In my bones, I knew it was someone associated to my pirate past, but was Davy a vampire known to me or merely the minion of one of the vampires my Master and I had known? Since my Master was truly dead it wasn't like I could simply check with him. I bit back an audible growl of frustration at the mystery. The sun had set recently but I could still feel the lingering heat from the diffused light. Fog was winding its way through the breaking waves and homes that lined the beautiful beach. There weren't any homes near us on the pathway as we headed towards the restaurant -- those started north of us and south of the park we'd just passed.
The parking lots were full along the coast and cars lined both sides of the road both legally and illegally parked. Typical of Del Mar. I watched one of the local meter enforcement officers busy printing out and popping expense tickets beneath the windshield washer blades on various vehicles. I knew fines, fees and taxes fueled their economy at a nearly unbelievable rate. It was joked that the little town wanted to fence off their slice of the globe and simply place signage, 'Tourist go home but leave your daughters.' In fact, Caleb had shared that tale as a true story telling me that it had been spray painted on local wall years ago by surfers. I didn't ask him about his involvement as his smirk pretty much nailed it as something that he had probably participated in doing during slow surf weather or bored summer days. He could be quite talkative.
Caleb and I passed Jake's and turned west towards the Poseidon and the lifeguard station propped on the edge of the encroaching ocean. Seawalls were shoring up the businesses and expensive homes along the beach, but time and tides would adjust those property lines sooner than later. I hadn't been down here in a while and was surprised to see they'd refurbished the lifeguard station -- art pieces and fancy benches and brickwork accented the space that once held a small tower. The staff were busy talking to tourists while surfers half-clad were availing themselves of the showers near the beach.
I didn't feel anyone looking at us as we made our way through the throng of sunburnt and exhausted people heading away from the sand and waves. Kids were dragging their towels and feet while whining sharply. Parents looked nearly as exhausted as their offspring. The scent of salt, sea and sunscreen flooded my senses. Caleb saw a toddler drop her bucket and shovel and she had begun to tremble. He scooped up the bright plastic items and folded himself down to her level quickly returning her treasures just as the kid's mouth had begun to quiver. She appeared to be ready to launch into a full-blown tantrum. Her mom looked ready to scream as she saw Caleb's kindness and I watched her face melt in a different manner than her kid's. Yeah, Caleb had that effect on women. I gave him a glance and he suddenly remembered his job, "Gee, honey, she looks just like your niece, Emma, doesn't she?"
He flew back to my side, like I'd yanked a leash, establishing the fake boyfriend backstory quickly -- sparing more me any more drama. I was thankful he was sobering up. The mom gave a loud sigh and grabbed her kid's arm tugging her away from us. Not before she'd slipped a speculate look at me; I smiled sweetly and I affectionately tapped Caleb's nose, "Just wait until we have ours!" Thus, sealing off the woman's ill-disguised predatory fantasies. No need for me to peek into that poorly dyed head -- she'd pounce on Caleb in a second if I'd looked away. Caleb chuckled deeply and we continued unmolested. We were quickly forgotten as we went towards the valet podium in front of the restaurant. Men were scurrying keys and cars off the parking lot at a frenzied rate.
Handsome men and stunning women ever so carefully unfolded from their expensive vehicles and headed for the doors. I could see how they posed and postured, knowing they were attracting attention -- their true supper. Long ago I noticed a level of this broken society was focused on their looks and how others perceived them beyond any reasonable social expectations. To me it harkened back to the spectacular fall of the Roman Empire and other mass extinction events amongst humans. The writing was on the wall for all to see, but this current world failed astonishingly to read anything beyond a short tweet or string of emojis.
We went in to see the petite redheaded hostess buried four deep by patrons vying for her attention. She had these huge doe eyes that were darting around anxiously as if looking for an out. It was then I caught a break, even though I hadn't actually been at the restaurant in a while; the woman standing slightly behind the beleaguered hostess glanced up at the restless crowd and lighted up as she obviously recognized me. I vaguely remembered that many years ago she'd been the overworked hostess. I'd done some business at the beach restaurant and automatically tipped her quite well. It seemed that wasn't forgotten as she caught my eye saying, "Bethany, damn, we haven't seen you in ages. You look amazing. I have your usual table."
She cut through the people like a hot knife through butter and noting Caleb by my side, his hand cupping my elbow, grabbed two menus from the stunned hostesses' hands. I could hear people near the hostess stand muttering nasty bits as she drew closer to me. If anyone'd had a gun on them I'd be shot for sure -- the emotions ran hotly throughout the group waiting for a table.
"And will there be anyone else joining you two tonight?" Holding the menus in her right hand she looked happy to see me and ready to attend to my every need -- damn, I'd missed this service in the downtown area -- it really was a level above the usual dine and dash experiences I'd been having. I guess I really had become somewhat a hermit over the past few years.
Smiling as I wove through the grumbling people saying, "I think at least one person possibly two -- the outside patio still open?" It really wasn't a question but for effect -- I still wasn't sure if Davy was even going to show up much less by himself so I erred on the side of caution. As she approached, she gave me a half hug and air kiss uncommon to most but something I'd missed from my European life. Naturally, I took advantage of the gesture and slipped her a sizeable stack of twenties discreetly for her attention. The money was courtesy of the idiots at the fort's wallets and I liked the full circle recycling.
"For you, of course." She was actually smiling a sincere smile rarely seen by staff and servers given the entitled snobby patrons that frequented the restaurant. The money was pocketed without a glance, but knowing her she'd already mentally counted it by the weight. Her smile grew larger as she said over her shoulder, "Bethany, I really have missed you. You've always been one of the nicest customers. And I can't get over how amazing you look. Your gentleman must be giving you that glow!"
I didn't bother to correct her mistaken impression. Well-fed vampire does tend to look glowing and younger. She probably figured I'd had some plastic surgery but would never think to ask, as it could easily cut off any and all tips. She'd risen to management level for more than just her ability to remember patrons' names and preferences. My brain coughed up her name, "Crystal, you flatter me so. Good lighting and clean living," I lied easily while we arrived at a corner table on the south side of the deck. Caleb held my chair for me as I sat at the edge of the wall facing the somewhat crowded restaurant. Crystal laid the menus on the edge of the table set for four allowing Caleb to select his seat.
Caleb -- aware of my needs from his past experiences with me -- sat directly across from me without any verbal directions. Crystal must've sent over a waiter immediately to our table because a tall, lanky blonde arrived holding four ice filled water glasses and set them down asking, "Are we waiting for our guests?"
I was less than pleased by his forward chummy style of inclusion. Mentally I snarked my disapproval of the young man's inappropriate words. Before I even had a second to reply Crystal came up behind the waiter with a slight, brunette gal right on her elbow. Crystal softly snarled, "Colin, what are you doing? Miss Bethany is not sitting in your section. Please allow Jen to do her job."
Colin blanched at getting caught poaching Jen's table. I watched as his shoulders rolled in a casual shrug as he actually dismissed his boorish behavior with, "Oh, my bad, sorry Crystal. I thought this was my section tonight." His eyes flashed red hot anger and defiance unseen by Crystal. Obviously, this wasn't his first-time stealing tables from his coworkers. He'd probably watched us cut the line at the entrance and wanted to get a taste. His entire body vibrated a predatory personality that reminded me far too much of those clowns I'd noshed on earlier. Jen beamed at us while Crystal literally yanked Colin back into the restaurant towards a hallway near the front of the building. She tossed a sweet, "Thanks again for selecting us, Bethany. I really hope to see you soon."
I smiled and called out, "Definitely."
Jen stood silently while the two disappeared behind a door -- yeah, Colin was toast.
"Good evening. As Crystal mentioned my name is Jen, I see that you are waiting for some more guests. Is there anything I can help you with yet or do you need more time?"
Delighted by the change of staff, I looked to Caleb asking, "You need an appetizer to nibble and a beer while we wait?"
Caleb looked confused momentarily by my question as his brain struggle to catch up.
"Ah, sure. Can you snag me a local IPA and some of those killer nachos?" He hadn't opened the menu but had eaten here before apparently, I concluded. Jen and he began a lively discussion of which beer suited his mood while I tuned them out waiting for the mysterious Davy to appear.
Night was fully upon us and the tables near us were rapidly filling up with oh, so pretty people. I'd yet to see anyone I recognized much less felt any quiver of another vampire in my range. I was sending out tendrils of energy -- picture a spider with its legs on its web waiting for vibrations from prey getting stuck -- yep, me. Fuck, I just compared myself to a damned arachnid. I was really stressed. All the blood I'd consumed hadn't calmed me, but their psychopathic crap had screwed me up -- near as I could tell. Not an ideal situation for me to meet some random vampire.
Jen had bopped off to get Caleb's beer and nachos while I glanced around the beach side deck. Tables had flickering candles and the clinking of silverware on plates merged with the surf pounding west of us. My spine started tingling as a whisper of someone tapped against my brain. A vampire approached. There was something familiar about the mind -- I frantically searched my memories for who it could be.
Two different waiters dropped off Caleb's beer and a huge plate of cheese- and meat-layered nachos. He'd been given four small appetizer plates to share with the table. The appetizer looked large enough to serve a family of at least four from my memory of normal human meals. It didn't deter Caleb at all as he immediately began inhaling the food directly from the large platter. I was delighted to see him consuming food -- sobriety was edging further into his brain thankfully -- heaven or hell only knew if I'd need him.
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