Blogophilia 34.10 – Griselda Part 2

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 34.10 Topic – “Wayward Bound”
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Incorporate the musical term “requiem”
Easy (1 pt) Quote Jerry Seinfeld

I’d hoped to finish this story this week, since I will be wayward bound next week on a trip to West Virginia (don’t worry, I’ll still blog, but no story writing time) However, I didn’t get this finished because I’m not sure where it’s going.

Last week we met Griselda, whose car broke down, and whose human guard dog has been visiting with another Executioner’s human on a romantic basis. Tsk Tsk.

*****

When she woke the next evening, she found that Sergei had unpacked her bag. A stylish dress lay draped over her vanity chair. Red, with a small waist and long full skirt meant that ended midcalf. Though catalog and store shopping had recently become popular – there was even a new boutique in the citadel’s shopping area – Griselda was rarely able to buy clothes that fit right. Taller than average, pre-made clothes were usually too short for her. Not that she couldn’t make her own – shed been sewing for herself since she was a child. Still, the idea of being able to just pick something up and drop it on was appealing.

And this should fit. The lady who’d worn it had bene tall, too. She’d had dark hair secured with a clip, shiny shoes, and a matching handbag. And she had made an excellent meal the previous night.

Before the damn automobile broke down.

Griselda put on the myriad of support garments expected of a woman – fewer than the last decades had seen! – and slipped into the dress. She had to breath in deeply to zip the back, but otherwise it was a perfect fit.

She turned this way and that in the mirror, and gave an experimental twirl. The silky skirt flared, then fell back into place when she stopped. The small waist was all right for standing, but she suspected sitting might be an issue. Maybe she should pull out one of her old corsets?

She heard movement in the next room, and abandoned her fashion to investigate. Sergei moved between the furniture, pouting and pretending to dust.

“I left the red dress on your vanity,” he said petulantly, eyes on his task. “I wasn’t sure if it needed laundered or not. I imagine they’ll be an extra charge for it since it’s a dry-clean item.” He looked up and stopped. “Oh. You’re wearing it now?”

She glanced down at the garment, then back at him. “And why not?”

“A cocktail dress is an odd choice for the daytime.” He snickered, flicking the feather duster uselessly.

“If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it, human.”

“Excuse me, master.” His bow seemed mocking.

She crossed to him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt before he could react. “Yes, I am your master, and forgiveness is something you’d be well placed to beg for.”

She shoved him away and swished for the door. “Is Verchiel home?”

She could hear the frown in Sergei’s voice. “How should I know?” A hard look from her, and he relented. “He was on an assignment yesterday, but Valerie thinks he’ll be home tonight.”

“Good. I plan to have a chat with him. I’ll be back.”

Wisely, Sergei kept his mouth shut.

Griselda stopped first at Verchiel’s apartment. After several short, angry knocks, his guard dog opened the door. Dressed in some kind of overlarge night dress, one slim shoulder was exposed. Her long dark hair was unbound, and her china doll face wore no makeup, not that she needed any. With milk skin, her dark eyes were a better contrast than lipstick could ever offer.

“Yes?” she asked, with the right amount of reverence and timidity. As if it had been practiced a hundred times.

It probably has.

“Where is your master?”

“Master is on assignment.”

Griselda tapped her foot impatiently but the human only blinked large liquid eyes. “And when will he return?”

“Master should return soon.”

It wasn’t much, but it was enough. “When he gets here, tell him Griselda wants a word. Understand?”

The girl nodded. Griselda turned to find herself confronted with a short vampire. Red hair stuck up at odd angles on top, and fell to brush his shoulders. Violet eyes were just as weird, as was the perpetual grin he wore.

It was Verchiel.

“Zeldy! Are you looking for me?”

Griselda bit back the desire to slam him into the wall. “It’s Griselda, to you.”

He gave a sweeping mock bow. “My apologies, Mighty Griselda. Now what can I do for you?”

“You can keep a tighter leash on your dog.”

Verchiel scratched his head. “Hmmm. A dog? I don’t own a dog. I mean, I could file the paperwork and get one, but they’re kind of inconvenient indoors like this. Where would he pee?”

“What do you think you’re doing?”

He paused to look baffled. “I’m standing in the hallway…just coming back from an assignment…I’m talking to you-”

She cut him off. “Do you think you’re being funny?” He grinned and she snapped, “I don’t need you to be funny. I don’t want to be entertained, I want this situation resolved! If you won’t do something then I’ll go to Ark – or Malick!”

Verchiel sighed, and then suddenly drew up, his face serious. “Go inside, Valerie.”

The human, who’d been hanging in the door, nodded quickly and disappeared inside. As the door shut, Verchiel turned his attention to Griselda. “What are you claiming she’s done?”

“I’m not ‘claiming’ anything. She has done – and you know damn well what it is. I don’t want to see – or hear about – her being near my guard dog, or I will report both of you and demand that she’s destroyed.”

Verchiel’s eyes narrowed and he rubbed his neck. “Why do you care? Are you jealous?”

She gaped at the implication. “Of course not! But he is my property. His job is to guard my den – and me – from the rest of you. How can he do that if he spends all of his time preoccupied with fucking your bitch in heat? I’m not stupid, Verchiel. You have her seducing everyone’s guard dogs so you can use it to your advantage. One day she’ll come to my door while I’m asleep. Sergei will let her in and, the next thing you know, my heart will be on a plate and Greneth will be writing a requiem for my funeral.”

“You really think that’s what’s going on?”

“I know it is. You might be able to fool Beldren or Zuri, but I’m on to you. You want to kill the rest of them in their sleep? You go right ahead, but try anything with me and I’ll cut off your head and nail it to the wall. Are we clear?”

He held up his hands. “Ooooo. Scary!” He dropped them, and his featured hardened. “I’m not afraid of you, Griselda, any more than I am the rest of the Executioners. And I don’t need to use Valerie to infiltrate your dens. If I wanted to kill you, I’d do it in the hallway, not in the middle of the day, but don’t worry, she’ll stay away from your pet.” He cocked his head to one side. “I just wonder if your pet will stay away from her?”

Griselda scoffed. “He doesn’t have a choice.” She leaned down, pressing her face close to Verchiel’s. “See that you keep your end of it, or I will have her put down.”

She turned on her heel and stormed away, the cocktail dress swishing with each angry step.  She reached her own door, hand on the knob, when a voice called, “Zelda!”

She looked up to see Bren, hands on his hips as he surveyed her.  “I heard you had some automobile trouble?”

“You could call it that.” She stepped away from the door and lowered her voice. “Your guard dog. Has he been fraternizing?”

Bren’s face darkened. “With Verchiel’s mongrel, you mean? Only once. I took the skin off his back, and he’s stayed away since.” His scowl twisted into a grin. “Having trouble with yours?”

She hesitated. She trusted Bren only because Senya controlled him. But how far did her control extend? “Perhaps.”

Bren moved closer. “Take my advice. Remove a few toes, or a finger or two, and he’ll straighten right up.”

“And then he’d be…defected.”

Bren blinked. “I don’t think that’s the word you want. Impacted maybe?”

“Weakened,” she snapped. “What good is an injured guard dog?”

He shrugged. “Do what you want. You could always put him down and get a new one.  There are several humans working on the sixth floor. One of them would probably be happy for the promotion. Though I’d be careful which you choose. Rumor is you-know-who frequents a few of them for recreational purposes.”

Griselda wrinkled her nose. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Bren stepped back, and his voice sprang back to normal. “Have you fed yet? I was on my way to the café.”

“Where’s Senya?”

“Out. A week or two. You know how it is. Ready?”

She wasn’t sure she trusted Bren without Senya’s leash, but what could he do in public? Jam a dagger between her ribs? Even he wouldn’t get away with that.

Ark probably could.

With a nod, she followed Bren out of the Executioner block and into the public area of the citadel. The café was brightly lit and decorated to resemble a sidewalk café, with wicker chairs and crisp white tablecloths. Plants hung from hooks around the wall. Murals were painted like a cityscape, complete with a blue sky overhead.

Bren flashed his necklace at the attendant just inside the door. The vampire rushed to find them an empty table, bobbing his head as he stumbled through a welcome speech.

Bren smirked. “Relax. We’ve been here before.”

The attendant bobbed a final time and hurried away, promising that a waiter would be along any minute.

Griselda looked toward a menu board painted in pink and blue. It listed different glass sizes and add ins.

“I’m thinking…spearmint,” Bren said. “You?”

“That sounds fine.”

“We could get a pitcher then?”

She shrugged it off, and let him order. As the waitress bustled off, Bren leaned back in the chair. “I’ll go up to the sixth floor with you, if you want.”

Griselda toyed with the napkin. “It would mean training a new one.”

“True, the training is a pain, but better to know your dog is loyal than have one who lets the enemy in.”

She flicked her blue eyes to his face. “What an odd way to phrase it. The enemy.”

He shrugged. “If we didn’t have enemies, we wouldn’t need locked doors and guard dogs in the first place.”

“True. I just find it…interesting. We’re supposed to be part of an elite team, working together, and instead we need guard dogs to stop us killing one another in our sleep. It’s like a fractured coven, who’s been together so long they’ve lost any affection and feel only hate.”

“I wouldn’t say I hate everyone,” Bren replied.

She leaned her elbows on the table and surveyed him. “Then tell me who you feel affection for among the Executioners – who you trust with your life.”

He scoffed and waved it away. When she continued to stare, unblinking he muttered, “I-I don’t know.”

“Not even Senya?” Griselda asked with mild surprise.

The waiter appeared before he could answer. He deposited the pitcher, and two tall glasses. With a flourish he filled them, then asked if there was anything else.

Bren dismissed him, and they drank their breakfast in silence. Griselda inhaled the minty scent, and thought of her childhood home, and her grandmother’s herb garden. The memories were blurred by time, and over bright with sunlight, but she could still feel the warmth that had shone in her grandmother’s eyes; a warmth that had bene extinguished far too soon.

“I might trust Senya.”

Griselda looked up sharply. “What?”

Bren set his empty glass on the table and fixed her with an irritated stare. “You asked if I trusted Senya. I said I might.”

She suppressed a smile. “I suppose that’s something.”

They finished their breakfast and, though her mind wasn’t made up, headed upstairs. The sixth floor was a mix of humans and vampires, including human only areas. Though Griselda failed to see the point, the vampire government had human emissaries, and they didn’t like being close to the monsters if they could help it.

She followed Bren to a restaurant. The heavy scent of cooking meat overpowered the smell of the occupants’ blood and made her think of bodies burning – the official approved way to dispose of vampiric corpses.

They stopped just inside the door and he scanned the customers. With a frown, he shook his head and motioned her out and further down the hallway. A recreation room wasn’t what he was looking for, and neither was an exercise room.

Bren made a low noise in his throat. “Where is he?”

“Who?” When Bren didn’t answer, she pressed, “I thought we were looking for a human replacement?”

“Of course, but we’re not going to recruit one ourselves,” Bren snapped back. “Don’t you know how it works?”

She didn’t reply. All of the guard dogs she’d had so far had come from outside, found while she was on assignment. She had no idea how it was done in the citadel.

Bren took her silence as an admission of ignorance. “To procure a human, one sees Harry, as he’s calling himself now.  You tell him what you want – male, female, snack, dinner, play toy, sex partner , whether you plan to let them live or kill them – and he finds what you’re looking for.”

Griselda arched a suspicious brow. Was Bren in the habit of procuring humans? For what? The way he’d casually tossed out play toy and sex partner made her wonder.

They checked a few other places, and circled back to the restaurant. Bren stepped inside, and gave a triumphant cry. “You!”

A short man with a mustache looked up from a glass of crimson. Dressed in a light sport coat and button down shirt, his hat was perched on the table near his arm.

“Ah! Sir Executioner!” The man stood quickly and gave a half bow. “And madam, my apologies for not recognizing your office immediately. My mistake. How can I help you tonight?”

Griselda touched the silver medallion that hung around her neck, three circles intertwined. The emblem of the Executioner, and a piece of jewelry that no doubt looked odd with her dress.

Bren surveyed the diminutive figure with a grunt, and dropped into a chair. “Zelda needs a new guard dog.”

“Of course, of course.” The man smiled, showing a set of sharp fangs. “What does the lady have in mind?”

Griselda straightened her full skirt. She had no love for humans, but even so this seemed strange. Like ordering a sofa. “I’d like a female.” She thought of the casual way Bren had mentioned snacks, sex, and play toys. When a human drank vampire blood they created a bond – a bond that would trump their loyalty to her. “One who hasn’t been preyed upon.”

The man gave a small cough. “That is quite a request, my dear. I’ll have to have someone in the field procure a new recruit. That will be expensive.”

Expensive? Did he expect her to pay? The other humans had been free!

“She’s good for it,” Bren said dismissively.

“Of course.” Harry lifted his hat and tugged a notepad out from under it. He unclipped a small pencil form it, licked the tip, and offered her a full smile. “What specifics do you have in mind? Age? Height? Build? Appearance?”

It is like ordering a sofa.

“I don’t care,” she snapped. “So long as she’s young enough to train, but old enough to defend herself.”

“Mid-twenties?” Harry suggested. “Late teens is more popular, but they can be emotionally fragile if you’r eplanning to keep her for a time. You are planning to keep her?”

“Yes!” Griselda cried. “I want her as a guard dog.”

“Right, right. That curious arrangement you Executioners have at the moment.” Harry scribbled on his pad.  “I assume virginity isn’t important? It’s extra, you see.”

“Of course it’s not important!”

“Mmhmm. All right, I’ll get the men on it. It might be a day or two, if that’s all right? I can send a message to…” he trailed off meaningfully.

“Griselda,” she said stiffly.

“Good, good. Executioner Griselda.”

Bren rolled a pepper shaker. “How much is it going to cost?”

“I can hardly negotiate the price when I don’t know how much work it will be to procure, now can I?”

Bren snorted. “No, I’m sure you can’t.” He stood and leaned over the table, his face close to Harry’s. “See that it’s reasonable, hmmm?”

Harry smiled serenely. “Of course, of course. I’m always reasonable.”

“Right.” Bren rolled his eyes and motioned Griselda after him. She glanced back to the short man, then followed. They were both quiet until the elevator doors had shut.

“He usually comes through faster than he says he will.”

Griselda tugged at her skirt. “You’ve used him before?”

“Of course. Where do you think my guard dogs come from?”

“I assumed you caught them yourself.”

Bren chuckled. “I don’t have time to mess with that. Let Harry handle it.”

The elevator  stopped on the fourth floor and the doors swished open. A harried guard rushed inside. At seeing them, his face lit up. “Sir, Master Malick requires you.”

“See what I mean?” Bren asked with a smirk.  “Who has time to hunt?”

The elevator stopped at the third floor. Griselda thanked Bren for his help, and disembarked, leaving him and the guard to see what the ancient master in the basement wanted.

She paused at the door to her apartment and sniffed. She could smell Sergei inside. Alone for a change.

No doubt Verchiel’s mongrel is busy tending to her master.

***

No story next week, but you’ll get the end of this the week after I hope.

And now for guesses:

topic: Stormy

picture: Myke

  1. vintage 2. retro 3. shiny 4. back in the day 5. antique 6. classic 7. red racer 8. race 9. drag race 10. chrome 11. happy days 12. cruisin’ USA 13. on the strip 14. roadster 15. gas hog 16. need for speed 17. rebel without a cause 18. ready to rumble 19. low rider 20. little red corvette

 

 

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Thankfulness #8

I may miss next week’s thankfulness because I will be out of town. We’ll see what happens.

And now, for a week of thankfulness!

1. This was a hard day, as it was the night when our cat, Muffins, passed away after a massive seizure. I suppose I am grateful that she is no longer suffering.

2. On Tuesday I was grateful for all the warm thoughts on FB. I won’t lie, I didn’t get much done that day except taking the movies back. I am also grateful we have a movie rental place in Red Oak, but I think I have used that before.

3. I was thankful for getting the first coat on the porch trim and columns, despite the cold wind and the millions of little black bugs that kept landing in everything.

4. I was thankful for getting the second coat on the porch trim and the first coat on the outside. The brother had to do the stuff on the extension ladder because I am a chicken and can’t climb up it. The step ladder scares me.

5. On Friday, I was thankful for getting the porch paint finished (except for the railings which hubby is building)

6. I was thankful for finally getting our repurposed coffee table swapped in. It was free and is actually the top of an entertainment center, but since we had scrap wood laying around, the brother made feet for it and filled in the middle that was empty and backless. Not only does everything fit in it muuuuch better, but I am finally rid of the hated glass top that always looks dirty no matter what I do.

I was also happy to get to try the A&W dark chocolate shake. MMmmMMMmm. I want another one.

01 (1)

7. I was thankful for getting some more painting done on the house. This is pretty much the last week we’re going to have for it, so the more we have done, the better.

And that’s all for now.

Have a painted house kinda day!

Jo 🙂

 

 

Old Fort Madison

In June hubby and I visited Fort Madison, Iowa. Though I lived near there for a few years, the old fort was an attraction I’d never seen. Hubby vaguely remembered having visited it at some point, and also when it was built (he said they had men from the nearby prison build it.) Since we all know that hubby and I love historical stuff, we had to go.

I enjoyed it a lot, though initially I thought it was a bit pricey, the amount of things they have there are worth the price – we spent a couple of hours there but could have easily spent five or six had we decided to read all the material they have on display. (The man who runs it went to Washington and dug up all the paperwork pertaining to the fort – from records to receipts – and a lot of it is copied off and organized in binders. I did flip through a couple and found it quite interesting. If we’d had more time I’d have looked at a lot more of it, but we were limited…I forget why.)

Though there were re-enactors, who were pretty knowledgeable, the highlight was talking to the guy running it, Mr. Watkins. I’m a bit anti-social, especially at museums and such, and prefer to read exhibits usually rather than chat with people because I can never think of any questions, or anything to say that makes me seem intelligent, but I really enjoyed talking to him. He has a passion for the period in history and it translates well. By the time we were done talking to him, we were as excited as he was!

(Here’s a video of him firing the musket that was really fun to watch.)

There’s a website on the fort and the history that does a better job than I could at telling you about it. But, one thing I was interested to learn was why it had to be rebuilt – I always wondered where the original went. Apparently the soldiers themselves burned the original down when it was abandoned! There was also an “Indian attack” on the fort at one point. Led by Tecumseh, it was part of a large organized strike on several places, all done simultaneously.

Anyway, check out the website! I admit, I didn’t expect it to be that exciting – I mean, it was a fort/factory (aka trading post) but it really is pretty interesting. (There’s a voice over that tells you a brief history after it first opens – and it looks like they have an awesome Halloween event going on called Dead Zone… OOoooOOooo.)

And of course, I took a bunch of photos. Here are a few. There are more in my Flickr album as always. 

 

And now I need to go to bed.

Have a loving history kinda day! (And don’t be surprised if something on this shows up in one of my vampire stories some day!)

Jo 🙂

Blogophilia 33.10: Griselda Part 1

It’s time again for Blogophilia! The fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their weekly blog. This week’s prompts are:

Topic – It Was A Disaster
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Quote from a J K Rowling book Easy (1 pt) Mention a Car Part

Last week I got a whole story done, but no such luck this week. I’m not even sure where this is going yet, to be honest, but I guess we’ll see next week.

***

Griselda tossed a packet of papers on the Executioners’ desk. The guard behind it looked up from a typewriter. The clacking of the keys dropped off as he stared. “How-How did it go?”

Griselda slopped wet bangs from her face. “It was a disaster. My car broke down.”

The guard glanced at the damp paperwork. “Um… I don’t suppose you know what’s wrong with it? I mean, you are a woman.”

“Oh of course, being a woman how could I?” The guard recoiled at her fury and she added, “I think it might be the alternator. Again.”

The guard looked over the request form. “So you want a new car?”

Honestly, if you were any slower, you’d be going backward! Yes! I’m putting in for a new car, and I’m filing my paperwork from the assignment.”

“Of course, of course.” The guard gave a sharp nod. “Well…um…I think I have everything. You probably want to go change.”

“And why would I want to do that?” She asked sarcastically.

“Well, you are dripping on the floor. A bit,” he added hastily. “I – I don’t mind the puddle. I can clean that up in a jiffy but, you know, it can’t be comfortable.”

“You’re right.” She purposefully wrung out her shirt, watching the water splatter on the tile floor at her feet.

How’s that for a puddle, jackass?

He was at least smart enough – or else to shocked – the comment. She grabbed her soggy overnight bag, then stormed out of the office and down to the elevators. A pair of vampires signaled her to hold the door, but one look at her face – and silver medallion around her neck – and they backed off.

Good. I’m not in the mood.

She exited on the third floor and stomped her way to the Executioner block, the area of The Guild’s citadel where the Executioners lived. Behind the locked door a square corridor was lined with their apartments. Though some of her fellows thought it was a sign of their rank – to keep them separated from the rabble – Griselda suspected it was to protect them from the rabble. As law enforcers, the Executioners had more enemies than friends.

She let herself through the block door, and then into her apartment. Quiet and clean, it looked like it had when she left five days ago on what was supposed to be an easy assignment.  What might have been easy, had she had all of the intel, and if her stupid vehicle hadn’t decided to die in the middle of a storm.

At least it was within walking distance. If one considered five hours on foot walking distance.

The guards had fared worse. One was stuck behind to watch the car, and the other had accompanied her, carrying her bag and listening to a growing strong of curses. She assumed that someone would go to rescue the one they’d left behind and bring the car back with them. But they’d better not try to fix the piece of junk and stick her with it again. It was from 1939, for crying out loud. How could they expect it to still work right?

When she’d picked the Roadster out, she’d been excited, and she had to admit it still looked good, if not a little dented. But it was 1956, and she needed something new, something that blended in better, something bigger.

And faster.

A key ground in the lock and she spun, hands on her hips, as Sergei slid inside. He spotted her and froze, half in, half out of the door, his eyes wide, and his dark hair ruffled.

“And where have you been?”

“Oh, you’re home, mistress.” He stepped through, closing the door behind him. She flicked angry eyes over his rumpled appearance and he quickly straightened his clothes and tried to flatten his hair. “How was your trip?”

She tapped her foot. “I asked where you were.” He looked at the floor, and though didn’t have mind reading powers, she could feel him trying to think of something. “You with Verchiel’s guard dog again, weren’t you?”

Sergei rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, in a manner of speaking-”

“How many times have I told you stop fraternizing with her? Don’t you understand that it defeats the entire purpose of having a guard dog if you make friends with one another? Or in your case, more than friends?”

“I don’t-” He broke off at the look on her face. “Yes, mistress.”

“Good. And don’t try to give me any crap that you’re in love with Verchiel’s guard dog. You’re not. You’re just using her as a convenient bed fellow because she’s willing.  And like her master, she’s willing with everyone, no doubt.”

“She has a name,” Sergei muttered. “And she’s not loose.”

“If she is with you, then she is with the others, too. A liar lies to everyone. A thief steals from everyone. And a whore whores with everyone. Now, I’m going to take a shower. Don’t open the door to anyone. Not even your little whore.”

She shut herself in her private bathroom and stripped off her wet clothes. At least Sergei had kept the place clean while she was gone. There was nothing worse than coming back to a mess.

Except coming back to find Sergei and Verchiel’s guard dog mating.

After that, she’d punished Sergei and thought he’d gotten the message, but apparently not.  Or maybe he had and the little floozy pushed it. Men were notoriously unable to resist the lure of the fair sex, especially when one offered herself so willingly.

Griselda climbed in the shower and let the hot water run over her. Truthfully, she wouldn’t be surprised if Verchiel encouraged his human guard dog to be a whore. It was a good way to infiltrate the other Executioners’ houses. And most of the guard dogs were male, which made them easy prey. Train them with sex, make their brains soft, and soon Verchiel – or just as likely his guard dog herself – were sneaking in during the day, pounding a stake through your heart.

It’s not going to work with me.

No, if Sergei couldn’t be trusted, then it would be better to be rid of him and find a replacement. A woman this time. One who’d figure out Verchiel’s game and be too intelligent to fall for it.

With my luck, he’d turn to seducing her himself.

And if not him, then one of the others. Beldren was suspect. And Zuri. He was too quiet. It meant he was observing, analyzing, plotting. And Philip. Now there was a heartbreaker just looking to cause trouble.  He’d been promoted at the same time she was, and she’d never trusted him as far as she could throw him.

Franklin was just as suspicious, and Migina was no better. The way she sneered at everyone made her opinions clear. Really, the only ones Griselda trusted were Senya and Bren; Senya because she was so blunt that you always knew where you stood, and Bren because Senya controlled him.

And they’re all a million times more trustworthy than Jamie or Ark.

They’d been Executioners the longest, and had earned the titles of captain and second in command, and they both used it. In fact, it was an incident with Ark that had prompted the human guard dogs in the first place.

Griselda liberally soaped herself as she tried to remember how it had happened. She hadn’t been there, but Greneth had heard the whole thing and reported it to her.  Ark and Beldren, wasn’t it? Yes. They’d gotten in a fight and Beldren threatened Ark with something like sneaking in his room and cutting his heart out while he slept.  Then, in the middle of the day, an earsplitting scream had wakened Greneth. He’d grabbed his weapon and run to the Beldren’s room, where he found the Executioner up, sword in hand, shouting that Ark had been in his room, trying to kill him. Ark denied it, but Beldren when Beldren returned from his next assignment he had a human with him.

“To keep an eye on things while I sleep. A guard dog, if you will.”

No one liked the idea of Beldren having a human running free while they were unprotected, and so they’d each gotten their own. Even Jamie, who’d rolled his eyes and commented on the stupidity.

It might be stupid, but I don’t see you sleeping alone.

That had been in ’42, she was pretty sure, and since then she’d been through three.  Since Sergei can’t think with the brain in his head, it looks like I’m going to have to find number four.  Though going through them quickly wasn’t unusual. Verchiel had been through two already, both women, and she imagined when he picked his next it would be a woman too. A good looking, cute little thing that he could encourage to be friendly with the men.

I know what you’re up to.

***

And now for guesses:

topic: Trevor

picture: Tyler

  1. Duck l’orange 2. Who’s hungry? 3. Today’s special is duck! 4. Duck; the gift that keeps giving 5. Quackers! 6. Polly want a quacker? 7. It’s daffy! 8. How do you get down off a duck? 9. A ladder! Ha ha! 10. looks like a duck, quacks like a duck… 11. choked up. 12. choke your….duck (cough)  13. Isn’t this a pretty duck? Half off today! 14. Look what I got for my birthday!  15. I wish I had some of Jonathan’s voodoo because this is ducking hard. 16. duck, duck, goose. 17. I found the duck! 18. I wonder if that’s the right way to hold a duck? 19.  It’s a strangle hold! 20.  this is just ducky

7 Days of Thankfulness #7

I’m a day of this week because we had a family pet emergency last night. Sadly, at the end our cat Muffins passed away, but that’s another story in itself.

Now for last week’s thankful points:

1. I was thankful for being able to complete the 60 day song challenge! Thanks to Catie Muller tagging me every day, I made all 60 days!

2. I was thankful for being able to do all of Greneth’s Executioner story in one swoop – that has put me ahead a little bit so that I now have stories to publish through the first part of November (Franklin is processing, Greneth will go up for the 24th, and Fallon the first week in November or so) which should give me just enough time to get a fourth done and edited and a fifth started before I need to publish that fourth one. Whoo.  I was also thankful for the Blogophilia prompts that inspired me to make Greneth a Halloween story. I hadn’t planned to do that, so it was awesome.

3. I was thankful for all the fun I had at Wednesday’s Live Write at the Bistro. I co-wrote an outlaw story with Jonathan Harvey. You can check it out on his facebook if you want to.

4. I was grateful to get the front of the porch painted in between rain showers. Hubby put the pieces on, but then it rained the next two days, so I was thrilled to finally have it be dry enough to paint.

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5 – I was thankful that the apple dumplings turned out well. My dad loves them – he used to come down to Bolivar every fall to visit and get them at a restaurant there. Needless to say, he hasn’t had one in a few years, so I thought what the heck – can’t be too hard. They turned out really tasty.

6 – Saturday I was thankful to celebrate my mother’s birthday. We got her an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen that only ended up melting a little bit… but it tasted good. I was also grateful that she liked all of her birthday presents.

7. I was thankful that we were finally able to get the pillars up on the porch. Weirdly I don’t have any pictures, but you’ll get some next week because I’ve started painting trim.

And now I’m going to go check out this week’s blogophilia prompts and start a battle plan for tomorrow’s new executioner story. I think it’s Griselda’s turn.

Have a thankful kinda week!

Jo 🙂

Sunday Surprise

creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

Vampires of the World bundle8 novels box setcoming soon and already available for pre-order at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&Noble and Kobo!

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Blogophilia 32.10: Greneth

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives us prompts to use in our weekly blogs. This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 32.10 Topic – About Last Night…
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts) Incorporate three things found in a haunted house
Easy (1 pt) Use the words from a Disney song

I hadn’t planned to write the whole story in one swoop, but sadly the main prompt needed to go at the end, so… here it is all in one.

***

(this takes place in 1997)

“It could be fun, Zelda.” Greneth gave his best smooth smile and waited. It was a proposal Griselda couldn’t turn down.

Or so he thought.

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other and crossed her arms uncomfortably. “I don’t know. Aren’t we a little old for something like that? Scares are for children.”

“Not anymore,” Greneth said. “Modern mortals enjoy it into old age.”

“I don’t know.”

He sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. This wasn’t the way he’d imagined the conversation going when he’d seen the advertisement for a Halloween haunted house. The sign promised that the hour’s travel was worth it. “Thrills. Chills. Lose yourself to the terror!” Or something like that, all written in bloody red letters. The clip art ghosts had drawn Greneth in, and the vampire sealed the deal. Now all he needed was someone to go with him.

Griselda seemed the perfect choice. They got along well, and she was good looking. The same height he was, and a fellow blonde, people often mistook her for his sister, even though her eyes were blue and his brown. A detail he supposed no one really noticed.  Even more amusing was that he was nearly a hundred years older than her, and had never been to Germany, where she’d been both born and turned. Not that she talked about her past very often.

Or anything personal for that matter.

He’d waited for her at the entrance to the Executioner’s block; the area in the citadel where the elite lived in individual apartments. Finally, she’d shown up, wearing an autumn colored sweater and a pair of knee-high boots, her hair braided around her head like a crown. When he smiled, she’d looked suspicious, and had been on guard ever since, even after he explained the plan.

“If you don’t want to go, I’ll invite someone else,” he said finally.

“It just seems…” she trailed away but he could guess the rest: childish? Trivial? Stupid?

The imagined insults twisted a sneer over his lips, and he was ready to give her his opinion when footsteps pattered down the corridor. His body tightened when he recognized the familiar cadence.

Anyone but him.

Griselda turned to look as a redheaded vampire came around the corner, hands in his pockets. His hair stood at odd angles, like a punk rocker, and his faded jeans and logo t-shirt were straight from a music video.

He has no class.

The newcomer lit up enthusiastically. “Well hello you two! Having a clandestine meeting?”

“In the corridor?” Greneth snapped impatiently.

“Seems as good a place as any.” He stopped next to Griselda. Shorter than her, he had to tip his head up to wink at her. “If you’re not having a secret meeting with him, you could always have one with me.”

Griselda rolled her eyes and stepped away. “No thank you, Verchiel.”

“Are you sure? I think I’m free.” He made a show of checking his neon wristwatch. “Yep. Nothing going on.”

“I’m sorry.” She took another step away. “I’m going with Greneth. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get my wallet.”

She hurriedly unlocked the door to the Executioners’ private hallway and disappeared inside.

Verchiel gave a melodramatic sigh. “Looks like you won this round, buddy.” He winked, and added in an almost whisper, “You’re welcome,” before he headed the way Griselda had gone, chuckling as he disappeared.

Greneth glared after him. Did Verchiel expect him to believe that he’d purposely taunted Griselda so she’d accept his invitation? Absurd. It was the kind of thing the redhead did all the time; pretending that he’d been planning some specific outcome from the beginning, as if it was an excuse for his inane behavior.

I’m not falling for it.

Griselda returned a minute later, a purse draped messenger style around her. She hesitated, then with a resolute nod – maybe to herself – she stepped up next to him. “I assume you’re driving?”

“I’d planned to. Unless you’d rather?”

“No. I’d hate to take it away from you,” she said and marched ahead of him towards the elevators.

He rolled his eyes. Maybe this wasn’t as good an idea as he thought.

***

Griselda sat in passenger seat and eyed the paper pine tree swinging from his rear view mirror. “New Car Scent?”

He tugged his tailored leather jacket to give his arms more room to move. “It’s better than pine.”

She leaned closer and sniffed the air freshner. “It doesn’t smell like a new car.”

“Not really. I think it’s supposed to smell like leather.”

“And does it?”

When he didn’t answer immediately, she leaned close, her lips near his neck. He stiffened as a thousand ideas ran through his mind, none of which involved air freshners or haunted houses. But, she only sniffed and drew back again.

“It doesn’t.”

“I suppose not,” he mumbled as he dropped the car into gear. Despite the air freshner, the only scent in his nose was her perfume; not weak and flowery, but spicy like the autumn leaves outside. Somehow it suited her.

He sneaked a sideways glance at her, at the way the sweater hugged the curve of her breasts, and the way little wisps of hair tickle the back of her neck.

“Hey!”

He slammed the brakes in time to miss hitting the closed garage door. He muttered something about idiots who closed it, even though he knew it was procedure, and climbed out quickly to open it. When he was back in the driver’s seat, she raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“You’re sure you want to drive?”

“I’m fine,” he snapped and slammed the gas hard enough to squall the tires.

He expected a reprimand, instead she rolled her eyes and dropped back into her seat. “If you say so.”

After several miles of silence, Greneth turned the radio on. Local stations played country music that he skipped over. When she stopped him on a particularly whiny song, he ground his teeth. The warbly lyrics lamented a life of misery but he bit back his comments when he noticed she was singing along to it under her breath.

“I didn’t know you liked this kind of music.”

“I like a little bit of everything,” she said.

***

He had to stop at a gas station to get directions to the haunted house. The attendant was an acne spotted teen who smelled like marijuana and greasy hair.  Like a rabbit, the kid seemed to sense a potential predator. Without meeting Greneth’s eyes, he mumbled a handful of disjointed street names. Greneth rewarded him with a fanged smile, that made the kid jump, and mutter, “Uh, cool teeth, man,” before he scurried to the back room.

Greneth was still chuckling when he dropped back into the driver’s seat.

“You look happy?” Griselda folded up the vanity mirror.

“Is it my imagination, or are modern humans stupider than they used to be?”

“Anyone in particular?”

“Just that attendant. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.” He started the car and backed out of the space.

“Did you at least get directions?”

Greneth stopped from snapping back a sarcastic reply. “Yes.”

“So this haunted house…what is it exactly?”

To be honest, he wasn’t completely sure, but it was a little late to admit that. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, is it a real house that is supposed to be haunted?”

“It can’t really be haunted. There’s no such thing as ghosts, only silly superstitious people.”

It took her a second too long to respond, and he glanced to see her lips pressed tightly together. Finally, she said, “How can you be so sure?”

Shit. How was he supposed to know she was one of them? She seemed more down to earth than that! Though it was amazing sometimes what strange superstitions vampires held on to from their mortal days. He’d given up his own religion long ago, not the he’d ever believed in it whole heartedly anyway, and with it had gone all the ridiculous beliefs. There were no angels, no demons, and no ghosts.

“Because it doesn’t make sense for some mysterious spirit entity to hang around terrorizing people.”

She crossed her arms. “Why doesn’t it? If someone died suddenly, their spirit might not know they’re dead. Or maybe they know it, but are so determined to finish something that they can’t let go of this world.”

“This world. Like there’s another one!” Her expression hardened, and he realized he was getting dangerously close to religious territory – a place he knew better than to go with anyone. Though it seemed logical to him that all vampires were atheists – how could they seriously believe a god existed after everything they’d seen and done? –many weren’t.  He didn’t know Griselda’s affiliations, and right now he didn’t want to find out. Better to stick to the ghosts.

“All right. Have you ever seen one?”

“Yes, actually.”

“See? I – oh.” It wasn’t the answer he’d anticipated, and he had nothing ready. “Well…um…really?”

“Yes, really.” She rolled her eyes and turned her face to the window.

Looking at the back of her head, Greneth saw his dreams for a good evening slipping away. “And? Are you going to share the story or what?”

“No, I’m not.” She turned back to glare. “You’re only interested so you can disprove it.”

“How could I disprove it? I wasn’t there.”

She scoffed. “That doesn’t stop you non-believers. You’re all the same.”

Silence ticked by while he tried to think of a way to salvage her mood, and their date. “I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’ve had this fight before?”

“Several times,” she said coldly. “And I’m not interested in having it again.”

He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and looked for the right words. “But it doesn’t have to be a fight like the other times. I’m genuinely interested in your…experience.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

He stopped at a red light and turned to her with his best serious expression. “I mean it. I really am interested.”

“I doubt it.” Despite the harsh words, her tone and eyes both softened. “I’ve seen several. The first was when I was a little girl in Germany. My grandmother was very sick and we weren’t allowed to visit her or bother her. Then, one night, she came to see me. She sat on the edge of my bed and told me that she had to go away, but that I shouldn’t cry too much. That I should be good and help my father – my mother was already gone by then. Then, she sang a lullaby to me until I fell asleep. The next morning, when I told my father about it, he turned red in the face and said it was impossible. When I insisted, he told me that Oma had died in the night, and punished me for lying.”

Greneth strangled back his disbelief. Rather than a spiritual visit, it was more likely the wishful dream of a sad little girl, but he knew better than to say that. Instead, “That’s…much…nicer than most ghost stories.”

“You mean less scary?” she asked. “I have a few of those, as well.”

“I’d be interested to hear-” he broke off as a large parking lot came into view. Past rows of cars was a strip mall. Some of the stores were brightly lit, their neon signs proclaiming things like sandwiches and tattoos. “Hmmm. This is where the kid said to go.”

He pulled in slowly, and Griselda leaned up in her seat, eyes narrowed. “I think it’s in that building. Look.”

He followed her pointing finger to a sign plastered over a set of glass doors. “Bloody Castle of Terror” was written in the same drippy font as the advertisement had been, but if that was it, it certainly wasn’t a house, haunted or otherwise.

A long line of people, mostly teenagers and those in their early twenties, twisted away from the doors and around the edge of the parking lot. As he parked, Griselda shot him an incredulous look. “Just what is this?”

He shut the car off and sighed. There was no way around it. “I have no idea. It just sounded interesting.”

“Perhaps a little more research next time?” When he didn’t reply, she opened the passenger door. “Oh well. We’re already here. We might as well see what it is.”

He gave a soft sigh of relief and followed her out of the sleek black car.

“I suppose we get in line,” she murmured.

“I suppose.” They took their places behind a pair of girls wearing black cat ears and furry legwarmers. If he was a whisperer they wouldn’t have had to wait with the mortal rabble, they could have gone right in. But demon eye powers were useless when it came to persuasion.

Griselda eyed the girls with annoyance and pulled tighter into herself. “It’s a good thing I fed earlier, or this might be a very different night.”

Greneth wondered if it was really such a good thing. Tearing through a crowd of annoying humans sounded like fun to him, but he kept the thought to himself. “So, about the other ghosts?”

“You’re not still on that? Why?”

Because I can’t think of anything else to talk about that’s safe for humans to overhear. “I told you, I’m interested.”

“Somehow I doubt that. But all right. The scariest one I ever encountered was in Massachusetts. We were there on an assignment-”

Greneth shot a sharp look at their surroundings; a silent warning, but she waved it away impatiently. “They were squatting in an abandoned house. After we’d dealt with them, and were ready to leave, we heard someone walking upstairs. I sent an underling up to check. He came back and said there was no one there – just as the footsteps started again. He went back, and returned again with the same report. When the steps started a third time, I went myself. I expected to find someone we’d missed, of course, but when I got upstairs, there in the hallway was a little girl. She was wearing a torn dress, and had blood splattered over her. Under one arm she had a dirty teddy bear. Though there was something wrong with her eyes, I took her for a victim then, and moved toward her, slowly, trying not to scare her. As I drew closer, I realized what was wrong with her eyes – they were gone. There were only dark holes where they belonged. I drew up short, surprised, and the girl screamed, loud enough to make me cover my eras, and charged right at me. Before I could react, she was gone, as if she’d never been there. I looked everywhere, but there was no sign of her, only a dirty teddy bear in one of the old bedrooms, lying alone in the corner.”

It was like something from a movie, and a bit too Hollywood to believe, though he had no explanation for it. That mortal brains manufactured hallucinations and false memories was accepted, but the immortal brain was usually sharper. He couldn’t come up with something that would make a vampire see things like that.

Unless it was a defect she brought over from mortality.

He knew better than to say that, so instead asked, “What did you do?”

She shrugged. “What was there to do? I took the teddy bear and we left.”

“You took the bear?”

“Why not? I thought perhaps if I had it the girl would come back, and I could find out what had happened to her, but she never has. I suppose she must be attached to the house.”

“And you took her only friend away,” he joked.

Griselda’s forehead creased. “I know. I’ve thought of that; even thought about taking it back, but I’m not sure the house still stands.”

Oh brothers. “You could always check. That would be an interesting vacation.”

“I’d rather spend a vacation being left alone somewhere. Not that we’re likely to get a vacation.”

He couldn’t argue with that. Despite being so-called elite, they got very little in the way of benefits, as the mortals would say.

A loud speaker crackled and a voice boomed over it, “Do we have a group of two? Group of two, come to the front of the line.”

That was their cue. Greneth grabbed Griselda’s hand and dragged her to the doors, the cat ear girls on their heels. Though he expected Griselda to pull away, she didn’t, and they arrived at the front of the line, her hand still in his.

The man at the door – dressed in an oversized top hat and bizarre clown makeup – looked them over. “Group of two?”

One of the teen girls leaned up from behind them. “We were in front of them.”

The guy looked them over, then looked Griselda over. The gleam in his eyes said she was more to his liking. “Sorry, kiddies, they beat you to the door. Better luck next time. You two,” he nodded to Greneth and his date. “That’s five dollars each.”

Greneth reluctantly let go of Griselda’s hand to pull out his wallet. He handed over the cash, and the weird clown grabbed his hand. He started to growl, but the guy stamped something on him and moved to Griselda before he had a chance.

“There you go. Now, watch your step and beware the ghouls.”

He gave a long, theatrical laugh as he ushered them through the doors into a tiled lobby. Makeshift walls consisted of large black drapes, and crimson was splattered across the floor. Blood? No. The smell was wrong. It smelled…he wasn’t sure what it smelled like, but not like blood, anyway.

A group of people stood in little bunches, pointed toward a red painted door and a woman wearing a nurses costume, spotted generously with more fake blood. She did a quick head count and stretched bright red lips into a smile that looked wrong. “Welcome to the Castle of Terror. Please stay on the path, do not wander into any areas marked “Private”, and if you don’t touch the performers, they won’t touch you. Good luck.”

Greneth frowned. Performers? Path? What in the world was this?

He looked to Griselda, but she only stepped ahead of him, following the group of humans through the red door into a narrow hallway.

Greneth sighed and joined her. As he stepped over the threshold, the nurse gave a sinister laugh and slammed the door, barely missing his elbow. He glared back, but let it go. He didn’t want to get left behind.

He caught up to Griselda and moved slowly with the group. The hallway – whose walls were made of more black drapes – narrowed until they could only walk single file. Loud noises filled the air; metal clinking, a ghostly moan, maniacal laughter. He looked over his shoulder more than once, trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from, and what was causing them.

The humans in front seemed just as nervous, if not more so. Maybe they sensed that real killers walked the hall with them, or maybe they knew something he didn’t.

Like what’s going on.

And then the lights went out, plunging the group into darkness.  The humans screamed and shuffled to a dead stop, crashing into one another with even more cries. Thanks to his vampire eyes, Greneth could see perfectly fine, but the lack of light was disconcerting. Humans needed it, and this was an amusement meant for them. Wasn’t it? He could sense them, smell them everywhere. Behind him, in front of him, to both sides of him, most unseen, but there, somewhere. So many that he couldn’t figure out where any of them were.

Something roared to life on the right, and Greneth spun to see a man step from between the curtain walls, carrying a chainsaw. With a snarl, Greneth readied to attack, when the lights snapped back on. The chainsaw wielder laughed and lunged at the humans, who screamed and raced away, tripping and stumbling in their terror.

The man laughed heartily and lowered the saw before he spotted them. He lifted it menacingly, then chuckled. “Harder to scare are you? Don’t worry, they’ll get you.”

Before Greneth could respond, he disappeared behind the curtain again, and the chainsaw sputter to a stop.

“What-?”

Griselda rolled her eyes and grabbed his arm. “Come on!”

He let her pull her down the twisting corridor, pausing only to dodge a clown splattered in more fake blood. A chorus of screams up ahead said that there was something more coming, and when they finally caught up to it they found what looked like a dungeon. A cage along one wall was stuffed with gory dummies, and torture devices held fake victims.

Before Greneth could ask what the humans had been screaming about, one of the caged dummies slammed into the bars with a shriek. Greneth jumped back, barely missing a grasping hand.

“Help us!” the prisoner moaned, not dummy, but human.

A second further down banged the bars and hissed, arms shooting out to try to snag them.

Griselda pulled Greneth trough the room and back into a snaking corridor heavy with shadows. Circus music drown out the weird sound effects, and they stumbled into a room hung in striped cloth, like a circus tent. Three clowns, all tattered, dirty, and dotted in more of that fake blood were in the center. Two juggled severed dolls’ heads back and forth, tiny unblinking eyes staring as they sailed through the air. The third, a girl in a tutu, did slow ballet moves, grinning with a mouth full of pointed teeth. Shadows writhed on the walls, and strobe lights flashed.

Suddenly Griselda leapt with a screech, hand to her back as if she’d bene touched. Greneth spun, instinctively ready to kill, and saw a fourth clown, laughing and waving what looked like a rotten banana.

Griselda gave him a hard look, and dragged Greneth out of the circus room, and into more twisty corridor. Colored lights flashed, red, blue, purple, and smoke rolled from the sides, filling the make-shift hallway with fog.

Greneth pulled his date to a stop in the midst of the rolling cloud. “Are you all right?”

She blinked at him, like he was an idiot. “Of course I’m fine. It was just a man in makeup with plastic fruit.”

He gritted his teeth. “I meant are you…upset?”

“Why would I be upset? This is the point of the haunted house, isn’t it? To make people scream?”

As if on cue, the group they’d long ago lost shrieked in the distance.

“It appears so.”

“Then we’re getting the experience we paid for. Now come on, before we’re completely lost.”

He followed her through the fog, and then past a dining table set with cracked dishes. Serving ware was filled with fake internal organs. The centerpiece of the macabre banquet was a silver platter with a still beating heart surrounded with lettuce leaves.

Greneth snickered. “That’s not even remotely close. Look, it’s the wrong color, and three times the size. It wouldn’t even fit in a human’s chest cavity.”

“The lungs are pretty close, though,” she pointed to another tray.

From there, the haunted house led through several other surreal scenes; a mental hospital complete with electroshock therapy and screams, an operating theater presided over by a mad surgeon, a room of hanging limbs, and on and on. Despite the cheesiness of it all, Griselda jumped and squealed, more than once leaping into Greneth’s arms. The first time she pulled away immediately, but each time she stayed just a millisecond longer.

At this rate I might get a hug in a year.

With each room, and each scare, Griselda grew more eager, dragging him from horror to horror, until they reached a set of heavy double doors.

Greneth frowned. “Are we supposed to-”

He didn’t get the sentence finished before she threw the doors open and dragged him into a dark room. Greneth could see through the gloom, to a heavy Victorian bedroom, complete with a curtained four poster bed. There were people, poised and ready, waiting for the right moment to move.

The doors shut behind them with a bang that made Griselda jump. Greneth caught her, and as the lights came up he expected her to pull away. But she stayed, her heart racing and her eyes glowing with excitement.

A soundtrack of moans started, and Greneth saw the advertised vampires at last. A count-like figure sat in a heavy chair, and three scantily clad vampiresses, mimed licking blood from a fake corpse spread out on the bed.

One of the girls turned to them and hissed, flashing oversized fake fangs.

The count smiled – another set of plastic teeth – and asked with a thick accent, “Vould you like to join us?”

Griselda shook her head, as if clearing her thoughts, and grabbed Greneth’s hand.  The count’s laughter followed them out of the room and into the corridor. The path twisted away, but Griselda pulled him through a break in the curtains instead.

He glanced at the undecorated area; a bare brick wall and a tangle of extension cords that snaked away. “I don’t think we’re supposed to-”

She knocked him back against the wall, her voice a low purr. “It wasn’t marked private.”

One look into her gleaming eyes silenced his arguments. “You’re right. It’s not.”

She growled low and hungry, then pounced. Her body pressed against his and her fangs sliced through his neck before he’d even registered the tickle of her breath.

He gasped as the world slipped away, replaced by a red tinted world. Eagerly he bit through her sweater and into her shoulder. Her blood filled his mouth, bringing with it the flickering phantoms of her memories. He saw though her eyes for a moment, saw the blurry distorted images of a small house, an old woman – her grandmother? – and an angry man with meaty fists and tired eyes.

He felt her squirm against him and he let it go, moving past it, and deeper into more primitive recesses, where the center of pleasure lay. He heard her gasp as he mentally pressed at her center, like fingers stroking her most sensitive spot.

She ground against him, and reciprocated. The mental caresses were like lightning dancing over his skin; sparking, burning, fading before the pinch of pain could turn from ecstasy to agony.

An image popped in his head, clear and sharp; it was the fake vampiresses from the last room, no longer fake but imagined real, their tongues stroking a writhing body. Blood was smeared over naked abs, and down to muscled thighs. No, it wasn’t those girls, but two others, one with dark bobbed hair and the other with a spill of blonde, and lustful, cornflower blue eyes.

The scene exploded in the shudder of Greneth’s orgasm. Griselda followed a second later and collapsed against him, breathing raggedly. His arms wrapped around her heaving body and he closed his eyes. The last scene hung behind his eyelids; Senya and Griselda, half naked, wrapped around an unknown man, his hot blood painted on their breasts, and dripping down their chins.

Griselda took a deep breath and pulled free of his hold. Without comment, she tucked strands of her fallen hair up, her eyes on her feet, on the wall, and then on the ragged bloody hole in the shoulder of her sweater.

Greneth touched his still bleeding neck, then uncomfortably tugged his tailored coat smooth. “About that…I’m sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said quickly. “Let’s finish this.”

She darted through the curtains again. He watched the cloth swing back and felt something cold settle in the pit of his stomach. He’d had encounters like this before; quick, hot, intense, and over in an instant, but usually his partner had a smirk, a wink, some sign that they’d enjoyed it.

Something more than a furtive glance as they ran away.

He shook it away and followed. There was no sign of her in the twisting hallway, so he hurried on. A room hanging with skeletons was empty, as was another smoke filled stretch of hallway. Dark curtains had a glowing exit sign over them, and he burst through the tatters to find the other side of the tile lobby, separated from the beginning by those large black curtains.

Griselda was already at the exit. She cast a look back over her shoulder before she shoved her way outside.

A man dressed as a monkey shoved a flyer at Greneth, but he pushed it away with a growl and rushed after her. He pushed through a crowd of laughing teens, to see she’d already made it to the car. For a moment his instincts told him to run to catch up, but then his pride kicked in. He didn’t run for anyone, let alone someone acting as bizarre as she was. She was the one who’d initiated it, so to act like she hadn’t wanted it now…

What do you expect? She believes in ghosts for crying out loud.

He straightened his shoulders and took his time getting to the car. She waited next to hit, her arms crossed, and didn’t meet his eyes even as he unlocked the doors.

The ride home was silent. He snuck glances at her from under his eyelids, but she was turned away, her attention focused out the window. Her stiff body was drawn away from him, her hand occasionally sneaking up to cover the wound on her shoulder, as if trying to manually press it into nonexistence.

When they parked in The Guild’s garage, she was out the door before he had the motor shut off.  As she dashed away between the parked cars, he called after her, “Gee, I had fun Greneth! Thanks for taking me! You’re welcome, Zelda!”

He muttered a few choice words under his breath, and kicked the tire of a nearby car for good measure. This wasn’t the way the night was supposed to end. The haunted house wasn’t supposed to be like that. It was…well, he didn’t know what it was supposed to be, but something less exciting than that. Something amusing, that left them laughing all the way home, so that they could walk back to the Executioners’ block lost in conversation – a conversation they’d have wanted to continue into one of their apartments. And afterwards, she wouldn’t have run away.

Growling low, he dropped down the ladder and then down a corridor and past a pair of nervous guards. When one looked at him twice, he snapped at him, enjoying the way the vampire recoiled.

That’s what I should have done to the humans in the stupid Castle of Terror. I should have shown them what real fear was!

Greneth took the elevator to his floor and stormed to the Executioner block. He let himself inside and was nearly to his door when Verchiel stuck his head out. “How did – That bad?”

Greneth snarled. “It’s none of your business!”

“Wow! So touchy.” Verchiel padded out into the hallway. “What happened?”

With another growl, Greneth jammed the key in the door lock, and shoved it open.

Verchiel winced. “Oh wow. But hey, you got lucky.”

Greneth spun on him, snatching for the front of his shirt, but the redhead evaporated and reappeared a few feet away. “Don’t take it out on me!”

“Get out of my head, before I rip your heart out and show that goddamn haunted house what it’s supposed to look like!”

“Hey, hey! Sorry.” Verchiel held his hands up. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think she’s mad at you. I think she’s more likely embarrassed. You might try talking to her.”

“It’s none of your goddamn business!”

Greneth stormed into his apartment and slammed the door. If he had to look at that idiot for one more second, he’d kill him, right there. Why Malick had ever made him an Executioner was beyond him.

“Moron.”

Greneth flung his coat over a chair and stomped into the bathroom. He took a shower, but it did little to settle his irritation. As he flopped in bed, he wasn’t sure who he was really irritated at. Himself, or Griselda.

Or Heather.

He rolled over and pressed his face into the pillow, as if he could suffocate the memory. He hadn’t thought of her in a long time, at least not when he was awake. He could still see her, etched perfectly in his immortal memory. Long red hair, a sprinkle of freckles, and those strange eyes, one brown and one cornflower blue, like Zelda’s.

In his memory she smiled and turned away, face upturned to the moon. He’s loved the way the light traced over her skin, the shadow it painted between her breasts. He’d loved the way she smelled, the soft way she purred like a contented kitten in his arms, the way she always enjoyed the rain.

The way she loved me. Until the day she didn’t.

He hadn’t noticed the waning of her affection, or else he’d pretended not to. He was only a guard then, but The Guild kept him busy enough that he could ignore it. He’d come home to her, flecked in the blood of another vampire, and taken her before she had a chance to even say hello. When he’d finished, she pulled away, her eyes everywhere but him as she pressed a hand to her bleeding neck. He’d seen it on her face, in her stiff posture, in the way she wouldn’t look at him. All the million moments he’d ignored leapt into crystal clarity, and though he was no mind reader, he saw to the core of it all, to the core of her.

She doesn’t love me anymore.

Even now he could feel the shadow of that crushing moment, feel the unneeded air stolen from his lungs, feel the sick ice that froze his insides.

“I’m sorry,” was all she had to say. “I’m sorry.”

So am I.

“You’ve changed,” she told him later, while she packed her dresses. “You enjoy killing too much. We may be vampires, but we don’t have to revel in the blood.”

Of course we do. What else is there?

And that’s what he’d told her. When she tentatively suggested love, he’d laughed. Long and loud, and when tears sprang into her eyes he laughed harder. It was a laugh of fury, not humor, but she wasn’t a mind reader and he didn’t tell her. How could he?

What was I supposed to do? Tell her that she broke my heart like some weeping school girl?

And now there was Griselda, eyes darting away, hand pressed to her bleeding wound as if she was ashamed.

At least she didn’t apologize.

***

Greneth rose the following evening, dressed, and drank a draught of blood from the refrigerator. He shook the container and admired whatever they did to it to stop the congealing. If only they’d had that years ago.

With no messages waiting, it seemed he had a day off. The door beckoned, with the promise of a thousand entertainments scattered in the citadel’s public areas, but he couldn’t make himself go through it. He didn’t want to see what else might be out there. Verchiel. Or Senya.

Or Griselda.

He flipped the TV on and tried to feign interest in the shows. Most were too stupid to bother with. He landed at last on a music channel. Videos flashed by with made up men in leather, woman bound in chains, cut up dolls.

It looked too much like the haunted house, and he shut it off and threw the remote across the room. This was ridiculous. He was going to have to leave his room eventually, see her eventually. He might as well act like a man and get it over it.

Despite his resolution, he took extra time dressing and rebrushing his already perfect hair. Out of excuses, he charged out into the empty corridor. He spun both directions, then strode around the square shaped hallway, to Griselda’s door. He raised his hand to knock, then hesitated. He could smell her inside, or thought he could. Was this really a good idea? Going out and bumping into her was one thing, but purposefully hunting her down? That was something else entirely.

Stop being a child!

With that self-rebuke, he pounded on the door. Silence greeted him, and a small flame of relief flashed in him. Maybe she wasn’t there, after all. Maybe-

He heard someone move, heard the soft sound of feet walking the door.  As he could smell her, he knew she could smell him, that she knew who her visitor was. Maybe she wouldn’t want to see him either. Maybe she wouldn’t open the door.

As if to prove him wrong, the lock clicked, the knob turned, and the door swung in. She stood in the opening, her blonde hair down around her shoulders, wearing a free-flowing dress of blue that ended at her knees and matched her eyes.

“Greneth.”

They stared at one another, until she dropped her gaze, nervous hand still playing wth the doorknob. “Look, about last night…I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry.

So much for not apologizing.

He stepped back and held up a hand. “Forget it.”

She looked up sharply as he turned to go. “Wait. It’s-“ She made a low growl and grabbed his arm. Before he could react she dragged him inside and slammed the door.

She released him and stepped back quickly, wringing her hands. He’d seen her apartment before, even been inside. On those occasions it had been clean to the point of weirdness, but today it was a mess. Scattered magazines, knickknacks laying at odd angles, a broken glass. Had she had some kind of temper tantrum?

She snarled again, more to herself than at him, and finally snapped, “Look, I know I made an idiot out of myself, but I’d rather you not tell anyone.”

He blinked from the mess to her. “What?”

She glared. “Don’t play stupid. I know how men work, how they high-five each other and snicker. How they brag about their conquests.” He hands balled into fists. “I’m not a goddamn conquest!”

Greneth eased away from her anger, sliding along the green painted wall. “I never said you were.”

“Right. That wasn’t what you had in mind when you took me to that ridiculous place? And don’t pretend you didn’t. That’s why you humored my ghost talk, wasn’t it?” She tossed her hair and bored her gaze into him, her eyes like two burning lasers seeking the truth.

“Well…” he licked his lips and tried to decide how much to admit. “I won’t say I hadn’t considered something like that, who wouldn’t if they were out with you? But not like that! And I didn’t plan on telling anyone, or high-fiving anyone, or…or whatever.” When she didn’t immediately try to kill him, he added, “And I didn’t humor your ghost talk just to have sex with you. It – it was interesting.”

“You’re lying.” She stepped closer, eyes narrowed, as if she was focusing those truth seeking lasers into razor sharp points.

“I’m not. Really. Just because I’ve never seen…I mean there was a time we didn’t believe in vampires, huh?” He tried a smile, but it faltered under her glare and he surrendered. “Look, I’m sorry if you think that’s all I was after. Sure, I was hoping it might go that way at the end, but I thought we’d get home first, and I didn’t plan for it to end with you stomping off. Maybe staying awhile, waking up today and…I don’t know, but not running off and acting like I’m some bad guy who took advantage of you.”

“I never said that!”

He pushed away from the wall. “You don’t have to. It’s pretty obvious from the way you’re acting. Forget it. I have other things to do.”

He turned for the door when she grabbed him by the back of his shirt, he spun, readying for an attack, but instead she pressed him back against the wall and covered his mouth with hers. He froze, eyes wide, hands in the air as her tongue dove into his mouth. Coppery tasting, like the blood they drank. At the flavor, he melted around her, pulling her into him, tipping her head back to delve his own tongue past her lips.

She moaned in her throat, and then wrenched free, leaving him blinking in confusion. She stood back, and he waited for her craziness to swing back, for a slap or a shout. Instead she just stared at him, calculating.

“I don’t need a boyfriend.”

He blinked at the statement. “Um…all right.”

“I’ve had boyfriends. They’re a complication.”

He nodded, trying to puzzle out where her lunacy was headed.

“And I’m not going to be the topic of the boys’ club. No bragging around, or making a big deal out of…whatever.”

Was she setting ground rules? It sounded like it, but ground rules for what?

She tapped her foot, hands on her hips as if expecting a reply, so he finally mumbled an agreement.

“Fine.” She turned to the mess and fished her purse from between the couch cushions. “Are you driving or am I?”

He stopped from scratching his head like an idiot. “Driving where?”

She muttered something in German that sounded like an insult. “Back to the haunted house. If you’re taking me out, it might as well be somewhere we know is fun.”

Greneth was still confused, but it didn’t seem worth discussing. He was smart, he could figure it out as they went.

Hopefully.

*****

Next week is Griselda’s story. How fun!

And now for guesses!

Topic: Sallon

Picture: Trevor

1.ruby red lips 2. three way 3. bite 4. bauble 5. want a kiss? 6. why does this make me think of twilight? 7. Or rocky horror picture show. 8. That at least makes sense. 9. Just a taste 10. this one is hard 11. I bet Jonathan guesses it 12. Maybe not. Maybe his voodoo is not that strong. 13. Mine sure isn’t. 14. I mean – no voodoo here. 15. Um…the taste of money 16. a taste for the finer things 17. not for children under three. 18. small parts they could swallow. 19. that was lame. 20. I really have no idea. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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