I could feel the sun travel over the sky even while cocooned inside Harry's fortress of a guesthouse. But part of me wasn't so sure it was still impossible to penetrate the home given we'd found my now terminally dead fledgling hammered into the flooring with some serious stakes. Harry assured my Master and me that he had the roads covered, but still I fretted. Harry probably had humans outside guarding us while we slept. Simon told me hours ago that I would feel a loss from Damson's death, but I had felt nothing beyond total relief. Damson had been a bad vampire and very disloyal to his clan. Simon assured me also that it wouldn't come back on me, but I had my misgivings. Hell, I had a bedroom full of nothing to distract me. I could turn the TV on but wasn't in the mood for mindless daytime banter or soap operas. Simon was across the hallway and Harry was somewhere close I could feel. He wasn't sleeping either.
His voice whispered into my mind, "Go to sleep, Natasha. You are safe." It was as clear as if he was standing next to me. I shut my mind to his reassurances and curled on my side into a tight ball half-heartedly resting on the fine linens. If nothing else, Harry really knew how to furnish a house. The quality bedding would normally have thrilled me -- it sure beat sleeping in a box or in a cave somewhere like centuries of vampires did even to this day. I'd done that more than once over the centuries and I was not a fan of sleeping underground in California, because the earthquake zones were active and as a vampire I could feel the pressure start when the trembles began. It was disconcerting to say the least.
I continued to worry when slowly the sounds of the surf dulled me into a semi-unconscious state. My mind drifted and I wondered what the werewolves were going to do. Kenyon had overstepped more than a bit on territory and made alliances with rogue elements in both the werewolf packs and vampire clans. Damson had revealed enough to support information we'd already gathered on our own. I kept turning over the betrayals and actions until I found myself drift completely out. My mind thankfully didn't give me chiaroscuro nightmare landscapes to navigate but uneventful sleep.
Tapping at the door roused me. I could feel the sun outside nearly set over the Pacific Ocean. Smoke still lingered in the air -- the death of others tainted the soot, more than just the werewolveswho had perished to the flames.
"Natasha? You awake yet?" It was Harry.
"I am now." And I was. I'd pretty much caught enough sleep to feel somewhat refreshed.
"I have some take-out coming. There should be some clothing that'll fit you in the closet and drawers. Once you feel up to it meet us in the living room." He silently left the threshold.
Shaking my head peeking into the closet I thought how I so was looking forward to the day I'd be able to wear my own clothing again. The past week of constantly being on the move had denied me that bit of normalcy. I rooted through the room and found a variety of choices. Some of the articles of clothes were brand new with tags still on them while there were some wore blue jeans that looked comfortable. They were my size but I didn't think showing up in jeans would send the right message to Kenyon. I knew we'd be tracking down that vampire sooner or later and if I was dressed like a college kid it would be sooner rather than later. I found some linen black slacks and a tailored blouse that fit. The blouse was a dark blue and would hide blood spatter easily. That made the choice easier. My boots were pretty much trashed so I looked around the floor of the closet and found various choices of shoes. To my surprise I saw a pair of new sneakers in my size. They were still in the box and had that rubber and leather smell only brand new shoes had. They were black and white and didn't quite match the outfit. Shrugging I pulled some socks on and gave into the impulse and I shoved my feet into them anyways. The pants were long enough that they mostly covered the bright new shoes. Grabbing a dark windbreaker from a hanger I headed out of the room.
I found Simon and Harry in the living room. They both looked up at my entrance and stopped talking. Neither of them appeared to be wearing new clothing but thankfully they didn't comment on my borrowed attire. I figured Simon had an overnight bag in the car and Harry's unseen minions fetched it sometime during the day. Of course, it was Harry's house so he had clothing. Only I was wearing borrowed rags again. They nodded to me and greeted me with a smile. Simon silently indicated I should join him on the couch. I sat slowly and watched Harry's face. He had something to say to me. I waited.
"Natasha, it seems that Kenyon's disappeared." That was unexpected. I should have figured the self-appointed 'master of the city' wouldn't hang around once things started getting out of hand, but still it was odd to actually hear Harry say it. If we were lucky the werewolves had trapped and slain Kenyon. I knew that was unlikely -- but a girl could always dream.
Simon nodded and said, "He hasn't been seen since Damson was staked out here. The Arizona vampires are hanging around Dark Whispers and one was seen prowling down by the beach yesterday at dusk. Not any of those vamps that you and Harry took care of but others that came into town with Cynthia." Disgust laced Simon's tones when he mentioned the rogue Arizona vamp. I figured that'd be an interesting meeting. Simon rarely suffered fools and from everything I heard and saw Arizona's Cynthia had been foolish.
It also sounded like Kenyon's treaty with the rogues wasn't going according to plan. I wasn't sure what we needed to do if Kenyon wasn't available. Harry and Simon obviously had been discussing it in detail because Harry took up where Simon had left off.
"My crew had him under observation since we went to Kentucky up until Geoffrey, the Arizona vampire, snagged Damson. It seemed Kenyon went into the club and never came out. Two of my vampires went inside a few hours later and Kenyon wasn't anywhere to be found. Jane wasn't there either, but then most of the club folks claimed that she's been hiding since she was caught taping the meet." Harry was busy tapping letters out on the keys of his cell phone as he spoke. I didn't find it rude because I knew he was trying to access information critical to our survival.
Simon took over with, "And it seems that since you both took out the Arizona vampires along the beach there has been some movement between Dark Whispers and a house in the Hillcrest area. Harry's men found out the house is owned by Kenyon, but nobody has seen Kenyon inside the home, just the Arizona vampires."
Harry added, "Okay, I just got a text message and it seems that Jane's car is parked in the Dark Whispers lot. No signs of a struggle, but usually she'd just be arriving. My scout said the car hasn't moved in at least two days." That couldn't be good, I thought. It was funny that the club vamps weren't more disturbed by Kenyon and Jane's disappearance.
"We know Kenyon's still alive. If he'd been slain his minions would be running around and trying to take over his club and his property. They aren't exhibiting any signs of stress that fledglings who've lost their master would have. I have tried to reach Renee but she hasn't answered her cell yet." Harry looked moderately upset by that.
Simon said, "Carlos and Marcus are also off the grid. But then with all the fires many of the cell towers have been destroyed and cell reception hasn't been great."
We all pondered the ramifications. I asked Harry, "Do you think that Kenyon and Jane are meeting with the Arizona leader?"
Both men took a minute to think before replying.
Simon said, "Possibly."
While Harry came out with, "Probably."
It was clear as mud. But I was concerned that we couldn't get hold of Renee and Carlos. The two had been running from one disaster after another far too long. I still didn't see how the hell Kenyon even thought he'd be able to host such a controversial wedding in a month. All the key players were missing.
Something leaked through to Harry because he laughed, "Oh, that's right! You are to be the maid-of-honor for the upcoming nuptials!"
Simon smiled slightly and said, "We will see."
"You mean I don't have to be in the wedding?" I felt a fissure of relief race through me. I hadn't realized how stressful that idea had become for me. All the political shifts and backstabbing had made the whole event a minefield of epic portions.
Simon laughed at my question but didn't answer. I shut my mouth. He was really finding the whole thing amusing. I didn't need to give him any more ammo. Harry laughed and said, "Come on, Natasha, you want to get dressed up in some frou-frou confection and prance up to the altar with Renee, don't you?"
He could barely stop laughing at his own wit.
"Bite me, Harry." I snarled without thinking.
"Nah, I'll pass," he paused for a second cocking his head towards the outside then said, "Besides I think that's our take-out now." Harry looked through the peephole and confirmed his assumption.
He opened the door and greeted four humans standing on the threshold holding cardboard boxes.
"You, Harry?" A short muscular guy asked.
"Please, come in." They carried large boxes inside. It would appear to anyone watching that we were having a large dinner party. Smelling the food I quickly figured out that Harry was expecting the werewolves to find his place before much longer.
The boxes had the name of a popular burger place in the beach community and the meat actually smelt good to me. I knew I was hungry. The two men and two women were full of life and lust. They walked into the small kitchen and set the boxes down at Harry's request. I took the larger of the two men back to the bedroom I'd been in earlier while the boys divided the other three how they wanted. I didn't make small talk. I looked deep into his eyes and purred, "You look warm. Why don't you take off that shirt?"
I could hear his thoughts of how this sounded to him like the start of a letter to Penthouse. I gave him some images to enhance those stray thoughts while admiring his washboard stomach and clean-shaven chest. The nipple piercings were common but the large ornate tattoo was impressive. He'd inked his skin with a large angel. Not pretty girly kind but a wicked, nasty sort. I trailed a finger along the edges of a wing over his heart and smiled.
"Damn, babe. You are smokin'!" I knew he meant it as a compliment so I smiled and said, "You have no idea!"
"Try me," he grinned while flexing his pecs. The angel did a lovely dance as did my stomach. The ink artist had some skills and the black and shadowy figure seemed to be alive. I felt my mouth water.
"I don't mind if I do." With that I flooded his mind with raw sensual power and let my fangs slide out. His eyes glazed over with the images I poured shamelessly into his brain and I struck down on the wing of an angel. The blood burst into my mouth in a delicious gush of sexual lust and a heartbreakingly young attitude. I don't even remember being that young. The blood donor had been part of the take-out system for a few months and was naïve in thinking that everyone he met lusted for his body. Come to think of it we did -- just not how his mind remembered it.