Charlotte began to pace in what was left of the available area. The three vampires stood at the end closest to the door of the hidden room waiting for her to speak. Garry and Janice still were at the male vampires' feet and weren't doing much more than sucking in gulps of air and polluting the world with their mere presence. Witch-controlled humans didn't overly impress anyone, but nobody was willing to screw with the possible backlash of a witch's curse. Besides, Iris said she could make sure they were safe but she and Legs still hadn't made it back upstairs. Time ticked by slowly, it seemed to Charlotte. She knew that she should be taking advantage of the missing two, but was trying to figure out how to frame the right questions without seeming weak or stupid.
"So you both knew I was still alive and only tonight Kegs decided to show up in my world?" Charlotte was troubled. Eddie nodded slightly to Kegs, giving him permission to reply. That irritated the hell out of her. She hated being the outsider. Keeping a mental picture of how many ways she was so going to slay Kenyon barely kept her from screaming in frustration.
Eddie walked over to Charlotte gingerly and put his hands on her shoulders.
"You were safe. That was all that mattered. Kenyon refused to allow any of us access. I knew I couldn't win a fight with him then." His dimpled smile was contagious. The lightly worded implication was that he could win a fight now. Charlotte thought about all the unsaid dialogue and waited to see what more he was going to offer. His hands trailed down her arms and he braced her forearms and looked into her face with warmth and a steadfast gaze. The intensity of another strong vampire so close was delightful, and felt good. Something in Eddie's eyes gave her hope. Vampires rarely had much need of hope, since they tended to do whatever they wished whenever they wished, but Eddie's glance was promising her a new path.
She smiled and exhaled. There wasn't much more she could do until Iris freed up the humans so Legs could question them. She was pretty sure that Kegs wasn't going to be asking them anything. Since Toby had handled the humans upstairs she had noticed Kegs hadn't gotten overly close to the pair either. Neither she nor Kegs was willing to risk a dash of rebounding magic since they both had knocked the two unconscious. For all they knew when they took off the sleep command they would be trapped by whatever 'protection' the humans had from Iris' mother. A risky business, given the hatred most supernatural creatures had for each other. Vampires and witches each thought that they were the top of the food chain. That was if they even admitted the other existed, which wasn't necessarily always the case.
"Charlotte, I am sorry we left you with Kenyon for so long. Once I had determined that you were still alive and safe I stopped pushing at Kenyon to explain where you were. He had you heavily masked in his club and I couldn't get a read on you for a while. He wasn't willing to let you trade masters or partners willingly, and I felt you weren't under the threat of any harm, so I reluctantly backed away." Eddie closed even more of the distance between them until he was a whisper away. Charlotte felt something cut free inside her at the closeness and comfort coming from Eddie. She was tormented by the familiar pulse of vampiric energies between them.
She found it interesting that Eddie had used the term 'partners' since she hadn't thought of them as much more than vampire companions or friendly fellow feeders in a long time. That was how she distanced herself from her loss. She remembered how they all used to hunt in packs in the east county and rural areas mostly for fun, not always food. Stalking prey and running wild in the chaparral filled canyons and fields was another pastime long gone from the current vampire night games. Instead they were reduced to playing with their food -- by 'dating' or buying names from blood dealers on the corners -- and usually ending up begging for scraps from their masters to simply stay alive. A growl rumbled deep in her throat. She was feeling her hunger rise and the booby-trapped humans were starting to look tasty despite the potential deadly side effects.
Legs burst into the room with an odd look on her face. Immediately Charlotte noticed Iris that wasn't with her. She felt a wisp of magic scenting the air around Legs. Somehow Legs looked unnerved -- a rarity with vampires.
"What happened?" Eddie bit out, letting go of Charlotte to turn to confront Legs. Charlotte was happy to let him go since he wasn't exactly in a good mood anymore. No more warm and safe fuzzy feelings coming from Eddie, but pure vampire master. Legs had definitely changed the energy in the room. She smelled of magic and blood as she stepped fully into the room. There were small dots of blood on her stomach and the tops of her hands. Kegs looked over her quickly inhaled and said, "Not your blood? Whose?"
"That brat." Legs snarled after looking puzzled. Eddie backhanded her without blinking an eye.
"Show respect. You lost the kid how? Have we been breached? Did the sweepers come inside and grab her?" He shot the questions out rapidly while indicating with his head that Toby should go downstairs and see what was happening. Toby complied without a word. The glance he threw as he passed Legs wasn't very nice, Charlotte was happy to see.
Legs growled, "Nothing like that. She escaped." Charlotte hadn't realized there was anything Iris was escaping from other than the sweepers.
She was upset, but not from Eddie's strike. Vampires certainly hit hard, but Eddie hadn't been aiming to take her head off, just get her undivided attention. Such vampire styles of discipline weren't exactly high on her list to keep control, but Charlotte was pretty comfortable watching Legs struck, given that the vampire showed up without Iris and the kid's blood still wet on her. And she wasn't going to object if Eddie did it again. Hell, if it weren't for Kegs she probably would have lashed out a bit herself. Legs had inspired that response in Charlotte from first meeting, and since then had done nothing to improve her standing.
Standing straight in front of Eddie, Legs spoke quickly while deliberately meeting his eyes and allowing him to read her. Most vampires had a few stray mental talents, but master levels had nearly enough power to roll even unwilling vampires with a direct gaze and good focus. Eddie was definitely focused. Kegs couldn't help her and his face wore a frown. She was on her own, and everyone in the room knew it. Well, except for Janice and Garry. Currently they weren't participating much in anything but the basic human respiration functions necessary to sustain the little life they had left. Kegs was doing his level best to try to be quiet while Legs worked out how she was going to spin her story. Charlotte kept still, knowing that Eddie needed to handle his vampire. Because no matter who fanged Legs into the vampire life Eddie was her recognized master. The subservient posturing was apparent even to Charlotte. Every master or near master had their own style but Legs was definitely sucking it up.
"I went down the stairs with the child to find the restroom. She was chattering on about something. I must admit I wasn't paying attention." She paused. They could see by her eyes she was mentally replaying and editing the conversation in her head.
"Now, looking back, I think she was beginning some sort of incantation." Here Legs' voice quivered slightly. Something was really wrong for her to tremble at all, Charlotte thought. Then Charlotte caught it again, a whisper of magic floating on the air.
"Down!" Was all Charlotte had time to shout when Legs started to quiver and shake. Bolts of energy flew off her and aimed at anyone near. Kegs caught something full in the fangs while trying to reach his lady. She screamed his name and stumbled backwards for the door. Toby opened the door and clubbed the back of her head. She fell to the ground and the flashes of magic stopped.
"Okay, that was bad." Shaking his head, Kegs stumbled up slowly from where he had fallen when the magic hit him. He looked at Legs and didn't immediately go to her. Given the crackling ozone smell still floating from her, nobody blamed him. Eddie had dropped to the floor when Charlotte had shouted. Even strong vampires knew that they had to obey blindly at times -- if they planned on staying around a while.
"Tony, where's the kid?" Eddie was a commanding presence. He helped Charlotte to her feet. The flutter of awareness ran over Charlotte as Eddie made sure she was okay. He was aware of her reaction and dimpled slightly. She was beginning to wonder how big an army of vampires he controlled.
Tony looked stunned at having clubbed Legs with his fists. Charlotte figured it wasn't something he got to do every day and probably had wanted to do for a long time. She certainly had.
Iris walked into the room behind Tony saying, "Good, you took care of that one." Charlotte had to wonder at the adult conversation coming out of the kid's mouth. She obviously was more than the little girl who was the focus of vampire ruled sweepers.
Tony did a double take, obviously he hadn't brought her up with him. Eddie audibly sucked in air and waited. The stench of magic was nearly overpowering them all. Kegs dropped down again to check on Legs. Charlotte didn't know if it was to help his girl or what.
"She was lying. I didn't try to do any kind of magic. It was her mumbling words and making signs when she thought I couldn't hear or see. When I got to the restroom I made her wait outside telling her I can't pee in front of strangers. She did. I went into the bathroom. It has a small window up near the ceiling. I tipped over the trashcan and got up and opened it. I didn't have to wait too long she came bursting in swearing at me to hurry up. Then she saw the window open and ran up here." Charlotte noticed Iris hadn't said where she was during this time or how the blood got on Legs.
Eddie noticed the lapse also.
"Iris, why does she have your blood on her?" His voice was powerful and compelling. The scent of blood was stronger than it had been when Legs had first returned. Iris tried to dart behind Charlotte. Charlotte stopped her with a slight shake of her head.
"Tell us the real story now." Charlotte softy requested knowing that somewhere between the two of their stories that there was the truth.
Legs was beginning to rouse and Kegs glanced to see if Eddie was going to allow his mate to stand. Eddie nodded his permission. Kegs lifted her up effortlessly and she groggily tried to focus. She definitely wasn't at her best, Charlotte thought, while waiting to see what new tale either of them would spin.
Reluctantly, "It's how I disappeared."
Which was not exactly a very forthcoming answer, Charlotte thought, watching varying degrees of skepticism dance over the assembled vampires. It was then she noticed something in how Legs was holding herself.
Risking a rebuke from Eddie, Charlotte voiced her opinion, "Iris is telling the truth. She splattered Legs with her blood before she went into the restroom alone. Iris, show them your right palm." Charlotte had also seen that Iris had clenched her fingers over her hand when she was saying she had disappeared. Quickly putting two and two together with the impossible she figured Iris had deliberately freed her blood to bind Legs. From the still dazed look on Legs' face it was possible that Iris had also done a little temporary amnesia or the blow from Toby's fist had knocked something free. Either way there was way too much magic floating around to make any of the vampires even remotely happy.
Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-04-02