~ The First Trilogy ~
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the authors imagination, or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living, dead or undead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2004 by Melanie Nowak
Cover Photograph by Melanie Nowak
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part,
by any means without express permission directly from the author.
eBook Edition 2.0, 2010
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Almost Human ~ The First Trilogy
Volume 2: Lost Reflections
2. We have a problem
3. Give her what she wants
5. Thanks for bringin’ down my day
7. What’s in a name?
9. A few quarts shy
14. Don’t think
15. No regrets
19. Why did you buy me this?
21. Have a ball
22. Payback’s a bitch
Chapter 1 - Morals
8:00, Sunday night
As the last blazing colors of sunset faded to deep violet in the sky, Felicity made her way up Alyson’s front walk and knocked on the door. It took a long time for Ben to answer, but she trusted Cain’s sense that he was still there. He finally did appear, stifling a yawn. She must have woken him. She was glad he’d been able to get some rest and try to recover from his ordeal. She still had a hard time getting the mental image out of her mind, of his chest and stomach covered in bruises from his beating. She could barely even see evidence of Sindy’s bite on his throat, but she knew that psychologically, Ben probably considered that trespass far worse than any more painful physical injury. “Hi,” he said sleepily.
“Hi. Allie’s not back yet?” she asked in concern. The sun had only just set, but she didn’t find as much comfort in that as she used to. Cain had reminded her that this was real life, not a vampire movie and she shouldn’t be so confident that she knew all the rules of the game.
He shook his head. “No, but she called. She got stuck going in to work. She’s going to try and get out early, but I doubt it.”
She looked at him appraisingly. “You staying here? No more visions of Vermont?”
“For now. You wanna come in?” he asked.
“Do you want me to come in?” she asked back.
He gave her a look that said he felt bad that she should have to ask. “Of course I do,” he answered, backing away some more to let her in, Ben eyed the denim jacket she wore, as she took it off and laid it on a chair. He didn’t say anything, but he surely knew who it belonged to.
They went to sit in the living room, on the somewhat lumpy couch. Felicity fidgeted into the corner until she could get comfortable, as Ben sat down quietly next to her. He gave her a sidelong glance. “Sorry I flipped out before.”
“Yeah, but I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
She shrugged. “It’s okay.” That sat in silence. She’d like to talk more about what was going on with Alyson and her vampire lover, but figured that she should let Ben be the one to start that conversation.
“You went to go see Cain, didn’t you?” he asked.
“Yeah.” He just sat there, waiting for more. “He asked after you.”
“I’m touched,” he said in sarcasm.
“He thought you might be planning some kind of revenge. He even offered to help.” Why had she even said anything? She hadn’t really planned to just blurt that out, but she was getting tired of Ben always thinking Cain was against him.
This got Ben’s full attention. “What kind of revenge?”
She pondered for a moment whether she should even tell him. His expectant face wouldn’t let her think of a way around it. “He knows where Sindy and her coven are sleeping. He followed them, even though it was almost morning and he could have gotten himself killed. As it is, I think he came much closer to being dust than he lets on. Anyway, he figured if we knew where they were, we could plan to confront them in the daytime. They’d be at a serious disadvantage. Maybe we could even let the sunlight in on them somehow.”
Ben was becoming more and more animated as she spoke. “Of course! It’d be easy! All of our problems neatly turned into dust!” he exclaimed.
“Hold on there VanBuren, it’s not...” Felicity began.
“Who?” Ben interrupted.
“The vampire hunter,” she explained.
Ben groaned. “That’s VanHelsing!” he clarified. “VanBuren was a president!”
“Oh. Well you know who I mean!” Ben rolled his eyes, she ignored him and pressed on. “It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, this isn’t the movies. If Cain can be awake during the day, they can too. What are you going to do, invite them to follow you outside for a stroll? Besides, they’d know you were coming from a mile away.” He didn’t seem to understand. She spoke as lightly as she could. “You’re marked now, remember?”
He flinched and looked a bit sick. “So are you, right?”
She gave a little nod. “Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I never really wanted to play vampire hunter. I just want them to leave us alone.”
“Alyson could do it,” Ben suggested.
“It’s too dangerous,” Felicity declared.
“Did she say that?” Ben asked.
“I didn’t ask her,” Felicity replied.
“Didn’t Allie go with you?” Ben asked.
“To Cain’s?” she asked in puzzlement. “No.”
“I saw you leave together,” Ben insisted.
“She dropped me off,” Felicity clarified.
“You went to see him alone?” Ben seemed completely outraged, as though he thought that she had lost her mind.
“I trust him,” she said simply.
He looked like he thought she was a fool. “I don’t.”
“Well, you’re not me,” Felicity told him quietly.
“He bit you, ‘Liss!”
“Once, for a reason. Now that I’m marked, the others have to leave me alone,” Felicity told him.
“Oh I see, it was a good deed. That couldn’t possibly wet his appetite for more, even though now he’s got his own private stock.” She shook her head and turned away. “Are you feeding him?”
She turned back to him fiercely. “Want to check my neck?” she asked, sharply pulling her collar away from her throat on both sides.
“No,” he mumbled.
She noticed that he still looked. She let go her collar and put her head down into her hands. They sat in silence. After a minute, she looked up to find him staring at her. She stared back at him for a second and then asked, “Think Alyson’s got anything good to eat? I haven’t had any dinner.”
“The Chinese food place delivers.”
She turned to him with a smile, she was so relieved to have something to divert their attention. “That sounds wonderful, I’m starved.”
He got up and she followed him into the kitchen. “I think Allie’s got a menu in here somewhere,” he said as he began rifling through a drawer full of papers, scotch tape, scissors and assorted odds and ends. He reached towards the back and winced as he stretched a sore muscle.
“Why don’t you go lay down? I’ll find it.”
He looked at her in annoyance, although he was rubbing his side, under his arm, in pain. “I’ve been lying down all day. I’m sure I’m capable of getting a piece of paper out of a drawer.”
She stood watching him for a minute, until he looked up at her. “What?”
“Well, I wanted to ask how you were feeling, but I don’t want to get counted at.”
He tried not to smile. “I’m fine.”
She wanted to ask more, but wasn’t sure how to phrase it. “You haven’t felt anything... weird, have you?”
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly before looking at her to answer. “No, I’m just very, very sore.”
“I guess I should tell you...”
He didn’t let her finish. “Could we have that talk after we eat?”
She nodded. “Yeah, sure. Hey, isn’t that the menu?” She picked it up off the floor. It must have fallen out when they began their search.
Half an hour later, they were sitting at the kitchen table with a bunch of open cartons. Felicity looked at Ben over her lo mein. She felt terrible about what had happened to him, but she knew he’d be okay. He seemed to have such a strong and confident personality. She wondered if he really was, or if that was just the face he showed the world. When he’d told her about what had happened to Mattie, even when he’d confronted Alyson, he’d been angry, but she could see how hurt he’d been inside. He saw her looking at him. “What, is it time for that talk already?”
“What? No. I mean, unless you want to. Actually, I was just wondering something.”
He looked as though he thought she was going to ask him something he wouldn’t want to answer. He probably thought she was wondering about how he’d felt when he’d been bitten. She wouldn’t pry about that, it was not the kind of thing she thought he’d want to share. “So ask,” he said with resignation.
She paused a moment. He just looked at her, patiently waiting. “Would you really have slept with Brenda last night? If she’d let you I mean.”
He seemed bewildered, but relieved. “That’s what you were wondering?” She just gave a little shrug and nod. He smiled and answered, “Yeah.” He grinned at her obvious discomfort. “I’m a healthy, young, heterosexual guy and she’s really hot. It’s kind of a no brainer. I mean, I hope you don’t think I’d be pushy about it or anything! But, if the opportunity presented itself? Yeah, I would.”
“But you hardly know her.”
He gave her a sly grin. “That’s part of the allure.” She gave him a look of disgust. “Well what did you want me to do, lie? Should I have told you that I would have turned her away? Made her wait until we had a solid and lasting relationship? Because any guy who tells you he would have done that is either lying, or already sleeping with somebody else.” She shook her head, dejectedly. “Hey, I never claimed to be anyone’s knight in shining armor. I’m just a guy and I’m being honest. I told you men were from Mars.”
She looked up at him almost pleadingly. “Doesn’t it mean anything?”
He gazed at her steadily across the table and his eyes seemed to soften. “Of course it can. I’ll bet it can be truly amazing, if it’s with someone that you really care about.” He chewed his lip for a second and then looked back down at his food to begin eating again. “But sometimes, it’s just sex.”
Felicity was still gazing back at him in puzzlement at his answer. “Have you ever been with someone that you cared about?”
“Don’t make it sound like I don’t care. It’s not like I’m out collecting conquests or something, but, have I ever been with someone that I might... love?” She gave a little nod. “No, not yet.” He shrugged. “It’ll happen. Until then, a guy’s got to do something to pass the time, right?” She gave him a little smirk at that, just to let him know that she didn’t fully agree. “So have you… ever been in love?” he asked. She was taken aback. “What, you get to ask me and I don’t get to ask back?”
“No I don’t get to ask, or no to the question?”
“The question. No.”
He smiled. “I think that ‘no’ holds more than one connotation.”
She felt herself blushing and looked down, before answering indignantly. “You don’t get to ask me that.”
He broke into a broad grin. “I don’t need to.” She played with the last of the food on her plate. “How old are you, eighteen?” he asked.
She looked up at him with an abashed little smile. She couldn’t believe she was talking to a guy about this stuff. “Not yet, but I will be in another week and a half. My birthday is on the seventeenth.”
He laughed. “Okay, soon to be eighteen then. A beautiful girl like you, remains untouched?”
Felicity’s mouth fell open at his insolence. “This is rapidly leaving curious friend territory, and entering rude and obnoxious!” She got up from the table, amazed at his temerity.
“I’m not being obnoxious, I’m just making an observation,” he protested with a laugh.
She hadn’t planned to say more, but couldn’t help herself. “It’s not as if I’ve never had the opportunity.” She brought her paper plate to the garbage and came back to begin closing up the cartons of food, Ben was grinning up at her as she moved around him.
He spoke to her as she tried to ignore him. “Now you’re all embarrassed and disappointed in me, because you think I’ve got no morals, right? I may not be celibate, but I still think I’m a pretty decent guy. It’s not like I’m out there cleverly tricking girls into being with me. It is a mutual kind of thing, you know? I should be a twenty year old virgin?” He caught her arm and made her stop to look at him. She’d been cleaning up around him, avoiding his gaze.
She looked down at him and smiled. “No. I don’t think you have no morals, and I’m not completely naïve; or chaste...” She added naughtily. He raised an eyebrow and she laughed. She didn’t want him thinking she was some kind of prude. “I think you’re a good guy, who hasn’t met the right person yet. Neither have I. And you’re right, it’ll happen.”
She started to walk away, but he didn’t let go of her arm. She looked down at him questioningly to find he’d turned rather serious. “‘Liss, I know this is none of my business. You certainly don’t have to listen to me, but since we’re on the subject, I might as well give you my opinion, for what it’s worth.” He took his hand off of her arm, but she stayed, looking down at him solemnly. “If you’ve waited this long, don’t give it up for a dead guy. ‘Cause that’s just not something that’s going to last.”
She wanted to be shocked and insulted. Certainly that flashed across her face, but after that first moment, she really wasn’t. It was good to have someone to talk to and she saw an opportunity to maybe soften things for Allie as well. She tread gingerly. “How can you know, that it wouldn’t last?”
He looked as though he couldn’t believe she might defend such a relationship. “He’s a vampire. What else is there to know?”
“I know you still don’t want to accept it, but it’s not like all vampires are these horrible mindless demons. We’ve seen them. Cain’s not like that and from what I’ve heard, neither is Mattie.” He just stared at her coldly. She spoke gently, hoping he would listen, without being provoked to anger again. “I’m not saying it’s a good thing, what’s been done to them, but, bad things do happen to good people. Don’t you believe that the good people they once were could still be inside?” He looked away from her, silently. “I’m not saying that there’s any kind of future there, as far as a relationship’s concerned. To be honest, there’s just too much that I still don’t know. It’s all so strange, but a friendship? Yes, definitely. Everyone needs a friend. Especially when they’re going through a difficult time in their life.
What if Sindy had gone too far Ben? What if it had happened to you? You felt that you were still the same person inside, but now with this terrible curse upon you. This affliction that you never asked for. What would you do? Would you have me turn away from you? Would you take your own life? Or would you do the best you could, to live without hurting others and maybe try to make some kind of difference in the world? You don’t have to like Cain, or even Mattie anymore, but I think that you have to accept them as people, instead trying to think of them as some kind of monsters. Especially knowing what they mean to us.”
“So now I’ve got Allie and you against me, huh?”
“We’re not against you Ben. Look, I don’t know what Alyson and Mattie’s relationship is like, but I can tell that she really cares about him.”
“Alyson can’t even keep a relationship going for more than a month!”
“Maybe that’s because she’s in love with someone that she can’t have!”
That seemed to frighten him. He was quiet for a moment. “She can’t be.” Those were the words that came out of his mouth, but even he didn’t seem to believe them.
Felicity had meant Mattie and she knew that Ben also took it that way, but she suddenly wondered if Ben might not be included in that category as well. Alyson certainly loved Ben as a friend. She wondered if Allie was only not interested in Ben romantically, for fear of him rejecting her and ruining their friendship.
Allie had been romantically involved with Mattie though, at least she had insinuated that she was. “I don’t know, she never actually told me that she was in love with Mattie, but my instincts tell me that, yeah she probably is. They were close before and she still cares now, three years later, after everything. She’s so worried about him, Ben. Don’t you think she’d know if he were that different? If he’d truly changed? Like I said, you don’t have to like him. You probably don’t even have to see him, but don’t punish her for it. She needs you too, you know. Or at least to know that things are okay between you.”
“You talked about it?”
“No, but she knows. What about Cain?”
“What about him?” He just looked at her. “I don’t know. I’m not going to tell you that I’m not still attracted to him. I don’t know where it’ll go, or if I’ll even let it go anywhere.”
“It’s not real.”
“What do you mean?”
“The stuff you feel for him. It’s not real. It’s a drug, it’s that... venom. Don’t you know that?”
“It’s not only that. It couldn’t be. I know where the real stuff ends and that begins.”
Ben laughed, but it was humorless and cold. “You think so? When did he first give you a taste of it? I know it’s not all that long ago that he bit you, but what about before that? I wasn’t unconscious during Sindy’s little speech, as much as I wished I were. It’s in their saliva, right? So when did he first kiss you? Isn’t that when it really began? Let me tell you something, that’s pretty potent stuff.”
Somehow, she hadn’t made that connection. The thought was both frightening and a relief at the same time. No wonder she had reacted so strongly to their one and only kiss! But at the same time, it showed her more about Cain’s character than she had realized, because they had only shared one kiss. She had kissed him and would have again, but he wouldn’t let her. Now she knew why. He wanted her to know him, before she became under the influence of the venom. For the second time today, she felt both lucky and grateful at the same time that Cain was indeed a good man.
Of course, Ben didn’t know what she and Cain had done together. Just because they hadn’t slept together didn’t mean she hadn’t let him touch her. When Ben had said that Cain had kissed her, she hadn’t denied it. She looked up with the thought of telling him of Cain’s restraint, but the look on Ben’s face made her lose the thought.
Her best guess would be that he was remembering being bitten. He certainly wasn’t looking at, or thinking of her. After a moment he swallowed hard and continued their conversation, although he wouldn’t quite meet her eyes. He looked as if he were forcing himself to speak, through great difficulty. It came out as little more than a whisper, as though he didn’t really want her to hear. “That stuff is strong poison. If it could make me want Sindy so badly... If my hands weren’t tied, I can’t even tell you what I would have done.
You don’t know what’s real, you can’t. I know you liked him, before he bit you. Maybe even before he kissed you, but now? How will you ever know how much is real? How can you ever trust that he’s not just using you? Bending you to his every whim? Because I haven’t the slightest doubt that he could. In fact, the knowledge that he still hasn’t, is making me think that maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all, but you’ll never really know, whether it’s you, or just some subtle manipulation of you.”
She lowered her eyes to the floor and tried to sort out her feelings. It was too difficult right now. She wanted to argue with him, but couldn’t even try to think of how she could prove him wrong. She thought she knew how she felt. She wasn’t being manipulated in any way right now, but was it just residual feeling, from the overpowering desire she felt for him whenever he was near? Was any of it really her? That was a very unsettling question. She would have to pay close attention to how she felt the next time that she saw Cain.
Until her mark wore off she probably would have a hard time figuring out what was real. And even then, only if she refrained from kissing him. If she were to remain involved with him, how would she ever avoid the venom entirely? It seemed awfully complicated. She remembered how strongly she had desired him, just after that first kiss. That thought made her realize that she’d better try to prepare Ben for the evening ahead, just in case. She wasn’t sure if Allie had really told him anything. “Sindy may come looking for you later.”
“She can’t come in,” Ben said with assurance.
Felicity drew in a deep breath and sighed. “She may not have to. You’ll feel her. It’ll... call you.”
Ben looked as though she had just taken his security blanket away. “Vermont’s soundin’ pretty good,” he said in annoyance.
“I don’t think it’s the same for everybody, so I could be wrong, but, I also didn’t get as much venom as you did. And I feel it, pretty strong. I know it’s not just me,” she confided.
“Great. So what do we do? Tie me to the mast, like Jason and the Argonauts?” Ben questioned.
“Who?” Felicity asked in confusion.
“Jason and the Golden Fleece. When he wanted to hear the Siren’s song? I’ve got to sit you down with some movies,” he told her.
“Well, I don’t think you’ll require restraints,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s just kind of weird and uncomfortable, and I thought you’d want to know. I’d better stay until Allie gets home though. Just in case.”
“Thanks. Luckily, I kind of like having you around. You certainly make interesting conversation,” he said with a mischievous leer. “Are you sure you want to subject yourself to being locked in an apartment with a crazed sex fiend? Could be dangerous,” he teased.
She reached out and gave him a quick rap on the chest. It wasn’t very hard, but it made him wince from his bruises. “I think I can take you.” He gave her a look which made her realize that her statement could easily be misconstrued. She made as if to hit him again and he backed away laughing. “Sindy may not even come. She probably doesn’t even know where Allie lives, and she wouldn’t know you’d be here anyway. What is she going to do, walk around the whole town, feeling for you?”
“She certainly could. It’s not a very big town, and what else has she got to do?” Ben asked.
“Well, like you said, she can’t come in. It may not be the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had, but you’ll survive,” Felicity answered drolly.
Two hours later found them on the couch watching television. At least Ben was watching, Felicity was sleeping, until her head fell to the side and she jerked herself awake for the third time.
“‘Liss, why don’t you go to bed?”
“What? I’m awake,” she said through a yawn.
“Go to bed ‘Liss,” Ben told her with a laugh.
“What time does Allie get home?” she asked.
“Last call’s at 3:30. Then she’s still gotta clean up and stuff. She won’t be back until after four,” Ben said.
“What time is it now?” Felicity asked.
“Almost midnight. Trust me, you’ll never make it, don’t even try. I’m going to turn in now myself,” he told her.
“Okay, goodnight.” She laid down and settled herself deeper into the couch, trying to get comfortable as he turned off the television.
“You’re not going to sleep out here? This couch sucks. You won’t get any sleep. Trust me, I’ve tried it,” he said.
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
“Do you want the bed and I’ll take the couch?” he asked.
“No. I can’t make you sleep out here with bruises like that. You need the bed,” she admitted.
“Well, it’s a big bed. And it’s not like we haven’t slept together before.” He gave her an impish smile. “You have my word of honor that I will not seek to despoil your virtue,” he said with overly dramatic flair. “I’m a little too wounded for such strenuous activity anyway.”
“Shut up and go to bed.” She didn’t get up, or even look at him.
“At least get out of those clothes, you don’t want to sleep in jeans.”
Now she sat up. “And just what do you propose? It’s not like I brought anything.”
“Well it’s a good thing. You know how much I like those sheep pajamas of yours.” She made good use of a throw pillow. He caught it before it could do any damage. “Wear something of Allie’s, she won’t care,” he said, tossing the pillow back to her.
“Ben, as sweet as it is that you think that I could, Alyson is at least two sizes smaller than me. I don’t think so.”
“Well, I keep some stuff here. It’s mostly tee-shirts and sweats, but they should do. Unless you’re afraid that you can’t squeeze into an extra large.” This time the pillow hit him in the head.
He went into the bedroom and came back with the clothing. “I’m not going to lend you my underwear though. And I wouldn’t recommend Allie’s. I think hers are mostly made out of dental floss.”
“How would you know?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
“She does her laundry at my house,” he replied with a chuckle.
“That’s okay, I think I’ll keep my own,” she said, heading into the bathroom to change.
She came back to find that Ben had left a blanket and pillow on the couch. He must have gone to bed already, the lights in the bedroom were off. She arranged everything and shut the light.
“Goodnight.” Ben called from the other room.
Felicity spent the next half an hour or so tossing and turning, Ben was right, the couch was awful. She thought maybe she felt Cain at one point, but it was fleeting. He must have just been passing close by. It was so strange to be aware of someone’s location without seeing them.
She had classes tomorrow. It seemed weird that she should just resume normal everyday life. She couldn’t imagine trying to concentrate on algebra. It was a good thing Cain didn’t live very close to the school.
After a bit she heard Ben get out of bed and come quietly to the doorway. “‘Liss, are you awake?” he whispered.
“I can’t sleep. At the risk of sounding like a pervert or a total wimp, I’ve gotta tell you, I’d feel much better if you came into the bedroom.”
She heard something in his voice that made her sit up to look at him. “Do you feel her?” she asked quietly.
She couldn’t see his face very well in the dark, but he sounded uncomfortable to have to talk about it. “Yeah. I don’t think she’s real close by, yet, but it’s getting stronger and I’ve gotta admit that it’s freakin’ me out a little. I know she can’t come in and it’s not like I’m scared of her or anything, but it’s so weird and I can’t sleep.” He fidgeted a little in the doorway. “I know you can’t be comfortable out here, and it’d just be nice to have someone else in the room, you know?”
She had to smile thinking of when she’d said that to him. “Yeah, sure.” She got up and followed him into the bedroom. As he flipped on the light, she stood at the foot of the bed, trying to decide which side looked slept in.
He must have mistook her hesitation. He looked amused. “If you want, I could build a little wall of pillows down the middle.”
She laughed. “I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Unless you’re afraid I might elbow you or something. I know you’re sore.”
He smiled. “I’ll risk it.”
“I just didn’t know which side,” she explained.
“Oh. I don’t care, whatever,” he told her.
She climbed in on the left side and then he got in on the right. They both lay on their backs looking at the ceiling after Ben shut the light. She looked over at him in the dark. “What happens when Allie gets home? Where’s she going to sleep?” Felicity asked.
“Let her sleep on her own crummy couch. Maybe then she’ll finally be convinced she needs a new one. She won’t listen to me. Then again, maybe she should just join us in the bed. Would you believe that for all my experience, a threesome is something I’ve yet to be a part of?” Ben asked teasingly.
She elbowed him, which probably did hurt a little, but he laughed. “Behave yourself, or I’m going back out into the living room.” she threatened.
“Sorry, but I can’t help it. You’re fun to tease, and it makes for a good distraction,” he said.
She suddenly remembered why he had asked her in here. “Is it strong?”
“I guess that depends, I don’t know how strong it gets. I don’t think she’s right outside, but I feel her.” He turned to face Felicity better. “Do you really feel this every time Cain’s around?”
“I don’t know if it’s the same, but yeah. Only picture how powerful it would be if she were standing right next to you.”
“No wonder you’re always so distracted.”
“Am I?” She could feel him shrug. “You know what’s really weird? Whenever he touches me...”
“I don’t want to hear about that.”
“Not like that. I just meant, like... regular touching. Never mind.”
“I think it’s going away,” he told her.
“Good, go to sleep,” she answered.
They did. For an hour or so, anyway. Felicity was awakened a little while later. Cain was nearby. Not very close, but she could feel him. It didn’t bother her anymore really, now that she understood it. As she got used to the feeling, actually it was kind of nice… comforting. She wondered why it had woken her. It didn’t seem to be getting any stronger or moving away, so wherever he was, he must be staying there for a while. She thought about where they were and what was close by. Tommy’s maybe, that would probably be the only place close by that he would actually stay for any length of time.
She was drifting back to sleep when Ben mumbled something and rolled from his side to his back. He fidgeted restlessly and she realized that he was probably why she had woken up in the first place. He was still sleeping, but very fitfully. He was obviously distressed. Either he was dreaming, or it was Sindy. She was just wondering if she should wake him, when he woke on his own with a gasp. He lay still for a moment, breathing rapidly and trying to calm his nerves. After a minute, she asked, “Are you okay?”
He flinched a little at her voice. He must have thought that she was sleeping. “Yeah. I’m fine, I was just... having a bad dream. Man, Sindy must be right outside. I’m alright, go back to sleep.”
He rolled over, to face away from her and try to go back to sleep. He fidgeted a few more times and Felicity felt bad for him. She remembered how odd and panicky she had felt the first few times she’d sensed Cain, Ben was probably having similar feelings, if not worse. Sindy had spent an awfully long time drinking from him. He’d probably gotten a lot of venom in his system. She wondered if it was much stronger than what she felt with Cain.
He fidgeted again and his breathing turned a bit ragged. Felicity moved closer to him, up against his back, as she had to comfort herself that night in her room. She put an arm around him, in kind of a hug. He put a hand up onto her arm and gave it a little squeeze. Then after a few minutes, he took her arm up off of him and slid away, out of her reach. “I appreciate the gesture,” he said, lying on his back again. “But I think it’s better if you stay over there.”
After a few minutes, he hesitantly reached out and took her hand, interlacing their fingers. They lay on their backs, on opposite sides of the bed, each with one arm stretched out to the middle. He didn’t let go of her hand, so she gave it a slight squeeze and lay there waiting for sleep to come. She could tell by his uneven breathing that he was still bothered and not sleeping. He squeezed her hand a few times, but he didn’t speak to her again. If Ben suffered any other odd perceptions from Sindy, he kept them to himself. Eventually, they slept.
Chapter 2 - We have a problem
2:00, Monday morning
Cain pulled into the lot at Tommy’s. He could feel Sindy moving away from him, towards Allie’s apartment he assumed. He could feel Ben there, burning with Sindy’s new signature upon him. Felicity was still there as well, shining with Cain’s own comforting glow about her. They must be staying with Alyson this evening. They would be safe there. If Sindy wanted to sit outside and try to make Ben sweat a bit, then let her. Nothing would come of it, and at least it would give him a respite from her presence.
Cain walked through the front doors of the bar and looked around. There were no other vampires present, a fact for which he was grateful, as usual. It wasn’t really crowded, but he was a little surprised to see that there were more than just a few patrons, considering it was late Sunday night. There really wasn’t much else to do in a small town.
He didn’t bother to visit the bar. He made his way towards the back to find a semi-private place to sit and think about his prior conversation with Sindy. He settled himself at a table and became lost in thought, until he was startled back to attention by someone addressing him from across the table. He looked up to find Alyson standing there with her little serving tray in hand. He was surprised; he hadn’t expected to find her working tonight. She was looking at him expectantly with her usual mocking attitude.
“I’m sorry, what?” he asked sheepishly.
“Do you want a drink? From the bar,” she added with a smile.
“Right. I’ll take a rum and coke.” She was turning to go when he called out, “Make it two.”
“Save you a trip.” She gave him an odd look and went to get his drinks. He stared after her, thinking of Mattie. He was still rather in shock over that. So Alyson was Mattie’s chosen one? She had to be, it did seem to fall into place. Mattie had questioned Cain the year before, about how to properly change someone into a vampire. He was very excited, but worried about it. It seemed something that he wanted badly to do, but was frightened to try it. He’d never attempted it before. In fact, he’d never even killed a person that Cain knew of. In that, Cain envied him.
Cain had instilled supreme caution and care into the boy as far as turning someone was concerned. It was not something to be done lightly. Mattie had told Cain of the deep care and devotion he felt toward the one he had chosen. He had never given Cain their name, saying only that it was a childhood friend with whom he was still very close. Cain had never asked, because he’d felt that it was better if Mattie’s past life remain somewhat separate. He was going to have to learn to let it go. If he turned his friend, there would be time enough for Cain to meet them then.
Mattie had made it clear to Cain that his affections ran deep for this friend and that he was terrified to fail them. So Cain did something that he had rarely ever done. He gave Mattie detailed and explicit instructions to turn his friend into a vampire. It was not so difficult to do, but to be careless was to create a horror. Far better to err on the side of caution. Usually he simply advised others against it, but Mattie was different. Cain knew that Mattie would never even think of attempting such a thing without the subjects express consent. Mattie was a gentle soul and he deserved the knowledge that he asked for. Cain believed that he had the good judgment to use it wisely. Mattie was very attentive and somber. He asked numerous questions and had many worries. It was a good sign that he would heed Cain’s teachings. Cain was confident that when the time came, it would be done well.
Cain had always assumed from Mattie’s attitude, that it was a girl, until that night in the woods with Ben. That had made him wonder. He’d had no idea that this was Mattie’s home. He was shocked to find that the young man who had served him coffee nightly for three months, had been one of Mattie’s very good friends. He’d begun to worry for Mattie, because if it was indeed Ben whom he wished to change, Mattie would be sorely disappointed, Ben would never want such a life. He gradually came to realize that it could not possibly be Benjamin though. Mattie could never be so blind, as to think that Ben would come around to embrace such an existence. It just was not in him, besides, Cain had been sure that Mattie was still seeing his friend on a regular basis, whereas Ben said he had only seen Mattie but once since his change. No, it had to be Alyson. Cain approved. Alyson had just the personality to make her tough and strong without being cruel or heartless. He was glad, Mattie needed someone like her.
Cain was extremely proud of Mattie, although Cain had merely shown him the way of things. Mattie’s character and way of life were his own accomplishments. Cain felt that only divine intervention could have placed him in the boys’ path at so perfect a time in his development. Mattie had been newly turned and horrified at the prospect of living as a creature of the night. He was starved and alone, having run from the ones who had sired him. He had been changed against his will by brood of vampires who were trying to gain advantage over another coven, by increasing their own numbers. Such territorial wars were rare and never lasted long. Most vampires were happy to be left alone with their chosen few companions, and would rather flee than fight, if given a choice. Vampires with warlike tendencies usually managed to kill each other off rather quickly.
Mattie was very lucky to have been so well made. Most vampires were not so careful or thorough, but from what information Cain could glean from the boy, his change had been somewhat of a ‘group effort’ on the part of several vampires together. A sort of ‘gang bang’ affair, that they had indulged in for fun as well as to turn him. The result was that Mattie had been drunk from and then fed by his captors many times. His rebirth as a vampire had been traumatic but thorough. He had run from his siring brood as soon as he’d been able. They had surely given chase, but apparently met up with their enemies along the way. There were few survivors after it was done and none were interested in Mattie any longer.
Cain had found him on the steps to the church, of all places, shortly before dawn. His heart immediately went out to the boy, who obviously was contemplating suicide. He took Mattie into his home, saw that he was fed and began to teach him a new way of life. Mattie stayed with him on and off for almost a year, traveling every couple of weeks to visit a friend that he’d had in his past life. Cain had never taken such time with any other apprentice, other than those few that he had made himself. In fact, most other vampires simply accepted his suggestions or asked his advice and then encouraged him to move on. Mattie was eager for knowledge and friendship, something which filled a need in Cain also, but once he was confident that Mattie could be independent, Cain also felt the need to travel, to continue to help others. He had of course invited Mattie to join him, but had known that Mattie wouldn’t care to venture too far from his home. He still had ties there that he was unwilling to give up just yet.
They had kept in touch, meeting in various places over the next two years, never leaving each other without setting up a place for future contact. Cain had drilled Mattie relentlessly in the art of cloaking his presence from others. Mattie was such a kind and peaceful young man, he could gain nothing from associating with most other vampires, Cain had assured him.
When last they’d spoken, Mattie had told Cain that he would be found in a town nearby this one, come early December, but it was just another town, one of dozens they had inhabited. Cain knew that they were in the general area where Mattie had once lived, but had not thought that he would be in the very spot, with people from Mattie’s past. Cain had been traveling in this general direction anyway, following rumors of rogue vampires needing to learn discretion. Those vampires had of course turned out to be Sindy and Ernest. Shortly before he arrived Sindy had also added Luke and Chris to her little family. Cain had thought to make contact with Sindy and the others, teach them to lead a less destructive existence and then go on to meet his friend.
So here he was in the local pub, being served drinks by the very girl that he had calmly sat and discussed with Mattie, how to turn into a vampire. He wondered if Mattie had approached her about it yet. Had she turned him down? Or perhaps he had become afraid that it would not go as planned.
Of course it was possible that Mattie had been thinking of someone else entirely, but Cain didn’t think so. Mattie was quiet and shy, and Cain couldn’t imagine him being close with more than a few select people. Cain watched Alyson move through the crowd to return to him with his drinks and wondered just how much Mattie had shared with her.
She put down two napkins on the table in front of him and then placed a drink on each. “It’s thirteen.”
He handed her a twenty dollar bill and she began to dig into her apron pocket for change. “Keep it,” he told her.
She looked down at him with curious appreciation. “Thanks.”
He smiled as he took a sip of his drink and then gestured towards the other glass on the table. “You want one?”
Now she really seemed bewildered by his attitude. “I can’t, I’m working.” She just stood there and watched him for a second. “You’re in a friendly mood.”
“I’ve just found out that we’ve a mutual friend.”
Her eyes widened and she quickly looked about to see if she was being watched by her boss. Apparently she decided it was safe to sit. She took the chair opposite his and leaned over the table towards him, anxiously. “Do you know where he is?”
“No, I’m sorry.” He noted her look of concern. “But you needn’t worry, Mattie knows how to keep out of trouble.”
“I’m surprised you even know him. He usually hides himself from other vampires.”
Cain smiled. “Who do you think taught him how to do that?”
Allie stared at him with a look of uncertainty that quickly turned to suspicion. “Are you... Did you do it to him?”
“No! No, I’m not Mattie’s sire. Just a friend.” So, Mattie hadn’t told her of his beginnings. Perhaps he hadn’t wanted to frighten her, although Alyson was hardly a girl of delicate sensibilities. More likely, Mattie had been afraid that given information about the vampires who had abducted him, Alyson would probably try to hunt them down and kill them. That would only lead to her bringing more danger down upon herself than even she could handle. Cain could see that for all of her oddities and outspokenness, she was a most loyal friend. He wondered how long Mattie’d been away from her. “How long has it been?”
She actually took on a quiet and shy demeanor, very unlike herself. Yes, she and Mattie were intimately close. She didn’t even have to think to answer his question. “May. I used to see him at least one weekend a month. Sometimes he’d even stay longer. The last time I saw him, he told me that he wanted to travel around a little and that he might not be back until Halloween, but it’s a long time, you know?”
Mattie must have meant to spend the month here with Alyson before going to meet Cain in December. Cain wondered if Mattie had expected to turn her during that time, and then bring her to meet Cain. It certainly seemed plausible. Cain knew that Mattie had drunk from her, although he had never yet tasted human blood at the time Cain had found him. Mattie existed on animal blood, as Cain did. Cain had certainly hoped that it would remain Mattie’s prime source of sustenance, but had spoken to him about having control when drinking from a person, just in case. He was not so naive as to think that Mattie might never be tempted, better to give him preventative cautions on how to be sure not to hurt the one that he drank from.
Not long after that talk, Mattie had come back to speak to him about it again, almost as a sort of confession. Mattie had told him of the few times that he had dared to sample a human’s blood. He had told Cain in hesitant whispers of how he’d drunk from his very best friend, a willing offering. Even if Mattie hadn’t told him, he might have guessed it from Allie’s attitude. Most likely, it had become a regular thing. She definitely cared for him, but there was also a great need in her voice. If the victim were willing, it could be an amazing experience. Cain gave Alyson a sympathetic nod. “It must be difficult. He kept you safe too, didn’t he?”
She returned his small nod with one of her own. “I can take care of myself, but things have been getting pretty rough around here.” She rubbed the back of her head, where Sindy’s thugs had clubbed her, Cain assumed. “It’s a little overcrowded in this town, don’t ya’ think?”
“I never had to worry much about it before, but lately I feel like I’m seein’ ‘em every other night.” She lowered her voice and seemed as though she were very happy to have someone sympathetic to confide in. “It’s gettin’ to be nervous business just gettin’ home from work, now that my mark’s gone.”
Cain stared at her long and hard. “Are you... You’re not... asking for my protection, are you?”
It took her a second to realize the implication. “No! I mean, no. Um, thanks? I think I’ll just wait for Mattie.”
He smiled. He found the whole exchange rather amusing actually. He’d thought she might be asking him to bite her and she was basically thanking him for it, while trying to decline without offending him. He wouldn’t have anyway, even if he were so inclined. She was Mattie’s, marked or not. “Good. No offense. I mean, not that I wouldn’t if.., but, no. I think it’s best if that does not occur. I will keep watch for Mattie though. I’m sure he’ll be around soon.”
Just then, the bouncer walked by and gave Allie a playful little shove as he passed. “Hey Allie, flirt on your own time.”
She looked a little embarrassed as she rose from the table, but still flashed Cain a big smile. “Thanks.”
She left, but was sure to keep a full drink in front of him all evening. Cain found himself half listening to the conversation at the next table. Two young men happened to be discussing a movie they must have just seen. It turned out to be a film that Cain had just recently sat through, twice. He soon introduced himself and was drawn into their conversation.
A short while later, he noticed that Sindy was on the move again. He had felt her presence, just barely, all along, but had ignored her. Now she seemed to be striding purposefully straight towards him. Even if she were unsure that he was here, she would find him soon enough. There was nowhere else to go at this hour.
Sure enough, she strode through the door minutes later. She was made to pause for words with the bouncer, who apparently did not like her behavior the last few times she was here. Cain saw that Alyson had noticed her arrival. She looked to Cain, but he gave her a shake of the head to indicate that she should leave Sindy to him. Alyson looked as though she’d rather go throw Sindy out and stake her in the parking lot, but the bouncer seemed to have come to some agreement with her and was letting her enter. Alyson went into the kitchen to avoid trouble.
Cain turned to his newfound friends. “If you’ll excuse me gentlemen, I believe we’re about to be interrupted.”
They looked up to see Sindy bearing down on them. “She can interrupt me anytime,” one of them remarked.
“You don’t want her attentions, believe me,” Cain replied as she approached. She looked beautifully murderous.
She stopped directly in front of him and paused to glance at his companions. She turned back to Cain and put her hands on her hips. “We have a problem.”
“What else is new? Would you like to have a seat?”
She looked as if the very idea was ridiculous. “No I don’t want a seat. I’ll take that drink though.” Without waiting for him to give her leave, she snatched his full glass from the table and proceeded to chug it down without a breath.
“Help yourself,” he remarked, dryly. “Weren’t you meant to be out tormenting Ben this evening, so that I might have some peace?”
She finished the drink and slammed the glass down on the table. “Well, I gladly would have, if your slut of a girlfriend hadn’t beaten me to him!”
This drew an ‘Oooo’, from the guys he’d been talking to. He fixed Sindy with an icy glare. “Do you think we might take this outside?” he asked through gritted teeth.
She gave the guys a sharp glance, and stalked towards the back door. “Whatever.”
Cain faced the young men who were giving him amused but sympathetic smiles. “Excuse us.”
He followed Sindy out the back door and before he was barely outside she spun around to glare at him accusingly. He shut the door behind them and addressed her. “Now, what are you going on about”
“I am talking about Benjamin. Your little Miss Priss is sleeping with my Ben! I guess she’s not as innocent as I thought.”
Cain looked at the ground as he stretched out his awareness to them once again. Yes, Ben and Felicity were still together, and of course Alyson was here, but that didn’t have to mean anything, did it? Although they were close, their traces were distinctly separate, they did not overlap or even really touch, that he could tell.
Sindy gave a little stomp on the ground and groaned like a child deprived of a treat. He looked up to see her gazing back at him, sullen and forlorn. “Oh Cain, I did him so good too. That boy’s got me coursin’ all through him. I think he must be my best handiwork yet! I’m tellin’ ya’, I had him squirmin’! Hell, if he’d been alone, I’ll bet he would have met me right out on the God damned driveway!”
At this Cain had to laugh, although she didn’t seem pleased by his reaction. “I think you overestimate our abilities, my dear.”
She moved closer to wave her finger in his face. “Oh no. Don’t you try to tell me.” He shooed her hand away with a wave. “This is one area where you have no experience, but since you taught me to leave ‘em breathin’, this has become my favorite pastime. I know what I’m capable of. If I dose ‘em up right, I can call them right out of their sweet safe little houses and into my waiting arms! It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve had guys sleepwalkin’ all over this town! But Benjamin is special, Ben is mine! That boy’s got the temperament and body of a wild stallion and I’m ready to ride!”
He rolled his eyes at her ridiculous metaphor. “Oh please.” He then gave her a hard stare. “So you only agreed not to go after him, because all along you believed that you’d put him in thrall and he’d just come right to you? Well, you’ll have to excuse my lack of sympathy that it didn’t quite work out for you.”
She stared at him resentfully. “It would have worked out just fine. I was feelin’ him real strong and I know he was feelin’ me, but the closer I got, the more I had the sense that something wasn’t quite right. I reach the house and lo and behold, what do I see? But your little shinin’ star right there with him. In his very bed! I spent over an hour feedin’ that boy the best vibes of his life and your little whore is in there reapin’ the rewards!”
“Watch your tongue.”
“You don’t believe me do you? Come and see for yourself! I’m tellin’ you we’re both gettin’ screwed and not in the fun way.” She tugged at his arm to follow her closer to Alyson’s house, but he shook her off.
“I don’t need to go anywhere. I can see them from here.”
He raised his eyebrows and gave her a look to remind her that he was over three centuries her senior and she should not presume to know what he might be capable of. “They are together. They are still, they’re sleeping.”
“Now. What do you think they were doing in bed together?”
Cain took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. She didn’t know anything. So they were together, that didn’t have to mean they’d had sex. Sindy didn’t even know for sure that they were in a bed. So they had been close to each other for a long time, they could be sitting on a couch watching television for all she knew.
Even if they had been romantic, as much as Cain wished for that not to be true, he had no right to judge their actions. Whatever his own feelings, he certainly wasn’t going to show them to Sindy. He kept his voice neutral and steady. “Felicity has made no pledge of devotion towards me; she may do as she pleases. And certainly neither of them owes anything to you! It’s none of our affair.”
“Are you kidding? Don’t try and act like this doesn’t bother you! You’ve put in a lot of time on that girl and she’s obviously steppin’ out on you Cain. Doesn’t that make you just wanna drain her dry?!”
He fought to keep level headed and calm. “Statements like that, will hurt no one but you. The fact that they are together means nothing.” She just stared at him mockingly.
Felicity wouldn’t have chosen to give herself to Ben, would she? The two did seem awfully close. She’d shown such concern for him last night. Perhaps it was strong feelings for Ben, which gave her such resolve to keep from acting on any desires she might have for Cain. It did seem odd that although she had shown such interest in Cain before, she was now able to hold herself so aloof from him. Considering what he himself felt for her from the marking, the urges she felt for him from the venom alone, must be at least equally as strong. And she had felt for him even before that, hadn’t she? It was she who had kissed him. Had he spent so much time being cautious and worried for her, that she had decided not to wait? Had she become attached to Ben while he had worked so hard to keep himself away, so that he wouldn’t hurt her? “Are you telling me that you actually observed romantic activity between them?” Cain asked.
She looked petulant and sour. “Cain, I know Ben. I also know that my feedin’ from him, was a guilty pleasure that he’ll never forget. He wanted me Cain, bad. I’ve got that boy so worked up I could probably get him off with a touch,” she said with a lewd little chuckle. “Now I may find Felicity sickeningly sweet on most occasions, but I’ve got to admit, as far as the physical stuff goes, you’ve got good taste. Don’t think that’s lost on my Ben, he’s not blind. I’ve got him all wantin’ and you think they’re just laying there? Wise up.”
He stared at her coldly. “And what exactly would you have me do?”
She stopped pouting to give him a hopeful suggestion. “You could call her. Make her leave him. It’s real easy, you could do it. I could show you how.”
“I’ve no doubt I could accomplish anything you’ve so easily mastered, but I’ve certainly no need to call a woman from another man’s bed. They choose of their own will and that’s the end of it.”
“You’re just going to leave her there?!”
“Sindy, go home and play with your boys. They are yours, as Ben never will be.”
She glared at him as though her discontent were all his fault. “So I get no Ben and no hunt, and I suppose you still don’t want to play?” she asked crossly.
He didn’t bother to answer that. “You really haven’t fed this evening?”
“From a plastic bag. How do you find that at all satisfying?”
“Put it in a glass in the microwave.”
She looked disgusted. “I’m talking about the experience! Don’t you miss it? You never have any fun! At least I can feed off my boys when they get home.”
“That’s cheating,” he reprimanded her mildly.
She eyed him appraisingly. “You want some?” She moved her long black hair away from the side of her throat and turned her head to expose it to him. “I’d let you.”
He never entertained the notion that he actually would, but it was tempting. “Go home Sindy.”
She gave him a long time to change his mind, eyeing him wantonly and absently playing with a thin gold chain she wore around her throat, winding it about her finger. He found himself staring at the light glinting off of the chain as though mesmerized. He gave no outward sign, but was a little surprised at himself by how much he actually wanted to drink from her. Marking Felicity had been a dangerous reminder of what he was missing. Drinking from Sindy would be all reward with no regret.
He ignored her as best he could and turned his attention back to Felicity and Ben. They hadn’t even moved; they must be asleep. Finally Sindy gave up on him. He was very glad when she finally left.
The back door opened, rousing him from his thoughts. It was Alyson holding his jacket. She glanced around to see if he was alone. Sindy was gone. “We’re closin’ up and I’m goin’ home. You left this at the table. Nice leather, be a shame to lose it.”
He walked over and took it from her. “Thanks.”
He sighed. “Besides my usual nightly torment? Fine.” Alyson looked at him warily and took an unconscious step back. He looked up and gave her a weary smile. “Relax, you’re not my type. Not anymore anyway.”
She thought about that for a minute. “Do you... live like Mattie?”
He grinned. “I suppose it’d be more accurate to say that Mattie lives like me, but yes, I buy my blood.” He fixed her with a steady gaze. “I have for centuries, but it’s not always easy,” he added in a whisper.
She studied him for a minute. He wondered what she was thinking. He wanted to tell her more, of what it was like, what to expect. It was not the sort of life that everyone could handle, but he thought that she could, if she chose. However, it was not his place to offer such information unsolicited. Any questions she had, remained unasked. “You’ll be alright getting home?” he finally asked. “Sindy was by there earlier, but I don’t think she’ll return. It’s getting late.”
“She knows Ben’s there.”
“Felicity’s with him.”
“Good, I was hopin’ he wouldn’t have to ride it out alone. I was thinkin’ I’d get out of here earlier, but...” She shrugged. “At least they’re okay. I’m sure Ben didn’t take it well.” Either she didn’t think anything would happen between Ben and Felicity, or she just didn’t care. The fact that they’d been alone together all night obviously didn’t interest her, except in protecting Ben’s well being. Alyson stifled a yawn. “Well, I’m gonna split. See ya.”
“Goodnight.” She went back into the bar and he heard her bolt the door from the inside. He walked around the building to his waiting motorcycle in the nearly empty parking lot. He mounted the bike and sped off towards home.
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