Even though Charlotte had a few more days left on her trip she was bored with Barbados. The bodies all washed up by midday, she found out once she actually picked up a newspaper. Captain Claude hadn't been found yet so maybe he worked out the whole wife and lover combination to everyone's satisfaction, but somehow she doubted that. She headed back to Florida a day or two earlier than she had planned. It didn't really matter since she had booked the Florida hotel room already. She collected some of her treasures once she hit the States.
Her car was exactly where she had left it and only dust and rain seemed to have made their mark on her lovely automobile. The hotel was not too much further down the road and she needed to relax and forget the whole stupid vacation idea. It was time to head home.
The kid at the check in desk nodded to her and gave up the room key with a simple, "Have a good evening, miss."
She really liked being called miss. She beamed at him and went to her room. The corridor was quiet and she was whipped. She pushed open the door slowly once the key engaged and was happy to hear the little snick of sound allowing her entry. The room was dark and she started to reach for the light when a hand pushed her roughly into the middle of the room.
"What the hell?" She spun with her fangs pricking at her mouth.
"Hi Charlotte, what took you so long?" The light switch was flipped by a male hand.
"Jim? What the fuck are you doing here?" She was stunned by his mere presence.
"I have come to take you back." He smiled wickedly happy with that thought.
"What do you mean I have to go back with you?" Charlotte snarled.
She was blocked from leaving the room by Jim. Looking up and down at the vampire, she was weighing the options as fast as possible. He had found her in spite of all her dodges and misleading clues. She wasn't overly surprised, but unhappy that he was here. It meant Kenyon knew where she was. Kenyon liked to keep a short leash on his pet vampires.
Jim Arnold was not exactly small, or readily seen as a pet vampire. He was well over six feet tall by at least three inches and firmly muscled. As a human he was daunting but as a vampire he was entirely terrifying. His heavily-carved features were strong and his eyes were surprisingly light blue. The muscles that rippled underneath his clothing were all well earned and rock solid. He no longer was masqueraded as a lawyer as he had been when her neighbor, Penny, had seen him.
Charlotte wasn't stupid by any means, and that Jim was here really meant she had some serious problems. Jim wasn't a bad guy, but he wasn't hers. And now that he had finally found her he would take her back. Okay, so she wasn't that cautious when she tried to leave town undetected but she had tried. She wondered how Penny had withstood the meeting. Since he was now in front of her it meant Giselle and that stupid travel agent had possibly been compromised. His arms were folded across the massive chest defined by sharply cut muscles and tendons bulging through his tight shirt. All that combined made her more than a bit nervous. His dark hair with his light eyes gave him the look of a pro-wrestler with a fan club. He must have caught some of her thoughts because he smiled, revealing a dazzling perfect set of teeth.
It was a total crime that Kenyon ran this creature not her. If she had turned Jim when she first saw him, none of this would be happening. Even knowing this, she still found him mouth wateringly tempting. Given the chance she would definitely have pounced him if she thought it would make him change his mind. Knowing that he was one of Kenyon's minions and here to pull her ass back to face the consequences of her disappearance did put a bit of a damper on that idea. From what she saw, Jim was completely loyal, and she doubted anything she threw at him would tempt him. Not that she wouldn't try. She most certainly was not pleased with this turn of events.
"Jim, sweetie, you know that I wouldn't mind sharing the vampire stalkers' money with you? Kenyon won't miss you for at least a week or so. How about you come play with me for a while?" Charlotte figured it couldn't hurt to ask. After all with Kenyon's current situation with the purging of his vampires and the unknown vampire slayers out there it was worth the shot.
"Charlotte, stop. You have stolen from slayers, granted. But you left Kenyon's land without permission. You are close enough to him to know how this is seen." Jim's tones were dry and matter-of-fact. That didn't warm Charlotte in the least.
"Besides, you aren't a Master. You don't have the right to go where you want without permissions." Jim grinned, flashing fangs.
Charlotte wanted to scream. But he wasn't wrong. She just wasn't ready to give in to Kenyon or the vampire council. Jim wasn't going to go gently into the night and she wasn't quite ready to run back to Kenyon with her tail between her legs. This was going to be difficult.
Giving it a thought, Charlotte tried to get a little closer to Jim to see if he could be swayed by some of her more feminine attributes. He was not alone, she found out, as a small hand snaked from behind him and literally shoved her back on her heels. Jim stepped back from the doorway to reveal his companion.
"My dear Bethany, no need for violence." Jim sounded amused.
Bethany was nearly a foot shorter than him and wearing all black leathers. Her eyes were ringed with black and her mouth with crimson. The skin was porcelain bone white. She didn't bother to keep her fangs inside but flashed them while glaring at Charlotte. They both walked into her room shutting the door behind them. Charlotte wouldn't be leaving yet, it seemed.
"Master, there is always a need for violence. This creature has betrayed us and deserves to die for her actions. Nobody said that she had to be brought back alive!" While she spoke Bethany paced back and forth like a caged animal. It was all Charlotte could do to keep from laughing. Bethany had called Jim 'master'? Jim was pretty low on the totem pole of vampires and should not have had permissions to make his own vampire. She better have been joking or Jim would be in trouble once Charlotte told Kenyon.
Charlotte had no idea where Jim had dug her up from -- but possibly from Hollywood central casting 'bad girl vampire'. Bethany hadn't been walking the night very long, and she had made herself a caricature vampire right out of the splatterpunk style of movies. She wasn't sure Bethany was even over sixteen but with all the theatrical makeup she could've been older when turned. Not by much. If Jim had turned a child that was two strikes against him. Maybe she wouldn't have to go anywhere with Jim.
There was a stunning array of silver and flashy bits of gems mixed with metal on the girl's arms and neck. Her black hair was flat and went to Bethany's tiny waist. Charlotte was pretty sure it was real not dyed but it could have been a good wig. Her frail build would serve her well when she was trolling for human victims. Even dressed up like she was going to a Halloween masquerade she had that vulnerable party girl image beckoning a closer look. If she hadn't known better, Charlotte would have found Bethany a temptingly fragile creature. Most humans couldn't resist such teasing looks.
"What are you looking at, bitch?" Bethany snarled.
Charlotte met her eyes and pushed. Bethany returned the glance and tried to control Charlotte. She was not nearly old enough to be playing such games. She dropped her eyes first saying, "Enough! We found her let's bind her and take her back for the reward."
"Bethany, you are not the one to make that decision," Jim reined in his pet.
She bristled and snarled out, "Fine, Master, but she is disrespectful of you. She has yet to offer you blood."
If Charlotte hadn't already been rocked back on her heels once by the mere presence of Bethany, this comment would have definitely brought her to her knees. No vampires under Kenyon's rules had to offer blood. That was archaic and forbidden. Jim was definitely not here to take her back to Kenyon. Three strikes, and he was beyond out of the pool. She had stupidly assumed he was here at Kenyon's command but now that looked like wishful thinking on her part. Blood gifts from servant vampires were strictly taboo.
With a good reason. That was how a master vampire kept his fledglings weaker and subservient. It kept the newer vampire forever lower and made all of their meals part of the master's soul. Nearly cannibalizing the fledglings, the master vampire didn't have to worry about insurrections or disobedience. Hell, it was all they could do to keep their master full while still having enough blood leftover for themselves.
The fledglings became nearly mindless with need for blood. They constantly had to find new victims and tended to drain them to death because death fears were richer sources of blood and gave the master and the fledgling enough to survive. Charlotte was in real trouble here. She no longer had to worry about what Kenyon would do or even the vampire council, if they were involved, but how to get away from Jim and Bethany without losing any of her carefully drained blood. The money was of no interest to him obviously. He wanted something else from her.
"Master, how do you wish me to bind her?" The girl was nearly bent double asking her master permission and direction.
Bethany had mentioned 'reward' and naively Charlotte had thought they were talking about Kenyon. Now it was dawning on her that it could be a wide number of folks who wanted her head on a platter -- literally. The pit of her stomach fell as she thought of how vampires were bound. The girl was casually pulling small chains and locks from a black leather backpack she had slung behind her.
Charlotte snarled, "Back away from me, fledgling. You have no idea what I am!"
Jim motioned with his head for Bethany to back away while taking a fast step to Charlotte.
"No, but I do. And I have these," Jim's fangs were fully descended and he held a knife in his large hands. Since she had been too busy watching Bethany pace she had missed Jim's careful edging around her. The tip of the wickedly oversized knife was pointed at Charlotte's throat. She felt the edging of darkness and anger as they had her trapped between them.
Charlotte reached inside for her tainted soul and began to change.
As her mouth filled she hated that she was displaying her fangs so quickly. Usually she liked to take her time and toy with her meals if only for the fear laced emotions they displayed. Granted sex could sell it -- make the blood richer and tasty -- but she didn't think she would be able to satisfy both Jim and Bethany. And she wasn't really that willing to find out. She laughed and spun, swiftly moved to Bethany's side. Without a sound she yanked the girl's neck back and poised fangs over her throat. Jim froze.
Charlotte knew that she would kill the young vampire if she drained her. Bethany didn't have enough blood to sustain more than her own self. Jim must have fed deeply before confronting her. Hell, a mosquito would cause issues at this point for the fledgling. Jim knew it. He had done it by making Bethany give so many 'blood offerings'. There were reasons it was so forbidden. Charlotte wondered how the hell he had kept this dark secret from Kenyon. Then she had to bite back a laugh as it dawned on her how she had done the same. Kenyon didn't deserve to be the master of the city. She didn't want the job either, but saw no reason for her to have to bow to him just because of that dumb parking lot lawyer. Had that strip mall been less interested in parking spaces they never would have unearthed the stupid attorney. Charlotte blinked and saw that Jim was again trying to edge closer. She calmly punctured into Bethany not drawing blood yet just sinking into the fledgling.
Bethany sighed with delight. She was too trusting; there was no fear, just pleasure at being dominated so firmly. Charlotte knew that was because Jim had made her that way. Her edge was gone by the simple act of a stronger vampire poised with fangs in her neck.
As Bethany's blood pooled in her mouth Charlotte barely kept her hunger in check. She couldn't afford the distraction of feeding while Jim was still poised to jump her. Sadly, it was in all the wrong ways.
"No, Charlotte! Don't! She is blood-tied to Kenyon also." Jim was protesting the killing of his servant, but it wasn't actually his vampire. He had poached from Kenyon. The need rose and Charlotte swallowed just a bit. Jim hadn't lied. Images flooded her brain. These children are worthless now. Vampires should be strong and fierce, not pathetic cowering fakes like this creature Bethany. She is weak, yet wants what we have. Fine, I will make her a vampire. The hell with the council. I need all the bodies possible. There is a war coming. I refuse to lose. I will win this territory one way or another. I will keep making fledglings to sacrifice, if need be. "What, no, my pet, I didn't mean you. Relax. Just follow my instructions. Jim will take care of your training." She must have heard me. Oh well, she is expendable. I have so few strong vampires left.
Charlotte pulled back and gasped. The emotions were threatening to make her forget where she was and completely drain Bethany. The only thing preventing her from doing that was that she now knew Kenyon was linked to her. She had crossed many lines but sucking on one of Kenyon's vampires was completely forbidden. Jim may overstep that line, but for her she would be staked without question. She held Bethany slightly away from her. Jim had stopped walking towards them. He realized Charlotte was having some issues.
Bethany whimpered, "Please, taste more of me. Drink from me, mistress."
With great reluctance Charlotte shoved her towards Jim.
"Damn you both." She bit out with fangs pushing her to finish off the fledgling.