Thursday, January 31, 2013

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

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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 fa├žade 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

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