Chapter 3.08 – Guard Down

Broof had guided Melinda down a corridor to a small, but comfortable sitting room, full of flowers and family photos, and settled her on a plush sofa.

She tried to take in her surroundings while simultaneously trying to piece together what had happened to bring her to this house. She must have passed out at the cottage, somehow – probably from thirst, she reasoned. That must have been it. She passed out, hit her head and Sage had carried her to this house. That was a logical explanation.

She laughed as she considered that passing out from not drinking any blood was actually a logical explanation in her life now. She laughed again thinking how her life was no longer a life, but this second laugh bubbled hot with anger as she lamented who she had sold her soul for.

Beside her, oblivious to the chaos inside her head, Broof joined in with his own polite laugh.

“Transportalate always makes me a little delirious, too.” He smiled at her and added in a whisper. “And I’m not just saying that because I’m notoriously terrible at it. Give it a few minutes and everything will start making sense.”

“Transportalate, right,” Melinda sighed, surprised by the gravelly sound of her own voice. “If things ever start making sense again, I’ll let you know.”

“I apologise, Melinda,” he said, curtly. “I should have paid more attention, been more diligent, taken April out of the house… I had so many chances.”

Melinda gulped, hearing her innermost thoughts sounded out like this. She had often wondered why, as an adult, Broof hadn’t done more to intervene when Sandy started on April. Sure, he would calm Sandy down, distract her with… himself, pick up the pieces when she smashed April to bits which was more than Travis ever did. But he would never stop her, never challenge her, never risk outing her or damaging her reputation. Was it purely out of his duty, or did Broof, like everyone else in the world, genuinely just care more about Sandy than her daughter?

Maybe his guilt masked her own. Why hadn’t she done more to intervene? She could have told her parents about the bruises that appeared on April’s porcelain skin, about the way she’d suddenly cower if anyone raised their voice, or how she muttered derogatory things to herself, things she truly believed about herself even though they were downright wrong. Ugly. Stupid.

She hoped Caleb would take over her role and continue to challenge these beliefs April held, but she severely doubted it.

Broof settled on the sofa beside her and Melinda, fighting against instinct to attack him, shuffled away, ever so slightly.

“We will fix this,” he said assuredly, but before Melinda could ask how, he’d snapped back from this slightly-more-relaxed version of himself, to the professional default that she was so familiar with. “What can I get for you, Melinda? I admit that I haven’t got a great deal of experience catering for vampiric teenagers, only monstrous humans and the odd witch.” He smiled. “I doubt Sage has a good stock of your favourite animal crackers, but perhaps we can conjure some up.” He paused, as if hearing his own words for the first time. “No, ignore me; you can’t have those now, can you?”

Melinda shook her head as the mention of food somehow made the beat of his pulse louder. Truth be told, she didn’t really like animal crackers, but she’d always request them when he offered, purely because they required no preparation.

“The odd witch?” she asked politely, trying to focus on his words and not the thudding from his chest. “Do you mean Sandy?”

“No, she was the monstrous human,” Broof laughed causing the veins in his neck to twitch. “I should preface by saying that most witches are a little odd; it’s not a slight on the ones I served,” he explained casually, before he understood what she was really asking. His face fell. “Shoot. Sage hasn’t explained, has she?”

At Melinda’s blank look, Broof looked incredulously towards the closed door then back. “She teleported you without explaining… damn. No wonder you look so shocked. Melinda, Sage is a witch, as is her son, Wyatt – that scrawny man you saw back in the kitchen. And,” he took a deep breath. “And me, too. I’m a witch, too. Hello,” he said and waved awkwardly.

Melinda blinked; it was the only response her body had in it. “You’re a witch,” she said in a deadpan fashion.

“I am. Um, surprise?” he offered. “You know, I’ve never actually revealed myself to a non-witch before, would you believe? Although I did come close that night you were – well that night, in the bathroom. There was a spell I could have used, a suture of sorts, but could I ever remember it? I swear it, that tea gets me every time.” He cleared his throat.

“There are no such things as witches,” Melinda asserted, her brain refusing to accept any more strangeness today.

Broof smiled. “Until a month ago, didn’t we both think the same thing about vampires? I know that April’s new oral configuration shocked you as much as it did me. Perhaps you more so, familiar as you were with the previous setup,” he finished softly, raising a knowing eyebrow.

Melinda stared at him, wide-eyed. Broof was claiming to be a witch and yet she’d never seen him act so normal, so human. He had rarely let his guard down in the mansion, none of them had. They couldn’t afford to.

“I understand this is all quite a shock. It was for me, too. Witches traditionally aren’t friends with vampires; it’s a long and sour history and I was led to believe that vampires were extinct, at least in this country,” he fiddled with his fringe, looking away. “Sage is content to accommodate you here while we look into a possible cure, or alternative food source for you, but perhaps we’ll get into the finer details of that when you can see straight,” he finished with a small smile.

She realised that actually, she wasn’t shocked by any of this, she was only shocked at how little this information shocked her. A month ago, when her biggest worry in life was how she and Faith would sneak into April’s party, no, she wouldn’t have believed him. But the world she knew a month ago wasn’t real; it was a carefully crafted illusion; a paper-thin layer of ice over a bottomless lake that most people never fell through.

Month-Ago-Melinda wouldn’t have believed Broof but that girl was a distant memory now, as a certain rhythm was helpfully reminding her.

Ba-bum, ba-bum.

Broof fell silent. Melinda didn’t need to see his gently startled face to know that she had slipped form. His heart began racing, threatening to pound through his chest wall, but his voice was calm and even as he repeated his earlier question; “What can I get for you, Melinda?”

She’d heard those words many, many times at the mansion but never had they felt so alien as they did right at that moment. Sandy would bark orders at Broof but April was always polite when she ordered him to do things for her and he seemed happy to comply. Melinda, however, only saw the negative side of this kind of arrangement.

She could still remember the time April’s shoelace came untied when Broof wasn’t around. How April had coyly held her foot out to Melinda because, even at fourteen, she had no idea how to retie it by herself.

Faith, however, had never had any reservations about making Broof earn his pay, gleefully commanding him to do ridiculous things, like only singing his answers to her questions, walking backwards to exit rooms, calling her ‘Queen Faith’ or driving across town at midnight to get a specific brand of popcorn.

At his words and his waiting stance, Melinda’s empty stomach tied itself into a knot. “No,” she groaned, holding her head. “I can’t ask you for… that.”

“Very well, then I shall have to insist.” He turned down his collar, revealing two neat, semi-healed puncture holes. He registered her surprise with a smile that didn’t meet his eyes. “Lilith has a very small appetite so I’m confident I can accommodate you, just don’t ask me to drive afterwards.”

“Lilith?” Melinda whispered, picking up the faintest trace of Lilith’s vanilla and formaldehyde scent on Broof’s shirt. “Lilith drank from you?”

“Yes,” Broof replied, slightly taken aback by Melinda’s wariness. He faltered, his body jerking awkwardly like he was trying to figure out where to put himself next. “Of course, I understand; you don’t want to use her straw, so to speak. I should offer you the fresh side.” He turned his body until the untapped side of his neck came into view.

It seemed to take so little to tip her from reasoning since she had learned the satisfaction that could be gained from a warm meal. The urge to pin and devour swelled up inside her like a balloon at his sudden offering, pushing out all restraint.

Melinda choked and protested, even as her body betrayed her inching closer to Broof. Drawn like a magnet to the heat of this willing feast.



Jessica had barely anything to pack, so she was ready to leave not half an hour after her visitors. She had hesitated before walking past the staff on the reception desk, wondering if this was some sort of test and she’d be wrestled to the ground for attempting to escape, but they had clearly been informed of the situation, releasing the locks on the doors and wishing her a good day.

It was surreal, but not quite as much as the sensation of sunlight on her face for the first time in days, the feeling of freedom and the vast possibilities of the day.

Nor was it as surreal as seeing a tinfoil-hatted woman cleaning graffiti from a giant poster of her face.

Justice for Jess!” she read aloud. “You know, when I saw this on the news I thought you were out to get me, but this kooky plan of yours actually worked, Morag.”

“Jessica?”

“Jess! It is you! It really did work?! You’ve been released?” she gushed as Jessica smiled and nodded. “O-M-G! Wait until I tell the others. You know, we have a campaign like this every so often, but this is the first time it’s ever actually worked! Statistically, it’s only possible to lose so many times in a row, I guess. But you know, I saw that Wangshaft lady and her daughter-in-law come out of here not long ago and I knew that something had happened. Anyway, I’m blabbering. How are you? How do you feel?”

It was so nice to have someone so excited to see her, someone who asked how she was like they actually cared that for a moment Jessica was speechless.

And then the tears started. They poured from her eyes almost as fast as the words poured from her mouth. “I’ve been better,” she sobbed. “Something is going on, Morag and I don’t know what, but I don’t like it. I’m going back to work tomorrow, but I’ll be working for Beth and only on restricted duties. They’ve only released me because apparently the attention was too much; they’ll still be watching me. And I wonder, if this is how it started for Ralf, maybe even for Chase, that they felt indebted and controlled, and then they tried to get out and ended up… they ended up….”

Morag held up her hand. “We can’t talk here, Jessica,” she whispered. “Do you have plans for the day?”

Jessica looked at her shoes; tacky, plastic pink sandals that she had opted to wear without the supplied socks. “I was going to go home. Change… into pyjamas,” she added hastily. “Spend the afternoon wallowing and reading pregnancy books.”

Morag grinned. “As fun as that sounds, maybe you’d like to come with me to the HQ and talk freely amongst friends? You can head back to yours and change your outfit first, though if you like. Don’t tell her said this, but I always thought Pixie’s style was a bit out-there.”

Wallowing in pyjamas with a huge tub of ice cream was what Jessica wanted, but after days in isolation she was not going to pass up a social invitation, especially as she had a lot to thank the GliTS for. She could spare them a few hours of her time, she supposed, a brief foray into the wild before she fell back to normality tomorrow.

“Okay,” she said. “Yes, let me just swing by my place and then sure, we’ll head over to HQ.”

“Great!” Morag enthused, leading the way down the path. “Oh, one small thing; I’ll need to frisk you for bugs and wires before letting you in. Are you ticklish?”



Lilith managed to resist the temptation of drowning herself at either the river or the pub to arrive back at the flower shop. She opened the door, locked by neither key or charm, and descended the stairs to the basement room that lead to the tiny, underground apartment Sage shared with her son.

Before she’d even opened the door that led into the kitchen, she could hear the sound of Sage complaining, followed by a loud bang and Wyatt’s laugh.

The sound of gushing water echoed behind her as Lilith left the kitchen. The water seeped beneath the door as it closed behind her then promptly evaporated before Lilith’s eyes as Sage’s screeching intensified. It was clear that April was feeling better and that Sage had her hands full with some other drama, which brought Lilith a little time to tie up some loose ends.

All she had to do was find Melinda and convince the attentive little vampire to keep schtum about a certain behatted twat, and everything would be as close to fine as it was going to get.

She pushed the door of the spare bedroom open, expecting to see Melinda in there, but the room was empty. Deciding that she must be in the sitting room, Lilith headed over, her eyes landing on the bar as she passed it. How anyone got through the chaos of normal life without veins full of alcohol was beyond her, let alone with what the poor girl had been through today.

Lilith poured a small gin, for Melinda’s nerves. Or her own, she hadn’t decided. She abandoned her glass as a scream rang from the sitting room.

Was this some hidden camera show? Was someone having a huge joke at her expense?

“Lilith,” Melinda sobbed. If the girl hadn’t turned her head, Lilith would have no idea if she was looking at her; her face was an eyeless mess of black tears and snot. “I can’t!” she wailed. “After what I did to Dad, I just can’t!”

Lilith yanked Broof back from the jaws of death that were steadily losing their fight to spare him. She dragged him from the room by the collar, ignoring his strangled cries and flailing limbs.

“Lilith!” he managed, when she had righted him in the hallway. “What on earth—“

“What are you doing?! Don’t offer your throat to a fledgling. We have no idea what she’s capable of!”

Broof bristled, clearly alarmed and embarrassed by this turn of events. “Lilith; she’s a sweet, terrified, eighteen-year-old girl—”

“Driven by the uncaring urges of a bloodthirsty millennium-old curse.”

Broof swallowed, looking towards the room where Melinda’s whimpering could still be heard. “I just thought, with April previously only taking a little, you only taking a little that maybe female vampires—”

“Bloody typical,” Lilith growled low in her throat. “So, it’s only the big, scary vampire men that can drain you dry, huh? Is that a theory you want to test, Broompig?”

“I didn’t think—”

“Well you’d better start,” Lilith hissed. “Do you think this is easy for her? She has no idea who she is, where she is or what’s happening and you think she can just tap into you like a juice carton like it’s nothing? You witches are all the same. You can clean shit from a toilet with a wave of your hand and suddenly you think you know everything; think you have the answers to everything.”

“Lilith, you barely know me,” Broof gasped. “Watcher. I’m a decent bloke. I’m donating my blood—.”

“Aww,” Lilith cooed sarcastically. “Does that make you feel better about yourself?”

“Excuse me?!” Broof choked. “I’m only trying to help!”

You had her whole lifetime to help and you did nothing.

Broof barely startled as Lilith’s voice reverberated through his head. Her angry little brain needles penetrated his skull without permission but before she could stop them, for the first time since she’d met him, she began to hear – and see – the briefest whispers of his thoughts.

“Daddy, why don’t fish drown?”

He shuddered. He was wanting to challenge her, to explain, but instead he only dropped his shoulders, defeated.

“I clearly still have a lot to learn. I apologise,” he said calmly.

“…Good.”

“I’ll go and draw Melinda a drink, shall I?” he offered, without a hint of derision.

“You do that,” Lilith agreed, returning to the sitting room and, for no good reason, she slammed the door in his face.

12 thoughts on “Chapter 3.08 – Guard Down

  1. I was near suffocating in the morning coffee when I saw the picture of Broff exposing his carotid artery to Melinda 😬
    I was sure it was out with him …. although on second thought there is no shortage of scandals and drama in this story.
    You have previously indicated that there is light ahead and another murder fits very poorly in that calculation.

    I allow myself to jump in the order and comment on the fact that Lilith once again jumps in as the saving angel.
    Fortunately, she overcame to follow her urge for cosmopolitans in this crucial moment.

    Now that I’m jumping around in time and order. Broff thinks of Cabbage and Lilith is able to read his thoughts.
    Now I am convinced that Lilith is his missing daughter. I know I have a new theory after each chapter, but it will make so much sense in a story where time is fluid.
    Unfortunately, I do not have time to go back in the chapters to investigate my theory. It’s normal for vampires to kidnap their children … but I do not remember the details of Lilith’s story.
    I have to let it go for now 🤨

    Jessica is really sharp-sighted when it comes to the reason for her release and her own situation.
    Morag’s comment on Pixie’s fashion choices is hilarious 🤣
    But regardless of clothing style, Jessica has made some important friends in the GliTS.
    There is hope ahead 🌤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found Lilith’s background. A theory has been shot to the ground.
      What a relief. All these speculations disturb my night’s sleep 🙄😂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Ooh, don’t suffocate in your coffee, what a horrible way to go. Killing Broof off so soon, when he still has so much to offer, does not fit well with my promise of light ahead, no. Unless, that light ahead is an oncoming train.

      I see that you have already resolved theory in the time I’ve been away. No, Lilith is not Broof’s daughter. That’d be awkward. For anyone reading who cannot be bothered to check back, Lilith’s flashback chapter is this one.

      There is hope ahead! I don’t make promises I can’t keep. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm… did Broof keep quiet about Sandy because if April got taken away from that household he wouldn´t be able to keep an eye on her anymore? It´s the only reason that comes to my mind for why he wouldn´t speak up at least… unless of course the social services in Del Sol Valley are as useful as Windenburg´s police department. Ha.
    Pffft, Broof´s big reveal, tho. XD I guess after becoming a vampire, there being witches too really isn´t that much of a shocker… but still, Broof and his matter-of-factly ways. 😀

    And Jess made friends with the Truth Society. …right. On the one hand, that could be a good thing since them having been on Tv already would make any disappearances… more inconvenient, at least. On the other hand, I doubt Beth will be happy about it. Eeep.

    Speaking about “eep” that really was a very dangerous idea, Broof. Also, the sweetest ones tend to be the most dangerous if they ever do loose it, that´s no secret…

    …finally, is it just me, or did Lilith kind of forget that April can blabber about Seth´s existence too? If she hasn´t already of course… and I´m sure Mel will want a reason as to why she shouldn´t tell, which Lilith may be able to provide, she is good at coming up with reasons after all… something tells me Lils is being a bit too optimistic about this whole thing. XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The social services may be about as useful the police department in this world, but a big part of it would be that he would lose all contact with April, yes. And draw a lot of attention to her. And be out of a job. Sort of like what actually happened, really. 😆 There’s another factor too, but we’ll get there.

      I did think about having him tell her in a flashier manner, but the guy can barely light a candle, so awkward wave and muted reaction it was.

      Jessica isn’t quite friends with the GliTS yet. They don’t let just anyone into their circle…

      Lilith is being optimistic? Hurrah!

      Like

    1. Now let me see what I remember…
      Lilith has a major ‘tude in this one with Broof, but I can totally understand why. The door slam was a bit over the top, but when you consider all the stress she’s had to deal with in her existence, I can forgive her that.
      Poor Melly. And I was so nervous the whole time whether or not she was going to attack Broof. I’m glad she didn’t. (duh) But seriously, the fact that she’s showing that kind of restraint at such a young age really says something about her character.
      On a totally different note: I wish Broof could improve his magic.
      And I’m so glad Jessica escaped the tower. Hopefully, the Glits can help her and not just cause more trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. WordPress seems to eat a lot of comments, so might’ve been that. I’ve taken to typing mine in a notes app, or word doc if I’m on my laptop, and copying them across because retyping them is a pain in the arse.

        Yeah, a dead witch in that scenario was not going to do Lilith any favours. At the end there, she stomped off mid-argument (about politics) to retrieve her gin (sparkling water) and Broof stayed still as the door closed in his face. I think she was telling me she’s had enough.

        Aw, Mellybean. She’s such a lovely, well-put-together person, but such a rubbish vampire.

        Maybe Broof will be able to improve his magic now he’s ‘mentoring’ Wyatt. I guess that really depends on why he’s so bad at it in the first place, though.

        Maybe the GliTS will help her and cause more trouble. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “but this second laugh bubbled hot with anger as she lamented who she had sold her soul for.” Ouch. Ouch, ouch. Wait, wasn’t Melinda turning into a vampire partly because April panicked and fed her some of her own blood because she thought it would help? Or am I misremembering that? Does it count as selling your soul if it was an accident? 🤔
    I wonder what would happen if Melinda were to decide to just leave like Faith did. April can’t seem to be apart from Caleb for long, but Faith doesn’t seem to have any trouble staying away from April. Maybe it’s the same for Melinda. If she would want to leave, that is. I can imagine her not being able to even with that much resentment, because April is still someone to be helped and because anger is not the opposite of affection. That’s indifference, and Melinda doesn’t seem to be there yet by a longshot.

    Leave it to Broof to calmly explain a whole new supernatural side of society to her 😅 His little wave and “I’m a witch. Hello.” Had me cooing and laughing at the same time. Broof can be so adorable sometimes without even trying. Aaaaaah no, nooo, don’t go offering up your neck to her like that! We know that Melinda has amazing self-restraint, but he doesn’t! Broof! Broof! Stop cosplaying as a walking buffet! Broooooofff 😫😫😫

    Melinda not being able to tie her own shoelaces at 14 is both disturbing and makes a sad amount of sense.

    Yay! It’s the GliTS! And Jess is out! Free to go! Nothing bad can happen now, surely 🤩 All joking aside, though – the GliTS are a bunch of nutters, but they’re the only ones who seem to have Jess’s back in all of this, and the only people that she can actually rely on to some extent. I wonder how many visitors she had besides Pixie. Jessica might want to be alone, but it’s probably not what she needs.

    Oh hi Lilith! Whoa, April went back to normal real fast, didn’t she? Broof’s conversation with Melinda took, what, maybe 30 minutes? Caleb’s presence really helped. Dear lord. That’s good but also so, so terrible 😅

    The pose of Lilith dragging Broof out by the scruff made me laugh, although the rest of it wasn’t a funny scene. Broof was just trying to help, and although Lilith knows better, she jumps to conclusions about him so very quickly. I wonder why. It’s almost like she’s projecting. Is it because he reminds her of other men in her life? Because she saw something in his thoughts when they were first introduced/blowing bubbles, and now that’s stuck in her head? Because of something else? Broof seems like such a nice guy, but so did Chuck, and she didn’t seem to have any problems with his thoughts. Her “you had a whole lifetime and did nothing” is so heavy, too.

    Turning into a novel again. I’ll cut it off here before WordPress turns it into a comment sandwich and eats half of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re not misremembering that. This is definitely a ‘woe is me’ teenage melodrama kind of comment from Melinda, she did not willingly offer her soul to April, well, not in the way it happened, anyway. On a side note: there is a bonus layer of lore about what happens to the soul of someone who willingly accepts the curse versus someone who doesn’t, but we might just cover that later. 😉

      If Melinda wanted to leave, she probably could try. Faith is largely unaffected by April at the moment, but then, she’s kinda occupied.

      Broof is adorable. He doesn’t like fuss and fanfare. If Wyatt had been explaining, would probably have been a light show or something. 😆

      I’m still not sure that April can tie her own shoelaces; none of her outfits have laced-up shoes.

      Besides Pixie (and Beth/Gloria), Jessica had exactly 0 visitors.

      April went back to normal real fast, didn’t she?” she did. Ah, the power of ‘love’. *cough*

      I love that pose so much; I need to find another place to use it. She gave some reasoning here; that witches think they know everything and try to fix everything, one strike, that he knew April for years and didn’t save her from her situation, two strikes… almost dying at the hands of a fledgling probably didn’t do him any favours, either. There’s a certain amount of projection, naturally. It is Lilith.

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  4. “Lilith’s vanilla and formaldehyde scent.” Ah yes, that sounds oh so lovely! LOL

    Oh man, reading this chapter reminded me: “eff Broof.” I know somewhere along the way, I lost my disappointment in him and started thinking of him as a wounded puppy/chill dude, but I remember now. He had an opportunity to do something about April, and he didn’t. Yes, Melinda did, too, but she was just a kid. I forgive her.

    I enjoyed watching Melinda’s brain expand to take in this whole new supernatural world she’s a part of. It would help, of course, if some of the members of said supernatural world would do their due diligence and explain what the heck is going on. I mean, Sage transportalated her and was like: ok, peace out!

    And I’m not giving Lilith any high-fives either. She knew what a problem Caleb was, and yet, she’s been indulging him for centuries—stuck in this insane co-dependent cycle that’s sucked up April and made her a victim yet again.

    I cannot believe I’m saying this because, man, does that girl have issues, and she’s definitely a bit of a monster herself, but JUSTICE FOR APRIL.

    The reunion of Jessica and the GLiTS was everything thing my heart needed this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I release my line of AE perfumes, I don’t think Lilith’s will be very popular. The other fragrances are on the character bios if anyone wants to see what the scent range would consist of.

      Sage’s head is always somewhere else, but I’m sure the girls will get an explanation at some point. And so will you all! A bit next chapter and a bit more a little down the line.

      Yes, Broof and Lilith both had a lot of opportunity to change things in their respective situations. Perhaps they aren’t all that dissimilar. Justice for April! I’ll get the GliTS right on painting another campaign poster.

      Liked by 1 person

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