'If you release me, I'll tell you. We're not here to harm you, we just want to talk,' she whispered as his hold loosened slightly and he turned her to face him.
Her body became like a rag doll the instant she took in his stunning face. The description she held in her back pocket didn't do him justice at all. His eyes weren't black, for a start. They were blue, but such a dark shade of blue that they could easily be mistaken for black, she supposed. His hair was thick, shiny and wavy and it seemed to ripple, even though there was no wind.
Her eyes travelled down his face and she couldn't help but lick her lips as his own full soft pink lips cried out to be kissed. Her knees buckled so that he was no longer gripping her, but holding her up.
She sighed with a smile.
'Lana!' screeched Sammy as she ran back towards them.
Barber tore his eyes away from Lana and looked up.
'Don't even try it,' Sammy shouted.
'I...I...I...' muttered Barber as he let go of her and turned to run.
But Sammy was too quick, throwing herself on him. He tripped, falling to the ground.
Before he had the chance to react, Eleanor and Emma were standing beside him.
'Good work, girls,' Eleanor smiled.
'Are you Barber?' she asked.
The vampire slowly stood up, dusting his clothes off.
'Why do you want to know?' he asked.
Lana melted again at the sound of his sweet voice.
'I apologise for chasing you down, but we are Watchers and...'
'I know who you are. I just don't know what you want with me,' he asked, pushing his long hair behind his ear.
'Yes well, we merely want to ask you some questions...'
'Then ask them.'
'Actually, would you mind if we went somewhere a little more comfortable? You see, our friends are waiting for our return. If you know who we are, then you'll know that we try to avoid violence when possible. We really are just trying to solve this problem,' she said as she pointed to the people frozen in time. 'If you don't mind?'
Barber looked at the other girls, his eyes finally resting on Lana. She twirled her curls in her fingers and blushed. He nodded.
Walking silently back through the crowded tube station, Lana pulled Emma to one side and whispered, 'Isn't he just the most gorgeous guy you've ever seen, I mean, like... ever seen?' she swooned.
'Lana, he's a vampire for goodness’ sake,' she tutted.
'I know,' Lana breathed. 'I think I'm in love.'
Emma shook her head and grabbed her, pulling her along so that they could keep up with Sammy.
'Lana's under his spell,' Emma said, rolling her eyes.
Sammy tried not to laugh as she watched Lana ogle him ahead of her.
'Why did you run, Barber?' Eleanor asked, finally breaking their silence as they walked back through Camden towards Praxos.
'I'm a vampire. You're the Guardian of the Watchers. I presumed you wanted me dead.'
'You can't really have thought that, considering you didn't make that much of an effort to escape,' she said, smiling as he shrugged his shoulders. 'You presumed wrong. Why would you think that anyway?' she added.
He walked in silence before answering, 'Some of my peers would have me believe you hunt us down.'
Eleanor stopped. When he realised she was no longer by his side, he turned to look at her.
'We aren't a violent group, Barber. Sometimes we have to fight back, which has, in the past, led to loss of life. But we are certainly not hunters. Not the kind you think we are, anyway. Yes, we do search for evil and deal with it but we also help our supernatural society.'
Barber nodded as they continued to walk.
'Our research... about you,' she blushed slightly, 'led me to believe you aren't one of the evil ones. I got the impression you've been up to no good in the past but I don't think you've ever killed anybody who was innocent?' she half asked.
'What do you really know of me, Eleanor Hayden-Jones?'
'Yes, I know exactly who you are.'
'Then we are on an even keel. You know who I am. I know who you are.'
Barber sniggered. 'You do not know me.'
'I know good when I see it.'
Barber slowed down and turned to face her. 'How can you possibly know that? The life I have led could not possibly be a good one. I am a vampire, Eleanor. I feed from human blood.'
Eleanor smiled, 'There's no point in trying to scare me, Barber. I know the blood you feast on is from a blood bank. The last time you drank from a warm body was many years ago.'
His brows beaded together and he shook his head. 'How do you know that?' he whispered.
'I am the Guardian of the Watchers, I know a lot of things. Now, here we are. Would you please come on?' she invited him.
Barber smiled warmly for the first time and followed them up the steps to the main entrance of the Praxos house.
'Girls, please would you head to the Academy and tell the others that our guest has arrived. Perhaps you would be kind enough to ask Wilbur to make some tea, and a special drink for Barber.'
Sammy and Emma nodded and turned to run back down the road towards Gower Street.
'Erm, Lana. You too please,' Eleanor added.
Lana swooned before reluctantly turning and joining Sammy and her sister.
Barber watched her walk away.
'I'm in love,' Lana whispered quietly, over and over again as she remembered the chiselled cheekbones, the long masculine nose and those soft kissable lips.
She sighed as she curled up on the sofa, twirling her hair around her fingers.
'What's going on with your sister?' Diarmuid asked as they walked past the living room and he spotted her all alone, smiling to herself in a day dream.
'She met a guy today.'
'Oh cool,' he said with a grin as he draped his arm across her shoulders and pulled her towards him.
'No, not cool, Diarmuid. He's a vampire. That vampire we were sent out to track down.'
Diarmuid stifled a laugh.
'She's fallen for Barber?'
Emma nodded, 'It's not funny. He's dangerous.'
'Possibly. Possibly not. Some people would consider us to be dangerous,' he replied.
Emma pushed him away.
'Aw, c'mon, you can't compare us to him.'
'Well, he did come back willingly. Did he try to hurt you?'
Emma shook her head.
'Well then, maybe you should give the guy the benefit of the doubt.'
'But he's like... hundreds of years old.' she gasped.
Emma crossed her arms.
'Okay so he's 321.'
'How do you know that?'
I did the research on him, remember?'
'Oh yeah. So what else can you tell me about him, then?'
'Does it matter? He's here now and he seems to be helping us. Surely that's what really matters?'
'Not when it comes to my sister.'
Diarmuid pulled her arms down and looked right at her.
'Emma, he's here for a brief conversation with Eleanor and then he's going to go back to wherever it was he came from. I'm sure Lana's feelings will wear off soon enough and she'll be back to her usual flirty self with every other male student at the Academy. Seriously, babe, you've got nothing to worry about.'
Barber took the goblet from the tray in Wilbur's hands and took a long sip of its contents before glancing across at Eleanor as she sipped her cup of tea.
'Thank you,' he said, lifting the glass in appreciation.
'Do you always have O Negative on your premises?'
Eleanor laughed. 'We always try to accommodate our guests.'
He finished drinking the dark liquid and then placed the goblet on the small table beside him.
'You were saying about this strange artefact?'
'Yes,' she said, as she put her cup back on the saucer and relaxed back in the chair. 'We understand that it was in your possession a while back.'
Barber frowned. 'I don't recall...'
'It was when you spent some time with Phillip James Bottomley and Rogue,' she interrupted.
He closed his eyes and nodded. 'Not a time of my life I'm proud of, but please go on.'
'We understand that Phillip's sons found this artefact beneath a tree in the New Forest. He took it from them and then spent years researching it before eventually coming to London where he struggled to make it... work. We were told that he tried to sell it, unsuccessfully. That is all we know, I'm afraid. We were hoping that you would be able to fill in the blanks, so to speak.'
Barber nodded, 'I presume you're talking about the Temporal Stone?'
Eleanor's face lit up and she sat upright, 'So you do remember it?' she asked.
'How could I forget? That stone was nearly the death of me.'
'Please do explain.'
'I met Phillip at Sepultus. He was there one evening when I walked in, just sitting, alone, drinking vodka. I thought it was strange to find a man in there, a non-vampire. I was impressed, to be honest. Back then, only vamps ever ventured into that place. Anyone else was fodder to many of my counterparts, so I guess I decided to keep an eye out for him. I didn't want to see him become some vamp's dinner, you know what I mean?' Barber's eyes searched Eleanor's and she nodded.
'He told me he'd come to London on business. I often wondered why he wasn't serving his country, but I never asked any questions. He wasn't the kind of person you could ask questions. I knew he was hiding something, but I figured he was just a common criminal, of sorts. I had no idea what he was really trying to do. One day, he introduced me to a so-called 'friend' of his. Rogue was his name. I hated him the moment I laid eyes on him.'
'Because he was a werewolf,' Eleanor interrupted.
Barber nodded and continued, 'They told me they had a brilliant plan that would lead to riches beyond our wildest dreams. Phillip showed me a stone he'd found and explained it had the ability to freeze time, which meant he could steal from banks, museums, jewellers; anything he wanted, he would be able to steal. And with this special artefact, he could do it. Rogue and I were hooked, for obvious reasons, and so we agreed to do anything he wanted us to do,' he sighed, rubbing his forehead roughly.
Eleanor said nothing.
'The trouble was, Phillip didn't actually know how it worked. He'd spent four years researching it and had only figured out what it could do, but not how. He became more and more frustrated. Eventually, I gave up. I left them to it. I couldn't stand any more of his silly games. Shortly after, I heard they'd gone to the south east coast. And then, about six months on, they came back to London to look me up. Told me they'd figured it out and could do with an extra pair of hands. Reluctantly... well, perhaps not so reluctantly, I agreed.'
'What exactly had they figured out, Barber?'
'That the stone didn't work alone. It was part of a set. There were three of them. Apparently, a well-known Skull had the other two and had been searching for the missing part all his life.'
'Goodness me,' said Eleanor.
Barber nodded, 'I know. I should have stopped right then, but I didn't. Phillip had organised a meeting with this Skull and he wanted me to go, alone. I was stupid and naive.'
'So you went?' she asked, sitting on the edge of her seat.
'I went on my own to this meeting to gauge as much information as possible.'
'What did you find out?' she asked eagerly.
'That this Skull was far more powerful than I could ever imagine. That Phillip was playing with fire.'
'When I got there, it was a trap. They wanted the final stone and so they tortured me for days. I told them everything I knew. I even told them where Phillip and Rogue could be found,' Barber stopped speaking and turned away from her.