It was a mere hour before sunrise and there was still no sign of them.
Seth wouldn’t say he was worried, particularly. All right, the three girls had low sun resistance, but his trespass into her head had confirmed that the squeaky stray was more than capable of finding shelter for them, of looking after them when the morbid manwhore would, inevitably, fail.
Seth had been most surprised with his discoveries in the mind of Faith’s cute companion. She was sickly sweet and whole-hearted, true, and her tone jarred him but underneath that, she was sharp, bright. She definitely had the keen hunting skill of a Wangshaft and an undercurrent of something strange, yet oddly familiar.
He had been almost impressed when Melinda had challenged him, and as immature and impulsive as her efforts were, she had, inadvertently, been within a hair’s breadth of ruining everything.
Fortunately, she was easily distracted and quick to externalise blame. Teenagers. Why society vampires ever thought that eternally preserving themselves at that age was ideal was beyond Seth’s comprehension.
Yes, Melinda had become far more interesting to Seth. Possibly even worthy of his investment. As he had paced the bridge tonight, waiting, he couldn’t help but to plan further, to indulge himself with thoughts of her giving herself over to her curse, to him, slipping away into the mire. It would be slow and oh-so-painful for her; she would resist, she would fight.
Hopefully her insults would improve. He didn’t get quite the sick kick he’d desired from being called a fopdoodle, whatever that was.
No. He was getting ahead of himself; one thing at a time. Faith was an adequate starting point. No one except Melinda would bother to intervene there; even Lilith knew that Faith was a lost cause, humanity-wise. The girl was further down the path to ferity than Seth had anticipated and much more than she could admit to herself; even without Seth’s guidance she was already desensitised, clinging to Melinda’s morals in absence of her own, feeding on fear and hating that she loved it.
Add in that she was overwhelmed with all her physical urges, self-hate and abandonment issues and it was almost too easy.
He’d be rather bored if his pursuit was purely to turn her rogue, if it wasn’t for the promise of this most intriguing power she held and her cerebral silence, which infuriated him. It had to be overcome if she was to become as subservient as he required.
Although, that’s not to say that he hadn’t heard anything from her conflicted cranium at all last night.
I would much rather not care about anything…
Permission. Of sorts. He had seized his chance, lest she change her mind as she was loathe to do. It had almost wiped him out to even attempt it, so damn resilient was she to amendments, but his effort had caused Faith to lose consciousness, which had helped. She was most mentally malleable when she was insensible; something to bear in mind for next time.
And there would be a next time.
Making memories inaccessible was relatively simple, but amending them, altering the emotional attachment to them, was quite an undertaking, involving multiple, subtle tweaks, delicacy, perseverance…
Half an hour to sunrise. Trust Caleb to cut it this fine.
It now lingered in the back of Seth’s mind that the group may be seeking shelter elsewhere. This was the only open motel on their route to Windenburg, it seemed like the most logical destination, but when had Caleb ever been logical. The buffoon had probably tried to check them into the Glimmerbrook Grand.
As Seth wondered how far he’d have to backtrack before he could pick up the trail, he became aware of something brushing against his boot.
“This is the best day ever,” April whispered, as if speaking any louder would break the dream. She hadn’t stopped grinning since she’d walked into the foyer.
“You say this was a last-minute deal?” Melinda asked again, sceptically.
“Yeah, Fringey,” Faith concurred. “Nobody died, right?”
“Nobody died,” Caleb laughed.
He’d left the manager at the deserted hotel bar; thoroughly seen to and missing a great deal of blood, but most definitely not dead. Definitely progress.
He wasn’t sure how long she would be out for, but for now, April and her friends were sitting beside him, safe from the sun in a huge, fancy hot tub, having the best day ever.
He had never seen his little, blonde sweetheart so happy, so mellow. How he wished he could keep her this way, to afford to support the luxurious lifestyle that she was used to – without resorting to harlotry or murder, that is.
When they got to Windenburg, he’d set about finding a job. Unlike Lilith, he didn’t have any professional qualifications, so he was hardly going to be wealthy any time soon, but he had a few skills. He’d had a few jobs in his time, mostly bar work and only for short stints; he’d inevitably have to leave for one reason or another. Usually a reason involving breasts or fire.
Eventually, he’d built up enough sun resistance to stay outside all day without turning into dust and taken a job in a bakery. He could make a fine baumkuchen, or so he was told. Of course, everything just tasted like ash to him.
He wasn’t sure that Windenburg had a bar or bakery that was hiring, but he’d find something. He’d support her, somehow. He’d work day and night, until she was once again residing in a house that had golden taps and marble floors.
He’d look after them all. Even moody Melinda.
While Melinda had grilled Caleb about everything from the exact cost of the room to what exactly he’d meant by Lilith liking soft-hearted men, Faith had told her to ‘lighten up’, stripped off right in front of everyone and climbed into the hot tub without a care.
April was a little self-conscious, but quick to join in, but Melinda, once she had eventually been tempted in by April, had been very shy about taking her clothing off and insisted that Caleb face the other way until she was fully submerged in the tub.
She’d scooted right over to the furthest corner from him and had been looking at him with a mixture of scepticism and disgust since then.
He wasn’t really sure what he’d done now. Maybe Seth had said something or she’d been hoping for the presidential suite.
“Faith!” Melinda suddenly squealed, a good second before Faith had actually splashed her.
“Would you stop bloody pouting, already?” Faith laughed. “Come on! I’m the one who suffocated in my own shit and broke up with my not-even-a-boyfriend tonight and I’m fine. Why have you got a face on?”
“Oh, I wonder,” Melinda said sarcastically, giving Caleb another withering look. “Could it be that we’re stuck in a bleeding nightmare with no effing plan?”
“We do have a plan!” April gushed, dreamily. “Don’t we, Caleb? We’re going to a chocolate box cottage in Windenburg.”
“And then what?” Melinda spat. “What will we survive on? Will we hide in the house until we go insane and eat each other?”
“Fucking hell Mel, who pissed on your cornflakes?” Faith said. “Give the man a chance.”
Melinda huffed. The three girls looked towards Caleb, expectantly.
It was a weird feeling, having others looking to him for advice, relying on him. Other than Robert, Caleb hadn’t ever had to worry about taking care of or feeding anyone. Although Robert pretty much took care of himself, even brought Caleb dead mice, presumably to eat, so it was debatable who was really looking after whom.
He cleared his throat, tried to sound authoritative. “I’m going to get a job—“
“Ooh! You could be a lawyer!” April interrupted, gleefully. “You’d look super nice in a sharp suit! Or you could be a doctor, like Lilith! Or a secret agent!”
“Or a rent boy,” Faith suggested.
“Or a burglar. Maybe a hit man,” Melinda muttered.
April tutted, “You’re just being silly now, Mel.”
Melinda rolled her eyes. “Fine. So you get a job as a secret agent, then what? What do we eat?”
“I was getting to that,” Caleb said assuredly, even though he hadn’t been planning to. “We have a couple of options; we can either hunt in the village or we can take prisoners. Although if we do go down that route, bear in mind that we’d need a few and the basement isn’t very big. Oh, and we’d have to feed them. Humans die if you don’t feed them.”
“I vote for prisoners,” Faith said, immediately.
“Me too,” April agreed.
“Wait, what? Are you sodding kidding me?” Melinda gasped. “Yeah, let’s add kidnapping to our extensive list of crimes!”
“Great! We’re all in agreement!” April said, missing the sarcasm. “Caleb? Will you please kidnap some tasty humans to live in our basement at the cottage?”
Now that he could do.
“Of course I will.”
The cat had circled Seth a few times, brushed against his boots and was now looking up at him, meowing loudly.
Despite taking out three strangers on his way here, the last one of which he hadn’t even drunk from, Seth did not have any morsels to offer this cute creature. But oh, he did have a fondness for cats. Underneath all the fluff, they were devious, free-spirited, heartless little bastards; hunting for fun, toying with their frightened prey, defecating in whoever’s flowerbeds they wished before climbing on to a lap to be lavished with affection.
His mind control didn’t work on animals, so Seth had to tempt the cat the mortal way. After its initial interest and pleas for attention, the cat now turned its face away, playing hard to get. It resisted Seth’s chirpy, kitty-call voice for a few seconds, before giving him a look of pure pity and sauntering over.
Seth swept the reticent creature into his arms for a snuggle, undeterred by potential attack with teeth or claws. The cat had no collar but it was clearly domesticated; it settled into the crook of his arm like it belonged and gazed up at him.
Seth enjoyed the warm, soft weight of the cat for a while as he admired its cute little nose, its dinky little paws, its big, green eyes—
Ah. Now that was unusual. A human memory, one not seen before. Perhaps he’d had a pet cat, similar to this one. But why would anyone bury his memory of his pet cat?