"Damn you all!" Janice screeched while Garry simply whimpered. The vampires certainly knew who the alpha was between those two. Garry was curled around his pain, not looking nearly as cocky as he had earlier. Both of them had seen the bloody handprint on the other's forehead and figured out that their protection was gone. The leashes attached to the flat black collars weren't going unnoticed either. The room had closed in on them with Iris' magic and the scent of death was a miasma they all could feel running over their skin. Charlotte was getting really hungry and no longer as afraid of sinking into the two leashed in front of her.
"Hey, Janice, you're what twenty-one or twenty-two?" She couldn't resist checking. Janice was glaring at them all. A lank of the poorly-dyed black hair fell forwards somewhat spoiling the menacing look she had been attempting. Her brown eyes were looking a tad bloodshot and the kohl she had lined them with many hours earlier was rubbed around giving her a decidedly raccoon-like appearance. The clothing they both sported had been jet black probably around two years ago Charlotte figured but the washer had leached out much of the crispness and faded the shade to a dingy gray. They weren't as menacing as they had thought.
"Hell with you I'm twenty-five!" Janice bit out automatically. It seemed she wasn't happy with looking young for her age. Not that it mattered much anymore since she wouldn't be seeing another birthday. That was a given and now Charlotte was pleased to hear that she wasn't jail bait for vampires. A wicked grin stretched over her face and Janice's head pulled back towards Toby without his yanking on the leash. A tickle of fear ran through the girl. Finally her situation was sinking in, and she wasn't sure what to do.
Garry tried to lift his greasy dark head enough to show interest but his ankle was obviously disturbing him. Charlotte glanced over and said, "Tough break huh?"
His face went a shade whiter than it had been and creases were forming around his mouth. It was like he was aging before their eyes. Pain did that to a person they all well knew. His fears on the other hand weren't as closely held in check as Janice's and he was shivering a bit. He saw the plastic on top of the flooring and had rather quickly put that through his brain and quite logically concluded his demise wasn't as far away as he might naturally think. All in all, a pretty smart human Charlotte thought. Too bad he'd been spying on her.
"Garry, I asked you a question." Charlotte nudged his damaged foot with hers and he shrieked.
"Yessss---damn it. Yes!" The pain-filled answer was nectar to them all. The sound of vampires sniffing the air with interest was definitely heard. His hazel eyes had changed to a slate gray as the pain kept leaching out the fight he had in him. Janice opened her mouth to say something and Toby curbed her with a brisk snap of the leash. Subdued, she kept her thoughts to herself.
"Good, so why were you waiting for me at the hotel?" She hadn't wanted to begin the questioning but given his rolling fears and pain he wasn't going to be long for the room. Janice was a tougher cookie, but Eddie was pretty good at breaking humans down.
Then Charlotte saw Iris' face. The child wasn't in the least afraid of what was happening. In fact, she was somewhat eager, it appeared. There was a reason why she had been kept from her mother's fetchers and it didn't seem to be a normal human reason. The child was feeding on the display of power the vampires were giving. Every nuance and gesture was being categorized and stored in the kid's brain. She'd really wanted to meet vampires was all Charlotte could figure. Suddenly Iris ducked her head saying, "No!"
A bright flash of light burst into the middle of the small space. Pain flashed across their skin and Charlotte felt like she had a light sunburn. Something she hadn't even remembered having as a human all those decades ago. Had the bright light lasted another second Charlotte wondered if she would have been charred. Thankfully the light faded quickly saving her from learning firsthand what exactly would happen with more exposure.
"Iris!" A voice melodically danced into their heads. The light was completely gone leaving them all somewhat temporarily blinded. Both Garry and Janice whimpered.
"Mother!" That clarified nothing but Charlotte kept her mouth shut.
"Iris, how many times do I have to tell you to stop interfering?" The voice was heartbreakingly sweet music to the vampires. Charlotte trembled with lost memories of her mother. Her parents never had been so caring as this witch was. Agony of loss ran over her mind and shuddered through her soul. From what was flowing from her fellow vampires they were all wrestling with similar emotions and chaotic memories.
"But Kenyon sent his sweepers to your house. I was just playing," a whiny tone from the child. Iris pushed her glasses back with her finger slowly while looking up at the voice. She was subdued seeing her mom in the room.
None of the vampires spoke and they all waited. The woman was slowly materializing in their range of vision. Very slowly. It wasn't just because of the amazingly bright sun like flash of light but how she was actually stepping through the fabric of the air.
The men gasped and Charlotte sighed. Iris' mom wasn't some soccer mom with a bad hair cut and twenty pounds of excess baggage. The woman looked to be in her thirties but that was just a guess. Her hair fell to the middle of her waist in a riot of untamed beauty. Auburn color rich with browns, golds and reds with a set of green eyes set perfectly into her face. The white skin had not a single mark but was like she had milk poured over her at birth. Unblemished by a freckle or single line she was a goddess breathing. She wasn't wearing some gothic gown or elaborate designer dress but black jeans and a cotton shirt. It didn't matter what she wore because she glowed health and beauty.
"Mistress, we failed." Janice groaned from the floor where she lay prostrate at the woman's feet. Garry had joined her in the subservient pose.
"No, you did my child's bidding not mine. You had no choice in the matter. Iris, tell these nice vampires what you did." The tone used offered Iris no choice. The crackling of magic was surrounding all of them. Eddie caught Charlotte's eye and shrugged slightly. He didn't have any more of a clue what was happening than she did. That didn't exactly give her warm fuzzy feelings. Near master-level vampires were supposed to know things that the general vampire population didn't. Eddie was as lost about all this as she was.
Tears unspilled rested on the bottom lashes of her face as she replied, "I used my power to send these two to watch over you, Miss Charlotte, after the accident. And I used my power to cause harm to the vampire in the basement." Her eyes dipped down and she scuffed her toe again the plastic. The noise reminded everyone what it was intended for and both the prone humans winced.
"Iris, tell them all of it." A feeling of dread ran around the room at the sheer level of anger. Mommy wasn't happy with her offspring and not a single vampire was going to interfere with her.
A sob caught in the child's throat as she looked at her angry mother. "Do I have to?" She hiccupped a bit and the tears rolled down her face. It probably would have been heartbreaking, had Charlotte not caught the glint of amusement in Iris' eyes.
The glint didn't go unnoticed by her mother either. A zap and Iris was on her knees with a blue-green glow over her keeping her down. The energy in the room was intense. Mommy wasn't happy with her offspring in the least.
Turning around and looking at the four vampires she apologized, "I am sorry my daughter has interfered with your lives. Thank you, Charlotte, for coming to her aid. She'd been testing my control over those two for a while and pretending to be me had sent them off to get her ice cream or something when the sweepers showed up. Had you not helped her back at the house the situation might have gotten out of control."
Charlotte wondered about the accident they had been involved in on the freeway. She had been thinking it was Kenyon-related but now it seemed Iris had some of her own games going on the entire time. She wasn't ready to ask any questions since the mom was nicely filling in some holes unasked.
"Iris is supposed to be learning her lessons not trying to interfere in vampire or human lives. She wasn't supposed to use her magic for anything. I will be happy to pay for any damage she did." Since she wasn't wearing a purse nobody volunteered a dollar amount. But Charlotte was still bugged by some unanswered questions floating around her head.
"What about these two?" She gestured to the humans. Mom wrinkled her nose in irritation and said, "Well, I can't let you drain them. But this will help." She spoke the incantation needed and both of them flattened dead asleep. Charlotte automatically checked and heard a very slow pulse in each of them.
"I will mind swipe them. If you would like I can do it here?" She asked Eddie.
"No, Mistress, I think I can take your word for it." He simply handed over the leash to her. Toby did the same unasked.
"Charlotte, the car accident was my fault," Iris said while still on her knees. The gloating look had disappeared as she struggled to keep her face from the floor. The crackling of the plastic reminded her of the room's use and a look of disgust covered her face.
Puzzled Charlotte simply arched an eyebrow, "How?"
"Mom has this kind of cosmic lo-jack on me. I thought I had it beat. Whenever I get too far from home things begin to stop me or slow me down. Since you were driving in the car an accident was the result. When I was on the motorcycle with Legs I had Garry and Janice go spy on you to make sure you weren't ... " she paused as she searched for the word. Her mom finished for her, "What Iris meant to say was that you moved her and she wasn't sure if I had put a curse on anyone who moved her. Since she didn't want you to come to harm she sent these two. Knowing it would buy her time and change the spells."
Charlotte nodded and didn't quite know what to say.
"How did you know which hotel?" Kegs said with a growl from the wall.
"Oh, that? The car from the accident was taken from the hotel. So it was easy." She said calmly as if that was apparent to everyone. Charlotte figured it had something do to with more magic and she had no desire to ask any more questions. The rest of the vampires seemed to agree and waited to see what Iris' mom was going to do.
"Mistress, forgive our manners. I am Eddie. This is Toby, Kegs and Charlotte." The semi-formality so late in the game somewhat amused Charlotte but it was polite. Charlotte noticed he hadn't given their full names not that such omissions could keep the woman from finding them if she wanted.
A tinkling of crystal floated for a second in the room then it dawned on everyone that was the witch's laughter. "Pleased to meet you, Edward. I am Marissa Stonehouse Lawson." She was finding something funny she wasn't sharing with any of them. Charlotte noticed that mom's last name was different than Iris' so she did wonder where the father was, if he was even still alive.
Eddie ignored her calling him by his full name but then Mistress Marissa seemed to have her own set of rules. And add in that she hadn't exactly entered walking through the front door so Charlotte agreed with Eddie's decision to leave it alone. Kegs was still worried about Legs and not about to piss off the head witch asking about his mate. He would have to work all that out on his own.