The seasons of joy, happiness, togetherness and family came and went. Our interwoven group celebrated mostly together to some degree or another. Otherwise life stayed mostly uneventful, aside from the usual mostly entertaining squabbles between Ezio and Blaine and/or Liam and his sister Vivian, just daily life.
While Ezio never warmed up to the idea of Lucien, neither did Blaine, the rest of us were just happy for Autumn. They still were only friends, officially. As she, officially, was still only teaching him how to function outside the dark, thick walls of the Count’s creepy mansion, which Lucien had never left since birth, aside from when he was taken into exile by his mother, then abandoned. He finally found a job too, at a restaurant, buzzing tables at first, then hosting, and now serving. He was polite and able to stoically endure the worst treatment after his lifelong training with his father, so it was perfect for him.
You do know what comes next, don’t you? Yes, the day that something did happen.
It was Friday morning, I kissed Blaine goodbye to leave for work after we had coffee together.
As I got to my desk I had a few emailed answers I had been waiting for to finish urgent documents, so I did and hurried up to Ezio’s office, as usual, so he could take a peek and give his final blessing. I greeted Helen, his long time secretary who told me that he was not in yet. That alone was shocking, Ezio was one of those first in, last to leave type of bosses. She had tried to reach him, but he neither answered his mobile phone, nor did Melissa know where he was, supposedly left in time.
No answer from Jefferson, his driver. Calling hospitals was redundant, he was a vampire and would never be admitted to one, so Mel called the driver, Jefferson, who never answered, then the police, who knew nothing about any accidents.
All alarm bells went off. Ezio would go to work hell or high water, and if not, Mel would definitely know about it. No, something was amiss.
So I called Ezio’s phone, just to be sure, and got the same result, instead I dialed Blaine.
WTH? Where would he be now? Caleb? So I tried Caleb, same thing, then I attempted Grace, who finally picked up.
“Grace, sorry to bother you, but is my husband with yours?”
“I don’t know, Viktoria. I don’t know where mine would be. We had plans this morning, made weeks ago. Caleb has never flaked on me like that, I am worried, hun. Really worried.” she said in her Southern drawl.
I briefly told her what was going on, when I got a call waiting. I put her on hold, hoping it would be Blaine or Ezio, or even Caleb. It was Vivian, my daughter.
“Mom, is Silas with you? I have an appointment, and he was supposed to watch Leon and Zoey, and Finn is in school…”
OK, that’s it! Something was wrong. I briefed Viv then Grace, told her to stay put in case Caleb came back, told my daughter to see if Ben or Vitto were available for the babies and that I needed to go now.
I told Helen that I had a family emergency and would be out the rest of the day, but if Ezio were to show, to have him call me immediately.
I rushed home. Blaine’s phone and bike keys were laying on the kitchen counter. He would never leave those if he went somewhere. His phone, because of me and the keys because our son had been circling that bike like a vulture for months. No need to tempt Liam.
Then I realized the dogs were not greeting me. That was so weird, they both usually fell all over themselves every damn day to say hi. I started searching and found them in the basement, just laying there.
My heart stopped. I inspected them and they were still alive, just tranquilized.
OK, there was my confirmation. Some seriously bad stuff had gone down in the short time since I left. I texted Liam a stupid question, just to make sure he was all right and got a “Seriously, mom?!” back just seconds after, so at least he was ok.
Just, now what? Well, first thing that came to mind was Lucien. OK, I’d go there. He still did not have a cell phone, only a tablet, but I was not going to email him about something so urgent. What if Blaine and Ezio had been right about him? Oh, I hope not.
Once in San Myshuno again, I pushed the bell for the third time and finally heard scratching and rattling, then a voice. “Hello?”
“It’s Viktoria, may I come up?” I said as sweetly as I could.
“Yes, one second, let me try to figure this out, one moment please.” More scratching and screeching, then the buzzer clicked the door open. The evil Count’s son nearly defeated by a simple thing like a door buzzer, which customarily had two buttons on it? Yeah, something seemed off here, like he was trying to play harmless.
I faked my best toothpaste-ad smile when I arrived at the door.
He beckoned me inside.
I had not been to the apartment yet. Mostly because Blaine would not want to go here and also because I was still on Ezio’s shitlist for this, so if he got wind of me having fun tea parties here, I’d need a hearing aid after his sure to follow rant. No thanks.
“Where is Autumn?” I asked from between my smile.
“At school. Until early afternoon.”
“Did you need to see me about anything?”
“Oh, I … ummm …” Well done, Vik, could have at least thought of some excuse why you were here. Instead I was scrambling for an idea.
“A bathroom. I was out and about and this feeling hit. Do you have a bathroom?”
I felt brilliant, as people usually left you to your own devices when you were on the loo so I could snoop in peace for a few minutes at least. Perfect.
“Of course we do. Doesn’t every home? Anyway, it is right here.”
He pointed behind him, right there in the entrance way.
Are you kidding me? I thought.
How was I supposed to find 4 grown men and/or alternatively clues to their current whereabouts or an evil masterplan right by the front door? Why was this so hard?! It always looked so simple in movies.
“Umm, I … do you have another restroom, maybe with a bit more privacy? Just in case it got a bit … umm … noisy?”
OMG! WTH? I instantly blushed in all shades of red known to mankind. Worst excuse EVER. How embarrassing was this?! Argh!
“Ah, yes, there is another in the master bedroom. Let me show you.” he said after giving me the oddest look, one I could not even blame him for.
I was so humiliated by now, that man would never see me again after this if I could help it.
He opened the door to a large bedroom with a king sized bed and a beautiful view, the décor bore Autumn’s handwriting, then pointed across the room, gave me another weird glance, then left.
Finally. I slid the door to almost fully shut.
Now what? Where do I look? And for what? Hmm. Also looked simpler in movies.
I saw some documents on a dresser and looked at those, all university related. I went through the bathroom cabinet, but found no tranquilizer.
I dug through various drawers, when I finally heard someone clear their throat. Shit!
I stood up.
“Can I help you find something?” Lucien asked, taken aback.
“Oh I … I … ummm … got a bit chilly and thought I’d borrow something of Autumn’s. It’s ok, we do it all the time.” No, we never had. Lies.
“I am no expert, but I doubt that there would help. How about a sweater?” his face motionless, he pointed at the item I still held in my hand, which when I looked down turned out to be some lacy underwear of some sort, I dropped it into the drawer and shut it, while turning my cornucopia of reds again while Lucien handed me a sweater.
“She told you, didn’t she?” he said, looking sad. I was about to be truthful, then realized I might get some info here if I played along. So super-detective Vik tried.
“Oh, yes, but I thought I just come by anyway…” there, I could not be more non-committal.
“When you see her, please tell her again that I really did not mean for it to happen. I do not know how it even happened. It’s like I was not myself. I never meant to hurt her.” he stuttered.
HURT HER?! What?! OK, I could do nothing more here, scrambled out the door as fast as I could muster, I was deeply embarrassed, creeped out and now scared. Straight over to Lauren’s place, Autumn’s older sister. Probably would be at work, unless her baby sister was really injured … but she was a vampire now, while we could get injuries, those usually healed fast. Had he beaten her?
Lauren wasn’t home, as expected she was working, but Autumn was there. She fell into my arms crying her heart out. And then I learned more weirdness.
“Has he hit you?” I asked.
She shook her head, fighting tears.
“Insulted you? I don’t understand what is going on here, sweetie.” I tried as tactful as possible.
“No. Yes. Oh I don’t know. I came home from school and he wasn’t in the living room, so I went into the bedroom to change and there he was … doing it with some woman! Some beautiful pale woman with long black hair, the exact opposite of me. All that after I thought … he had … he promised … he said … told me … we were going to have the first time together … when we were ready …. and now … he did that! I guess he didn’t want to wait anymore. Or I am not his type at all! And that woman laughed at me too, laughed at me! I hate her and him. Both!” Autumn sobbed.
Man, I did not know what to say to that. The usual platitudes seemed idiotic so I just held her through her next fit of tears. Poor girl. She was so gentle, kind and tender. What an ass. Blaine had been right. And Ezio too.
Oh damn, Blaine and Ezio! I needed to find them. I got Autumn as calm as I could, put her to bed to nap and then rushed back home. Instead of finding answers I found more questions.
The dogs had woken up in the meantime, were loopy but happy to see me in a drunk kinda way. Poor puppies. For messing with my dogs alone whoever was responsible would be skinned and quartered by me, add stealing my Blaine to it and it would not be pretty. And Ezio, Silas and Caleb. Urgh.
So four grown men, all of them strong to begin with, and even more so as vampires, several of them powerful ones at that just go missing from one second to the next in broad daylight. How would one kidnap them, when they could sense presences and swiftly deal with any attack … unless they had no powers. But that could not have been Lucien then, as Caleb personally stripped his powers. Unless he screwed it up. But Caleb? He was way too meticulous. No, impossible. So, we had a bunch of vampires in the region now. None powerful enough to deal with a Caleb, or Blaine actually, who had risen ranks and was now not far behind his good friend. Silas was most likely powerful, but since that oyster still rarely talked, I could only guess. And if you had them, four of them, where would you hide them? Ezio was still not sun-proof, so if he was still alive, and God I hoped he was, it would have to be a dark … oh my goodness. Of course. Two places came to mind, both in the perpetually gloomy Forgotten Hollow. I teleported over. Screw all sense of normality now, time was of the essence.
First the less creepy one, the cemetery. Oh yeah, I find cemeteries as creepy as the next girl, but not compared to the stop I had planned after that. Well, to make it short, there was a whole lot of nothing here. I sighed when I looked up at my next destination. The Count’s castle-like home.
And why me?
I let myself in via vampiric entrance.
And looked around, shivers running down my spine. Forcing myself to continue on I search every inch of the place, not so much because I thought the boys would be lounging around some bedroom playing cards, but to make sure nobody else was here before I went to where I thought I would find them. And to make sure they were not hidden away anywhere in some hidden nooks, crannies or coffins. I found all of that, but all empty.
The basement where they had held Autumn. I exhaled before descending the stairs, turned the corner and – nothing. Just furniture and emptiness.
I was upset now. So upset that I started kicking stuff standing around in frustration and throwing decorative items around. I whacked one of the many whatchamacallits against some wall to break it and must have hit something, as with an eerie screeching sound a large part of the wall slid back.
“You have GOT TO be shittin’ me.” I said to myself. What kinda cheap horror flick production did I walk into here?
Fine, I’d go. But not before wedging something of substance in the doorway so that sucker wouldn’t lock me in. I wasn’t as gullible as it may seem sometimes.
It was dark. No problem, I was surefooted as a vampire, but could not see anything to make heads and tails of whatever sort of situation I was about to walk into.
Just a very long, very dark hallway.
Towards what must be the end I noticed faint flickering of some faint lights, candles or something. When I arrived I saw that an entrance to my left.
When I reached it, I peeked through and saw it.
A large open hall, few flickering gas lamps or torches on the walls illuminating 4 men tied to the walls with thick chains.
All of them seemed worse for the wear, but hopefully still alive – or whatever you would call what we were as vampires when we still moved. I looked around the room, detected nothing else and ran towards them. One of them must have heard me and called my name.
Blaine’s voice! I ran to him when the others were looking at me too. Blaine looked terrible, evidently had been beaten, his face bloody. The others seemed intact.
I was about to reach for the lock on the chains to see about getting my hubby and the others off when a chorus of voices warned
“DON’T TOUCH THAT!”
I jerked back.
“It will burn your hands, babygirl, there is some substance on it.” Blaine explained.
“Likely extra-strength garlic based.” Caleb added.
I had an extra sweater that I did not need to wear, so I took it off, then stuck my hands awkwardly into Blaine’s pant pockets, judging by the faces of the other guys not the reaction they expected. I could not find what I was looking for so I looked up at a grinning Blaine.
“Where is it, I can’t find it.” I said.
“What a way to insult a man already on his knees …” he joked, the others chuckled.
I gave him a warning look. I was not in the mood for his Blainisms.
“Back pocket.” Blaine said.
“Could have saved me some time here.” I complained.
“Pass up a chance of you sticking your hands in my pants – twice? Unlikely.”
“I am glad you see humor in this. I am trying to get our all out before whoever did this will be back. By the way, who is doing this?”
“LUCIEN!” Ezio barked from his hanging position.
“Oh shit, I was just over at his home to see him.”
“YOU WHAT? Get me off this thing so I can spank you, babygirl! Are you insane!?” Blaine looked shocked.
“Oh save it! Tell me how to pick a lock” I had wrapped the sweater around it and was inspecting the metal sticks, realizing I had not the faintest idea what to do with them. Blaine talked me through and after an eternity and millions of tries I got one lock off, then another and another and finally the last.
He looked badly hurt, his nose bleeding, so I caressed him briefly, kissed him.
He took over and released the others.
A quick embrace, before I urged all to take a leave now.
We were heading to the exit when someone walked in.
“Aww, leaving already? I think not.”
We all felt pulled back to the wall by some invisible force, where we stuck, pinned like dead butterflies in a display case, until we just ended up standing in place, stiffly, unable to even move a finger. Like gingerbread men.
“You didn’t think we would not have some precautions in place did you? Oh, you did! How adorable you all are.” she mocked.
“What do you want?” Caleb said in an unusually stern voice.
“Ah Caleb, that it would be you asking that silly question. Smart, honorable Caleb.”
“What is all this about?” he inquired, ignoring her.
“Oh, where to start. Part of me wants to leave you all guessing, so much fun, but it is such a beautiful tale, I do not think I can withhold.”
She did some theatrics and I could not for the life of me place her, but knew I had seen her before, until I heard Ezio say with disgust in his voice.
“Still the cold-hearted witch you always were!”
“Lilith!” I accidently said out aloud.
“Aww, my dear Viktoria. Our paths cross again. And I finally get to meet the replacement hubby. Well, if that is what you want to go with. Not my taste, but to each their own, isn’t that right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t fuck you with his dick either!” Blaine hissed, rolling his eyes at Ezio next to him and got her attention now. She walked up to him, ran the back of her hand across his cheek, while he could not move, he tried to spit at her but missed, when she kissed him, then pet his cheek, while Blaine demonstratively spit and gagged.
“Don’t flatter yourself, scruffy, I am done taking hand me downs and you really do not have what it takes to gain my attention.”
“What is that? Money?!” Ezio hissed.
“Ezio, you and your temper. But you always were so eloquent, elegant, successful with impeccable manners, disappointing to hear you assume the worst of me. I do miss you sometimes. I think out of all my husbands, I liked you the best. Pity. How is that child we had, a boy, I think, Victor was it?”
“His name is Vittorio, you horrible excuse of a woman!”
“There have been so many children, and you know I am not really much of a mother goose. Unimportant names escape me.”
Yikes. Anyone still wondering why Vitto hates his mom? This here was the quintessential Lilith Vatore – or Auditore, or Goth or … honestly I lost count on whom she was married to now. There really had been so many.
She made her way to Silas now.
“What a handsome man! Wish I had run across you sooner. I bet you would be worth a detour, but sadly now I have to stay focused. And after that, well, there won’t be much left of you to have fun with. A pity, really. Very regretful.”
She ran her hand across Silas chest, who – big surprise – said nothing, then she moved on to Caleb.
“And here he is, the man himself, my beloved – ha ha – brother. Our big, fearless leader. Our Elder. The one who never had to work hard for anything his entire existence, but received all the glory. No more. Poor lil Grace and those kids of yours. What a shame that those youngest boys are not vampires. Just mortals. No heir.” She sighed theatrically.
“I have a son, a vampire, an heir!” Caleb had five children, a set of triplets who were adults, two girls and a boy, all vampires, and teen twin boys, born as mortals.
“Oh, that’s right, you have not heard the sad news. Awww, so so sad. My utmost condolences to you, beloved brother. Seems like poor Grace is crying her little heart out right about now, all alone. The loss of a child is particularly hard on the mother I hear.”
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE, LILITH?!” Caleb screamed at her, she did not even flinch.
“Me? Oh, I would never. I have people for that. If it is any consolation, there wasn’t much of a fight, or pain. Or maybe there was, how would I know, but it seemed like a nice thing to say and we are family.” she smiled while Caleb’s face reflected horror.
We all hoped she was bluffing, but somehow knew she was not.
“You know the rules, Caleb. No male heir, title goes up for grabs after the demise of the current Elder. Since this is a very antiquated system, I cannot be your heir, as I am female, which I probably do not have to tell you how unjust I find that. But, I have an heir. Right here. Only a matter of days now.” she ran her hands over her midsection, smiling.
We all looked at her noticeable baby bump. I could have sworn that was not there when she walked in.
Then it dawned on me. Beautiful pale woman with long black hair?
“That is Lucien’s child!” I exclaimed.
She turned and came back towards me.
“Look at that. Always the smart one. Alas, you are only half-right. Technically this originated from doing the necessary deed with Lucien, but the baby will not be Lucien’s. Oh no. Much better.”
“Crazy-ass bitch!” Blaine snarled.
“I think we’ll kill you first. You are really the most irritating one, such low class, and you just do not know when to keep your mouth shut, do you Blaine?” she cupped his chin with her hand.
“Take your claws of my husband, will you, you witch!?” I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Ooooh, jealousy. Yes, feelings, emotions. Something I luckily know not of, nothing I have to concern myself with. I think I would kill you together, wouldn’t that be considered romantic? Ah, I just recalled, unfortunately am I to let you live, at least for now, dear Viktoria. Seems like the Count has plans for you. I should thank you for saving me the trouble of getting you. You came on your own. Kudos on making it all the way down here. No wonder he thinks so highly of you. If I were the jealous type, I would be now.”
“Who thinks highly of me?” I asked, unable to make sense of her ramblings.
“Close. But no.”
“Maybe not so smart after all. I thought either my brother, or you would have figured it out by now. But sweet Caleb seem preoccupied at the moment. Leaves you, and your guesses are getting colder. No, I am talking about Count Vlad. Naturally.”
“You dumb bitch, he is no more. He is dead.” Blaine said.
“Reincarnation.” Silas stated plainly.
“Very good, handsome! Yes, that is correct. What I have here growing inside of me is a new form for the Count. It will only be a few days until he can transfer.”
“Oh my God! This has to be a nightmare.” I said.
Once upon a time I had thought sleeping in coffins, drinking blood and not having a heartbeat was the weirdest, scariest thing about being a vampire. THIS I never saw coming. It was fifty shades of cray-cray too much for me.
“Transfer from where exactly? Is he inside of you?” Silas asked.
“Oh no. I thought this too would be obvious now. Guess not. You all always have been a paragon of wonder to me. You all have been given this amazing gift and all that comes with it, but instead of using it to its full potential, you try to be like you were before, human, mortal, weak, marriages, kids, jobs. It’s ridiculous…”
“WHERE IS HE!?” Blaine interrupted.
“Lucien. He has been sharing his body with his father’s spirit ever since that fool did what he did. Oh, that’s right, he was to be the first to die, at the hand of his father. And then all of you. One by one. Saving Viktoria for last. Whatever for escapes me, but that is his wish and thy be done.”
“I KNEW it! Lucien!” Ezio yelled.
“So did I.” Said Blaine.
“If he touched my granddaughter..” Ezio warned.
In a split second Lilith was in front of him, smiling her evil smile.
“…then what, Ezio? Hmmm? Then nothing, you’d still be stuck down here, until you die, with your friends. But worry not, originally Autumn was intended to be the host for the rebirth, but she is so weak and overly sweet, useless. He needs a strong host, who can support the rapid growth.”
I looked at her again and noticed that her baby bump had increased significantly again.
She looked about at the end of her second trimester if not further along. Holy hell!
“It was a pleasure chatting with all of you. If you excuse me now though, I have to prepare for the birth. Lucien has been less than cooperative, keeps trying to fight the Count, not realizing how futile this is. I need to get him here, obviously he needs to be present for the transfer. Enjoy your stay. While you can… hahahahaha..”
As soon as she left, whatever force had pinned us in place left and we all stumbled about. I went to Blaine, kissed him, then straight to Caleb and just hugged him. Poor guy. The other men came over to console him as well.
Testing the limits of our captivity, we found that we were able to walk to about half way across the room, then it was like we ran into an invisible wall. All of us searched for a hole where we could slip through but it was absolutely impenetrable. Our powers were lost here. No cell phone coverage either. Stuck.