Had Leonardo been with him he might not have noticed the scent. Shaking his head, Ben Richland acknowledged the lie, but knew it would not have necessarily been as alluring to him. The brush and bushes were quickly giving way to small cedar trees and pines as he negotiated up the side of the mountain. There wasn't a recognizable path but more along the lines of an animal trail. It didn't matter, Ben was following the delicious blood. He no longer gave a spare thought to Leonardo, but kept his head down and continued to travel up the mountain. He ignored the passage of time and upward and headed to the nectar. An hour passed and he found a break in the tree line and saw that there was a modestly sized house dug into the side of a clearing. Inside was the woman sleeping. He could smell her and feel her sorrow.
He made his way to the house and looked for any signs of animals. There were a few chickens huddled beneath the fairly sturdy house but nothing more. No dogs to bark or bite -- a common problem in the area. The woman was alone. The house wasn't locked and he simply opened the back door and let himself inside. The house was warm and the kitchen stove was filled with logs and burning steadily. He knew in a few hours the house would cool unless the woman awoke to feed the coals with some of the aged wood stacked carefully next to the stove. But for now it was a physical reminder to Ben how cold it had been outside. The warmth was nearly suffocating to the chilly vampire.
He went into the home slowly. There were glimmers of light coming through the windows casually covered with canvas tarps nailed into the walls. It wasn't an expensive East Coast home with elaborate window treatments and carefully polished glass windows framed with hand-crafted sills. That said, the home wasn't luxurious, but nevertheless was not poorly constructed from anything he'd observed. So there was enough moonlight coming through the windows, allowing Ben to easily stride through the home towards the sleeping woman. The clouds that had dropped the layer of snow around the home were clearing up and allowing the moon to illuminate the room. The house wasn't overly large; the kitchen with the warm stove opened right into the main room in the home. The woman was sleeping on a roughly built bed that wasn't much more than a few inches above the flooring. To his amazement the floor wasn't dirt but actual planks of rough wood covered by a rag rug. The scents wafting from the rug were distracting. The rags used in the creation from the rug had been bled on and loved. To a somewhat hungry vampire they were tempting. It was too easy to get lost in the past at times. The layers of aromas had a history and that added to the mental seduction for a vampire.
The woman mumbled something and flipped around in her quilts. Drawn into the raw, earthy scent he made his way to the bedding. Something whipped past him and to his utter shock Leonardo was beside the woman. He hissed out and said, "Mine."
How the hell the unknown woman was Leonardo's was just a small question in his head but the major point was Ben hadn't smelt the vampire in his distraction. Without a word Leonardo tore into the woman's neck. He could smell her blood and feel her arousal. The vampire wasn't being cruel but sensual and erotic. The pains that had drawn Ben up the mountainside weren't what Leonardo used to glamour his victim, but instead he was weaving a tale of love and sex that made the woman happy and well satisfied. Leonardo had been creating a long, lost love with the pains and natural traumas facing a single woman of the time without a family to protect her virtue or protect her from her own wanton needs and desires. Leonardo had worked on the human before Ben had even smelt her.
She should have been Ben's. Ben didn't know what to do. He'd never had Leonardo claim a human as his. Something snapped inside Ben and he ran back to the stove and grabbed a metal rod that the woman had used to move around the burning wood. Running back to the couple, he swung at Leonardo's head, missing and killing the human instantly. He felt the life rush free while Leonardo screamed at him. He pushed the bloody metal through Leonardo's chest, missing the vampire's heart. Yet it slowed Leonardo and the vampire fell lifelessly on top of the dead human. Ben fled the home hungry and angry.
Leonardo had screamed into his mind an unexpected bit of information. The woman he'd just killed had been Leonardo's next intended vampire. Not just any vampire but one that he thought was his soul mate. Ben fled the death tableau with a growing sense of horror. How did he not know? Who was that woman? He'd never even heard a word of her in all the decades they were side-by-side.
Jerry Cooper pulled free from both of the vampires' minds stunned. Leonardo's tale of love found and lost had been quickly imbedded in his thoughts but he didn't dwell too deeply because he wasn't trying to unscrew the nuts and bolts that made up Lenny but rather finding the chinks and fissures within Ben's mind. He'd found a few with the shared interlude. There was obviously more that had happened in Reno but he didn't care. All he cared about was finding out what Ben knew.
Julia watched Jerry carefully. The fledgling knew that her Master had discovered something but she wasn't skilled enough, much less strong enough, to tap into the vampire's energy and read for herself. Jerry didn't allow her to read his thoughts and the other two were so caught up in their own entwined memories that she was effectively blocked out. And from the way Jerry was standing he wasn't ready to talk about it to her. He was content to sift through his own finds and plot out his best method for destroying Ben and still getting all the information he needed.
A thick car seat and maybe a thin metal wall was all that separated the two vampires. Ben's stupor wasn't a thick as Lenny's because Jerry hadn't drained Ben nearly to death -- yet. Lenny, on the other hand, wouldn't be bursting through the back wall of the trunk to reunite with his buddy in the back seat without eight or so pints of blood. Ben's mind was being puppeted by a combination of his memories of Lenny and Jerry's vampiric control. It wasn't taking much of Jerry's skills to keep the vampire nearly frozen solid on the seat because Ben's reliving of his history was keeping him stuck in the past. It suited Jerry to push back into Ben's head and see what other treats waited his culling.
Left to her own devices Julia wandered away from the car and began exploring the large warehouse that Jerry'd rented for his convenience. The huge nearly empty space was designed with two needed features -- privacy and disposal of vampires. Jerry had already made good use of the privacy when he'd pulled Celina from her home and killed her. The various crates and boxes strategically arranged around the space had assisted him in the second function of the space -- he'd made troll food from the vampire's corpse and been able to clean up the signs. Not all of them. Julia's nose wrinkled, as she could smell the heavy use of cleansers and the distinctive scent of death. Not a mere human's disposal but a nasty little vampire who'd caused her Master pain. There was a bit of joy for her in the odor because she knew it had helped bring Jerry into her world. She hadn't been enjoying her life when she'd caught Jerry's notice, but since he'd come to her she'd found that there was more to living. As it were -- a slight fang tip slipped out of her lips as she thought of her new state of being. She was still a baby vamp but she already felt more alive and more everything than she'd felt in her human state. Twenty plus years of humanity erased with an infusion of blood and vampiric magic. That magic strummed outward and caressed her thoughts.
Julia knew she was a lucky vampire. Looking back at her Master leaning against the car with a slight frown between his eyes gave her pleasure. He'd changed too with her creation. The amazing rush of vampire powers that darkly created her had rolled back the centuries and given Jerry a new lease on life. When they'd first seen the vampires meeting at the base of the inactive fountain in the center of the roundabout West of the Camino Real drawbridge she hadn't really paid much attention to the three vampires that ended up together. Her mind was focused on her Master. Hell, who was she kidding? Not just her mind but also her entire world was centered on Jerry. Jerry created her and owned her. He'd begun to teach her the tricks of vampires but she wasn't even a week into the new life so she knew she was more of a hindrance to him than help to him at the moment. Ben had harmed her Master she knew but she also knew down to her very soul that Jerry was now stronger than Ben and far craftier. Maxwell was probably dead or nearly-dead, unless some stupid human had come along and decided to 'help' the creature. Lenny had been the unknown element heading into the meet.
From what she'd noticed Leonardo was an amazingly handsome vampire. He had a shank of long coffee brown hair that he casually tied back with a strip of leather, chiseled features reminiscent of Roman and Greek gods carved into marble and deeply set dark eyes. The vampire didn't appear to be extremely ancient but he had an otherly look of someone not originally from the New World. She figured from his arrogance and his general manner that he was from somewhere in Europe originally. Not that it seemed to matter to her Master. That Jerry had figured out something was apparent on his face but she didn't bother asking anything and continued to poke around the warehouse.
A deep moan choked out of Ben's throat and Jerry smiled. It wasn't a particularly good smile, but rather predatory as was his nature. Julia turned back to see if he needed her help. He caught her glance and shook his head negatively.
Ben physically tried to move but pain washed over his face as he hit the wall of vampiric power Jerry had focused on him. Even Julia could feel her Master's will being imposed upon the vampire. Lenny wasn't doing anything in the trunk from what she could sense and smell. Ben pulled from some inner strength and said, "No, impossible." Each word hung in the air nearly visible.
Jerry laughed deeply and with great pleasure.
"You think?" He well knew what Ben was agonizing over -- that Jerry was there and apparently younger than ever before -- despite the Vampire Council's abuse of the Master Vampire formerly of the Great Lakes Michigan territory. Ben had never actually seen Jerry slain when he and his crew had captured and nearly slain the vampire, but had seemingly believed the legends. The very legends that were manufactured by the Council in order to exhibit the ultimate power over all the stray and rogue vampires that tried to challenge them. A mistake that Jerry could tell Ben regretted thoroughly now. Jerry savored the mental screaming taking place in Ben's mind as he allowed the captured vampire to have a taste of motion.