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August 15, 2022

Strange Bedfellows 08

By Lydia Manx

We were all frozen watching the young werewolf deal with the silver laden girl. Her incandescent yellow hair drew us nearly as much as her piercings. Both of the werewolves at our table were old enough that they knew they couldn't dash over in time to help the young were in his horror. The nails dug into the man's arm weren't tipped with silver, thankfully, or he'd already be fatally poisoned. Renee hissed as she saw the thick silver bracelet that had been high up on the stupid girl's forearm slide towards the gal's hand and the young werewolf's exposed skin.

Carlos had not dropped the remote expression from his face. I took it to be the distance of a leader from his pack trying to ready himself for a blow. And quite rightly since the blowback from a werewolf falling prey to a human in this crowd would be epic. Marcus was angry and holding himself tightly in check; as Carlos' second he had to maintain the same facade as his leader.

I didn't have anything to gain from watching the werewolf die a horribly painful poisoning and was a trifle pumped still from the feeding earlier so I hopped up from the stool and lightning fast, put myself between the young were and the trollop.

Seeing me suddenly between her and the man of her choice the idiot snarled, "He's mine, bitch. Get lost."

I curled my hand over her claws, and tightened quickly snapping the fine bones keeping her fingers moveable while saying, "I'm not a bitch. I'm a vampire and you aren't very smart are you? Coming into Kenyon's club dressed like bait wearing lures. What is a girl to think?"

Her hand was still in mine and the werewolf quickly backed up and Marcus was there to lead the shaken werewolf back to the table I'd just departed. His whispered thanks was for my ears only. The rest of the club was being entertained by the girl's screaming. She was a wuss. I was shocked she even thought she'd be good fang food.

Kenyon was instantly there. He was dressed in dramatic period piece of the late Renaissance. I found it to be an affectation given I don't think Kenyon was nearly that old or that elegant. His silk shirt was red and yellow, which I found ironic knowing the meaning of the colors. Red was for nobility and yellow for hostility. Covering the slick shirt was a black Italian doublet with soft lacings loosely keeping the front closed while still revealing his lightly ruffled shirt. Nestled in the folds was some sort of pendant. The black leggings encasing his legs were tight which was authentic to the period but by their sheen I knew they weren't that old. The black leather knee high boots were soft and looked supple. They were older than the rest of his costume because that was what it was.

I knew laughing would be bad, so I quickly concentrated on drinking in the still screaming girl's pain. I could hear the shifts of bodies in the crowd as they took in Kenyon's outfit. Nobody chuckled, but I could tell I'd have to be careful not to make a mockery of this vampire.

"Natasha, I see you have met one of the new children of my home." The girl stopped screaming when Kenyon put his hand on her head. She slumped and her eyes glazed over. He'd knocked her unconscious.

"She's an idiot, Kenyon. Wearing all this silver in a crowd. Attracting my attention like good bait. What was I to do?" I went for coy. He grinned and laughed loudly.

"She's new. Hasn't got the guide book to care and feeding of us I guess." He was playing the royal to the hilt. Something glittered deeper in his eyes and I gathered he wasn't happy with her attire either. He gestured with his head to one of the boys behind the bars and two came around and pulled her unresistingly out of the main room.

He wasn't wearing a hat, but that would have been overkill inside and would have restricted his peripheral vision. But his jerking of his head revealed his pendant and I bit back a gasp and dropped my eyes quickly to find Harry had got to my side and was pressing something into my palm. The small cell phone quickly slid into my inside jacket pocket with a fast movement while I tried to figure out what to do with the new information. Kenyon was wearing the pendant of a Master vampire anointed by the vampiric council in Europe. There were two ways of getting such a piece. One was through a ceremony at a gathering of Masters with much ritual, and we all would have known throughout the lands the vampire that merited such pomp and circumstance. Once you had such a pendant there was a level of respect and allegiance, which most Masters would bow to one way or another. The second way was by killing a Master vampire with such a pendant. A task that younger vampires never attained as a rule until they were equal to such a vampire, and would respect the blessing and fear the results of overstepping.

Kenyon had no such fears, it seemed, and his attire made suddenly made sense. He was mocking the Master vampire he'd killed to get the pendant. Harry must have had some inkling because he was still radiating calmness strongly and keeping me in check. The layers of rules broken and lines crossed were remarkable, and Simon would not be pleased. Kenyon was serious about his expanding the territories and he needed the werewolves more than ever now. There would be blood flowing in the gutters by dawn if the werewolves didn't back the vampires. Kenyon needed the accord and marriage now more than ever. He'd brought the opportunity for war up close and personal in a new direction.

I offered, "Well, that'll keep a girl in trouble now won't it? Not knowing the rules isn't ever a good thing. How you doing, Kenyon?"

Harry sighed as I baited my hook slightly. If I'd done anything else, Kenyon would have been suspicious of me. Harry knew that but still wanted me elsewhere. I knew it without a word from him.

"Natasha, I am well. You are looking quite delicious as usual. Are you finding my town to your liking?" He put an icy finger on my face and traced down from my cheek to my slightly parted lips. The cold finger was a shock. To my surprise it seemed that he hadn't fed before the meet. That concerned me. A hungry vampire wasn't a good vampire much less a cautious vampire. The pendant danced in my vision and it dawned on me that maybe the pendant was draining some of the blood energy from Kenyon.

There wasn't anyone to ask without attracting attention; I knew that Harry would know but couldn't see anyway of asking him with Kenyon touching me. Renee got up from the table and joined us saying, "Natasha, come back to the table we need to discuss some of the wedding plans. Do you mind, Kenyon?"

Visibly, Kenyon preened at his pet vampire seeking me out for more discussions and wedding planning. He wasn't looking at her, but I was. It cost her something to ask me so calmly. She wasn't happy in the least. I reconsidered her role in the ceremony as maybe something more than a stand in for Kenyon. If there'd been an available werewolf female I knew he'd be the one making wedding plans. He wasn't offered a werewolf bride, so Renee became the intended to Carlos' proposal of a union.

Female werewolves weren't unheard of in the supernatural array of creatures but they were treasured beyond measure and packs fought over them in epic numbers. Only three or four werewolves could reproduce in a decade I'd been told. I never had the guts to ask if that was per territory or what. From the stories told I figured it was a lot larger area than that. Magical creatures had limits and we tended to keep our weaknesses secret from others. No need to give a possible enemy ammunition. Kenyon's joke about a field guide to vampires was just that -- a joke. Minion and fledglings learned lessons the hard way because our enemies were numerous and would take down any of us if given the opportunity.

"No, Renee, you girls just run along, and I'll join you later." Kenyon tapped my cheek, and dismissing us with a flap of his hand, he turned from us. His arrogance was cloying; I smiled at Harry and resisted saying a word. I knew better than to push, but it still grated on my last nerve to be called a girl by Kenyon.

The cell phone Harry had slipped me vibrated softly against my stomach. It wasn't an ideal time to pull out the phone, so I ignored the pulsing device while returning with Renee to the small bar table. The three werewolves stopped speaking as we approached and Carlos stood to let Renee return to her original seat in between him and Marcus. The young werewolf had taken my seat so I pulled a stool from the nearest empty table with a quick flip of the wrist. Marcus' hands met the edge of the stool and he pulled it between him and the new werewolf. I guess I knew where I was supposed to be sitting.

Marcus nodded and said, "Natasha, this is Lee. He and Buddy are from the same pack."

I wasn't sure if Marcus and Carlos were even in the same pack as Buddy and didn't see a politically correct way of asking them so I settled for saying, "Hey, Lee, sorry for your loss."

He ducked his head and said, "Thank you for removing that vixen's claws from me." Lee was so achingly young. His behavior was at odds with his appearance. I would have expected a far more robust personality and less shyness. Then I clued in on his odd demeanor. He was low in the pack being newly made and much like a baby vampire fledgling was still showing his neck to higher creatures. Or in his case, I guess it'd be his belly.

Carlos nodded and said, "You were amazingly fast. Lee owes you more than just words. He's yours to call in battle."

It wasn't just an offer it was a proclamation or decree. I knew it from the hissed in breath Marcus took while shooting a sideways glance at his leader. Renee's eyes were large and I chose my words carefully.

"Carlos, you honor me. Lee, I thank you for your strength and pray the night will never come where it is needed. Marcus, can you guide me if the time ever arises, for I wish never to dishonor such a gift." Renee let out her own hiss of air as I finished. Glistening eyes met mine, and hers assured me that I'd handled it properly.

The werewolves were silent. I mentally gulped and wondered if I'd made a mistake. Carlos smiled and said, "You are exceptionally well bred, Natasha. It is an honor to know you will be standing by Renee's side."

That validated my words and I knew they'd just been surprised by my reply. Marcus nodded to Carlos and said, "Yeah, and I get to walk down the aisle with her on my arm."

I spun to him and said, "Oh and here I thought you'd be up with Carlos waiting for us to show up?"

"Hey, nothing's written in stone yet, is it?" He grinned.

Renee laughed, "Not that I know. But then it's not like I'm involved in the planning much."

Keeping my mouth shut I just nodded. The werewolves were emitting an odd vibe. It wasn't laughter but warmth. Vampires were basically only as warm as their last meal while these creatures radiated heat. It was like I was stuck in a warm bed with two big fur blankets next to me. It wasn't bad -- just different. Renee caught my eye and nodded with a small smile of her own. I chuckled and said, "Yeah, but I've never been good at planning much beyond the decade. We have a month to get you dressed and all?"

"Just about," she looked a bit ill at the thought but quickly covered it. I wondered just why she was getting married, then Kenyon loudly said, "Welcome to Dark Whispers."

That was why Renee, the vampire, was getting married to Carlos, the werewolf, in a month. So Kenyon could be king of the territory. I no longer thought he was aiming just for Master. The pendant danced on his chest and I shuddered. The meet was beginning.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-05-11
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