CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, gore, sexual situations, depictions of grief, trauma, and severe depression, partial implied nudity.
Vlad’s House, Henford-on-Bagley
“I have been telling you about Lilith’s conference for months,” Latimer said, pointing at the binder on the table. “It’s on the calendar.”
“I don’t remember seeing it,” Vlad replied, “And regardless, just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to it.”
“That is exactly what it means! You think I’m adding things for my damn health?”
How was Vlad to know? He made Latimer’s doctor’s appointments on his phone, like a sane creature, using the shared calendar. “Lilith has been a full professor a hundred times,” he argued.
“Not a hundred,” Latimer threw his pen down on the table. “And now she’s an early career professor seeking tenure. She needs the support of colleagues in the field, which, buddy boy, is you. Isn’t this what you got your Ph.D. for?”
Vlad got it because he’d been bored, and attending school with Lilith sounded like a fun bonding opportunity. In reality, they just fought all the time about who had a more accurate memory of the Queen of Windenburg’s coronation. Vampires were terrible history majors.
With a resigned sigh, he dialed Alice, trying not to grimace as he lied about his plans. When he ended the call, Latimer was staring at him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a stupider thing come out of your mouth.”
“I am not stupid. I’m—”
“On a business trip because you’re ‘freelancing business?’” Latimer made mocking quotation marks.
“Fuck,” Vlad pinched his brow, “I am stupid.”
Alice’s House, Windenburg
It was probably for the best that Vlad canceled; Gwendolyn was being especially defiant. Alice enjoyed all the stress-relieving sex and the whirlwind dates, but what she really needed was to complain about her kid and sleep. And maybe pee without—
“Mommy!” a tiny fist banged on the door, “Strangers!”
“Gwendolyn, your babysitter is not a stranger,” Alice reached for the toilet paper, cursing silently under her breath when she realized the roll was almost empty.
“Mommy, what you doing?”
Besides blissfully remembering a time when she could be alone in the bathroom? Alice forced her jaw to unclench. “Gwendolyn, we talked about this.”
Was she fucking serious? “When mommy is in the bathroom, she just needs to be alone for a few minutes to do what she needs to do,” Alice explained cheerfully.
That question would be the death of her.
“Mommy? I open door!” Gwendolyn began rattling the knob. “Mommy need help? I help! Gwendolyn help!”
“No! Gwendolyn, stop!” Alice’s voice came out sharper than she intended. Blinking back exhausted tears, she sighed and softened it, “Mommy is fine; please just wait a minute.”
She flushed, washed her hands, and followed with a splash of cold water on her face for good measure. “You are a boss,” she whispered to her reflection, “You will not be brought to tears by a toddler.”
“Yes, I’m coming!”
Alice marched down the hall and flung open the door with a determined grunt. She peered down at the two men standing at the base of her steps. One was in dark robes with an eye patch, and the other was dressed in an old pirate suit. “Who are you?”
The man in the pirate suit gave a dramatic bow. “B’Olli—uh, Ben, at your service!”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” the man in the dark robes muttered.
“Where is Mrs. Specter?” Alice asked, patting her pockets for her phone.
“She caught the ferry,” Ben replied.
“Er… passed on,” he corrected.
“Oh.” Alice wasn’t exactly friendly with her babysitter, but it was still sad that she died. “And you’re her replacement? Who is this?” She gestured at the man with the eye patch.
Ben’s mouth split into a wide grin. “My assistant. Donald. Donald…er, Don Lothario.”
“Nope,” the alleged “Don” replied, “Abso-fucking-lutely not. My name is Grim, and that’s what you, Alice, will call me.”
“She can’t call you Grim,” Ben hissed at his colleague. “We talked about this!”
“Talked about what?” Alice’s eyes darted back and forth between them.
Don or Grim, or whatever his name was, rolled his eyes. “Apparently, you can’t call me Grim, and I, despite our longstanding tradition cannot comment on the overall perkiness of your—”
Ben elbowed him.
“Nothing,” he choked out. “I would never mention your tits.”
These two motherfuckers.
They didn’t scare Alice, probably because she was cracked in the head. In fact, her natural instinct was to put them in their place, but she had Gwendolyn to think about. The number one rule of parenthood: do not leave your kids with weirdos. “Okay, guys, I don’t know what sort of cosplay convention you wandered away from, but I’m just going to call the babysitting agency and—”
“Children love costumes! It’s a thing that the agency is trying.” Before Alice could react, Ben reached into his coat pocket and shoved a bunch of papers into her hand. “Here, official documentation and clearances signed by the highest power in the Universe.”
He grabbed her shoulders and spun them, so they switched places, “Everything is on the up and up. Your tiny terror could not be safer! Now, get going before you’re late for work.”