Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 28 - Waking Up is Hard to Do

01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27


Nightfall came with a tickle of magick that slipped beneath the blankets and up the long length of leg. At first, she thought it was a bed bug—it was a hotel, after all—but the sensation didn’t stop, didn’t move when she batted a mostly sleepy hand its way. That woke her up a little more.
She peeked through the thinnest slit of her eyelids and that next breath dug claws in her throat. Patrick.
“You’re not here,” she whispered. “This is a dream.”
Her old lover smirked, that twist of lips that always made her want to slap it off his face. “If that makes you feel better.”
It didn’t, so she sat up instead, folding the blanket nervously in her lap. “What do you want?”
He patted her outer thigh. “Tsk, tsk, sweetheart, you know I don’t want anything you have to offer me. Come now, when’s the last time we just talked?”
Stab, stab, stab. She fought the urge to grab her non-beating heart. “We have nothing to talk about, Patrick. Not even here in this dreamscape.”
“Oh, to the contrary,” His smile widened, clearly much amused. “We have much to discuss, beloved.”
Part of her kept whispering that this was a really bad dream, that if she just made herself wake up, he’d go away. He’d just simply be gone when her eyes opened. Another part frantically whisper-screamed the scariest two words in the vampire world: Sire bond.
He wasn’t, of course, her Sire, but in taking that role, in saving her, sharing blood with her, they had bridge a relationship that was akin to the one she had had with her Sire, and that bond would explain everything that was going on now: how he was here, why he felt real, why his magic was able to touch her.

But even that didn’t sit right with Madeleine. After all, she had been under the impression that he had severed said bond years ago, when she had left him, a sort of hellfire painful severance that had left her coffin bound for almost a month in recovery. That, too, had been the message he had sent attached to the dead girl on her doorstep when she was able to move again.
The note had said simply that he had severed their bond. Severed it wholly and completely. That she no longer meant anything to him, not that she had for years prior to her departure. In short, she would be less, so very much less, without him in her life. And he would be so much better without her in his.
She had cried as she buried the body. Cried into the blood she forced herself to drink to keep from going berserk on the next human who had the unfortunate happenstance to come to her door. Cried all over every set of sheets she owned and down the numerous showers she took to mute the sound of her sobs to her own ears.
When the tears were finally gone, when she had finally cried her body to exhaustion, she lay there in her bed and hated herself for being so damn pathetic over someone who didn’t give one shit about her. Leaving had been the best option. Insane vampires were bad. And put down by the Elders or imprisoned in the Other. So why had it hurt so damn bad if he hadn’t severed their bond for real?
She shook the memories out of her head, and that dull glowing ember of anger inside her sparked into a flame. “We have nothing to talk about, Patrick,” she reiterated, tossing a little of that heat his way. His smile faltered just a hint, for just a second, before he smoothed out the edges, but she had seen it. “Get the hell out of my room.”
But he didn’t get out. He simply patted her thigh, like she was some stray puppy. “I still loved you, you know, that’s why I didn’t really sever our bond. How could I possibly do that, knowing what it would do to you? Instead,” he shrugged, “I just called in a favor from a local witch.”
“Bastard.”
The smirk returned, and he leaned in. “You left me. It sucked. So I made you suffer. How is this new to you? Isn’t that my modus operandi with you? Isn’t that what you told me? Didn’t want to veer away from character. Couldn’t have that.” He leaned back. “But I want to make amends.”
Madeleine’s brow went up. “Now.”
Patrick leaned against the opposing corner of the couch. “I admit, I probably should’ve done this years ago, but now is as good as any, don’t you think?”
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She knew that nonchalant mask all too well. Either he was about to go on the offensive or…no way… “You’re afraid.”
He forced a laugh. “Of you? Hardly.”
All the gears were turning full force in her head now.  “No, you wouldn’t be afraid of me. You know what my abilities are. You know how to push my buttons. You know how to get me to submit, if you even wanted that. No, it’s not me that you’re afraid of, is it? You’re afraid of the human mage and his friends.”
She couldn’t even imagine how much restraint Patrick expelled to keep that façade smooth and even, but the anger she had felt moments before exploded in the soft, red telltale glow of his eyes. She forced the encroaching smile off her own lips. No sense in pushing him over the edge just yet.
“You are. Big, bad vampire with all his dark court lines of influence is afraid of a small band of meager humans.  What did Tamus tell you, Patrick? Did he tell you how he got his ass handed to him by a tired, burnt out human mage? Did he tell you how we pulled a fantastic underdog victory from beneath his hooves?”
His eyes narrowed, and she thought perhaps she had pushed too far. “You were lucky, Madeleine. Lucky that I told him I wanted you to live, that death was too good for you, that in his restraint, he got caught off-guard by your puny human fuck buddy. We won’t make that mistake again.”
Patrick stood and pushed his magick out until it covered her, clung to her like acrid fog. “I came in peace, but no, you had to be a bitch about it. You couldn’t just listen. I came to offer you a place back at my side, but I see you continue to be unworthy. You may be vampire, but you are no better than the human mongrels lapping at your feet. And we will crush you, but not before we let you watch us feast on the marrow of your allies as they scream for death.
“And only when the last drop of life has been drained from your dear Milo, when his body lay limp in my grasp, will I condemn you to the Other, marked as verboten. An eternity alone, Madeleine, with nothing but your tragedy to keep you company. And maybe then you’ll think about how you should’ve treated the olive branch I offered today.”
In a dramatic poof, he was gone, just as suddenly as he had come. His words left her in a state of shock, and she found herself just sitting there, his soliloquy an echo in her head.
He was stronger, of that she had no doubt, and he had an army at his beck and call. She had humans. It didn’t seem fair, and she wanted to run again, to take all this craziness with her somewhere else. But if she ran, he would only take out his anger on the folks she was leaving behind, and that was more unfair.
That only left her one option: Stay and fight.
She exhaled, low and long, and swung her legs off the couch. Outside, she could feel the sun descending into the horizon. No crispy critter today. She stood up, though not nearly as dramatic as her ex-lover, folded the blanket and laid the pillow atop the mound. It wasn’t much, honestly, the hotel could’ve cared less if she made the effort, but one of her go-to coping mechanisms was organization, and she had a lot of crap she needed to cope with now.
Afraid or not, Patrick had come thinking she would just jump at the chance to return to him. It wasn’t love, of that she was certain, but it stank to high heaven of familiar stomping grounds and life lessons unlearned. Offering her more of the same misery wasn’t an enticement, but an unintentional incentive to remain, well, anywhere that wasn’t with him.
Not that that thought would’ve occurred to him. Just as it hadn’t 25 years before this meeting. He had seen her departure as a stain on his reputation, his standing in the dark court, that ‘tsk, tsk’ whisper of the other dark creatures as he passed. Were they whispering anew after the return of his minotaur? Was that what had instigated this visit?
It didn’t matter, not in the least, because the problem remained all about him and nothing about her, and he was displeased that she refused to be his pawn again.
“Too fuckin’ bad,” she growled beneath her breath.
She walked into the kitchen to make some coffee for her and the sleeping witch in the other room. Had she retired to the bed? Or in true Abby form, was she slumped in whatever chair sat in that room, book fallen out of her hand? Madeleine chuckled. She couldn’t imagine having to sort out all this mess without her best friend.
As if on cue, Abby emerged from the room with a dramatic yawn. “Coffee?”
The vampire smiled. “Of course.”

Three cups of coffee and a phone call to let her husband know that she had not, in fact, been eaten by a crazed vampire fiend, and the girls were in the thick of the details from the past few days.  Madeleine had explained the real story, the one caught between the scattered witness reports and that official word around the abrupt destruction of her home. Abby asked all the right questions, and by the end of the conversation, she was caught up and both women were on the same page.
“So he’s mad at you?” Abby asked.
“Well, I did try to eat one of his best friends…”
“True, but there’s something about him. I mean, I know more than a few mages—illusionists, elementalist, even the occasional necromancer—but Milo seems different. He feels different. I know, I know, I haven’t met the man, but I can see how he affects you…and really that’s enough for me.”
“You think?” Madeleine asked from behind her mug.
“Having said that, of course, I’m forced, as your best friend, to ask if you’re sure that pursuing this guy, in light of all the Patrick angst, is the best idea right now. Not because I don’t think there’s potential here, and he’s already proven more of a man than the last one, but because you,” she reached out and touched the vampire’s hand. “You tend to get emotional, and Patrick isn’t stupid. He’s going to use that against you. Are you going to be able to protect yourself while there are dangers headed toward Milo? Do you really believe that he is strong enough to do the same with you?”
Madeleine opened and closed her mouth. “I don’t know, Abby. I guess I hope so? I mean, if we don’t stand up now, if we don’t fight back, Patrick’s not going to stop. He’s going to stay a part of my life for the rest of eternity, and I’m never going to have any real chance at happiness. And I kind of really want that.”
“So,” Abby looked over the top of her mug with more than a slight twinkling of mischief in her eyes. “What do we have to do to boot him out of your life?”
That was the million dollar question, wasn’t it? It wasn’t as if she could just get a restraining order and tell him that they were over and to leave her alone. Tonight’s little ‘intrusion’ just proved his boundary issues remained ever-present. What was a vampire girl to do?
“Are you up for a little warding?”
With the biggest grin spreading across her lips, Abby reached down beside her and brought up a nondescript grey bag from wherever she had hidden it. “Thought you’d never ask.”

Her best friend had once explained warding as the best magickal electric fence. The spells looked like feathered texturing along the suite’s walls, slightly glowy and pulsing as they were laid down by Abby’s able hands. It’s what the inside of her home looked like, too, and it always gave Madeleine a sense of safety, comfort. Every brushstroke, every whispered word and breath of sage was done with love.
“Few things are more powerful,” Abby had replied when she’d asked if it made a difference.
Granted, the vampire was very aware of one of the few things that were. The thought made her stomach rumble, and she realized she was hungry. “Abby…”
The witch didn’t even bother to take her eyes away from her spellcasting. “Fridge. I was busy while you were sleeping. You will have to heat it up yourself though. A girl can only do so much, you know?”
Madeleine started to thank her, but Abby waved her off. “Gotta finish.” So she wandered off to the kitchenette and opened the fridge.
Abby hadn’t been kidding. You’d think they were planning on holing up there for a while, as much blood and foodstuffs that were now, well, stuffed in there.  She stood there for a good three minutes, just taking it all in, before she snagged a bag of O positive and a muffin and sat down at the bar.
Her head hurt. Lack of quality sleep, sure. Too much pondering? Yeah, that, too. All in all, she just wanted to pick up the damn phone and talk to Milo. They didn’t even have to talk about anything serious. They sure as hell didn’t have to talk about Tamus and Patrick. But she just wanted to hear his voice in her ear, warm, wanting, so very human.
Love was a stupid thing, of this she was certain, but there was just no denying how she felt in the middle of her undead chest about the man. And if the dream was more than just a dream, as she suspected, then perhaps he felt the same way about her?
She shook the thought out of her head. First things first. Now that the wards were nearing completion, she needed to figure out the next step forward to how to stop this impending storm. She needed allies.
Madeleine grimaced. The power she needed to do what needed to be done came with strings and future favors. Unnamed favors. And in her world, those were dark and dangerous, as crazy as that might sound. One of the parts of having eternal life is the attached eternal memory. She had known favors to be called decades, centuries in the future, usually when the favor ower was comfortably established in new life.
She closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. To end this mess with Patrick would be worth it. She’d gladly pay the price to be rid of him. It would be worth it. “Yeah, maybe if I say it often enough,” she whispered beneath her breath, “Maybe I’ll believe it.” She opened her eyes. “And pretty pink pigs will fly out of my ass.”
The first problem with her allies being painfully obvious, the second was just messy. She sighed at all the pretty countertop before she opened the drawer and pulled out a knife. She sighed again as she snagged a bowl out of the cabinet, too. “I hate this part.”
In the movies and on television, it was always heart blood from a human, but given as she was pretty sure Abby wasn’t interested in being a telephone line to the Other, she was grateful that it only required some supernatural blood, and she had plenty of that just lying around.
She sliced perpendicular to her wrist—that never quit hurting like a nasty little bitch—and let the flood of blood stream into the bowl. Dipping her fingertips into the steaming mess, she circled the edge the magically inclined seven times and exhaled one hot, warm breath against the rippling surface. 
“Annaleise…Annaleise duBois, by blood and bond, I summon thee.”
The blood bubbled, and the middlemost bubble spread like a little mouth, the edges little lips, and a throaty voice emerged. “Bitch, this had best be good.”

Continue: 29

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 27 - Moving Forward

01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26

“Dude, you’re not alone, and we really don’t want to join your personal porn session.”

Milo shook his head and forced his eyes opened to see Zeke standing over him.  “What are you talking about?”

Another voice made kissy noises, and Milo propped himself up on one elbow.  Across the room, Nate was messily making out with his fist.  Milo looked back up at Zeke.  “What am I missing?”

“That,” the other mage pointed at the albino, “is the noise coming out of your bunk for the last few hours.  We tried to ignore it—I mean, come on, your hot vampire girlfriend left you alone—but after a while, yeah, well, we were feeling a little gay.”

Milo felt the heat rise in his face.  “Oh, damn, I’m sorry.”  He peered around his friend at the other people in the room.  “I’m really frakin’ sorry.”

“I thought it was sweet,” Bri said, her head poking into the bunkhouse. “If more guys would acknowledge the fact that they dream about their women, the world would be a better place.”

The other men chuckled, and Milo swung his legs out of the bunk, mumbling an ‘excuse me’ as he exited the room.  He almost ran to the bathroom, but he didn’t see a point in giving his friends more to talk about.  He hit the urinal and then the sink, splashing cold water on his face. 

His watch read five o’clock.  They had slept most of the day away, and he took the rest of the groups jovial jesting as a sign that they had recovered, at least physically, from the previous day’s ordeal.  He felt better, too.  And it was obvious from the commentary that he had achieved REM sleep. 

Sure, he was achy still, but that was to be expected, everything considered.  He ran a hand over his bristling facial hair.  I should shave, he thought toward his reflection, she likes it when I’m shaved.

The thought was bittersweet.  It had been odd, when she had fled—because she had most definitely fled from their last conversation—he had felt almost moved to follow her.  Only the cynic side of him had held his legs at bay. 

She had destroyed his life, the lives of his friends and co-workers.  She had enemies, larger than life big bad asses, who had clearly defined boundaries for her existence.  Now, Milo was the first to push against boundaries, not one to be fenced in by stereotypes and pre-defined restrictions, but this was more than that.  Her risk taking, her complete disregard, her utter selfishness...

“No,” he growled at his reflection.  “That’s too easy.  That’s the coward’s way out.”

Yes, he was angry about the danger they were now in, how she had honestly believed that walking away, pushing him away, was the only solution.  And if she had been anyone else, he might have believed her and let her just go.  The minotaur didn’t want them, the supernatural humans, though that may have changed now, he was willing to admit.

He was also willing to admit that he didn’t want her gone.  As much as she frustrated him.  As much as she acted like a complete lunatic.  He knew it was her fear, and with enemies like hers, he could understand why she was acting the way she was. 

And he was pretty sure she felt the same way about him.  Or at least he wanted her to badly enough to dream it into truth.

He hadn’t intended to go to the copse, but it had felt familiar.  Madeleine looked human there, and the sun looked good, right, against her skin.  She had had a vulnerability in the dream he had only glimpsed in real life, snippets behind her carefully crafted façade.  Her fear had surfaced in her words, her tone, and she had wept as they kissed, real tears, not bloody ones.

It had been in that moment, in that very human kiss, that he had realized for all the chaos that he was in love with her. 

“I love her,” he whispered.  “I love her.”

“You know, if you say it often enough, you might manage to actually tell her.”  Milo refocused and saw the wererabbit leaned up against the first stall.  “Coffee?”  She held up a large paper coffee cup with a familiar green symbol. 

“You went out for coffee,” he turned around and took the proffered beverage.

She shrugged.  “Beat sitting around listening to you guys snore.  I mean, I know Arthur’s a necromancer, but you’d think he was the undead, how loudly he snores!”

He took a sip.  Ah, coffee, nectar of the gods!  “Didn’t you sleep?”

“Sure, but I don’t need much to replenish my body or my magick.  It’s not like I was kicking minotaur tail yesterday.  My significant other doesn’t require blood to survive.  He doesn’t fly either.  So you can see how much less stressed out I am than you are.

“How are you feeling, by the way?” She took a long draw off her own cup.

“Fine.”

She cocked her head with an incredulous look.  “Fine.  Liar.”

Milo sighed.  “I’m still tired.  Not exhausted.  No longer frazzled along the edges.  But I’m all right.  Don’t want to go up against that minotaur again any time soon.  Or his freak of an employer, that Patrick guy.  But today, tonight if I can just see my girlfriend, maybe get a little chow, maybe pretend, even for fifteen minutes, that we’re human and normal.”

“And boring.” She hid her smile behind her cup.  She raised her hand as he opened his mouth to further clarify.  “No, no, I get it, the want to be normal, to blend in with the mundane folk, even if it’s just pretend.  I just...”

There was something about her pause, that note of pain held in those last two words, that piqued his interest.  Today was proving to be an interestingly insightful one.  “What? What’s wrong, Bri?”

“I don’t know if you’re going to get your fifteen minutes.  I don’t know if what’s going on, all this gobbledygook that’s been so violently stirred in the past twenty-four hours, is going to allow you five minutes.  I don’t think any of us have that luxury right now, least of all the two of you.”

She ran a hand through her hair, eyes closed, and shaking her head.  “I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer, Milo.  To the contrary, I want to give you hope that you’ve made the right decision, that she is the right decision.  Granted,” she gestured toward the mirror, “it seems you’ve come to this conclusion rather nicely, all on your own.”

“We don’t have much in the way of time, so I’ll stop talking now.  She’s about to call you soon anyway.  And now I could use a nap.”  Bri smiled at the mage, dropped her cup into the trashcan and walked out of the male restroom without another word or glance.

It took him a minute to follow suit.  Just a minute.  He carried his cup out with him and rolled the words she had spoken around in his head in wistful contemplation.

Coffee was good, helpful even, and it wiped away the threads of his dream about Madeleine until they were just a pleasant memory.  No time to second guess her intentions.  Or his for that matter.   
How he felt hadn’t changed.  If it was meant to be, it would happen.  They’d survive through this craziness and deal with the aftermath, well, after everything was said and done.  And really, the rest was outside his realm of control.

By the time he had finished the thought, Milo had made it to the conference room.  The mound of earth that had carried the vampire in was gone without leaving even a scent of dirt behind.   
Something told him that Bri was holding a broom and dustpan for appearances, and when she winked at him from across the room, he knew he was right.   He raised his cup into the air, and she raised the dustpan in reply.

“Hey, you all good now?”

Milo turned to see Zeke winding up lengths of shiny silver rope, palm to elbow, as it poured from his other hand.  He nodded.  “I’m good.”

“About earlier…”

He waved the other mage off.  “I would’ve done the same to you, if not worse.  I mean, what good is being friends if you can’t crack jokes, right?”  He reached out to touch the rope.  “What are you making?”

Zeke pulled it away.  “No touchy.  It’s magick rope.”

“Got that.” Milo took another sip as he watched the other man continue with his task. 

“Um, you shouldn’t touch it, because it’s, well, it’s kind of a nullifying rope.  Kind of like Wonder Woman’s lasso, but instead of making you tell the truth, this one makes you mundane.  Figured it might come in handy.”

“As long as none of us touch it.”

Zeke smiled sheepishly.  “Well, yeah, there’s that.  Hell, if I wasn’t weaving the damn thing, I’m pretty sure I’d be impotent right now.”  He raised the rope-spewing hand as Milo opened his mouth.   
“Let me just say ‘Fuck you’ now, because I’m pretty damn sure anything that’s about to come out of your mouth is going to involve my dick and ED issues.”

Milo laughed.  “You know me too well.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” his friend gestured toward the door with a tilt of his head. “Night will be falling before we know it, and you know you might want your honey-do list all finished, so you can squirrel away some time with your vampire chick.”

“She tried to kill you.”

Zeke smiled, small but a smile nonetheless. “Dude, yeah, I know.”

“And…” Milo rolled the words in his head around his mouth. “You’re okay with this.”

The other man shrugged. “Hey, look where we are right now. At work. On our day off. Sure, we’re here because you choose to date a crazed vampire chick with a crazier ex-lover who surrounds himself with, oh, yeah, big ass minotaurs and who knows what else. Are we going to die when this shit all comes down? Eh, maybe.”

He considered his position. “Yeah, no, probably not, if we’re being honest. No sense lying if these might be the last days of our frickin’ lives, right?” He didn’t wait for Milo to answer. “See, here’s how I see it: This is what we were meant for. I mean, sure, there are more supped up folks, but there has to be a reason for it. So what if this is it? It’s not saving the damn world, Buffy-style, but this is our world, and I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth saving.

“And it’s Madeleine’s world, too, even if she hasn’t been human for as long as us douchebags have been alive, all combined. So if we’re going to go down, I say we go down fighting.”

Milo crossed his arms, amused. “Done with the speech, coach?”

Zeke chuckled. “Yeah. Pretty good one, though, right?” He tied a knot around the ring of rope and stuffed it into one of the office’s abyss bags. All that dangerous magick tucked away in a beck and call ‘hole’ at his waist. Convenient, safe…not a bad deal when you’re headed to war. “I’m serious, though. End of the world. Hers. Ours. Superheroes. Yeah, I’m down with that. Get your ass out of this building and into a shower and then eventually,” he winked, “into your girl.”

Milo opened his mouth to respond, but his friend just waved him away. “Go, go, before I go all ‘let’s hug out the pain’, ok?”

And so he left.

He panned through the list on his phone that Arthur had so nicely sent out when the necromancer had woken up in his office. Oh, technology. There was a little supply collection, a little magickal prep, even an order to rest and eat. The way he looked at it, all doable before Madeleine would be awake again.

That made him smile.

And that was good.

Continue: 28

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 26 - Bri & Abby

01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25
 
The first thing she saw when she pushed open the door were bunny slippers. They were propped up against the adjacent wall at the end of short, pajama’d legs. She pushed the door open a couple of inches more and peeked around it. Against the far wall sat a cute, albeit exhausted, young woman with a cup of coffee in her hands. Her aura smelled of magick and fur, and while she was certain this person wasn’t a werewolf like Vince, she was most definitely a wereanimal.

“You must be the wererabbit I smelled earlier,” the vampire offered. She hadn’t meant it to be predatory, but the small shiver the girl gave couldn’t be mistaken. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just trying to figure out how to, well, get out of here.”

The woman rubbed an arm with a free hand, but did not look up from her drink. “You know it’s almost dawn, right?”

Madeleine nodded and felt stupid. The super wasn’t even looking at her. Nodding was futile. “I know. I have a friend coming to pick me up.”

“Oh?” The woman met her eyes, and in an odd reversal of roles, Madeleine felt mesmerized by the twinkling of the other woman’s irises. “Milo will need to know where you’re going.”

“I know.” Damn if she couldn’t break eye contact. In her arrogance, she had assumed the woman had made the connection on accident, but the sudden sense of devotion, like a warm blanket of compliance, made her realize otherwise. “You’re really good.”

The woman smiled. “And I’m not even trying.”

“I can see why they keep you around.” Madeleine forced her eyes closed, and while the connection had broken, she could feel the remnants still floating there inside her, whispering words of obedience with ties strong enough that she took a subconscious step forward.

“It’s because I’m cute.” Her voice drifted through the vampire’s self-imposed darkness. “I mean, can you imagine any of them as the office eye candy?”

Madeleine could feel her, the sheer supernatural heat of her, suddenly in front of her. What in the hell was she doing?

“My name is Sabrina, but you can call me Bri. Most people do.” The heat dissipated until she could only feel the line of the other woman in the distance. “Oh, and you can open your eyes now. Can’t have you walking into walls now, can we?” The vampire opened her eyes slightly, but Bri was already halfway down the hallway. “Are you coming?”

Madeleine nodded again, the wererabbit giggled and they wandered down the hall paces apart. The further they traversed, the more she could hear, as if the mind trip had somehow cleared out some of the cobwebs from her fight-induced torpor. Male voices grew from whispers to actual conversation that required no supernatural hearing to discern. Bri motioned her to stop, and she did.

The other woman disappeared into the room where the men had gathered, her presence disrupting their discourse, and their conversation fell back to whispers. There was some vague shuffling of chairs, a grumbling of disagreement, and then Milo appeared in the doorway.

“You look better.” It wasn’t a compliment, just a fact. He said it with a look that was more a medic looking over someone who should’ve been a corpse, all serious and sterile. His energy said otherwise, but he clearly trusted her as much as she trusted him. Great, another bridge burned.

“Blood does that,” Madeleine forced a smile. “Thank you for that, thank you for the blood.”

They stood there, in the ever-growing awkward silence, and she fought the urge to reach out and touch him. The thought that he might recoil scared her more than the ever-encroaching dawn. They both tried to speak first, both futile efforts that ended in more awkwardness.

This was ridiculous. They were both grown adults, and they were going to have to work together to get through what was to come. To be stuck standing their like gawky teenagers was simply a waste of time.

“I have to go,” she finally managed. “I have a friend picking me up,” he opened his mouth, but she put up a hand to stop him. “She’s a Wiccan and a psychic. She’s also been my friend for a long time. She can be trusted. I’m going to check into a hotel near my house, or rather where my house used to be, and I’ll call you from there, once I’m settled. I’ll be back here tonight, and we can go from there. Just wanted to let you know before you thought I’d just skipped out on you.”

“I wouldn’t think that,” he whispered.

“Then you’re a better person than I am.”  She turned on her heel and headed down the hall.  She fought the urge to turn back, to see his face again, but she kept her eyes forward, focusing on finding a way out of the building, away from him.

It wasn’t so much that she needed to get away from Milo, but that her restraint was already strained, her control tenuous at best as it was, and one more look would’ve broken her resolve.  It would’ve set free the chaotic emotional spinning in her head, and once the flood began, she wouldn’t be able to help whatever fell from her lips.  None of it would salve the wounds between them, so she gathered what remained of her dignity and ran.

She found an exit easily enough, and as she slip through the glass door, she breathed a sigh of relief.  She leaned against the cool exterior of the building and closed her eyes for a moment.  Twilight was always interesting to her.

That period of time right after the sun set and right before the sun rose was a magickal time for the undead.  However fleeting the moment, it had always given her a sense of humanity, even if the tug of impending darkness or dawn reminded her that she was just pretending.  She just pushed those thoughts away and reveled in the sheer joy of returning to what she once was.

This twilight, however, weighed heavily on her tired body.  Blood was good, but this was one of those times when fresh from the vein would’ve been better.  And the older blood after the supernaturally-infused blood of the other mage had been just enough to dull the edge.  She could walk, move, but flight…

Her eyes popped open at the sound of a passing car, but it wasn’t Abby’s little two door green sedan, just a random car in the parking lot.  If she hadn’t gotten her ass handed to her by that damnable minotaur, she would’ve had the strength to fly to the hotel, just met Abby there.  But the simple fact remained that she didn’t and she couldn’t, so she was stuck here until her best friend arrived.

Because nothing said “fuck my life” like falling out of the morning sky in a ball of fire and feathers.

Well, except for maybe that impact.

She didn’t have a watch, so she didn’t know if the GPS-promised ten minutes had passed, and she began pacing a short length of the sidewalk.  She didn’t want to think right now.  Not about what had happened.  Not about Milo.  Definitely not about Milo.  And while she realized the futility of trying to keep those thoughts of out her head, she continued her near frantic pacing, counting the ten steps forward and ten steps back.

The counting moved from inside her head to spill out of her mouth.  If anyone had seen her, they would’ve thought her clearly stark raving mad, pacing, counting, hands waving in the air with each turnabout.  In her need to separate the parts of herself, she didn’t hear the quiet roll of tires along the curb or the sound of the passenger side window going down.

“Hey, crazy lady!” a female voice called from inside the vehicle.

Madeleine stopped her pacing.  “Abby?”  She walked to the car and peered in to see her best friend leaned over from the driver’s side.

“Uh, who else would stop to pick up someone who’s clearly escaped from a mental ward?”  she replied with a smile.  “As if you weren’t aware, a little thing called ‘dawn’ is coming, so unless you’d like to go all crispy critter on me, do you think you could manage to get your butt in the car already?”

The vampire chuckled and opened the passenger door.  She shifted the seat forward and crawled into the back seat.  Abby handed her a heavy blanket—“burnt vamp would ruin the upholstery, you know”—and she curled up beneath it across the seats.  The darkness was blissful, so much so that soon enough Madeleine fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.


She awoke to the gentle proddings of her best friend.  “What’s going on?”

“We’re here,” Abby replied.  “Um, I’ve got you all checked in. We’ve just got to get you out of the car.  Granted, it’s pretty much dawn now, so you’re going to have to remind me how this works.  Are you going to burst into flames once the blanket comes off?  Is this a ‘sun must touch’ scenario?  Because there are shadows under this awning.  Not big ones, none that are going to last longer than about another fifteen minutes, but big enough for you to slip on through.”

Madeleine peered over the edge of the blanket, passed Abby and noticed that the woman was right.  Shadows, yes, but they’d be gone if she didn’t get moving and fast.  “The lobby still windowless?”

Abby shrugged.  “Pretty much.  I mean, unless you’re looking to check out their continental breakfast spread in the atrium, yeah, we can get to the elevator without any sunshine on your shoulders.”  She held out her hand.  “So we’re going to make a break for it?”

The vampire nodded, and the witch smiled.  “Let’s go!”

Madeleine slid the blanket away, took Abby’s hand and got out of the car.  She played hopscotch with the shadows and the sun, and together the women made it safely inside.   The front desk clerk watched them with more than a little disdain to accompany her terse little frown.  What the hell was her issue?

Did she think Abby was helping a drunk friend in?  Or maybe she thought they were lesbians?  Arizona wasn’t exactly known for being a liberal state.  It didn’t matter, though, regardless of why she was staring, Abby had clearly had enough.

“Ah, was there something wrong with my credit card?” she asked in a tone that practically dare the other woman to say something, anything.

“No, no, ma’am!” the desk clerk replied all flustered, her face turning red.  “I just...”  Abby raised her eyebrows.  “Is there anything else I can help you with this morning?”

Abby smiled.  “Oh, no, I think you’ve done quite enough, don’t you?”

The woman blanched, and the vampire’s best friend’s smile just broadened.  The first shimmers of magick rode off her skin in a curtain of heat, and Madeleine rolled her eyes.

“Abbs...”

“Oh, come on,” her words riding the magick across the room.

“Abbs...”

The heat dissipated as instantly as it had come.  “You’re no fun,” the witch pouted.

Madeleine waved her into the hallway.  “Abby, she’s not worth it.”

Abby leaned against the wall and pushed the elevator’s up button.  “Maybe not, but she’d already earned what I was about to do to her.”

“Karmic return?  Really?” Madeleine asked as the doors opened.

“Threefold, Elvira,” the witch chuckled.

They both stepped inside, and the vampire swore she heard the desk clerk faint and hit the floor.  Abby must’ve heard it, too, because the chuckled turned into full blown laughter.

The walls of the elevator were blurry gun metal gray.  Abby’s reflection was muted, distorted, and it was almost like being in a carnival house full of fun mirrors.  It was a sobering moment for both of them.

The witch walked forward and touched the space on the wall where Madeleine’s reflection should’ve been.  “Is it weird?” she asked quietly.  “The whole lack-of-reflection thing?”

Madeleine leaned against the back wall.  “Sometimes, I guess.  Sometimes it makes me feel very unreal, like I must be part of someone else’s dream, without a reflection.  I mean, I had one when I was alive, right?

She didn’t wait for an answer.  “Every human has one.  So where did it go?  Does it mean I don’t a soul either?  I mean, do you have to have a soul to cast a shadow?”

“No, I think you need a soul to open automatic doors.”

She opened her eyes and looked at her friend.  It had been a small jest, the minor homage to a prime time cartoon character, but an effective one.  “Thanks.”

Abby shook her head.  “You just sounded so down, like you’ve thought about this a lot.   I haven’t lived three hundred years like you, but I don’t need several lifetimes to tell when a friend is hurting from a really old wound.”

The elevator binged, and the doors slid open.    “Come on, Maddie, let’s get you inside.  You look like death.”

She chuckled and caught herself.  “Oh, Maddie, I’m sorry.”

“Nah, Abbs,” the vampire said with a smile that felt real, a first for the day.  “That was kind of funny, everything considered.”

Abby’s smile flickered and warmed.  “Yeah, everything considered.”


The room was plush, easily a honeymoon suite.  It meant the curtains were heavier, the carpets thicker, the security in the corridors more expensive and the only folks who were able to enter were those with a code.  It meant she would be safe here, and with the room under Abby’s name, it also meant no one would know she was here, except the people, person, she wanted.

Milo.

She pushed the image of him away and listened to her best friend securing the bedroom.  Abby had made another crispy critter comments before insisting that the vampire sit down on the chaise lounger and disappearing into the other room.  The quiet of the suite and her extra-sensory hearing made it easy to hear Abby’s sneakers brushing over the carpet fibers in rhythmic waves.

It was soothing, white noise, and sleep snuck up on her again.  She curled into a fetal position, pulling the chenille throw off the back and over her body.  Her final thought was that she should’ve called Milo first, to let him know where she was, that she was okay, but fatigue took control and she was gone.


She woke up in the same copse where she had first met Milo.  The sunlight was less frightening this time, and she spent a minute letting it warm her face.  She missed this sensation, and she tried to commit to memory every part of how it felt for when she woke up for real.

“Milo?” she called out a moment later.  She stepped through the trees, a summery breeze playing with the hem of her dress.  “Milo, are you here?”

The grass felt like carpet beneath her bare feet, and she felt like a child again with the plethora of forgotten sensations.  Sure, she could walk barefoot through grass at night, but it wasn’t the same.  It was cold and prickly, not warm and smooth like this.

“Madeleine?”

She looked up from the tickling grass between her toes and saw him just beyond the nearest grouping of trees.  “You look rested.”

He shrugged.  “I think we’re in the process of resting, you and I.”

Madeleine reached for him, faltered, and dropped her hand.  “I don’t know where we go from here.  I don’t know how badly I’ve ruined things with you.  And I...” she looked away from him.

He touched her chin and lifted her head upwards.  “You what?”

She sighed.  She could feel tears welling in her eyes.  “I’d miss you, Milo.  My life would be less without you in it.  I...”

“Shhh...”  Milo leaned in and laid a chaste kiss on her lips.  “I know, Madeleine.  I know.”

“You do?”  She hated how scared she sounded, how broken and needy.  Patrick had called her ‘wanty’, back in the day, this want she had to be validated.

But Milo just whispered, “I do,” and kissed her again.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 25 - Licking Wounds

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“Milo.”  The necromancer wiped his palms down the sides of his pants.

“Got it, boss.”  The mage crossed the room in five strides and squatted down close enough that her fingertips could have brushed the dirtied edge of his boots.  He kept his eyes averted.  “Madeleine…”

She looked up at him, confused.  “What did you just call me?”

“Madeleine,” he grunted, drawing circles on the carpet between them with one forefinger.  “I called you Madeleine.”

She shook her head, the adrenaline from the fight dissipating just a little.  Focusing was hard work, but she’d drank enough to keep the rest of her hunger at bay.  Her confusion helped as well.  She repeated her earlier comment.  “I know you.”

“You do, but…” His voice held a note of sadness, and a sudden sense of fear pierced her heart.

“You’re mad at me.”

The mage flinched.  “You almost killed him.  My friend almost died, because of you, and you wonder why I’m mad at you?”

He had a point, of course, no arguing that, but they’d reached an impasse of sorts.  That moment in every fight when all parties just stop.  The air grows pregnant with unresolved tensions, lips curl in growls of disdain, hands flex talons and claws, and both sides lick their wounds.  It’s a jaggedly defined fork in the proverbial road, where choices must not only be considered but made.  Fight or flight.  Compromise or surrender.

Madeleine was torn between waning blood lust and that itch in the back of her head that screamed that this fight with these humans, these supers, was contrary to the bigger picture.  Not that the ‘bigger picture’ was anything more than a hazy thumbprint against the window of her mind’s eye, all meaningless whorls and lines that she knew added up to an entity, if only she could wipe away…well, if she could just wipe away this stupid fight.

But the vampire had never been good at apologizing, and really how do you even begin that conversation? “I didn’t mean to eat your friend” just didn’t seem like a good ice breaker.  And honestly, these guys didn’t look like the ‘forgive and forget to stake’ type.

She relaxed her pose, drawing in both fangs and claws.  Dawn was coming, she could feel it, and though she had fed rather recently, the ordeals that had occurred over the past twenty-four hours had taken their toll.  She needed rest, earth and more blood, none of which she’d find here.

None of which she’d find at all, if she didn’t find a way to save herself from being torn apart, like the necromancer’s pet werewolf wanted so badly to do.  That left her only one option.

“I surrender.”

Milo turned and looked at her.  “Excuse me?”

She sighed and raised her hands up in the universal gesture to be taken away in handcuffs.  “I surrender, Milo.  I give up.  If I had a white flag on a stick, I’d wave it right now.”

She inhaled slowly, and the scent of him that had earlier brought on a fervor carried with it memories this time.  Videos played in her head, alternating with stills of the man in front of her, and that pit inside her, that regret for the chaos she had caused within these four walls tightened.  Madeleine looked up at the mage.  “Let me rest.  Let me stay here until night falls, and I’ll leave.  I’ll take my craziness with me, and you won’t have to see me ever again.”

Milo shook his head.  “Uh, no.”

She raised a brow.  “Excuse me?”

He shook his head again.  “It’s not that easy.  I mean, maybe for you.  Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you can just walk away from this.   Maybe you think you’re sparing us—sparing me—further chaos by taking yourself out of the picture.  Hell, I don’t have a frickin’ clue what your ulterior motives are behind this sudden surrender.

“But the simple truth of the matter is that this is no longer just your fight.  I brought my family into it, because I couldn’t imagine living without you, and they aren’t going to leave because you asked them nicely to go.  They know I’ll do everything in my power to help you, to end this, and they aren’t about to let me do that alone.  Especially when it’s clear that we’re not out of the woods, not by a long shot.”

Madeleine tilted her head to look around the man.  Though his friends, his family, all wore grim masks, arms crossed and clearly unhappy about what was transpiring, they stood as a united front.  What a strange concept, such unity.

Vampires pretended unity for the sake of appearances or until their mood changed.  Alliances and battle lines were drawn and redrawn so often, she understood why so many of her kind hid in secluded castles and caves all over the planet. And those they wanted to trust were bound by blood, which wasn’t trust at all but like internal surveillance.  Hard to ambush someone when they could feel you out there.

It was one of the reasons Patrick sent Tamus to do his dirty work.  He would know she wasn’t dead without having to see her face.  He could live with the torment the Minotaur dished out, because he didn’t have to see it happen.

It was oddly detached yet intimate, and one of the reasons she had left the dark court.  Distance, she had found, dulled the connection, though there was no place so far as to disconnect it completely.  Not even the ancient trial of vampire fire walking, a complex and inane ritual practiced by those in desperate need of a broken bond.

She had been that desperate once upon a time and sought out fire walkers, but what she found were vampires who had not broken anything but their own minds.  And in that chaos, well, it was understandable why they believed it had worked.  Their former masters weren’t hearing anything, because there was nothing but gibberish to be had.

“So…” she looked up at Milo again.  “Where does that leave us?  Where do we go from here?”

He looked at her, weariness marking his features.  His mouth moved, as if to say something, but he must’ve thought better of it, and shook his head.  “For now, we recover.  I don’t know about you, but the rest of us need to eat.  It’s been a long ass day, and if I’m going to get my ass kicked all over creation again in the near future, I’d like to have a couple of La Juanita burritos first.

“And then we sleep.  You can rest here, or go home, not that there’s much of a ‘home’ for you to go back to right now.  Just let me know, before you go, so I can check in with you when I’m awake again.  Sound good to you?”

Madeleine nodded, and the mage walked toward the other humans.  There was a minor whispered discussion that she didn’t bother to eavesdrop into, and then the group broke into a flurry of silent action. She didn’t watch what they did, where they went. Milo’s fatigue, the physical and emotional, had rubbed off on her perhaps, and she just couldn’t be bothered to care.

Doors opened and closed. Feet shuffled passed her, sometimes cautiously, sometimes with exaggerated animosity. A mason jar of blood appeared in front of her with a pair of passing bunny slippers. She took it with quiet thanks and sipped it as she contemplated where she stood now in her undead life.

Madeleine frowned.  She’d forgotten about the destruction Tamus had wreaked on her home prior to their escape.  A hotel would suffice, and she even knew of a place that was friendly to supernatural creatures. But the simple fact remained that the life she had built here in Arizona was over.

Being homeless was only the tip of the ice berg. There would be curious, if not irate, neighbors in her neighborhood. How much damage had the minotaur done? Could she salvage any of it? Her netbook? Would Abby have heard about what had happened?

Abby.

She fumbled through what remained of her outfit and growled. Somewhere in all the mess, between the escape and the fight, she had lost her cell phone. She looked up and saw that she was alone in the room. She could feel them outside the walls, doing whatever it was they were doing. Their energy orbited like fiery little planets.

Across the floor, she could see a telephone. She looked around for any cameras, but the little voice in her head mentioned that they were probably as tired of her and their current fate as she was. The vampire stood carefully, brushed the dirt from her clothes and stretched her wings. She finished off the blood as she crossed the room.

She had met the psychic witch before the advent of the cell phone revolution, so she knew Abby’s phone number by heart. She cradled the receiver against her ear and dialed. The phone rang twice before she heard it pick up.

“Um, hello?” Abby’s voice spoke.

“Abby?”

“Maddie?” She spoke the two syllables with restrained caution. “Madeleine d’Court, is that you?”

The vampire allowed herself a small smile and gave a sigh of relief. “Yes, it’s me.”

“How do I know it’s really you? I know dopplegangers are real, you know, and I know for a fact that two live in Arizona.”

Madeleine repressed a chuckle at her concerned friend’s suspicious tone. “When you were giving birth to your last child, you asked me to be there, but only after I promised that I wouldn’t eat any of the hospital staff.”

“Unless…” the witch led on.

The vampire closed her eyes and covered her mouth and the emerging smile with a hand before replying, “Unless they screwed up and forgot to give you an epidural. And how many people got eaten, Abbs?”

It was the witch’s turn to laugh. “None, not a single body hit the floor. But it was a close call, wasn’t it?” She paused, and Madeleine could almost hear the gears turning in her head. “What the hell is going on, Maddie?

“Your house is gone. The ‘official’ word” she could hear the air quotes, “is that a freak tornado touched down out of the clear night sky right on top of your house.”

The smile faded. The local media had never been really good at explaining away the unique happenings in Sierra Vista. “And the unofficial word?”

“I will have some karma to pay back to the Universe, but there used to be folks who claimed to see a giant monster turning your house into a pile of kindling fit for a giant bonfire and a dark angel flying away on black feathered wings carrying away some strange man.”

Madeleine grimaced. “Used to be.”

Abby’s response was as nonchalant as her response. “Like I said, karmic payback is due. Maddie, don’t worry about it. We’re friends. You would’ve done the same for me. Your tricks are better than mine, of course, but a good Wiccan’s gotta do what a good Wiccan’s gotta do. Universal balance and all that jazz.”

The vampire sighed again. There was no point in reminding her human friend that she believed in karmic due, as well. The witch meant what she said without judgment. It was just truth. And a good witch never lies. “Abbs, I’m in trouble.”

“Oh, I get that.”

“No, seriously, Abbs, I’m in over my head.” She paused. “Can you pick me up? I promise to tell you everything, every nitty gritty detail, but I can’t do it now. I can’t do it over the phone. The line could be tapped.”

“You’re a spy now?”

Madeleine grunted. “Yes, secretly, I now work for the CIA. No, pain in my ass, I’m, well, you know what? I have no freakin’ clue where I am right now. I just know it’s where Milo works. Hell, I don’t even know what this place is called. Wait a minute, let me look and see if there’s anything interesting in this desk.”

“Wait, they left you alone in an office? Bigger question, who is ‘they’?”

The vampire ran a hand through her hair. “Abigail, I will explain everything soon, I swear it, just let me figure out where I am.” She opened drawers and found letterhead with the words ‘Primogen Construction’ emblazoned in gold across the top. At the bottom, in the same gold inking, was an address. She passed the information onto her best friend. “How soon can you get here?”

“Let me plug this into my GPS and I’ll be on my way. How are you going to get out of the building?”

Madeleine remembered what Milo had said earlier. “I don’t think they’re keeping me hostage. I just think they left me in here because they didn’t know what else to do with me. And the room’s pretty heavily warded, too, so I’m safe, they’re safe, hell, I think Tamus would have issues breaking in here without some help. As long as I tell them where I’m going…”

“They want you to tell them where you’re going? That sounds suspicious.”

She waved off the question, even though the charade was pointless over the phone. “It was part of the deal, of my surrender.”

Abby ooh’d over the line. “This story just gets better and better. All right, well, let me come white knight your vampire ass out of that magickal office of doom…”

“Abby…”

“Oh, come on, I don’t get to play the rescuer very often! Not to you, anyway. GPS says I should be there in about ten minutes. Meet you out front.” She hung up before Madeleine could say anything else. She passed her hand over the paper and the gold lettering flickered in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with the lighting in the ‘magickal office of doom’, as Abby had put it, and the vampire dropped it onto the desk.

Something about that simple magick made her think she might have underestimated her allies. Part of her cheered. She could use strong allies. But part of her cringed. When this was all over, would they simply take her out? Or worse, was this bargain some ruse? Would they turn her over to the minotaur and his minions from the Other in exchange for their own lives?

That first part of her wanted to believe that they were honorable humans, that such a thing was beneath their ethical reach, but that second part whispered that it was unfair of her to expect such things when it was her carelessness that got them all so entangled. She folded her wings until they disappeared and walked toward the door.

Hurry, Abby!
Continue: 26

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 24 - Of Monsters & Masters

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Patrick admitted to more amusement than irritation, as he watched the minotaur pace the length of the library floor.  The great beast had healed most of the great many wounds he had received in what had—much to the vampire’s intrigue—turned from a banal bullying to a battle epic enough to be spoken of in quiet, hurried whispers in the shadows throughout the Other.

But the amusement soon gave way to anger.  “One vampire,” Patrick spoke, fingers tapping rhythmically against the wooden armrest.  “One 330 year old vampire…”

“And one mage,” the minotaur snorted.  One hoof dug a deep groove in the floor.

“Oh, yes, let’s not forget the human mage, who helped a whelp of a vampire best the mighty Tamus.”  He didn’t bother to make it a question, which allowed no room for argument.  “You are older than I am, have no human taint – 100% magickal creature – and you let two measly humans kick your sorry ass all the way back to the Other!  Do you see the problem I’m having with this?”

Patrick had risen unconsciously from his chair, his hands clenching the front of the arm rests until the wood creaked beneath them.  If his heart could beat, it would’ve raced with his rage over how poorly this had ended, and he stopped cold as the minotaur met his eyes.

“It would serve you well,” Tamus replied, his power riding his words as they fell from his muzzle in a deceptively even tone, “to remember that all of this,” he swept one arm out, “this mess, began with you.  You and your inability to control the progeny in your kiss.”

“Watch your tongue,” the vampire hissed, but the minotaur had clearly had enough.

“You didn’t control her at all, Patrick.  Nay, you neglected her, left her to her own devices, and she fled the dark court the first chance she got for the sun-soaked deserts of Arizona.  You don’t want her, but you’re miserable without her.  And if you are miserable, then she deserves no happiness either?

“I appreciate madness.  You know I do, but what do you hope to gain from this downward spiral?”

The vampire settled back into his chair with a frown, and regarded the creature with unmasked disdain.  “I want her to suffer.”

The minotaur shook his head with a loud guff.  “To what end, Patrick?  To what end do we continue to wage this war?  We cannot just let this go now, you realize.  Her allies rally, and our numbers clamor for blood and revenge for what has been wrought against me.  There will be no rest until the heads of your wayward beloved and her cast of humans ride spikes before the gates of your manor house.  Or there will be mutiny set to drag you from your self-made throne.  I will not be able to protect you.”

“If it’s blood they want,” the vampire growled, “then it’s blood they shall have.”

*************************************

It wasn’t that simple, of course.  Patrick was painfully aware of that fact, as he watched the minotaur leave the library.  Tamus was a good ally and an old friend, but there was no way to explain to him the nuances of his decision making, the very human aspect of it all.

Granted, that was a very big part of it, the ‘human taint’ as he had called it earlier, and addressing said issue required him to admit to some equally human flaws that he wasn’t ready to hear outside his own skull.  Anger was better.  If he could focus on those dark feelings of betrayal over her departure, he could get through this disaster, right?

He admitted he’d been surprised when she had actually left after years of veiled threats had fallen idle on his ears.  He must’ve stood in the threshold of her chambers for a good half hour before the sheer emptiness as far as the eye could see sank in.  But there had been no time to wallow, no time for denial.  Such human things were considered weakness among the courtiers, and he had to force those thoughts away until he was alone.

Patrick loved her once, he could admit that, when she was shiny and new to his world.  She had been brilliant, a bright light in his dark court, and while he had known she was broken—what vampire wasn’t—he had had no clue just how broken her Maker had left her all those years ago in Paris.  She had hidden it so well, until his interest began to wane, his eyes found other shiny baubles, and then the cracks began to appear in her cool, detached exterior.

He’d dismissed her needs, even given her permission to fulfill them with vampires outside their kiss, and for a while, it seemed to sate her.  But even that had been a lie, a façade she’d put up in an attempt to stay at his side, no matter how hard he pushed her away.  She had withered away in the last quarter of a century, a shadow of her former self, left in the dust to pine for him and him alone.

Maybe he had thought she’d pine forever.  At least long enough, perhaps, that his interest in her would wax again.  And maybe, just maybe, he had considered her too weak to ever even consider making good on her threat.  It had never occurred to him that she might lose her interest in him by the time they had had their century anniversary.

Not that any of that mattered now, of course.  She was gone.  She had made it clear she didn’t want to be with him anymore.  Hell, she’d even moved on to a new lover after another quarter of a century to a human who wasn’t even a food source.  No, he had meant something to her, though Patrick found the mundane human beneath her, enough that she had roasted him like a human pyre in the middle of the desert.

The bonfire had caught Patrick’s attention after twenty-five years of relative quiet from the young vampire, and it had brought him more than a little pleasure to feel the rumbling turmoil pulsing along their blood tie.  And it didn’t hurt that her first real outing without him had crashed and, pardon the pun, burned to the ground.  No, that didn’t hurt at all.  He had half-expected her to show up at his doorstep, all haggard and teary-eyed, begging to come home, and he’d been more than a little disappointed when she had chosen instead to stay in Arizona.

Then she had met this new one…

Madeleine had been hesitant at first, so afraid, and Patrick thought he would just be another human, another mistake.  It had taken just one kiss, that one burst of supernatural magick, and the vampire had realized, as he sought to slough her happiness from his body like mud, his original assessment had been flawed.  She was happy, despite her reservations, a joy that sparked like fireworks so bright he could’ve seen them in the night sky between them.

And that had changed everything…

Continue: 25