Jerry Cooper left the troll in the business park pond chomping down on Celina's corpse without looking back. Literally there was no turning back for the vampire. He had crossed the final boundary by killing Celina and giving her body over to the troll to consume. The Vampire Council had to have known that Celina Holston was making rogue vampires for her own kin. But that wouldn't be even considered if they decided to go after Jerry again. They'd stripped him of every bit of dignity and power they could when he'd been snagged by their enforcers in Michigan. He lost his fledglings, minions and nearly his life. The land and monies were also given away, but for a vampire of his level that was a matter of strength. He could have easily overpowered another weaker Master of the City anywhere between Michigan and Florida. He sensed them while traveling south. They never knew he passed in the night because one of his skills was the ability to mask his trail. That was part of why the Council wanted his hide.
Thankfully the car was still where he'd left it. Undisturbed in the shadows with no fresh scents of humans nearby, yet he still cautiously approached the vehicle while searching the area for anything supernatural. The power was out due to the storms, and the only traces of humanity were the steady heartbeats of a night guard inside the store, half asleep waiting for the power to be returned. A few animals skittered on the edges of the night but nothing that concerned him. Tapping on the steering wheel, he drove towards the West. Night was quickly fading and he needed to find a spot to hole up in while he figured out how to catch Ben at the Camino Real drawbridge. Before Jerry had killed Celina, she had confessed that she was to meet with Ben Richland at the Intracoastal drawbridge -- another of her lies since she hadn't promised Ben anything of the sort -- but it was true that Ben was going to be there. Ben was going to be there around eleven, giving Jerry less than twenty four hours to concoct a plan, since he knew that the vampire was to meet with one of the new Vampire Council enforcers.
From the little Celina did truthfully offer, Jerry knew that Ben was heading out to the West Coast for a little Vampire Council-sanctioned clean up of some mess that had been brewing there for quite a while. Celina herself had confirmed the emails that had flown between the vampire and Ben before he killed her. She'd tried to tell Jerry that she was Ben's backup when he was meeting the new vampire, but she hadn't even made up her mind one way or the other if she'd bother to see Ben.
She was trying to distance herself from the Council, Jerry knew from her thoughts and emails. But Jerry had to admit that the idea that there were other nasty vampires out there that hated the Council as much as he did was intriguing, to say the least. If not a possible companion, then he'd make the vampire his prey. The power from drinking vampire blood was intoxicating and the blood of Masters even more so.
Slowly winding his way through the neighborhoods of Boca Raton he sought a place to sleep. He knew there were some gated communities that would have easily fit his needs with late summer vacancies high in the area, but he didn't want to deal with guards and possibly active surveillance cameras. He opened up his mind and allowed his vampiric sight to drift. He scented something interesting further west and began to focus while distractedly driving along the nearly empty roads. Not wanting to attract the attention of a patrol car he kept his speed down and turned down unlit streets while the winds battered his car. The rains hadn't returned yet but the debris on the roads and the slick oil topped surfaces made for hazardous travel. The power was out in over half the neighborhoods he cruised, with flickering candles and battery operated lanterns blazing in some homes that alerted him that he had to be cautious.
Taking his foot off the gas, he allowed the car to slow while he rolled down the window slightly to sniff the air. The humidity was thicker than earlier, the heat from the asphalt road mingling its harsh petroleum odor with the rotting plants and soaked vegetation of the over-planted neighborhood. The elusive scent of something tangled within the aromas, taunting him further west towards the Everglades. Boca Raton had expanded over the decades and paved and planted its wealthy community up against the primordial backyard of alligators. That wasn't the smell pulling him, but something more like prey. As he continued to follow the flow of fear and trauma he found himself in a completely dark neighborhood. Most of the homes were closed up for summer; normally one of those would have been his destination, but the ones with beating hearts inside were tempting him more. And one thumping heart in particular was singing a song to him he couldn't resist.
Jerry found his prey at the end of a long street of empty houses. There weren't any humans around except the one he could smell that was pulling him deliciously and temptingly off the beaten path. She was sobbing into her pillow in a back bedroom as if her heart was breaking. The fears of her days and the traumas from her nightmares rolled out like nectar being offered to him to sup. The storm had taken out the power for blocks around and he doused his headlights as he rolled closer to her driveway. The carport to one side was empty and he parked beneath the awning and shut off the engine. As the car cooled and ticked he listened carefully to the woman to see if she had heard his approach. Her sobs were louder and she coughed abruptly. Jerry tensed, thinking she had heard the car, but then she swore and coughed out a name.
"Fuck you, William! I hope your dick falls off."
A grin broke over Jerry's face as it dawned on him that the human didn't hear him, but had been trying to calm herself. The sound of her blowing her nose noisily allowed him to snap the doorknob in his hand and slide into the house unnoticed. He shut the door carefully and propped a kitchen chair against the handle so a strong wind wouldn't alert anyone to his break in. But considering the abandoned feeling to most of the area, he knew the woman didn't have any nosy neighbors coming to see if she was okay in the storm.
A clatter of sounds from the bedroom alerted Jerry that the woman was on the move.
"Damn it! This chair shouldn't be here." His eyes darted around the nearly black kitchen for the human when it dawned on him that there were a dozen or so empty beer bottles on the countertops and in the trash. The chair he thought the woman noticed wasn't the one he'd moved underneath the door, but one in her room she'd tripped over half-drunk.
He slowly made his way down the hall towards the woman, who'd returned to sobbing. As he found the bedroom, he heard a sound that froze him in the open doorway. The scratch of a wooden match being roughly hauled across the sandpaper strip on the outside of a match box, followed by a hiss and a puff of light before the sulfuric flash and flame of the match head flared into the room. The woman's back was to him as she shakily lit a thick three-wick candle next to her bed.
For some reason Jerry hesitated and allowed the woman to turn and see him. The vanilla-scented candle illuminated the woman and him. He easily could have pounced on her and torn her throat open before the tip of the flame even touched the final wick. Instead he stood in the doorway and watched -- mildly curious.
She sighed and said, "Well, if you're here to rob me, rape me or ruin me, you are too damned late." She actually wasn't in the least afraid of a stranger standing in her bedroom in a storm. In fact, she was calmer than she'd been when he'd first noticed her scent in the air. It was like his being there just further confirmed her assessment of her life and was pretty much exactly what was supposed to happen. She was actually comforted by a strange man in her home.
"Which one? Or all of the above?" She looked defiantly up at Jerry from the rumpled queen-sized bed. A half-dozen large pillows littered the sheets that were crumpled into balls covered in tears and mascara. Her eyes were brimmed with unshed tears and bloodshot from crying. The mascara now decorating the pillows and sheets ringed her eyes giving her a bruised appearance. The stain of crimson was all that remained on her lips from her lipstick. The woman wasn't much more than in her mid- to late twenties and if cleaned up, probably was pretty. Currently she looked grimy and matted. Her shoulder length dark hair was sticking out every which way with clumps of hairspray gluing bits to her forehead and cheek. Her left fist was clenched around a wad of used tissues, and her right hand still held the lit match which sizzled into her finger tips, and her eyes flew wide as the pain lashed through her nerve endings.
"Ouch! Well, isn't this just perfect?" She shook the flame dead and dropped the spent match onto the top of the nightstand where the candle flickered.
"That's what I get for lighting three wicks on the same match. Bad luck. So come on ... kill me or whatever now." She glared at Jerry while all he could do was stare back.
Never in all his years had he seen a human react so to him. He was just about to reply to her when she said, "What cat got your tongue?" And slightly challengingly, she stuck out her long, pointy tongue. To Jerry's relief there weren't any pieces of metal jammed through her pink tongue -- all too common in that age group. The piercings and tattoos of the humans seemed so odd to him given the forefathers of the country had worked very hard to eradicate any Native Americans sporting similar markings. Two hundred plus years of humanity looping back to where the nation had started.
Catching a breath, he noticed the thick scent of beer surrounded her and she still had her tongue stuck out at him. Shaking his head he went for the 'special effect' that would shut her up. He said, "No, I have these." His fangs slid sharply out as he smiled at her.
The expected rush of fear and screaming didn't happen. Instead she pulled her tongue back in her mouth and said, "Figures."
Jerry was stunned. The woman wasn't in the least frightened. Her pulse didn't race and she didn't faint from fear, but sighed again with a slight hiccoughing sob.
"So you're going to tear my jugular out and drink me down like a giant slurpee, huh? I have to warn you I am going to taste like cheap beer. I couldn't even afford a bottle of wine to drown my sorrows in but had to drink all of William's crappy beer." She gestured widely to the evidence of her liver abuse on the top of the other nightstand. There were three empty bottles; as he mentally added them to the dozen or so in the kitchen, he figured she had to be completely drunk. It was probably the reason why she wasn't afraid of him in the least. She slashed her fist across her face removing a bit of the mascara and said, "Yep, I will taste like bad beer. What a way to go."
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