Monday, January 7, 2013

Chapter 22


Chapter 22
._._._._.-._._._._.

Regan and the gentleman settled into a table at the back of the bar area.  He had been quite the gentleman, his hand in the small of her back as they walked through the crowd, not pressing her forward but simply reassuring her that he was still with her.  With a gentle touch on her right side he had steered her towards the corner booth, secluded, shadowed and far removed from the bulk of the patrons.

She knew on some level that she should resist, that it was a bad idea to be so trusting.  She had been burned so many times that there was no reason to believe that this time would be any different.  She glanced over at her companion as he took his seat and slid along the vinyl padded bench towards her.  Perhaps it was his unassuming demeanor, or perhaps it was his disarming smile.  She just felt comfortable with him.

There were no scents of mistrust, fear or disdain that she often detected around most mortals.  In fact all she could really smell was the rich aroma of her wine and the bitter tang of his beer.


“So, now we have some privacy.”  His statement was casual, conveying no real subtext or nuance.  It rolled off his tongue, it seemed, as simply as he might also point out that her hair was auburn, or that it was a Thursday.

“Yes, we do,” Regan answered, suddenly feeling unsure of herself.  She turned from him and looked out into the bar, trying to occupy her mind with something else.  A couple nearby stood close, her lips near his ear as she whispered something to him.  He held her waist as he leaned back to chuckle.  They were cute, young, and so very alive.  Regan sucked in her lip, briefly, a nervous habit she usually managed to avoid.

“If I may be so forward, how is it that such a creature of the night finds herself alone, here of all places, sampling wine and looking as though she’s just walked a mile and a half in shoes meant to walk the red carpet rather than the roadside?”  She could see out of the corner of her eye that he was smiling at her.

“It’s a long story.”  It was.

“Those are the best kind.  They help pass the long nights of quiet with something meaningful.”

She drew in a breath and let out a low sigh, forcing the air to move with purpose.  “I had a date that didn’t exactly go according to plan.”

“No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy intact,” he quoted.  “Eisenhower.  Brilliant man, if you ask me.”

“I just didn’t emotionally budget for this tonight, that’s all.”  

He put his hand on her leg, reassuringly.  She did not pull away; the touch felt comforting.  “It’s the unexpected that makes life interesting, or un-life as the case may be.”

Regan turned to him now.  “You still haven’t told me who, or what, you are.”

“Thomas,” he answered easily.  “And I’m just another bar fly tonight in search of a little company, and a reprieve from solitary drinking.”  He took another pull from his glass.

She pressed him more.  “How did you know I was a vampire?”

“You don’t naturally breathe, and you did not drink even a sip of your wine when it was handed to you.  Most at least take a taste to verify they have chosen a good vintage.”  He leaned back on the seat.  “I saw you storm out, and when you came back in I got curious.  You hide your nature well, but not well enough that someone can’t see what they need if they know what to look for.”

She felt the warmth of blood rushing to her cheeks.  She did not know what to say so she settled for swirling her glass slightly on the table, making the wine slip up the sides of it in gentle turns as she did.  

“Don’t feel bad.  I’ve got years of practice at picking out biters from the crowd of mundane men and women.”

“And where did you get this practice?  What is a ‘forgotten’?”

He looked out into the crowd and reached up to scratch at his chin.  “That is a rather complicated question.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I did not say it was; I was only pointing out that the answer might be a bit more involved than we have time for this evening.”
“I thought you liked long stories.”

“I do.  Just not mine.”

“Fine.”  Her patience was already sapped and while he was handsome she was not going to play games all night.  She reached down to pull his hand from her thigh.  “Don’t tell me.”

He held up his hand in a sign of surrender.  “Okay, I’ll give you the short version.  Will that suffice?”

She shifted her weight, leaning away from him a little.  “Depends on what the short version is.”

“Thralls are humans conditioned to obey a given vampire, each command making them more and more dependent on that vampire.  They lose their own identities over time, forget their families, their friends, their lives until all that remains is their master, or mistress, and what they may need.  When that vampire ceases to be, their thrall is lost, unable to serve another as effectively as they did their late master, and unable to return to the lives and people they had left behind.”  He took a drink.  “I am one of those thralls.”

Regan sat, speechless.  “I’m so sorry,” she finally managed.  “I had no idea.”

“I can tell you’re young.  There was no reason to think any of them had mentioned such things to you yet.  They like to forget that we even exist.  We are, after all, living reminders that they too can be killed.”

She considered that a few moments before asking another question.  “So why would you seek out the company of a vampire?  I mean my kind turned you out.”

He looked at her, his eyes warm and intense.  “Because you’re beautiful.”

* * * *

She struggled to get her key in the lock of her townhouse door as she felt his hands on her sides, holding her close.  His lips were distractingly warm against the skin of her neck, as his whiskers scratched along the tender flesh.  Finally the key slid home and they fell together into the darkened living room.  His hands were on her wrists as he pressed her to the wall just inside, her lips against his, parted and inviting him further.  She flexed her hands futilely as he leaned into her, his kiss invigorating.  She ceased her resistance for a time, allowing his passions to lead them.  When he eased back she squirmed free and started to pull him towards the stairs up to the bedroom.  He resisted and they fell together onto first the couch, then rolled onto the floor.  

He took no time to recover, leaning over her and kissing the top of her chest where her blouse opened enough to hint at her curves beneath.  She reached up and pulled him down towards her lips, desperate to taste him again.  She needed him and could feel in his pulse that he needed her.

She took hold of his head in her hand and surged upwards, her mouth finding his bared neck and biting down.  He did not resist her kiss as her fangs eased into his skin and the warm flow of blood began to fill her, warming her from her core.  He moaned as she drank, clinging to him as he straddled her body.

She savored the heady flow from his body, the taste embittered by the beer he had been imbibing over the course of the evening.  She felt alive and even a little drunk.  She knew she had to pull back before she drank too much, and did so reluctantly.  

Opening her eyes she could see his face turned up in a bright, mischievous smile.  

“My turn.”  Swiftly, his hands found the front of her blouse and parted it, buttons flying wildly as he did.  Only her satin and lace bra remained between him and her feminine treasures. He dropped his head and tasted the flesh bared by the motion causing her to whimper happily.  

They never made it up the stairs.

* * * *

She barely remembered the breaking of dawn. She could recall stirring to a room growing brighter with the approach of day, long shadows crossing the room as the white walls glowed with the orange hues of the rising sun. Looking around the living room, she had been overwhelmed by the level of disorder they had managed to achieve in such a short time. The couch was devoid of cushions, one of them having been repurposed as a pillow for them.  The tall standing lamp had gone over on its side at some point, and room smelled richly of sweat and excitement.  It took a few moments for her to recognize the coming danger of the sun's light. But in that time he had been there, sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her down to basement. She had fallen into her death-sleep there, wrapped in a fleece throw blanket, warmed by the rush of his blood still coursing through her veins.

As she awoke again, she indulged in a long slow stretch.  Her clothes were all back up stairs, and she gave a shiver at the thought of walking up naked to retrieve them.  She started to pull the blanket around her body when she noticed the men’s dress shirt, folded neatly next to the futon she had been laid on.  A single red rose sat neatly atop the folded garment.  She took up the rose and inhaled its rich smell.  Then she slid into the shirt, fastened a few of the buttons and climbed the stairs to her kitchen.  

Crossing the space she saw that the living room was still in utter disarray and that there was no sign of her companion from the night before.  The shirt, his from the smell, had been a kind gesture, and a likely sign that she would see him again.  He would, after all, want to retrieve it.  The rose, as well, hinted that he had too had felt something between them.  She stood amongst the chaos they had wrought and simply allowed her mind to wander back in time and enjoy an imaginary highlight-reel of their adventures.

She was brought back, quickly, to reality at the sound of her phone chirping out the text tone she knew well to be Emma’s.  Eventually she recovered the device from her purse, itself hidden under her pants where they had ended up behind the couch.  She found the message quickly.  It was the long overdue confirmation that Emma was indeed fine and that they should get together soon.  Regan felt a weight lift off of her chest.  A call would have been better and she briefly considered calling her directly.  She discarded the idea, though, due to an overwhelming need to shower and get dressed.  As comfortable as the shirt was, she could not spend the entire night lounging around in it.
An hour later she descended the steps to her living room again, feeling refreshed and energized.  The soft carpet felt good under her stockinged feet as she moved around the room and made an effort to restore it to order.  There was no reason to wear a skirt tonight; she had no meetings with clients, no plans with anyone.  But it felt nice and gave her an excuse to don a pair of stockings with it.  She checked her phone again but there were no messages from Thomas or anyone.   She had just finished restoring order when there was a brisk rap at the door.

She opened it to reveal Shannon.  The delivery girl stood nervously, her bike helmet under her arm.  

“Hi,” she offered with a hesitation to her voice.  Regan could tell she was shaken, the usual smells of excitement and arousal replaced with anxiety.

Regan looked back at her curiously.  “Don’t we have a few days before your next pickup?”

Shannon nodded.  “I’m actually here on a delivery, not a pick-up.  Well,” she continued, “a delivery with a pick-up.”  She offered over a sealed envelope.  Regan took it and stood aside so the girl come come into the townhouse.  She closed the door and pulled the tab on the envelope.  She slid out the folded paper and began to read.

Miss Fairchild,

You failed to appear at the library last night.  I shall assume that some far more pressing matter passed into your life and as a token of good will have sent this fine little strumpet along to fetch it for me and save you the embarrassment of coming to ask my forgiveness in person.  

In the ultimately unlikely event that you failed to retrieve the token I asked you to obtain, I shall be sending an associate to you.  He shall take you to retrieve the token, then bring you to the library to see it safely into my hands.  

Fear not, I have no intentions of bringing harm to your little blood doll.  She is, clearly, a lovely thing and I have little doubt that her vitae is as sweet as her appearance.  Sadly, however, the bike messenger business is not what it used to be, not in a town such as this where so much is simply scanned and sent by computer.  I am sure, however, that she could find some other way to pay for both college and her mother’s medical bills should they be forced to lay anyone off.

Sincerely,

J


Regan felt her anger rise as she read on, forgetting for the moment that she had indeed not thought at all about recovering this token while she had been at the Earl’s home.  Of course no one had made a point of coming to her and giving her anything so she did not feel totally to blame either.  But to threaten Shannon was more than she thought even he would stoop to.  She crumbled up the paper and stormed back to the kitchen to throw it in the trash.  Who was she fooling?  This was a man, a beast, who turned men and women into living marble slaves and placed them as sentinels over those he disagreed with.  He was capable of anything.

“What’s up?” Shannon followed her into the kitchen.  “What am I supposed to pick up?”

Regan did not say anything and instead took out her phone.  With a few practiced taps and swipes she was into her personal finance app.  She did not look up from it as she responded to the girl.  “What are you studying at school?”

Shannon did not answer right away, taken back by the question.  “Uh,” she stammered, “I’m working on marketing right now, but I’m thinking of dropping out and going for being a medical assistant instead.”  She swallowed.  “Why?”

“I’m looking to hire a personal assistant.  Do you have a resume?”  She glanced up and watched the girl’s reaction. Shannon seemed more confused than anything.

“Not a current one,” she finally said.

“That’s fine.  Go home, put some polish on it and email it to me this evening.  Oh, and include a cover letter as to why you think you would be qualified for the job.”

“Uh,” Shannon stammered again. “Am I?”


Regan nodded.  “Of course you are.  And when you think about the inherent pay increase that comes with a less physical job you will see net financial improvements due to the shift from an occupation dependent on your physical well being, which can easily be compromised by any number of road hazards.  Moving into a more personal, and static position will also provide you a chance begin to flesh your resume out with professional experience that will put you ahead of other candidates with similar education and aptitude.”

She did not even realize that she had switched on her vampire gift of the silver tongue.  She had not meant to use it to convince Shannon to take the job.  Truthfully she wanted to the girl to want the position on her own, not manipulate her into taking it.  But the deed was done and the glazed look to Shannon’s eyes made it clear it had worked.

“Yeah,” she said half asleep.  “I’ll totally have that to you in a couple of hours.”

Regan took her by the arm and lead her to the door.  “Now head home.  I’ll call your dispatcher to tell them I’m sending you on another errand.”

And with that Shannon was gone.  Regan quickly called the service as she had promised and assured the receptionist that Shannon had a great many drop offs to make and would not be back anytime soon.  That done, Regan considered her options.  

First she could simply drive herself back to the Earl’s home and get whatever she was to get.  That would mean, of course, having to face the Earl or his staff, alone, again and likely carried with it the risk of bumping into that oily designer he kept around, Paul.

Or she could forgo this silly token altogether and simply go face Jeremiah herself.  She could lay out for him that no manner of threat was going to make her do her bidding and that he was on notice that he was to remove himself from her life and death on a permanent basis.

Of course if she did neither, Jeremiah would more than likely surmise that was the case and his “Associate” would be calling on her soon.  She could simply wait here for him and let that plan play itself out.  Perhaps this would be the last favor he would demand of her.


The story continues in Chapter 23

It seems, dear reader, that our heroine is at a crossroads. What shall she do?


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