Myself: So…you want to like make this the sex chapter? Really? Now?
Me: The heart wants what it wants.
Myself: But…this isn’t like one of your smutty romance novels. Your readers—
Me: It says paranormal romance, my dude.
Myself: Can you just…can you like try to not go off the rails?
Myself: [groaning] Why now?
Me: Oh, did you know that June 12th is the anniversary of the the Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia? It made interracial marriage legal. Also, wasn’t that long ago.
Myself: Yes, and—
Me: These characters deserve to bone. Content Warning. Oh, and Black Lives still matter. That shit isn’t over.
Von Haunt Estate
Technically, Vlad did fill out the paperwork. But only technically. After signing it, he glared at the producers until they suggested that maayybee it would be best if he just held on to it.
“Two more hours bakers! And then showstoppers have to be up front!” Rory yelled.
Alice cracked her knuckles and stretched. There was, weirdly, minimal interference from Jimena. Up until this point, every look had been downright hostile. Now, Jimena appeared thoughtful…calculating? It wasn’t because of Vlad, he and Alice kept a good distance from each other. Actually, everyone kept a good distance from him. He radiated a combination of confidence and terror that made for good television, but bad personal relations.
Alice continued prepping her test bake. She hated being in the kitchen without Ben but if she dwelled on it for even a second, she feared it would pull her under. You don’t have time to mope, she reminded herself.
She was planning a gourmet version of french toast based on a recipe Contessa’s chef taught her. It didn’t need much time to prove or to bake so Alice was sure she could master it. She snuck a peek at Vlad. He glared at his oven as if it were an enemy before walking off and returning with an axe a few minutes later.
With a look of maniacal glee on his face, he swung with such force that the appliance practically splintered in two.
“What are you doing!” Bailee exclaimed as the cameras rushed over, along with a producer.
“You can’t do that! The destruction of property by contestants is strictly prohibited! You just signed a form!” Summer yelled, frantically waving her arms.
Vlad continued as if he hadn’t heard them. With a peal of unhinged laughter, he struck a match and set the entire hulking mass on fire. Alice groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. Was this how Caleb and William felt?
“For the love of llamas someone call the fire depart—” Rory cut himself off when he noticed the cameras didn’t move. They remained focused on Vlad, who was now setting out ingredients and humming to himself.
“I-I guess technically he is baking…” Summer observed.
Assuming his phony megawatt smile, Rory strolled over and stood in front of the flaming stove. “Well, folks, we’re getting to see a real unique approach to baking! A bit old-fashioned but my producers tell me that this method was favored by 15th century nuns…”
Un-fucking-believable! Alice set her oven on fire by accident and she had to sit through a million lectures about fire safety and property damage. Vlad intentionally set his oven on fire and all of sudden Rory was calling it a “bespoke cooktop.”
“Well, they’d have a fucking heart attack if they knew he probably baked with those 15th century nuns,” Alice grumbled as she continued chopping fruit for her blackberry compote.
“Very good, Alice, I’m surprised by the choice of blackberries but it gives the bread a very lush taste!” Marjorie cooed.
So far, Alice and Jimena were contending for the top spot while Vlad was contending for the bottom. As “entertaining”as it had been to watch, the bread he baked actually tasted terrible.
“This week’s win goes to Jimena and her bread pudding! Alice, you were a close second, so you can consider yourself safe…for now,” Rory winked but it gave Alice chills. “Unfortunately, the judges have decided that Giancarlo’s blueberry bagels were uninspired and he’ll be leaving the show…”
Giancarlo looked sad, but not that sad. Alice let out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding.
“Have you never used an oven before?” Alice cried in disbelief when she and Vlad were finally alone.
He shrugged, unconcerned.
“And you depended on your memory to tell you how it tasted? What if they didn’t think it was good tv and you got eliminated?”
“Sages forbid,” he chuckled, still completely calm.
“It hasn’t even been one fucking episode and you already forget the whole reason why you’re here?” Alice seethed.
“If creatures want something to hunt, let them hunt me, I can handle a sage-forsaken pie,” she shouted, imitating his voice. “Ring any bells?”
“One, I most certainly do not sound like that. And two, being eliminated would not keep me from watching over you.”
“That’s not the point! It would be harder! Anything could happen!” her voice grew high pitched, tight with a panic she didn’t know she was feeling. “What if you got distracted by something else? Or you weren’t fast enough?”
Vlad raised an eyebrow.
“If you get eliminated this early I’ll be here all alone!” She clamped a hand over her mouth and all the thoughts about Ben that she was supposed to keep buried came raging to the forefront.
Vlad’s expression softened. He pulled her close, rubbing a soothing circular pattern into the center of her palm. Alice closed her eyes, wrangling her grief back into something dull and manageable.
“You are not alone. None of us are, even me. And if an enemy approached you here, nothing would stop me from separating their spine from their body. I would do so gladly, and with great gusto.”
Alice laughed, “You know that’s not what I’m asking.”
“Fine, fine,” —he sighed as if it pained him— “I will endeavor to use this cursed technology so that I don’t get kicked off the show.”
Alice snorted, but she felt better. “I can teach you to use an appliance, but what are you going to do about taste? Your memory ain’t gonna cut it. The stew was great, but that bread was definitely not as good as you remember.”
“I have an excellent memory.”
Alice rolled her eyes, “Then sims lied to you.”
“You were a prince. Of course they did. Maybe not your wife because she probably didn’t put up with your shit, but everyone else, yeah.”
Vlad looked thoughtful before something foreboding crossed over his face. “It will be done, I have just the thing in mind.”
Alice wanted to press him on it, but decided not to. His plan probably involved magic and blackmail and she was full up on knowledge about all of that, thank you very much.
“Do you think Deacon and Caleb are finished searching the Pleasant house?”
“I hope not,” Vlad replied, flashing his fangs. The second those sharp teeth caught her eye, every rational thought left her head.
“I don’t want to presume,” he continued. “But would you like to—”
“Oh fuck yes,” Alice said quickly, grabbing his hand to pull him out of the tent.