Giselle looked at Charlotte and broke out laughing. The crowd of dancers were edging closer to their table with the relaxed sounds of Giselle's sparkling laughter. She shook her head and looked directly into Charlotte's eyes.
"You act like we care what happens on the Left Coast!" She had lost her fangs and was genuinely amused. Theo tapped Charlotte's hand with his long tanned fingers in a playful move. He, too, was grinning sans the pointy teeth. Both of them were amused by Charlotte's dilemma but not unsympathetic.
"What are you saying?" She asked Giselle for clarification. She also had put away her teeth.
Charlotte wasn't going to turn her back on these two until she found out what exactly was happening. The two vampires seemed thrilled by her notoriety. This was a feeling she hadn't had for decades. Being Kenyon's vampire left her with little personal dignity. She straightened her spine and look into those wickedly green dancing eyes. Giselle didn't blink but simply said, "I was pretty sure it was you everyone was talking about causing problems from the West coast. The vampire network was being cagey about who the escapee was from there. We weren't surprised that you found your way here. After all where else would a classy vampire end up?"
She laughed again and Charlotte joined her. It was pretty funny. She felt relieved that Giselle and Theo were happy to see her. She also felt somewhat relieved that she wasn't going to have to fight her way out of the club. The crowd, which had been a healthy distance away, was beginning to press closer to their table. Giselle caught the eye of one of the gorgeous men waiting tables and said, "Jorge, we will be needing the red room. Can you prepare it for us?"
Jorge nodded and said, "As you wish, Mistress. And how many appetizers will you want?"
"Let's start with three and I will let you know if we require any more." She blew the man a kiss and he blushed. Charlotte felt a tingle of excitement. Now it was shaping up to be a good evening. Soon Jorge was leading them to a secluded room in back. It reminded Charlotte of the room at Kenyon's club, Dark Whispers. She tossed that image out of her mind and set about enjoying the rest of the evening.
And she did.
Giselle and Theo saw her off much later and wished her well. The 'appetizers' had turned into a complete feast and they now had a few bodies to dispose of before they got ripe. Giselle was happy to accept a sizeable bit of the money Charlotte insisted was her due as the Mistress of the area. Politically it never hurt to have a few more vampires who appreciated what Charlotte brought to the party. Vampires appreciated manners more than mere humans.
They traded out cars before she hit the road again. Now the station wagon was going to be used for a 'tragic' accident with the bodies of the feast engulfed in flames heavily fed by alcohol. One of the women roughly resembled Charlotte so that would be a nice distraction when they traced the car back to California. The puzzle would keep the local cops busy for weeks. Theo had a spare car he traded with Charlotte. The Florida plates would let her go further down the state avoiding detection she hoped. And the car was yet another convertible. She did have an addiction to convertibles. That alone was worth every single stack of hundreds she gave Giselle. The custom paint job, powder blue, with hand applied pin striping in a darker blue, made Charlotte smile while the engine made her purr. Theo claimed he was tired of the car yet it had only a little under ten thousand miles on it. The top slid down easily and she hit the road just after dusk enjoying the freedom of wind and the stars.
It was rare for vampires to own convertibles, which made the car a perfect cover. Granted she was an exception but then she liked it that way. The convertible was pretty much the last thing vampire chasers expected vampires to be driving. All the stories and movies made such a big thing about sunlight and all that. Theo also had liberated the car years ago from a collector who wasn't around to contest the sale. He claimed the blue clashed with his pretty green eyes. Charlotte took the offered car readily and went in search of the good time she desired. Lingering in her mind was the knowledge she was now being actively pursued. She put the car through its paces, hoping the crystal clear night and speed would chase away the cobwebs of fear. The car was sweet and soon she was smiling and forgetting all about her little troubles.
Charlotte was nearly at the tip of Florida when she had an idea. The next hotel she stayed in she looked through the yellow pages. Once she was well rested, she found a travel agency locally that stayed open late and walked in just as they were about to close. The storm clouds parted just as she pulled into the lot. Putting the top up on the car in case the clouds dumped rain before she was finished, she ran for the building. The front door was belled and she avoided jumping as the chime rang out.
"Oh, yes, hello," a mousy woman popped out from the back.
The 'agency' was upstairs in a strip mall and had posters years old of places long forgotten by most travelers. The travel agency business had taken hits over the years with internet use. Charlotte knew she had picked the perfect spot.
The woman timidly approaching Charlotte was a throwback to that era. Even though she couldn't be much more than her early fifties she dressed like she was well into her senior years. Then it dawned on Charlotte that most of her clients would have been at least seventy if a day and had no desire to touch a computer. She was wearing a soft brown dress with a pair of tennis shoes; she had obviously been getting ready to depart as she had a pair of dark brown heels in her hands. She quickly dropped the dress shoes out of sight behind her. She fluttered her hands up to push back a stray lock of gray brown hair from her face. She pulled her reading glasses from a chain on her chest up to her face. Once the glasses were perched on her nose she blinked to focus on Charlotte.
"Hello," Charlotte paced further into the room.
"Ah, miss, you know this is a travel agency, right? The insurance office is the next door. They're closed right now but I can take payments. Folks mistake us all the time," she was apologizing without a reason since Charlotte definitely had the right place.
"No, I need to get away for a while and figured you would be able to help me." She tried for innocent sweetness but it fell short. Charlotte knew this for a fact because the woman backed away.
"Don't you have a computer?" The woman was not comfortable with Charlotte in the least. It was all she could do to just sip at the fear waves and not fang in on impulse alone. This small lady was definitely prey. Really tasty vulnerable prey. There was nobody in the agency but the trembling woman.
Trying to push down her baser instincts she said, "No, I really need to get away. I don't have a computer. They are scary things." Not true but the lady simpered and moved closer. She understood fears. Charlotte was still full from her play with Giselle and Theo but this morsel was tempting her. Another further example of how much she needed this vacation getaway.
She said, "Where do you want to go? Somewhere in the US or off continent? I have some great packages." She began to pluck flyers off her desk then it hit her she had skipped the basics.
"Oh, my. Forgive my manners. I am Eloise McCabe. And you are?" Her hand was thrust towards Charlotte with only the most imperceptible of tremors.
"Absolutely thrilled to meet you," Charlotte was happy to play the game. She resisted shaking hands because the smell of this creature was pushing every button on her as a predator. Eloise looked momentarily off balanced and her fears rolled back up to the top. She pulled her hand back without a word and trembled a bit more.
"Yes, so where do you want to go again?" Miss McCabe was good at the questioning while recognizing that Charlotte would dictate the flow of the conversation.
Charlotte casually strolled around the room glancing at various maps on the walls before declaring, "I think somewhere around here."
She touched the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
Eloise squealed her excitement, "Oh, the Caribbean is stunning this time of year!" She began to rush around the room looking for something. Charlotte had no idea what was so important. She waited while the woman fluttered and flapped.
As she thought about it, Charlotte decided she completely hated women who squealed without being punctured by her fangs. It was tempting to simply take Eloise out of the picture and make her own travel plans but she resisted. The walls were closing in on Charlotte and she decided to try to stop planning on how to drain Eloise before she could get her ticket booked. Afterwards she would see how it shaped up.
"How many of the Caribbean islands do you want to see?" Eloise had begun to pluck various brochures off the wall. Charlotte shook her head to clear her thoughts. It nearly worked. Eloise no longer looked like a lush full course meal but a maybe sip or three to take the edge off her hunger. That wasn't good but hey, she was tense.
"Just pick one of the best destinations." Charlotte said while trying not to lisp over her fangs. She had turned away so as to not scare the meal. It just was Eloise was very human and something about fangs tended to put them off their jobs.
Eloise was flummoxed by the lack of interest Charlotte displayed. That wouldn't do. Okay, she focused and began to pretend interest. Sighing she worked the travel agent.
"Oh, you misunderstood. I just want to find the perfect place to relax and enjoy all the Caribbean has to offer. I have no desire to island hop. What is one of the most picturesque places to feel the flavors of the islands?" Charlotte did her best to keep the fangs out of her smile and since Eloise didn't jump up screaming she must have succeeded.
"Sure, you want to just relax and soak in all the Caribbean has to offer. I have heard that before and know we can find something to suit your needs. What is the amount you are interested in spending?" Eloise looked hopeful and tried to keep the hunger out of her voice.
"Money's no object." Charlotte watched the joy infuse Eloise's face. That was something she craved to hear. And Charlotte meant it. Eloise began to frantically key in various codes and phrases to her computer.
"And when would you like to depart?" Eloise looked up from her screen.
"Tomorrow night would be fine." Charlotte watched her pale at the contest.
"Ah, this coming tomorrow? Like as in tomorrow the day after today?" Eloise gulped loudly and began to frantically key more while still thinking of money.
"Yes, I really need to get out of town and relax. I haven't been able to relax in weeks and figured on a nice island paradise without my cell phone, I would finally be able to unwind and have some fun." Charlotte smiled and thought pleasant thoughts. Eloise had begun to get a tad nervous at the fast time line but she was focused on the promised money. Eventually Charlotte got everything she needed from Miss McCabe and refrained from supping from the scared woman. There were plenty of other fish in the sea.
The Caribbean Sea held so much promise.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-09-11