Eddie pondered Charlotte's question. She was asking for his help. She wanted his advice. Twenty years ago Eddie would have given her the world for the asking. Kenyon had pushed them apart and started building an army. Eddie matched him fang for fang. Lately Kenyon had been losing his vampires through mistakes and well-placed stakes. Eddie still would do anything for Charlotte. Not that she knew it. She never considered that her vampiric powers coupled with his could overthrow the restraints Kenyon had put on her. But then she had just found him. He'd spent months, hell years, wondering what he could've done differently. Well, now was his chance to change everything.
She looked at him with huge vulnerable eyes. He wanted to kill Kenyon for making her worry. Keeping his face blank he waited for more from her. He didn't have long to wait, Charlotte was never one to stay still very long. Eddie was happy to see time hadn't changed everything.
Charlotte put her hand over Eddie's and said, "Eddie, help me. Give me some idea of how I can keep my throat while making sure Kenyon loses his? The council will back him automatically. He has friends and has paid his dues. All I have been is eye candy and fang friend to some less-than-stellar vampires." It dawned on her that he could take that the wrong way. She tightened her hand over his, "I don't mean you!"
He chuckled softly. He knew what she was trying to say. Her impulse control tended to go off course when she was upset. It always made for some fun since most vampires were so structured and staid that they were terminally boring.
"We need to gather a few folks and see who else we can get to join the party." Eddie suggested turning his palm to clasp her hand within his. Her answering grip made him hopeful. Part of him hated that he was hopeful. He had been down this path before and it hadn't ended well.
"Okay, so who do we call? Is there a new phone book out there with a section of fang listings?" Charlotte went for the cheap joke.
Grinning, Eddie nodded, "But actually it is more technologically advanced. Let's hit the net."
Charlotte nodded. There were internet sites for pretty much everything, and to find there was a vampire phone listing didn't greatly surprise her. She glanced around seeing nothing remotely like a computer anywhere in the bar. Arching an eyebrow at her she said, "Hmmm ... so what, we head over to the local college and log in?"
Laughing he pulled her off the stool with their clasped hands saying, "No, Charlotte, I actually have a computer."
She let him pull her along and saw that they were heading upstairs. Charlotte didn't recall seeing a computer in the room the night before, but then she hadn't been exactly looking too closely. What with dragging bespelled humans into the back room while watching her back she hadn't been precisely at her best.
Giggling Charlotte said, "You have a computer! I am speechless. What is it a 268 with a fifty pound monitor?"
"Speechless? Tell me it's not so!" Eddie laughed with her and didn't correct her impression about his equipment.
They hit the door and it dawned on Charlotte she hadn't seen or felt Toby since she had shown up.
"Where's Toby?" She asked softly looking downstairs and not seeing him. He was hard to miss given his size.
"I sent him out on a few errands. I felt we should fortify a tad and check out our competition a bit. With the witches now becoming players in our vampire games, I figured some recon wouldn't hurt any." Eddie took her seriously, and answered her with more than Kenyon ever did. A thrill ran down her spine at being treated like an equal, not simply an arm ornament. She never knew what Kenyon was doing. He never told her. Hell, she hadn't known about his sweepers until she ran into Jim and Bethany.
That itched her brain, "Eddie, do your associates know if Jim hit town?"
Stunned he looked at her before opening the door to the loft room.
"Damn, Charlotte! Kenyon kept you completely in the dark about vampire affairs didn't he?" His face was a mixture of emotions she couldn't read.
"What happened?" She snarled, getting edgy, knowing it wasn't his fault she was ignorant. Kenyon really didn't tell her anything and she wasn't ready to admit it. She should have pressed for answers. Instead she let Kenyon lead the vampires and now it appeared he didn't exactly make the smartest choices -- like she hadn't already suspected as much from his missteps with her.
"A few of my 'associates' saw Jim drive in very late last night. He went straight to Dark Whispers. Kenyon and Jim met up this evening. I found this out because one of his stolen fledglings is actually mine. Jim isn't aware of the blood tie. She said that Jim was in Kenyon's for less than two hours and something severed on him. She nearly died. Once fed, she reported Jim was being kept near death by Kenyon, locked inside his brain. He was calling for all his blood ties to come save him. We had to lock her up. She's mindless and tormented by Jim's agony." Eddie spoke softly while watching the blood drain from Charlotte's face.
"I never felt a thing." Charlotte was stunned by the news. Not really upset -- just surprised she hadn't felt Kenyon slamming Jim into vampire hell. She knew that she was kept at a distance from most of the other vampires, but she didn't really care. They never seemed to last very long and were always scheming and planning some stupid challenges thinking they would curry favor with Kenyon if they showed their prowess as an evil mean vampire. Charlotte thought it was pretty stupid and narrow minded. Because if Kenyon thought they were getting too strong, he fanged in and sucked them down to the bone or close to that. It made for some messy staff meetings, Charlotte had found. Which is why she usually skipped such gatherings.
"Kenyon has you wrapped tightly in cotton keeping you from everything and anything. Why are you surprised?" Eddie was genuinely puzzled.
"I just figured I should feel something with Jim. Oh well -- not like I felt anything when I killed Bethany so you're probably right." Charlotte was reworking her world view and finding a few holes. That didn't make her happy but she would get over it.
They hit the top of the stairs and went into the room. The plasma TV was on and some Hollywood talk show giving fake stories about human pseudo-celebrities was blaring rather loudly into the room. It was then Charlotte noticed the desk in the opposite corner of the room. During the previous visit she hadn't really had time to stare into the shadows. Because that corner, she knew, had been filled with dark shadows the night before --she hadn't noticed the computer set up. She certainly noticed now since there was a long blond haired vampire facing an amazingly large monitor and tapping and swearing in equal measures.
"Nathan, meet Charlotte. Charlotte this is my resident computer wizard Nathan." Nathan spun and looked quickly at Eddie saying, "What's up?"
"How you doing with the vampire search?" Eddie asked giving his computer savvy vampire wide berth. Charlotte wasn't surprised to find Eddie had already anticipated her request.
Nathan clicked a few more keys then said, "How much do you need to know?"
"What do you have?" Eddie asked. "Anything on your computer helping?"
Nathan looked at the computer and said, "This here is my system. It's not, as you said, a computer. It's an AMD, because everyone knows Intel sucks, Athlon 64 6000+ proc with dual NVIDIA GeForce 8800's in an SLI config because ya know that ATI's Linux support is like total crap and 4 gig's of DDR2 RAM and 4 500 gig SATA hard drives setup in RAID-5. All in a sweet black box with plexi-glass panels in the chassis, a hydro-cooling system and LED lights lighting up the interior and of course a high-def 36 in wide screen plasma. It can pretty much do anything you want. Give me some boundaries here, Eddie."
Charlotte said, "How about you just find that little vampire listing Eddie was talking about and let's get some numbers and addresses?"
"Doable. But how far out do you want me to look?" Nathan didn't understand their questions or their urgency.
"Head to internet explorer and pop into the search line and type vampires," Charlotte snarled not caring about his precious system.
"God, Eddie, where do you find such creatures? Internet Explorer? I might as well pull out the actual phone book and use a magic marker circling names." Nathan disdained the comment with undisguised revulsion.
"Knock yourself out, if you can't handle your own system. We will make do with the printed word." Charlotte gave as good as she got with a raised lip showing a flash of incisor and a promise of full on fangs if Nathan didn't get her meaning.
His eyes widened slightly and then he laughed, "Eddie, this one has spunk. Too bad she's Kenyon's vampire."
One step too far and Charlotte was spinning the beautiful creature around and in his face. Throwing her will into her eyes she tipped up his face, "I am nobody's vampire."
His eyes met her flatly. He understood, but there was no tension. Then it dawned on Charlotte. Laughing she stepped back and spun on Eddie saying, "My, my ... this techno boy of yours has some fangs. He definitely prefers your company to mine. Want me to leave you two alone to work out the kinks in Nathan's lines?"
Eddie's eyes snapped to hers huge as he caught the double entendre and implications. He hadn't really paid much attention to Nathan but Charlotte's smile and knowing glance made him stiffen. She noticed and giggled again. Nathan noticed too and smiled saying, "I am wrong, Eddie. I do like this one."
Turning to business Nathan worked his fingers magically fast and soon the huge monitor was filling with names and addresses and web pages at times. The vampires all watched and every now and then Eddie or Charlotte would ask him to print a page. Before long they had a stack of vampires known to the three of them. There were vampire sites that Nathan knew the codes to enter while a few Eddie and Charlotte had passwords. Whenever Nathan ran into a site unfamiliar to any of them he marked it saying, "I'll get into this one later." Charlotte gathered that Nathan had a skill set that was far beyond just typing and clicking.
Nathan laughed and brought up a page saying, "So, either of you know this one?"
They both looked at the gorgeous man's face filling the screen.
"Nathan, that's the nightly anchor for the local news station here in town!" Charlotte was amused.
Laughing Nathan turned with a wicked grin dancing on his lips, "And so much more. He's my master."
Charlotte had thought Eddie had turned Nathan. Arching an eyebrow at Eddie he shrugged, "I knew it was some local celebrity but never pressed."
"Come on, a newscaster?" Charlotte waited to hear that Nathan was teasing them.
Nathan grinned, "Yep, he picked me up at a local club and took me home promising to show me the world. I got the fast fang tour of town. He was here because of job changes and hasn't got a territory established. He really doesn't want one. Every now and then he picks up someone from a bar or club and if he thinks they are worth his time he turns us. He's made maybe a half dozen vampires over the past twenty years."
"Well, here I thought he looked so young because of plastic surgery and dyed hair!" Charlotte admitted.
"His contract is up this coming year and he won't renew. He cut most of his boys loose about five years ago. He knew that he couldn't stay here much longer without attracting unwanted attention and didn't want us slaughtered by the council when he moved on to another city." Nathan said without any sign of regret.
"How did you end up at Eddie's?" She asked.
"On the back of a Harley, naturally," Nathan deadpanned.
Looking at the handsome man she wasn't overly surprised he found a biker but was rather surprised that he ended up at the bar. Most bikers had the image of being men's men. But then Nathan did fit that mold. Eddie grinned knowing how Charlotte thought.
"Be nice." Was all Eddie said.