Yeah, strange. That was him.
She peered closer at one of her instruments. It was a long chrome stick with a circular mirror on the end.
Oh no. "It must be broken," he suggested.
"But I can see myself." Frowning, she shook her head. 'This doesn't make sense. Why couldn't I see your mouth?"
"The mirror is broken. Proceed without it."
She continued to stare at the mirror. "It's not broken. I can see myself." She lifted a hand to her brow.
Dammit, she was about to snap out of the dream.
Laszlo returned with the cell phone pressed to his ear. He took in the scene. "Oh dear. Is there a problem?"
"Put the mirror down, Shanna," Roman ordered quietly.
"Why doesn't it show your mouth?" She gave Roman a worried look. "I couldn't see you at all."
Laszlo winced. "Oh dear." He whispered into the phone, "Gregori, we have a problem."
That was putting it mildly. If Shanna broke free of his control, Roman knew his fang would never get fixed. She would see the tooth as it really appeared and refuse to implant it. And that was only the beginning.
She might figure out why he had no reflection.
Roman focused on Shanna. "Look at me."
She turned toward him.
He trapped her in his gaze and tightened his grip on her mind. "You are to implant my tooth, remember? You wanted to do this. You wanted to conquer your fear of blood."
"My fear," she whispered. "Yes. I don't want to be afraid anymore. I want to save my career. I want a normal life." She set the mirrored instrument down on the tray and picked up his fang. "I will implant your tooth now."
Roman exhaled with relief. "Good."
"Oh God, that was close," Laszlo whispered into the phone. 'Too close."
Roman opened his mouth so Shanna could get back to work.
Laszlo cupped a hand around the phone, but he could still be heard. "I'll explain later, but for a while there, it looked like our dentist was going to turn into Dr. No" He moved closer so he could watch. "Now it's quiet again. Too quiet."
Not quiet enough. Roman groaned inwardly.
"Turn your head a little." Shanna nudged his chin to the left.
'The train is back on track, now," Laszlo whispered. "Full speed ahead."
Roman felt the fang being slipped back into the socket.
"The dentist has the item in her hand," Laszlo continued his play-by-play commentary over the phone. "She's returning the bird to the nest. I repeat, bird is in the nest." There was a pause. "I have to talk like this, Gregori. We have to keep the.. the fox in the house, but the lights turned off. She came awfully close to flipping a switch a while back."
"Aaargh." Roman glared at Laszlo.
"Mr. Draganesti is unable to speak," Laszlo continued, "which is probably for the best. He was too tempted to abandon the plan when the dentist made an outrageous offer."
"Grrr!" Roman glared at the chemist.
"Oh." Laszlo winced. "I - I better not talk about it." He paused to listen.
A litany of curses careened through Roman's mind. No doubt, Gregori was drilling Laszlo for more information.
"I'll explain later," Laszlo whispered, then raised his voice. "I'll pass the information on to Mr. Draganesti. Thank you." He slipped the phone into his pocket. "Gregori says dawn will break at precisely six-oh-six. He'll call at six o'clock, or we can call earlier if we're finished." Laszlo glanced at his watch. "It's twenty minutes till six now."
"Aaargh." Roman made a sound of acknowledgment. At least Laszlo was off the phone now.
Shanna lifted his upper lip to examine the replaced fang. "Your tooth is back in, but it will need a splint to hold it in place for two weeks." She kept working. It wasn't long before he tasted blood. She gasped, her face growing pale.
Good God, don't faint now. He stared at her, channeling his strength into her mind. You will not flinch. You will not hesitate.
She inched closer to him. "O-open." She took a hoselike tool and sprayed water into his mouth. Then she stuck another hose in his mouth. "Close."
The blood and water mixture was sucked out of his mouth.
This process was repeated several times, and each time Shanna saw blood, she reacted a little less.
Laszlo paced back and forth, constantly checking the time. "Ten minutes till six, sir."
"There," Shanna murmured. "Your tooth is wired into place. You'll need to return in two weeks so we can remove the splint and perform a root canal."
The wire splint felt huge in his mouth, but Roman knew it could be removed the following night. His body would complete the healing process while he slept. "Then we're done?"
"Yes." She slowly stood.
"Yes!" Laszlo punched the air with his fist. "And we beat the deadline by nine minutes!"
Roman sat up. "You did it, Shanna. And you weren't afraid."
She peeled the gloves off her hands. "You should avoid hard, sticky, or crunchy food."
"Not a problem." Roman watched her expressionless face. What a shame she didn't realize this was cause to celebrate. He'd show her his tooth the next evening, and tell her how she'd braved her fear of blood. Then she'd want to celebrate. With him, he hoped. Even if he was strange.
She dropped the gloves on the tray, then closed her eyes. Slowly she swayed to the side.
"Shanna?" Roman stood. He caught her as her legs gave out.
"What's wrong?" Laszlo grabbed for a button, but there was none left. "It was all going so well."
"It's fine. She's sleeping." Roman laid her on the dental chair. He'd done this to her, telling her that once the job was finished, she would sleep soundly for ten hours.
"I'd better call Gregori." Laszlo withdrew his phone from his pocket and headed for the waiting room.
Roman leaned over Shanna. "I'm proud of you, sweetness." He brushed her hair back from her brow. "I shouldn't have told you to fall asleep afterward. What I really wanted was for you to throw your arms around me and give me a passionate kiss. That would have been so much better."
He ran a fingertip along her jaw. Ten hours she would sleep. That would make her wake up around four in the afternoon. No chance of his waking her with a kiss. The sun would still be up.
With a sigh, Roman stretched. What a long night it had been. It felt like a week. He examined the mirrored tool that had caused Shanna so much confusion. Damned mirrors. Even after five hundred and fourteen years, it still unnerved him to stand in front of a mirror and see everything reflected but himself. He'd had all the mirrors removed from his house. Why be reminded that he was long dead?
He watched Shanna sleep. Beautiful, brave Shanna. If he had any honor left in his wretched soul, he'd leave the poor girl alone. Put her somewhere safe and never see her again. But for now, he was almost out of nighttime. The best he could do, before the sun caused him to fall asleep, was to ensconce her safely in one of his guest rooms.
Laszlo rushed in from the waiting room, his cell phone pressed to his ear. "Yes, we're ready to go." He glanced at Roman. "Would you like to go first?"
"No, you go." Roman reached for the phone. "I'm going to need that."
"Oh, right. Of course." Laszlo tilted his head toward the phone that Roman now held. He closed his eyes, concentrated on Gregori's voice, then slowly faded away.
"Gregori, hang on a minute." Roman set the phone down, then gathered Shanna in his arms. After a few seconds of shifting her limp body around, he managed to hold her while putting the phone to his ear. The position was awkward, causing him to slump over and press his face against hers.
Over the phone, he heard the sound of laughter. What the hell? "Gregori, is that you?"
"Oral sex? " Gregori burst into another round of laughter.
Roman gritted his newly fixed teeth. That damned Laszlo. It had taken him only a few seconds to squawk.
"Snap! What a hot babe! Wait till I tell the guys. Or maybe I should tell your harem. Meow!" Gregori hissed in an imitation of a catright.
"Shut up, Gregori. I have to get back before sunrise."
"Well, you can't if I shut up. You need my voice." He laughed some more.
"You won't have a voice once I wring your neck."
"Oh, come on. Lighten up, bro. So, is it true? You were having trouble deciding which.. treatment you wanted?" Gregori snickered. "I hear you were up for the second one."