Desiree was fighting against her werewolf nature and I was happy that Harry had finally clued into her problem. Since Marcus had started trying to negotiate with Harry for terms between the vampires and the werewolves Marcus had let Desiree get out of control. I didn't want her going full fur in the diner.
Harry began pulling off twenties from a roll of cash he had in his front pocket to cover the food and Brittany, the waitress, launched into motion calling for the chicken orders while ringing up the bills from the two tables. She didn't seem to notice we were all a single group so some of the glamour that Harry had washed over her brain had done what it needed to for us to escape. By the time he finished tossing down twenty-dollar bills on the countertop she was beaming.
The cook, Angus, came out with two large full plastic bags in his hands.
"Hey, I just had a customer just cancel a large order for six chicken dinners. If it's okay you can have everything they ordered. I won't charge you for the extra pieces since I would just have had to toss them all out." He looked put out by the cancelled order but was happy to see someone would be eating them.
Harry nodded and added another twenty to the stack saying, "No need to worry. Let me have a receipt for the lot and I can write it off at work. I appreciate the speed."
And with that we quickly made our way outside.
Once by the car Harry asked Renee, "How far is he from us now?"
She froze and her eyes rolled back a bit, "He's about two miles away. He's got DB with him. They are doing a building by building physical search."
Hearing my fledgling's name I froze.
Harry met my eyes saying, "Natasha, it's fine."
I wasn't so sure since I was a bad Master vampire and DB was an even worse fledgling. He'd tried to kill me at Dark Whispers while Kenyon had been trying to start a war between the vampires and the werewolves. My blood tie to DB would help Kenyon find Renee because they knew we'd been together. The only reason he wasn't on the doorstep of the diner was because of Harry's blood still flowing through me. It was masking my true flavor.
"I have a place we can go to." Renee said.
"Let's go." Harry held my door open and we got ready to flee. It was going to be a long night. Again.
Once we were out of the diner Harry stopped and sniffed the air. He looked at Renee and said, "You are right. Kenyon is on the prowl for you. He isn't two miles away anymore but a few blocks. You said you had a place for us to go hide?"
I never liked hiding but given we were technically on Kenyon's turf and pretty much had destroyed any of his chances of the werewolves being part of his insane clan I saw Harry's point.
"Yes, it's someplace that Kenyon will never think of me going. He didn't bother asking me a damn thing about my life before I was a vampire. I wasn't much more than arm candy for Kenyon up until he got this bizarre wedding idea." Renee looked tired but sure of her facts. She didn't look at Carlos but then we all did know the score.
Kenyon was a 'tool' to use the common vernacular. Harry and I would love nothing more than to slaughter him and all of his warped minions but that wasn't going to happen just yet. My own twisted minion DB -- Damson Barlow -- was on a short list but I wasn't going to get to stake him just yet. My blood was running high even if I needed to feed.
Thinking of that I looked at Harry.
"You okay, Natasha?" He asked me while looking at my pulsing neck. I wasn't okay per se but I was calmed by his simple question. Yes, feeding from Harry had been a mistake but his power was amazingly strong and Simon, my master, had pretty much approved of it so I wasn't going to worry it too much. Hell, he sent Harry to me if the truth were told. I don't think Simon knew how strong Harry truly was.
"Yeah, just the same old same old. You know?" I grinned with a slight flash of teeth.
"Not a worry, we'll take care of it soon." His own fangs flashed slightly and I felt warmed by his reply.
Renee nodded. We could feel her tension with Kenyon so close but needed to get the hell out of town before we were staked and slammed back to hell. Or wherever we were headed. Nobody talked about it and the werewolves were standing close to Desiree who wasn't looking too good. She wasn't comfortable as a human and with all of her pack pretty much toast in the fire out at Archer's acres she wasn't going to be comfortable for a long time. From everything I knew about werewolves they needed their packs nearly as much as we vampires needed our blood.
"We need to get out of town. Let's head to the airport." Renee directed us while Marcus worked on Desiree. She wasn't going to handle the flight well from what I could tell. I just hoped we didn't have to make any connecting flights or there very well could be bloodshed. I wondered if there were werewolf tranquilizers because they burned through normal human medications and alcohol like it was baby aspirin.
Too soon we were at the airport and I did see Marcus slip Desiree something in the pill category. Harry made short work of the travel arrangements once he and Renee talked. I still didn't have a clue where we were heading but as long as folks stopped trying to kill us I was good. The fires were still burning out of control and the airport was shutting down in a few hours. We quickly made our flight and having no luggage we made short work of the check in process. When asked why we didn't have anything we all looked sad and said we were heading to a funeral. It worked. Death scared humans, we'd found over the years.
Once we finally landed in our rooms I noticed that Desiree was more than a bit looped. Whatever Marcus had slipped her before the flight definitely did some damage to her stress levels. She was nearly unconscious. Harry had already arranged to have a car rental waiting. Once on the ground we loaded into a large SUV and let Renee take the front seat, so she could give directions to wherever it was that we were going. It wasn't morning yet but it was getting close. Harry asked how far away the place was and she told him two hours. With that information he turned into a recognizable hotel chain that was just off the highway and got us a few rooms.
Harry ended up getting us all our own rooms and then rapidly placed some calls to various vampires and humans from what I overheard. Soon all of our base needs were being met, both vampire and werewolves. The local Chinese delivery wasn't as familiar as the one in California but I made do. Eventually we were all tucked away and out of it for a few hours. Once we woke we met up in Harry's room. At his suggestion we made a quick shopping trip at the local outlet mall to pick up some necessary items and then we were ready for our new adventure. Renee again took her place in the front seat and we let her take us to the new digs.
As we went deeper and deeper into the unknown, I was unsettled by the lack of humanity. It'd become pretty obvious when I didn't see any more fast food restaurants and corner liquor stores that not only were we not in the city but barely the country. The rural scenery wasn't exactly something we vampires particularly cared for given our past history with pitchforks, fire and small-minded folks who liked us toasted and staked as a rule. Wherever she was leading us wasn't some well-known area with plush, much less comfy, accommodations or easy access to airports from what I was seeing from my spot in the car major highways. Giving into the inevitable I just sat back and waited to see where we were going to land. Harry seemed calm and unconcerned so I took my lead from him. Whatever sort of werewolf tranquilizers Marcus had been slipping Desiree seemed to still be working so she was semi-incoherent and still was in her human shape -- given her temperament that was a very good thing.
Eventually we stopped down the lane from a minor byway off a major highway. There was a home at the end of a dirt road. One by one we exited the SUV and waited. Renee grinned widely and said, "Here we are."
Her keys took some work to open the locks but eventually Renee led us into the small house. With a slight motion of her hand she asked us into her house. It wasn't much to look at -- it looked somewhat abandoned from what I could see -- but she seemed somehow happy to be inside. I sucked in some air and couldn't taste any humans in the air. Her relief was obvious to me but then after the past few nights I didn't blame her. We'd been chased from nearly hell and back.
Marcus slowed down once he'd cleared the threshold. He slowly glanced around the room and sighed, "Are you sure your grandfather won't be back?"
"Screw you, Marcus. This isn't my grandfather's home it was my great grandson's." I could see that there was some tension between them. I still wondered if he'd tried to control her when they were cleaning up the werewolf mess back at Archer's compound. But given Marcus' talking with Harry back at the diner I knew it could have been a control issue between Carlos and his lieutenant. Add in that Desiree wouldn't go more than a foot from Marcus it was odd going into Renee's great grandson's house. We were nearly a pack -- closer to each other than vampires liked. A prickly sensation along my neck let me feel Harry's gaze and let me know that the thought the same thing.
That reply from Renee had shut everyone up. Her use of the past tense explained the musty smell. Harry shook his head slowly. He met my startled gaze with a slight wince. Renee wasn't as predictable as we'd thought. We hadn't realized she had been in Kentucky. We'd always figured her for a California girl. She didn't have a trace of an accent but a few decades and a good ear for languages had saved many a vampire from being pigeonholed to a region or territory. Still my Master, Simon, hadn't bothered to tell me that Renee had a child before she'd been turned into a vampire. Things like that tended to create major issues with vampires as they aged. Burying your past took on a whole new meaning.
The house was set back from the road and up against a graveyard. That and the large willow trees marked its age well past the current generation. I wanted to linger outside and read the headstones. There was something peaceful about graveyards. I'd never found them to be scary or even haunted by anything more than human sorrow and more than a bit of joy. Death for mortals was something of a dilemma at times and the emotions were rich in graveyards. Come to think of it I guess the graveyard was haunted in a manner of speaking.
Renee called out, "Natasha, can you help me in the back bedroom?"
The males all looked away figuring it was something to do with me being a woman. Desiree didn't count because for all practical purposes she was a werewolf trapped in a human body and the sex of the creature meant nothing -- she wasn't even aware of anything beyond Marcus. That aside I found it funny Renee wanted me with her but followed her through the old home without a word. There were bits and pieces of her decedents scattered around giving the home a lived in feeling despite the thin layer of dust and lack of human occupancy. Whenever her great-grandson had died it hadn't been too long ago and she obviously had someone come in and clean now and then because I could smell a slight lilac and beeswax scent beneath the grime.
She ran a hand over a beautifully crocheted afghan tossed over the back of a sofa. I wondered at the smile that touched her lips. It wasn't a thoughtful, sentimental smile but more bawdy and sensual. An image of her entwined naked with a rather sexy man flooded my mind. The emotions were passion-filled and deeply threaded through the fabric. Renee had one hell of a human lover in her past. He had been tanned and his abs had been rock hard with traces of oil laced amidst the sheets. I shook my head to get rid of her private thoughts. That hadn't been a couple hundred years ago in the least but closer to the last twenty or so years. And her lover certainly hadn't been family from his face, which I glimpsed in the wash of memories she was unconsciously leaking.