CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, and references to sex (mostly sex jokes, but still).
Sims InTouch Magazine, San Myshuno
“Evil Chickens with Flaming Eyes?” Billie flashed a flirtatious smile. “Who wants to take that one?”
Penny tried hard not to roll her eyes. How had she ever dated this woman? She was a terrible sim.
“Mermaid Multi-level Marketing Scheme?”
And a terrible editor.
Tom raised his hand for that story. He smirked at Penny as if he’d won the lottery, visions of interviewing half-naked sims with silk “tails” probably swimming through his head. The joke was him; the crazies that submitted those stories were never that attractive. Penny should know. After she and Billie broke up, she accepted any assignment that came with the promise of a beautiful woman. Every single one turned out to be a borderline catfish situation.
“Loch Ness roams the Windenburg Sea. This one involves travel!”
A new reporter raised her hand, but Penny stopped her. “You think travel means luxury hotel and a per diem, but it’s actually a cash-only motel and discount coupon to whatever diner is nearby.”
Billie gave her a look of censure. “Penny, this story could work for you. Don’t you have a friend who just moved to Windenburg?”
“Nope.” Penny took a seat on a nearby stool. This was why they didn’t work out. Billie could never separate business from personal. Once, Penny confessed her fear that this job would never get her a Starlight Accolade in journalism. Corporate called a meeting to discuss her commitment to the paper the very next day.
“I know for a fact that your best friend is Alice and—”
Billie didn’t buy it, but Penny didn’t care. Tuning out the story assignments, she sent Alice a text.
“Celebrity profile: Anastasia Barrister. Bonus points if you can dig up something scandalous.”
Penny looked up from her texting. It was the best of the options so far, and if she held out any longer, she could foresee another meeting with corporate in her future. “Fine, I’ll take that one.”
Elixirs and Brews, Glimmerbrook
Akira bit into his pizza with gusto. “I know what you’re saying, but my original point still stands. Who the hell could fuck up a bunch of werewolves on a full moon, let alone take their teeth?” He made a face at Caleb’s bowl.
He motioned at the salad, “Are you seriously going to eat that?”
“I like salad,” he insisted, perhaps a little too vehemently.
“Sure you do,” Akira laughed. “Vampires ain’t the boogeyman, regardless of what these Glimmerbrook fucks think. That’s offensive to the actual boogeyman.”
“Yes, but there’s only one boogeyman left,” Caleb countered. “There’s plenty of us. Not to mention witches think occult energy is an abomination.”
“Salad ain’t really gonna help with that,” Akira replied, “Besides, there are plenty of fae too. You don’t see them coming after me with pitchforks, and I dare you to say Titania is less bloodthirsty than old Vlad-y.”
“Did Titania convince the Aarbyville wizards to go to war with the dryads only to support the dryads because it was more fun and they had more gold?” Caleb hadn’t been alive during that war, but he heard about it. Wizards still referred to it as the “Great Betrayal.”
“Titania wishes she had pulled that off. Listen,” he tossed a piece of crust at Caleb’s head, “It wasn’t them.”
Caleb avoided his gaze. “You don’t know that.” Tearing out teeth seemed like his father’s brand of sadistic glee. And his mother could have pulled the whole thing off while holding a glass of nectar.
“I do know,” Akira said, “And so do you. There were no other creatures detected at the scene, a fact you yourself confirmed. We are not looking for a vampire; we are looking for a strong werewolf who had beef with the other packs.”
Growling almost drowned out the end of Akira’s statement. On the other side of the tavern, four werewolves were squaring off.
“Well,” Caleb whispered, “I think we found our first suspect.”
Gnome’s Arms Pub, Henford-on-Bagley
The wind outside the Gnome’s Arms Pub was howling so hard it rattled the windows. Inside, Vlad was staring at his companion, hoping the old man would break.
Latimer scowled and picked up his piece, sliding it across the board. “Prick.”
It wasn’t an insult so much as an endearment. The two men first met in 1951. Vlad joined the military, figuring war might improve his constitution. William warned him it would be no fun, and his brother was right. Mortal warfare had become interminable in the modern age—no grappling or swordplay. If limbs were severed, it was from far away and using machinery that was hell on vampiric hearing. And everyone was scared—of him, of death, of the battles.
He didn’t hesitate to let his displeasure show often and loudly, which was how they met. Latimer marched straight up to him and called him a prick. Or rather, “a fancy talking Windenburgian prick who’d probably never seen a real battlefield and should get the hell off everyone’s asses because there was no shame in being afraid to die.”
Vlad laughed harder than he had in a century, and friendship was born.
“It’s good to know that your love for me has not faded over the last sixty years,” Vlad mused, pulling his king out of checkmate.
“Tolerance more like.”
The flames crackled in the fireplace, but the old man still shivered. It had been happening more often, a fact that rattled Vlad worse than the windows.
“A long time to tolerate,” he remarked, hiding his bereft expression. He slid his own piece forward, capturing a pawn.
“What’s the matter? Eternity got you down?”
“Why?” Vlad smirked, “Getting curious?”
They both knew the answer to that question. Latimer refused to be turned. “Too old now,” he said, “Too dangerous. Make me a vampire, and I’d give you a run for your money.”
The sim rubbed his hands together, “Only thing I’m curious about is my next move, which I’ll contemplate while I’m on the john.”
Vlad followed him to the stairs, ignoring his friend’s look of warning.
“If you try to help me up these steps, I’ll deck you.”
“You’re welcome to try.”
Latimer grumbled and made a rude gesture but Vlad didn’t take offense. Content that his friend was managing, he made himself comfortable leaning against the wall, which was when he noticed the pub’s new bartender.
As they locked eyes, a hunger uncurled—a desperate, clawing thing that he only ever felt standing in the dark, contemplating snapping some poor sim’s neck.
He never even heard Latimer make his way back down the stairs.
“Uh oh. I know that look.”
“There is no look,” Vlad declared, unable to tear his gaze away. She was…he didn’t have the words for what she was, but he wanted.
“Oh yes, there is, and you need my help.”
“I don’t need your—”
“You do.” He elbowed Vlad out of the way with a surprising amount of strength. “Excuse me, young sim, I would like to order a drink here for my son and me.”
Ward Coffee, Del Sol Valley
Penny thought the sneer on her ex’s face was about her spending the afternoon interviewing a gorgeous celebrity. But Billie had the last laugh. Anastasia Barrister was beautiful and vapid, and interviewing her was driving Penny crazy.
“So you’re terribly disappointed to be leaving Residency of the Heart and also really excited about auditioning for movie roles?” Penny made a show of checking her notes when she said the words “really excited.”
Anastasia frowned, but it only lasted a second before the polished, bland smile was back on her face. “Yes,” she said, “Network TV is where I made my career, but I am looking forward to new opportunities.”
“Right,” Penny said.
The actress’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean, right?”
“Nothing,” Penny gave her most professional smile. It was fun to see the perfectly coiffed star get riled. “I’m just repeating your direct quote.”
“It’s not a direct quote. It’s… it’s what I said but—”
“You’re twisting it.”
Penny bit her lip. Was the eye of Simnation’s sweetheart twitching? Oh, it was definitely twitching. “Right. You’re sad, but you’re also happy.”
“Both things can be true!” she snapped, leaping to her feet.
“Sometimes Vulpe is happy. Sometimes Vulpe is sad. Sometimes Vulpe is both,” Penny replied in a sing-song voice, quoting the character from the Voidcritters’ Saturday morning cartoon.
“Okay, Penny Pizzazz, was it? Thank you for the interview, but—” she abruptly cut off and backed away from the table.
Penny stopped smirking. “What? What’s going on? Are you okay?”
The actress looked nearly green as she stumbled over a chair. “No,” she whispered, “Not again! This cannot be real!”
Either the woman was having a breakdown, or a rabid fan was nearby. Penny had seen both. “Are they here, or did they leave something?”
Sometimes weirdos left gifts that felt just as terrifying as seeing them in person.
Anastasia reared back, her eyes darting around in terror. Penny tried to calm her. “Hey, just point them out and I’ll call the cops. Or we’ll leave.”
She pitched her voice over the murmurs of the crowd, reaching out her hand, “Anastasia, let me help you!”
Three things happened:
1) Anastasia hissed—like a fucking cat.
2) She knocked Penny clear across the patio.
3) She catapulted herself onto a table with a level of grace and speed that would have been sexy if didn’t involve Penny getting knocked to the ground.
Actually, it was still sexy.
“I have terrible taste,” Penny groaned as she tried to sit up.
Magic HQ, Magic Realm
Getting Shiloh to the station had required some…
The werewolf forced Caleb to give up all pretense of being non-threatening. He asked Akira for help, but the fae just chuckled and said, “You look like you’re enjoying yourself.”
Which just made Caleb angrier because he was, in fact, enjoying himself.
By the time they hauled him back to Magic HQ, Caleb had his temper firmly under control. Not that it mattered. So far, their time in the interrogation room had yielded no results.
“Let’s try this again,” he began.
Caleb closed his eyes and ran through his breathing exercises. His father could affect calm disdain at the drop of a hat, probably because he lacked the emotions of a functioning creature. Caleb had to work at it.
“Fuck you is not an answer,” Akira growled, “But your alibi? That is something we are very interested in.”
“Why? Because I don’t run with a pack? You don’t know shit about what happened in those woods. You don’t know if it was a werewolf or a—”
“It was a werewolf,” Caleb said.
“You’re wrong,” Shiloh huffed.
“I assure you I’m not. But if you’d like me to be wrong about something, if it would really give you pleasure to see me strung up by my incorrect assumptions, then provide your alibi, and if it checks out, you can be on your merry way, my embarrassment a balm to your senses.”
The werewolf faltered for a moment. He expected Caleb to give him more fuel for his rage, not less, but Caleb had centuries of experience dealing with unreasonable creatures.
A myriad of emotions played across Shiloh’s face as he tried to regain his footing. “I heard—”
“Not another word,” a voice called out from behind them. Caleb and Akira turned to see a man in a blue suit accompanied by an apologetic-looking acolyte.
“He insisted,” the acolyte squeaked.
“I am Mr. Bankman’s attorney, and this conversation is over. Shiloh, let’s go.”
The werewolf snapped his mouth shut, and Caleb and Akira watched as the first lead in their case walked out the door.
Gnome’s Arms Pub, Henford-on-Bagley
He was all sharp angles, white hair, and skin so pale it seemed gray. The combination should have been terrifying; in fact, most sims seemed to give him a wide berth. But Alice found the mix interesting, exciting, and llamas help her, sexy.
Which meant she needed to abstain. Her track record with sexy, troublemaking men was 0 for 1. One terrible baby daddy and zero decent relationships.
“I’m Latimer,” the old man said, unfazed by the death glare his son was giving him. “And this here is Vladislaus. We’re just two kindly sims out on the town, looking for a nightcap.”
Vladislaus shook his head. “Don’t be fooled. He’s not kindly.”
“And he’s no sim,” Latimer waggled his eyebrows, “He’s a menace.”
“Is this your idea of help?”
“Yes,” his father gave Alice a warm smile, “My son here is painfully single.”
“I am not—”
“You gonna lie to her? That’s how you want to start out?”
“I’m not in pain,” he hissed.
His father just gave him a look that plainly said, “who do you think you’re kidding?” while Alice tried not to melt. Endearing and caustic banter was a weakness, doubly so when it occurred between parents and kids who liked each other.
Vladislaus sighed and rolled his eyes. “I am unattached,” he jerked his head in his father’s direction, “but I’ll give you one guess as to why.”
Vladislaus threw back his head and laughed, sharp incisors flashing. It should have been a warning, a sign he was into cosplays on Sims Tok or something else weird. But damn it if Alice didn’t like that sort of thing.
“I have been warned about that,” he said when he recovered. “What’s your name?”
Her mouth replied without her brain’s permission. “Alice… Alice Martin.”
Ward Coffee, Del Sol Valley
“You must do your own stunts,” Penny grunted as Anastasia helped her up. The actress’s hands were shaking, and there was pure panic in her eyes.
“Hey,” Penny said softly, wanting to assure her, “I’m alright. Pretty sure nothing is broken.”
In a flash, Anastasia buried the panic. “You reached for me!” she shouted. “Are you insane? I could have fucking killed you!”
Insane? Penny looked around.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, me?” Penny rubbed her chest, where a bruise was forming. “I’m just trying to find who the fuck you think you’re talking to.”
“Yep,” Penny said, her notorious temper finally sparking, “I’m looking for the poor sap you thought you could take your anger out on because you’re an entitled stuck-up bitch.”
“You’re excused,” Penny poked a finger in her chest, “And you’re also really fucking lucky that the only thing I’m doing is walking out of this interview and not suing you for assault.”
“Assault? You can’t be—”
“And another fucking thing, Miss Barrister, the next time someone tries to help you, the phrase you’re looking for is not ‘I could have fucking killed you,’ it’s thank you.”
Gnome’s Arms Pub, Henford-on-Bagley
While she served a few other customers, Alice struggled to get her raging libido under control. Her dry spell started out self-imposed, but now it had taken on a life of its own, and every part of her was screaming to end it with the silver-eyed sim in the tight black sweater.
Get your shit together! she told herself. With a calm she didn’t feel, she flicked her rag and wiped down the bar before placing a coaster. “Alright, Vladislaus. What will it be?”
“Vlad is fine. An Old Yorkfield Classic for Lat—my father,” he said the word strangely. “And any drink for me.”
Any drink? Puhleeze. Men hit on Alice like this all the time. “Anything” meant a saucy comeback about their dick, and when she instead served them a Fruity Fizzy drink or something genuinely disgusting, they’d get all huffy and call her a bitch. “Anything I pick? What if I say mushrooms, or llama’s blood, or a floral-scented Dim and Gusty?”
His lips twitched. “I assure you, Alice Martin, there is nothing you could pick that I wouldn’t consume.”
Ignoring the butterflies gathering in her stomach, she poured an Old Yorkfield for Latimer and whipped up a Horchata for Vlad—with extra cinnamon and granulated sugar. As a surprise challenge, she tossed in a heavy dose of cayenne and hot sauce.
He beamed when she set it down in front of him. “It’s no llama’s blood, but it’ll have to do.”
His throat worked as he took a huge gulp and Alice catalogued the image for later when she took a long, hot shower. Even when he hit the hot sauce, he didn’t stop. With a satisfied groan, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Fascinating.”
This motherfucker. Alice didn’t know whether to be annoyed that he drank it without complaint or impressed. “So,” she began, while she tried to sort her feelings out, “What do you do?”
He licked the sugar on the rim of the glass and frowned. “What do you mean?”
“What job allows you to afford all these terrible drinks I’m going to serve you?”
“Are they supposed to be terrible? I hadn’t noticed.”
“You will,” Alice’s eyes narrowed, “I’m just getting started.”
He looked delighted and possibly turned on. Or maybe that was her horny imagination?
“What?” She must’ve missed the first part of what he said. “Retired?’ You can’t be more than—”
“Thirty-eight,” his father said, cutting in with a smile. “He’s thirty-eight.”
“I did well in my previous career,” Vlad tacked on, “I had an early retirement.”
Alice chewed her lip. She wanted him to be an asshole so she wouldn’t be tempted to sleep with him, right? “You’re a stock market bro,” she sighed, “I knew it.”
His mouth dropped open, and a cross between a cough and a laugh came tumbling out. “Alice, no. I am not a… stock market bro.” He repeated her phrase as if he’d never said the word “bro” in his life. He gave his father a sharp look. “Actually, I inherited a large sum which has allowed me to pursue my interests rather than work.”
Latimer grinned, “Yep, and keep me in the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed.”
“And how about you, Alice Martin? What are your interests?”
Vlad caught her off-guard. “My interests? Aren’t you going to ask me about my real job?”
“Are you not doing your real job?”
Fuck. He passed the Penny Pizzazz test—no passive-aggressive comments about her work. Was this a sign? Could she end her dry spell? “I can’t decide if you’re trying to be my best customer or my worst.”
“Best,”—the corner of his mouth kicked up—”obviously. Though I must admit, I am curious about your worst.”
There were few things Alice loved more than complaining about the shitty customers that pissed her off. “How much time do you have?”
“Time?” He braced his forearms on the counter. “As it turns out? Infinite.”
Bay View Condos, Del Sol Valley
After three or four hours, the ghost burned itself out. Anastasia, who didn’t even really need to sleep, felt as if she could climb into bed and rest for a week.
But she wasn’t resting. She’d stumbled into the apartment where Jimena handed her a phone, and she accepted the most important movie role of her long life.
“This is so exciting!” Jimena cried, throwing her arms around her, “Your first movie role!”
Anastasia agreed, though she wanted to yell, “No, you idiot, it’s not. If you love me so much, why haven’t you noticed that I’m lying through my teeth and I don’t have a reflection?”
But she didn’t. It seemed the only creature capable of making her break character was a fucking tabloid reporter.
Stupid Penny Pizzazz.
No matter. Anastasia wasn’t giving today’s incident another thought. She couldn’t take the role if a ghost drove her mad, and she intended, come hell or high water, to show up ready to play Esme in the Sheriff of Alpha Centaura.
But how did you get rid of a ghost?
She sat at her computer and began tapping away at the keyboard. The early results were middling—a bunch of merchandise, myths, and one really bizarre recipe for a souffle. She heard that Glimmerbrook and the Magic Realm had their own internet, which would probably turn up something useful. But shunning didn’t really give one access to the amenities of magical life, and her son was not taking her phone calls.
It couldn’t really be a ghost, could it? She wasn’t some sim; she was Anastasia Barrister—a vampire they used to call Miss Hell and quake in their boots whenever she passed by.
Can a ghost haunt a vampire? she typed.
The search results led her to a forum posting by DoPEguy69:
Ghosts man. They’ll haunt anybody. They’re real motherfuckers.
POSES & ANIMATIONS
Werewolf Costume by Natalia- Auditore
A Little Emotion Sitting Version by ThreeThousandPlumbobs
Fighting Series – Magic Powers by Raygun
Fighting Series – Injured by Raygun
Werewolf Posepack 2 by Natalia-Auditore
Werewolf Posepack by Natalia-Auditore
Fighting V2 by Raygun
Fighting V1 by Raygun
A Little Emotion by ThreeThousandPlumbobs