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January 30, 2023

Strange Bedfellows 66

By Lydia Manx

"Natasha!" He was really mad now. My watching the bit of history he had decided to show me, and not answering him was really pissing him off. For that I was glad. Screw him if he couldn't take a joke. It wasn't like I'd asked to be brought back to the Civil War times to see what the hell happened in good old Charles-the-vampire's life. I mean, I was quite busy doing my thing in San Diego with escaped animals and deranged vampires and witches when this unknown jerk snatched me out of my time and space to show me things. I didn't ask for his Technicolor display of the good old days in the South, but had been trying to make sense of my world and my time.

For all I knew I was truly dead and this was the new Hell. Cripes. It wasn't like I had a choice in the matter. I shook my thoughts and waited for his next outburst. He didn't disappoint me.

"Damn it, Natasha, answer me!"

I grinned. I don't think I'd said a single word since this nut had snatched me from my friends and Master. Simon had to be going nuts if I wasn't there. A nasty thought came to me that Simon, my Master, no longer cared what I thought or felt since our vampiric awareness seemed to be severed. The witch, dead speaker, whatever she was, Jasmine, had spun some sort of incantation that had freed both Simon and Harry from Trevor's spell but made my link to Simon disappear. The usual blood tie between a Master and Fledgling that made me usually crave Simon in a small way wasn't happening. It was somehow freeing for me to no longer have that tie, and that was in a small way scary.

"Tell me what you are feeling, Natasha." He spoke into my head softly, as if that was going to make me more compliant.

I kept quiet because I wasn't one to over-share. He began shrieking mindlessly and loudly. I tuned him out and pushed myself back into the gray before he could try to hurt me again. My stomach still ached from the mindfucking he'd done a few minutes before when he'd punched me. I willed myself away -- anywhere -- I didn't care anymore. I fell into the gray and landed back in time.

1863: South Carolina, late fall, on the edges of a small town

"Willow, it's me." The vampire called out.

Charles wondered if he'd finally get to find out her name. To his amazement there was a delighted scream and a body hurled down the path at them at full speed.

"Renee! You came back." Willow rubbed the sleep from her face as she looked at the vampire. It was obvious that they'd awakened the woman when they opened the creaking back gate.

It didn't matter because he now knew the female vampire's name. A smile twitched across his face that he quickly smothered when she spun back to him. She regally glared at him and shot him a look. He knew without saying that Renee was telling him to keep his mouth shut.

A body, he now could see was a slight female -- the lady of the house as it were -- was wrapped around the vampire and smiled up at her face. He still felt the thump of desire for this human. Her pain was lush and just on the surface, despite her delight at seeing Renee.

"I told you I would. How is Wren? Is she feeling any better?" He knew instinctively that Wren was the child he'd sensed a few minutes ago inside the house.

"Oh, she is much better. The tea you gave me to give her made her much stronger." Charles kept silent. He wondered if Renee had fed off Wren, and when she no longer did so the child got better. Shoving that dark little thought aside, he waited to see what they were going to do.

"Willow, this is Charles, he's Beau's brother." Another layer of questions rose in Charles' head with that introduction. How did not only Renee know Beau but also this human Willow? He didn't ask anything but just watched.

Willow didn't detach from Renee's embrace but beamed over her shoulder at him and said, "Nice to make your acquaintance. Please come inside. It's not safe outside." She scurried to the back door without another word.

With that comment, a bemused Charles followed the two women inside. Once inside he found a fire going in the hearth and a child asleep on a couch. She was lying on the lap of another woman semi-conscious. This had to be the best friend, Charles concluded, watching the woman's long fingers automatically stroke the raven haired Wren. Something inside him stopped. He craved the woman like he'd never lusted for any other human. The feelings he'd had for Willow fell off and he stood just inside the back door and stared. He wanted to devour her pain and give her joy while feasting on her lush blood. Something in his thoughts was picked up by Renee and she disengaged herself from Willow and said, "And who would this be?"

Willow sparkled over to her friend and laughed, "Oh, Renee, I didn't realize you hadn't met her last fall!" There was a gleeful, genuine excitement in the human's voice Charles noticed.

Renee smiled, "No, I haven't had the pleasure."

"This is Jasper's wife, Rose. Rose, this is Renee. Remember me telling you about her?" Charles bit back a grin at being dismissed so easily. It was curious to him to see women interact. It dawned on him that he really hadn't been around very many women -- human or vampire -- in his life. He wasn't sure how they interacted but it was obvious to him that there was another sort of world that he wasn't privy to, where women congregated and had their own secret lives.

Rose still captivated Charles, but he was smart enough to keep that thought to himself. He was pretty sure the protocol for visiting humans who knew your name wasn't to drain them dry. Rose was thin, not as pretty as the parlor maid back home, but something in her made him hungry. Maybe it was her pain or need -- either way, it didn't matter -- he fought for his fangs to stay out of view.

"Renee, how are you? Is Beau still okay?" Willow prodded not realizing how her question pushed at Charles.

"I don't know, Willow. It's been a rough time," Renee looked pensive and shot Charles a look. He knew better than saying a word by then. And he was pretty busy fighting his hunger.

Something of what he was thinking must have shown on his face because Renee hissed softly and glared at him. He shrugged and said nothing. The home was feminine and soft despite all the problems Willow had suffered. There were no signs of a man inside. No boots in the mudroom, a pipe in a bowl or even a winter jacket hanging on a hook. Whoever fathered Wren was long gone or had passed in the War. He took a minute to stoke the fire inside the hearth to a medium flame and put a few logs on the growing fire to add some warmth to the room.

"Why don't I go gather some firewood from the woods for you?" He needed to slip into another home and get some blood, and figured the task of gathering firewood could easily explain his disappearing for a bit of time. Renee glared at him, trying to will something into his head. He ignored it completely as Willow said, "Oh, that would be so helpful. If you head north about a hundred yards there's some fallen logs that were too large for me to handle. There's an axe in the mudroom you can use."

Renee gave in and said, "Don't be too long. I wouldn't want you to get lost."

He smiled, without fangs and said, "No need to worry about me. I'll be back soon." With that, he quickly left the women. Once back in the yard he hoisted the axe and headed quickly to where Willow had told him the trees had fallen. Using his vampiric speed he quickly split and chopped up the trees into smaller size pieces and stacked them. Once the trees were all cut he put the axe back near the yard and stacked the firewood outside the noisy gate. The entire job took less than a half hour as a vampire. He knew from watching others labor the work he'd done would take a human around three or four times longer, and with that knowledge, he headed back down the trail to see which home would suit his hunger.

All too soon he made his way back to Renee and her friends. The back gate did the customary squeak when he opened it to start bringing in the firewood and put the axe back in the mudroom. Renee was in the shadows of the house and quickly joined him.

"Why did you have to go just then?" She helped him carry the log pieces to the overhang where there were some scraps stacked haphazardly. Willow had nearly been out of firewood, and his efforts were enough to last a good week.

"Because I doubted you'd care for me taking a sip out of Rose or Willow, now would you?" He softly answered while carrying a half dozen pieces of firewood in one arm. He kept his sword arm free in the event he needed to defend the women or himself.

She glared at him, "Well, I hope you were discreet."

"No, I just went inside four homes and slaughtered all the inhabitants." He growled, "Of course, I was discreet, and I left the human with nice and warm thoughts of a good year."

He didn't like explaining himself, but didn't see how to get her out of his way if he didn't answer. She was given to stopping whenever she confronted him and usually in his way. Renee definitely got easily upset at him, but he figured she must have sensed his thoughts because she dipped her head.

"Thank you," she sounded like she meant it as she moved back to the pile of wood and continued to stack what she'd just carried into the open space. It took them about a half hour to do the menial chore because they had to go slower than usual. There was no way to explain their speed should a human see them moving quickly.

Once they finished, Renee headed back first, saying, "I'll explain more about Willow and how she knows Beau tomorrow night. I told them that we haven't slept in two days and you had been injured in the battle and need some time to sleep. Willow has a root cellar that she converts for us to sleep in when we visit."

Charles found it curious that she referred to an 'us' and somehow knew it had to do with Beau and Renee. That his brother had a vampire lover startled him in no small way. Maybe he was misjudging the relationship, but somehow it rang true. Beau had always kept his private life secretive and that was one area that his servant Fitzhugh hadn't seen fit to gossip about within Charles' hearing. Maybe Fitzhugh didn't know about Renee, either. That was a disturbing thought. Fitzhugh had made it his life's work to know everything about the Rutherford boys over the decades. And the knowledge he gathered wasn't always used for good in Charles' case.

"She said it would take a few minutes to clear out some things from the cellar but it'll be ready well before dawn." For Renee, she was positively chattering and Charles wondered what was making her so nervous. It would be interesting to find out, but he didn't feel like delving into that morass of questions layered with other questions that he knew would arise. Besides she didn't seem forthcoming, and he figured there was always the next evening. And he was pleasantly full and wanted to rest. They brushed off the bits of bark and leaves they had clinging to their clothing from stacking the woodpile. Once inside the door Charles put the axe back where he'd found it and noticed that the house was much warmer.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2010-12-06
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