WARNING: Language, mild sexual content and violence
As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time. so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…
(You can find Michael in Shades of Gray. This story takes place roughly two and half years before Shades of Gray starts)
Michael’s mother shoved a piece of paper into his hand. “Call them.”
He muted the TV and glanced disinterestedly at the phone number scrawled in hurried ink. “Who is it?”
“It’s a about a job, Mikey. You’ve been out for two months and all you do is lay on the couch and watch TV. Pat’s more productive than you, and that’s saying something. I told you the only way you’re staying here is if you work!”
“What kinda work is it?”
Yard work? What did his mom think he was? “I don’t know shit about yard work and I’m too smart for that crap anyway. I’m not some manual laborer.”
“No, you’re so clever, aren’t you? So clever that you landed yourself in jail! For God’s sake where else are you going to get a job with two drug convictions?” She tossed a cell phone onto his chest. “Call.”
There was no point in arguing when she was in one of her moods – not for him anyway. His brother Patrick could have sweet talked her, but hell, he could sweet talk a harpy if he put his mind to it. “Fine, whatever. I’m callin’, I’m callin.”
He dialed the number and waited. The rings peeled off, one, two, three, four, five –
“Hello?” The voice had an accent that made Michael think of Mr. Belvedere. “The Durand residence. How may I help you?”
“Um, yeah. My mom told me to call about the lawn job or whatever.”
There was a pause and then, “Are you enquiring for the sake of employment?”
Mr. Belvederedrew an audible breath through his nose. “Name please?”
“Mr. Mullins, please come to the manor tonight after dark. The master will wish to speak with you.” He gave him a handful of directions, then bid him a crisp goodbye.
At his mother’s question, Michael snapped the phone closed and tossed it back to her. “I have to see ‘the master’ tonight.” He tried to add the right snooty inflection, but failed. “Sounds like a pain in the ass.”
Michael found the ‘manor’ easily enough – it was the only set of iron gates in the county. He drove through them, his eyes wide. The house was huge. Made of stone, it was decorated at seemingly random intervals with angels and gargoyles, like something from a horror flick. Bright light shone from its many windows in yellow patches.
Michael wasn’t sure where to park, so he pulled the Geo off to the side. On his way to the front porch, he paused at a large carved fountain ringed with cherubs. On closer inspection, he discovered that the seemingly innocent angels had bat wings and fangs.
“Man this place is whack!”
The front door was large and made of polished wood and frosted glass. The sound of music and laughter leaked out through it and he wondered if they were having a party.
He knocked and the door was opened by a tall thin man in a suit. “Yes?”
The accent and attitude were the same as the man on the phone. “Um, yeah, I was supposed to come about the yard job?”
“Of course.” The butler – Michael was sure that was what he had to be – looked down his nose. “This way please.”
He led Michael into a grand entrance hall. A set of sweeping staircases filled one wall and glittering chandeliers hung from the ceiling. At the far end, between the staircases, a set of French doors opened onto a room full of people. Michael caught a glimpse of glittering jewelry and swishing skirts before the butler led him away.
He followed the man down a long hallway to a small white office. “Wait here.” And then the butler shut the door and disappeared.
Michael moved uncertainly to a green velvet chair and sat down in front of a large desk. His eyes roamed the room; a suit of armor stood in one corner. Jeweled medieval weapons hung on the walls and glinted from glass fronted display cabinets. Above the desk hung an old portrait of a mustached man, and a well polished silver sword.
The door suddenly opened and the butler walked in, followed by a young sneering man who might have been eighteen. His blonde hair was pulled back and he was dressed in a ruffled shirt and vest like someone from one of the PBS shows Michael’s mother watched.
They must be having some kind of costume party.
The young man moved behind the desk and glared at Michael as if he expected him to do something.
“Hello?” he suggested.
The young man looked ready to shout, but instead he drew a deep breath and sat down. Without a word, he gestured to the butler.
The servant quickly took his place next to the desk. “The master would like to welcome you.”
The master? Fuck he’s just a kid! Must be fucking nice to get born into all of this!
The butler explained the job. It was basic grounds keeping; mowing, hedge trimming, cleaning out the creepy fountain. Basically, he only needed to worry about the front and side lawns. The extensive gardens in the back of the property were under the domain of the gardener.
When he finished, Michael asked, “How much does it pay?”
“Two hundred dollars a week.”
For two hundred dollars Michael wanted to say no, but he thought of his mom. She was right. Where the hell else was he gonna get a job with no references and no questions asked?
There were no contracts to sign, only the instructions to be back the next morning. The master glared at him with searing eyes. At the first chance, Michael stood and gave a quick, “Okay, thanks. I’ll be here tomorrow.”
He made it to the door before a cold voice drawled, “There is one more thing.”
Michael turned around to find the blonde kid staring at him. “Uh, what?”
“We value our privacy. At no time are you to be in the house, unless you are invited in. Do you understand?” A thousand terrible threats glittered in his eyes and suddenly that house was the last place Michael wanted to be.
“What if I have a problem or something?”
“Then you will knock on the door and wait for someone to answer it and address your problem.”
Michael managed to nod and with a gesture he was dismissed.
He couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The next morning, Michael’s mom kicked him off the couch and out the door. The manor was only slightly more friendly in the sunlight. The fanged cherubs in the fountain seemed to leer at him as he parked the Geo and made his way to the door.
The butler showed him to a shed where the tools were, including a brand new lawn mower. He gave him a set of basic instructions and waved towards the collection as if their actual functions were beneath him. Then he left.
What the fuck did I get myself into?
Michael was sweaty and out of sorts by the time he got home. His brother was on the porch, a beer in his hand. “Have fun at work?”
“Ah, fuck you, Pat.” Michael dropped next to him and groaned. “My back is killing me.”
Patrick snickered. “So how’d the first day go?”
“Like shit. The fucking butler is a prick. After I got done he walked around the yard pointing out everything I missed and said next time I should do a more ‘thorough job’. I’ll give him a thorough job, ass hole.”
Patrick laughed. “You gonna quit?”
Before he could answer, his mom leaned out the door and quipped, “No, he’s not!” She leveled her gaze with Michael. “If you quit this job, then you can find somewhere else to live. And you-“ she jabbed Patrick in the back “-if you encourage him you’ll be out on your ass, too. It’s time you both grow up and take responsibility for your lives.”
She went on and Patrick mimed a chattering mouth with his hand. Michael snorted and snagged his beer. It wasn’t as if they hadn’t heard this before. It’s like some kind of periodic ritual.
The job didn’t improve; it got weirder and worse. He hadn’t seen the master – or anyone for that matter – since his interview. It was like the whole place was deserted, except for the butler. The asshole of a butler. The man was too picky. Every time he inspected Michael’s work, he’d add something new that Michael needed to do. By the third week it took so long to get everything done that he was working into twilight.
Michael slammed the shed door closed and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The night bugs were already screaming in the trees and lights were popping on in the manor’s many windows. This might only be three days a week, but it ain’t worth this shit for two hundred bucks.
He clomped towards the house and banged on the door – the side door, they couldn’t have the lowly help accessing the front entrance, now could they? – and waited for the butler. If that jackass finds something to criticize tonight I swear to God I’ll fucking quit. He can do his own fucking weed whacking!
The door opened, but instead of the sneering, suited man, there was a bald guy with cold gray eyes. “What d’ya want?”
“A million dollars, what do you think? I just finished the yard and I’m going home.”
“Oh, you’re the yard guy. You better come in and tell Miguel. This isn’t my deal.”
Michael wanted to argue, but there was something about the man’s eyes that made him shiver. Like that master guy. “Yeah, okay.”
He followed the bald guy into the house. He led him through a pair of paneled rooms and into a large, sparkling kitchen. The butler stood next to a table, supervising a pair of women who were frantically packing ice into what looked like a giant punch bowl. He looked up and narrowed his eyes at Michael. “What do you want?”
The bald guy answered for him. “He’s done with the yard and he looks pretty worn out.” He clamped a hand on Michael’s back. Though the gesture was supposed to seem friendly, it made Michael shiver. “I thought we might invite him to the party.”
The butler winced. “As you wish, Master Troy, though perhaps you should ask the master’s permission?”
“Ah, Claudius won’t mind. He was moaning last night about how bored he was.”
Though Troy stood behind him, Michael could almost feel his smile. It made his skin crawl. “That’s okay. I should probably get home, anyway.”
“Nonsense. It’ll be great. The best party you’ll ever go to!” With a little too much force he steered him towards the door and through the house to the entrance way. Michael was surprised to see several people, all dressed to the teeth, loitering near the stairs. In the center of the group was the blonde haired kid – the master, again dressed like something form a historical.
He turned to the new arrivals and his face turned dark. “What are you doing in the house?”
Troy answered for him. “It’s okay, I invited him in. We need some new blood at these things.” He broke into a boisterous laugh that was taken up by a few of the others.
The hilarity melted away as a group of young women came down the stairs. Michael had to forcibly hold his mouth closed. Holy shit! They’re fucking’ hot! Though hot didn’t do them justice; they were beautiful, like something off of TV or a glossy magazine page and he couldn’t look away.
It was the girl in the middle of the group who knocked the breath from his chest. Her hair was long and pale blonde and she wore a midnight blue dress that fell to her feet. She came to a stop before them and Michael choked. Her eyes matched her dress and they were like staring into an endless ocean. For a wild moment he wanted to drown in them and forget everything else, but the reality of her age pulled him back. She couldn’t have been a day over fifteen.
Too fuckin’ young for you. That’s jail bait right there.
Claudius caught her hand and brushed his lips across it. As he dropped it, he looked to Troy. “Should your joke go amiss, you’ll take his place mowing the lawn.”
Troy’s demeanor changed for a moment, like slipping from one shirt to the next. “As you command.” He gave a stiff, formal bow and then tugged Michael away. “Come on boy, those aren’t the ones you’re looking for.”
Michael followed, still wrapped in the spell of her ocean colored eyes. It was only the giggles of a threesome of women that pulled him out of it. He blinked at them stupidly. Man, more hotties? What is this place? Like the playboy mansion?
The darker of the three grabbed him by the front of his tank top and pulled him towards her. “It could be,” she murmured, her breath cool on his face. “Why don’t you come with us and find out?”
Warning bells went off in the back of his mind, but they were muffled by another thought. When am I ever gonna get a chance at something this hot again? The answer was never and he wasn’t about the throw away his one shot.
Troy seemed to evaporate. Michael looked from the spot he’d been standing in to find he was in a ball room. One wall was made of shining mirrors and, as he watched, one of the panels opened in the shape of a door – a secret door – and a well dressed couple slid out. The woman dripped with jewels and the man-
“Are you coming?”
Michael looked to the girls, and managed to nod. With a chorus of giggles, they led him through a maze of glittering rooms. His eyes strayed from their breasts to the opulent surroundings long enough to think, Holy shit, this guy’s got more money than I thought, but then his attention was pulled back to the ladies, almost against his will.
The room they stopped in was a bedroom, or it had the air of a bedroom, but there was no bed. Only a chaise lounge and a scattering of other furniture. The girls pulled him to the lounge and knocked him back onto it. He laid back, a stupid grin on his face as the darker girl hitched up her skirt so that she could climb on top of him, straddling him with a pair of long, tanned legs. She leaned close to him. Her lips moved down his jaw and to his throat, where they stopped. She flicked out her tongue and licked him, as if testing the flavor. He moaned and shifted, arching his back and grinding his hips into her. Over her shoulder he could see the other two girls, holding hands and licking their lips.
“Are you ready for the night of your life?” she asked, her voice a whisper against his skin.
Patrick let out a lungful of smoke. “And then what?”
Michael shook his head and snagged the joint back. “I dunno man, it’s all a blur after that.” He took a hit and held the smoke, though it leaked out with his words. “I’m tellin’ ya though, whatever it was, it was fuckin’ wild.”
“Yeah, no shit. I can see the hickies.” Patrick took the joint back and balanced it in his fingers. “It looks like they chewed on your neck.”
Michael exhaled the smoke and ignored his comment. “I been thinkin’ about something. I mean, shit they got a lot of stuff in that house. I mean a lot of stuff that has to be worth a fortune.”
“They’re rich man, that tends to happen.”
“No, you’re not getting me. Think about it. They got all this really rich stuff, right? But there’s no one there all day. I mean no one.”
“Are you listening to me? Man, you’re like ignoring me. You’re always ignoring me.”
Patrick giggled, “Okay, say it again. I’m listening.”
“There’s no one there and they got all this stuff. There’s just that fucking butler, Miguel hanging around. I hate that prick. I hate that fucking smarmy master kid, he thinks he’s so clever. I know he does. He sat there are smarmy mouthed and shit like he was better than me, but he ain’t, and he ain’t smarter. I’m smarter. I’m smarter and I’m gonna use my brains. I hate that job but I need money. We go in, we take the shit, and we sell it for money. And if that prick of a butler catches us we fucking kill him.”
Patrick exploded into laughter. “Are you fucking serious?”
Michael frowned. “Yeah, I’m fucking serious. We could be rich. Rich enough to get outta this place and buy a real life.”
Patrick exhaled a thick cloud of smoke and eyed his brother. “Man, money don’t buy a life. You want a life, you gotta do something with it.”
“And you gotta have money to do that.” Despite his buzz, Michael felt suddenly sour. “You in or what?”
“Come on Mikey-”
“Don’t Mikey me. Are you fucking in or out?”
Patrick’s good mood flickered. “You’re just fucked up. When you sober up-”
“In or out?”
All signs of amusement disappeared. “I’m out, Mikey. It’s a stupid plan that’s gonna get your ass back in jail.”
“Fine. Who needs you anyway? You know what? Fuck you.” He jerked to his feet. “I’ll do it on my own.”
Patrick snorted. “Only a moron would do it.”
Angry words stuck in Michael’s throat and his only response was a strangled noise of fury before he slammed out the door.
The sun was high in the sky when Michael stopped. He dropped the weed whacker to the ground and leaned against the house. I don’t give a fuck what Pat says. I’m sick of this shit.
He reached into his pocket and wrapped his fingers around the cool metal of the gun. It was just a Colt Junior, snagged from his mother’s purse, but it was enough to take care of Miguel if he needed to. Part of him hoped the fucking butler got nosey. He could picture the self-righteous prick with a hole between his eyes.
He kicked the weed whacker for good measure and marched towards the house. Instead of knocking on the side door, he threw it opened and charged inside. He paused in the doorway to the next room, waiting, the gun drawn and ready in his nervous hand.
When Miguel didn’t appear, Michael lowered the weapon and tried to come up with a plan. He hadn’t brought a bag and since he was alone he couldn’t carry much. It would be better to find a couple of small things that were worth a lot.
He thought of the bejeweled weapons in the office, and hurried through the unfamiliar house, opening doors. When he finally found the office, he also found the butler.
Miguel was hunched over the desk, a drawer opened and his eyes bulging with guilt and surprise. He was going through ‘the master’s’ stuff, but Michael didn’t care. He raised the gun in a single motion and, before the startled butler could react, he pulled the trigger.
The sound was loud; louder than Michael had expected. He stared, dumbfounded at the butler, who stared back. Then Miguel looked down to where a red spot blossomed against his white shirt. With a strangled gasp, he clutched his bleeding chest and exclaimed, “Oh my God!” before he tumbled backwards and fell over the chair.
Michael held the gun out and noticed that the barrel shook. Holy fuck. I shot him. I fucking shot him. Oh my God.
He staggered back and dropped the gun. He could hear the butler moaning. Why is he making so much noise? Shut up! Shut up!
He hurried around the desk and stared down at him. Miguel lay half on his side, clutching his chest. Blood leaked from between his fingers. Michael’s hands clenched and unclenched and he looked around wildly. What should he do? Should he hit him in the head with something? His eyes landed on the silver sword on the wall and he thoughtlessly pulled it down.
He turned back to Miguel and raised the sword like a baseball bat. The butler choked and grabbed his leg. His blood smeared on Michael’s jeans. He stared ta it; at the bright red against the pale blue denim. Miguel gasped out, “Help me.”
Michael slammed him in the head with the flat of the blade. Miguel cried out and he did it again and again and again. The room blurred and he lost track of it; lost track of himself. When he came back to reality he was shocked to see Miguel’s face and head beaten and sliced into a bloody pulp.
He backed away and dropped the sword to the floor. His arms were speckled with blood. Miguel’s blood. Somehow this didn’t feel like he thought. It had all gone wrong.
He ran from the room. His feet pounded down the corridor until he saw a bathroom. He ducked inside, his stomach heaving, but there was no toilet; only a sink and a bathtub. He turned in helpless circles. Bile gagged into his throat and mouth and he lurched for the tub. The vomit hit with enough force to splash back. Just like Miguel’s blood. The thought made him wretch harder.
When his stomach was empty he fell back on the floor, exhausted. He had to fix this. It was all fucked up and he had to fix it.
Wash away the blood, he told himself. He stood on shaking legs and turned on the sink. Fancy hand towels hung nearby and he wet them down and savagely swiped at the blood that speckled his arms, chest and face. Just get rid of the blood. It’s okay. It’s okay.
He dropped the ruined towel in the sink and stared at himself in the mirror. Wild blue eyes stared back; eyes that didn’t have a plan. He needed a plan. He’d killed someone and if he got caught it wouldn’t be jail this time, but prison. He’d have to get out of the country. Maybe Mexico? But to do that he needed money.
He took a deep breath. Come on man, you’re smart. You can do this. And he could. He was in a fucking mansion surrounded by money. He just needed to grab something and get out. But what? He couldn’t stand the thought of going back to the office. Fuck, there’s stuff everywhere. Just grab something.
When he could walk with steady steps he followed the corridor back to the entrance hall. His eyes fell on the double French doors and the ballroom beyond He thought of the mirrored wall and the secret door. If the stuff upstairs was worth a fortune then what would be down there?
He felt along the wall, desperate fingers scrabbling at the smooth glass. “How the fuck do you open this? Come on!”
As if by command, something clicked and the door sprang opened. He gave a soft cry of delight and ran down the dark narrow stairs. The light gave out before he reached the bottom and he stumbled when he hit the floor. He flicked his cigarette lighter to life and examined the room by its wavering flame. Candles in massive golden holders stood on either side of the door. He hurried to light one of them, then turned back to the room to find ten large wooden boxes neatly arranged in rows. Excitement coursed through him as he thought about what must be inside. He envisioned gold, like treasure from a long forgotten children’s cartoon.
He hurried to the first and pried open the lid. There was no gold inside, but a man with a pale face and closed eyes.
Holy shit! He’s dead!
Michael jumped back and knocked into the candleholder. It fell with a clatter and the candle went out. In the dark he scrambled for his lighter and flicked it to life in time to see the figure leering over him, mouth opened, fangs gleaming.
He grabbed the fallen candlestick and swung it. It slammed into the guy’s head and sent him sprawling. Michael scrambled to his feet and raced up the stairs, his heart pounding in time to his footfalls. He skidded through the ballroom and out the double back doors to the sun drenched veranda. He cast a look back and saw the guy burst through the secret door, half of his head bashed in and bleeding.
Oh my God! How is he still walking? He should be dead!
The man saw him, and with a fanged, inhuman snarl lunged towards him, but stopped just before he reached the pool of late afternoon sunlight that spilled through the doors. He gave a wordless cry of fury, and then turned and shouted, “Miguel! Where the hell are you, you worthless piece of shit? Miguel!”
Several more men appeared, storming through the secret door, fangs bared. Just as the first had done, they skidded to a halt at the edge of the sunlight.
Michael was frozen in place by terror, but when no attack came his muscles began to uncoil. What the fuck? Why aren’t they coming out here to get me?
And then he decided he didn’t care why. With a final, horrified look at the snarling crowd, he ran.
He took a shower and changed his clothes. His mother came home from work. She made dinner. He ate. Patrick came shuffling in the door, smelling like alcohol and cracking jokes. Despite the fact there was a dead butler at the manor, the police didn’t come. The world moved on just as it always had and Michael floated above it in a surreal bubble of confusion.
Maybe I dreamed it? He ducked into the bathroom and fished through the hamper for his jeans. Speckled and smeared with blood, they matched his memories. Something had happened at that house.
He had a word for what they were; what he thought they were, but it felt ridiculous on his tongue. Vampires weren’t real. They couldn’t be. And yet, there they’d been, or something very like them. He’d seen their fangs. He’d seen them stop at the patch of sunlight. There was no other explanation and, despite the absurdity, so many things made sense now. Why the house was deserted in the daytime, why there was a secret door, and coffin-like boxes in the basement. Why they hadn’t gone to the police yet. It was because they couldn’t risk an investigation!
With that realization, Michael relaxed. He was safe. They couldn’t do anything to him because he knew; he knew what they were and if they so much as breathed wrong he’d tell everyone. He’d take the police to the manor in the daylight, show them the secret door and lead them down to the basement. He’d tell the whole God damned world! And then what would they do?
The more he thought about it, the more he realized his silence was worth something. They had plenty of money. They could afford to give him some. No, they should give him some! He deserved it!
He jammed the jeans back in the hamper and strode through the house. His mom and Patrick were on the couch, he tossed “I’ll be back,” at them and headed out the door. As it shut behind him he heard Patrick laughingly call, “Have a happy journey!”
The lights were blazing in the manor windows when Michael parked the Geo. He climbed out, straightened his shoulders and marched to the front porch where he pounded on the door. Fuck having to slink in the side entrance.
The door opened and Troy stared at him. “Well, well, you came back.” He grinned, his fangs clearly visible.
Michael flinched back from the teeth. His cowardice embarrassed him, and he snapped out, “Damn straight I came back. I want to talk to Claudius. Now.”
Troy moved back so he could enter, “Then come on in.”
Michael walked into the entrance hall. People – no, vampires – stood around in tiny clusters, holding glasses of red wine. No, not wine. I bet that’s blood.
At that thought Michael suddenly wasn’t so sure of himself, but he’d be damned if he let them know it!
He followed Troy past the curious stares and down the hallway, towards the office. As they walked, they passed the three women from the other night. The ladies giggled and waved at him. Their full lips curved into fanged smiles and they laughed when he winced away.
Troy stopped and held the office door opened. “In here. I’ll go fetch Claudius.”
Michael hesitated. Behind his eyes he pictured Miguel lying on the floor in a pool of blood, his face and head mutilated. He couldn’t face that room, but he didn’t have a choice. Without waiting for a response, Troy walked away and there was nothing for him to do but go inside.
Come on, you can do it. Just go in there and get this shit over with.
He forced his feet to move over the threshold and then into the room. The silver sword he’d used on Miguel was clean and hanging on the wall above the old portrait. What did you expect? Did you think they just left the mess?
He sat in the green velvet chair in front of the desk and waited. When Claudius swept through the door, Michael’s heart froze in his chest. He took his place behind the desk and crossed one leg over the other. Troy followed and stopped next to the desk, an amused twinkle in his eyes.
When Michael didn’t speak, Claudius snapped, “What do you want?”
This guy is just a kid, Michael reminded himself. I’m older than he is. He’s just a stupid kid and I’m smarter. I’ll show him. He cleared his throat and announced with as much bravado as he could muster, “I know what you are.”
Claudius arched a single brow and tapped his fingers on the desk. “Do you, now? Somehow I doubt it.”
“I do,” Michael insisted. “You’re-” the word stuck, as if it was too silly to say. “You’re vampires.”
“Well, well. It seems you’re more intelligent than I gave you credit for.” Claudius leaned back in his chair. “So, we’re vampires. What of it?”
Shit. Michael had expected him to deny it. Some rational part of himself had even hoped Claudius would simply laugh and churn out another explanation – an explanation that made more sense. His voice turned hard to hide his discomfort, “So if you want me to keep quiet you’re gonna have to make it worth my while. I want one million dollars, in cash, or I tell everyone I can find.”
Claudius made a strange noise in his throat and stood, his back to Michael and his eyes on the portrait that hung over his desk. “Do you know who this is?”
Michael blinked at the non sequitur. “What?”
“The portrait.” Claudius turned to face him, his eyes cold, blue fire. “He was my father.” Claudius fetched the silver sword down from the wall and Michael shifted uncomfortably. The young man held it at arm’s length, as if checking the edge. “Do you know what happened to him?”
The atmosphere in the room changed perceptibly, and Michael looked to the door, only to see that Troy now stood in front of it, that fanged smile on his face. “No.”
Claudius’ tone was emotionless. “I killed him, with this sword. And do you know what I learned?”
Beads of sweat popped out on Michael’s forehead. “Uh, no?”
“I learned that it’s all rather pointless. Even a worthy foe is not so worthy once they’ve fallen at your feet in a pool of their own blood. And an unworthy foe… Well…” He looked to Troy. “Deal with him.”
Michael yelped and tried to get out of the chair, but Troy was too fast. He pinned him back, fangs flashing as he bit though his throat. Michael screamed and fought, hands and arms flailing. He managed to pitch himself, chair and all, backwards, and scrambled away, his neck torn and screaming in pain. He pressed a hand to it and came away with a palm full of blood. His own blood.
Troy lunged at him again, Michael dodged, but only barely. The bald vampire grabbed him and threw him across the room. He smashed into one of the display cases in a flurry of glass and bits of wood.
“Watch the furniture!” Claudius shouted.
Michael tried to scramble to his feet, but his leg wouldn’t work right. He looked to see it bent at an odd angle. Oh fuck, it’s broken. Oh fuck. Oh-
Troy grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him up. He shrieked as his weight landed on his leg. He had a momentary glimpse of Troy’s flashing fangs before the vampire ripped into his throat again.
The pain was more than Michael could stand. It radiated out from the bite, like fire under his skin. He twitched and tried to scream, though the sound was more a gurgle than a cry. The edges of his vision turned black and the room smeared; shiny white walls, shiny metal weapons.
Troy obeyed Caudius’ command and dropped Michael back to the floor in a bloody heap. He choked on his own blood and reached a hand to his neck to try to stem the flow. Oh God.
Claudius stood over him, a self satisfied smirk on his cold face. “You thought you could get the best of me? You, a petty mortal! Where is your cleverness now? You’re out of your depth and now your fear flows out behind you in crimson rivers. Death stands behind you in the shadows, ready to drag you to hell. Was it worth it?”
Troy leaned casually on the desk. “Death is too good for someone like this. I got a better idea.”
Claudius snapped his attention to his subordinate, no doubt angry that his poetic scene had been interrupted. “And what would that be?”
“We should keep him. Since he killed Miguel we’re short handed.”
Claudius clucked his tongue and looked over Michael’s bleeding, broken form. “We have enough humans, I don’t want any more. Especially one we can’t trust.”
Troy’s cruel eyes turned crueler. “Then don’t leave him human. Have someone turn him.” His gaze shifted to the group of vampires who stood in the hall, peering in, no doubt drawn by the noise. Among them was a young woman in a red dress, her eyes on the floor. “Elsa’s a fairly new vampire and since Lennon turned her she doesn’t have any powers to pass on. Of course, you could just kill him, if you think that would be a better punishment. I just thought that dragging it out might make him think twice.”
The room tilted and Claudius’ answer turned into an ocean of unintelligible words in Michael’s ears. He tried to concentrate on what was happening, but it slipped through his grasp. Not like this. I can’t die like this.
Though Michael missed the beginning of the sentence he knew those words were a command. He looked up to see Elsa standing near him. Like all the other women there she was beautiful. Hell, even the men were beautiful. He was dying, surrounded by the beautiful people.
Elsa looked down at him, pity in her eyes. The command was repeated and her shoulders slouched with defeat. She knelt down, her knees in his blood. It was red, like her dress, like her lips, like the ring that was slowly expanding around his vision; a red circle slowly expanding to blot out the world.
Elsa wrinkled her nose at the mess on his neck and lifted his arm to her mouth. He felt her breath on his skin as she hesitated and then, with a last look to Claudius, she bit.
Michael gave a gurgle; a gurgle of blood, death, fear. Pain radiated from the bite, hot and burning, then morphed to something else; cool, soothing ocean waves that lapped over him. He looked at her, looked at her red lips wrapped around his arm, the curl of hair that fell in her face and those deep, brown eyes; eyes filled full of pity. Pity for him. Pity for her and pity for the new life he would lead.
A life of punishment.
Who’s the clever one now?
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