Melinda awoke to the sound of something soft and heavy being dragged down the stairs and across the room. She stirred and blinked at sun. Oh, she felt rough.
It took her a while to focus on the image before her. Faith and April had just about managed to drag Will to a seat at the dining table and they were now arguing in hushed whispers.
“Morning girls.” She yawned, got to her feet. “Morning guys.”
“It’s afternoon Mel and I don’t think they can hear you.” Faith said, the irritation still flickered in her voice.
The events of the previous night flooded back into Melinda’s clouded head and she felt like she’d been punched in the gut. “Are they OK?”
“I’m not sure. Can I borrow your phone Mel?” Melinda nodded and handed it over to April.
April tapped away at the screen and was quiet for a few moments. “Right, the internet thinks they should be OK. If they’re still breathing, still conscious. They’re kind of conscious, aren’t they?”
Melinda waved her hand in front of Will’s face but he didn’t respond. “He’s breathing. I think he’s looking at me… oh my gosh, he’s a big guy Faith, how much did you drink?”
Faith shrugged and looked at her feet. “Not a clue. It was hard to stop. I thought it would be grim, but he was so tasty and a fantastic lay to boot.”
April’s mouth dropped open. “You actually slept with him?”
“Wasn’t that half the point?”
“Oh my gosh, no!”
“Well, how else was I supposed to prime him to be fed on?”
“With the green wriggly beams that come out of your hands.” April held her hands up to demonstrate, but nothing happened. “Maybe you have to be facing a human or something. That’s what I did to Dale, anyway. He slipped into a peaceful sort of trance and then it was all rather straight-forward.”
Faith threw her hands up in frustration. “Well you could have told me that before! I had to wrestle Will to the floor. Not that I really minded doing it that way, I mean look at the guy.”
“Don’t play with your food, it’s uncouth,” April said, sounding very much like her mother. “What about you Mel? How did you fare with Paul? Where is he anyway?”
“In the woods somewhere,” she said, sadly.
“Did he escape? Did you not get to drink from him? Are we going to have to go back out and get you another one?” April looked genuinely concerned.
Another one? Melinda shuddered. She wasn’t great at lying but these were desperate times.
“No, I did drink. I drank so much that he, um, passed out and I had to err… dump him outside, yeah, so I’ll be good for a while now.”
“Fucking hell Mel, that’s cold. You did embrace your dark side quickly.” Faith looked quite impressed. “How did you get him? Green wriggles or pure vampiric allure?”
Melinda thought she might actually be sick. “Allure, I guess. He seemed quite into me.”
Faith grinned. “See? It’s not all bad. Even you can get laid now.”
“Girls, seriously? Can we focus for a second here?” April motioned towards Will and Dale who were swaying around and giggling. “What are we going to do with these guys?”
“We could keep them?” Faith suggested hopefully, looking at Will who was sort of looking back.
“We can’t keep them!” Melinda gasped. “They’re not pets!”
“Or we could just dump them in the woods?” Faith winked at Melinda. “That’s much kinder.”
“Just take them back to the bar. People will hopefully think they’re drunk or something,” Melinda said wondering when she became so awful.
Faith looked sadly at Will. “OK. But what will we do next time? I think we’ve drunk our way through the population of this whole area now.”
“We’ll just have to go further afield,” April replied. “There are plenty of bars. Plenty of willing men.”
Melinda shook her head, incredulous. “Willing?”
April looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Look I know you’re a bit pissed that all of this has happened. I get it, it’s a mess.” She bit her lip. “We’ve just got to accept it. This is life now. Or unlife. Whatever. We’ve got to survive somehow.” April placed her hands gently on Dale’s face. He smiled at her touch. “We showed them a good time. We’ll get them back safe. Well except for Paul, but don’t feel bad, these things happen.” She thought of Sandy. “We just took a little blood. It’s not a big deal.”
“Not a big deal,” Melinda repeated. “You’re incredible.”
April smiled. She was never one to fully grasp sarcasm. “Thanks Mel.”
Night finally fell and Faith and April set off into the dark with Will and Dale in tow. The guys were still rather dazed, but at least now they had regained most of the circulation in their extremities and they could almost walk.
Melinda lingered at the gate, watching the four of them disappear into the thick forest. She hadn’t wanted to join them; in fact, she wanted to stay as far away from people as she could. Even sitting on the opposite side of the room to the wiped-out guys had been making her crazy.
She wondered what would happen if she didn’t have a drink soon. Would she dry up and rot? Would she just attack someone random and drink them dry? The thirstier she got the more her uncharacteristic anger simmered below the surface. She did feel like she’d just lose control if she tried to wait it out much longer.
It would be easy for her to be angry at April for turning her, but she wasn’t. It was so very April to get them into a mess; the girl just had no clue about how the world worked. Admittedly, this was the worst mess she’d ever gotten them into and Melinda had no idea how she would get them all out of it. But no, she wasn’t angry at April. It wasn’t her fault.
It was his.
The night wind whipped around her and something moved in her peripheral vision, snapping her straight out of rage and into fear. She froze. The safety of the house seemed so far away. Was it a wolf? A burglar? A murderer? Could any of things still even hurt her?
She turned towards the shadow that moved in the darkness. He took a silent step towards her and opened his mouth, revealing his bright, carnivorous teeth.
“Kitty!” she squealed, all fear subsiding. She crouched down to beckon him nearer. “Come here kitty! Who’s a fluffy kitty?”
He looked at her for a second in that patronising way that cats do, then turned and walked a small distance before stopping and looking back.
Melinda got up and walked over. She couldn’t resist a cat and this one was particularly fluffy. As she got nearer the cat moved on again. He was heading towards a path that Melinda hadn’t noticed before. The trees hung low and so little moonlight penetrated them she couldn’t see more than a few metres down. Ordinarily, Melinda wouldn’t dream of venturing down a pitch black path, alone, in the middle of the night, but something about this cat intrigued her. Almost compelled her. So she followed.
After what seemed like an age, the path finally opened up into a clearing. Melinda could just make out a house, enveloped in the darkness. She looked around for the cat but it was nowhere to be seen. Finally back in control of her senses and wondering how she’d got here, she reached for her phone, but realised with a sinking feeling that her pocket was empty.
She certainly wasn’t about to go knocking on the door of a stranger at this time of night to ask for directions, especially not in her current state of deprivation. Melinda turned back towards the path, wondering what to do.
Once again, the cat appeared in front of her. He bounded past her and jumped behind a statue of a winged creature that was protruding from the long grass.
“What are you playing at?” she cooed. She crawled over, feeling a large stone slab on the floor beneath her hands. “Why did you bring me here?” she whispered to no-one.
A light came on in the window behind her, making Melinda jump and illuminating the stone beneath her hands.
She felt her insides re-ignite as she glanced down at what she now realised was the top of a crypt, its inscription clear: Vatore.
Was this his house?
Melinda climbed down. She could see a figure moving in the lit window. Was that him?
Caleb had charmed his way through Sandy to almost kill April in her own home so Melinda reasoned he must surely be a powerful vampire capable of mind control, she’d be foolish to just burst right in. She should find her way back, formulate a plan. She would come back with police, or a mob armed with stakes, pitchforks and torches.
Or maybe she’d just come back with Faith; she could intimidate the most powerful of men.
She thought of Faith, of April, the dazed guys, poor Paul who was probably still wandering the forest in his boxers, the family she may never see again and a white heat rose up behind her eyes.
In her whole life, she had never been beyond mildly irritated, but this was surely what level three anger felt like. Blind with rage at what had happened due to this man, this monster, she didn’t even realise she had ascended the steps until her fist was pounding on the front door.