Archive for vampire

How Not to BBQ

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The smell from the oven was so god-awful, that Nick, Morena, and Irina decided to drag the rest of the body outside before the people started milling about and burn it in the dumpster. The sun was just starting to threaten to break through the clouds.

“You know, I read in the Memento that the best way to get rid of a vampire is with sunshine,” Nick said, walking backwards dragging the arms.

Morena gave him an exasperated look, holding up the feet. “Shouldn’t we not be in close contact to the body if it’s going to incinerate like that?” Her arms had already healed but all the rest of her amped up abilities had gone and she was left feeling like she’d done an obstacle course…in Pakistan…in June.

They both dropped the body in the middle of the back parking lot.

“Uh…”

The sun broke through and a hissing noise issued from the body. Irina stepped back immediately.

“Nick?” Morena spoke, alarmed.

Then she jumped him, taking him a few feet from the body and to the ground as the body exploded into ash. As Morena rolled off of him and he sat back up to see the smoking remnants that looked more like asphalt in a cul-de-sac after Fourth of July, he smiled.

“See! I told you so.”

And Finally, Diagnosis

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The knapsack with the Kukri had slipped from my hands as we landed just in front of the empty elevator shaft on the top-most floor. If you could call it a floor with its mostly bare beams covered in sheets of plywood as a makeshift floor, with scaffolds on either side, filled with tied stacks of rebar, one of them with a cement mixer that looked way too heavy to be positioned there. I looked down into the shaft and apart from wire cable running its length, there weren’t any pieces of the elevator there yet.

It made perfect sense for Skovajsa to own a building in progress; he could oversee the construction and insert anything into the specs that would help him as a safe house. It would be his fortress in the making, maybe even his bachelor pad to lure back unsuspecting victims. With or without my interference, he and Jesper would find each other; two vampires in such close proximity could not play nice.

If dawn was coming, there was only one logic place that Skovajsa was going. He jumped us down and when we hit the ground floor, he let me go, causing me to I collapse to the dusty ground. I cried as I landed on my hip, scrapping up my leg.

Well, I guess there goes the last shred of manners.

I was about to try and push Darcie out of my head when Skovajsa snatched my arm, and began to drag me to another room. This construction site was the great shell of a condo complex and I’d noticed that the front of the first floor facing the street had already been completed. A wine shop. Likely another front business of Skovajsa’s. He’d turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, rat bastard.

We moved to a back room with a strangely covered floor. Skovajsa’s head darted around the room, sniffing. Something was wrong. The floor looked a tractor trailer had just groomed it.

“What…is…THIS?!” His voice was near panic as his shoe brushed aside the layer of wood chips. If I hadn’t been in such pain and unable to feel half of my face through the bruising, I would’ve smiled. Not just any wood chips. Cedar. One of the most ancient and deadly woods for Old World vamps. Especially the youngsters.

If he was angry at the changes to the floor, there was only one word for his reaction to the opening to the floor cellar with its doors broken off their hinges: Livid. He actually threw me towards the entrance as some sort of release of his rage. Needless to say, I was prepared and landed with my arms out in front of me to break my fall. But I stayed on the floor. My head peered over the threshold down the cellar steps as he flew down into the darkness.

My eyes adjusted and I saw it was only about ten steps down, not very deep, not a tall enough chamber that he could even stand but inside, there was nothing but rubble. The broken remnants of a rather large, thick, cement structure. It looked like a jackhammer had been at it and quite recently for the amount of dust still hanging in the air.

“No! NO!” Skovajsa bellowed and as if on cue, strong lights from the ceiling of the chamber switched on, blinding him.

That was when I saw it, right at the top of the stairs, glinting under the power of the UV lights. My infinity amulet, wrapped in a single black ribbon. Lucy. I looked around the chamber that had been Skovajsa’s coffin and realized that they had destroyed and booby trapped it. He would never be able to seek sanctuary here again.

Ma petit ange. The short, stout old aunt I had been clucked in my head.

This time, despite the pain, my mouth curved in a smile as I picked up the amulet a split second before Skovajsa sped out of the blinding room, grabbing my arm with one hand, the other arm shielding his eyes. Each successive room we entered in his retreat lit up like a spotlight with those same UV lights and he shrieked in cold fury the entire way.

At the bottom of the shaft, he made a power leap and flew up from the strength of it, past the other empty floors until reaching the top, where he was snatched out of the air. One moment, I was flying up with him, the next I was watching him smack into a concrete pillar across the floor from the safety of someone’s arms.

As stunned as I was to see Skovajsa go flying, I was even more stunned as I turned my face up to see Jesper holding me, his hair flaming auburn and windswept, his eyes the color of jasper. I blinked and felt that dark presence of Valerian, the one that had protected me from the Taint, take weary steps down into the recesses of my mind as all twelve previous versions of me thrilled to see this new savior.

“Are you alright?” he asked, concerned.

My mouth moved but no sound came out. We both heard a menacing growl to which he gently set me down, stooping quickly and handing me the knapsack.

“You dropped this,” he announced before his fangs dropped, not the elegant thin ones but an entire mouthful of short, sharp teeth, like a snake.

Jesper raced across the plywood floor and charged full force into Skovajsa preempting an attack. He grabbed a hold of the Carpathian and slammed him back against the same pillar, which cracked. Jesper took a hold of the rebar behind Skovajsa and began to bend it around him as he struggled. Skovajsa laid him completely out with a right handed slap and then proceeded to simply rip the rebar right out of the concrete to free himself.

Jesper got up again only to have Skovajsa attack him first, driving the piece of rebar right through his shoulder. Jesper screamed. Skovajsa had been aiming for the heart but Jesper had turned just in time. He grabbed Skovajsa by the collar of his expensive suit and stabbed him in the abdomen with the end of rebar sticking out. The speed surprised Skovajsa who backed up a step as Jesper had to take a breath to recover. He took a few short, deep breaths before he yanked the rebar out and threw it aside.

Blood was now pouring out of both Jesper’s shoulder and Skovajsa’s belly but the latter only smiled. His hands had grown into gnarled claws and he swiped at Jesper, who whirled away but a little too slow. Skovajsa swiped at the back of his neck and again at his back, tearing deep into his flesh. Jesper arched his back away then spun around, grabbing Skovajsa in a tight grip. As he grappled him, he squeezed and Skovajsa snapped his mouth full of fangs at him.

Jesper jerked his head away, which relaxed his hold enough to let Skovajsa get an arm free. With that hand, he grabbed Jesper’s injured shoulder and wrenched it. Jesper screamed and his arms fell away. Skovajsa kept hold of the arm and twisted, the sound of bones cracking so terrifying that I wanted to cover my ears. Jesper fell to his knees, but Skovajsa still had his arm.

I dug out the Kukri and felt the metal come alive in my hand. My Indian past life roared up, whispering some ancient incantation that I had no idea how related to this weapon that seemed to know me. I was beyond caring about that. Jesper was in trouble. My fingers tightened and I stepped forward to do I know not what.

Skovajsa raised his other claw to swipe at Jesper’s throat when Jesper swung his head around to look up at him. His hair to seem to catch fire for an instant and I knew what was coming.

Neilza!” Searing rays burst from Jesper’s eyes, sending a burning Skovajsa staggering back into a pile of plywood. The plywood scattered, some dropping over the edge and down into the construction site below. The scaffolding just behind the pile also tottered precariously. Skovajsa slapped at himself as his expensive silk clothes burst into flames.

“Sophie,” Jesper called, pain and fatigue etched into his voice. “Get out of here!” He struggled to his feet.

The sky was getting lighter and another real fear hit me. I needed to get Jesper to shelter and right now, but there was nowhere to go. Dangerous vampire, rising sun…this was not good.

Skovajsa grabbed Jesper from behind and crushed him, bones creaking and popping, causing my eyes to tear up from the punishment Jesper was taking. It was obvious he couldn’t defeat Skovajsa who’d lost all semblance of humanity from his face. He was all vampire now.

He tossed Jesper aside like a ragdoll and laughed, his clothes still smoking. He was indeed burned, flesh crisped all over him but it did not impede him. He approached Jesper slowly, now seemingly at a point where he felt Jesper was no match for him.

Copil. What wonderful powers you possess! But you cannot think you can defeat me.”

He picked Jesper up, slamming him up against the scaffolding, slashing at his throat, blood beginning to pump out of him. Then, in a blur of speed, Skovajsa tied Jesper up in electrical cabling then grabbed Jesper’s chin in his clawed hand.

“You cannot heal when you cannot feed,” Skovajsa spat.

Jesper was bleeding from back, neck, head, shoulder, chest, his right arm hung nearly disconnected from his shoulder, a large gaping wound right above his heart. But they all oozed rather than bleed as uch as they should. It had all seemed to take place in slow motion but the entire fight had lasted nothing more than a minute, before I had finished taking a full step forward.

The movement drew Skovajsa’s attention. “This? This is what you would have over me?”

“Sophie, Sophie, get out of here,” Jesper panted, still struggling against the wiring, his left arm flexed and pulling. I couldn’t figure it out, why he couldn’t break free. Perhaps he was too weak.

Skovajsa punched him full in the face before walking calmly toward me. He clasped his hands together, like a schoolmaster or a priest before disciplining a child. “Now you have disappointed me enough, Sophie. You will submit. All of your knowledge, I will have it. After I make a snack of this rather mundane specimen. I’d had such high hopes for him but I obviously overestimated his specialness.” He stopped in the middle of the floor, spreading his arms wide like some player on a grand stage. “You will make me the most powerful vampire that ever lived!”

“Stupid little man, vampires aren’t alive. And that, that would be very bad for my business, betraying my clients. Not to mention bad karma.” I gripped the Kukri behind me. The sun was creeping up. I could feel it. The birds were chattering away sensing it too.

He dropped his arms. Suddenly, he’d rushed over to me, gripped me by my hair, forcing my head to look up. “As if you have a choice.”

That was when I saw it. The cement mixer. It jostled a bit as Jesper struggled to get free. Skovajsa twisted my head the other direction, taking in his bite handiwork from earlier.

“You still deny me? Have it your way. Such a nuisance that your blood is undrinkable. I so hate to waste a meal.”

The twist to my vision revealed something else. The other scaffolding. It seemed to be damaged by the impact. If a little more force was applied, oh, say like from some rolls of safety netting that were stacked just behind it, maybe it would teeter over.

He thrust his face into mine. “It’s so much easier for you to die in complete futility.”

Crazy thoughts, that some Rube Goldberg machinery would work its way to topple both scaffolds, manage to free Jesper, and allow him to get free while crushing Skovajsa. Futility indeed. Much easier to try and cut Jesper loose.

I looked Skovajsa dead in the eye. “Vasa Skoda, there are no refunds on treatment.”

He growled at me, striking me, sending me to the floor.

“You ruin it, the pleasure of killing you. You do not fear death.” He tossed a look back at Jesper. “But perhaps you just need the right incentive.” He walked a few steps, pausing to take in the sky. “I tire of this. If this one tried to save you, perhaps you would bargain for him.” Skovajsa strode over towards Jesper.

“Sophie, the Kukri. Do it now!” Jesper cried.

When I got my senses back, I caught Jesper’s gaze. His arms were burned red from fighting at the cabling but as we held that look, he started to speed up his breathing, shoring up his strength. He tilted his head back, started a primal groan that seemed to reach back through the ages.

“Skovajsa, the sunrise!” I called.

He paused but then turned, a little too nonchalantly saying, “You really think a few week rays of light would wound me?” He rushed over to Jesper, turning his head, exposing his neck. “Will you forfeit his life as you would your own just to keep your secrets?”

I stared open-mouthed. The truth was I hesitated. Maybe I would.

Skovajsa shrugged, “Very well. I’ll end him and gain his power, however meager it might be.” He then leaned into him for a bite. That one moment, everything cleared within my troubled soul. Yes, it was wrong to kill. It was wrong to take violence in hand and veer from the path. But it was also wrong not to fight for the weak, the poor, the impoverished… the injured. They deserved our stewardship, our protection, and…our love.

“Wait!”

Skovajsa turned his head as if he fully expected my interruption.

“You have a better offer?”

“More a diagnosis.”

Skovajsa looked curious, at least. Jesper had stored up his energies and was about to release it.

“You were made from the Taint, a wine infused with vampire blood. And you’re sun-starved, like many vampires before you, including the one whose blood tainted you.”

He shook his head, fully dismissive of my expertise. “And treatment?”

I gripped the Kukri hard in my hand as I stood. “Well, you’re also a fucking prick and unfortunately, there is no cure for that.” I drew back my arm and pitched the Kukri at him, willing it to take whatever course it might to save our friend.

Hell in High-Heeled Shoes

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 18, 2011 by vampirony

The first thought that ran through Nick’s head when Irina’s grandmother went flying across the deli, smashing into a wall, and shaking the whole building was whether the old lady would leave a dent. It was a terrible thought and as she fell to the floor, whimpering in pain, Nick’s taxed brain added insult to injury with the thought, The Iron Curtain has fallen.

It was an infantile response to complete and utter fear. In this case that fear took the form of one recently deceased Oksana dressed in her tattered tranny outfit with gold strappy heels and boy, did she look pissed! She also looked jacked, blonde hair going every which way, her skin was mottled and gray, and her eyes cracked and red, like she’d just done a week of all-nighters or some not-so-legal substances. Or both. And she was filthy, like she’d just crawled through a garbage dump on her hands and knees.

Uh-oh. She had literally picked up her grandmother by the shoulder and thrown her some twenty feet across the room. This wasn’t Oksana anymore. This was something else. Emphasis on the thing.

“Not good,” Nick swore to himself. “Irina! Wait!”

Irina had already started to move around the counter towards her grandmother, catching Oksana’s attention. Oksana made a step towards Irina when her grandmother struggled to her feet, grabbing something out from underneath her shirt. Her voice was strong as she addressed Oksana in Russian, holding her silver Orthodox cross out in front of her. That seemed to enrage the creature formerly known as Oksana and she jumped at her grandmother, grabbing at the cross. When her hand closed around it and hissed as the flesh burned, her grandmother straightened her bearing, full of fervor as her words pounded through the room. Nick thought she looked a lot like Hopkins playing Van Helsing.

Oksana shrieked, letting go of the cross, and slapped her grandmother, propelling her over the display case into yet another wall. The silver chain holding the cross broke and the object dropped to the floor, still smoking.

“Baba!” Irina cried and for an instant, looked down at the little cross. It had fallen just a few feet from her.

Nick saw what was in her mind and shouted, “Irina, no, leave it. Get out of here!”

He needn’t have bothered to warn her. Oksana tilted back her head and let out an excruciatingly horrifying bellow that made Irina step back against the counter and cower under its ledge. Nick crouched too, hands over his ears. But as he looked at Grandmother Iron dragging herself across the floor with arthritic hands, blood soaking her head scarf and dripping into her eyes, he knew he had to do something. He’d been separated from Irina when Oksana barged past him from the back of the deli, knocking him down, taking them all by surprise. He somehow needed to get them both out of here. Or fight back.

Oksana had a fit of rage, grabbing the cash register from the counter just above Irina and throwing it through the front window, then smashing the glass of the display case with a kick. Ah God, what was he going to fight that with? He looked up above him at the wall of decorative Russian art, which included a heavy looking brilliantly painted paddle looking thing. He didn’t have time to think but he did anyway. He was scared as Hell. But he saw Irina, hands pressed against her ears more in denial than sound, tears streaming down her face as her beloved older sister wrecked the restaurant. Yeah, he had to do something, alright. Something crazy.

He jumped up and grabbed the wooden paddle from the wall and just as Oksana turned back toward him, he gave out a rebel yell and smacked her as hard as he possibly could in the face with the paddle. It split in two and he dropped it as the impact blooded her nose but otherwise did nothing but make her go quiet.

And this was why Nick never resorted to violence. “Uh….,” Nick stammered taking a step back.

Oksana’s face broke into a maniacal smile as two very jagged, incomplete looking fangs snapped down in her mouth. Her eyes went a milky white and Nick stepped back, tripped over a table, crab walked backwards on hands and feet, all the while an ominously calm Oksana stalked him.

Oh, this was so not how he wanted to go out. “Irina, get your grandmother out of here!”

Irina looked frozen in place, her head finally raised, hands still held near her head but her grandmother was by her side now, tugging at her arm. Irina and Nick shared a look, one of sheer terror as both of them knew what would happen next. Irina’s grandmother shoved her into the kitchen and Nick’s eyes moved back to Oksana, looming over him.

Her fangs looked funky, rotten, like the rest of her seemed to be. Her eyes looked more zombie-like than vampire-like. And Nick realized how ridiculous that thought was as she grabbed at the front of his shirt to haul him up. It didn’t really matter how fresh a vampire she was. She was still going to make a feast of him and drain him dry. He hoped.

The entire side window exploded in a shower of glass, a human sized projectile launching at Oksana and smashing her back into the far wall. Nick fell back to the floor, head too slow to catch the movement as Oksana suddenly flew back the other way across the room, landing awkwardly in a mess of tables and chairs.

Morena’s dark hair was flying all around her and that one-of-a-kind moment he thought he’d had at The Mystic was duly repeated. She saved him…again. He could get used to this.

But first, he had to duck a table that Oksana threw wildly about. Morena just phased out of the way. It was the only way to describe her movement; one moment she was in one place, then a blur, the next in another place. Awww, man, she hadn’t gone vamp too? Nick pushed away the certain depression that would come from that reality and hopped up into a crouch.

“Nick, call Jesper. Now.” Morena tossed him her phone and went after Oksana. The two women began a girl fight of epic proportions and on top of all the other bad thoughts and reactions he’d had this evening, this one topped them all. He stood there, Morena’s phone in his hand, her orders clear in his head, with his mouth agape, watching as she scuffled with Oksana.

She ducked Oksana’s swipe unnaturally fast, spinning into a round house kick to the solar plexus that again sent Oksana to the wall. Then, she was just standing there, fists raised but side turned away from Oksana, her eyes meeting his.

“Nick!”

He snapped out of it. “Yeah!” He glanced down at her phone, ducked as a chair flew past Morena towards him. Her phone was locked. He raised his head to ask her for her password when he saw her do an amazing arm block, then twist Oksana off balanced into the display case, head first. Oksana shrieked and Nick decided Morena might be a tad preoccupied.

“Well, how complicated can it be?” he asked no one and typed the four digits to the The Mystic’s street address in and watched the phone log in. “Awright!” he celebrated to himself and was about to look at her call history when a message popped up. It was from Jesper. He pushed a button to dial immediately but it went to voice mail. Like everyone else’s had done all flipping night. “Dammit! Voicemail!”

Morena lifted her head a smidge at the news, only a split second distraction but Oksana wrapped her arms around Morena and flipped her up and over, down onto her back. Oksana tried to finish the move with a stab kick from her stiletto heel but Morena had rolled away. It was like watching brute force fight a fully trained fighter. So much different than the fight at The Mystic.

But Nick could tell that Morena seemed to be slowing down or tiring or both. He raced along the wall keeping Morena between him and Oksana, trying to dial again when the damn email reminder popped up again. “Damn!” he swore but clicked to read it anyways, scanning the message. “Holy shit! We need an axe!” He dialed Jesper’s number again.

“What?” Morena shouted, her and Oksana taking a moment to rest and measure each other up.

“Or maybe a cleaver?” he thought to himself, having chopped through a few chicken necks in his day. As he was about to dart to the kitchen, Morena had made another move, feigned high and struck low, kicking Oksana in the gut. Morena grabbed Oksana by the shoulders and pushed her into the shattered display case, food and glass scattering everywhere.

Nick wanted to run into the kitchen but he couldn’t take his eyes off Morena, couldn’t abandon her, not for a second. While Morena leaned over Oksana, Oksana was smiling, grabbing onto each of Morena’s arms and forcing her up and back and then, for good measure, squeezing her elbows until both of them let out a sickening pop. Morena screamed and Oksana threw her like a rag doll to the floor. Then, she kicked Morena in the face with her heel, an angry red scrap welling up across Morena’s face where the heel had cut her.

Nick held the phone to his ear while he watched Oksana turn back in his direction.

Leave a voice mail for Jesper Bretton after the tone.

“Uh, yeah, Jesper. This is Nick. We’re all going to die now. Hope you and Sophie survived. Nice knowing ya.” He then threw the phone at Oksana while he backed against the far wall.

Oksana again stalked him. What the Hell did she see in him anyways? Maybe it was what he got for playing hard to get the other night. If it was possible, she looked even more gruesome, bordering on ghoulish as she stepped just up to the counter. That was when the skateboard flew in from the kitchen, tripping her and causing her to fall on the floor.

Irina suddenly appeared from behind the counter, her face strangely calm.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Irina spoke quietly.

Nick had no clue what was happening but he jumped on Oksana. It might not be worth much but he knew he needed to hold her down. And then Morena jumped on top of him, grabbing Oksana’s arms as she flailed. Irina was then adding her meager weight and pressing the cross she had scooped up from the floor into the back of Oksana’s hair. Her hair smoked and burned and she shrieked in fury, trying to get free.

“Baba, now!” Irina shouted.

Grandmother Iron emerged from the kitchen, holding a small axe in her hands, mumbling in Russian and then, swinging down hard, she spat, “Move!”

At that point, Irina jumped off and Nick and Morena both turned their heads away. It took Grandmother two hard whacks with the axe during which blood splayed all over but Oksana’s head separated from her neck and her body stilled.

Grandmother panted heavily but didn’t waste time. She picked up Oksana’s head by her smoldering white hair and turned back to the kitchen. A few quick words in Russian to Irina and Irina picked up the necklace again.

Nick and Morena, blood splattered, still laying over Oksana’s corpse on the floor, watched with eyes wide first as Grandmother shuffled into the kitchen and then as Irina put the necklace around the stump of Oksana’s neck and bowed her head in prayer, lips mumbling the words. Meanwhile, Nick heard the oven door open and then slam shut moments later.

“Oh, Hell no!” Morena said.

Irina’s head jerked up. “Grandmother explained. We have to burn the head now and then the rest of the body to ashes. You cook, Nick. How hot do you think we need the oven?”

symbol_cleaver-color

With a Little Lemon Twist

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , , on July 17, 2011 by vampirony

“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Mordecai. I will handle this.”

Mordecai looked up to see Billy, the drunkard spirits distributor that was new to this area and nursing a broken heart and a thirsty liver, straighten up in his seat and swivel toward him. At least, that had been where Billy, fifty-five, grey to balding, paunchy, shabby old tan suit too tight around the middle, had been sitting. In his place, a younger, dark-haired but pale looking man tapped his cigar ashes into his glass and stood, placing the cigar back into his mouth.

“Huh?”

As the stranger unfolded out his chair, his clothing seemed to transform before Mordecai’s eyes, the suit reshaping to maroon with blue stripes, the fabric growing an expensive sheen as it stretched and fitted to exact tailoring as the stranger walked over to where the vampire lay prone and panting.

Mordecai looked down at the vampire as he tried to push himself up. Was his hair a little less blond? Earlier, it had almost been platinum, like Monroe. The stranger paused just above him, stogy in his mouth, and removed a case from his inside jacket pocket. His dark eyes glared disgusted at the figure struggling on the floor as he handed Mordecai a card, one side white, stating in black lettering:

Gypsy Twin Alchemistry: Spirits & Potables

Thomas Darnell, Purveyor & Proprietor

As he turned it over, Mordecai could make out a glossy black ribbon embossed over the black matte background, the recognized symbol of the Irregulars. His eyes flew up to the stranger.

“I’m so sorry, Sir. I didn’t know it was you.”

“Nor were you meant to, Mr. Mordecai,” Mr. Darnell answered, placing the case back in his jacket. “For your own protection. And as to that, I must ask you to leave now as I handle this…snag.”

Mordecai paused, caught up in the moment. The actual head of the Irregulars. Well, one of them. One heard stories about the woman, she seemed more accessible even as it was clear that she shared top responsibility in all endeavors. But the elusive man behind the curtain? No such sightings existed, at least documented ones. This was he and Mordecai was seeing him, face to face.

But something was happening to his face, as if it was melting from memory before his very eyes. The shatteringly dark eyes were no more. The handsome pale face, the dark hair…wait, what was the color of his hair…was there hair? Hair of what? Mordecai wondered why he was still here, so late. He had delivered the cigars and that was that.

“There’s a good man, Mr. Mordecai. Perhaps we shall renew our acquaintance at a later time.”

Sam Samuelson, Mordecai as his MMORPG persona, shook his fuzzy head and walked out of the bar, muttering about being late and wondering if his wife would be upset that his night out with the boys had been longer than expected. The elevator seemed to open to him as if by command and Chain, the elevator repair man and earlier the state trooper, gently grabbed Mordecai’s arm and pulled him into the car.

After the elevator had closed, Thomas Darnell, once known to a very very dear aunt as Maurice, kneeled down to the fallen vampire with an unsettled rage that he could barely suppress. He grabbed at Jesper’s face, turning Jesper’s chin towards him and blew cigar smoke into his face. The smoke held strong notes of cedar and oak and after inhaling a face full of it, some of the red in Jesper’s eyes faded.

“You will remember this night as the one in which we all saved Sophie Quinn,” Maurice spat.

Then, Maurice grabbed Jesper by the back of the neck and hauled him up to his feet. Jesper was blinking rapidly but still conscious, although still quite ill. Maurice shook him to keep his head from lolling. He grabbed across the bar, and produced a lemon. Using his short sharp fangs, he tore a strip of peel from the lemon, juice squirting out. His own eyes brightened to a dark blue as he shoved the naked lemon into Jesper’s mouth.

Jesper’s head shot up and after he swallowed, his eyes flew open, red eyes turned to glowing amber as his whole body convulsed. His hand grabbed at the fruit and squeezed more into his mouth as Maurice dropped him to his feet, seeing that he could now take his own weight. As Jesper devoured the fruit, Maurice swayed slightly and bent to a knee to keep steady.

Breathing heavily, he picked up the Jesper’s sunglasses. Then, bracing his hand on his thigh, he stood again, spreading his feet to support himself. He wouldn’t show this creature his weakness. When he met Jesper’s gaze, Maurice felt the rage recede, replaced with wonder.

Jesper’s hair had changed to a dark auburn, his amber eyes had turned back to red, the texture of jasper. Lucy had been right: this was no ordinary vampire. But Maurice saw a will there that he had not expected. As Jesper turned to go, Maurice held the sunglasses against his chest to stop him.

“You could barely best Lucy. You cannot hope to defeat a Carpathian in combat, even blood doped. We’re just keeping her away from him.” Maurice paused to take a shuddering breath, his pallor turning green. He slipped “We’ve taken care of the rest.”

“I am Vampire!”

The sound of Vox echoed through registers that no mortal could hear and both vampires looked around for the source. Then they settled eyes back on each other.

“Go!” Maurice said but Jesper didn’t wait to be bidden; he was already running through the restaurant at human speed, senses reaching out, trying to find another clue. The view from the restaurant was amazing, almost a full 180 degrees fully lined with windows. He could see the change in the night sky. He needed to hurry. He needed something more to go on.

At the other end of the restaurant, there was no smoke and his senses could clear. Oh now he smelled him, smelled the Carpathian. He was so close. Jesper put his hands to the glass on the south side of the restaurant. The lemon had cleared away all the cobwebs as well as some of his vampire strength. It didn’t matter. A conscious vampire was worth more to Sophie than a comatose one.

“Sophie, I’m here.”

Then he heard it, the faint drag of the vowels, the smell of jasmine in his memory, a voice from an age ago.

“Jesper. Help us!”

West side. He flew to the windows along that side of the building but didn’t have to wait too long. In a moment, he saw the Carpathian, carrying Sophie across the roof top, vaulting over to the construction site, up high on one of the unfinished floors. His vision focused in, like slides on a presentation, closer, clearer, until he could see the Carpathian, a struggling Sophie held in one arm. She clutched at something that dropped from her hands just before Skovajsa stepped into the open shaft that would become an elevator and disappeared, obviously going to ground.

He took a few steps back from the window and then launched himself just as he pitched a Vox scream at the window, shattering it. Arms outstretched, he took flight, gliding through the brightening sky like a bird aflame on a mission to save the one he could not save before, for a chance to do it all over again, to fix his fate, and finally be the hero.

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Lucy raced into the bar side of the restaurant to see Jesper race past her. She through her gaze to her brother and watched him sink back against the bar.

“Maurice!” She put her arm around him as he shook. “What happened?”

“C poisoning. I’ll be alright.”

“What about Sophie?”

He shook his head. “It’s out of our hands. We’ve done everything we could to prepare.”

“The sun is coming. We need to go.”

Maurice let out a cry of rage, slamming his fist into the bar before nodding, letting his sister whisk them both away in a flight of crows. This was one game that they had played to within stalemate. The final positions were being set and a new piece had just entered the board. He had risked it all, years of anonymity, years of hiding away to put this piece in play. He hoped for his sister’s sake and for Sophie’s, his call had been a sound one.

Wine and Dine on Her

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on July 17, 2011 by vampirony

As nerve-racking as first dates are, I wasn’t holding a lot of sympathy for Skovajsa at present. The floral bouquet was making me sneeze and the wine was anything but a drinkable vintage. His demeanor was on par with some snooty playboy who wasn’t getting his fair share of adoring attention.

Oh, and the fact that he’d broken into my room under some romantic pretense and after receiving a not-so-favorable reaction had resorted to force and at present he held me down on the bed to smell at my hair, wasn’t endearing me too him to him much right now either.

“It’s impolite to address me in that way,” he spoke without a shred of anger or feeling, as if he was reading cue cards for some hack version of Romeo and Juliet. “I came to offer you my special bond. You should be honored.”

Then again with the smelling. Slowly, from the base on the left side of my neck, up past my earlobe, around the crown of my head, and down the other side. Vampires and their heightened senses dictated no need for this kind of scrutiny so I had no idea what he was up to. I just hoped to heaven that this strange sense I had, that Jesper was or had just been here with me, would not be something he could notice.

“Excuse me if I’m reading more into your actions than your gifts.”

He jerked back, staring at me. Since I had his attention and he looked a little like a scolded child, I figured I’d push it.

“A woman prefers not to be pawed at!” It took every ounce of my thinking mind to not slam my free knee into his groin, a move so instinctual and yet fatal in this instance, that I had to bite my lip. I was flexing my wrists against his grip but only to keep the blood flowing. Any direct resistance would trigger him into fight mode. And there would be no way back from that.

He released my hands and sat upright. His face looked mildly confused and he pursed his lips.

“I brought flowers.” His attempt at explanation.

I didn’t trust him so kept my position on the bed. I wanted to rub the feeling back into my hands but putting them together would make it easier for him to control me if he went feral again.

“Yes,” in my most stern school teacher voice. “And with no greeting, no explanation of how you came into my room, startled me and attacked me, unprovoked.”

He shook his head once and, like some ancient punch card machine, he calculated his mistake. “I brought you jewels.”

“Irrelevant while I’m still pinned to the bed. May I ask you to control yourself and get off my person?”

With vampire speed, he moved to stand just next to the bed. But it seemed like he paused, like he’d meant to go farther but something grabbed his attention. He looked down at the bedside table where the phone off the hook was beeping. He carefully picked it up and put the receiver back in its cradle.

“I have disturbed your sleep,” he said softly, his back turned to me as he crossed slowly to the other side of the room.

I sat up carefully, not taking my eyes off him. He was in some state, anxious, fang-happy, on the edge. But his shoulders were slumped, as if his intentions had been shattered. He stooped to pick up the flowers that he’d dropped when he lunged at her. He’d trampled the lilies.

I sneezed.

He turned toward me. “You are allergic to the flowers.”

“No,” I paused to rub my nose. “Actually, the pussy willows.”

Skovajsa stepped to the door, which hung ajar from him forcing it open. He opened it long enough to throw the entire bouquet out the door and then stepped back, turning to me.

“Thank you,” I said quietly. It seemed very strange that the one item out of all the ones florists might use in a bouquet that I was allergic to would be one that ended up in his offering. I touched my lips, which still tingled. I wish I could remember my dream and more importantly, why the room felt like it did when Jesper’s presence was around. I almost thought if I whispered his name, he might hear me. I bite my lip again. That was sure to enrage Skovajsa, who seemed to be calming down.

He gave me a determined look that made me think “Uh-Oh” and stepped to me, hand reaching into his jacket. In a swish of supernatural movement, he was on his knee before me, holding out a rectangular jewelry box.

“Forgive me. I have misbehaved. I had meant to shower you with gifts so you might see how much I desire you to join me.”

He flipped open the box, as eager as a schoolboy, but even I had to marvel at the creation inside. Not that I was warmly impressed. It was a stab of icy fear that a man with resources to acquire something obviously so expensive and so unique would’ve set his sights on me. It was a prelude to the kind of ownership that was absolute and completely devoid of any semblance of familiarity with me.

“You are of great value to me, Sophie Quinn. You should be with me.”

This is the part in most romance novels where the heroine tossing all care to the winds and recognizes that all was done for love, all should be forgive, the sins of the past were the forgotten under the spell of adoring admiration and undeniable sexual chemistry. Of course, in most romances the heroine was exquisite in form, wily of spirit, just in need of someone to love her completely, no matter what.

The only thing Skovajsa loved about me was my wealth of knowledge about vampires. The thing he truly cared about was his own safety and he would kill anyone and steal anything to safeguard it by becoming more powerful.

“You say nothing to my proposal?” His brow furrowed.

My eyes narrowed. He had backed me into a corner and there really wasn’t anything I could say that wouldn’t wind up with him killing me. So I might as well put a name to his doubt.

“Vasa Skoda.”

He took it like a slap. The lid of the jewelry box snapped shut and he was on his feet, his eyes hurt, his brain percolating. “What did you say?”

“Vasa Skoda. It’s your name. Your real name.”

He shook his head violently. “No.” He backed away, into the breakfast cart. “No.”

For the first time, I saw a hint of humanity in his eyes, a hint of fear. I had to take advantage of this opportunity. It would be the last I would get to try and pry him open. I flipped off the bedcovers and stood up in my sock monkey jammies and tank top.

“You are Vasa Skoda, Yugoslavian by birth, born sometime in the 1930’s,” I spoke with certainty, taking a step toward him with each bit of information I revealed. “You were a failed actor, model, who moved to Italy to try and become famous.”

“You lie! You know nothing about me. I am Skovajsa! I was blood brother to Vlad Dracul.” There was a note of panic to his tone.

“You were not. Vlad Dracul was never even a vampire. I have that on good authority. Dracul is a reference to the Order of the Dragon, a Christian group founded to defend Europe against the Ottoman Empire.”

He crouched away from me, his hand grabbing for the antique wine bottle. It seemed to be a talisman to him and, with it in hand, he straightened and took a step towards me. “I am Vampire!”

The force of his Vox shattered all the mirrors in the room and sent me to the floor. I didn’t stay there for long as he quickly grabbed me by the throat and threw me against the bed.

“You would slander me. You would deny me!”

With one hand around my chin forcing my mouth open, he flipped the stoppered top of the wine bottle open and began pouring what I knew to not be wine into my mouth. I seized my throat muscles shut, held my breath to try and prevent the liquid from getting down my throat but it didn’t do any good.

With a familiar flash of consciousness that harkened me back to the winter of 1885, a red searing pain cut through me, flooding my consciousness with all twelve prior lifetimes as they tried to exert themselves against the vampiric flood. I screamed as my head felt about to explode with the strength of thirteen enraged personas, tearing at the influence of the vampiric strain.

It was a familiar strain. I’d felt this before; the force of immortality trying to rip me asunder and staple me back together with rusty velvet ties. It was Valerian, his blood. His oppressive figure appeared in my mind, just as he had stood over me when an accidental taste had given us both a glimpse into what would come. Tearing at my hair, screaming at the burning with my mind, there had been no room for him in me. There was no room for him here, years later. But he pushed on anyways, his blood in wine format summoning his dark, demands of complete surrender.

The sisterhood of my lives formed ranks again to try and fight him but with only one new recruit and her fighting every thread of memory she had of him, they would be no match. It was a tapestry hallway in my mind, skirts of different ladies shuffling around each other, clustering together to protect the most essential part of my soul while the rest of me lying naked, shivering on the floor while Valerian approached.

He kneeled down to me, his hand brushing the hair pasted with sweat to my face. “No, no, no….”

The skirts stilled and then suddenly rustled as a figure stepping through them, tailored pants in short ankle leather boots. The figure stopped just behind me and kneeling Valerian looked up to see…himself.

“You cannot have her.”

The other Valerian, the one brought here by the Taint nodded and caressed my cheek. “She needs me. She is injured.”

“Fine,” my guardian Valerian spoke. The skirts of my past lives gathered behind him, each putting a hand on him to feed him energy. “You may go wherever you need to heal her, except beyond this door. You will not speak to her sisters. You will not dredge up any memories. And when she is healed, you will go, entirely.”

The tainted Valerian smiled fiercely. “She will need protection. She has always needed protection.”

A dark eyebrow rose. “Oh? I don’t know, ladies. I think we’re doing quite well, don’t you think?”

Heads of different styles and colors nodded. The taint of Valerian burst into a red flood and washed all through the hallway but parted around the back doorway, crashing into the carpet, completely absorbed. The pain continued but I felt the Guardian Valerian clasp hands with Darcie and the pain ebbed to an ache. I started to feel my body again, pushed gently back to reality by a young shepherdess I didn’t quite recognize.

Just as my mental redoubt was shoring up, Skovajsa chuckled in a pleased way, producing four fearsome, uneven fangs. Coming back to that was as jolting as waking up in the first place.

“No one denies me!” he snarled and tore into my neck.

Well, then, there’s nothing for it, Sophie dear. Knee to the groin then.

It was Darcie’s voice. I had never realized she did have a distinct voice until just this moment. Her accent reminded me of Maggie Smith. Wasn’t she in that one Mystery show? I launched my knee into Skovajsa’s groin only to have my suspicions realized. The man had no balls to speak of and my knee hit his pelvic bone hard. Ouch! Great.

The kukri, Sophie. Call to it. The accent this time was Indian, from the mountains, English not natural to her.

I didn’t have to call to it. I’d kept it close. Under the pillow. All I had to do was grabbed for it but I couldn’t reach and my consciousness was starting to fade as Skovajsa’s hand gripped into the opposite of my neck. Damn!

Just as another persona swelled up, Skovajsa jerked up and spat my blood out. I’d never see that happen, realized I wasn’t seeing it happen from within my body at all. I floated just above and watched my body racked by seizure, Skovajsa still holding me down, the wine bottle forgotten on the bed, soaking into the bedcovers.

The Taint and Skovajsa’s bite had caused me to jump out of my body. My other lifetimes were taking turns inside to try and get me free. I’d have to ponder over how it was possible later but the pain was a smidge less although I still couldn’t breathe yet. Skovasja was still choking me. But he suddenly staggered away from me, lifting the bottle to his lips and drinking down all that was left.

Somehow I recognized that whatever protection Taint Valerian offered might have extended into my blood. Or maybe it had been whatever had rendered me unconscious might have somehow altered my blood chemistry too. I wasn’t able to string the thoughts together to figure it out. Whatever it was, it meant he couldn’t feed from me which, in this case, meant he probably couldn’t convert me.

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A sudden scent of jasmine and gardenia tugged at me hard, propelling me back into my body. I was dimwitted for certain but this nameless persona stretched my hand out and grabbed the bag the Kukri was in. Her strength suddenly faded as my skin contacted the metal but there was one last thought she shared.

“Jesper. Help us.”

I couldn’t know if it was she or I that breathed it but Skovajsa, eyes now red with fresh blood, raised his arm and smacked me in the face with the wine bottle. Before I could crash into anything, he’d already snatched me up.

“You will tell me everything. You will guide me towards the power I seek. And you will be my vampire bride.”

With that, he crashed us back through the hotel door, out a fire exit at the end of the hall, and jumped across the rooftops until he landed in a construction site across the street. Amazingly, I’d managed to keep the knapsack with the Kukri. Furthermore, the sky seemed to be lightening up with the dawn of a Northern summer sky.

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The odds seemed to be stacking up for me. I just needed to somehow survive the next half hour. The prospect of which was absurd. However, a soft voice reminiscent of the scent of flowers assured me I wouldn’t be alone for long.

Possession is Nine Tenths

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , on July 7, 2011 by vampirony

Nick returned from a longer than expected shopping trip with bags full of goodies and proceeded to show Irina that the difference between pierogi and gyoza was a matter of language. After all, dumplings were dumplings, boiled, fried, or steamed.

And no offense to her Russian grandmother, which he discovered was actually Georgian from the city of Tbilisi, but her piergoi was crap. Boiled and tasteless, it might serve perfectly for wartime peasant folk without much access to anything but staples…but for the more adventurous and less ethnically sensitive Bellevue crowd, any food had to have the name of authenticity with a decidedly fusion blend.

By the time he was done with them, the pierogi had taken on a chipotle-infused mutton and oozed like more familiar soup dumplings. When bidden by the smell Grandmother Iron Curtain ventured out from the office, pushing Nick out of the way as she fished one onto a spoon and surely burned her mouth sampling it.

Her face screwed up, flushed, and just as Nick was certain she was going to slap him upside the head, she grabbed him in a fierce hug and streamed rapid-fire Russian in his ear. Stunned, Nick was just getting his balance back when she quickly released him, shoveled ten of the doughy pockets into a bowl and retreated back behind her calico curtain.

Irina laughed heartily, “You reminded her of home.”

“I hope in a good, pre- or post-Communist way,” he joked and scooped two platefuls for himself and Irina and then sat down at one of the Formica tables in the restaurant proper to eat. After a few moments where they both greedily slurped up the pierogi, Nick asked, “Your family been here long?”

“My parents moved to America when Oksana was just two, right after the Soviet Union fell, in ‘92.”

Nick smiled. He’d meant here as in the deli but obviously, it was a story she wanted to tell. He played along, his interest piqued, “Isn’t it a little odd to leave Mother Russia when it had finally become free?”

“Free? Yes, for the mobsters and criminals. Not for simple people with not a lot to pay off the gangsters.” Irina looked down at her plate. “Grandmother used to tell us stories, how it was better with the Communists because at least they had a predictable system of corruption.”

“Still, you were able to leave.”

“My parents were athletes. When the system fell, there went their support. So when they could, they moved over and brought Grandmother back a few years later when I was born.”

Nick chuckled, hooking his thumb back toward the office. “Oh, so it’s your fault.”

Irina laughed, a wide smile with a gap toothed smile that reminded him of Madonna. “Sure, blame it all on me.” Then, she turned suddenly serious. “Grandmother is the best. She took care of Oksana and me when our parents died.”

“How…?”

“Car accident.”

“Ah, gee, sorry.”

“Maybe because I never knew a life without her, I just was used to Grandmother. But she and Oksana, they always fought, even when she was little. I think she was embarrassed about Grandmother and her peasant, folk ways.” She sighed. “Grandmother warned her to stay away from Him.”

Something occurred to Nick just then and he stood, grabbed his messenger bag. Irina watched him silently as he dug into the bag and fished out the rental documents for the office space. When he found what he was looking for, he asked, “This guy, Shishka? What rubbed your Grandmother the wrong way about him?”

Irina shuddered. “Big shot. Fancy clothes, cold, looks down on us. Grandmother thought worse.”

“Like worse how?” asked Nick, holding up the rental paper.

Irina hunched over her food, fork pushing a pierogi around the plate. “She called him upyr.

“What does that mean?”

She shrugged, “Bad man. It’s silly.”

“Victor Bella, that’s your landlord, right?” Nick put the rental paper down on the table in front of Irina, pointing to his typed name on the listing.

She shook her head. “I’ve heard that name but that’s not what she called him.”

“Your grandmother?”

She looked up from the paper, confused, “No, Oksana.”

Nick let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. It all made sense now.

“Let me guess. She called him Skovajsa.”

Irina nodded, dumbly.

“You want to tell me again what upyr means? It isn’t bad man, is it?”

Whether Irina didn’t answer because she didn’t want to believe it or whether she could see that Nick knew it to be true, Nick didn’t know. But he did know what happened to her sister. He grabbed his phone out of his jacket, dialing Sophie’s number only to have to leave a voice mail.

“Hey boss? We may have a teensy problem. You know the office? The one I just retrofitted for your clients? Well, it happens to be owned by one of your clients. And you’re not going to like which one.”

Even an hour later, Nick was still trying to convince Irina and her Grandmother that they needed to pack up immediately. He had to use, as his last straw, the story about how he’d seen Oksana chewing on that guy’s ear in Jerry’s. Irina still denied it and was refusing to translate things that Nick was saying to her grandmother when the Iron Curtain stepped right in front of Nick with a week old newspaper.

She spoke to him, gesturing to the picture.

“Yes, that’s him.”

“Bah!” Grandmother spat. She threw the paper at Nick and went back into the office. A zipping sound could be heard and as Nick pulled the curtain aside, he saw that Grandmother had a small suitcase out and was packing. She came out a few moments later and cleaned out the till of the cash register.

“What is it?” Irina asked, confused.

Nick stepped to Irina, showing her the photo of the businessman under the headline which read: Missing Business Man Found Mauled. She shook her head as she read it.

“Now do you believe me?” Nick yelled. He dialed his phone again, this time getting Morena’s cell number. Again, it went straight to voice mail. “Morena, it’s Nick. Where the Hell are you? I got a situation here. Call me back.” He hung up. “Dammit, where the Hell IS everyone?”

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Morena was wondering the same thing at that moment. It had been so much time she’d made it through the recorded life and times of Sophie Quinn…twice. She’d been mildly surprised that Sophie had been married so many times.

She’d tried everything she could think of to break through the door, the lock, the hinges…but nothing worked. And her cell didn’t get any signal. She’d watched the battery drain to almost nothing.

For lack of anything better to do, she’d started reading through a few magazines left in the room. She scoffed at the article about simultaneous climax and found herself nodding at the article about Marrying Mr. Wrong. It made her think of Jesper. She forced her mind to other things. Then she lay down on the exam table and while her brain turned over and over what might be happening, she nodded off.

It was early morning , 3:30AM by her watch, when her phone chirped, the battery finally giving due notice of impending shut down. She started, surprised she’d slept at all. She’d had the strangest dreams, red rivers of blood flowing down from Jesper’s shoulder as she clawed her fingernails into his flesh.

There was nothing for the cell so she turned it off. Just as she did, she felt the room rock violently.

“What the Hell was that?” She went to the door and started banging on it anew. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she strained for a second to listen just as the floor rocked again, almost as if something had hit it.

“Shit!”

She needed to get downstairs. NOW. Her vision focused and, as she grabbed a side of the frame with each hand, she felt this surge of pure, unadulterated power boil from within. She kicked out at the door, convinced she was going to get through it even if she broke her damn leg.

The door buckled in where her boot splintered it and the force was so strong, the lock popped out off the frame. Stunned with herself, she stood there staring. Her leg hurt like hell and some strange part of her brain realized that she had fractured her thigh but blood was already swelling there, healing her.

“Sonofa…” She didn’t waste any time. She hobbled out the doorway just as the building shook again, this time the sounds of crashing and glass shattering urging her on.

DJB: Kiss and Tell

Posted in Fiction, Vampirony, writing with tags , , , on June 23, 2011 by vampirony

When I first caught a scent of the Carpathian early in the evening, I had followed it out to the street expecting that a fight would ensue. I found myself facing yet another new condo complex under construction just across from the Hyatt. If its originality was already marred by just advertising luxury condos, it looked like a wine bar was nearing completion on the ground floor. Imagine, a wine bar in Bellevue. I’d have turned up my nose if I hadn’t been actively sniffing with it.

But after that first very strong whiff, the scent faded and I was standing there for far too long being buffeted by toxic car fumes. Unable to ascertain its direction further and unwilling to hunt it down, I’d taken up watch back in the Wintergarden, grabbing a magazine.

At first, waiting was a blessing. It meant I had more time to assimilate the bounty from my blood gorge the night before. I could feel my cells bathing in it. It made me feel strong, fast, nimble, lethal. In other words, I felt little like my normal self. I was a terrible vampire, in the traditional sense, and I had plenty of time sitting in the Wintergarden, surrounded by the vacuous space of modern hospitality architecture, to rue my decision of not letting Valerian help.

I wondered if my pride and anger had gotten the better of me and, in doing so, would be the worst for Sophie. Stretching out my senses, I tried to hear her, feel her but we were not that acquainted yet, not in this lifetime. When she was my Helene, I could discern her heartbeat as if it were the thundering of hooves from miles way.

I pushed those thoughts away before they dragged me back into reverie. Here I was, spoiling for a fight I did not want to have, impatiently wanting to see Sophie. But did I want her to see me like this, blood gorged eyes, barely controllable fangs? Maybe not.

After a mind-numbing article about Marrying Mr. Wrong and a rather more intriguing one about six ways to simultaneous climax that I intended to file not too far back in my mind, I really needed to see Sophie. I realized I fit too horribly close to the first article to even spare a hope of the second. When last we’d talked, we’d argued…in Turkish. The time before, I had run out of her office after collapsing in her lap. I wasn’t having a very good run.

And now that I recognized her, now that I remembered bits of our past together, it pained me even more. Not to mention the fact that I was depending on some security guard and my own limited vampire senses to let me know if Sophie was in danger.

By midnight, I’d worked myself into such a fuss, that I had to get up and stretch my legs. And then I just happened to walk past the elevator for her tower when the doors opened. And then I just happened to get into the elevator with someone else going to the twelfth floor. When we stopped on that floor, an odd thing happened.

“Oh wait, I forgot they moved me to a suite, guess they are doing some work on this floor. Ha ha. Sorry, buddy.”

I paused for an instant as the young man pressed the button for the 21st floor. But then I stuck out my hand to catch the door just as it was sliding shut. The man gave me a strange look.

“Beg your pardon, I just got my new room key from downstairs,” I slipped out the door without another look. No need for expending any extra Vox.

As I stood in the hallway, I realized how quiet the floor was. The man had been right; there seemed to be no guests on this floor. Save for one. I heard a faint slow heartbeat, a woman’s heart, toward the very end of the hall and I headed towards it.

I didn’t know what I would say. I should apologize. Shouldn’t I? I should tell her I would make it ok. I would tell her about the Taint, break the Conclave confidence. Then she would know why I needed to do this. She would understand.

As the room numbers counted down, I realized that she would not understand, she would not condone, she would not give up on her principles. I fervently hoped that somehow, this situation would be out of my hands. But I knew what I had to do. I had to protect her and hope for the best.

I knew her door from the sounds of her heart beating and her breathing just inside. I saw an evening paper lying there pushed partly under the door. When I picked it up, something fell out. It was a business card, with one black side and one white. On the white side, there was a single black symbol: a tied satin ribbon. On the other black side was the phrase written in white letters: “Gypsy Twin Irregulars.”

It made no sense to me so I pocketed the card and got out the card key Morena had given me. I breathed in first and knocked softly, head listening. Her breathing was even, uninterrupted by my knocking. I slipped the key in the door, watched the lock sensor light turn green, and turned the handle, pushing the door open.

There was a breakfast cart in front of the bed and the lamp beside the bed was on. Sophie lay on the bed partially obstructed from my view by the cart, outside her covers, in a heap. She was fully clothed so I stepped inside, softly closing the door.

“Sophie?”

Again, her body gave no response and I cautiously approached the bed. There was something in the way she lay that looked unnatural, like she’d fallen face forward unintended. I sat on the bed beside her, brushing her hair away from her face. Her mouth was open, pressed against the bedcovers. A sort of worry quickly overcame me but I was gentle when I grabbed her shoulders and drew her back against my shoulder. Her head lolled to the side and I used my hand to turn it toward me, all the while the sense of concern growing. Her heartbeat remained constant throughout.

I smelled around her head, her hair, and finally her mouth and something quite off struck me. A medicinal smell. Somebody had drugged her. Maybe even a poison. My head turned toward the food cart and the most obvious choice was the champagne glass, completely drained of its contents. I reached over and picked it up, putting it to my nose. Orange juice and champagne but no hint otherwise. I would’ve tried to taste it but there was nothing left.

I set the glass and looked at her again, lying limp in my arms. I laid her carefully back on the bed, warring with myself over what to be done. Her heart rate was solid…but I didn’t know if that would last. Had someone meant to knock her out or poison her? There was only one way to tell.

I leaned forward, both hands braced alongside her head, and kissed her. I couldn’t taste anything from her lips so I took liberties and opened her mouth, tongue exploring the tastes. The sweet taste of citrus made my eyes shock open with light for a moment and I lifted my mouth from hers. I couldn’t taste any poison and I immediately felt guilty. I’d wanted to do that but had not envisaged our first kiss with her unawares.

My hand turned hers over in mine, my thumb moving over her wrist, feeling her pulse. As if I needed any more assurances that she was fine. Drugged indeed, but nonetheless fine. Perhaps she’d taken something herself. Not that I believed that. The drug had obviously hit her suddenly.

But what kind of a lout was I? Under pretenses of protecting her, I had snuck into her room and then, worst of all, taken advantage of her. No, this wasn’t what my Helene deserved.

But she wasn’t my Helene. I did not know her like I had known that other version of her from years ago. And she did not know me. I was a perfect stranger who barked at her in a foreign tongue and collapsed into her lap. I claimed to want to protect her but here I was invading her privacy. I rose, tucked her carefully under the covers, pulled them up over her, took one further liberty brushing her hair carefully aside, then stood looking over her.

Would she know to call me for help? Would she even need help?

I picked up the receiver on phone by her bed. It took me a few moments to understand how to dial out, but I pressed the numbers and heard my cell ringing. I took my headset out of the pocket and put it on as I heard the call connect through. I then set the receiver on the nightstand. If something happened inside the room, I could hear it and be here straight away.

I gave her one more long look.

“Next time, Sophie Quinn, you will ask me to kiss you.”

I left her room then, slipping the card key in my pocket in case of the most dire of circumstances and headed back to the elevator to wait in the lobby. I pressed the down button and when the elevator opened, it was the same young man as before.

“You look like she said no,” he spoke.

“Huh?”

He smirked. “You know, the bar on the 21st floor is much better than the one in the lobby. Closer too for catching an elevator in case she calls you back.”

I stood there stunned while the elevator doors slide shut. Then I pressed the button up and waited for the next elevator.