Sleep was fitful and purposeless. Madeleine woke up exhausted and more than a little hungry. Two mugs of blood, and she still could not decide what to do with Milo’s voicemail.
“It’s just a movie,” she whispered into the nothingness of her kitchen. “It’s not like he’s asking me to marry him or have babies with him.”
Tamus had walked all over her dreams, though, and seeing Milo’s head crushed beneath one of his giant cloven hooves left the vampire breathless and more than a little afraid. Had he already gone back to Patrick? She shook her head. It did not matter. She had already set the ball rolling, however it may land, and the rest was out of her hands.
Minus this one little thing, that was not so little after all. What in the hell was she going to do about Milo?
She needed a voice of reason, and so she flipped through the contacts on her phone until she came to the number she needed. She pressed ‘dial’ and waited through the rings.
Madeleine sighed in relief. “Abby?”
“Um, Maddie, who else would it be?”
The vampire chuckled. “It’s been a day, so to speak. Can I come over?”
She knew her best friend did not ask to be rude, but because she knew how fragile Madeleine’s control was when she was distraught. And even a witch as powerful as Abby was not going to be able to stop a ravenous vampire, and they had both agreed that eating her babies was a friendship deal breaker. Her husband, on occasion, was negotiable, as the inside joke went between them. (Though, he always liked to remind them that he was psychic, so he would know before they could do anything.)
“To the brim,” she replied.
“Well, the kids are in the bath, so by the time you get here, if you fly really slow, they should be getting into jammies and bed.”
Madeleine laughed. “Maybe I’ll walk a little first. Do a good skulking around the neighborhood, scare some small children.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Abby chuckled. “See you soonish.”
“Bite anyone lately?” Abby’s husband, Henry, asked from his computer chair with a giant, cheesy grin on his face. “Haven’t read about any deaths under mysterious circumstances lately.”
Madeleine lowered the tea cup from her lips. “That’s only because I made the newspapers to cover it up in exchange for the death of one smart ass psychic.”
Henry laughed and spun his chair around to face his computer screen. “Yeah, yeah, you can’t kill me. Abby likes me too much.”
“Or so I keep telling her,” Abby retorted, towel-wrapped baby Ty over one shoulder, jammies over the other. She handed the baby over to her husband. “Dress this wiggle worm, and we’ll keep it that way.” No matter how she might have jested, Madeleine heard a softness in her voice that matched the kiss she planted on Henry’s thinning hair. “Gotta get this one all settled, then I’m all yours, Maddie.”
The vampire leaned back on the couch and waved at the tyke. Ty had always liked her, and his pale blue eyes widened with the delighted smile. He reached for her as his father worked him out of the towel and into the jammies. She made funny faces at him, and he bounced around on Henry’s lap.
“You know, you could help,” he said. “Or you could just continue to make this harder for me.”
Madeleine shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Those are my options? I have to think about it. What do you think, Ty baby? Should we help? Or should we hinder?” Ty clapped his hands, giggled and bounced some more. “The decision’s in! We should most definitely hinder.”
Henry shot her a glare, but it was all in jest. In no time, the baby was all dressed in jammies, and Mommy scooped him up and disappeared into the back of the house. “You know, if I didn’t know you were a cold-blooded killer, I’d actually fight back when you enlist the kiddos in your dirty work.”
“Oh, Henry, you’re not afraid of me.”
He pondered it for a moment. “No, I’m really not, you vampy bitch.”
“Right back at you, shitty charlatan.”
He laughed and went back to his computer game. Once upon a time, he had not been so sure. Early on in their relationship, he had been pretty sure that befriending someone who thought of you as food was a really bad idea. Add in that he thought she was a bad influence…well, Abby had made it perfectly clear that she could get into enough trouble all by herself. He had let it go back then, and it had been three years without anyone in his family playing blood bank, so Henry had decided the vampire might not be such a bad friend.
Oh, and it did not hurt that she made a mean brownie.
“And he’s a mage? You’re sure?” Abby poured herself another cup of tea and offered the tea pot to Madeleine. She took the proffered pot and filled up her glass. An advantage of having a witch brew your tea was that she knew exactly what to put in it to suit the situation or the drinker. What they were imbibing now was a carefully measured mixture of chamomile, yew needles, and “secret ingredients”. That was all Abby had been willing to divulge all those years ago, and considering it had dulled Madeleine’s hunger and calmed her nerves, well, the vampire did not see a reason to push any further.
“Oh, I’m sure. Definitely human. Definitely magickal. Screams mage.”
The witch murmured something to her tea cup. “That’s good, though, right? I mean, he’ll be more inclined to understand your, um, predicament. Unlike the last one.”
Madeleine nodded. Her crispy critter ex-lover had expected her, among other things, to give up her life as if she could just stop being a vampire. It had fallen under the “I love you but” laundry list he had given her throughout their two year relationship. C’est la vie. “There’s just something about this guy, though, some spark I haven’t felt since, well…”
“Patrick,” Abby finished for her. She frowned a little bit. She had not had the pleasure of meeting the other vampire, but the stories Madeleine had told her had, as she had once said, left a bitter taste in her mouth. And after hearing about his minion’s visit the morning before, well… “The nerve of him!! I can’t believe he sent that damn minotaur to threaten you! Who does he think he is?”
“I know, it’s incredibly, annoyingly unfair…”
“To say the least,” the other woman interjected.
“But the threat is very real. You and I both know that. And if this guy’s as much a mage as I think he is…”
Abby’s eyes widened. “Patrick could take that as a real problem. It’s harder to scare off other supers. Especially one that interests you as much as Milo—that’s his name, right?—does. But are we going to let this guy slip through just because Patrick’s unhappy with this break in your misery?”
Madeleine gave a huge sigh of relief. “No, no, we’re not.”
The witch leaned back in her chair. “Then go to the movie. We’ll deal with the rest as it comes.”
The flight back home had been a peaceful one. Her own personal glamour allowed her to float unseen through the night sky, just a shadow in the corner of the human eye, a passing cloud, a drifting bird. She was always thankful for Abby’s counsel. It had kept her from going over the edge on more than one occasion in the past five years.
Abby also knew how bad this could be for the vampire. She had seen the aftermath of Tamus’ last visit to Madeleine’s house. The backyard had been torn apart like a tornado had touched down. Her boyfriend at the time had come away from it in a strait jacket and his own personal padded room in the psych ward in Tucson, screaming of monsters wanting to eat him. It had not been too far off from the truth, with the raging bull man chasing him around the fence line in large, earth shaking steps. Poor guy, his mind just could not reconcile what was happening with what he was seeing, and he had just snapped.
“This is what happens, Madeleine,” Tamus had said as he straddled the man’s curled up position amidst the chaotic remains. “You have been warned. The next time, we may not be so courteous.” He had left in the same kind of portal as he had this time around, and the vampire freed of his magickal bonds had run over to her boyfriend in tears.
She had called an ambulance, and then she had called Abby. And between their magickal abilities, all questions had been kept to a minimum, and the paramedics had bought the quickly conceived story about drug-use gone awry. And while those humans would be fuzzy on the details and more than a little confused when the tox screen came back clean, they had been all too clear to the vampire. She was not meant to be happy, and Patrick would see to it, right or wrong, that she was reminded.
But she was older now, stronger, and whatever it was that had so drawn her to Milo excited her. And it was that excitement that kept the fear at bay. She was already looking forward to the movie, and she did not even know what he would propose to see.
And for now, that was enough.