Present Day, Granite Falls Train Station
William was used to repeating himself with Vladislaus. It was hard for Windenburg’s Vampire King to hear something for the first time and truly listen. Stubborn. Arrogant. Obstinate. Even before Vladislaus became a vampire, these were words William would have used to describe his friend.
“You want to get back into the black with dear old Alice and you cannot have a hope if you’re three train cars away,” he said calmly, handing the clerk a ticket to scan their luggage.
It was surprising how cheap the Baking Show production company actually was. They flew the contestants only as far as Granite Falls and then booked them on a ten-hour train ride the rest of the way. William figured it worked to his advantage, though. He already made note of Dylan’s seat number and planned to charm the bookish baker the whole ride to Windenburg.
Should he make dinner reservations? That might be too much, too soon. He’d play it by ear—
“I want to never be on one of those sage forsaken airplanes again. I would prefer to travel no farther than I can mist and barring that, I want…” Vladislaus trailed off as he watched Alice struggling to lift her suitcases onto the luggage scale.
They could hear her arguing with herself about “over-packing” and “not needing any of this shit for a temporary trip.”
William saw the tick in Vladislaus’s jaw just before the vampire rushed over, too quickly for any mortal, and lifted the suitcase onto the scale.
Alice folded her arms and eyed him suspiciously, but at least she didn’t give him the finger.
“You think riding coach is going to make good old King Vlad-y into a better vampire?” Caleb sneered, tracking the same scene.
William smiled amiably. Caleb always expected the worst. Whatever Vladislaus was now, it was better than before. The witch who cursed him was worth her weight in gold, which, coincidentally, was the exact amount William paid her.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. He hadn’t stuck around for 500 years just to see Vladislaus destroy himself. What the vampire and his new conscience would do, well, that William could not predict. But at least he had given him the tools. Albeit, in a way that Vladislaus despised and would consider to be a betrayal.
He told no one that he was the one who cursed Vladislaus, not even Caleb. Some secrets were worth taking into eternity.
He clapped Caleb on the back with a laugh. Vladislaus was at his most insufferable when he was in love, but William welcomed the change.
“Oh ye of little faith. An old dog can learn new tricks. He just needs proper motivation.”
SimNation Rail Express to Landgraab Station
Vladislaus Straud did not travel coach, of that, Alice was certain. If you could afford to stay in a hotel suite the size of a penthouse apartment (and Alice knew, because she checked), you did not, for the love of llamas, ride coach.
And yet, here he was: sitting across from her, making it hard for her to think or keep her pulse from racing, which she realized—embarrassingly—he could sense. She spent the first two hours of the ride ignoring him, a feat she achieved with approximately 5% success. Every time she read or played on her phone, she found herself unconsciously stealing a peek at him.
And he was always looking back at her.
Finally, he spoke, his tone smug. A challenge.
“That was a curious poem you recited during your audition.”
Statements, her father always said, did not require a response.
Remember you don’t care about him, Alice told herself.
Be cool, she instructed.
And when that failed, she reminded herself that he had been staring at her for two hours and that was weird. In fact, if she was going to open her mouth and say anything in response, it was going to be that he was weird.