As he entered the hotel, his gaze was drawn to the table of pamphlets, and the Wildfire photo leaped out at him again. This time he paused, head cocked.
He might find a few possibilities worth exploring at the concert. Like his physical strength, his magic was not yet at full strength, but with the right nudge and a subtle spell of persuasion, he might be able to engage someone’s interest and discover just how far he could push the geas before it intervened.
He took another pamphlet with him up to his room, and a quick phone call informed him that night’s concert wasn’t sold out. The performance started at seven. He bought a ticket, rested until it was time to leave, and then took a taxi to the large arena at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.
As he filed meekly to his seat, just one more man among many, the crowd’s electric, happy anticipation washed over him. It left him unmoved.
Looking around, he took note of the various individuals who seemed like they might be worth approaching—a rougher-looking male working the ground crew near the stage or perhaps the few blokes lounging near the exit.
His sensitive lycanthrope nose had caught the scent of drugs as he’d strolled past them, but as he ran his gaze over his potential prospects, he felt no urgency. The night was young. There would be a concession break and time afterward to make contact if he wanted, and in any case, it wasn’t necessary for him to find someone that evening.
Even though the photo had been of a woman with a violin, the apparatus on the stage looked like the setting for a rock concert. Ah well, the Standard had promised something genre-bending. Bored, he stifled a yawn.
There was a warm-up band. Everyone around him appeared to enjoy it. His sensitive ears felt assaulted, but he endured.
When the opening act finished and the lights dimmed, a few invisible entities flowed into the concert hall. Morgan’s attention sharpened. He tracked the entities with his magic sense as they settled at either end of the stage. Most of the crowd would never know they were there.
More Djinn flowed in until the arena felt charged with the thunderous impact of their presence. There was little that Djinn adored more than music. The presence of so many was high praise all on its own. Despite his ennui, a sliver of curiosity brought Morgan to his feet along with the rest of the audience.
With an explosion of color, the lights flared, and the crowd roared as she blazed onto the stage. Other people followed her, a drummer, a bass guitarist, along with more musicians, but they faded into the background as she, the woman carrying a violin and a bow, captured everyone’s attention.
She didn’t so much walk onto the stage as dance across it. Or maybe she stormed it. As she conquered the space, seeming barely connected to the ground, she carried so much energy she felt larger than life.
Instinctively, he double-checked his impressions. Even though she wore three- or four-inch heels, the top of her head came to the nearby drummer’s shoulder. She had to be small, no more than five foot two or three.
His gaze lifted to the large telescreens, although he barely registered her features. She was pretty, or appeared to be, but she was wearing so much stage makeup every feature was accentuated, and it was hard to tell what she really looked like. He got the impression of high cheekbones, a full mouth, and perhaps a touch of Asian ancestry in long, elegant eyes.
Then she tucked her violin against her neck and lifted her bow. Expectant silence swept the arena. She began to play.
The first strains raced after each other like hawks lunging through the air, and all Morgan’s ennui fell away. His hatred for Isabeau, the wounds, and his untenable situation were forgotten, all his emotional distance shredded.
He didn’t welcome it. Part of him went into shock. That part of him hated it, hated her for doing it to him.
He still felt passion, but long ago his passion had turned dark and tinged with crimson. It had died down to a single thread, a burning desire to destroy those who had laid waste to his homeland and had enslaved him. That had become his mission in life.
This. This buoyant crescendo of sound.
It had no place in his life. He had other things on his agenda. Important things, blood-drenched things he had longed to do for centuries.
He had no room for this music. No time for it.
Yet he couldn’t shake the hold it had on him.
She was everything the quotes promised, everything and more. Transcendent. Genre-bending. Her music ran through him with electric energy, more joyous than anything he could remember and more painful than silver. No wonder the Djinn flocked to listen to her. He didn’t think there had been a musician like her in generations.
He didn’t sit. None of them did. For the duration of the entire concert, his attention stayed riveted on her enlarged image, and when it was finished, he felt emptied, wrung out.
He didn’t try to make contact with any of the likely people he had marked earlier. Instead, he made his way to his hotel, and as soon as he was back in his room, he called the ticketing agency to book another of her concerts. And another.
While he called, he ran a Google search on Sidonie Martel on his phone. Of French Canadian and Vietnamese descent, she was thirty years old and a graduate of Juilliard. Five of her albums had gone platinum, and she had won three Grammys.
He stared at the headshot posted on her website, at the high cheekbones, the spark of intelligence in her long, elegant eyes, and that full, sensual mouth. The impact of her personality leaped off the screen at him. Her thick black hair fell in a straight waterfall past slender, shapely shoulders.
When he tried to buy a ticket for a fourth concert, the ticket agent told him, “Sorry, that’s the last concert she’s doing in Glasgow. I’m afraid her next one will be in London.”
“Is it sold out yet?”
“Not quite, but close. Most of her European tour is sold out.”
Tapping his fingers on the table, he surrendered to this new, unwelcome obsession.
“I’ll buy a ticket for every concert of hers that’s still available.”