Lilith had regained her composure by the time she’d reached home and the desire to smash the world to pieces was back at a manageable level. She reminded herself that Caleb was not her problem now and if the police came knocking she would do what she did best.
Lie and deny.
She was given an unexpected boost of joy when she noticed that the dish she’d thrown out that morning had been touched by neither man nor beast.
Hopefully that damn flea-ridden feline was finally dead; it was high time, he must have been about thirty.
Lilith had settled at her desk, her last journal entry open before her. November fifteenth, 1986. The day before she opened her first surgery and the last day that she had been actively searching for information on the plasma fruit or the scientist who first discovered it.
She had given up that day due to frustration. All the dead-ends paired with the reluctance of those around her to assist her and the promise of a safer way to survive had finally eroded the last of her will. Seth had always mocked her mission but had been largely indifferent to her ‘puerile pastime’. That had changed after their incredibly hostile break-up when he had taken to sabotaging her efforts instead. Towards the end, even the Walking Disaster himself had lost faith in her.
Lilith shrugged her shoulders. They don’t matter now.
What mattered now was saving her own skin, first and foremost. Losing her head wouldn’t benefit anybody. Then, there were the three fledgling vampires who could still be spared from this swamp, the man desperate to be reunited with his daughter and the mystery that needed to be solved.
The world had changed a lot since she’d last opened this journal. She had new tools at her disposal, endless resources, a whole world at her nimble fingertips.
And absolutely no distractions.
Caleb had an inkling that he wasn’t going to be able to afford this place. However, the motel he had planned to book into had been closed down for ‘health reasons’.
This was the only other hotel he knew of in the area and it came with memories.
Caleb didn’t remember her name; that wasn’t unusual, but he did remember that she was the daughter of Lilith’s manager at the time, Harold, and her wedding was held here. Attending large social gatherings was not Lilith’s idea of fun, but her invitation came with the promise of a pre-wedding shindig that included a free bar and numerous high-profile people to gain leverage over, sweetening the deal considerably. There was one small problem. Harold was recently widowed, a notorious creep and restrained in his lewdness towards Lilith only by the knowledge that she had a fiancé, who was, begrudgingly, also invited.
In true Lilith fashion, she had decided that coming clean about the fact that she’d made up said fiancé was not an option. She’d forced Caleb to act as her fictional beau, which had been horrible, but at one point she did pay him a genuine compliment.
“Well done for holding in your vomit when I kissed your cheek and for not being a complete arsehole to everyone.”
Once Harold was safely escorted up to bed, Lilith permitted Caleb a few blissful hours completely unsupervised while she mingled with the remaining names. In the middle of the night, in a manor house in the countryside occupied mainly by middle-aged, male businessmen, she probably assumed that there wasn’t much Caleb could do to cause trouble.
Caleb was taking a moonlit walk around the gardens when he encountered the crying young woman. The delectable blonde was far more keen to discard her dress than to talk about what ailed her, which suited him just fine.
He’d only taken a few pints from her, barely even left any of his ‘calling card’ bruising and she’d made it all the way through her wedding vows the following day before passing out, which was quite some feat because the ceremony was incredibly boring.
Unfortunately, the bang on the head sustained during the fall had finished her.
The siblings had agreed to disagree on whether this event counted as progress for Caleb, or not.
Caleb was snapped back to the present day by the warm, professional voice of the woman at the front desk.
“Welcome to The Glimmerbrook Grand, sir. Do you have a reservation?”
“No,” Caleb replied, trying not to sound too much like a clueless pauper. “I’ll take your cheapest available room. One night.”
Caleb registered a flicker of distaste on the manager’s face before she continued in her accommodating pitch. “The only room we have available at the moment is the honeymoon suite and while I would certainly not classify it as cheap, sir, it is certainly the cheapest available at nineteen hundred simoleons per night. Will you be paying by credit or debit card?”
“Nineteen hundred?” Caleb repeated, wondering when in hell the world became so expensive and where the heck he was going to hide three sun-shy fledgling vampires for the next sixteen hours. “That’s rather a lot.”
“It is a fine room, sir. King sized bed, hot tub, private balcony…” She lost herself in her reverie for a moment, before politely clearing her throat and returning to the task at hand.
“Hot tub?” Caleb repeated, his interest piqued.
“Oh yes, plus the services included with every booking: full use of the swimming pool, gymnasium, spa, concierge, room service and, of course, the finest organic toiletries. When you consider it all, the price is very reasonable, wouldn’t you say?”
Caleb thumbed through the dwindling roll of banknotes in his pocket. “Do you offer any last-minute discounts, perhaps?”
“Oh my goodness, no!” she gasped, looking like she’d been slapped, before returning him a polite laugh.
Well, that was that then. He turned to leave, wracking his brain trying to think of a plan B, but found himself hit with another memory instead.
Please can we stay in some proper hotels at some point, not these seedy ones? Ones with nice toiletries, clean sheets, concierges…
She deserved it, didn’t she? She had fallen so far from grace. The cottage in Windenburg, if it was still standing, offered none of these things and they would likely be there a while.
Yes, she did deserve it. But how best to go about it?
He could knock the manager out and steal the key? But then she’d come round at some point and that would only end badly.
Perhaps he should simply kill her?
As he pondered if this was too extreme and whether draining this woman would make him feel less guilty than simply snapping her neck, like the devil on his shoulder, Seth piped up again, offering another solution: you have allure dripping from you. Use it.
It would have to be one heck of an effort to discount the room enough for him to actually afford it, but he’d done similar in the past. And if he was doing it for April, that made it all right.
And he was doing it for April, right?
Watching Seth make eyes at her and witnessing her flirtatious responses had burned his insides. This jealousy was novel. Perhaps he’d never cared enough about anyone or anything to experience it before, but the lust and violent outbursts were definitely all him.
He didn’t want either of those traits, but he definitely didn’t want to burden April with them. To tip the balance, was it as simple as embracing them himself? Is that how this trade worked?
Did he become the animal he chose to feed?
If so, he could get the fancy room and keep April her sweet, cute self at the same time. He could kill two birds with one stone here. Metaphorically speaking.
Caleb wasn’t only hesitating because he didn’t understand how any of this really worked, but also because of his promise to be faithful, which he had made only yesterday. Also, it had been a while since he’d seduced anyone and this woman was, well…
…Not exactly enamoured.
He cleared his throat and adopted his most suave voice. “Is card the only way to pay?” He took a swift peek at her name badge. Damn. “Squishelda? Such a… a beautiful name.”
“Sir, are you trying to flirt with me?”
Damn it. Was it not obvious? Had he lost his touch? Women always loved his winning combination of heartless rebel and boyish good looks; it had never failed. But now, after years of desperately trying to kill it, was the heartless rebel part actually dead?
Oh no. Holy hell; he hadn’t given that to April, had he?
“Shut up and get your sweet ass over here.”
Thank the devil. Although the woman wasn’t even talking, so by all standards that was kind of rude.
Squishelda narrowed her eyes at him, but before he could form an adequate apology, she had left her seat and made her way around the front of the desk.
“Look here, boy,” she said, seating herself on the counter. “A room of such calibre cannot simply be flirted for.”
Her voice was ice cold and her face gave nothing away but the way her heart had skipped as she’d brushed against him and how it now fluttered, faster in her throat, told him he was in familiar territory.
“What else do you have in mind?” he asked, sensing her next movement.
Her indiscreet hand placement made it plenty obvious. She drew him closer, her voice still clipped and professional, as if someone might overhear. “Shall we check out the room first, sir? Ensure it is up to standard before you proceed with your payment?”
She’ll never know, he reassured himself and simply nodded.
Lilith had been staring at this page for hours now.
She’d spent three hundred years being interrupted by her younger brother and his escapades and now she found herself completely unable to focus in the silence of the house.
It was ridiculous. Not only did he have his walls up and barely ever talk to her when he was home anyway, but he’d left for days before without a word and he left the house every night for longer than this. He’d be off stargazing about this time of night, which with hindsight, was probably his code name for ‘beating up men in bars’ or ‘draining the daughters of famous women in their homes like a bloody moron.’
He always did the stupidest things.
He always thought he was doing the right thing.
Perhaps this was a mission for another night. Maybe if she went in to his room and mentally planned how she would turn it into something useful, that would be an adequate distraction; make things final.
This room was so boring. She had offered to get him some paintings, or model ships or the like, as he used to have when he was younger, but he would sulk and say he ‘wasn’t interested’ and so his room was as barren as a desert. The only thing in here that contained anything interesting was his closet.
She emptied her glass and set it down, before opening the closet door, to see what he’d left behind. Lots of formal attire for events he never wanted to go to, a few blood-stained shirts – well, they could be binned. She dragged them out and dumped them on the floor, her eyes drawn to a familiar garment as she did so.
She slipped her arms into the fur trimmed sleeves, surprised at how well it fit her. She had bought him this as a joke; who would willingly wear a red, giraffe print coat? Turns out, he would. She should have known after the whole earring thing that he’d wear things to spite her. He never took the bloody things off. Well, until three pretty young vampires appeared on the scene and started teasing him, that is.
She’d ended up hating this jacket almost as much as she’d hated that haircut. She’d take it outside with everything else in the closet and she’d burn it all.
He’ll be cold without it, she thought, idly running her knuckles across the radiator, which wasn’t even connected to the water supply.
Don’t be stupid. He won’t be cold. It’s almost summer. Oh, and he’s undead.
Lilith stared at the wall for a while, imagining what else she could do with this time and space she now had. She could take up a new hobby and have this as her hobby room. Start a new business venture and have this as her home office.
Or maybe she’d just leave it exactly as it was.
As her helpful reminder.