Charlotte had to make a decision what to do about the trouble twins in her car. They both were somewhat in shock so she should be able to peek inside and rearrange their memories with no problem. She began to breathe to match Beverly's half-slumber and slipped inside her head. A hiss and she yanked her mind free of the girl's thoughts. She had already been mentally cleaned. And it hadn't lasted. The lingering taste in Charlotte's mind was that of Jim's little vampire gal Bethany. The rape and pillage style was heavy handed and badly done. Jim had much to answer for once she got clear of this mess he created.
"What did you do to her?"Amber's words were slow and somewhat slurred as she continued her battle of the sleep suggestion Charlotte was pushing through the air in the car. Beverly, having already been under the spell of one vampire, had no problem falling deeper back and relaxing.
"Nothing really just letting her calm down a bit."
"What are you doing to me? I feel weird. Not bad. Just very weird -- like I am buzzed on something new. Everything is prettier and safer. But that's okay too." Amber's eyes were half-closed and Charlotte concentrated on pushing a bit more slumber. Both girls were softly snoring and Charlotte started the car back up. She had to put them both out on the curb around where she had picked up Beverly.
"Damn it," she mumbled. She was now a block away from where she had picked them up. She pulled over to the curb and kissed them softly on the foreheads, erasing any memories of her other than a vague recall of her name. Instead of buzz sawing away what was there she reworked the memories and thoughts and impulses.
"Wake up girls, we are here." She gently spoke. They both stumbled out of the car half asleep and fuzzy.
"Thanks lady, we didn't mean to wander so far. What do we owe ya for gas?" Amber was mumbling yet firm in offering ten dollars to Charlotte. Charlotte had slipped a few bills in both Amber and Beverly's hands with the memory of debts paid back by friends. It was the least she could do for helping close their favorite club and having a few of their friends killed. She wondered to herself if the bodies were still in the club. A shudder raced over her as it dawned on her that Jim and Bethany probably hadn't cleaned up and with Theo and Giselle gone it was entirely likely they just closed the doors and set the a/c on high. She focused back on the young faces turned to her.
"Nothing, as I told you, I was driving home this way. It was no problem -- you kept me company. Thanks for the advice for beaches down in Key West. I'll make it there by morning easily. You both have fun watching scary movies!" Charlotte smiled and they both waved half heartedly as she drove off.
As she pulled away from the curb she heard Amber say clearly to Beverly, "Nice lady but what the fuck did you give me? I am so melted. That stuff is awesome. You have some more?" She giggled and dragged Beverly off towards one of the dark houses. Beverly pulled against her friend's arm and turned to watch Charlotte leave. As she shook her head Charlotte felt Beverly's mind snap back and look at her even deeper.
"I didn't get you high, Amber. There was something weird about that lady." Beverly wasn't keeping the suggestions from Charlotte in her mind but twisting and puzzling at her scattered mind. The soft approach hadn't worked any better than Bethany's rough and tumble hacking at her memories. She avoided stomping on the gas by sheer determination, not wanting to add anything more to Beverly's detailed memories.
Not much she could do about it now. She was pretty sure both Giselle and Theo were fine and she really needed to beat Jim home. Damn, Kenyon's little nest of vipers was home to her. The black inky night pulled her in ways she couldn't describe and the thought of what was ahead disturbed her more than she liked.
The trip back to California took less time than the trip out to Florida. All too soon she was driving over the Summit and into the valley. Stars lit the way across the desert and her nerves were jangling as she tried to figure out how to keep Kenyon from fanging in before she explained herself. Once she got closer to her house she reconsidered that choice. No need to make any sudden moves that would result in her staked and screwed by dawn. A vacancy light blinking by the highway was her choice. Exhausted she pulled into the middle range hotel and went to wake the help.
She had to buzz to be let in and from the look on the kid's face she had definitely woke him up.
"Hey, lady, how many nights and how many people?" The boy rubbed his face roughly trying to appear awake. It wasn't working.
Charlotte wiggled her forefinger to his face with a slight flicking motion. A puzzled look washed over his face. Charlotte lifted an eyebrow and grinned slightly flipping her finger up and down indicating on her own cheek a spot.
She watched as the boy began to comprehend her meaning.
His hand slowly rose to the mirroring cheek and he pulled off a sticky note. Charlotte bit her cheek as she saw it was a note saying, 'Call mom' and he shoved it in his pocket very casually. She had to give him cool points for not flinching. Once the missive was stored safely in his pocket he asked, "Do you have a reservation?"
He knew from his records that nobody had a reservation at this hour but was being polite. Charlotte smiled nicely and said, "No, but I saw your sign and would like to get a room for a few days. Do you have a nice suite available?"
The boy nodded and began automatically to click the keys on his computer. Even half-asleep he could do that simple task. It was hardwired. The new generation of kids could key into a computer completely in their sleep Charlotte knew as it had come in handy on more than one occasion.
"The largest room available is a double queen. Currently there isn't a suite available," he kept tapping keys and Charlotte bit back a chuckle. She knew perfectly well this hotel probably didn't have anything remotely like a suite much less a luxurious room. But a girl could dream.
Charlotte slowly began to peel twenties off a stack of bills she had in her pocket and when she hit ten she laid them on the counter and asked, "What's this get me, a day or two?"
He grinned, "My cell number?"
She had to hand it to the boy -- even with post-its on his face and nearly unconscious he still flirted. He wasn't afraid of her in the least. She just whetted his appetite. He was a dark little soul and instinctively wanted to bond with her. Charlotte had no room in her life for kids. And Kenyon would have his guts for decoration at this point in her world. She smiled and said, "Baby, I am far too old for you but thanks. Can I have the room for three days then?" He nodded and gave her the directions to her room on a sheet and a key. She gave him a wink and snagged the key he offered.
He whimpered in his head and smiled at her saying, "You don't know what you're missing."
"Sure I do. And don't forget to call mom." She laughed as she went to her room. As she knew, it might well be one of the last nights of her life, but she definitely was going out on a strong note. His lust-filled sigh followed her to the elevators.
Once Charlotte got her baggage from the car she looked around the dismally small room and shuddered. She wanted to be in her own damn bed stretched out in raw silk pajamas while good classical music played in her room. Add in some lovely scented candles and maybe a cone of incense burning to help her relax and think. Barbados hadn't helped her relax. Florida definitely hadn't given her anything but problems, yet here she was back in California waiting to get the guts up to confront Kenyon. She figured she had another day or so before Jim could have made it back. He had lost a lot in that Florida hotel room.
She paced the tiny room and pondered her options. She could go downstairs and play with the desk clerk. He would be a welcome pint or two of fresh horny blood. But that would alert Kenyon she was in the area. She had filled up before she left Arizona. Kenyon had to be stretched thin trying to figure out where she was, but fanging into a local would definitely ping the vampire radar no matter how much she tried to block him. It was his neighborhood.
The room was caging her but dawn was around the corner and she was too tired to troll for someone from out of town. Damn vampire boundaries. She should have stopped for the night before she hit Kenyon's territory. Too late to drive back out of town. She just had to suck up her stress and deal with the vampire lord later. That said, she still paced. Dawn rose and finally she went to bed.
Once she woke, she heard the sounds of vacuuming in a room down the hall. The chattering of the maids had jerked her awake. She had hung out the 'do not disturb' sign automatically the night before, and she saw a light blinking on the phone. She must have been out solid to not have heard the phone ring. Charlotte rubbed the sleep off her face and punched the codes in to retrieve her message. It was a simple message asking her to see the manager at her earliest convenience. She called down to the desk and was informed the manager had an emergency and left at noon. The gal answering the phone didn't know what he wanted or when he was coming back but she would be happy to tell him she called.
Bored, she succumbed to an impulse and dialed up her neighbor Penny's line. To her shock Penny actually answered. Not saying a word Charlotte simply hung up. It seemed Penny was still alive. That meant Jim hadn't killed her, obviously. She wondered if Bethany had clumsily rearranged Penny's memories like Beverly's had been. Tapping a finger to her lips Charlotte tried to plan her reemergence into Kenyon's fold and still keep her fangs not to mention her head.
She couldn't stay hidden in a hotel -- that would be stupid, not to mention completely boring. She bopped out to the car and reconsidered. The Mercedes was ugly. Besides, it still had the Florida license plate and all the accumulated cross-country bugs and dirt. Charlotte walked back to the front desk and found a terminally bored girl manning the desk. The dye job on her hair was supposed to make the kid appear exciting and cool. Instead, the washed-out fuchsia color made the girl look like an old Strawberry Shortcake doll left in the sun too long.
The kid was busy painting her nails with a bottle of white out. She hadn't noticed Charlotte return. Obviously this hotel chain didn't have cameras on the front desk. It took a full minute for the girl to look up. She blushed matching her hair in an odd way while quickly shoving the bottle underneath the dark green counter top.
"Yes, ma'am? Can I help you?" The girl lost brownie points with that stupid word. Charlotte hated being called ma'am in a major way. She certainly didn't look her age but still 'ma'am' grated on her nerves.
Decisively she ignored it and quietly asked, "Do you have a car rental agency near here?"
"I can rent you something. What do you want?" The apathy was nearly toxic but typical for the age. Charlotte bit back an empathy yawn.
"A sports car or convertible would be fine," Charlotte replied nicely.
"We don't have any convertibles but a nice Cadillac," she falsely smiled.
Charlotte laughed not so nicely.
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