Ana’s Penthouse, San Myshuno
Penny cycled through a million different responses to Ana’s question. “I don’t know if I want to sleep with you,” she grumbled, “It’s hard to think when I’m starving.” She grabbed a chair and snatched an oyster, tipping her head to let it slide down her throat. The feel of it did nothing to dampen the craving growing in her belly. “There’s still a lot I don’t know about you.”
“I grew up in a small village that doesn’t exist anymore.”
The vampire narrowed her eyes, tapping her nails against her nectar glass. “I’d like to say I recall my parents, but it was centuries ago, and I was young when they died. I went to live with relatives, but they weren’t fond of having a child with my spirit, so they sent me to the local orphanage run by the Good Order Monks.”
“Heretical lunatics hellbent on wiping the vampires from the earth,” her tone was breezy. “They didn’t trust witches either, but witches seemed more like sims, so the monks figured they could wait to eliminate that particular scourge. I can’t imagine what they thought about other supernatural species. Nothing kind,” she chuckled.
Penny leaned in, fascinated. “What did they do at the orphanage?”
“Train us to be vampire hunters.”
A more insane phrase could not have left Ana’s mouth.
“What?” she arched an eyebrow, “Does it surprise you to know I was an excellent killer of vampires?”
She smirked, “To be fair, I didn’t start as an excellent vampire killer; I grew into it. That was the best thing about The Good Order Monks’ Home for the Training of Wayward Girls. By the time I was sixteen, I could wield a claymore easily and go days without eating.”
Penny was so shocked the oyster she was eating slipped out of her hand and fell back into the bowl. “The not eating was a benefit?”
“It was a good skill. Vampires don’t have to eat, so it’s convenient when you’re hunting them.”
“What sort of fucked up orphan Annie place were you in?”
“A filthy one, despite all the chores we did,” she snorted.
It was horrifying, and yet, Anastasia looked completely unruffled. “You must’ve been sad,” Penny remarked, searching the vampire’s expression.
“Sad?” She looked perplexed. “I wasn’t sad. I mean, prayer time was boring and I broke three fingers mucking out the stalls in the winter, but I wasn’t sad.”
“Everyone gets sad,” Penny explained, striving for patience. Or maybe she was tamping down her panic? What kind of creature never felt sadness? Ana had been mortal once, was she so far removed from it that she’d forgotten real emotions? “No one goes through something like that and doesn’t feel anything. What do you feel?”
“Angry.” She grinned, “Horny.”
Okay, Penny probably deserved such a flippant response. She was stalling and if Ana broke down crying, it really would put a damper on the mood. Relieved that she wasn’t dating an actual sociopath, she stood, and tugged the vampire out of her seat. “If you’re horny, we should definitely do something about that.”
“Is that a clear, unmistakable invitation?”
Again, Penny cycled through her thoughts. She wanted this, but what did it say about her that she wanted this? What would her parents think? Her sister? What would—
No, she scolded herself. You are getting laid and you are not going overthink it. She lowered the zipper on her jumpsuit. “Yes.”
“Lovely,” Ana purred, sliding her hand around Penny’s neck. “Now be still.”
She trailed a finger up Penny’s arm, “If you don’t want to be bitten, say so now.”
Bitten? Penny angled her hips, trying to get closer to Ana’s searching fingers. Heat licked at her bones, but she felt in control of herself. Or maybe it was more accurate to say that she felt controlled. “Please.”
Slowly, so slow she almost wasn’t sure it was happening, Anastasia bit down on her wrist. Penny’s body screamed for her to run but also, to wallow in the pleasure of it.
“Again,” she whispered as Ana licked her wrist and pulled away.
The vampire was fast, tracking to the counter where she crossed her legs and wiped Penny’s plasma daintily from her mouth. “There is only one creature giving orders here, and it’s not you. If you want it again, you’ll have to earn it. Strip.”
Penny did, with an eagerness that was borderline embarrassing. When she got down to her bra and underwear, Ana stopped her.
She said yes once, did she have to say it again? Penny almost groaned. Her mother would kill her if she knew that she was hesitating like this. The entire focus of Penny’s teenage sex talk was consent, aka making sure that Penny didn’t take advantage of one of her girlfriends.
“You’re so fast,” her mother told her, “I won’t have some daughter of mine running around causing trouble and embarrassment because she can’t keep her libido under control.”
“Penny,” Ana’s voice was sharp, “Yes or no?”
Stop being like this, Penny scolded herself. “Yes.”
Straud Manor, Forgotten Hollow
“What was that thing you said to Bob?” Bella asked.
Caleb shrugged. He didn’t get it from anywhere; it was just the truth of how things were. “He needed to hear it.”
“I guess,” Bella conceded. She pointed at a wooden sign, “Who’s Christopher?”
“I haven’t the foggiest.” Bella was paying more attention to Straud Manor than he had in decades. “My parents built this place ages ago. Since then, any number of creatures have been in and out.”
“And they make gardens?”
“Maybe, I wouldn’t know. I don’t actually talk to them.”
Awkwardness floated in the silence.
“I’m sorry,” she bit her lip. “Sometimes it’s hard to turn off the detective. I keep a notebook for clues and theories, but—“
Caleb spun around. “You keep a notebook? Me too.”
“I’ve always kept one,” her eyes lit up, “It helps me sort out my thoughts and figure out what dead ends to pick up.”
“When you first hit a crime scene, every possibility is on the table. As you investigate, you start shaping those possibilities into theories. Eventually, you start to eliminate the ones that don’t work. But there’s always a point where you get stuck, so my notebook is where I try to figure out which dead end was only playing dead.”
“I might have to borrow that method,” Caleb dipped his head, “I just find that I’ve got too much in my mind because—”
“Memory is a mess of a thing,” she finished.
He nodded. Things had started out a little rough, but Bella was learning. Maybe he could be his whole self with her…eventually. “I was thinking about an old case when I called you.”
“October 1950. A group of children from the magic school in Glimmerbrook went missing. The scene was bloody, but there were no remains. It was like they vanished.”
“You don’t know my family, but they are persona non grata as far as the Magic Realm is concerned. I spent decades trying to get creatures to change their minds about me. After that case, though, they couldn’t stop looking at me like I had something to do with it. I still get hate mail. I thought—” Caleb swallowed around the catch in his throat, “I thought if anyone understood, it would be my father. I thought he could help me because…”
“Because that’s what parents do.”
He looked away. “The manor was dark when I rode by. I wrote letters, but they went unanswered. A few years later, my sister mentioned he was playing soldier in Oasis Springs. I suppose he couldn’t be bothered to deal with me.”
“Have you ever asked him about it? Maybe something happened that you don’t know about.”
“You have a lot to learn about vampires. My father wields half-truths like he’s wielding a sword.” Caleb ran a hand through is hair, “Anyway, it’s all long past now. Let me know when you want to track down Salim.”
“Definitely.” Bella turned to leave but hesitated. “About earlier…”
“You came to check on a colleague who was having a hard time. That’s all.”