Looking at the unconscious body of the former torch singer, Tori Truman, I asked, "So, Harry, you think we need to phone her in somewhere?"
I wasn't taking the heat for my bouncing back her magic but knew there had to be some protocol out there for vengeance-seeking vampires. Harry laughed and said, "With Archer's permission we'll attend to her."
Archer shook his muzzle and looked up to one of the still human-shaped werewolves ringing the group. I saw he was looking directly at Marcus, not Carlos. That was interesting given the stress between them. Carlos and Renee were still off to the side talking softly. I didn't see them coming to any decisions. Archer in werewolf form still was being treated as if he was in charge of his territory. Werewolf politics were different than vampires in some ways. Had the situation been reversed, and the vampires left were in their full vampiric rage none of them would have been consulted. We didn't always make clear-cut and rational decisions when fanged out and fighting. The tensions were different.
Marcus asked, "What'd you have in mind?"
Harry said, "Some plausible deniability and distance between the warring parties."
"Works for us. Your clean up crew?" Marcus understood the ramifications of Tori waking up from her magical whammy inside the walls of the werewolf's home she blamed for her friend's slaying. Jessie was cute vampire and made friends easily. Tori's anger was justified and Archer wasn't in the clear yet.
"If that's okay with Archer. It's his property being compromised."
Archer looked up and smiled. It was pretty odd. Werewolves aren't humans with thick fur but their own type of supernatural creatures. They aren't big dogs with sharp teeth but something more majestic and uncanny. I could see the intelligence and ferociousness in Archer's face. He was giving his permission. I wondered why he didn't change back like Lee had but then there was a natural closeness one formed by being nude in front of others. Lee was still wet and naked, standing unconcerned watching the events unfold. He had a good body and was unashamed of his nudity.
Catching where my gaze had landed Marcus rolled his eyes and said, "Lee, go back to the house and shower again. You really need to listen."
Lee's impulsive bolting from the house wouldn't go unpunished by the werewolves. He'd disobeyed a direct command from Marcus to stay with Costa. Even though Marcus had dismissed Lee, I was surprised to see Carlos raise his hand and say, "No, Marcus. Let him stay and he can help carry the vampire."
Then I saw the first edge of his punishment. Nude standing around looking like a model was one thing. Carrying an unconscious body through brush and whatever to the rendezvous with Harry's crew was going to cause some cuts and scrapes. Marcus grinned as he puzzled out Carlos' intention. Lee's eyes widened as he too figured it out.
Harry was back on his cell phone making plans for disposal and cleanup.
Decisions made, we headed back slowly to the house. Marcus and Harry stayed with Lee and Tori. The knockout spell was strong and I didn't see Tori move a muscle. She wasn't dead, but seriously out for the count. The spell would have been effective against any creature -- human or supernatural.
We got back to the house and Costa greeted us with, "Everything worked out, I gather?"
Carlos nodded, "It was a friend of Jessie's. She and Archer had a bit of a brush up." Nicely understated I thought.
Archer had padded into his home and went into the corridor with little slowing. Even with the full moon it seemed werewolves could turn on and off their forms. That was something I hadn't realized. I was just as guilty as humans of believing all the werewolf folklore.
We were still standing in the living room when Archer reemerged dressed and clean as a human. It'd been less than ten minutes of silence. As vampires we could stand frozen as long as we wanted and it seemed the werewolves shared that trait. They breathed, but slowly. The temptation of their hot blood running through their bodies wasn't even worthy of a fang dropping. I was weary of all the hassle and mess that'd been caused by vampires and werewolves trying to play well together. Archer looked at us and rubbed a hand down his face. He held a small hand towel and blotted his face, which was damp. The only remnant of his other nature was a certain wildness in his eyes.
"Thank you all for your help. Renee, you must be exhausted. You may have the room you were shown earlier. Natasha, if you would like to follow Costa he can show you to a room. Costa, I am thinking the blue room." With that we wandered off as directed. Carlos and Archer stayed in the living room and began to put away the weapons they'd taken with them in the mad dash out of the house.
Costa gave me the guided tour along the way and finally we arrived at the 'blue room'. It was a suite. Nothing simple about the house on the inside from what I'd seen. The bed was huge and there was a small sitting room that led to an outside enclosed garden. Surprising what money and a good construction crew could do with rock strewn mountainside homes. The walls enclosing the patio were terracotta and at least six feet tall and topped with jagged rocks. There was nothing to keep a determined werewolf or vampire in or out but enough to dissuade a stray hiker from popping in to see how the rich lived. Given the security measures I'd seen, I was surprised by the little garden attached to the suite. Costa explained it away with a dismissive, "Werewolves need to be close to nature at times and the patio gives visiting weres some much needed solace. As it is hard to reach this place and we have assorted sensors on the perimeter there aren't problems with unasked company as a rule. Besides, this room has a panic switch here and here," he pointed out the features while I grinned.
"Thanks, I think I can handle any and all of my own personal security needs." My fangs slipped out a tad and Costa stepped back and saw himself out with, "If there is anything else you find you do need just press 9 on the phone and then the pound sign."
He didn't quite run but it was a fast exit. I laughed to myself and began to organize the little I had with me. Going for broke I stripped down, cleaned up and got into bed. If there was a fire I wasn't going to be the best dressed, but my clothes were filthy and I was sick of wearing tattered bits of what was once a lovely outfit.
As I settled onto the strange bed, I allowed my mind to wander back to when I first got to Southern California. The biggest change for me from the Northern region was the weather. Everything down here seemed softer and less rushed. The heat waves weren't as hot as the ones up in the Central Valley area and from what I saw they never had snow. Mentally I shook my head at how the local reporters flipped out with any change in the median temperature of approximately seventy degrees and sunny. The chill up in the mountains was a bit more like home but not as foggy. The late night air was brisk but nothing that would bring any measurable snowfall. If I had been up in the Tahoe retreat owned by Simon on the lake the crisp air would herald snow by morning. I missed the bite of winter.
I stretched out fully and pounded at the large feather pillow on the king size bed. At least the werewolves didn't skimpy on luxury. But then I got the impression that possibly more than a few werewolves stayed in the bed from the various scents imbedded in the mattress. I tried to block that image from my mind. There was something primitive about the werewolves I wasn't sure how to use in my confrontations. And they seemed to thrive on the constant trauma and fighting usually found in teenagers and twenty-somethings hopped up on drugs and alcohol. Their weaknesses weren't the same as vampires and their strengths made battle with them more challenging than the usual human sheep.
I wasn't sure what tomorrow's meet would bring but after the past few days it was good to not have my fledgling shooting at me or Kenyon trying to devour me fully into his clan. Simon was a great Master in comparison to Kenyon. I tried to close my eyes and block out the sounds of the birds outside. It was hard to believe that any creatures kept house near the werewolves. I took that to mean the birds weren't afraid of the weres and the weres didn't bother the birds. They bothered me with their stupid chirping and twittering.
My new cell phone reminded me of my obligations.
"Hello, Natasha," Simon must have been sitting on his phone he answered my call on the first ring.
"Hello Sire." I quietly greeted my Master. The memory of his earlier bout of anger hadn't been erased and I was cautious.
"Did you find out anything about the murders of our Jessie and the werewolf?" He didn't bother to use Buddy's name, thus dismissing the were as less than us. Some things weren't ever going to change with the marriage of Renee and Carlos. The old world style vampires weren't giving into the modern age without protest.
"Not yet. Archer is concerned that it was an attack designed to get information about the were-child. And he figured that Jessie was just collateral damage." I still wasn't sure about all that but delivered Simon the news. I was reluctant to use the words 'collateral damage' but that's what the werewolves were saying and I'd rather be the one delivering the news than him hearing it from another like DB. Damson was just evil enough to use the information to drive a wedge between my master and me. There was enough misinformation flying around without any more verbal input so I just waited for Simon. I didn't have to wait long.
"Collateral damage? My Jessie was not any sort of damage." His voice was laced with scorn and anger.
"I know Sire. It is what they are saying. I don't agree." Not hardly, but my response was lost with his fury. I pitied the werewolf who next confronted my Master.
"Kenyon has overstepped yet again. I blame myself." That was an admission I never expected from Simon.
The silence stretched between us as I waited to see what he needed. I felt the casual tingles of his scent washing over my mind and shuddered with the luxury of my Master's attention. Simon was very deliberate in his mind touch and I bit back a sigh. There was something to be said for the Master-Fledgling bonds that went beyond words. Humans talk about being soul mates but haven't a clue what it was that could mean. My Master held my soul inside him for all purposes. It was warming and frightening in equal measures with Simon.
I didn't ask why he blamed himself. That wasn't my place. Mine was to hear and do what he wanted.
"What do you think of Kenyon?" He asked in my ear. I rose up on one elbow and tugged at my hair while assessing what it was he wanted to hear.
"Not much," was what I came up with as a nicely neutral reply.
"Natasha, my pet, he wasn't always the nasty piece of work he is today. He used to have a purpose. After all, Kenyon wasn't born into the world vicious and malicious. He's worked hard to attain what he has. Over the bodies of friends and enemies alike, I'll grant you that." I could hear him sipping at something. I figured it was a fine brandy or the warm blood of a willing donor properly served in Waterford crystal. Both were his weaknesses.
To be continued ...