Chapter 25: A Kiss is Just a Kiss

Me: Last chapter was really long, I’m not going to do that to myself again. I’m going keep it simple.

Also me: Here are 13 pages of text before I even added the screenshots.

Heads up, I’m going to have adjust my posting schedule. I don’t know what it will be yet, but one chapter a week is not working out. My actual life is pretty busy right now (for all good reasons!) and it’s clear I’m not going to write less, so I’m going to have figure something out. Stay tuned and enjoy this monster chapter. I reined in my smutty little heart but bear in mind that the slow burn does heat up a bit.

You must remember this

It’s still the same old story: Vampire meets the Mortal Conduit of the God of Death. Vampire woos said Mortal Conduit by waiting outside their window to kill things. Mortal Conduit calls Vampire out on their bullshit. You know. Love stuff.

Vlad

The In Between Inn

Vlad rose from his crouching position in the garden. He wasn’t tired or uncomfortable, but he did feel ridiculous. He checked his phone again. 

::Hey! Staying at the In Between Inn. Been a weird night. Definitely ready to get some sleep. You know how it is [angel emoji]::

::Shit! Do vampires sleep? Sorry. I have a bad supernatural teacher [devil face]::

::Also, this is my number in case you want to text me back [smiley face]. Goodnight::

When he misted out of Straud Manor last night, finding Alice had seemed like a good idea. It was a quick trip to the Von Haunt Estate and he had no problem getting inside. The security of the temporary production office was laughable. 

Only Vlad wasn’t laughing. 

It took him five seconds flat to find Alice’s application, sim security number, home address and lodging. That anyone could find her information so easily while every supernatural worth their salt was hunting for The Owl made him furious. He burned her paperwork.

No one would be hunting Alice Martin down.

Well, except for him. But that was…different.

Not that it mattered. Caleb had been right: Alice was fine, as evidenced by the texts he received after breaking into the Von Haunt Estate. Still, he spent the whole night crouched in the garden, prepared for trouble. Trouble that never showed up. As it turned out, no one was coming to kill Alice Martin which meant Vlad had nothing to kill which meant that when the sun peeked over the horizon he was alone and grumpy and starving for plasma.

Or violence.

Well, both.

It was maddening.

He would have texted her back if only he knew how to make the damned keyboard appear!

Brushing himself off, he prepared to leave when his phone sent yet another message he could not respond to:

::Good morning! If you sleep, I hope you slept well [smiley face]. I did. Time for baking. Too bad vampires don’t like dessert [winking face]::

Vlad growled, torn between cradling his phone like a precious gemstone and tossing it down the hillside. 


Alice

The In between Inn

Alice awoke tangled in blankets. She slept peacefully, although she had the strangest dreams—a flash of bone and wing, a red-eyed monster, but she felt…safe. 

Sitting up, she stretched and yawned, pulling her legs in close to her. At first, she was unsure about following the sprightly looking young woman who could see Ben and warned her to keep her potential godhood a secret. But when your first implausible thing was accepting that you were a vessel for an ancient death god, and your second implausible thing was that the only way to fix it was a baking contest and a magical statue, and that was before meeting your first vampire; everything else didn’t seem like a very big deal.

“God of Death,” Ben corrected.

“I’m sorry, what?” Alice asked, clearly not sorry, but irritated.

“God of Death, not death god. That’s a whole other thing entirely.”

Alice groaned as she climbed out of bed. “You know what Ben? Don’t explain.”

She wasn’t irritated at Ben—well, she wasn’t only irritated at Ben. She had texted Vlad three times last night and once this morning. What was the point of him giving her his phone number if he wasn’t going to respond!

Not that she cared. She was totally fine with things being casual! But also, why was everything so hard and why were men like this?

“Well—

“Ben, if you answer that question so help me I am going to scream,” Alice bit out.

“Fine, but I was just going to say that as a God…former god…well, semi-god, I agree with you.”

“Honestly, I’m looking forward to the day when you get your body back and I can actually kick you out,” Alice fumed.

“My what?”

“Your body. When I win The Owl and use it to become normal, you’ll have to go somewhere. I just assumed you’d get your own body.”

Ben was quiet for a moment. “I-I hadn’t thought about it,” he said finally.

Alice shrugged. She had thought about it a lot. What would be like to have Ben as a friend in real life, and not just in her head?

She turned, running a hand over the engraving on the bureau. When Miko described the room as being “done up perfectly for the ruler of the seven underworlds” Alice had gotten a little nervous. But the room was nice—exactly the sort of thing she’d design for herself. She opened the top drawer hoping to find something she could borrow but was surprised to find her own clothes. 

Fucking magic! 

She slipped on a tank top and a pair of shorts before whirling around and pointing an accusing finger at Ben. “Actually Ben, do explain. And while you’re at it, get to all of the other crazy shit going on that you never prepared me for. Vampires? Fae? What else is there? Mermaids!? Werewolves!?! Fucking dragons?”

Miko knocked and then stepped into the room right as Alice was reading Ben the riot act. 

“Good morning! Day one of baking, are you ready?” she asked in a way that Alice found unbearably cheerful.

“Good morning Miko, you sound very relaxed. I’m not relaxed even though apparently I passed out last night without asking you a single question. You can see Ben? How?”

Ben gulped nervously but Alice pressed on.

“Oh, don’t think I’m done with you, Ben. Who the fuck is Akira Kibo? I didn’t forget—“

Miko gasped, her eyes widening. “Akira is in…did he look….was he…?” She looked half way between terrified and flustered, the friendly twang of her accent now high-pitched and nervous. “Did you invite him to come along with you?”

Alice hesitated. “Uh no…he looked fine. Really beautiful. But like too beautiful,” she explained thinking of his perfect bone structure, “He gave me weird vibes. Who is he?” 

“He’s…I…someone I used to know. We…it didn’t end well,” Miko stammered. She looked down, clutching herself so tightly that Alice was afraid she’d leave bruises. “He can’t be trusted.”

Alice didn’t press for more details. Her longest adult relationship was the 48 hours she spent with a dj/stripper named Cat’s Meow and his stupid turntables. Vlad wouldn’t even text her back. Who was she to judge? 

Once Miko realized there was no interrogation coming, she visibly relaxed. “Right, so don’t invite anyone you don’t trust here. It’s impossible to access this building without an invitation but once you do, all bets are off. It’s why we’re so discerning about our customers.”

Ben nodded sagely, “Yes, that’s very wise. Makes sense. We should start our day. Is there a soaking tub or just a regular clawfoot?”

“Ben!” Alice cried.

“What? Fine. Of course there aren’t dragons. That would be nonsense! Fantastical beasts occupy a completely different realm.”

“This is what I’m talking about!” Alice shouted, scrubbing her hands over her face. “There are other realms? How the fuck does that work? This is like the Offering Year all over again! You never explain a llama-shittin’ thing, you just shout inane instructions until I give in and then I’m the one who gets arrested!”

“I didn’t arrest you! And for the record, it was not your first—“

Miko cut in, gently placing a hand on Alice’s arm. 

“Uh, okay it’s clear that there is a lot Alice doesn’t know,” she gave Ben a long look before covering it with a bright smile. “Which is fine! Everything is fine! Finer than fine! I do agree though, you’ll feel better if you take a bath. We got hot food downstairs for breakfast and you can meet everyone.” 

At the mention of food, Alice felt some of the fight sap out of her. “Thanks and I’m sorry about losing it, it’s been a long…”—she cast about for the right description—“…sixteen years.”

Miko giggled. “Oh Alice! I can tell we are going to be great friends. And it’s a soaking tub, by the way. Only the best for our all-powerful guests!”

    8 comments
  • Dolly Llama
    March 10, 2020

    A+ summary; I showed it to my coauthor— anarcho-syndicalist-love-commune-of-gnomes-living-under-the-Mormon-church lady—who judged it to be “pretty funny actually” and promised to read it later. I laughed out loud several times throughout the chapter. The character-based humor is spot-on.

    I saw ‘Von Haunt Estate’ and immediately thought, like, YES, Bernard’s going to show up and indiscriminately flirt with/throw shade at everyone. That being said, Alice trying not to draw attention to herself while screaming “FUCK!!” and “YEOWWWW!!” is also good. I forgot that Vlad was trying to back someone instead of participating in the competition, but don’t think for a moment that the Vlad-as-Norman theory hasn’t left my heart. In another universe, the judges are chastising him for not putting enough vanilla in his vanilla ice cream (seriously! Dude!) and he’s complaining to the camera crew about how annoying the knobs on the oven are and back in his day you gave babies lard to suck on and roasted elks over campfires so why do you need to make things so complicated in the first place.

    Is Marjorie Barr named after a stick of fake butter? Oh and I guess they kissed, that’s happening too. (Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you’ve written it, it’s fleshed-out and makes sense! I just hope you have readers who can appreciate a good romance. It should speak for the quality that you have readers who don’t; I’m here for the jokes and emotional trauma.)

    • feroshgirl
      March 10, 2020

      – Ah! Thank you! Whew, sometimes I cross my fingers and hope I’ve gotten it to land just right. I’m glad that someone else is actually laughing. I think I’ve finally got Ben/Alice humor right. Also, high praise from two authors who write things that have me clutching my sides? ::bless::

      – There is no Bernard…yet. I’m actually cackling because we did VERY different things with him in our stories. I can full say that your Bernard would HATE my Bernard. Please stay tuned.

      – Oh god, Alice has 100% no chill. I mean, Ben can’t teach her shit and she is not used to be around people. Alice’s whole life has been avoiding people and failing that, doing whatever she wants because they think she is crazy anyways. It’s funny, because she’s the one who has been living her life without consequence, mostly because she hasn’t really tried caring about anything.

      – AHHH YES I WROTE THAT MARJORIE BARR JOKE SO LONG AGO AND IT IS FINALLY PAYING OFF! (honestly, did a podcast episode on the history of margarine for work and my dumb brain would NOT let it go).

      – I’m so flattered. I mean the romance is for me (god I love a romance) so I’d write it no matter what, but I also wanted to explore inherited trauma, and found family, and what it means to live in the present versus the past. Basically, I have a dark little heart but I was hoping some jokes and some smut makes it less of a slog. I fear what it’s like inside my head without all that window dressing!

      Don’t give up on Vlad as Norman yet 😉

      • Dolly Llama
        March 11, 2020

        That last sentence gives me hope for the future amid the COVID-19 overreaction. No need to stock on toilet paper, we might see Vlad make shortbread twice in the same episode! We might figure out whether Windenburg can agree on what pudding is! Or biscuits! And then they make everyone make an obscure food with an insane name!

        Wait, so Bernard isn’t a cheeky bisexual man who’s 100% likely to be secretly growing pot on his balcony? He’s not… painterly? (https://www.reddit.com/r/SapphoAndHerFriend/comments/epj4ys/huge_article_in_the_guardian_about_lucian_freuds/) Is he a total square? I’m so pumped.

  • theplumbob
    July 9, 2020

    Squeeeaaal ❤️ All the build up was for sure worth it for that first kiss 😍 Ahem, I mean, like Alice said, just a kiss. Tooootaaally inconsequential *cough*

    I’m glad Vlad admitted he doesn’t know how to text or drive so quickly. For a 500-year-old vampire, he actually doesn’t have as mjch pride as you’d think. Well, he does, but he’s totally thrown it down the drain where Alice is concerned, which is a very good thing. It would be so easy for them to keep misunderstanding each other, so I’m glad he’s finally all in and does not care if he’ll seem weak or incompetent to her. Yay! Now if only he could jsust drop the Jimena crap *eye twitch*

    Miko has somehow rapidly become my favourite. Figures.

  • Yimiki
    February 15, 2021

    Dear lord, Vlad, there’s such a thing as coming on too strong and staying crouched touside of your crush’s window all night long definitely qualifies 🤣 Bwahaha, him not knowing how to text back is both hilarious and oddly adorable.

    “Her longest adult relationship was the 48 hours she spent with a dj/stripper named Cat’s Meow”
    Dead. I’m dead. Your writing my gods. My sides. 😂

    Alice is oddly fine with everyone in that inn knowing everything about her business. Then again, she’s been.. mind-wiped? By Miko and has grown up with weird things happening because of Ben, so I can imagine her just taking anything in stride now.

    “Oh. He wasn’t avoiding her, he was just incompetent!” 😂😂😂😂

    The build-up to that kiss was just… *mwah*! So much chemistry.

    • feroshgirl
      February 15, 2021

      Things Vlad has: weapons, sharp teeth, great reflexes.
      Things Vlad does not have: chill.

      Although Alice was definitely into it so you know, fate. LOL thank you for liking the Cat’s Meow joke.

      Yes, Alice has definitely had a life that has prepared her to let a lot of this craziness roll off her shoulders. I was afraid if I didn’t make her like that, I’d have to waste a lot of time writing her freakouts.

      Me: this is a romance
      Also Me: First kiss doesn’t happen until Chapter 25

      LOLOLOLOLOLOL

  • Manny Likes Sims
    March 19, 2022

    Things that give me life:
    -That shot of Vlad vampire-stalking out of the garden
    -Vlad’s adorkable but losing battle with technology
    -Alice conjuring never-ending cupcakes and trying not to draw attention to herself but screaming very loudly

    And ok, ok, I know this is a life-and-death baking competition, there’re gods and literal death and vampires and romance on the line, but gosh darn if I’m not secretly rooting for my most wholesome gal Bailee to win

    • feroshgirl
      March 20, 2022

      This is hilarious for so many reasons. Listen, Vlad does not know how to use a cellphone. Will he learn? Maybe.

      So much on the line but someone still has to bake the best scones!!!

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