Jorick woke Katelina the next evening. He checked her wounds and then got dressed in one of his usual ensembles: black jeans and a long sleeved black pullover. He kicked the blue jeans and shirt from the day before under the bed, as though he could pretend he’d never borrowed them from Oren, or even worn them. Katelina contemplated a remark on it but he quickly brushed a kiss across her cheek and promised to return.
After he left, she lay in bed until she summoned the courage to leave the warm covers. The room was as cold as she’d expected, so she quickly pulled on the hated red dress and dashed upstairs.
She stopped at the bathroom, then headed to the kitchen. Kitchens were supposed to be cheerful places, but this one wasn’t. Except for a modern washer and dryer, surrounded by books, the room looked dusty and disused. The floor and countertops were covered with faded linoleum that said “1950,” and the stove and refrigerator were hardly newer than that. Still, the refrigerator was cold inside, not that there was any food. The only contents were two old-fashioned milk bottles that were partially full of something distinctly crimson. She poked one, but couldn’t bring herself to actually pick it up. Disgusted, she turned to the cupboards, but they held only a dusty box of plastic forks and an even dustier box of aluminum foil.
With no breakfast forthcoming, she decided to roam aimlessly through the house. All of the rooms were stuffed with antique furniture and books. It gave the impression that there’d once been an organized house under it all but, thanks to ravenous reading habits and an apparent love of furniture, it had turned into some kind of weird movie set – including the mysterious white door.
Katelina stood in front of it, her hands on her hips, and waited for it to explain its existence. When it didn’t, she turned the knob uselessly and tried pushing on the door, but to no avail. It was solidly locked.
She wanted to kick it, but decided that was childish, so she wandered back to the front room. A bitter wind buffeted the house and leaked in through various cracks. The hearth sat in the far corner, empty and black, and she wished for more logs. Heck, she could do without heat if she just had a distraction of some kind. There were a lot of books stacked up but no TV, no DVD’s and no computer – unless Jorick had them hidden behind the locked door.
Katelina stood in the middle of the room, and scowled. “Something is going to have to change around here or–“
The thought was interrupted as the front door banged open noisily. A male in a baggy black hoodie dashed inside and then slammed the door loudly.
“Thank God you’re here!” he cried, his back to Katelina as he snapped the deadbolt into place and peered through the door crack. “You have to get rid of them! I’ve been ducking them for a week now!” His whole body suddenly stiffened, as if he’d just realized who was standing there, and he spun around, his eyes wide. “Who the hell are you?”
Katelina could only stare at the intruder. He was tall, thin and young; the roundness of his jaw line and baby smooth skin said he might be seventeen. He had a mop of short, black hair that curled around his pale face and large doe eyes. A pair of bright red earbuds hung out of his hoodie pocket and made Katelina think of an iPod commercial – if they had vampire iPod commercials, that is, because a set of fangs was clearly visible in his gaping mouth.
“Who are you?” he demanded again, advancing on her. “What are you doing here?”
She stepped back instinctively, her hands up as if to ward him off. “Who am I?” she cried, her voice high and tense. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”
He knocked her hands aside and grabbed her by the front of her dress, then peered closely into her face. “You’re with them, aren’t you? What did you do? Follow me here last night? Look, you can just fuckin’ forget it! I already told her-”
Something banged into the door and the boy jumped and released her. Katelina took a moment to gather her thoughts and then she grabbed the nearest book and flung it at him before she ran back towards the basement.
“Hey you!” he shrieked, and pounded after her. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Running for my life!” Katelina thought, but she was far too scared to say it. Here she was, trying to escape the clutches of some evil vampire, not forty-eight hours after she’d been promised peace!
As she neared the end of the hall she glanced back over her shoulder to see the intruder nearly on top of her. With a hurried prayer she tried to leap for the basement door, but he was faster than she was and caught her around the middle.
“Let me go!” she screamed as he hauled her backwards, her arms and legs flailing wildly. “Let me go!”
Something slammed into the front of the house and the boy dropped to the floor, taking her with him. She swung her fists over her shoulders and connected with his head, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. “Let me go!”
“Shut up!” he hissed and clamped his hand over her mouth. “Or I’ll make you sorry!”
She savagely sank her teeth into his palm. He let out a cry of pain and pulled his hand away long enough for her to shout, “When Jorick gets here he’s going to make you sorry!”
The boy stiffened. “Jorick? You know-”
“Jorick,” she finished, furiously. “Obviously, or I wouldn’t be here! Now let me go or-“
He clamped his hand over her mouth again to muffle her. She struggled, but he hissed in her ear, “If you don’t shut up we’re both going to be sorry!”
She squirmed in his arms, randomly hitting him, but stopped when she heard a female shout from outside, “I know you’re in there! You might as well open the door!”
“Like that’s going to happen,” he muttered under his breath. “Crazy bitch.”
Seconds passed, but the boy didn’t do anything further, only stayed crouched down in the hallway, an arm around Katelina’s waist and a hand over her mouth. She tried to reason out what was going on and came to the conclusion that the kid probably wasn’t a real threat to her, vampire or not. If he’d wanted to kill her he’d have done it by now.
“Let me go,” Katelina demanded around his hand. “I mean it!”
Grudgingly, he lowered his hand and loosened the arm around her waist, though he didn’t remove it. “Fine,” he snarled in her ear. “Then be quiet!”
She glared at him, though he couldn’t see. The female banged against the outside of the house in a rhythmic pattern, shouting, “Get out here, Loren! You can’t get rid of me that easily! You promised! Loren!”
“Loren?” Katelina whispered curiously, surprised when the boy answered her.
“If you’re Loren, then who’s that out there?”
He shifted uncomfortably, but flinched when someone hammered on the front door. “God damn it, won’t she just go away?”
The noise was repeated, the female shouted something unintelligible, and then everything went eerily silent. Katelina’s heart pounded in her ears, almost louder than her ragged breathing. Her body tensed, afraid of whoever was outside and what they might do.
“I am so dead,” Loren whispered miserably and Katelina barely suppressed a squeal of fright at the defeat in his voice. If he was dead then what would she be? If Jorick was here she might have a chance, but this kid – this Loren – looked as good as useless.
Someone was at the door. They could hear the muffled noises as the deadbolt clicked and the door knob turned, and then they heard the hinges as the door was swung opened and slammed shut again.
“Oh god,” Loren moaned and tightened his arm around Katelina’s middle, until she was nearly suffocated. He ducked his head against her neck and tried to curl into a ball, as if he thought that would make them invisible.
Footsteps sounded through the house; slow and steady as they went from room to room, coming ever closer. “Jorick!” she pleaded silently, begging him to come back and save them from “her” before it was too late. But, there was nothing, so she tried to form a plan. She jerked her head to indicate that they should barricade themselves in the basement, but Loren didn’t seem very receptive. “Basement,” she whispered, desperately. “We should-”
It was too late. Whoever was after them was there. “What in the hell?” a deep voice demanded.
And then Katelina realized who it was. “Jorick!”
It took Loren a moment longer to realize that his certain doom wasn’t standing in the hallway behind them. When he did, he released Katelina and sagged back against the wall. “Thank God! It’s you!”
“Yes,” Jorick replied with annoyance. “It’s me. Now, do you mind telling me exactly what you’re doing and why there are two teenage girls in my living room?”
Loren leapt to his feet, his eyes wide with horror. “In the living room? You let them in? Oh God! You didn’t! Tell me you didn’t!”
Katelina stood up and rubbed absently at her abdomen, uncertain what to make of Loren’s distress. Surely that whole production wasn’t really over a couple of teenage girls?
Jorick ignored him and sought Katelina’s eyes. “What are you doing, Katelina?”
“Hiding. Apparently,” she added with a scowl at Loren. “I was under the impression we were about to die, but now I don’t really know.”
“I thought she was with them,” Loren muttered miserably. “I thought she snuck in and I was trying to keep her out of the basement. But then she said she knew you.”
“Yes,” Jorick agreed with a suggestive smirk. “She most certainly knows me.” He quickly turned serious again. “What I’d like to know is how those girls in the living room know you?”
Loren’s shoulders sagged and he seemed to shrink. “It’s not really my fault,” he murmured. “I mean, not, well, okay, sort of.” He looked at Jorick as if expecting reprieve, but his face was hard and unyielding. “Well I got bored! I mean it was six months. You said it would only be a few days.” He crossed his arms over his chest defensively. “What the hell took you so long, anyway?”
Jorick waved his hand dismissively. “That’s a story for another time. Right now I’m more concerned with the unconscious girls in my living room!”
Loren brightened. “Unconscious? Why didn’t you say so? Don’t worry, you just need to do your mind thing and I’ll take them back to town and drop them off.”
“And why do I need to do that?” Jorick tapped his foot impatiently.
“Like I said, I got bored.” Loren jammed his hands in his pockets. “Look, it was an accident. I mean, the one girl’s pretty hot, you know? And I didn’t think anything would come of it, but she got all attached and shit. Then when I tried to get rid of her I kind of, accidentally, said something about vampires and that just got her all excited.” He paused hopefully, but when Jorick only glared he continued. “Well, I kinda ended up promising her I’d make her one too. I didn’t know she’d be all into it. I thought she’d scream and run away like a normal person. But I can’t get rid of her now, and she’s got her friend helping her. They’re stalking me! Seriously! I haven’t been able to go home for days because I’m afraid they’ll follow me and do something horrible while I’m asleep! I’ve been hiding in all kinds of places! Then I saw your light on tonight and I thought you could, you know, help me out,” he finished lamely.
“Of all the stupid, asinine things!” Jorick growled. “It’s idiots like you…” he broke off and jabbed a finger at the boy. “You don’t understand the implications of what could happen here, do you?”
Jorick growled again. “I’ll handle this – this one time – because if I don’t, they’ll end up dead, but if I ever have to do this again I swear, Loren, that you’ll be more than sorry!”
Jorick turned on his heel and strode back to the front room, while Loren slumped against the wall with a heavy sigh of relief.
“Mind thing?” Katelina asked. “What mind thing does he need to do?”
Loren shrugged. “You know, where he, like, tells someone to do something and they do it?”
She nodded vaguely. She’d seen something like that at the hospital when the doctor and police hadn’t wanted to release her. Almost magically they’d suddenly changed their minds and let her go, even though she was reported missing. The ability made her nervous at the time, and it did so again.
Without another word to the youth, she headed to the living room. Two teenage girls were seated on the couch, their eyes wide, while Jorick stood in front of them, talking in low tones.
“-There’s no such thing as vampires,” he said firmly. “Loren’s just a jerk who made up a story to get rid of you and, now that you know that, you’re both very mad. You never want to see him again. And you most certainly don’t want to be turned into vampires.” He laid a hand on each of the girls’ heads. “Now sleep, and when you wake up you’ll be over him and ready to move on with your lives.”
Katelina shivered as the girls’ eyes slid closed and their bodies went slack. My god, if he could do that to them, then what could he do to her if he chose?
Jorick turned towards the dining room doorway, his face a storm cloud, and shouted, “Loren! Go get your car! You can take me to town and we’ll get rid of these girls!”
The young vampire strolled into the room. He glanced nervously at the couch, muttered something unintelligible and then disappeared out the front door.
“Idiot,” Jorick muttered. “He fails to comprehend how much trouble he could get into for something like this.”
Katelina’s smile was strange and forced. “Luckily you were here to save him.”
One of the girls started to slip sideways, but Jorick caught her quickly and heaped her on her friend. Then he stepped back, hands on his hips, and surveyed them with an annoyed satisfaction.
Katelina shivered again. How did he do that? How could he make them sleep or decide to hate Loren? She was suddenly reminded of a conversation they’d had in the hospital. “I thought you said your influence didn’t last?”
Jorick looked up at her with surprise. “It won’t. The sleep will last until they wake up on their own, but I can only make them dislike Loren while I’m with them or, at most, half an hour after I’ve left them.”
She didn’t understand how that was going to help. “But won’t they come back again?”
“Maybe,” Jorick agreed. “But I doubt it. I gave them the suggestion to be angry at him and I gave them the reason. At that point they can chose to embrace it or shake it off once my influence is gone. As emotionally volatile as his ‘friend’ already is, I believe she’ll welcome the suggestion. The young love their over dramatized pity-me-because-I’ve-been-wronged approach to life.”
Katelina couldn’t deny that, but something still didn’t make sense. “So you’re saying you can give them the suggestion, even make them feel things as long as you’re with them, but as soon as you’re apart they can just ‘shake it off’? Like the doctor and the policeman that you convinced to let me out of the hospital?”
Jorick nodded. “No doubt ten minutes after we left, they were trying to figure out why they’d released you. The idea of letting you go went against what their conscious mind, and probably subconscious minds, wanted or thought was right. Because of that, they wouldn’t welcome such an idea willingly. But these girls,” he waved his hand at them. “They’re all drama and intrigue. That’s what they want, and so they’re more likely to take it.”
“So you can’t, you know, control people from a distance?”
Jorick gave an amused chuckle. “Are you concerned about that?” She didn’t answer, so he went on. “No, I can’t really control anyone to begin with, only influence. The amount of influence depends on how strong their mind and will is.”
She blinked disbelieving at his choice of words. “But you said the doctor didn’t want to release me? That’s a helluva a lot of influence!”
“Maybe,” Jorick agreed casually. His eyes skipped back to the girls on the couch and his face grew dark. “Loren and I are going to have a long, unpleasant conversation.”
Given his mood, she was certain the conversation would be unpleasant. However, a question remained. “So, who is he, anyway?”
“Loren? He lives about a mile down the beach and keeps an eye on things while I’m gone. As you’ve no doubt noticed, he’s not the smartest, but he’s useful now and again.” A deep scowl settled over his features. “However, he’s more than failed me this time. As if this little mess wasn’t enough, he didn’t bother to take care of the house. The yard especially. I should have known better. He’s afraid of lawnmowers, but he did promise he could handle it.”
That struck her as an odd statement on many levels. “Why’s he afraid of lawnmowers?”
Some of Jorick’s anger seemed to evaporate. “That’s how his brother was killed. They tied him down and ran a lawnmower over him.”
She shuddered involuntarily, a look of horror on her face. “Who’s ‘they’?”
But, before Jorick could reply, the front door opened and Loren reappeared.
“Good,” Jorick barked. “We’ll take them-” he paused uncertainly, then charged on ahead. “-Somewhere, and then we can stop at the store.” He looked at Katelina and his voice softened. “I’ll get you some food and some warmer clothes. This house is a bit drafty.”
“That’s an understatement,” she mumbled. “And how about some milk?”
“Right,” Jorick answered. “Milk. Loren, go find some paper and a pen so Katelina can make a list.”
Loren looked like he wanted to argue, but thought better of it, and ducked into the dining room. He reappeared with a yellow tablet and an ink pen and, while the males hefted the sleeping girls onto their shoulders, Katelina dashed out a shopping list. When she finished, she traded it to Jorick for a quick kiss and watched as they headed outside to the waiting car. They unceremoniously deposited the girls in the backseat. Then, with a wave, the vampires climbed in and the car disappeared down the driveway.
Katelina shut the door and leaned against it, still dazed. Of all the mornings she’d imagined, this wasn’t one of them.
The moon was high when Jorick and Loren returned. They deposited several plastic shopping bags on the couch and unpacked them without fanfare. Jorick presented her with a large stack of what appeared to be jeans and sweat shirts and a pair of white tennis shoes. Meanwhile, Loren took the food to the kitchen and Katelina tried not to look disappointed by the small cartons of microwave macaroni and cheese.
“They didn’t have most of the food on your list,” Jorick commented when he noticed her forlorn expression. “So I had to improvise.” He handed her another bag that held socks, underwear and a bottle of shiny pink nail polish. He waited until she’d rifled through it to ask, “It meets with your approval?”
“Yes,” she agreed enthusiastically, the frozen food forgotten in the face of the small pink bottle. It was something so tiny, that she’d had plenty of at home, and yet now it seemed like a precious commodity. It was something sane amidst the chaos of irrationality.
She made herself a frozen pizza and then took a long, hot shower. When she was dry, she dressed happily in jeans and a long sleeved shirt. Warm and clean, she brushed her hair and made her way back to the front room.
She walked through the doorway to find fresh wood stacked in the basket by the hearth, and a cheerful fire crackling in the fireplace. Loren was flopped on the couch with one foot resting on the coffee table and his dark locks shading his eyes. His hand lay on his leg and he drummed his fingers to some private rhythm no one else could hear.
Jorick sat in the high backed chair closest to the door, his legs crossed and a serious expression on his face. His dark eyes flicked to Katelina as she entered, and he nodded to acknowledge her presence before he looked back at Loren and continued the conversation they’d been having. “- And then we came here, of course.”
Katelina dropped down on the rug before the fireplace and retrieved the bottle of nail polish from the bag. She had no desire to hear her last two weeks recapped. They’d been bad enough in the first person.
“You still could have called,” Loren muttered, hurt. “The last time I heard from you was in June!”
“I know. I’m sorry. Perhaps I should have let you know.”
“Perhaps?” Loren scowled and then shrugged it off. “Ah, I guess it’s a’right. You were busy.” His eyes slid sideways to Katelina and then snapped back when he realized she’d seen him. “So, uh, this Kateesha. She’s the one everyone hates, right?”
“Yes,” Jorick said quietly, his voice and face giving away no emotion. “The one that Malick made.”
Loren bobbed his head, and Katelina cut into the conversation, “Why does everyone hate her? Besides the fact she’s an evil bitch?”
Loren covered his mouth and choked on a laugh while Jorick frowned at them both. “Kateesha’s too ambitious,” he explained. “She’s stepped on a lot of toes.”
The conversation from the car came to mind, so Katelina decided to see just how chatty Jorick was feeling. “Why does Torina hate her? She said she owed her a debt.”
Jorick tilted his head as if considering how many of the old, dirty secrets to divulge. “Kateesha killed her first lover. Armus, I believe his name was. He interfered with one of her acquirements, a new vampire named Shawnine.” Both the faces that stared back at him were blank, so he sighed impatiently and explained, “Armus took Shawnine as a lover, though, to this day Torina refuses to believe he was unfaithful to her. He must have been, though, or Kateesha wouldn’t have killed him like she did.” He held up a hand as Loren’s mouth opened. “Before you ask, he was burned alive.” His face twitched almost painfully. “That was a popular method, once upon a time.”
They both cringed and then Loren perked up. “But if he was with Torina, why did Kateesha care?”
Jorick all but rolled his eyes. “Shawnine was Kateesha’s lover. Her appetite does not extend to men alone.”
“Oh!” A smirk settled on Loren’s lips and he all but sniggered.
“It’s far more common than you’d think,” Jorick commented. “Society only frowns on it in cycles. I believe it’s fashionable now, again, isn’t it?” He looked to Katelina who only blinked back uncertainly.
Loren grinned at some imagined idea and Jorick glared at him. The smile slipped off his face and he stared guiltily at the floor. “So, um, what about this war on The Guild?”
Jorick dismissed the subject with a wave of his hand. “It doesn’t concern us. We owe them no allegiance. Malick can’t force me to fight with them.” He leveled his gaze with the younger vampire. “And you owe them nothing.”
Loren’s brow furrowed. “I didn’t mean on The Guild’s side, I meant Oren’s.” Jorick didn’t respond, and slowly a scowl settled on Loren’s face. “Let me guess, I’ll stay here as usual?”
Jorick studied him in silence and then said quietly. “You’re young still, Loren. Why do you want to fight vampires whose blood is older than yours and whose strength is a hundred times greater? Do you value your life so little?”
“No!” The young vampire’s spine snapped straight. “Of course not! I just get bored staying here all the time. If you’da let me go and help with Arowenia-”
Jorick cut him off. “If I’d let you go, you’d be dead by now. How many people do you think I can take care of at once?”
Loren stomped his foot on the floor. “I don’t need to be taken care of Jorick! Come on! I could have stopped Kateesha from taking her!” He jerked his head towards Katelina, who listened to the two with wide eyes.
“No, you couldn’t!”Jorick snapped back. He repented suddenly and ran a hand through his long hair. When he spoke again his voice was lighter. “Kateesha would have eaten your heart and I’d have returned to a house that was even dustier.”
“Man, I’m not just a housekeeper!” Loren objected, hurt. “Seriously! I could have done something.”
Jorick sighed. “Sometimes inaction is the best course, young one. You should learn this lesson now, lest you find yourself in the same position as your brother one day.”
Loren glared angrily into the distance and Jorick disappeared into his own world. His dark eyes reflected unspoken specters from the past. Katelina listened to the fire crackle and finished her nails, her mind full of questions that were too rude to ask with Loren present. Luckily, by the time her nails were dry, the teenager was on his feet and headed for the door.
“I’ll be back, later.”
“I hope you aren’t planning to do anything rash?” Jorick asked without bothering to stop him.
Loren’s jaw tightened. “No, I’m not.”
Jorick nodded and the boy left, slamming the door behind him. Once he was gone, Katelina took his vacated spot on the sofa and leaned back. She watched Jorick for a moment and then asked conversationally, “So, who killed Loren’s brother?”
“We can discuss it later,” he answered shortly. He stood and stretched like a cat after a nap. “I’ll return.” He brushed a kiss across her forehead, and then followed Loren out the door, undoubtedly to make sure he stayed out of trouble.
“At least they started a fire before they left,” she muttered to herself and eyed the books. “Looks like it’s just you and me now, huh?”
The books didn’t answer.