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August 15, 2022

Strange Bedfellows 34

By Lydia Manx

"Thanks for coming with me, Natasha. This place has been let go but it still in some ways it is still my home." I heard a bit of the South creep into her mouth and wondered at that.

Renee was struggling with her thoughts and I kept mine to myself. I didn't see what else I could do. The three werewolves and Harry were still in the small living room. I couldn't hear Carlos but Marcus was muttering something. I doubted Desiree even had a clue where she was. We had reached the end of the hall. Our footsteps were muffled by the thickness of the flooring but I stopped trying to hear the conversations as Renee sucked in a breath. Vampires our age only breathed for effect or to keep the humans at bay. Except when we fell into our past from what I'd noticed. So what ever was coming made her feel human -- if only in her heart. The large oak door was shut and I tensed at what was behind it and the fact that she needed my support to see. I didn't smell death so it wasn't the dehydrated body of the grandniece or nephew but still with all the weirdness lately I wouldn't have been overly shocked. There was a feeling in the house of stilled life like there was a frozen snip of time that I couldn't quite put a finger on -- yet.

"I needed to get the locket before I sell the place." She opened the door to an unremarkable bedroom. The hardwood floor was partially covered with an old threadbare area rug and a queen-sized bed was centered against the wall in the room. The clothes dresser was nicked and worn, set off to the side in the room. An ivory lace table runner covered most of the top of the dresser and in the middle there was a chipped china plate. I could see the delicate roses painted on the edges and the gold trim was rubbed off in spots. It wasn't some priceless antique but a well used family dish that had been saved over the decades. A gold locket was the only piece of jewelry on the dish. A dried flower lay next to the plate and I wondered at the meaning. Renee was definitely not the vampire I'd thought. She pulled the locket from the dish and said, "I guess that's all."

"Nobody knows about this home, do they, Renee?" I asked already figuring the answer.

Kenyon would never have let the house stand. His approach to managing his vampires tended to be the old school policy of razing and scorched earth. Kenyon wanted his vamps to only have one sanctuary -- his club. I didn't get warm and fuzzy happy feelings at Dark Whispers from his clan, but then Kenyon weeded out the vampires who didn't play his game rather quickly. Renee was proving to be a puzzle Kenyon had never solved.

Renee slowly replied, "Nobody alive would know about this place and I've never had any vampires here."

She made it sound like it was poor manners to have neglected to bring home vampire guests. Hell, maybe it was in Kentucky for all I knew. It wasn't like Simon let his vampires wander into other clan territory willy-nilly. Not like I ran around the countryside visiting my fellow clan members. The greater outdoors weren't my favorite spots to vacation. I always joked that slow room service was the closest I got to camping. I'd spent more than a few decades scrabbling to survive in less than perfect environments. I shook my head to clear my thoughts from those dark times.

"Have you sensed Kenyon since we landed?" I felt compelled to inquire. I certainly didn't feel DB anywhere but I knew he was frantically searching for me back in Southern California. His transgressions of the past few nights -- like trying to kill me at Dark Whispers -- had weakened his link to me and since I didn't exactly want him sneaking a look inside my brain I left it that way. Though Harry's blood draw had diminished with my recent feeding I knew his imprint had masked my scent and any attempts by my tainted fledgling, Damson Barlow, would be unsuccessful. Drinking from Harry had definitely helped me in more than one way. If Simon got involved I'd be found in seconds, but my sociopathic bloodsucker had yet to figure that out. And Simon knew I was with Harry -- a trusted ally from the council of sorts -- but I didn't push too much on that sore spot in my thoughts because I knew it would just lead to more problems. I thought we already had more than enough of those without adding in any further complications.

"No, Natasha, we are safe for now. Kenyon has stretched himself so thin with all of his minion and fledglings that it would take a major feeding from me for him to connect with me this far away. He doesn't admit to losing control over the blood links in his clan. It's not something he's going to exactly shout out to the council." She smiled letting her fangs peek out a bit. It wasn't a warm, loving smile but the bitingly predatory flash of a hungry vampire.

Renee led me back to the rest of our merry band of misfits saying, "We are done here. Harry, can you call some of your local connections and arrange for a property transfer? I won't be coming back here ever again."

I wondered where she thought we'd go hide and figure out how to fight Kenyon if it wasn't going to be at her home. There was a finality to her subdued proclamation -- it was like Renee had figured out she was facing true death not just tying up loose ends. I shook my head softly at Harry's pointed glance. She hadn't revealed any great secret just sorrow and a sense of closure. Renee was at peace with whatever decisions she'd made.

Carlos seemed to grasp that deeper meaning in Renee's mind. He came to her and nodded softly.

"Thank you, Renee."

By the sour look that raced across his features, Marcus wasn't in the loop. Desiree was still higher than a kite so he must have fed her some more of his werewolf tranquilizers. I wondered briefly how easy they were to come by and where exactly would I go about getting a dozen or two. My face must have leaked a bit of my dark thoughts because Marcus growled softly.

"Stop that!" Carlos snapped looking directly at his lieutenant.

"Yes, Sire." Marcus spoke the submissive words but in no way did he appear to be sincere. Carlos just shook his head and pretended to be unaware of Marcus' confrontational demeanor.

Renee bit through the tension with a soft explanation, "My house is outside Carlos' pack territory and if we stayed here or used the property after we get married Carlos would either owe the alpha werewolf blood, money or alliance. The hills around this part of Kentucky have two packs and this property, even though it's attached to the graveyard and should be considered hallowed sanctuary and outside the laws, would be hotly contested by both packs. The ensuing wars would diminish the weres numbers rapidly as they fight to death for land."

Kenyon really had underestimated Renee's political savvy I'd thought from the start but there was no way he knew this much about Carlos and his clan's alliances. She grasped the various alliances and territorial pissing that would happen with her marriage that could tear the werewolves to shreds. Kenyon didn't research anything very thoroughly but relied on others to collect data and facts along with rumors and innuendo. I knew from Simon's interactions with Kenyon that the only interests held by Kenyon were the territories of Southern California -- and eventually Northern California and Nevada -- that Carlos' pack held. From what Renee had just revealed there weren't any agreements in Kentucky.

"Carlos, how much trouble are you going to have being here now?" Harry softly asked while we both watched Carlos softly stroking Renee's arm. It was odd to see a vampire so easily caressed by a werewolf. I wasn't sure how she felt about it but it gave me a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was uneasy with the allianc,e but trying to wrap my vampiric mind around it. Harry's question was good because we really didn't want to battle any more werewolves.

It would only be a few hours before we were surrounded by the two packs. Once Renee had mentioned there were two competing packs I began to sort out the different scents in the wind. From the tilt of Marcus' head he was listening to something closer than he liked.

I couldn't hear anything outside but the rustlings of various local animals and a few nocturnal birds snatching up their dinner. A faint set of heartbeats with lush blood lay west of us about five miles away but I couldn't hear the fast beats of a werewolf coming to visit -- yet. The scents nearby were older but definitely different. I hadn't really given it much attention until I heard about the conflicts.

Harry waited for Carlos to reply.

Finally Carlos said, "We need to leave soon. I can feel the energy from both camps and they are gearing up for a visit."

Just what we all needed, a lovely something more to battle -- it wasn't like Kenyon and his minions were keeping us busy enough. A small taste of something feral rolled over my lips and down my throat. I looked over to see Marcus grinning. He looked rather happy at the idea of company. I breathed in deeper and extended out my reach. From the rapid pulse in Marcus' neck I knew he had touched the same thing I just found.

"Kids, not to be a spoil sport but it looks like we need to get our show back on the road now. Both sides have scouts in the area and they are heading for us." My words touched everyone differently.

Renee stiffened and moved from Carlos with purpose towards Harry. Harry pulled out his cell phone again and made some quick calls. Desiree began to twitch and pull from Marcus who had stepped closer to her. She was obviously fighting the effects of whatever drug Marcus had been feeding her to keep her in human shape. I wondered if that would work if the other werewolves showed up. Because I was wondering how quickly we'd be able to close up and get on the road before the werewolves arrived. Harry was thinking the same way I knew because I heard him asking for a helicopter to come pick us up. I hated helicopters but really didn't see any quicker way out. The rural remoteness of Renee's retreat was loaded with dangers.

"What? Nothing for three hours?" Harry was snarling at someone on the other end. I could hear the man blustering about weather and updrafts that were hazardous. It didn't look like they'd get here before we were surrounded by two hostile groups of weres.

He snapped his cell shut saying, "Well, I guess we'd better hit the road again. Carlos, any back roads around here were we won't run into your warring packs that I should know about?"

"Harry, I am not familiar with this area -- just the politics of this region. We don't tend to travel very far." Carlos looked at Renee and said, "Sorry to get you into this mess."

"Don't worry, it was my fault. I had to pick up a trinket. I knew of a few back roads but it was so long ago I doubt they are still as rustic." Renee sighed. I wasn't overly impressed with the population of the region and couldn't see how the roads were anything but 'rustic' but Renee seemed sure that her old escape routes weren't going to work.

Marcus looked around the living room and said, "Weapons?"

Renee looked thoughtful and then went to a breakfront. She opened the bottom and began handing out antique pistols and boxes of ammo. I could see the dull reflection of the bullets when Marcus opened up one of the brittle cardboard boxes.

He scoffed, "They aren't even silver."

To be continued ...

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-04-19
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