven.” She linked her arm through his and picked an hors d’oeuvre off his dish. “I’ve hardly had a moment to talk with anyone yet.”

Pablo surrendered his something-tini. He thought they had called it a "Blood-tini B-Neg" but it tasted like cherry schnapps. "I'll say this for your publicity people, this is quite a spread. But as I look around all I see are ribs and elbows on these girls. Do they even eat? I'm sorry I left you to the photographers; I was afraid they were going to ask me to pose with you. I'm a little camera shy."

"I know. That's why I warned you they'd be here, give you a chance to scurry off to some dark corner to hide." She grinned at him, her smile broadening further as she saw a familiar face over his shoulder.

"Hi there, Anne. It's great to see you here." She glanced around a little. "Did you bring your friend Cadee with you?"

Anne smiled, happy. She had hoped to get near Lucinda at the party, and had watched her from afar as she did all the publicity shots and met all the important people. She had told herself she would approach Lucinda later in the night, when things got a little less hectic. But then, things got even more hectic, as people kept arriving.

So she had forgotten Lucinda for a little while, especially when she caught sight of ‘Mr. Tall and Wonderful’ and decided she could give him another chance, she was soft hearted like that, only to find Lucinda alone in a corner! Well, not completely alone, she thought, as she assessed the guy with her.

“Lucinda!! I’m really happy to finally get to talk to you!” she said, smiling at her idol. “Cadee is around, but I lost her. This is packed like sardines in a can! What a success, you must be thrilled!”

"Cadee? Pablo wiped his hand on a free napkin quickly. Our Cadee?” he said to Alison then turned to the woman. “You know each other?"

Surprised, Anne looked at him with more attention. Sure, he fitted the description of the detective Cadee mentioned often enough. Pablo Sandoval, wasn’t it? Cadee had mentioned he was Lucinda’s date. She smiled.

Your Cadee? If you’re talking about tall Cadee, blonde Cadee, beautiful Cadee… It’s my Cadee. I saw her first!”

Alison chuckled. “It’s okay, Anne. We promise not to steal her away. I’ve only met her the once, anyway, the other night at Slàinte.”

She glanced at Pablo. “Anne’s one of my best fans,” she said by way of explanation. “I don’t think she’s missed a single one of my book signings.”

"Glad to meet a fan, I'm kind of the opposite. I've never read any of Alison's books, but I am looking forward to doing that. Are you Cadee’s...girlfriend?"

Anne laughed, delighted. “Oh no no no, Cadee’s as straight as they come. We’re roommates, known each other for ages. BFF, you know?” She looked at Lucinda then, and back to the man. “Are you her boyfriend?”

Pablo looked at Alison with a smile then back to Anne, "Working on it. I'll have to get back to you on that."

Alison shared a small, secret smile with Pablo. It was still early days, but getting back together seemed to be working out well for both of them so far. She sipped at the red drink Pablo had given her and made a face. She didn’t really fancy cherry-flavoured drinks and resolved to get herself something more to her liking as soon as she could get to the bar.

“So Anne, how did that audition go? Did you get the part? I was keeping my fingers crossed for you.”

Anne made a face. “Not good, actually. Seems Martha Jefferson was not supposed to be petite… but I’m looking forward for another. ‘Shoggoth on the Roof’! Can you imagine?”

"Shoggoth?" Alison blinked "Can one play a fiddle with tentacles, I wonder?"

She shook her head. "Well, I hope you get something soon." She paused for a moment in thought, and glanced over her shoulder where she'd recently been sitting on Sven's lap while he pretended to bite her neck. She started to say something, but then thought better of it. If the project ever got off the ground, she'd make sure to mention Anne's name then. There was no point bringing it up now and getting the girl's hopes up when it may never transpire.

"Did you notice our special guest tonight?" she said instead. "I've never actually met him in person before, but now I can't imagine anyone else as Donatien."

“Ohhh, yes!” Anne cried, and almost bounced, as she tended to do when excited. “I couldn’t believe it, he’s sooooo tall! I promise you, I wouldn’t mind him biting my neck,” she laughed, and showed Lucinda the choker she had specially bought for the occasion, it sported two red crystals simulating teeth punctures and a spray of smaller ones falling from it, like little blood drops. “Do you think he’ll be tempted?”

“I’m sure he would be. He’s a bit of a ladies’ man,” Alison said with a wink. “What about you, Pablo? Would you be tempted?”

Pablo turned, startled. Crumbs sprayed from his mouth where he’d been stuffing it with food. “Wouff wha?”

Alison merely rolled her eyes, and turned away from him when she heard a new voice.

“Please, don’t tell me you’re offering your throat again, Anne. I thought you were over that already. I’ve been looking for you all over, no wonder you didn’t come back!” Cadee said, as she appeared from behind her friend. She then turned to the other two. “Hello, it’s great to see you! Great party, Lucinda.”

“Hi Cadee,” Alison greeted her. “Thanks, though most of the organising wasn’t my doing. I just have to show up and smile a lot.” She nudged Pablo with her elbow and whispered, “You’ve still got cocktail sauce on your fingers.”

Pablo swallowed his mouthful in one painful gulp and wiped his hand while smoothly dropping his plate on a passing tray. Then he really saw Cadee. She looked nothing like the Cadee in his mind. That Cadee wore t-shits, jeans and an apron. "Wow," Was what he meant to say but his mouth just sort of moved soundlessly.

He took his Blood-tini back from Alison and had a quick swallow, "Ugh, I should know better than to come to a party without eating first. You look great."

He put his arm around Alison, "But Ali...er...Lucinda is still the star of the show."

“Thank you, Pablo.” Cadee grinned, flattered; the dress had cost a little fortune, but it was definitely worth it, she thought. She looked at Lucinda who shone in a beautiful blue dress, and agreed with him. “And she should, Vampire Lady perfect.”

“Oh, please.” Alison’s blush was quite genuine. “I had the help of a team of professionals tonight, believe me.”

"Money well spent," Pablo said, "Look, hon, there is an open bar over there that I need to interrogate. Do you want me to get you something? Lovely to meet you Anne, and always a pleasure Cadee.”

Alison mouthed ‘yes, please’, and looked suitably parched.

“See you at the Slàinte, detective,” Cadee answered, and Anne saluted with her hand.

Alison could see Connie gesturing to her from the far side of the room and nodded, holding up one finger to indicate ‘in a minute’.

“Well, it’s lovely to meet you both again,” she said with a smile. “Anne, do you have a card, just in case I hear of any potential jobs for you? And then I’m going to have to dash – my agent is summoning me.”

“Of course,” Anne replied, grinning, and she started looking for one of her cards in her small black reticule, she was never without them; one never knew when one could need them, like now. She finally found a card and handed it to the woman. “That’d be great, Lucinda. It’s very nice of you. Thank you.”

“It was a pleasure, Lucinda,” Cadee said, and Anne nodded.

“Loved to talk to you. See you around.” She smiled again, genuinely happy. This night was getting better and better.

“Lovely to chat with you both.” Alison slipped Anne’s card into her purse and glanced over at the bar, trying to catch Pablo’s eye, but he had his back to her. She headed off to where Connie had lined up some bigshot to talk with her, and had to hope that her drink would eventually catch up.

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