Divine had meant to be quick about her shower and she would have been if she could have shut off her brain. Sadly, the moment she was standing under the shower, her mind returned to that morning and what had happened with Marcus. The man was definitely her life mate. Or he could have been, she thought unhappily. She suspected he wouldn't want her for a life mate if he knew who she was, and Divine couldn't help thinking how ironic it was that after more than twenty-seven hundred years she met her life mate and he was the enemy.
And she was so pathetic her mind was doing somersaults trying to figure out how she could have him . . . which was impossible. She knew it was. Still, her mind was running in circles trying to work it out. Maybe if she explained what had happened. Maybe if she could make him understand . . .
Of course there was no way of doing that. She couldn't be honest with him without risking . . . Well, she wasn't sure what she'd be risking. What would he do if she admitted she was Basha Argeneau? Would he restrain her until Uncle Lucian could get there? Or maybe he'd just kill her as other spies and scouts and so-called Rogue Hunters had been killing her grandsons for the last two thousand and seven hundred years, most of them under the age of ten, innocent children who had done nothing but been unlucky enough to be born her grandchildren.
Divine sighed and pressed her forehead against the cool tiles of the shower wall, suddenly ashamed that she'd even let Marcus touch her, or shared a smile or laugh with Vincent and Jackie. She was consorting with the enemy. People she'd feared and loathed most of her life.
On the other hand, her mind argued, her own grandsons had knocked her out and dragged her away from her RV and possibly later set it on fire, although she wasn't sure about that. It could have been Allen Paulson, or some other mortal she'd angered over the years by foiling their less-than-pleasant plans.
And her son was lying to her, Divine recalled. Damian had claimed that Marcus had knocked her out and the boys had saved her and brought her to him, when she knew he knew that wasn't true. She could understand his reluctance to tell her that his sons had done it and turn her against them, but this made her wonder . . . What other lies had he told her over the years?
More importantly, what had Damian done that Abaddon thought she might turn from her own son? That concern troubled her more than anything else. It made her suspicious and want to avoid him, and it made her frustrated that she couldn't read him. If she just knew . . . well, not knowing, she was imagining all sorts of things, all of them horrible, because it would take a lot to turn her from the boy she'd given birth to. She already knew that. Divine wasn't happy with the way he lived his life, or the people he surrounded himself with. She wasn't happy with how he raised his boys or his insistence on having so many of them. But he was her son. It would take breaking her rules on feeding and harming a mortal, or even an immortal to turn her from him. Surely he hadn't done that, though? She had raised him with the rules she'd been taught. He knew better than that . . . didn't he?
Sighing, Divine turned off the shower and stepped out to dry herself. It seemed to her that there was only one thing for her to do. She needed to slip away from the others, reclaim her motorcycle, and disappear. She needed to leave America and head somewhere else, perhaps somewhere in Asia this time. North America was too risky now. And leaving the country had the added benefit of putting some distance between herself and her son.
This wouldn't be the first time Divine had done that. She'd left Europe to put distance between them because of the way he lived, only he'd followed. This time she would have to ensure she didn't leave a trail. She would be alone again, but Divine was used to that, or she should have been, but somehow this time was different. The idea was wearying beyond belief. Perhaps because this time she would be leaving behind a life mate and any chance of ever having one. It had taken her 2,758 years to find Marcus; she wasn't foolish enough to imagine she'd find another possible life mate around the next corner. Once she walked away from him, that dream, one she'd never dared to dream before this, was dead. It made the future seem unbearably bleak.
Pushing these depressing thoughts firmly away, Divine concentrated on dressing. She'd found it was always best to live in the here and now rather than waste time with past events or what she couldn't have and what could have been. Mind you, living in the here and now wasn't always easy, but she did her best.
When Divine made her way out to the kitchenette, Marcus was standing at the counter, poking Popsicle sticks into apples. Mirabeau then dipped them in the pots of chocolate or caramel and rolled them in the peanuts and/or marshmallows before setting them on a tray to harden.
While they did that, Tiny was manning a frying pan that was putting out the most amazing smells Divine had encountered in her many years.
"Is there something I can do to help?" Divine asked after watching for a moment.
All three glanced around and smiled at her in greeting, but Tiny immediately opened a cupboard door and retrieved two plates to hold out to her, saying, "Perfect timing. The omelet is done. Take these."
Divine moved up beside the big man and took the empty plates. The moment she did, Tiny cut his masterpiece in half and slid each portion onto one of the plates. She peered down at the steaming plates with interest, unsure what she was looking at and knowing only that it smelled lovely.
"And here," Tiny added, reaching into the oven with an oven mitt to retrieve a plate with four slices of buttered toast on it that he'd apparently stored there to keep warm. He slid two slices of the golden toast on each plate. He then paused to consider his handiwork before nodding with satisfaction. "Enjoy."
"Thank you," Divine murmured.
"Don't thank me until you taste it," he said with a smile, and then glanced around the kitchen, pursed his lips, and muttered, "I'm not sure where you're going to eat though. I'm afraid we've sort of taken over everywhere with our apple making."
"No problem," Marcus said stabbing one last stick into an apple and then reaching to take the plates from Divine. "We'll eat in the front cab."
"The front cab?" Divine asked uncertainly as he started to turn away.
"Yeah. Come on," he said, heading for the lounge.
"Hang on, you'll need these," Tiny said, and when Divine turned back he was holding out a tray with silverware, two cups of coffee, cream and sugar.
"Thanks." Divine took the tray and turned away to follow Marcus.
He led her through the lounge to the curtained off front of the RV and held the curtain aside for her to pass. Divine slipped by him and then hesitated before choosing the passenger seat. She then glanced to the center console between the two front seats, happy to see that like on hers, a flap could slide forward to make it a table of sorts.
"The seats turn too," Marcus said, settling in the driver's seat.
Divine merely nodded and set the tray on the console, then leaned to the side a bit to adjust her seat so that it would turn toward the center console. She then took both plates from Marcus so that he could do the same.
"Thanks," he murmured, taking back one of the plates. After a hesitation, he turned the tray so that it only took half the console. That left just enough room for their plates to rest next to it and they both set their plates down.
"It smells good," Divine murmured, peering over the folded-over flap of something pale yellow on her plate. "Tiny called it an omelet?"
"Egg folded over—" Marcus lifted part of the upper flap to see what was inside. "—cheese, onion, green pepper, and sausage."
Divine lifted the top corner of her half to peer inside. It looked a bit of a mess inside, but smelled divine.
"Christian loves these. Caro makes them for him all the time," Marcus commented, cutting off a piece. "I've never been tempted to even try one before this, but now . . ." He paused and smiled wryly as his stomach rumbled, then shrugged and popped the bite of omelet into his mouth.
Divine watched him chew and swallow and then raised an eyebrow. "Well?"
"Mmmm, amazing," Marcus announced, cutting off another piece.
"Thank you," Tiny called out from the other side of the curtain.
Divine chuckled and cut a piece for herself. She was more tentative about putting it in her mouth though. This eating business was really quite new to her still. She shifted the food around inside her mouth, chewed experimentally, and then smiled as she swallowed. Turning to the curtain, she called out, "He's right. Amazing."
"Thank you," Tiny repeated cheerfully.
They ate in silence for a bit, but it had been so long since she'd eaten that Divine was full before she'd eaten a third of her omelet. She hadn't eaten much last night either, she recalled as she set her plate down and turned her attention to the coffees on the tray. Madge and Bob drank coffee all the time. Divine had never tried it. Now she peered at the dark liquid uncertainly.
"Bob drinks his with cream and sugar, but Madge takes it black. Less calories she says," Divine commented.
"You don't have to worry about calories," Marcus said with amusement. "But if you aren't sure how you'll like it, try it black and then add cream and sugar and try it again."
"Good idea," she said, and picked up the nearest cup to take a sip, grimacing at the flavor. Good God it was bitter and . . . well, she didn't even know how to describe it. Swallowing the bit she'd taken, Divine set the cup back and put two teaspoons of sugar in, and then poured some cream in as well until it was a pretty caramel color. She stirred it for quite a while before risking tasting it again.
"Well?" Marcus asked.
Divine shrugged a bit. "Better."
He chuckled at her lack of enthusiasm and fixed his coffee the same way, then took a sip and sighed. "I like it."
She smiled at his expression. He looked . . . satisfied, she decided, and sipped at her coffee again.
"Shall I tell you about Atlantis now?"
Divine glanced up with surprise at the question. "Now?"
"You have anything better to do?" he asked.
Smiling wryly, she shook her head. She could hardly escape just now, unless she could come up with an excuse to slip his presence for a bit.
"Maybe you should tell me what you know about our . . . state?"
"Our state?" she asked with amusement.
"Well, why we're different than mortals. Do you know about nanos?"
Divine nodded. "Yes. My nanny only told me that I was different than others and needed blood to survive, but my gran told me once that I was different because I had nanos and they were what needed the extra blood." She smiled faintly at the memory. "When I asked what nanos were she said they were basically little tiny miracle workers in our blood that kept us healthy and well."
"That's it?" Marcus asked with a frown.
"It was bedtime and she was trying to get me to sleep," Divine explained and then sighed and added, "I did ask once or twice about the nanos, but we were usually in the middle of something when I thought of it; teaching me to control minds, or how to stalk prey . . ." She shrugged. "Grandfather promised they'd teach me everything eventually, but the priority was to ensure I knew how to survive and knew the rules about feeding. After that they could teach me our history."
"The rules about feeding?" Marcus asked, eyes intent.
"Grandfather had rules," Divine explained and listed them off, "I was never to draw attention to myself, my people, or what we are. When feeding, I was to always treat my host with the respect they deserved and never cause them pain or distress. And never ever was I to feed to the point of harming the health of, or killing, my host."
Marcus sat back, expression thoughtful. When several moments passed like that, Divine asked, "So what are the nanos? And what has Atlantis to do with us?"
He hesitated and then said, "I'm going to give you the short answer."
"Okay," she said.
"Atlantis is where our ancestors came from. It was somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, and technologically advanced. While humans outside Atlantis were still wielding spears and sleeping around fires, our ancestors' technology was beyond what we have even now today. One of the areas where their science was strongest was in health. Their scientists set out to develop a way to repair the human body internally, to mend wounds and fight infection without the need for invasive surgery or antibiotics and such. Nanos were their answer. Minuscule little . . ." Marcus hesitated and then said helplessly, "I'm no scientist, I'm not sure what they are exactly. I know they're partially made up of human tissue or blood. They use blood to propel and reproduce themselves and they've been programmed like computers, with the human anatomy and whatnot and with the task of keeping their host at their peak condition."
She arched her eyebrows. "So our needing blood is because the nanos use blood to reproduce themselves?"
"And to make repairs and fight infections, etc.," Marcus said. "They also repair damage from the sun, pollution, illness, injuries, poisons, toxins . . . basically anything. And apparently it takes a lot more blood than we can produce to do all that."
"Okay," Divine murmured. She considered it briefly and then said, "So we were human once?"
"We are human," he corrected. "We are not a different species. The nanos simply make us stronger, faster, and able to live longer."
"And the fangs?" she asked.
"Ah, well, see—" Marcus grimaced and admitted, "I guess I skipped a part."
"Okay," Divine said patiently.
"You see the nanos were originally developed as a short-term aid. They were supposed to be injected into the host—a sick or injured human—where they would heal the wound, or surround and destroy the viral cells of illness or what have you. Once their job was done the nanos were programmed to then destroy themselves and be flushed from the body. But as it turns out, what the scientists didn't take into account was that the human body is constantly under attack by sun, pollution, and even simple aging. There is always something to repair or heal, so the nanos never broke down as expected."
"Ah," Divine said slowly. That made sense.
"And then Atlantis fell. Nearly every Atlantean died that day. The only survivors were the ones carrying the nanos. They crawled out of the ruins and over the mountains and joined a society much less developed than their homeland had been. While they'd had blood transfusions in Atlantis to help feed the nanos, those were no longer available. Some survivors died, but in others, the nanos followed their programming to keep their host at their peak condition and basically forced the necessary evolution on us to ensure that happened. They made immortals stronger and faster, gave them better night vision, and the ability to read and control the minds of other humans, and they gave us fangs. Every extra skill or strength they gave us was to make us better able to hunt and successfully feed off of mortal humans. It was so we could get the blood we needed to ensure their continued ability to fulfill their programming and keep us at our peak condition."
Divine nodded slowly, and then asked, "Is there anything else I should know?"
Marcus frowned and considered it briefly, and then said, "I think that covers it."
"Okay. Thanks," Divine said, standing up.
"Okay thanks?" Marcus echoed with disbelief, jumping up to follow when she carried her plate out through the lounge to the kitchenette. "That's it?"
Pausing at the sink, Divine glanced over her shoulder with surprise. "You were expecting something else?"
"Well . . . yeah," he said dryly as she opened the cupboard door under the sink and began to scrape the remains of her omelet into the garbage there.
"What were you expecting?" Divine asked curiously as she closed the door and began to rinse the plate in the sink.
"Well . . . I don't know," he admitted with a frown. "I gather most people react with shock and amazement to finding out the source of nanos."
"Really?" she asked, and considered that as she set her plate and fork in the tiny dishwasher next to the sink. Vincent really did like his luxuries, she thought, and then turned to Marcus and shook her head. "I suspect if they're shocked and amazed it's more by the fact that vampires truly exist than by their source being scientific. I already knew about us, just not the mechanics of what made us this way so there's nothing for me to be shocked and amazed at."
"She's probably right," Tiny commented.
Marcus glanced to him, then back to her, and then relaxed and smiled wryly. "Yeah. She probably is."
Divine turned to Tiny and Mirabeau then to offer them both smiles and said, "Thank you very much for breakfast. I appreciate it."
"Tiny did all the work. He's the cook in the family," Mirabeau admitted with a smile. "All I did was make the toast."
"And it was delicious too," Divine assured her, and then hesitated before saying, "Now, I suppose I'd best go relieve Jackie."
"Actually . . ."
Divine had started to turn toward the door, but paused at that one word from Mirabeau. Turning slowly back, she arched an eyebrow in question.
"We've arranged a play day for you," Mirabeau blurted.
"What?" Divine asked on a half laugh.
"Well, half a play day now," Tiny put in wryly. "A play evening, I guess."
Divine peered at them with bewilderment. "A play evening?"
Tiny nodded. "What with one thing and another you two have had a rough couple of days. Both of you. So, we got together with Jackie, Vincent, and Madge and arranged a play day for you. Madge gave us these passes for you." He turned to pick up two passes off the counter and held them out and she glanced at them curiously as Marcus took them. They were VIP passes, allowing them on all the rides. "Jackie is going to continue at your readings, Vincent is going to continue at the Tilt-A-Whirl, and you two get to have fun for the evening."
Divine frowned and started to shake her head.
"Oh come on," Mirabeau chided. "I bet you've never ridden on the rides. From what I've heard you're always trapped inside with a long line of customers outside the door waiting for their readings. Madge says they keep you going from the time you open, usually until several minutes after closing. But tonight you'll have the freedom to go where you want and do what you want. You can have a little fun for a change."
Divine stopped shaking her head. Mirabeau's use of the word trapped had caught her attention, and the comment about being free to go where she wanted and do what she wanted had too. Both made her realize that if she took over reading customers she would be trapped inside the RV until after closing. But taking them up on this offer would give her some freedom. She wouldn't have five babysitters watching her, she'd only have Marcus, and surely it would be easier to give him the slip than to try to get away from all of them? It was suddenly sounding like a really good idea.
"Okay," she said finally. "A play evening it is."
"Great," Mirabeau said and then suddenly held up a bottle of lotion. "SPF 100," she announced. "The sun is still out and it's better to be safe than sorry. Fortunately, it's spray-on, so easier to apply. But we'd better do it in the bedroom or the apples will all taste like lotion."
"Right," Divine said wryly, and turned to lead the