A Vampire can resist temptation, right?
“Solitude sometimes is best society.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Vlad watched Alice skid to a halt as soon as they got through the doors. He could tell that her nerves were frayed even without that strange dance performance in the hotel. Her eyes were as big as saucers and she kept looking around the room saying “cool…cool, cool, cool” over and over again.
He wasn’t supposed to be paying attention to her eyes or her stress level. And he definitely wasn’t supposed to be enjoying the fact that she disliked being around others almost as much as he did.
He chastised himself to stop focusing on her and make circuit of the room. Alice was a means to an end, and the end was here. He needed entry to this abysmal event and thanks to her, he had it.
He scanned the room, trying to focus on the task at hand. Planet Honeypop was normally a karaoke bar but tonight it had been converted for the purposes of the tv show. Stationary cameras dotted the dining area. The stage, where Vlad assumed the singing normally took place, was now converted to a mini-kitchen. Two baking stations sat side by side while a sorry-looking banner covered the wall. The whole affair was gaudy, loud, and reminded Vlad too much of Princess Cordelia’s royal court.
Some things never changed.
Sims prostrating themselves in embarrassing acts to gain favor and popularity was an old tradition, and not just in Princess Cordelia’s court. His father had been fond of this particular brand of entertainment too. Vlad swore it would never be part of his own court, but Miss Hell, Bloodvein, and a few other members of his council delighted in it. Every once in awhile, he was forced to sip plasma on the balcony of his great room while some poor sim danced or told jokes in hopes that the vampires in attendance would be entertained enough not to drain them.
It wasn’t that Vlad valued sims, more like he despised spectacle. Mortals were so pathetic, so weak, so…breakable.
He looked at Alice again. She never did get herself a coat.
The bar was pretty empty, considering the “gravity” of the occasion. Normally, this suited Vlad just fine, but it did not bode well for the contest. Meanwhile, Alice’s head swiveled from left to right, almost as if she was scanning the place for additional exits.
“It’s just a party,” William told her, “And not even a real one by the looks of it. With all these cameras and crew, it’s a wonder anyone is having a good time.”
That was easy for William to say, he adored parties and gatherings and sims. Vlad’s eyes traced the line of Alice’s throat as she gulped and nodded. The level of attention he was paying to her movements did not bode well for the contest either. And that throat?
That throat would be the death of him.
A small commotion on the stage caught his attention. Suddenly, the place was full of sound and sims that had been loitering around the edges of the room began to gather.
“Welcome to the contestant mixer for The Unparalleled Windenburg Baking Show! I’m your host, Rory Webber!”
Alice took a step back. Vlad tried to ignore the thrill her closeness gave him by busying himself with observing Rory and the crowd of potential contestants. Did no one notice how loud he was?
“As you know, tonight will act as a screen test for the show. Now, don’t worry. We don’t want you to do anything rash! Just act natural! Our top choices from tonight’s mixer will go on to final auditions but hey, no pressure!”
Rory paused to laugh at his own joke.
“In a little bit, we’ll have our ceremonial bake-off to kick the event into high gear. Our team will be strolling around to see who among you will be chosen for the match.”
Two sims in vests and headsets waved their hands so the crowd could identify them.
Well, that’s a paltry-sized production team. Vlad folded his arms and glared. Was this the make-up of the contest? Grandfathers and accountants? Where were the chefs? Where were the champions who could be brought under his thrall to bring him his prize?
“You’ll meet our celebrity judge tomorrow so for tonight, we’ll choose someone in the crowd,” Rory told the audience in a conspiratorial stage whisper.
“For now, just enjoy the night and please, no autographs folks!”
The clapping continued even as Rory stepped off-stage. Now that the cameras were rolling, the room was starting to get much more lively.
“Well, I think it’s high time for a drink!” William declared.
Vlad raised an eyebrow as he glanced towards the bar. Off to flirt with the bespectacled man ordering a water was more like it. It didn’t matter. He didn’t need William’s help to find some poor sap to seduce. He had Alice. If anything, he needed her to make him seem softer and less terrifying. Some of these sims looked like they had never set foot in a city before. They wouldn’t think of his teeth as an eccentric urban accessory, they’d be scared.
He tried and failed not to think of Alice telling him that she liked his teeth.
As soon as William headed towards the bar, Alice turned as if to go back out the door. To keep her from fleeing, Vlad placed a hand on the small of her back and guided her forward, ignoring the part of him that advised against using her. He snapped his fingers at the bartender and motioned at a plate of oyster crackers. Eating something would calm her down and settle her nerves.
“Thanks,” she said, after taking a bite. “So…uh…you’re here because you like baking?” She gave him a doubtful look.
His reasons were his own. He narrowed his eyes and gave a short answer. “Something like that.”
She smiled. “It’s okay if you hate it. It’s not actually my thing either.”
What? Why couldn’t she stop saying things that surprised…and (if he was being honest) intrigued him.
“Why compete then?” he snapped.
“Why watch? I don’t think vampires are big on eating pastries,” Alice shot back.
Pastries! He barked a laugh. “And what do you think vampires eat?”
Alice shrugged. “You’re my first vampire. You tell me. Though I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it doesn’t come with icing.”
Was she flirting with him?
“Why Alice ‘Not madame,’ I’m surprised that you don’t know what’s on the menu…” he replied, giving her a long look with a hint of mischief in his voice.
Sages! She was flirting with him and now he was flirting with her.
He tried not to enjoy it–this feeling he had around her but it seemed that he was helpless to stop it. He liked that he didn’t have to pretend to be mortal. He liked how relaxed she was with him, the way her hair swung in a mass of unruly curls and the expanse of skin he could not stop staring at. He liked…
…he liked Alice.
Vlad took an unnecessary breath, unsure if that thought came from him or his conscience.
The more they talked, the more he found–to his horror–that not only was he enjoying himself, he didn’t want it end.
Alice laughed when he told her how he drank plasma out of a glass in order to appear civilized. “But how else would you drink it?” she pointed out, “I mean, laying someone out on a table every time you get thirsty doesn’t seem very practical.” Vlad nodded in agreement as if he had not, mere weeks ago, bemoaned the absence of that very thing.
She teased him when he complained about technology and hearing the vibrations of the electric lights. “So I guess that’s a no to taking a picture with my cell phone? Wait, will you even show up in a picture?” she asked, before arguing with herself about whether or not it was a rude question. But Vlad didn’t mind. In fact, when he thought about having a photo of Alice so easily accessible, he found his stance on cell phones wavering.
She got a kick out of the fact that he hadn’t been to a New Year’s party in at least a century. “Bringing merriment to sims near and far always means a massive hangover…and regrets about who you wake up next to,” she quipped. And Vlad found himself smiling at her old fashioned turn of phrase and wondering exactly who she had woken up next to so he could hunt them down.
He learned that she was from a place called StrangerVille where her parents worked for the military–her mother as a scientist and father doing something in covert operations. When he asked her what, exactly that meant she just arched an eyebrow in a perfect dramatic imitation of him and said, “Nah, if I told you, I’d have to kill you.”
At that statement, Vlad laughed so hard that William turned and gave him a quizzical look.
It took him a moment to regain his composure.
“But really though, why compete if you don’t want to bake?” he asked.
“Because I want to win the prize. Then I can sell it and…uh…get some stuff I need. It’s probably worth a lot.”
She gave a half-hearted shrug, but her eyes were too earnest. Vlad experienced a flood of emotions all tugging him in different directions. Her statement was a reminder of his plan and of how far off course he had gotten.
He swallowed around the acrid taste in his mouth as he turned from her. “You have no idea.”
It had been a mistake to let himself forget why he was truly here. Alice Martin was just a tool.
He made his voice clinical and distant. “In your opinion, Alice, which of these sims seems likely to make it to victory?”
“You mean, besides myself?” she said with a laugh. But Vlad didn’t laugh with her.
Her eyes widened. “Oh, you’re serious. Uh okay, kind of rude but–” she muttered under her breath.
Then she squealed. Without realizing it she had backed into another sim who was walking by. A young woman in expensive red dress and gold heels gave a cry of distress and put her hands on her hips.
“Sorry!” Alice cringed.
The woman’s face was a mask of fury but she quickly smoothed it over when she noticed a crew member nearby. “Not to worry. I’m Jimena Lewis.”
Alice gave a nervous laugh and introduced herself. Vlad watched the exchange with interest. He could see the woman sizing Alice up, making note of all her weaknesses. He saw it in her eyes the moment she realized the perfect attack.
“You know Alice, you keep saying you’re a professional baker, one of the best and that I don’t have any chance at winning,” she said loudly. The crew member turned and motioned for a camera.
Jimena cut her off. “But I won’t let you bully the other contestants, Alice. We all deserve to be here, even if we aren’t professionals.”
“Oh, I’m not a…” Alice trailed off when she saw Rory and the camera. Jimena flipped her hair and gave Vlad a wink.
In return, Vlad gave her a smoldering look that he didn’t mean. Jimena was exactly what he needed.
And not at all what I want.
When had his conscience started tricking him into having second thoughts?
“Well! it looks like we’ve found our competitors!” Rory exclaimed. “And what a battle it will be!”
He placed a hand over his lapel, presumably to cover his mic, “You’ve both been invited to final auditions, by the way.”
Rory continued giving them instructions about the contest. Alice was frozen in place, but Jimena was nodding along, wearing a predator’s smile.
“I’m so excited,” she purred, and then lowered her voice. “But what about a judge?”
Rory looked up from the notes he had been examining with the crew member. “You’re right…”
Vlad tamped down everything inside of him that wanted to stand by Alice’s side and encourage her to win the prize.
This is a mistake.
Still, he stepped forward and gave them a wicked smile. “I’ll do it.”
Emotions by SimmerBerlin
MLSC CH11 OFFICE by Princess Paranoia
Emotions 4 by SimmerBerlin