Iris nudged her body close, nestling behind Charlotte, somewhat startling her. It wasn't that she'd forgotten the kid was there, but she wasn't used to humans ever touching her. Further giving lie to the usual behavior of humans around vampires, Iris' hand snuck into Charlotte's palm. She tightened her hand involuntarily around the child's delicate fist. An unexpected warmth flooded Charlotte, curbing her hunger. That startled her more than anything the evening had brought so far. She didn't know if it was because Iris was witch-spawn or something else.
Kegs looked at the kid lurking behind Charlotte and said, "What have we here?"
His deep growl was counterpoint to his still rumbling bike. Legs had turned off her motorcycle and dismounted, while Kegs had kept the engine running and was straddling the machine, his boots rested lightly on the road holding him steady. It was like the bike was part of the vampire. Carefully looking up and down the freeway, he arrived at a conclusion and turned off his engine. He slowly moved his leg over, dismounting with a lumbering grace. He stood and stretched with a casually deceptive lack of concern. Charlotte could feel the energy crackling off Kegs and he was ready to pounce if need be.
Legs growled, "Witch-spawn."
The pronouncement was made in a tone that didn't give Charlotte any happy thoughts. And that the vampire had read Charlotte's mind so well wasn't something that made her feel good, either. Instead it unnerved her a bit. Charlotte had walked the earth far longer than the Native American vampire, yet to find her so tuned in to her thoughts wasn't pleasing in the least.
Charlotte bit back a swear word or three. Legs didn't talk much and that pronouncement didn't sound like a compliment when it spilled out from her lovely deadly lips. Accurate, but it was uncanny that Legs had pinpointed the same thing Charlotte was struggling with and had said it aloud. Witches didn't bring comfort to the normal vampires, she knew from her past.
"Yeah and you're a vampire so what!" Iris spit out from the safety of Charlotte's spine. She gave her points for moxie, even if misplaced. Vampires rarely backed anything or anyone but themselves. If push came to shove Iris was on her own, which was why her physical attachment to Charlotte was disquieting and decidedly unsettling.
The female biker nodded slowly and said, "True. But you keep uttering useless incantations and it disturbs Nature."
The fact they all heard nature in capital letters shuddered spines human and not. Then the idiot in the truck decided to interrupt. Charlotte had pretty much forgotten he was still alive.
"What the fuck?" His voice was fearless and stupid. As one all of them turned to look at him -- even Iris chanced a glance from Charlotte's back. Kegs reached into the cab of the truck and casually extracted the human with a firm grip.
"He is mine, right?" Kegs growled and shook the battered human in between both of his huge palms. Charlotte recalled that it was a favorite pastime of the biker vampire.
As much as Charlotte hated being the voice of reason, there were too many witnesses to let Kegs trash the pathetic man. She nodded to the growing number of humans, shell-shocked, getting out of their wrecked cars and lives. Sirens were warbling in the distance, growing closer and pushing her flight instinct. Sighing deeply, she shrugged and said, "Just sleep him." Meaning she wanted him to use his vampiric talents and knock the human out while giving him some sort of a hypnotic suggestion.
Kegs growled slightly. First giving her a side glance, he physically sucker-punched the blustering human before sending him into the other side of reality. Then before she could object, he continued with her request. She could feel the vampiric power running over her skin. Kegs was a strong spirit and reluctantly respected her wishes. The crackling vampiric energy danced around them all and pushed at Charlotte's hunger.
Casual violence visited on the careless few was a specialty of Kegs. She so hated when he did that. Kegs knew what she was thinking and winked while tossing the battered man back into his truck. With the whammy Kegs had done, the human would be lucky if he remembered his first name when he woke much less who or what he saw in the massive accident. Usually vampires used the technique when scrubbing clean a blood donor's brain or witnesses to events best left off the front pages of the newspapers. Every now and then a vampire tried to scrub a memory and didn't do it right and the National Enquirer and World News got a freebie that was actually true. Oh, well.
"Honey, those sirens aren't exactly going backwards here. We staying for the fireworks or hitting the road?" Kegs smiled. Either way he would be at her back helping.
"Guess we should scram. Let's wipe the prints and grab the bags Iris has. The car's possibly an off-the-book rental. Can you tag a crew to come snag it?" The other good thing about Kegs was his connection with the tow truck drivers.
"Got it." He pulled a small cell phone from a pocket, snapped it open, punched a button and barked orders to someone once they answered. The sputtering dispatcher was obviously new as Charlotte could hear the audible squeal of nerves upon hearing the boss calling in. Yeah, she had forgotten that, Kegs owned a few tow trucks yards around town.
"Kimmy, that's just fine. You answered right. No, I don't care what Meg said about your voice. Please, put Cory on for me okay?" Kegs was trying to sound nice, but still Charlotte bit back a giggle at the nervous energy flowing from the cell phone. The all-too-human dispatcher radiated prey vibes.
"Yo, Cory, I need you to pick up the pink ... fuck!" He noticed the color of the rental as headlights from the other side of the freeway hit the heavily damaged door. "C-girl, pink?" he didn't use her full name, but called her C-girl, which was a throwback to a time long past when she used to ride with him. Charlotte shrugged and Kegs continued describing the car and giving specific directions. While Kegs cleared the disposal of the wreck, Charlotte quickly wiped the interior with her sleeve. The amount of cleaning she had done lately was starting to rub her the wrong way. She liked it when others did such things. She had to get her life back in order fast.
"Thanks man. I will catch ya on the flip side." Kegs snapped shut his cell phone as she walked up carrying one of Iris' clothing bags -- the kid was still following her like a puppy dog and had the other duffle bag firmly wrapped in her arms.
He said, "We're golden. Cory is only a few miles from here and they already got the call to clear up so he won't be fighting anyone for a hook up." That was more than Charlotte needed to know, but she smiled and thanked him profusely since it appeared he would be her ride. There was no way she was going to mold to the back of Legs and hope to hang onto her seat. Legs liked to watch folks roll and react, Charlotte recalled. Some vampire bikers had developed their own form of chicken, and club initiation that was barely survivable as a vampire much less a human.
Pausing, Charlotte hated that she might have to let Iris cling like a limpet to Kegs' back given Legs' games. Her mind worked all the angles and she only saw one viable solution given the quickly approaching sirens. So far there weren't any more motorcycles heading into the traffic accident so she was safe for a few more minutes but the crowd was getting more and more vocal in their pain and dying. Sighing she looked at the woman and asked directly, "Will you protect this child with your life?"
There were layers being asked. Not only did she now totally owe Kegs a huge favor, but she owed Legs something more. Legs could blood call Charlotte to defend her life now. Kegs protested, "You don't have to ask!"
Charlotte knew differently. Witches weren't something vampires tangled with and Legs had an entire history of conflicts with vampires alone so she figured out that witches weren't high on her list of folks happy with her either. Thus Kegs couldn't speak for Legs. Something odd fluttered inside her when Legs met her eyes.
"I respect your request." Charlotte felt the magic weight to Legs slow reply. Iris gasped and involuntarily squeaked out, "She's like my mom!" That did nothing to help Charlotte as she had noticed that Legs hadn't said yes.
Kegs eyed his partner and avoided saying anything more. He finally picked up on the currents of unsaid running between them all. Charlotte appreciated his keeping quiet, but knew that it was only a matter of minutes before people came over to see what was happening. The guy in the truck was still slumped over his seat nearly invisible. She heard a scream of pain in the distance and it was pushing at her hunger. Charlotte wasn't ready to fang into any of the victims, but it was quickly approaching the point of no return. A steady hum of pain and suffering accented with fear was creating a huge vacuum of energy. Vampires weren't the only ones tuned into such disasters and the carrion eaters would descend soon -- if they weren't already supping on the edges. Charlotte didn't feel like reaching out and finding something staring back at her from the abyss.
"I will take the witch-spawn with me. You and Kegs go check out of the hotel you got the ugly car from and meet us at Eddie's place." Legs wasn't asking but commanding. Charlotte kept a lid on how that made her feel. Kegs may have responded to her mental plea for help, but he wasn't in charge anymore. If he truly ever had been, it came to Charlotte as she stood there on the side of the highway inhaling the fears and death dancing in the wind.
After that they quickly packed up and got on the bikes and disappeared before anyone official could come over and ask them what had happened. The debris field from the massive accident was keeping them isolated by being in the front but it wouldn't last. The sounds of control and folks with badges and questions seemed pressingly closer. Iris looked tiny behind Legs with her duffle bag looped through her arms resting against her spine like an oversized backpack. All it would take was one good dip and Iris would be on her back like a turtle. Charlotte kept her opinion to herself and melted into Kegs' spine. He laughed and floored it. Iris' other bag was linked through Charlotte's arms also behind her but she was in no danger of falling off. She had ridden with Kegs for a long time -- a lifetime ago.
Iris and Charlotte naturally didn't have helmets so both Kegs and Legs headed for the surface streets off the freeway quickly. There was no need for them to get a ticket or attract any more attention than they already had. That freeway mess would be keeping most of the cops busy for a while. Once they hit the main road the two riders split off in different directions with their passengers clinging tightly to their backs. At a stop light, Charlotte told Kegs which hotel they were heading for and mentioned that she had a car there. He laughed.
"What, you don't like riding with me any more?" It was obvious to Charlotte that he was in no hurry to let her go. But then Charlotte always knew that he had a soft spot for her. Legs was not fond of any of Kegs old crew or friends ,Charlotte figured out a long time ago, and since Kegs was happy with Legs she let it slide as she distanced herself from the female vampire.
"I love riding but have a bit of baggage to bring with me." She smiled thinking of the various bits she had still at the hotel and around town.
Kegs ignored the light change to green and turned to look at Charlotte.
"So I've heard. You need any help with Kenyon?" He was deadly serious.
The street they were on was abandoned for the most part, and nobody was wandering around the currently closed strip malls that lined the road. Charlotte knew Kegs would welcome the chance to battle for her. She also couldn't ask that of him. Not for Kenyon. She didn't want him risking crossing the vampire council, much less piss off Legs. Without asking she knew damn well Legs wouldn't be so ready to back her against Kenyon.
"Nah, Kegs, I'm good." Well, sort of, but she let that thought slide from her brain before Kegs picked up on it.
Smiling he said, "You sure are."
She laughed openly and with genuine feeling. Kegs always made her happy. His way of life and causing death was fearless and awe inspiring. As a human he'd been a warrior in an age long past. Charmingly, as a vampire he adapted to the rogue elements of the society for whatever era he was in and lived to the fullest. Very few vampires proved to be so versatile over time. The older ones clung to their human stations and personas which at times caused their deaths. Kegs ran wild through time and loved every moment he was living in and Charlotte tried to keep that spirit. Living in the moment had distinct advantages, she'd always found.