Chapter 1.52 – Full of Holes

The first thing that struck Seth was that all the lights were off in the house.

Despite having excellent night vision, Lilith always had lights on, even if there was no-one home. It made it look ‘lived in’, she would say. It didn’t matter that not a single soul ever passed here, she liked to pretend to the world that she was normal, almost human. He used to find her desire to cling to humanity quite endearing and it made her inevitable descent into vampiric madness at his hands all the more satisfying for him to watch.

The second thing that Seth noticed was that it was eerily quiet. Not a thought to be heard for miles; only an empty static, that he suspected belonged to one vicious vixen.

He wouldn’t usually walk straight in, uninvited. Perhaps it was being full of Will’s Wangshaft bravado that caused him to try the handle, watching as the door swung open to permit him.

His attention was first drawn to the living room and that infernal device! Why Lilith had obtained one of these was beyond him, but he felt that smashing it to pieces was not a polite way to start the visit.

He looked around the room, wondering why on earth anyone would choose to spend their time boxed in like this. He had never been comfortable indoors. The longer he stood there, the more restricted the space felt; the walls pulling in towards him until he wouldn’t have been able to breathe even if he’d had functioning lungs. He walked back into the hallway, composed himself and spotted Lilith.

Interesting. He crouched beside her, tried to tune in, hearing nothing but that empty static.

Wakey wakey Lilith.

There was a flicker across her face that told him she’d heard him, but her mind was completely empty. How unusual. He stood back a few paces and waved his hand to compel her to her feet. She barely shifted.

Now he was intrigued. He refused to be bested by this mystery magic.

He lifted his arm, channelled as much energy as he could, willing her to stand.

He watched as she rose up in an unwieldly fashion, her eyes blinking open, finally supporting herself but looking very confused.

She walked past him as if he didn’t exist and seated herself at the table. He stood in the archway watching as she slowly collected herself.

“Better?” he asked when she eventually focused on him.

“What the hell are you doing in here?”

Clearly better. He walked over, taking the kidney from his pocket, tossing it and catching it a few times. “I would have fashioned a few organs into a bouquet but alas, I had no ribbon and intestines just don’t tie the same.”

“Still bringing me shit,” Lilith spat. “You never change.”

“It’s not for you. What happened?”

It amused him that despite her indignation, Lilith’s face had most certainly fallen upon finding out that this gift wasn’t for her.

“I don’t really know. I think it was something Faith did as she was seething. It felt like a hard shove but I’m certain she didn’t actually touch me.”

“And it rendered you helpless? Marvellous,” Seth said, making a mental note to not anger Faith again. “So where are they now?”

“I don’t know. I could only hear so much. They don’t want to live with this thing,” she grumbled, pointing towards herself. “After everything I did for that bastard, he tells them I mistreated him! Lets his friend attack me then doesn’t even check if I’m alright. None of them checked if I was alright! And they robbed me of all my stock!”

Seth could feel the rage burning inside him, doused it. He threw the kidney across the room landing it directly in the sink, pushed back the chair and sat opposite her.

“They’re gone?”

“I didn’t say you could sit. Get out.”

“Lilith, you’ve pushed away enough people tonight. Admit defeat. Game over. I can see you’ve suffered quite the brain-bollocking this evening, so let us talk. I shall not pry.”

“Makes a change.”

“Why would they attack you?”

She folded her arms. “Caleb and I were having a disagreement about his behaviour tonight and they walked in at the wrong time.”

“He was rather restrained tonight.” Seth paused, reading. “Ah, no. Wait. We’re thinking of different things.” He rubbed his jaw, trying not to smile. She had always been prudish. “It was only a matter a time before he weakened to his lust, Lilith. Vampire or not, April is a simply a body full of holes, after all.”

“Your efforts not to pry lasted all of five seconds there, new record,” Lilith huffed. “And what the hell is wrong with you vampire men?! A body full of holes?!”

“Not my personal opinion, as well you know.” He smirked as she rolled her eyes. “Your greatest mistake has always been tarring us all with the same brush.”

“Because you’re all the same! Me, me, me.”

“That beast lives within us all, Lilith.” He had completely given up on his effort not to rifle through her thoughts now. “Oh dear, Caleb. Although it couldn’t have been that bad if she still left with him? Maybe she likes it a little rough?”

“She had no choice,” Lilith spat. Seth watched as Lilith shared a memory, probably in an effort to make him leave sooner.

“Ah, I see. Kiss of death.” He didn’t really need to know more, but he enjoyed watching her glare at him as he delved into her.

“You just can’t help yourself, can you?”

“I can, I don’t.” Seth continued watching until he’d seen the whole scene. “I see. And you say I’m a monster. I would say ‘poor girl’ but her brain was barren, so no great loss.”

He started to push back from the table.

“Where are you going?”

“First you want me to go, now you want me to stay,” Seth said. “I’m going to find them, of course.”

“Why bother? You don’t have any interest in any of them except Faith and she didn’t mention you at all before she left.” Lilith flashed him a wicked grin. “She’s got a nasty habit of using and losing men, that one. I think she might have jilted you.”

Seth couldn’t deny that he identified such tendencies in Faith. He clenched his jaw, but remained composed against this possibility.

Surely not. She wouldn’t dare.

His voice was calm. “They don’t stand a chance out there, thanks to you and your nannying.”

“Sure. Go and find them. Teach them to slay humans, that’ll solve everything.”

“Lilith. Your life is a misery, mine is not. Who’s methods are wrong?”

“Yours.”

“Of course. You won’t be joining me I take it? You’ll be… ah, still looking for that damn fruit. It doesn’t exist, Lilith.”

“It does. Hopefully I can find it before they all get caught and bring about another wave of vampire-hunting hysteria.”

“They won’t get caught. Not with me around. I’ve been on the run my whole life, surely I am a master of it?” Seth said, with an arrogant smile.

Ooh look at me! I’m the ‘master’ of everything. Except showering.

“You’re just full of love for me tonight, aren’t you? Perhaps I should have left you to rot.” Seth pushed his chair back. “Good bye for now, Lilith. I’m sure our paths will cross again.”

Seth headed towards the door slowly, not at all surprised when Lilith followed him.

“Seth?”

“Yes?”

“I tried to reach you tonight.”

“I know. I assume you were trying to prevent me from corrupting Faith?”

“No,” she answered. “From corrupting yourself. Look, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave Faith alone. She’s too similar.”

“To the green-eyed woman?”

Lilith’s voice became soft; one that spoke directly to his heart. “You asked me to do it for a very good reason. Please. Leave her buried.”



Chuck had parked up near a billboard with a fish on it. He was hopelessly lost. A scantily dressed woman had told him the bar was a mile down the road, but he’d driven this stretch twice and still hadn’t spotted it. The woman was nowhere to be seen this time. He got out of his car and scratched his head.

The banana sausage surprise had been every bit as awful as he’d imagined. A split banana containing a split sausage that held the ‘surprise’ element, a tuna puree. It was really taking its toll. He needed to find the bar as much to use the facilities as to look for clues. He looked around desperately. No one seemed to be about.

Check him out! Only three hours into his quest and he was already relieving himself in the woods. He felt like a cave man, a bear. Unburdened by niceties and social norms. Wild and free. It reminded him of his teenage road trip, how he’d gotten so drunk one night that he’d ended up naked in a—

Oh darn, someone was approaching along the path. He hastily aborted his mission and yanked up his jeans.

Maybe this person would give him better directions than that unscrupulous young lady had. He stumbled out of the bushes to greet the stranger. He instinctively extended a hand but changed his mind. Bit gross.

“Hello good fellow! I’m looking to get to Joe’s Bar. Can you direct me?”

The man turned slowly to look at him. It was a warm night but Chuck shivered, the air felt cold and heavy around him. He’d suddenly developed a rather peculiar headache.

The man took a step towards him, eyeing him suspiciously. Chuck felt uneasy in his presence, like he’d made a huge mistake. He was thinking of Babs and Melinda even though he wasn’t trying to.

“Joe’s bar?” he repeated, surprised at how quiet his voice sounded.

“I heard you the first time.”

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Chapter 1.51 – Absolute Chaos

It had been a most satisfying night. As Seth lay back under the stars, satiated with what turned out to be a surprisingly succulent sanguinary experience with William Wangshaft, he admired again his new trophies; a kidney, as promised, for his feisty fledgling and a most unexpected memory. Will’s reel had mainly comprised of beer, breasts and barbeques. His childhood had been rather dull. Very few experiences Seth deemed worthy of viewing, let alone taking.

Only one had stood out.

It was not only that Seth recognised her that made this such worthy obtainment, but also the tantalising scandal this could cause. Will had certainly had a type, but this one was too young and heavily sedated.

This would surely hold some benefit somewhere along the line.

Seth tossed the small organ into the air and caught it again. He was very used to long stints of loneliness, never really bored if he was outside in the vast, everchanging forests. But it felt like such a long time until the following nightfall when he’d next see Faith.

Was it too keen if he went to see her now? Yes. It was too keen. But what if he wasn’t going to see her? He could say he was simply returning Lilith’s call…

He very much doubted that Lilith would invite him in with open arms after he had ignored her earlier. Somehow that just made him want to do it more. He might meet Melinda. He might cause absolute chaos.

Seth was sure that sometimes his body had a mind of its own. He had already started walking.



Lilith stroked her thumb along Caleb’s jaw. He was willing her do it. She was willing to do it. So what was the problem?

Will it hurt her?

That was the problem. Was he actually more concerned for someone else than himself? All this time she had spent sacrificing her own humanity, her morals, every shred of herself in an effort to change him, to nurture empathy in him, to give him any kind of human side at all. Was it purely a product of the binding or was he experiencing genuine feelings?

His walls were still down; she could see that he was thinking about April, about what would happen to her after.

He was thinking of Melinda hugging him and calling him her friend. He was thinking of Faith calling him her buddy and teasing him about his hair.

Maybe they were feelings absorbed from April, she couldn’t be sure. But did it matter what the source was if it somehow improved him?

Did he deserve yet another chance?

Lilith was so focussed on her dilemma, on scanning Caleb’s thoughts for anything that would convince her to continue that she wasn’t aware she had company until she heard a shout.

“Let him go!”

Lilith snapped round to follow the sound of Faith’s voice, forgetting how she must have looked. She heard Melinda scream, but she barely had enough time to register that, let alone explain herself, before something shoved her. Hard.

For a while, Caleb, Melinda and Faith were stunned. Staring at Lilith who had seemingly launched herself through the air and had landed awkwardly against the radiator, unmoving.

Finally it was Melinda who broke the silence. “What happened? Is she—“

“She’s only knocked out,” Caleb said. “I can still feel her static.” He turned towards the girls. “Who did that?”

“I think it was me,” Faith said.

“How?”

“I don’t know. I just felt so angry. It felt like I exploded.”

Caleb groaned, “You shouldn’t have done it. She is going to be furious when she comes round.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose! She looked like she was going to rip your face off!”

He ran his hand down his face anxiously. She’d probably be much more likely to employ a slow and painful method of decapitation now. Maybe he’d go burn down Marjorie’s after all.

“Yes, because I have truly messed things up this time.” He didn’t even know where to start. “I’ve married April.”

“What are you on about? Where is April?” Melinda asked.

“In my room.”

“April!” Melinda called up the stairs.

“She won’t come,” Caleb said. “I’ve bound her.”

Faith raised an eyebrow. “Bound her?”

“Yes.”

“Is that it? Is that what Lilith was losing her shit about? That was worthy of ripping your face off, was it? You don’t deserve to be treated like that, Fringey!”

Caleb was standing with his mouth open, looking dumb. “You know about binding?”

“I wasn’t born yesterday. Can you go and untie her? We’re leaving Forgotten Hollow, we’re all over the news, they know we were around here, they can probably track our phones right to this house. And we’re not staying here now anyway, with that… thing.” She waved her hand at Lilith.

“No, I didn’t tie her up. I turned her the wrong way, into my doll. Now we’ve had sex we’re connected and she belongs to me, I can control her. Even though it wasn’t as romantic as I’d planned. Well, it started off alright, but then the curse took over, as usual.”

“Control her? Caleb, I understand that you’re new to this and you probably have some old-fashioned ideas about relationships, but sleeping with April doesn’t mean that you’re married or that she belongs to you. You don’t get to control her now,” Melinda said, horrified.

“Yeah, we really need to update your attitudes, dude. April is not your doll. But this really isn’t the time for this,” Faith said. “Go and get April. Mel, let’s see how many plasma packs we can fit in our inventories.”

“You actually want me to come with you? After everything I’ve just told you? After everything that happened tonight?”

“Caleb, will you stop being such a limp dick? You’re coming with us whether you like it or not.”

“I can’t leave her.” He looked at Lilith.

Melinda took his hands. “You can leave her. We’ll look after you.”

They both glanced at their joined hands and simultaneously pulled away.

Caleb watched the two girls head to the kitchen to raid the pantry. He looked down at Lilith who was still passed out against the radiator that they’d never turned on. He needed to get the girls out of here before she woke up. He ran upstairs.

“What’s going on?” April asked. “I heard loads of commotion! Is everyone OK?”

“April, listen to me. You need to leave me and go with your friends.”

“Leave you?”

“Yes.” He wondered why that one word hurt so much.

“I… I cant leave without you.”

“You have to.”

“I can’t,” she whispered. “And I don’t want to. If we have to leave, you have to come with us.”

Faith called from downstairs. “What’s taking so long? You’re not going for round two are you? Come on!”

Caleb sat on the bed beside April. “Do you really want me to come with you? After tonight?”

“Yes, silly. It will be better next time. Whenever you decide that will be.”

He wondered if her willingness was all part of being bound or if she meant it. She’d wanted him originally, hadn’t she? She’d given herself to him to drink from, she’d wanted him to take her away even before all of this.

Maybe Lilith was wrong.

Looking at her beautiful face made him feel like he was being hit in the chest with a baseball bat. He could hear that she was thinking something similar, but her terms were slightly less aggressive.

“Oh holy hell, April. I’m so sorry. I’ll be better, I promise. I’ll learn. I’ll do better.”


Caleb took one long look back at the house. They’d lived on this site for almost two hundred years. He’d often thought about it but he never thought he’d see the day that he would finally leave. He knew Lilith would be alright. Better probably, without him. He felt April link her hand with his and they headed along the path, Melinda and Faith close behind.

“I guess this is the end of your budding relationship with Seth the Sociopath,” Melinda said, quietly. “I was really looking forward to meeting him, too.”

“Ah well,” Faith replied through a smile as fake as all her future orgasms would probably be. “Holiday romance and all that shit. I don’t think he was really into me, or anything. He’ll probably just forget all about me now.”

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Chapter 1.50 – Monumental Fuck Up

It had been a gruelling day with the police and the journalists and it was gone midnight when Chuck finally opened the door to their home. Babs had made a beeline for the television leaving Chuck to his thoughts.

Melinda was eighteen, an adult who had left by her own volition. There was only so much the police were willing to do to find her. The journalist had lost interest quickly when he had admitted that he’d never even met April Moss, let alone known that his daughter was her friend. He’d had to face a harsh reality; there was a reason the media’s interest in his daughter only went so far.

The garish colours of the room seemed to burn his eyes. Too sunny and too bright. Too Mellybean.

So while Babs sat in stunned silence, watching the news channel, Chuck had settled in the garden, looking up at the cloudy sky. His domain, his sanctuary. Even that was obscured and unwelcoming tonight.

Melinda still wasn’t answering her phone. Chuck thought she always told him everything. Settled back under the stars, she would pour her heart out; every sorrow, every joy, every twist and turn of being an awkward teenage girl. Seeking his guidance, his comfort for every problem she encountered. And yet he didn’t even know that she’d wanted to leave or that she was friends with the daughter of that overrated actress.

What else had he missed?

When she had asked if he’d still love her if she was different, he had assumed it was going to be her admission of something he’d long suspected. She would surely know that he’d accept that, no problem. What else could she have been trying to say?

He couldn’t bear to think of them out there alone, scared? Running from… whatever they were running from. Faith had run away a few times over the years. He had always managed to find her, to bring her back with little more than a listening ear.

As they grew up, Melinda had become Faith’s main confidant. Did Faith simply decide she’d had enough and Melinda had gone along for the ride? Mellybean could never turn her back on someone who needed her, this scenario was the most likely. But then how did April fit?

A reflection of his mood, the rain had started to fall. Chuck slid the heavy door closed and looked at the stricken face of his wife. His heart sank. Babs was always so lively, so chatty. He could barely ever get a word in edgeways. He’d secretly wished for a bit more peace and quiet, but now that he had it, he never wanted to experience a beat of silence again.

He had to do something.

“Where are you going?” Babs asked as Chuck picked up his keys.

“I’m going to find them.”

Babs was beside him in an instant. “I’m coming too.”

Chuck pulled her into his embrace, felt her wilt in his arms. “No. One of us should stay here, in case she comes back.” He hesitated before he continued. “Perhaps visit Adina.”

He felt his wife stiffen against him. “It’s been too long.”

“More reason to try. Joy will need you. Your schoolchildren need you. I’ll find her,” he kissed her forehead, “I promise.”

Babs nodded. His warm voice always soothed her. “Where will you start?”

In the background, the overly chipper reporter chimed in. The three girls were last seen together outside Joe’s Bar in Forgotten Hollow.

“I guess I’ll start at that bar. Forgotten Hollow sounds delightful.”

Babs looked up at him in horror. “Forgotten Hollow was featured in a show I watched recently about serial killers! Apparently lots of hitchhikers and curb-crawlers go missing in that area. And that bar has beer branding in the window! It’ll be full of unsavoury characters such as lumberjacks! Please be careful. I don’t want to hear about you on the news getting a pool cue shattered over your head. Or that you got killed by a lunatic. Or eaten by wolves. Or attacked with an axe. Or fell in a ravine!”

Chuck smiled. There she was, his whirlwind chatterbox. “I’ll be fine. You look exhausted; get yourself to bed, you’re not usually awake at this time.”

“I couldn’t possibly sleep now. At least let me make you some food to take with you; I have a new recipe to try Banana Sausage Surprise.”

He didn’t know which part of that sounded worse, but…

“Thank you. That sounds lovely.”



Faith turned in a circle. She was sure she’d already been here. Already passed this rock a dozen times, that tree stump. Last time she took that path, so this time she’d take this one. Or is that what she did last time? Why did every path in this forest look the same?

Seth could’ve at least offered to walk her home, instead of leaving her to make her own way back from his camp. She thought she’d have ended up back at the main path by now but she only seemed to be getting deeper and deeper into the trees.

She gazed up at the sky. Melinda’s dad could navigate using the stars, but Faith had no idea what she was looking at. Ugh. She knew she should’ve joined the scouts rather than drama club. What good was the ability to cry on demand if she couldn’t navigate her way out of a paper bag?

A mysterious black breeze blew past Faith. It felt oddly familiar.

“Fringey? Is that you?”

The black blur doubled back and stopped. “Not Caleb, just me. Hey. I must have run past you five times tonight. You’re proper lost, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I have no fucking clue where I am. But check you out! I haven’t seen Caleb run past here, so either he’s way faster than you, or you’re winning. Tell me you’re winning.”

“Um. We’re not racing. I’m just running about.”

“Right,” Faith said. “So where’s Caleb?”

“I don’t know.” Melinda looked at her shoes. “Hopefully miles away.”

“I thought you two were buddies. What happened?”

Melinda bit her lip. “We were buddies… until I tried to kiss him.”

“Wow. OK. That surprises me.”

Melinda groaned. “It surprised me. I really don’t know what came over me. He called me Mellybean, we hugged and he was being so sweet. It reminded me of April. Sweet April, you know before all the vampire crazy, and I just… kissed him. A bit. Barely at all.”

“I see.”

“He backed away so fast and then told me that he didn’t fancy me. Oh, but I’m not hideous, apparently. Oh my gosh, it was awkward. I handled it in a super mature way that probably hasn’t confused him at all; I squeaked and legged it. I’ve been running around for ages now trying not to think about it.”

“Hmm.”

“Say something,” Melinda pleaded.

“You know what I’m going to say. You never had a chance, Mellybean. It is what it is.”

Melinda nodded. “So where have you been? I didn’t buy this whole ‘going for a walk’ thing. You never do that. I assume you went to see Seth, right? And judging by the fact that you left the house with both lipstick and tights on and now you have neither, I guess you found him.”

Faith smiled. “I’m sure your birth parents were bloodhounds.”

“Faith, sweetie. You really don’t waste time, do you?”

“Hey, that was our second meeting and he wants to see me again, I call that progress. Besides, I’m not the one trying to eat face with my friend’s boyfriend the first chance I get.”

“I didn’t try to eat his… never mind. So, Seth. Did you go back to his house or…?”

Faith spotted a fine opportunity to break through Melinda’s pout. “Nah, we just did it on the forest floor like animals. I lost a few hair extensions in the brambles and I’m sure there was something with too many legs on me at one point. But bloody hell, Mellybean he really knew what he was doing. It’s taken me ages to get here, wherever I am; I can barely walk.”

“Too much information.” Melinda tutted but finally smiled. “Why did you lie to me?”

Faith pouted. “I wasn’t sure if you’d like him, if I told you about him. Thought you’d talk me out of going to see him.”

“In that case yes, I probably would. Explain.”

“He’s not a bad guy! I think. He’s got mad mind-bending skills and this swagger. OK, his sense of humour is a bit twisted and his hunting methods are, well…” Was there any good way to put this? “Fatal.”

“So he’s smarmy, manipulative and excessively violent?”

“The sex was gentle,” Faith added, pointlessly.

“Was it? Well that certainly redeems him of all the murder,” Melinda said sarcastically as she pulled her phone out of her pocket; it vibrated in her hand, pinging continuously, the screen alight. “Wow, what? I didn’t even know the missed call counter went that high. How did I not get all these until now? How fast was I running?”

“Who is it?” Faith asked, grateful for the change in conversation.

Melinda tried not to cry as she scrolled down the list. “My mum, my dad… even my grandma! Something must be really wrong. Oh gosh, I hope it’s not grandpa.” She tapped to open a text.

“Oh, Mellybean. It’s OK. He was really old.”

“No, it’s not grandpa. We’re all over the news. They’re looking for us, Faith. They know we’re friends with April.”

“We’re not her secret friends anymore? Well it’s about bloody time. But it’s fine, relax, they don’t know where we are—“

“But they do know where we are!” Melinda cried. She turned her phone off and threw it as hard as she could over the treetops.



Lilith had been quiet for far too long. It didn’t take an emotional genius to tell that she was annoyed. Caleb tried not to look at her.

“You drank her dry.”

“Yes,” he admitted quickly.

“And then turned her,” Lilith stated, too calmly. “Even though you knew not to do that.”

Caleb nodded, frantically. If he agreed with everything she said, she would calm down, it would be over sooner.

Lilith was seething. “You monumental fuck-up. You’ve bound her to you.”

“What does that mean? Bound her?”

“Think of it as a vampire marriage…” Lilith started.

“A marriage? That doesn’t sound so bad—“

“…where the bride loses all her autonomy to her groom.”

“Her autonomy. So he controls her? What? Does that mean… me and April?”

“She won’t leave your bed because you told her not to,” Lilith hissed.

“I didn’t know! Why didn’t you tell me what that kind of turning would do?”

Lilith almost laughed. “Oh my! I didn’t think of that! I should have told you all about it! I’m sure that if I’d told you there was a way to create a completely submissive partner, an unbreakable doll, you wouldn’t have gone right out and created an army of them, would you?”

Definitely would have, back in the day, Caleb thought to himself. “I wouldn’t have,” he said.

I’m still in your head, moron.

Caleb groaned and threw his head back, banging it repeatedly against the wall as if he could dislodge her.

“Are you sure she’s not just manifesting?” he asked. “She can project her thoughts now…”

“No, she can’t. You can hear them now because you own her bloody mind.”

“No… I don’t. I can’t! She has been making loads of her own decisions since then. Even tonight, she left here by herself, she went to Marjorie’s…”

“So it all started tonight.” Lilith asked in a way that wasn’t really a question. “What else happened tonight, Caleb?”

He thought for a while.

Lilith was right in his face. He imagined that this is what being in the electric chair felt like. There was so much charge in the air that his hair was standing on end.

“How do you complete a marriage?” Lilith asked with faux innocence. “I know you know the answer to this one.” Her voice now dripping with sarcasm, “I see you made the consummation a romantic, soul-affirming affair for your beloved bride.”

Darn, his walls were still down. “It’s a mind thing, right? Can Seth fix it?”

“Aww, poor little Caleb. Is married life not for you?” Her voice had softened but it was in no way soothing or encouraging. “I’m afraid there’s no amount of encephalon encroachment that can put an end to this, dear brother. A wife is for life.”

“For life?”

“Eternity. That’s what you told her, right? You should be delighted.”

“So there’s no way out? She’s stuck with me forever?”

“There’s one way out,” Lilith purred.

Caleb didn’t like that tone. “Whatever it is, I’ll do it. She deserves to be free.”

Lilith grinned maniacally and began twisting his head, like the cap from a bottle, making a ‘pop’ sound with her mouth.

He understood. “Will it hurt her?”

“No, it won’t hurt her.”

Lilith was stroking his hair in an almost comforting way. He weighed up his options. This would certainly be less dramatic than lying inside Marjorie’s burning house and would attract far less attention. He wondered how long it would take. Would it be a swift break? Would she chew his head off? Pick him apart slowly? He didn’t really want to think about it.

With an image of April held firmly in his mind, he focussed directly on where Lilith’s eyes should be.

“Do it.”

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Chapter 1.49 – Stay With Me

I had envisioned that I would make his acquaintance, ask him some questions, take my time. I’d learn all about vampires and make a solid decision, gradually befriending him and maybe, one day, asking him to turn me. I would be calm, rational, patient.

Like most of my plans, it went totally bum up.

“I know what you are,” she whispered to me, again. She was trembling, her fear finally bubbling to the surface. I tried to ignore that, lest she tip me completely over the edge her mother had already pushed me towards. I tried to focus on her words.

What you are.

What was I this time? Beast? Idiot? Weirdo?

I was fed up with her, fed up with everything. “You do, huh?”

He laughed at me in a mocking fashion and said, “Then perhaps you should know better.”

“Do enlighten me,” I said. “I read that the whole Vatore family was beheaded some three hundred years ago for being vampires. And it’s not a common name, Vatore…”

No it bloody isn’t. That threw me. “How can you know that?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I read about it.”

Now I was intrigued. She’d read about me? Had she somehow planned this meeting? “Where did you read it?”

We had never found any mention of ourselves; we assumed our story was lost to time. After cycling through various guises over the years, I had protested when Lilith had suggested using the Vatore name again. She wanted to completely disgrace the name with her reformed ways, she’d said. It’ll be fine, she’d said.

I couldn’t wait to tell her she was finally wrong about something. But that would mean I’d have to tell her I’d come here. Never mind.

“A book!” I said. “Encyclopaedia Vampirica?” He looked at me blankly. “Now here you are, named ‘Vatore’ with ice cold skin and no reflection.”

I took another step towards him but he had nowhere left to go. Being this close to him was like standing in front of the fridge with the door open, except it didn’t make me hungry.

“How did you manage to escape? Are there any others?”

For all she seemed to know about vampires, she was behaving incredibly recklessly getting this close. I had become fairly numb to my vampiric desire, my lust for blood. Heck, I’d lain with enough women and only slain a few of them. I’d hardly even taken a drink from the later ones, barely enjoyed their orifices. I had become pretty numb to everything.

At least I thought I had. Even though I wasn’t touching her, I could feel the flutter of her heart as if it were my own. It was deafening me; I couldn’t think, couldn’t speak.

Had she asked me something?

He couldn’t even answer me! He must be hurting so much, the poor guy. “Have you been alone all this time? Oh my gosh, that’s so sad! That’s such a long time to be alone. I understand what that’s like. Loneliness. I’m alone, too.”

“You understand?” I couldn’t understand my own thoughts let alone try and understand hers. The words tumbling from her lips sounded like nonsense. All I could hear was the incessant pulsing; my senses becoming completely overwhelmed with her. Was it because she was so beautiful? So young? So close?…

“We’re not lonely anymore, Caleb. We have each other, now.”

…So stupid? I could smell her blood. Divine. It was destroying centuries of carefully crafted control. I tried to laugh but it sounded like a choke. “You really don’t want to be with me, Miss Moss.”

“Call me April. Why not? Is it because you’re a vampire? I don’t mind that. I might want to be one, perhaps, one day. Then we can run away, start again.” I smiled, thinking of my friends.

Definitely stupid. Oh, the sweet voice of someone who didn’t have a clue. I had to get away from her. She was deluded. I shouldn’t have come here.

My voice was surprisingly calm, “Miss Moss, April, it’s been… interesting. Now please, let me past.”

I couldn’t move her, couldn’t touch her now. I was creeping past the point of rational thought. I could practically taste her, I couldn’t stop staring at her. I wasn’t sure I’d ever let her go.

“Why are you leaving?” she asked. I recognised that expression. Sadness. It didn’t suit her and yet I felt it was an expression she wore a lot. “I only want to talk to you, Caleb. I want to know everything about you, about who you are. Why do you want to leave?”

“You want to know who I am?”

“Of course! I’ve never met a vampire before and you seem so nice. Please stay with me.”

He was looking at me so intensely. He didn’t look ancient at all; he looked very young, maybe a couple of years older than me. The way he was looking at me. Did I dare to believe it? Did he… oh my gosh. Did he want me? “Are you leaving because you don’t want me? Or because, maybe, you do?”

Oh goodness, I’d said it now. Stupid thing to say April. Stupid girl. Of course he doesn’t want you; who would ever want you?

He motioned me back. “Move.”

So he didn’t want me. No surprise. Still, that was rather impolite of him. I folded my arms.

“And if I don’t move, what exactly will you do?”

Violate you. Drain you. Pick an order.

I could hear Lilith, shouting in my head. Control yourself.

“Might you try to drink from me?” she asked.

Was there any point even pretending now? She knew what I was and she was looking right at my fangs.

“I might,” I admitted, feeling like I’d been steamrolled. Damn, I hated myself.

“OK.” She made no effort to move. “OK.”

We stood in silence for a while. I could have pushed past her, disappeared in a blur; I could have knocked her out if I’d really wanted to.

I could have. I probably should have. I wanted to look at her a while longer.

“OK Caleb. I’ll let you drink,” I said. “But when you’re done, you have to stay with me.”

This was insane. Drinking from her and spending the night? It was exactly what I wanted and therefore exactly the opposite of what I should do. “No, I can’t do that.”

His teeth looked so sharp. I tried to be brave. If nothing else, I needed to be a good host, right?

“You can. You didn’t touch your dinner, you must still be hungry, right? It’s OK. I really don’t mind but… gently, if you can.”

Holy hell. This was a genuine offer. She was actually willing to do this. My mind was in absolute turmoil. Lilith’s voice echoed amongst my own thoughts.

It’s not worth it.

“Do we have a deal, Caleb?” She reached for my hands and I found myself unable to stop her. She was shaking. Afraid. It sickened me how much I liked that.

I rested his hands at my waist, shivered. I told myself it was his cold touch and I tilted my head back. “If you drink from me, you stay with me, OK?”

It would be absolutely fine, I reassured myself. It would probably hurt, I might feel a bit woozy.

His hand moved swiftly from my waist to rest on the back of my head. His fingers laced into my hair, ice cold against my scalp. He was resisting. Perhaps now that he was this close he realised that I wouldn’t be very appetising.

Now I was this close I could tell she’d be delicious. I hesitated, her silky tresses tangled around my fingers. This was going against everything I’d worked for. It felt natural so therefore I definitely should not do it.

“I can’t do this,” I said to myself.

“You can,” she cooed, pressing her head into my palm, laying her throat bare, her pulse racing. “Don’t fight it. It’s OK.”

I wanted to protest. But as I opened my mouth I completely lost my mind.

Oh! That stings! I gasped and instinctively tried to pull away. He held me closer, tighter. The world was upside-down.

She tasted even better than I had imagined she would. I hadn’t had a fresh drink for so many years and I hadn’t been this close to a woman for just as long. My thirst was not the only long suppressed urge triggered by the softness and the curves of April.

He was touching me! That wasn’t part of the deal, but maybe that was part of the drinking? It was certainly making my heart race. It felt like he was taking a lot but I didn’t really know. How much blood did I have? How much could vampires drink?

After initially feeding greedily, I was now letting her drain slowly, savouring, wanting to keep her at this point as long as I could. I knew that I was playing with fire now, but the sound of her rapid breathing was driving me wild.

Oh goodness, I couldn’t see straight. I needed him to stop; surely I had kept up my part of the deal now? It was poor form for me to take back the offer of dinner, though. Wasn’t it? He must know what he’s doing, right? He must know when to stop. He wouldn’t kill me… would he? My heart was almost vibrating, the room was a blur. I watched the piano warp before me, felt his hand under my skirt.

Um, excuse me?

“Caleb! Stop! Unhand me!”

Her shout triggered Lilith’s voice somewhere in the fog. Control yourself!

I could do that. I could. I had to.

As I pulled back from her, she fainted. I caught her, gently laying her down on the elaborate marble floor.

“April, are you alright?”

Am I alright? I thought I was lying still but my head felt like it was rolling in circles. I could still see the piano etched into my eyelids. I couldn’t feel my feet or hands. My heart was pounding in my head.

“April?”

I hadn’t taken that much. Had I?

I scanned over her. She was a slip of a girl, a wisp. I could see the shape of her ribs through her sweater, the clear definition of her collar bones. Her breath was shallow, her skin pale, her heart beat rapid. Maybe I had taken too much.

“April?” I was suddenly, acutely aware that Sandy was only two rooms away and could walk in at any moment.

“Will stay me… now?” Did that make any sense? I tried to get up but I failed.

“No. I’m leaving,” he said, firmly.

I wanted to be elegant and refined in my response, but made a weird whining noise instead. “Why?”

“Why do you think?! I could kill you.”

I tried to focus through the soup in my head. “Nah! You… shilly.” Were these even words? Goodness. How embarrassing. I’d only had one glass of wine at dinner. Whatever must he have thought of me?

I remember thinking that Mother would be so cross with me for embarrassing her. I remember noticing that a patch of the ceiling needed to be repainted. I remember thinking that Caleb could probably see my knickers and that at least I’d worn nice ones.

The rest was just a dream.

She was losing consciousness. I didn’t know what to do.

“Carrreb… Cal…ub.” She reached out towards me again. “Stay me.”

“I can’t stay now! What the heck’s wrong with you?”

“We… together…” she mumbled and fell silent. The sentence lost.

“We together?!” I was angrier than I meant to be. Angry at myself for doing this, for still being there. “Do you think that vampires and humans can just live together? That I won’t just drink you dry?”

Isn’t that what Lilith thought, back then? What she’d always hoped for?

“There’s a reason why I’m alone.”

“Naw! Got me,” she slurred, her words so quiet I could barely hear her; a jumble of soft syllables. “Come ‘ere,” she whispered in a tantalising fashion, like she was about to tell me a huge secret.

Against my better judgement, I leaned in towards her. I felt her hot breath on my cheek, could hear her pulse racing.

“Take me with you,” she murmured.

“You want me to take you with me?” Oh this was ridiculous.

Her eyelids fluttered.

Holy hell. She was gorgeous. I would take her away in a heartbeat. Live happily ever after.

If she wasn’t the best thing I’d ever tasted.

If she wasn’t helpless and warm.

If I had a modicum of restraint.

I stroked my thumb over her lips. The heat of her skin rushed through me as I brushed my fingertips against her soft cheek, down her smooth throat.

“April?” No response. Well, no response from her.

I caught myself as I was grazing my teeth against the neat holes I’d made in her skin, begging myself to leave her alone.


Damn.

I really needed to get out of there, but I just couldn’t leave her.

I’d completely screwed everything up this time. Killed the daughter of the world’s most famous woman. In her own house. While pretending to be my sister. If I left her here they’d go after Dr. Vatore, it’d all be over for us both.

I should stay here and accept my fate.

Damn. Hell. Darn.

Should I go and fetch Sandy? Speed things up?

Hey, Sandy. I killed your only child. Sorry about that. Here’s a coupon for your facelift.

I brushed April’s hair back gently from her cool forehead. Wiped away the stain of a tear from her cheek and her thick layer of makeup with it.

Oh?

I wiped the other cheek, revealing another bruise, an older one. This girl barely left this house, had clearly never lifted a finger in her life. Why on earth would she be covered in bruises?

I sat back on my heels, looking her over.

The way her arm didn’t quite lie right, like it had been previously broken. The half-moon shaped scars in the soft flesh of her forearms. The more I looked, the more I saw.

Holy hell. Someone was doing this to her. Had she been looking to me for a way out? Well, I’d certainly given her that. If only I’d known. I could have… I would have…

Take me with you.

It was possible. I knew it was possible. When Nathaniel had died, Lilith had considered turning him post-mortem. A kiss of death, she had called it. But ultimately, she had changed her mind. There was probably good reasoning in that. So that definitely meant I shouldn’t do it.

Definitely shouldn’t try to save this beautiful, vulnerable girl who knew I was a vampire and still wanted me for some reason.

Definitely.

Shouldn’t.

What the heck. We were both screwed anyway.

I didn’t realise that I tasted so bad. I guess monster has its own kind of flavour. I could feel something stirring inside her as the black fluid trickled down her throat but I didn’t know if that was enough, if there was anything else I needed to do. Lilith had been careful not to give me details. She likely thought I’d go out slaying and turning random women on a whim if I knew how to do it.

As I struggled with the strangest feeling of déjà vu, I got a heady waft of Merlot long before I heard the click of high heels approach from behind me.

Time was up.

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Chapter 1.48 – Self-Destruct

Violence, suicidal thoughts, Will (collective groan)

Joe looked up, expecting Caleb to take his usual chair by the fire, surprised when he took a seat at the bar.

“Bad day?”

“Just give me the bottle, Joe.”

Joe clicked his tongue. “That would be irresponsible of me,” he said, pouring one glass.

Caleb threw back his drink and Joe topped him up. “Trying to compete with your sister I see?” he joked. “I’m sure the pair of you are set to self-destruct.”

Caleb had chucked back his third and his forth. He could still see her.

He had left April staring into space in his bedroom. She had barely reacted when he’d broken up with her and had tried to follow him as he left; he’d had to beg her to not to. Somehow, he knew she was still there, by herself. He hoped that someone went home to her soon. Anyone. They could snap her out of this strange mood; convince her that she was better off without him.

He still couldn’t think of anything else. His mind had been pre-occupied with April Moss since he’d first laid eyes on her. He wondered if April would be his final thought.

“Get out. You’re barred,” Joe snarled at the patrons who entered.

Will casually crossed the room and dropped on to his regular chair as if Joe hadn’t spoken. “Gonna throw me out? No, didn’t think so. The usual, Joe.” Dale had followed his vulgar friend, like a shadow. Slipping in place beside him.

Joe mumbled to himself angrily as he poured two beers and set the glasses down in front of them. “Thirty simoleons,” he said. “Each.”

“I’m sure you just make up these fucking prices on a whim, Joe. No matter, gonna be buying this place in a few days.” He reached into his pocket and tossed the money carelessly on the bar, looking around for entertainment, noticing Caleb. “Hey, look who it is! Almost didn’t recognise you without your queer haircut, Vatore.”

Will nodded, amused by Caleb’s silence. “How’s your fit sister? You know she finally persuaded me to let her blow me, right? She’s crap at it, though. All teeth.”

Caleb clenched his jaw. He was used to Will throwing his weight around. He knocked back his sixth. April’s beautiful face still stubbornly clear in his mind.

“Hey, here we go,” Will said, nodding at the television.

Caleb looked up at the screen, where the news was rolling.

“They were all in here. The day before she went missing,” Joe said to Caleb “On the run? Shoot, do you think she actually killed her own mother? Do you think that’s what she’s running from?”

Caleb threw back his seventh.

“Oh, there she is, The Hole Of Forgotten Hollow. You know she’s turned to the game now? No self-respect.” Will smirked as Faith appeared on the screen. Caleb tried to remain in control, clenched his fist. How he’d love to throw it through Will’s face.

Will whacked Dale on the back as the channel displayed April, again. “Can you believe that this lucky bugger got April Moss in the sack! Look at her. Spoiled little princess must’ve been desperate for a bit of rough, am I right?”

“Well…”

“Come on man! Don’t hold back; give us all the details.”



Roxie was nowhere to be seen and the forest was deserted. Seth’s thirst was causing him issue however his main aggravation was a young woman with pale grey eyes.

Tonight had made it obvious; Faith needed change. Craved it. Seth could show her so much, teach her everything, gently lure her down the path of darkness. And if he got to enjoy the physical side of her, well, that was a bonus.

There were bonds to break in this endeavour, but he couldn’t just erase the memories of her family. Well, he could, but he wanted her to feel like it was her choice. It would take time, but they had it.

Alas, he knew himself well; time would cause his desire to manifest into yet another unhealthy obsession. It was somewhere he’d promised himself to never be again. But she was so tempting. He had always had a weakness for aggressive women, but one with so many secrets? What was a poor, mind-raping cretin like him to do?

Hanging around Hook Corner was fruitless tonight. He’d travelled instead towards the bar. It wasn’t his first choice to dine on the intoxicated, brawny men of Forgotten Hollow, but the night’s events had taken quite a toll and he could only hold out for so long.

It looked like he wasn’t the only one.

Seth sensed that Caleb wasn’t out here for his usual reason. Suspicion confirmed when that Wangshaft idiot headed down the path towards him.

“You’re a nut job, Vatore.” Will laughed. Caleb started to walk away, but Will followed. “What’s it matter to you if he fucked some rich bird? What’s she to you, anyway?”

“Nothing.”

“Bullshit,” Will said, blocking his path. “You don’t throw a punch like that for no reason; they’ll be finding his teeth for weeks. You know her, don’t you? April. You know where she is.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Really?” Will swaggered up. “Doesn’t matter that the cops are on their way to yours as we speak then, does it?”

Caleb was clenching his fists. “You didn’t.”

“Oh I fucking did.” Will feigned concern. “Couldn’t leave the poor girl trapped forever in your dungeon, could I?”

“I’ll… I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Will was right in his face now. “Gonna suck me dry, vamp boy?”

When Seth hunted he would terrorise his prey and wouldn’t mesmerise them; their fear provided a most stimulating dining experience. But Will was the foolhardy type and Seth had been aroused enough for one night. He didn’t have to lift a finger to render Will mute and immobile. Seth smiled at Caleb and waved an inviting hand towards the helpless man.

“You first. Let the end be on my conscience.”

Caleb looked between Will and Seth. His rage turned to laughter. “What the heck Seth? You know I don’t do that.”

“Of course you don’t,” Seth humoured him, like he had all the other times. “But if you were to want to this time, do go ahead. No one need ever know. And I mean no one.”

Realisation dawned on Caleb. “I’ve done this before.”

“You have.”

Caleb shook his head. “I need to get back. The police know April is at mine, they’ll be there any minute.”

“They won’t. He was lying to you.” Seth smiled as he rifled through Will’s memories. “He doesn’t know where you live. Barely remembers where he lives.”

“Is that any way to speak to your wife, Will?” Seth tutted as he read. “Hell, we’d be doing everyone a favour draining this one.”

“I can’t…”

“Last chance.” Will’s racing pulse was starting to overwhelm them both. Seth watched Caleb fight with himself. He pitied the poor man, his tone far more gentle than usual. “We cannot be tamed, Caleb.”

“I need to keep trying,” Caleb vowed, walking away down the path.

“Well, that makes one of us.”



Before she had arrived home that evening, Lilith had been enjoying her day. Her new therapy was proving to be a hit. It was based on the flimsiest of research that said that losing a measured amount of blood was beneficial for the body. It was all a sham; the only bodies it would be benefitting were that of her vampire family, but it hadn’t stopped thirty senseless celebrities booking themselves in for ‘treatment’. She knew that Melinda would probably question the morality of it, but Lilith wished she’d thought of it years ago.

Now, after her unfavourable behaviour this evening in front of Melinda, her confrontation with Faith and her inability to reach Seth she was back to wondering what the hell her existence was becoming. There was not a thought to be heard in the dark house, so she assumed that April had joined Melinda and Caleb, after all. She found herself alone in her living room, staring at that plastic box. If she stared at it hard enough, maybe it would explode.

Lilith heard the front door bang shut and it startled her. She waited a while to see if her visitor would come in, but they didn’t. Cautiously, she wandered into the hallway to see Caleb, slumped against the wall looking like he’d had a long night.

“Caleb?” She took in his haunted expression. “Are you OK? What happened? Where are the girls?”

“Did you tend to April?”

“April?” she asked, a coldness taking over. “Why? What have you done?”

“What do you think?” he said quietly, sinking to the floor. “She’s in my room.”

Lilith glared at him. “Different,” she spat as she headed upstairs. “And you wonder why I don’t trust you?!”

April was sitting in the dark, staring blankly at the wall as Lilith entered. Lilith switched on the light and sat beside her on the bed. She looked mostly OK, physically; there was only limited damage that a vampire could sustain, after all. But that vacant, docile expression was a concern. From the little Lilith knew of April, calm was not one of her traits.

Lilith sighed. The touchy-feely side of this was always the bit she struggled with. And now that she had lost her ability to change memories, she’d have to do it the old-fashioned way.

Talking.

“How are you feeling, April?”

April rolled her head to look at Lilith, as if she was noticing her for the first time. “I’m fine. Is Caleb back yet?”

“You’re fine?”

“Yes. A bit bored.”

“Bored?” As Lilith thought about what the heck to say next, the room fell silent.

That’s when it hit her. She couldn’t hear any of April’s thoughts. Not one. She tried to probe but got heavy resistance. Familiar resistance. Almost… walls.

April smiled. “I’d really like to watch TV now.”

Lilith was hardly about to deny her that. “Go ahead.”

“Can you bring it up to me? Caleb told me to stay here,” April said, coolly. “So I must.”

“Right. I’ll go fetch that for you then.”

April nodded. “Thanks.”

Lilith closed the door behind her and stood on the landing trying to compose herself.

The blind, senseless infatuation between them. His sudden care for someone besides himself. Why hadn’t she seen it before? She managed to get down the stairs without screaming; an urge that became ten times stronger when she laid eyes on her pitiful excuse for a brother.

“Get up,” she ordered.

He knew better than to argue with that tone. Lilith watched as he scrambled to his feet.

“When you turned April, what exactly did that entail?”

He stared at her. “I already told you.”

“What you told me was a load of bullshit. What did you actually do, Caleb?”

Three hundred and twenty-one years of numbness and focus meant that very few things caused Lilith to shift form but this was certainly one of them. She tried to restrain the static that threatened to rip through her defences.

“I’m out of here,” he said, pushing past her towards the door.

“No, you’re not.” Lilith grabbed his arm, got a firm grip. She hadn’t had a hold on him for years; a sure sign that she was slipping form, that something was very, very wrong.

“Show me how you turned her. Let me in.”

“No.”

She twisted his arm up his back until the bone threatened to snap and shoved him against the wall. “This is not a request.”

He winced as the pain registered. He’d forgotten how strong she was; how she used to take down men twice her size with no effort. The static was emanating from her, penetrating his skull, hitting those god damn walls.

Caleb rested his head against the wall, spewing apologies that Lilith had no more patience for.

“Let me in,” she hissed into his ear, feeling him tremble. “You’re going to show me how you bound her before I rip your fucking head off.”

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Chapter 1.47 – Fill The Void

Warning: Sexual violence, issues of consent, suicidal thoughts and generally unpleasant.

Faith had been fifteen when she’d lost her virginity. She had been taking a remedial science class over the summer when she’d met the lucky fella. His name was Adam or it might have been Alan; she forgot which. He’d boldly seated himself next to her and told her, while looking at her chest, that she had nice eyes.

The only things that she really knew about Adam, or Alan, was that he was seventeen and that he’d been in juvenile detention more than he’d been at school. He had invited her over to his house the night before a test to revise atomic structure. She’d arrived without her textbook or underwear.

It had been the first of many disappointing sexual encounters. Faith always found herself craving them and yet always wound up hollow, wanting them to end as soon as they’d started, giving much more than she ever received.

In her efforts to please, to feel pleased, she had attained an almost Sandy Moss level of pretence. Will was wrong; she could fake those ‘guttural moans’.

It didn’t matter. The type of man she usually attracted only heard what they wanted to hear. Their expectations set by pornography and perpetuated by women like herself, who were desperate for the attention and far too eager to self-sacrifice.

It was difficult to admit that.

For the first time, she had something to contrast all those one-sided, rough fumbles. The first time she’d actually enjoyed herself. The things this man had made her feel. She’d had no idea that tender could be so intense. That sex could be, well, satisfying.

She had to remind herself that it was still meaningless. As amazing as this night had been, this was not the start of an epic love story. Seth wanted something from her, that was all. This was all part of a trade.

The pair had settled back into what Faith had dubbed his ‘probing pose’, although his efforts to crack the nut were somewhat subdued this time, distracted.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“Interesting question,” he replied. “It’ll require a visual answer.”

“A vis—” she started, her confusion instantly erased as something that didn’t fit right materialised in her mind’s eye.

“Who is she?” Faith asked.

“I don’t know; I was hoping you might.”

Faith studied the face of this woman. Nothing about her was familiar.

“Ah. I feared as much. However, something about you keeps making her appear to me.” He shifted restlessly behind her and she watched the image fade. “I suspect that I may have known her when I was human, but those memories are patchy, at best.”

“Did you have a family?”

“I don’t remember.”

Faith pictured Joy. She couldn’t imagine ever forgetting her cheekiness, her squeaky little voice, the milk and cookies scent of her.

It must have been a long time since Seth was human for him to have forgotten this woman completely.

“How old are you, Seth?”

“No idea.”

“Really? Not even a ballpark figure?”

“No. My older memories are irretrievable. Perhaps a mind can only hold so much.”

“Perhaps.” She twisted round to look at him. “If I didn’t know you were ancient, I’d say you were… twenty-seven.”

“And you are… ah, only nineteen. Wonderful. Now I can add ‘pervert’ to my list of flaws.” As she made to settle back, he stopped her and gently pushed her away. “As pleasant as this is, I need to excuse myself, Faith. My thirst is becoming a nuisance.”

“Oh, right,” she said. “Your thirst. Does that mean you’ll be… y’know?” Killing someone.

“I will.”

Faith nodded. In this blissful bubble they had created, the reality of him had somewhat slipped her mind. She wondered who it would be. If he’d be taking Lilith any ‘gifts’.

“Whoever pulls up to see Roxie and no.” He smiled at her in a way that made her feel all sorts of conflicted things. “But I may pick out something for you. Perhaps a decorative kidney for your bedside table? You’ll have to forgive my gift-wrapping skills.”

She really hoped he was joking, but who knew? “You’re disturbed, Seth.”

“So they tell me. Same time tomorrow, Faith. I’ll meet you here.”

He took her hand and pressed her knuckles to his lips, disappearing before she had chance to respond.



April was still staring into space. When Caleb finally managed to bring himself to look at her, she smiled at him, but even he could tell it was forced. He wanted to hold her, soothe her but he also never, ever deserved to touch her again.

He was trying not to notice the dried tears on her face, but he could feel her wincing as she moved. Her skin hadn’t even fully healed and now he’d added puncture wounds and possibly a broken bone or two to the mix. It would all repair itself relatively swiftly, but that knowledge didn’t ease the guilt. Didn’t change the fact.

He had attacked her.

He’d wanted to give her what she’d asked for; he had wanted so much for it to be what she’d hoped, to be different. He’d surely be able to keep control by now, with her. Surely. But as the darkness had descended, as his humanity had unravelled, he’d gradually stripped her back until he didn’t see April at all. Until she was just another way to fill the void.

He had wanted to believe he was better. Reformed. Safe. That he could lay with a woman without draining or devastating her; without Lilith having to reset their limbs or their memories. The blurred, rose-tinted pages of Marjorie’s novels were testament to Lilith’s ability to pick up his pieces. Poor Marjorie had ‘fallen down the stairs’ a lot, in her younger years.

The silence had been weighing heavily in the air, threatening to crush them both, since he had managed to grasp a thread of control and tear himself away. There was only so much he could apologise, but…

“I’m sorry, April.”

“It’s OK.”

…that was the fifth time they’d exchanged those words. It wasn’t OK. She should be angry, sad, hurt. Something. Anything. Should he keep apologising? Should he explain? Could he explain?

He’d let everyone down today. He clearly needed even firmer intervention. He could ask Lilith to step it up, again; there must be something she could still do for him. Something they hadn’t tried. There had to be.

Hopefully, Lilith would finally give up on him and simply tear his head off. If not he’d be building a bonfire to throw himself on to.

Perhaps that was the only solution left.

“You should head back,” Caleb said, but April didn’t appear to be listening.

“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, quietly, playing with the hem of the skirt she hadn’t even had chance to remove. “Were you trying to punish me?”

Damn me to hell. Her words felt like a kick in the gut. “Holy hell no. It’s me, I—.”

“Because I’m not very experienced,” she said gently, as if he hadn’t spoken. “I’ve never actually had sex before. If I’m honest, I don’t even know what half that stuff was that we were doing. So if it wasn’t what you expected, I’m sorry.”

If it wasn’t what he expected? What the hell? “Don’t be sorry, you have nothing to be sorry for—”

“I can learn,” she tried to smile again, her voice had an eerie, cool tone. “I’ll do better next time, I know what to expect, now. You won’t have to be so forceful with me. Next time.”

“There won’t be a next time.”

“Why not? Are you are you breaking up with me?”

He sighed, dropped his head to his hands. He should break up with her. He should nail this coffin firmly shut before he ended himself. He didn’t want her blaming herself for that, too.

“You’re thinking about it, aren’t you? Oh gosh, I’m so embarrassed. Was I that bad?” He’ll move on to someone else now. Probably bloody Melinda.

Her jealousy. He could feel it. He tilted his head to look at her aloof face but couldn’t form any words over this sickness inside him.

“Why aren’t you answering me? It’s because I’m disposable, isn’t it? You don’t care anymore, right?” she said, evenly. “Number ten thousand and one.” I thought we had something. Eternity, he said.

“April—“

“Did I ever mean anything to you at all? Or did you just keep me for fun?” He got what he wanted from me. He doesn’t need you anymore, you stupid girl.

He couldn’t deal with this. For every sentence she said, he heard three. Her own voice, her mother’s.

“Please, stop. Listen to me.”

She wasn’t done, he could tell, but she pressed her lips together, silencing herself.

He could still hear her. It’s not fair. I love him.

He knew that she could mesmerise; now it seemed that she could project thoughts as well. Although she wasn’t wording them directly at him like Lilith did, she must not be aware of what she was doing.

Of all the times for her powers to manifest, it had to be now? Could she mind-read? He couldn’t feel the static or the compression that usually told him someone was trying to read him, but his walls went up. He didn’t need her scanning his mind looking for more sticks to beat herself with; this was a big enough catastrophe as it was.

Lilith. He needed to take her to Lilith. She’d know what to do. She would look after her.

After.

“We need to go,” he said. “Get dressed.”

< Previous Chapter | Index | Next Chapter >

Chapter 1.46 – Walking Disaster

“Try to think fast thoughts,” Caleb instructed, unhelpfully.

Melinda shrugged. “Such as what? Cheetahs? Bullet trains?”

“No, not of fast things. Just of speediness, generally.”

It didn’t make any sense. They’d been out here for ages and they were getting literally nowhere. Melinda tried to think of speediness and ran forward a few paces at a disappointingly normal speed. She heard Caleb laugh.

“This is pointless,” she sighed.

“You can do it,” he said and disappeared, materialising along the path a second later.

Such a show-off. He was thoroughly enjoying being better than her, and she didn’t really care that he was, but she was getting annoyed at this purposeless game. She wasn’t getting it, so why didn’t he just let her give up?

“I don’t think I can do it, Caleb,” Melinda shouted up to him, hoping she still sounded friendly. “Shall we head on up to the cliff now? We’ll miss the eclipse if we’re not quick.”

It was like talking to a rock. The black blur raced back towards her. “We have loads of time. I’ll get us there, don’t worry. Try again. Fast thoughts.”

Melinda tried not to get irritated. It was clearly very important to Caleb that she played along and she knew she wasn’t annoyed with him. She was thinking of Lilith, antagonising him and April. Thinking of Faith’s comment back in the kitchen and how Lilith had reacted.

If Lilith was always like that, then the way Caleb was, it made sense to Melinda now. He’d been whittled away, just like April. And like April, he needed support. He needed a friend.

Melinda had always thought she was a good judge of character, but she’d been reading Lilith wrong this whole time. She felt foolish, betrayed; she should have seen it sooner. Instead of guiding them to a safe option, she’d led the three of them into a trap. April had finally escaped Sandy and ended up right back under the thumb of another controlling woman.

Melinda tried to put it all out of her mind, be present. Her dad would tell her that anger didn’t solve anything; he would encourage her to be calm, to be rational, to look at the bigger picture until she saw the solution. What was the bigger picture? Were they going to be reliant on Lilith until she crushed them all? Would they end up out on their own, hunting? Hiding April forever?

Would Caleb come with them? What would happen to him if they left him behind?

The rage was swirling around like a mist, strangling her with its wisps. She could feel the shimmering sensation on her skin and tried to calm herself.

Be present. Calm. She looked up at Caleb’s expectant face.

“Can you be any more specific?”

“Not really.” He thought for a moment, then swung his fist towards her face. He’d barely lifted his arm however before she blocked him.

“Caleb?! What the heck?!”

“Holy hell! Those reflexes, Melinda! When you do that, how do you do it?”

“I don’t know! I just do it, I don’t think about it.”

“Hmm. Maybe thinking too much is the problem then. Try running and not thinking about it?”

She groaned. “This is a waste of time.”

“It’s not. I know you can do it,” he said, brightly. She took in his eager, smiling face. Bigger picture.

She remembered how he had looked the first time she’d seen him, in his living room. Pathetic.

The first time they’d sat together at the cliff. Like a puppy who’d been kicked.

He was like a different person now, a happy person. This might be pointless and weird to her, but to him?

She stretched and repositioned herself to try again. “OK, I’ll try not thinking.”

Easier said than done, but she tried to silence her overactive brain for a few moments and ran a few obligatory paces.

She stopped, sighed. “It’s no good.” She turned back to him. “I just can’t… wow.”

Caleb was whooping and cheering some distance along the path. In a blink he was beside her.

“I knew you could do it, Mellybean! You’re not as fast as me, but you’re still pretty good!”

“Did you just call me Mellybean?”

He looked perplexed as he studied her face. “Oh. Can I not do that? I thought it was alright, as we’re friends now. I’ve been presumptuous, haven’t I?”

Melinda couldn’t stop herself grinning. She threw her arms around him.

“No. You’re right, we’re friends. You can call me Mellybean.”

She felt him freeze in her embrace like no one had ever hugged him. Probably very few people did and with reactions like his, likely never unexpectedly.

“I’m sorry.” She tried to unwrap herself, but something was keeping her close against him.

“Thank you,” he said.

“What for?”

“Just being you. You’re amazing.”

It was such a lovely thing to say and yet, like a switch, she felt the anger coming back. Why would Lilith ever want to hurt him? Why would anyone? He was so sweet. So fragile.

So much like April.

Her lips had already grazed his before he realised and he hastily pushed her away.

“No, Melinda. I didn’t mean it like that.”

It took her a minute to register what had happened. “Oh my goodness. Of course you didn’t. I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me.”

“I like you, but not romantically,” he explained. “You’re not hideous or anything—“

“Please stop talking. I know. I’m so sorry. I’m bang out of order.”

“It’s OK. We all make mistakes, right? We can forget it.” He nodded, assuredly. “Shall we go to the cliff now? I’ll race you.”

Caleb might have been able to just push this aside and carry on, but Melinda was mortified. She couldn’t be alone with him now. She couldn’t even look at him now.

“Sure! The cliff! Race me!” Her giggle was strained, her voice much more high-pitched than usual. “Eat my dust!” she screeched and zipped off.

“Wait! Melinda! The cliff is that way!” Caleb shouted after her, pointing in the opposite direction. She mustn’t have heard him. She had vanished into the night.

He pursued her along the path, but couldn’t see her at all. It was all eerily familiar, losing track of those eyes in the pervading blackness of the Forgotten Hollow forest. Darn it, she was faster than him after all. He followed Melinda’s trail in circles for a while before it dawned on him that she was trying to avoid him.

Could he do anything right? Lilith was always saying it, but clearly it was true. He was a walking disaster. All these years later, all this work and he was still, at his core, just a womanising rat. Except now he was targeting women he wasn’t attracted to and he wasn’t even aware that he was seducing them. How had he had gotten worse?

He followed the faint, floral scent of Melinda, the only thing he could detect of her, until the path opened up into the clearing outside Marjorie’s house. There were numerous paths from here that she could have taken, but his attention was captured by the light that was on in the house.

It didn’t make sense for Melinda to go in here, but then not a lot else was making sense right now. If he followed her into an empty house, into what appeared to be the bedroom, he was definitely sending the wrong message; their friendship would be completely ruined.

He should go home. Lilith would eventually forgive him for disobeying her and she’d help him figure this all out, help him to apologise to Melinda. Or she’d castrate him, as she’d often threatened. He would consider that an acceptable solution, right now.

He was still gazing up at the lighted window, catching a glimpse of someone moving around inside, a flash of blonde hair.



April could feel herself burning up as she absorbed the words on the page. She had never read a romance novel; she always thought they’d be a bit sappy, a bit floaty, all soft gazes and whispered words. She didn’t realise they were so juicy. She found herself skimming the actual story parts, her eyes hungry for the more lustful details.

Either Marjorie had a very wild imagination, or Caleb was an amazing lover. She chose to believe the latter, slowly blending herself into the story. She imagined him breaking into her room, pinning her to the bed, whispering into her ear…

Not All Roses with the intruding vampire. I’ve never been one for breaking into homes,” he looked around, “other than what I’m doing right now…”

“Caleb!” April hastily stuffed the book under the pillow. “I was just… I’m not…”

He smiled at her. She smoothed her hair, fanned her face. Oh gosh, was she bright red? How did he know which bit she was reading? Was it obvious? Was she thinking out loud?

“We can take them with us, if you like,” he said, seemingly oblivious. She felt rather disappointed that he was making no effort to pin her to the bed; her embarrassment turning to frustration.

“Why aren’t you with Melinda?” She scowled at him. “Was it too cloudy to see the moon?”

“We didn’t watch it, but we did race. Turns out she’s good at it; I’ve got no idea where she’s gone. Come on; you shouldn’t be here.”

April narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, so now you care about me?”

“What do you mean? When did I not care about you?”

“Only every time Melinda’s around,” she huffed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think something was going on.”

He was silent. She could sense him looking carefully at her face. She turned her head away.

“Are you jealous?” he asked.

April could feel the inner brat crawling to the surface. She tried to beat it down; be mature, don’t get jealous, no tantrums. She failed. “Why would I be jealous of you choosing a moonlit walk with Melinda and her lack of bra over a night with me, your girlfriend?!”

He paused, repeated her question to himself, carefully. “Is the bra bit relevant? I don’t know. Why would you be?”

“Because you’re mine, Caleb! Mine!”

“Yes, I am,” he agreed, “and you’re mine.”

He’s lying.

She whimpered, “Why don’t I believe you?”

He growled, exasperated. “How can I be messing everything up so badly that you don’t even know how much I care about you?” He took her hands. “I do, OK? I do care.”

April looked at him for a while; envy chewing away at her insides. What else was he messing up? “Are you… are you and Melinda… did something happen?”

“No! We’re not! It… didn’t.”

That was a strong protest. He’d answered just a little too quickly. That pause was a little too long. April couldn’t see him, or hear him, through the green mist that had descended, the images that flashed through her head.

“April?” he said softly, his face mirroring hers. “Talk to me. What are you hearing?”

“I can see you. You’re… you’re kissing her,” she whispered. “You’re out there, kissing her when you should be with me. Kissing me.”

He pulled her to him. He watched her eyes go wide before they fluttered shut, felt her smile, her soft lips caressing his.

“Please don’t ever think that I don’t want you. I really, really do.”

She nodded, but her mind was still racing. He didn’t deny kissing Melinda.

“You still don’t believe me.”

No, she didn’t. It felt like he was trying to make amends for something. She kept telling herself that she was irrational, she was getting jealous over nothing.

His voice was quiet, almost pleading. “How can I prove it to you, April? I’ll do anything.”

Anything? She opened her mouth then closed it. Then opened it again.

He wasn’t like this in the book or in her imagination; there he was confident, passionate, dominant. He’d want her so much, there would never be any doubt. He’d take her without any hesitation, make her his. Like last time.

That isn’t what happened last time.

You broke him once…

She sidled up to him, pressed her lips behind his ear, muffling herself so she could deny saying it if he laughed at her.

“I really don’t think sex will help things right now…”

“You said anything. Don’t you want to make me happy?” she asked.

“I do, but—“

“So what’s the problem?! Am I that disgusting?”

“No! Damn it April! Would you just listen? There’s something you should know—“

“I don’t want any more excuses, Caleb! I’m done with excuses!” April screeched. “If you’re not interested then just… just… piss off! You clearly don’t give a shit about me, about what I want. Enjoy the rest of your sad, lonely existence without me.”

April folded her arms and turned away, inviting him to leave. From the corner of her eye she could see him, locked in conflict with himself.

Don’t fight it.

All the light went from his eyes and the air went from the room, choking her on her own recklessness. She watched him fade into his dark form; the fine cracks appeared on his skin, his eyes lightened to that piercing blue. The change penetrated more than skin deep. He suddenly felt unfamiliar to her. Distant.

“Caleb? What’s happening? You’re scaring me.”

< Previous Chapter | Index | Next Chapter >

Chapter 1.45 – Not All Roses

April had the house to herself. Lilith had left on important business and despite her best efforts to convince him to stay, Caleb had departed to run around through the trees and look up at the moon with Melinda. April really didn’t understand what was so fascinating about an eclipse, especially a lunar one. It was clearly just a thinly-veiled excuse to get away from her for the evening.

Melinda said they’d be back within a couple of hours. Lilith didn’t say how long she’d be. She never really said much of anything. She had no idea where Faith was, but it wasn’t unlike Faith to disappear for a while. She’d probably come back with a wild story about something abhorrent she’d done with a random man somewhere. April usually hated those stories but it would certainly break up the dullness.

Goodness. Who knew that being an undead creature of the night on the run from committing the murder of the decade would be so… boring?

April had tried watching the movie alone for a while, but it wasn’t any fun without anyone she could pretend to be scared around. She knew how to play chess, she would occasionally play with Broof at the park when she was younger, but she couldn’t say she enjoyed it. Especially when she had no one to play with.

She’d seated herself at the organ and tried to play but Mother wouldn’t shut up from the second her fingers had graced the keys. Fifteen years of piano lessons and you’re still awful at it. Why do I waste my money on you?

April wandered upstairs. She lingered on the landing, looking at the door to Lilith’s room.

Strictly off-limits. As curious as she was, she really didn’t want to get on Lilith’s bad side.

April didn’t like her, didn’t like the way she treated Caleb, but Caleb adored her for some reason and she had been kind enough to let them live with her for a while. Oh and the whole saving her life thing was kind, too. Killing her own mother aside, April knew better than to bite the hand that fed her. Whatever Lilith was hiding in her room would remain hidden.

Caleb’s room however… Lilith hadn’t explicitly said this was off-limits. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to have a little peek inside?

She turned the handle and pushed the door open. How very bland it was, just like the rest of the house. If she didn’t know it was Caleb’s room, she wouldn’t have guessed. There were no personal artefacts, no pictures, nothing of interest.

April lay down on the bed and rested her head on the pillow. It didn’t smell anything like the cologne and decay scent of Caleb. It just smelled like detergent with the faintest hint of candied violets.

Melinda’s perfume smells like candied violets.

That was probably coincidence. She opened up the bedside drawer. It was empty except for a book called Unmasking The Face. Bizarre. She noticed that the bookmark was placed inside the front cover and the spine hadn’t been cracked. She flicked through but it looked incredibly dry. She replaced it and closed the drawer. There wasn’t anything in the other one.

What did Caleb do with all his free time? Did he really just go star-gazing every night? Is that something she was going to have to get into? Maybe Melinda could teach her a few things; her dad had been nurturing her love of astronomy since she was tiny. Melinda would often bore April with stories about constellations and galaxies until April physically shut her up.

She wished she’d listened, now.

April had often been jealous of Melinda’s relationship with her parents, with Faith. Even Lilith liked her. Now she was jealous of Melinda’s relationship with Caleb. The two of them got on so well with their stars and their running and their talking. Stupid Melinda, having interests.

She tried not to imagine the two of them in the woods. Alone.

A distraction. That’s what she needed. She opened up the closet and peered inside. She was hoping to see anything at all to show that Caleb had other hobbies that she could relate to. Books that she understood, a secret games console, music?

At this point she’d have even been relieved to see a dead body, at least that would give them something in common, but all that was inside was a rail of perfectly pressed clothing. It reminded her of her wardrobe back at the mansion; everything organised by colour, fabric, occasion. Broof was meticulous like that.

She thought of all her expensive clothing, poorly-folded and hastily stashed inside Marjorie’s suitcase and sighed. They didn’t even have similar levels of neatness. Maybe she should unpack. Hang things neatly in the wardrobe. Then they’d have something in common, however small. It would kill a few minutes. And hopefully stop these intrusive thoughts she was having of Caleb and Melinda.

Alone in the woods.

They’re not really looking at the moon.

Marjorie’s borrowed suitcase was battered and ancient and hadn’t been anywhere near large enough for all of April’s clothing, limiting her choice and meaning she’d had to leave a number of items behind. She didn’t understand how Melinda and Faith could happily get by with only a couple of outfits.

April and Faith were a similar dress size, so could swap clothes, but Melinda was so skinny that none of her things fit April. Melinda didn’t even need to wear a bra.

April wondered if her tiny frame was another thing Caleb preferred about Melinda.

He’s probably enjoying her bird-like bones and lack of bra right at this second.

April wondered if Caleb would have still chosen her if he’d met Melinda first.

Probably not.

This wasn’t helping. They were just looking at the moon. For some reason.

If you say so.

April started hanging her items in the wardrobe. This was even more boring than doing nothing. As a top slithered off its hanger she gave up and threw the balled up items in to the bottom of the wardrobe, along with her vampire book. She looked at the pile of clothing. Something was missing.

In her hungover state this morning she realised that she had neglected to pack the white dress that Caleb liked. Mother had bought it for her, for a recent awards show. April had struggled into it and thought it looked quite good, quite sexy, she felt very grown up in it.

The second Mother had laid eyes on her in it however, she had made her take it off. Trashy. Cheap. Desperate.

Mother had chosen instead a pink, frilly number that April had secretly hated. She hadn’t brought the pink, frilly dress but maybe she should have. Maybe Caleb would have wanted to rip that off for her.

She thought about the white dress, about what he had said. Seeing her in that dress just about finished me. Clearly he liked trashy, cheap and desperate.

It probably wasn’t a good idea to go back to the Davies’s house. That creep, Will, might be stalking around. But Caleb hadn’t shown any interest in any of her other outfits. They were probably too classy. And she was at a bit of a loose end. She could get the dress, doll herself up, wait for him on his bed…

She’d only be a short while. No one would ever know she’d gone.



Lilith was not having a great night. As amusing as it had been to wind up Caleb, it had stopped being fun the second she had seen Melinda’s face.

Seeing herself reflected badly in those big brown eyes had shaken her. The doubt, the disappointment. She felt that she had been here before.

That darn conscience was interfering again. She told herself that Caleb and April were capable adults, they had made their own decisions tonight, but she knew there was little truth in either of these points. She knew that she had made the decisions for them. But it was difficult to feel genuinely guilty knowing that her brother would be willingly spending his evening being stimulated by a woman’s mind rather than her body.