Nathan spun back to his obscenely large monitor and keystroked rapidly another string of letters of an address to a web site with hearts and bats as the background theme of the opening page and after clicking a few things came up with link, "How about this sweetie?"
Eddie and Charlotte rolled their eyes at each other over Nathan's back before focusing on the image on the screen. They both were expecting to see another handsome male and they were surprised to see a stunning brunette woman's face half turned. It was obviously a candid shot and the lady hadn't posed or even known the camera was there. Charlotte suspected it was taken with a cell camera or some other means like a telephoto lens set up. There was a grainy quality to the picture suggesting poor quality cell digital or distance.
"Who is she?" Charlotte asked as Eddie continued to study the rough picture.
"That, Charlotte, is one of the most evil vampires I know." Was all he said and he clicked to another web shot of a different vampire.
Eddie and Charlotte shrugged at each other as it became obvious that the wicked vampire was going to remain unnamed and off their list. Nathan added a few more head shots of vampires they either knew or had passing knowledge of and add some more names and phone numbers. Finally he said, "Well, that's it for now until I get to those other sites." He was talking about the sites he bookmarked because he couldn't immediately gain access. Charlotte figured he didn't want her to watch his site hacking abilities.
Looking at the mass of papers printed Eddie said, "Now what?"
Charlotte knew she should be actively involved in rounding up more vampires, but was now somewhat daunted by the number of vampires running around the area. She hadn't realized how many had been made in the past few decades. And worse, she didn't know very many of them. Eddie hadn't been kidding about her being kept wrapped in cotton by Kenyon. He had dampened down her abilities at reading the terrain and feeling other vampires. That scared her even more than she'd ever admit.
"Let's leave Nathan to his search and go next door and figure out where to start," Eddie suggested.
"Sure." She was lost in thought as she headed back downstairs. He was half a step behind her equally as silent.
A silky voice called out, "There you are, darling!" An elegant figure accompanied the vampire's sexy voice and was briskly heading for Eddie. Charlotte did wonder why it seemed she was always one of the smallest vampires around whenever there were women sounding like that. The vampire was tall and rail thin and naturally dressed completely in black leather. Not biker leather but more along the lines of a Victoria's Secret bad-girl collection -- soft, supple and not a line out of place.
Her jet black sleek hair was sharply cut off at the collar bones. Lovely alabaster ones Charlotte noticed with a distracted air as the impact of blue eyes hit hers. The eyes dismissed her without a word, and the vampire roughly passed by Charlotte all but shoving her off the bottom step in her haste to find her 'darling'. Charlotte stepped further into the bar while Eddie sucked in his own bit of air as the creature slid up to him and proceeded to wrap herself around his entire body.
Stupidly Charlotte had assumed Eddie wasn't involved with anyone. Which, given Eddie, was unlikely in any age, whether he was vampire or human. She didn't recognize the vampire but the scent she wore made Charlotte's nose itch. Granted she didn't have to breathe but still vampires shouldn't douse themselves in cheap perfumes if they wanted to snack on humans. A sound like a champagne cork popping let Charlotte see Eddie's face again. The enthusiastic tonsil hockey irrationally irritated Charlotte as much as the bad perfume. Eddie was frantically trying to untangle himself with no luck.
"Eddie, where were you last night? You never came over!" The implication was obvious to Charlotte that Eddie normally didn't sleep in the building next door with the vampire licking his lips and murmuring something about loneliness and horniness. Bits of information Charlotte really didn't need to know about the woman or Eddie.
"Well, thanks for the help. I'll just get my car and head to the hotel," Charlotte glibly spouted lies while briskly walking to the bar. Toby had returned and she planned on getting out of the bar before the situation became even more awkward.
Toby caught the desperation in Charlotte's eyes and met her half way. He lifted her up and swung her around saying, "There's my vampire angel."
The sheer silliness of a grown deep voice vampire calling her an angel cracked her up. Laughing she leaned forward meeting his forehead with hers, "Here I am!"
Vampire hearing being a tad stronger than humans Charlotte easily heard the creature purr, "Who's the trash Toby just picked up?"
Had Toby not been a really good friend and a very strong vampire Charlotte would have been fang deep into the bitch. His arms were the only things keeping her airborne. She resisted the urge to break free from her friend and launch back solidly to the base of the stairs where the vampire was smirking. Eddie audibly gasped, as he knew from how Charlotte stiffened she definitely heard the woman's comment. Hell, half the bar heard the remark pretending to be a question.
Purring into Toby's face Charlotte asked, "Honey, I think you should put me down so I can meet that lovely creature." Toby's eyes widened at the power flowing through Charlotte and out. She rarely pushed with her vampiric talents but suddenly she had an urge to impress and cause some extreme duress.
Trying to diffuse the situation Eddie took Charlotte's comment at face value, "Belinda Redmond, this is an old friend of mine, Charlotte. Charlotte, hell, what last name are you using nowadays?" He tried for the cheap joke given the vampire tendency to keep their first names while faking their last over time. It was met with absolute silence. Toby had set her down but still had his hands firmly on her shoulders keeping her in front of him and not over at the foot of the staircase ripping off the vampire Belinda's face. It was touch and go for a minute, him wondering if he would be able to keep her in place without appearing to be physically holding her down.
"Oh, so she's old, huh?" The syrupy sweet voice asked with a bitter bite. Charlotte's fangs began to prick the inside of her mouth and she whispered, "Oh, I don't know about old. But I'm fairly experienced in cleaning up nasty bits of litter."
There was a reason vampires rarely stayed together in large groups for any length of time and in the few minutes Charlotte had known Belinda she was more than willing to have one less vampire walking. Toby groaned. Belinda mistakenly thought she was winning and flashed a large toothy grin at the general masses.
Eddie tried to help again, "Charlotte, so Belinda usually works up in Los Angeles. She's one of the vampires who pick up fiction writers to take to book signings. She wipes the 'real' ones vampire stories from their heads." Like Charlotte even cared what that anorexic vampire did?
"Oh, so she is a working girl in LA?" Charlotte asked in a pseudo innocent voice. The implication was obvious to everyone in hearing range. Charlotte had just called Belinda a hooker. She wasn't done, "That explains the perfume. Belinda, when it costs twenty buck a bottle and smells like that -- much like your customers -- someone paid too much."
Belinda hissed and launched herself at Charlotte, fangs and sharp acrylic nails flying. Eddie wrapped his arm around Belinda's waist and completely yanked her off her feet while saying in a commanding voice, "Enough. Respect Charlotte!"
Charlotte was happy to see a smile on Eddie's face. He liked her dig. But then Belinda wasn't that old of a vampire. New vampires tended to overstep their boundaries unless slapped viciously down at ever turn. They both knew it and it warmed her to realize that Eddie still knew it.
And she certainly would be happy to shorten that vampire's life -- given a minute or three -- since in the mere three minutes or less Belinda had graced her world were less than stellar. A bit of payback for the trash comment might of course lengthen that time schedule for vampire hell a little. Charlotte knew that most of what she was thinking flashed out of her eyes because Belinda's pretty baby blues widened beyond the normal human and vampire range.
"You wouldn't dare!" Again that hissing non-melodic tone; Belinda wasn't quite so perfect as she thought she was, Charlotte thought while flashing her fully dropped fangs.
Laughing Charlotte looked up at Toby still holding her shoulders in his large hands.
"You want to share with the newbie?" She was delighted by the shiver Toby couldn't suppress.
Eddie didn't let Toby reply. He was still holding Belinda by her waist when he said, "Charlotte doesn't give a damn about you. The only reason you are still standing is because Toby doesn't want to dispose of your body."
Toby simply nodded while lifting his hands from Charlotte's shoulders saying, "But I am willing to find a spot, if there's anything left, if you don't bow to her, Belinda."
Spinning into Toby's arms Charlotte squealed, "You are so sweet!"
Eddie groaned seeing that Charlotte was now free to destroy the vampire if she wished. Hearing the sound from her lover Belinda stopped struggling to free herself and said, "You think she could kill me?" The arched tones of superiority would have been more impressive if she hadn't had her voice crack mid-sentence.
Every vampire in the bar laughed. It wasn't that friendly kind of laughter of family and cohorts enjoying something but the evil chuckles of folks who know more than someone else. The conversations had pretty much dropped off while every vampire listened to the exchange.
Belinda blanched to beyond death pale and looked at Charlotte with panic.
"Who are you?" She gasped out as it slowly dawned on her that Charlotte wasn't some push over.
"So many cliches so little time." Charlotte leaned against Toby to keep herself grounded while she taunted Belinda. She battled her instincts because she had plenty to do and as satisfying as a good slaying would feel she didn't need to get distracted. But soon she was going to be fang deep into someone or she would explode.
Belinda spun angrily to Eddie and hissed, "Who is she and why is everyone laughing at me?"
Eddie said, "I told you this is Charlotte."
The emphasis finally caught Belinda's ear. It was then that everyone watching saw the light bulb flash above Belinda's brain. She gasped and said, "You mean to say this is Kenyon's fucking Charlotte?"
Laughing Charlotte said, "Language! And I am not anybody's fucking anything."
She had no need to rub it in because Belinda was now softly quivering. She obviously had heard a bit about Charlotte once the name sunk in and knocked her for a loop. Toby laughed richly saying, "No, Charlotte is definitely in a league of her own."
Belinda then did something completely unexpected. She sketched a full bow towards Charlotte saying, "I am sorry."
A pin could have been dropped -- hell a feather -- and it would have been heard crystal clear. Then softly there was the sound of palms slapping together. Applause ran around the bar with Eddie smiling.
"Welcome home." Eddie spoke softly.
Grinning Charlotte asked, "So how we going to clean Kenyon's clock?"
Still holding the sheaf of papers Eddie said, "Well, first let's contact a few faces and get together tomorrow night here. I think we need to get a game plan in order." Murmurs rattled around the bar and cell phones came out. Toby let Charlotte stand on her own as he collected the papers Nathan had printed and began handing them out. Voices began hailing the vampires that answer and a buzz went around the bar. It wasn't fear but excitement. It looked like war was coming.
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