Katelina finally gets her beach vacation, but it’s not everything she dreamed. How could it be with the companions she’s got? Strap in for a collection of six short stories about surf, sun, and… um… I mean surf, moonlight and vampires.
Verchiel leaned back in the hot tub and peered over his sunglasses. The accessories were pointless at night, but he was determined to embrace everything about the island getaway. Just because he was a vampire didn’t mean he should have to miss out.
A broad shouldered vampire with long, black hair strolled past, a blonde human female on his arm. Verchiel grinned and waved. “Hey, Jorick! Kately! Check it out!”
Jorick turned and gave Verchiel a cold once over, and Katelina said, “It’s a hot tub. We’ve seen it the last five days we were here.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t been in it!” He reached for the control panel and turned on the jets. “Look at this!” he shouted over the noise. “I’m almost floating away!”
“We could only hope,” Jorick said.
Verchiel switched the jets off. “That’s not very nice. Here I am, inviting you to join me for some relaxing socializing, and I get rude comments. I don’t know.”
“You’re not inviting us to be nice,” Katelina said with a roll of her eyes. “You’re just doing it to be aggravating.”
He clutched his chest. “I’m hurt at your harsh words! You wound me! That you would take my good intentions and twist them so…” he trailed off and then grinned. “Ah, come on. It’s not like you’re doing anything else.”
“Jorick isn’t dressed for it,” Katelina said, pointing to the vampire’s dark slacks and long sleeved black pullover. Verchiel thought he detected a hint of aggravation. Though the human wore a floppy shirt, underneath was a swimsuit. At least she was ready for the beach.
“He can sit on the sidelines,” Verchiel suggested innocently. “Three of us in here would be crowded anyway. I know! Even better! He could jog back to the house and wallow in his gloom and emo outfits, and you and I could have some much needed alone time.”
Jorick gave a long, low growl and started forward, but Katelina pulled him back. “We’re supposed to be on vacation. That means vacation from trying to kill idiots.”
Jorick snorted and then led her away, casting a threatening look back. Verchiel waved in reply, and then settled down into the warm water. At least he’d tried.
He adjusted his sunglasses and tried to slide down until he could kick his feet up on the edge. He was too short, and ended up with his head under the water. His sunglasses floated away and he lay there for a moment, looking through the liquid veil at the night sky. He could see the edge of one of the island mansions, hulking and crowned in dry palm leaves, like a transformed island hut.
Minutes ticked by and he finally got bored and popped to the surface, his bright red hair streaming. He wiped water from his eyes and peered at the expanse of swaying palms to his right. He could sense someone, though he couldn’t smell them. He leaned over the edge of the tub and inhaled deeply. The scent of grass and leaves, damp earth, fungus, sand, and sea mixed together in an overwhelming cacophony. Underneath it, he found the thread of a fragrance. Immortal and tinted with fresh blood and expensive perfume. It was Torina.
Verchiel snatched his sunglasses and propped them on his head, then plastered a casual smile across his face as she stepped out of the vegetation. Her long red hair fell around her shoulders, and an emerald green bikini clung to her curvy body. Her naked skin gleamed creamy and porcelain in the yard lights.
She paused and flicked her green eyes over him. Verchiel nodded, and pressed on the edges of her mind. He could see the bald crest of the hill and a human male. He didn’t need to go any further to figure the rest out.
“Well hello there,” he said cheerfully. “And where have you been?”
She crossed her arms over her ample breasts. “Walking. I can guess where you’ve been.”
“Right here,” he answered. “Best seat on the island.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “It looks lonely.”
“Why don’t you join me and change that?” He flashed her a fanged grin.
She rolled her eyes. “Sorry, I got trapped by Loren and Micah earlier. I’ve had my quota of moron for the day.”
“Then isn’t it lucky I’m not a moron?”
She gave him a condescending look. “If you say so.” She started towards the beach and then turned back. “I don’t suppose you know where my brother is?”
“He’s on the patio, I think.” Verchiel jerked his thumb towards the backside of the second island house. “He’s spending some quality time with his human.”
Torina drew herself up. “She is not his human! She’s just a mortal leech who’s attached herself to him. He’ll scrape her off soon.”
“I wouldn’t count on that. They both seem pretty comfortable with the arrangement.”
“No he isn’t.”
Verchiel made a point to yawn. “Then why hasn’t he sent her packing yet? I don’t know about Oren, but I wouldn’t voluntarily spend my first vacation in three centuries being harassed by a human I couldn’t stand. I think he likes her company.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Torina said icily.
“Why? What’s not to like? She doesn’t chatter, doesn’t ask questions, and doesn’t make demands. She sits quietly, and when he wants anything she runs and fetches it. She’s like an admiring personal servant.”
“She’s annoying,” Torina snapped. “At least Jorick’s stupid human doesn’t worship the ground he walks on. If he ever gets around to making her a vampire she might not be too bad. That Japanese woman that hangs on Oren…” she trailed off and shook her head. “She’s worse than a dishcloth.”
“Then maybe you should befriend her and teach her to be independent?”
Torina scoffed. “I don’t need any friends.”
“Everyone needs friends. Why don’t you start with me? I’m feeling particularly friendly today.” He waggled his eyebrows.
“Oh grow up.” She turned away and then paused again. “I imagine you know where Jorick and his pet are?”
“On the beach, I think. Micah and Loren are down there, too, and Wolfe and Sadihra snuck off for some private time. I’m afraid I rather ruined it the last time they tried.”
“You have a way of doing that,” Torina said, and headed towards the beach.
“So much abuse!” he called after her. “I know you only use the cold words to mask your true feelings!” He could feel it for a moment; a flutter in her mind as she contemplated coming back to tell him off, but then the impulse disappeared and she moved out of range.
“That was fun, wasn’t it?” he said to no one. The chirping bugs were his only reply, and he dropped his sunglasses down again. “It’s a shame we didn’t go to Hawaii. At least there are hula girls there.”
He held up his hands and wiggled his wrinkly fingers. That was something that vampirism didn’t cure, though he wasn’t sure why. If he’d had a laptop or his phone handy he’d have looked it up, but it wasn’t worth a lot of effort for a casual curiosity. Besides, he doubted there was much of a cell signal.
He climbed out and toweled off, then wandered into the house for a snack. A polite Asian lady poured him a glass of blood and bowed a lot. He gave her a good come hither look, which she ignored, and with a shrug he wandered outside to the patio.
Just as he’d thought, Oren sat in a chair, his nose stuck in a book. Etsuko was behind him, working furiously on her needlework. Verchiel tilted his head this way and that, admiring the subtle pattern.
“What are you making?”
Oren looked up sharply, as if he’d been unaware of Verchiel’s presence, but Etsuko calmly replied, “I had thought to make a kimono for Oren-sama, if he does not object.”
The blonde vampire cleared his throat uncomfortably, and looked quickly back to his book.
“I think that’s a great idea,” Verchiel said. “I bet he’ll look great in it.”
Etsuko nodded, but Verchiel noticed the blush that stole over her cheeks. The woman had it bad.
Oren shifted uncomfortably, and though he stared at the pages, Verchiel didn’t think he was reading anymore.
“You should make him a whole fleet of them,” the redhead suggested with a grin. “He could have one for every day of the week.”
“Does Verchiel-sama not think that would be excessive?” Etsuko asked with genuine concern, and Verchiel bit back a laugh.
“He’s only teasing you,” Oren muttered.
“Oh!” Etsuko blinked uncertainly, then recovered. “I see.”
“You should relax,” Verchiel told her and dropped into the nearest empty chair. “You and gloomy Gus both.”
“Excuse me?” Oren snapped.
“Oh come on! We’re in a tropical paradise and you’re sitting by the house, reading a book, wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. You even have boots on! Boots! This is the kind of place where you chill and let it all hang out.” He motioned to his own speedo.
Oren’s voice and expression were cold. “Hardly. You’d do well to wear more. None of us want to look at you without clothes.”
“I have clothes! I’m wearing just as much as your sister.”
Oren’s frown deepened. “Yes, I know. As if it would hurt her to wear something.”
“It’s the beach!” Verchiel reminded him. “Bikinis should be mandatory for all the ladies.” He gave Etsuko a wink that turned her cheeks pinker.
Oren looked horrified and his eyes skipped away. Verchiel saw the shimmer of a thought in his head; a vision of Etsuko in a tiny red two piece. He snickered to himself. At least Oren wasn’t as dead as he liked to appear.
“I think everyone could do with more clothing,” Oren snapped. “And I could do with more silence. Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”
Verchiel kicked back in the chair, hands behind his head, and feigned innocence. “I had thought about checking up on Kately and grumpy boots, but he seemed so hostile the last time I saw him.”
“Do you blame him?” Oren asked. “He knows what you’re up to.”
“I’m not up to anything. “ He mimed hurt. “Why do all of you have such a low opinion of me?”
“Because you give us such cause to.”
He didn’t bother to ask how, only sighed dramatically. “It’s sad. I try so hard and yet I’m still rejected.”
“Rejected?” Oren blinked. “What are you blathering about?”
“I try to be your friend. I try to come and say, ‘hey, how’s it going? Let’s hang out,’ and all I get is told to go away.”
“Then perhaps you should try to be less annoying?”
Verchiel threw a hand to his head. “I try. Oh, I try. But it seems no matter what I do, no matter how acquiescing I am, someone is offended. Someone is mad. Someone is impatient.”
Oren cleared his throat and drew away from the display. “Yes, well, try harder then.”
“You say to try, but how? How am I to try? How am I to please everyone?”
Oren choked. “I-I don’t…” A sudden idea seemed to strike him. “You could leave Jorick’s human alone for starters.”
Verchiel sat up straight, grinning. “You mean Kately? Ah, I wouldn’t want to abandon my buddy, now, would I? Can I help it if Jorick’s over sensitive and thinks I’m trying to steal her away? I mean I could, if I wanted to. Who could resist this?” He motioned to his lithe, toned physique.
“I imagine any number of women could,” Oren said dryly. “And perhaps Jorick wouldn’t be oversensitive if you weren’t always trying to get her alone.”
“Is that what it looks like? How interesting.” Verchiel tapped his chin thoughtfully.
“Of course it does. Are you completely stupid? On top of that you drank from her.”
“I was starving,” Verchiel interjected.
“Of course you were. And you had no control.” Oren’s tone was sarcasm. “We’ve all been starving before.”
“Then you should be sympathetic.”
“That wasn’t my point.” Oren’s eyes flashed and he met Verchiel’s gaze and held it. “Vampires caught in a bloodlust may feed on anything they can get their hands on, but that doesn’t mean that they enjoy it as much as you did.”
“I have no idea what you’re implying.” He smiled sweetly. “Perhaps you could elaborate?”
Oren growled. “We both know you-” he broke off, as if he just remembered Etsuko was there. “You know,” he finished stiffly. “Enough. I have better things to do.” He made a point of turning his angry attention to his book.
“Is the story really that interesting?” Oren didn’t answer and Verchiel sighed. “I think it’s lovely that you defend Jorick and Kately. It shows real loyalty, especially since you hate her so.”
“I never said I hated her,” Oren snapped. “I’m starting to feel that way about you, though.”
Verchiel ignored the slight. “Really? She thinks you hate her, and given the way you’re always talking down to her, or complaining about ‘the human’ being in the way, I don’t blame her. I’d start to think that too.”
“I don’t complain about her being in the way! Except when she is. Which happens quite frequently.” He broke off, frustrated. “Jorick would be easier to handle if she wasn’t in the middle of things.”
“You mean easier to talk into things, like joining wars?” Verchiel suggested. “You’re done with those now, though.”
“Whether I am or not has nothing to do with this conversation!” He growled and then looked back to the book. “Never mind. I’m finished speaking to you.”
Verchiel shrugged and stood. “Suit yourself. I’m just saying that you might try being nicer is all.”
Oren snarled, and Verchiel waved to Etsuko and then wandered down to the beach. He made to put his hands in his pockets, but without pockets the gesture fell to nothing.
“Maybe he’s right about the clothes. Or else they should just put pockets on these.”
The second idea was better, and he contemplated how hard it would be to add them. He supposed he’d have to find some spandex – that was what they were made out of, wasn’t it? Though spandex was probably hard to sew, and his skills were basic. Maybe he could get Etsuko to do it for him?
“Speedos with pockets. We could make a mint.”
“Who the hell are you talking to?”
Verchiel looked up to see Micah, a bald vampire with a goatee and lots of tattoos. Near him was Loren, a raven haired teen, clutching a pile of seashells to him with one arm.
“Well hello there! And what are you two up to.” He nodded to the teen’s treasures. “That’s a lot of shells!”
“Yeah,” Loren said hesitantly. Enthusiasm slowly crept over his face. “There’s some really good ones in here. I found most of them in the ocean, but a few of them were on the beach. Micah even found a couple.”
“You managed to get the big lug out of a beach chair?” Verchiel asked.
Loren laughed. “I know, right?”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Micah eyed the redhead. “You tryin’ to start somethin’?”
“Oh, lighten up.” Loren rolled his eyes. “He’s right, you’ve hardly done anything but sit in that chair and smoke.”
“So what’s wrong with that? This is supposed to be a goddamn vacation. We’re supposed to be relaxing, not fucking running around all the damn time. When you’re on a vacation you’re supposed to do shit that you like, and that’s what I like.” He rounded on Verchiel. “You got a problem with that, Executioner?”
“Hey, hey, I’m not judging. What you want to do in your personal time is your business. I’m just surprised that your buddy there doesn’t mind spending so much time swimming by himself.”
“He likes swimming by himself. Don’t you?”
“Uh,” Loren tightened his hold on the shells. “I dunno. It might be kind of nice if you’d give it just a tiny try.”
“Are you fucking serious? Look, that ocean it’s… it’s fucking…” He broke off and Verchiel felt his fear, like a dark pulse. “It’s fucking deep.”
“Of course it’s deep! It’s the ocean!” Loren rolled his eyes. “You could just go wading at the edge if you’re too scared to go in all the way.”
“I’m not scared!”
“Really?” Verchiel asked. “That’s not the impression I got, since you won’t even go near it. But of course, you probably have another reason for your behavior, right?”
“What fucking behavior?” Micah roared. “I just don’t fucking like water, a’ight? You got a problem with that?”
“No, no. Nothing wrong with being afraid. It’s a brave man who admits to it.”
Loren snickered and Micah snarled. “What the fuck? I’m not – fuck this. Come on pipsqueak. We’ll ditch those damn things in the house and have some lunch.”
Loren nodded and they moved around Verchiel and up the slope towards the house. Their voices floated back to him and he could hear the bald vampire muttering, “I’ll show that Executioner dog that I’m not fucking scared. You wait, after lunch.”
“I can show you how to swim,” Loren said enthusiastically.
“Hey, hold your fucking horses. I said I’d stick my feet in it, I didn’t say I was gonna get submerged.”
Loren nodded, then glanced back to Verchiel. He might have waved had he had a second hand to do it with. It was a shame that he’d lost his left arm during the fight at The Guild, but he should be glad he hadn’t lost more than that.
Verchiel shrugged it off and continued to the beach. Jorick and Katelina were nowhere to be seen, but he noted that Wolfe and Sadihra were seated on a rock, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. He thought about interrupting them, but a quick scan left him with the impression that they’d worked things out for now.
With nothing else to do, he headed down to the water and waded in until he was deep enough to swim. After a few strokes he rolled over on his back, hands behind his head, and floated. Voices came to him, and he looked to see Jorick and Katelina locked in an argument.
With a grin he started for the shore. As Micah had said, a vacation was for doing what you thought was fun, and what could be more fun than interfering with everyone? They were all the better for it when he was finished, so they should be grateful. Maybe he should start charging them, like Dr. Phil or whatever the new psychiatric flavor of the week was.
As screwed up as they all were, he could make a mint.
This is the last Tales from the Island, next week look for Day 7, otherwise known as chapter one of book 6: Children of Shadows. You can still pre-order it at Barnes & Noble & Apple iTunes, and be sure to join the release party fun on facebook!