DEL SOL VALLEY, PRESENT DAY
“Okay, I get the whole occult energy thing,” Luna chewed on the end of her pen, “But…why are you calling plasma blood?”
“I’m very old,” Ana replied, her mind still half in the memory of that night in the castle. “Turn for the cameras but don’t wave,” she instructed.
Luna gaped at the paparazzi as she tried to make sure she was in the shot but also did not appear to be noticing them. She failed miserably. “How do you know all of this?”
“I told you, I’m old. Some sim during the scientific revolution discovered that blood was made up of plasma, and the word became all the rage. Now no one remembers that it was ever called anything else.”
“No, I mean, how do you know where all the cameras are and how to place your body,” she looked around, “I’m completely overwhelmed.”
“Oh.That. I have excellent senses. I’m attuned to everyone and everything going on around me at every second.”
Luna squeaked. “Everything? But how are you not out of your mind? How do you—”
“Enough questions,” Anastasia held up a hand. “You’re my assistant. It’s your job to make me look more mortal. What should we do for our photographer friends over there?”
Luna hesitated. Ana followed her gaze to a group of young sims that stumbled into the bar and headed for the game area.“Well?”
“You what? Luna, you’re alive and conversing with me because you made yourself out to be capable. If that’s not the case, tell me now, and I can put us both out of misery.”
The sim balked, “No! I just…it’s…” she fumbled for a moment and then clenched her fists. “You had an outburst earlier this year, but generally, you don’t get messy. If you want to look like a mortal, you need to act like you’re actually affected by the world. Get startled by the paparazzi. Pretend to be drunk and make bad decisions.”
The last bad decision Ana made in a tavern resulted in a centuries-long marriage to a self-centered demon, but maybe Luna was right. She threw back a drink and pulled the girl to her feet. “Come on.”
Ana walked up to the group from earlier. They were filling up cups and placing them on a ping pong table. “Hello, fellow sims.”
“I’m a celebrity,” Ana added helpfully.
They continued to stare.
She winked, “I’m drunk. And I challenge you to a round of juice pong.”
Mortals weren’t cut out for juice pong. That much was clear.
“I need to take notes on this in case we have to schedule it again,” Luna slurred, nearly knocking into a pole.
Ana steadied her. “Where are your keys?”
“Keys? I don’t have keys! The doors just open when I get to my house!
Ana sighed and leaned Luna against the fence before donning her bat form and flying in through a cracked window.
Luna’s apartment left a lot to be desired, which was saying a lot because Ana had spent her formal years in a medieval orphanage. She unlocked the door and carried her snoring assistant to what she assumed was her bedroom.
“Do I have the job?” Luna mumbled.
Ana stared at the cat poster on the girl’s wall. “Hang in there,” it proclaimed. What drivel. “Luna, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“T-the job,” she replied, her tone insistent,” I’m trying to get it because I need it.”
Of course, she did. Ana sighed. She always swore she wouldn’t let herself be plagued by some mortal tagalong, but perhaps she’d grown soft in her old age. “Yes. But next time, we’ll do considerably less drinking.”
Luna made a pleased sound. “I did it like the book! Attract positive energy, and energy comes,” she slurred, “And now I don’t go home. I stay here.”
“Why can’t you go home?” Luna seemed young enough to still have a place with her parents. Modern sims kept children well past the sell-by date. Although, she could see the appeal. Caleb and Lilith were far more fun now than when they were screaming toddlers or sullen adolescents.
“He’s there,” Luna said softly. She did not offer any additional explanation.
She didn’t have to.
Ana switched off the lamp, but Luna tossed and turned, her brow furrowed as she made pained noises.
Bedtime had been Vladislaus’s domain. He was unfailingly gentle and full of stories and affection. Ana left him to it with their children, but sometimes, she crept back into their room late at night. Whatever life they led before becoming the wards of two vampires left Caleb and Lilith with nightmares. By the time Ana pushed open a door and lit a candle, Lilith would be sitting up, watching everything intently while Caleb huddled in front of the cradle as if he could protect her from the rest of the world.
“Go to sleep,” Ana said.
“I can’t,” Luna tossed again, “Can’t sleep. I’m scared.”
Caleb said that too. So Ana told her the same thing she told her son when she put him back in his own bed. “The only thing you have to fear lives in your house and calls herself your mother. If you sleep, you can dream of how I will find your enemies, pluck out their eyes, and eat their insides.”
Like Caleb, Luna stilled and went right to sleep.
Satisfied that her bedtime routine had universal appeal, Ana softly closed the door and walked back to the living room, only to find Luna’s roommate stumbling over to the radio as if to turn it on.
“Touch that radio, and it will be the last thing you do.”
“Umm…what? I’m Luna’s roommate. My name is—”
“I don’t care what your name is,” Ana snapped. She grabbed the sim by the scruff of his shirt and wrapped her hand around his neck. “Luna will be very hungover in the morning. See that she drinks water, takes aspirin, and doesn’t try to leave the house. If you fail to do any part of this, I will know, and I will kill you.”
“Okay!” he croaked, eyes wide with panic. “I p-promise.”