Charlotte nearly finished packing while looking over her shoulder. A knock on the door startled her. When she opened it cautiously, she found that Penny had decided she didn't trust the local kids and brought over the keys for the station wagon which she had parked in Charlotte's driveway. It was about three in the morning, Charlotte had changed by then into jeans and a t-shirt and Penny almost seemed disappointed she wasn't wearing the silk dressing gown around the house anymore. It took a few kind words and eventually Penny was out the door. Charlotte quickly double checked that nobody was watching, human or vampire, then pulled the station wagon into her three-car garage.
Quickly under the cover of night Charlotte began to shuffle her boxes of money and clothes into the newly purchased car. She kept the light off in the garage to avoid detection. There was no need to attract attention. The station wagon was dark blue and luckily had tinted windows. Not particularly legal but it suited her needs. She had marked the boxes with a black permanent sharpie with words like 'books' and 'kitchen'. That pretty much guaranteed nobody would break into the car for what they thought was inside the moving boxes. Just to be safe she figured she had better pick up some suitcases and consolidate her clutter fast to avoid attracting attention. But at the same time the vampire in her liked the idea of using the car as bait for her meals as she traveled. She would have to give it some thought.
Dawn approached and Charlotte was worn out but not stupid enough to sleep in her house. She gave a last glance at her home as she drove off in Penny's station wagon. A few miles out of town she checked into a motel that took cash and slept. She would figure out what to do later. There was no turning back now.
The next day Charlotte decided to just keep heading east towards Florida. She knew it would be at least a day or so before Kenyon would figure out she wasn't coming back. Penny was suspicious enough of Jim and hopefully wouldn't talk to him for at least another week or so. That would safeguard her from the vampires knowing immediately when she left town. It certainly wasn't the ideal trip, but she would still have fun. She drove into Arizona and found a few cowboys who needed to be broken. Once her thirst was quenched she continued driving all night.
The countryside was boring driving alone but she had little choice as nowadays hitchhikers were pretty much nonexistent. Too many serial killers had ruined it for the garden variety bored vampires. She made sure she missed the major cities in case Kenyon had gone global about her. She didn't think Kenyon would risk revealing to all the real Master Vampires that he had a runaway vampire. Considering how high up in the council Kenyon and she both were it would be seen as a sign of weakness. If she had been a fledgling or medium level vampire, he would have had no hesitation exposing her escape. Instead he would possibly lose ranking and have to deal with a heavy fine for not controlling her. It paid to learn the politics of the land. Since she had fallen from grace with the hierarchy of head vampires, she'd made it part of her daily chores to find out what was what in the politics of vampires. She hadn't intended on making it so hard on Kenyon but it was a vampire eat vampire world.
She didn't plan on becoming a meal any time soon.
One day stretched into the next with little to distract her. The southern route she picked took her across Texas and she hated the heat and the men. They were impressed with their trucks, guns and dogs, in that order. Women pretty much fell into an 'as needed' priority. She reeducated a few of the tall lean dusty boys on her tour. She was good and only had one 'mishap'. Worst thing was that it had started out so normal.
The previous day -- old highway 90 south of Austin, Texas
The gas station was just off the main road and typical of what she had been dealing with in the Lone Star State. She once had read that Texas had more highways than anywhere else in the United States. She felt like she had driven over half of them at least. Weather and traffic had pushed her further south than she had intended on going, but she was making pretty good time. Nothing remarkable and nobody remarkable -- Charlotte was bored by the whole dry state. Since she was trying to avoid major hotel chains and the cities, for the most part she was stuck in the sticks. Literally, dry, brittle and dusty. Everything in the landscape was dry. She was too. She filled the tank of the station wagon wishing for a cool breeze. That certainly wasn't happening. Last bit of moisture to pass over Texas ended up being a tornado she had avoided by half a day. The twilight sky was endless.
Her gas tank was nearly filled when a silver oversized truck pulled into the gas station. The guy driving avoided the open pump near the entrance and drove up behind her. His bug decorated grille stopped inches short of her bumper and he hopped out and leered at her, saying, "Sorry, hope I didn't startle ya, hon."
The devilish twinkle in his eyes made a mockery of his loosely worded apology. She ignored the casual remark hoping he would just go away. Arrogantly he looked her up and down slowly, as if appraising a horse for purchase.
Charlotte began to mentally tick off what were some the more irritating parts about Texas while keeping her mouth shut. The men still topped the list -- arrogant stupid men who thought they were God's gift to women. The gas tank was finally full and she got ready to leave while steadfastly ignoring the specimen who was not giving up.
"Ah darlin,' you ain't done yet are ya? I mean give a fella a break," his tone wasn't sweet and flirtatious but annoying and demanding. "It's just such a lovely evenin' and you bein' from Caleee-forn-eye-aye probably haven't been properly introduced to the good ol' state of Texas! We cowboys have so much to offer a little gal like you." He rolled on his heels thrusting himself slightly towards her suggestively, then he winked at her.
She was starting to be annoyed by his unwanted attention, but was feeling a bit parched. Unconsciously licking her lips slowly gave the cowboy all the encouragement he needed. He was tall, sinewy and dusty from head to toe. Sandy-colored hair bristled his face and he had watery blue eyes sunken into his long lean face, the usual button-down plaid cotton shirt, a worn denim jacket, his work blue jeans and of course the necessary dark brown boots on his feet. The belt buckle was silver and turquoise and the only decent thing on the cowboy that she could see.
"That's what I like to see, a thirsty gal. How 'bout I buy ya drink, little lady?" He was still leaning on his truck and had yet to begin to pump any fuel.
"Cowboy, I am done." And Charlotte got in her car without another word.
She pulled away without looking back, a big mistake. She was halfway down the road before she noticed a now-familiar grille in the rear view mirror. It was late and there was nobody else on the dusty road; he began to honk frantically and get closer to her bumper. She didn't bother to accelerate but simply pulled over to the right side of the lane allowing him ample room to pass. He slowed down and continued to impatiently honk. The dust from the shoulder plumed behind her further coating the silver truck and the irrational driver.
The next wide spot in the road she cranked the car over and shut it off. Without waiting she got out and spun towards the truck parked right behind her. Again he was too close to her bumper. He shut off his engine also and Charlotte could hear it ticking hotly in the evening while she walked to the driver's door.
"Well, look it here. You having some sort of car trouble, hon? Or just waiting for me to catch up?" His irregular grin revealed a tobacco crusted line of a steady chewer. It was then Charlotte smelt the odor surrounding the man. It was the sour smell of alcohol that had permeated him inside and out. It also explained why he didn't take no for an answer.
"No, the only trouble I'm having is a persistent Texan following me," Charlotte was still feeling generous if thirsty. At this point she wasn't overly interested in the man but his bothering her was beginning to get on her nerves.
"Show me where he is, I'll take care of that rascal," The man waggled his eyebrows at Charlotte mocking her comment.
"Oh, I can take care of you perfectly fine. I am just giving fair warning. Leave me alone, Texas boy." With that Charlotte walked away. No good talking to drunks but she had tried. The creaking of his door and his drunken laughter let her know he hadn't even listened. She sighed and wasn't startled when his hand grabbed her shoulder.
Why did they never listen?
"Don't be that'a way. Let's go have ourselves a little bite," another man not asking but demanding. His hand spun her to him. He was surprised to see Charlotte was smiling. Fangs were out and her hand reached up and rolled his hand off her shoulder. She didn't let it go but bent it sharply causing him to stumble. A swift sweep with her leg and the cowboy was on his ass in the dust.
"Oh, so you wanna play rough now do ya? Where did you get those fake fangs? They are sexy, dayem." He was trying to get up and she tightened her hand on his still twisting his wrist at an awkward angle. He moaned a bit but not completely in discomfort.
Laughing he said, "Come on now, let me up. I'll show you somethin' special." Charlotte twisted a bit more and the smile faded from the man's face.
"You just let me up now!" He demanded. He was having no success at getting up on his own and was starting to get angry. The dust on the roadside was stirred up by his kicking and fussing in the dirt.
"Why, so you can follow me and bother me some more?" She said, not releasing him.
"You want me. I saw it. You licked your lips and gave me that look." He was all but whimpering now. Charlotte tossed his hand down and he scrambled right back up. He took his hat off and quickly slapped the dust off the brim. She could see his hair was light and patchy. He quickly settled the hat back on his balding head belatedly trying to hide the signs of aging. He wasn't as young as he wanted to look.
"No, I didn't want you to follow me. I wanted you to leave me alone. Please go." Charlotte felt her fangs still filling her mouth giving lie to what she truly wanted. She checked the road and didn't see anyone in any direction.
The Texan wasn't smart enough to take the warning and this time grabbed for her using both his hands gripping both of her arms slightly above her wrists. His hands were rough, cracked and dry from decades of working outside without gloves. Charlotte didn't much care for being handled but let him keep his hands on her for the moment. She was distracted by her ever-growing fangs and now her own pressing need. Speaking of which the cowboy was roughly grinding into her his special wants and obvious needs. And it wasn't the belt buckle pushing up against her.
"Well, looks like we are goin' to have ourselves a little party. I like a girl with some fight to her," He licked his lips suggestively and asked, "You gonna bite now are ya?"
"Oh, I am definitely biting you," she snarled.
He just laughed and said, "Hot dayem, me first," and yanked her to him taking a small nip out of her neck.
The smells washed over her spiraling her to the edge. The scent of his unwashed alcohol laden body with her blood on his lips -- her blood. Then she caught the smell of chewed tobacco sullying her neck. She was ready to tear his head off. His hands released her wrists and shot around her waist pulling her closer saying, "Hot blooded!"
She didn't bother to protest. Without thought she fanged in deeply and drank the man's tainted blood in greedy gulps. The bad liquor swirled in his blood and he began to struggle. Fear started lacing the blood and anger, Charlotte didn't stop. Once the man was dead she lugged him over to his truck. Dragging his body up into the cab she smashed his head into the steering wheel. It just took another minute to drive it off the road.
Once done she carefully wiped her fingerprints off everything saying, "Well, 'no' does mean 'no' after all."