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:
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.
“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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They stared at one another, until she dropped her gaze, nervous hand still playing wth the doorknob. “Look, about last night…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.
Next week is Griselda’s story. How fun!
And now for guesses!
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.