I slept deeply and woke refreshed. The issue of clothing was my first conscious thought. I was not going to put back on the torn mess puddled on the floor where I'd dropped them earlier. I picked up the house phone and dialed as Costa had instructed.
"Yes? How may I help you?" It wasn't Costa on the other end but a woman. She sounded disturbed by the call. Tough luck, she wasn't going to like my reply.
"I need a set of clothes brought to me unless Archer prefers us to walk around naked." I cut to the chase. I wasn't fond of waking in strange places.
"Oh." There was a beat of nothing as she focused on what I'd said.
"I'm not picky so anything will do." It wasn't exactly true, but beggars couldn't be choosers.
"Are you --" she trailed off as she tried to figure out how to ask my size and orientation. Vampire or werewolf were the choices. I had caught her flat and she wasn't dealing well with the interruption of her schedule. I wondered if being a werewolf meant I needed tear-away clothes or something, but didn't see how to ask that without sounding judgmental.
"I'm a girl." I wasn't helping but hell there was such disapproval in her voice and I was feeling feisty.
"I realize that." An air of snootiness was a nice touch. She was very confident of her position in the household. It was always nice to have such comforts that were easily ripped to shreds. Humans were pretty entertaining.
"How about a pair of sweats? Medium would do." I was trying to make easy on her and not demand such pesky things like jeans or even a dress.
"They'll be sent right up. Pink then?" She was getting her licks in and I found it amusing. I couldn't wait to meet this woman.
"Actually black or blue -- more my style, but thanks for asking." I hung up, laughing. I just had to see that woman. She wasn't werewolf --determined by her brainwaves -- but human. She probably battled Costa for top of the heap amongst the werewolf pack.
I freshened up best I could and found a long robe in the closet. Happily I slipped into the white terry cloth robe and waited for the clothes. It was quite a few minutes before anyone knocked at the door.
I'd been contemplating walking out to meet with Harry and the werewolves in the robe as I pulled open the door to find a thin middle-aged woman standing in the doorway proudly holding a stack of clothing. Not just a pair of sweats, but jeans, tank tops, shorts, skirts, a muumuu, halter-top dress and what appeared to be one of the smallest bikinis in the world. Nearly every article of clothing in her hands was pink. That explained what took the time.
The woman in the doorway had a smug self-important smile on her lips. She was thrilled with her finds. There was something mean in her face that took me by surprise. It dawned on me that she was an assistant of some sort to the werewolves and probably had some serious prejudices against us fanged folks.
The human housekeeper wasn't ready for my reaction to her petty actions. Fangs dropped into my face and I said while extending my hands, "Oh lovely! And I take it you're my breakfast?"
From the way the blood drained out of her face and her heart began to race, I gathered that in her haste to try to prove to me how spiteful she could be, she'd pretty much forgotten she wasn't dealing with a bad date a were had brought home. The temptation to fang in was high but my sense of self-preservation and not wanting to piss off Simon coupled with the lush rich blood from Harry still flowing through my veins kept me in check. She didn't know that and I loved how her hands began to tremble holding out the clothing as the implication of my incisors dented into her awareness. The fear rolled off her and I drank that in without thinking. It wasn't tainted by her personality so I took the edge off my desire to play with my food. Mostly.
Sliding my hands over hers I gathered the stack of pink clothes from her grasp. She felt warm to my chilled fingers and I watched her shudder with awareness of my very true vampiric state. Meeting her eyes I said, "Go now before I find that can't control myself."
She all but ran away from me. I didn't think she'd be playing the same stupid human game with Renee or Harry if they called. Smiling I shut the door and snickered. Some things were just too funny and I felt a wave of lightness at the woman's ignorance. Like a color could harm me? The werewolves must have tolerated her petty behavior, or she just did it when she thought she wouldn't be caught. Her mistake.
I heard a soft chuckle, then saw that Harry was behind me as if I'd summoned him. He'd cleared the wall while I toyed with the housekeeper. I was a bit surprised I hadn't felt him since I'd fed from him but I had been distracted.
Looking at the pile of pink clothing in my hands he laughed loudly and commented, "Natasha, you going for the cotton-candy cheerleader look?"
"Beggars can't be choosers. Besides the couture wardrobe I plan on picking up with your money will make up for me dressing like a five year old." I held up the microscopic bikini raising my eyebrows. I wasn't quite sure if she'd put that in the stack in place of underwear or to try to be contrary. Part of being made a vampire at such a young vibrant age meant I didn't need to wear a bra for support so it was comical to me. A tiny bit of me wanted to walk into the kitchen wearing just the bikini and ask for something warm to drink but Harry shook his forefinger at me obviously reading that thought.
"Yeah, but it'd be funny." I smiled, my fangs back where they belonged.
"Not funny enough." He was being firm. Boring but true.
"So what do I owe the honor of the second visit? I thought we were meeting up with the fur boys in a few." I didn't mind seeing Harry again but felt my blood sing out to him. I wouldn't be supping off him anytime soon if I wanted to keep Simon happy. It was possible to divide a vampire between two masters but never a good idea. As it was, Harry could rule a vampiric territory without turning a single vampire from all the alliances he'd made over the centuries. His job with Homeland Security, or whatever black ops tribe he called his, made any and all alliances golden in the vampire world. He was a definite temptation.
Harry sat on the bed and said, "We need to discuss how to handle this meeting."
Fair enough but standing in the terry cloth robe I felt a tad underdressed. While Harry was wearing the same suit as the night before, somehow he'd found a crisp new shirt. I guess whoever met up with Harry to pick up the magically conked out ex-singer -- now a vampire known as Tori Truman ? must have brought him the light blue silk shirt. He smiled catching my look and said, "Change first then we'll talk."
"Okay," with that I took all the pretty pink clothes into the bathroom. I didn't bother shutting the door since Harry had already seen me naked before and the bed wasn't in the direct line of sight from the bathroom. Poking through the various sizes and outfits she'd assembled I growled as I noticed not a single article of clothing was anywhere in the medium range. I did owe that housekeeper.
"What's wrong?" He sounded slightly concerned. I knew I was radiating some seriously hostile thoughts.
"Nothing, Harry. I just need to get back to the kitchen at some point to thank that woman for finding me such delightful clothing." I wanted to scare her stupid if I was honest but I could wait. I grimaced and continued to poke and prod eventually finding a mixture that wasn't too bad.
As I dressed Harry talked about inconsequential things. It dawned on both of us that Archer probably had the rooms wired for sound and anything we said was taking out a billboard as far as the werewolves were concerned. I couldn't sense any warm bodies close enough to hear using their ears but wasn't putting it past them that they were clustered around a speaker listening in from the other side of the huge house. Harry'd be able to show me where the microphones and listening devices were if I'd asked but I wasn't that concerned.
"Is Renee going to be joining us?" I grinned, thinking of the werewolves hearing that and freaking out at the idea their leader's future bride might be into something kinkier than a werewolf and vampire union.
"Not yet." Harry's voice was laced with amusement. That made me smile and I came out of the bathroom trying not to cringe in all the pink. Harry grinned and said, "Oh, I do like cotton candy!"
"Smart ass." I wasn't uncomfortable having his eyes dance over me but I sure was going to make him pay for the smug grin on his lips.
I'd combined a pink tank top half a size too small with a longer freeform, thin, pastel colored gauze skirt. I wore the bikini bottoms underneath and since my charmed bracelets were on my arms visible I'd looked through the stack until I'd found a large cotton button up shirt that I used as a coat. It was pink, naturally. I felt like I should be on the set of a bad eighties TV show. I wouldn't be turned away from a diner, but didn't think I'd pass the bouncers at any club without first putting a vampiric whammy on them. My black leather boots nearly completed the outfit. I put them on once I'd curbed my gag reflex. Sherbet shades of clothing weren't in my wardrobe.
"I can't do much with these," I held out my blades and shrugged.
"I'll keep them for now," he took them from me and slid them inside his coat. He pulled off a ring from his right pinky and slid it onto my first finger of my left hand. Showing me the insignia I saw it was a family crest of power and I felt the lacings of that power run over my form. My eyes widened as a deep magic washed over me. Harry's blood inside me fueled the ring and I felt a curl of warmth from inside me. He'd given me a strongly magically empowered gift.
"There now you're set." Harry kissed my forehead softly like an uncle and I knew he'd come to give me the ring not to discuss the meeting with the werewolves. He filled the room with more mindless chatter and made comments about how Kenyon was a bastard. No disagreement from me; we soon left and went to find the boys.
We followed the hallways back towards the room where Archer kept all the weapons. There was a strong pulse of warm-blooded creatures filling that space. Simultaneously I could feel the heartbeats from below us in the hidden part of the home. They were mixed with the mental signatures of werewolves and fear. I wasn't sure about the numbers off the top of my head but I could feel there were more humans in the house than there'd been the day before. I wondered if they'd been called in to fortify the werewolves' home in the event that we vicious vampires went fang happy or if they were peace offerings. Harry shook his head and mumbled, "You are so bad."
I could feel him inside my brain soft and sweet. It wasn't like my Master, Simon, but rather like a trace of perfume in my memory. I could get addicted to him easily and pushed him out with a simple, "And your point?"
My fangs peeked out as I glanced over to see him grin. Fortified with the blood and knowledge that Harry had my back we went into the den to find Archer surrounded closely by werewolves and Renee standing alone in the middle of the room with her back to us. She wasn't upset but regal and in control.
To be continued ...