The Accidental Vampire

The Accidental Vampire is the story of Ada Reid, who, after a one night stand with a handsome stranger, finds herself a vampire. She must now navigate her new nocturnal lifestyle while fending off the advances of her vampiric comrades, making friends with her unusual neighbors, and tracking down the man who did this to her in the hopes that he might be able to reverse it. It’s a plot based story using the Sims 4 game and the new Vampires expansion pack and takes some liberties with the game mechanics, storytelling aspects, and vampire lore. It deals with adult themes and contains language unsuitable for children.

I am currently going through some major life changes, including moving (again), so future chapters are being updated as soon as I put them together. Part Two has started.

Chapter list here.

Cast list here. (Contains spoilers)

Chapter Seventeen: Life of Byron

Quick warning for the chapter! There is depictions of vampire deaths lovingly screenshotted, and a slight depiction of non-consent in being turned.

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Byron could admit to himself when he first called upon Lady Catherine it had been for selfish reasons. The Driscoll estate had stood empty for years until its long lost heir had swept back in to reclaim it, and he had been first in line to greet the enigma of a woman that was Lady Catherine. Calling her strange did not do her justice. She was beautiful , soft-spoken, but forceful in personality. He’d come with every intention of wooing her, and felt wooed instead.

The last few weeks had been spent in her embrace. The empty house normally felt cold and empty, but their nights spent stretched across her bed, fingers entwined, skin pressed against skin, he felt life had been breathed in it again. Usually he tired of his conquests as soon as he’d gotten what he came for, but there was something about Lady Catherine that kept him there.

She pulled away from him, gazing at him with her strange yellow eyes. They entranced him. She entranced him.

“My love,” she murmured in her gentle voice. It sent shivers through his skin. “I’m afraid I’ve not been completely honest with you.”

“Honesty has little place in the bedroom,” he said.

Her lips quirked up in her gentle smile. “I think this may be important. I’ve grown quite fond of you in our short time together.”

“And I you.” He ran his hand down the silk fabric that covered her thigh. Her skin was cool to touch. She was like water, soft and gentle, and he wished to dive into her.

“I have cared for other men before,” she admitted, brushing back a strand of dark hair from his face. “And I keep the things I care for. I am about to reveal something about myself and offer a treasured thing.”

He nervously pulled away. “I don’t catch your meaning.”

“Please, my love.” She kissed his cheek as he stood. “Allow me to show you.”

She stepped away from him, hiding her face. He leaned forward and watched as she let out a desperate shiver that shook her whole form. Her fingers twitched and rose up to cover her face, and after a moment she composed herself. She turned.

The face that greeted him was unlike any he’d ever seen. Scars cracked the skin across her cheek, and her eyes seemed to melt away. The strange yellow was replaced by a bright and startling blue. She opened her mouth, revealing a row of strange fangs. He started up.

“It’s much to take in,” she said, the low purr to her voice still enticing. Her fingers stretched out, caressing his cheek and bringing him closer to her. “I’ve represented myself unfairly, I know. I was the heir to the Driscoll family many years ago, until I died and was resurrected again. Since then I’ve fed on blood and the company of others. But never alone. I’ve never liked being alone.”

“I don’t understand,” Byron said, but her hands slid across his skin. His mind clouded with desire.

“I offer you two things, my love,” she said. “Myself, as I am. Forever. The pair of us as eternal lovers. The bliss we’ve felt for the past few weeks, satisfying each other, until the end of time.”

“And the other thing?” His voice shook. Even as she stared him down with her monstrous expression, he could not fight his desire. His arm reached around her waist, kneading the skin beneath her robe.

“Immortality.” She breathed out the word. “Life everlasting. Sustained by the blood of others, at the cost of sunshine and warm days, but filled with strength and long nights and time enough for anything. Young and beautiful, as we are now. Never for fear of what’s to come.”

He longed to embrace her. His head was dizzy. Her words drummed into his heartbeat as the glint of her teeth caught his eye.

“Tell me you love me,” she whispered.

“I–” He never had before. He spent nights in the beds of many women, all in various stages of enamored. Some appreciated the passion of a single night, while others begged him to stay. This was the first time he felt he couldn’t pull away. “I do. I love you.”

“Tell me you’ll spend eternity with me.” Her fingers threaded into his hair, and she gave a gentle pull.

“I will,” he said.

A grin stretched across her face, and she forced his head back, exposing his neck. Her teeth bared.

“My love,” she murmured, and that was all he remembered before she sank her teeth in.

He wanted to say there was pleasure, or there was pain, but his head felt drunk and clouded. She embraced him, and he squeezed her tight as his blood rushed forward. Her grip was needy and desperate and did not give him room to move. He was trapped beneath her.

She pulled away and brought her wrist to her lips, piercing the tender flesh there. She offered it to him, pinpricks of blood rising to the surface.

“You must drink, love,” she said breathlessly. “To be with me forever, we must share communion.”

Every inch of him hesitated as he took her delicate wrist in her hand. The pale flesh burned against the color red that bled against her skin. A part of him told him no, this was insane, he barely even knew the woman he’d resigned to pledge his life to. The drunken feeling was worsened by the blood loss, and her piercing eyes stared him down until he could not refuse. Immortality was only a moment away.

She cried out as he took the flesh against his lips and drank from the rivers that poured from her skin. And when he pulled away, she grabbed him close, kissing her bloodied lips to his, dragging him to the bed as he gasped at the strange taste on his tongue. It mixed with the coppery lipstick she now wore. She stretched her bloodied hand across his shirt, pulling at it to undress him. An eternity together, that’s what she promised. Who was he to refuse?


 

1936

Sunlight stretched across the Victorian estate that sat miles away from anyone living. The twisted empty trees offered no shade at all, no reprieve from the encroaching rays of light, and Lady Catherine cried out as the sun brushed against her skin. Embers burned from her pale white skin. It did not take long for it to char as she burst into flames.

Fear overtook her. She screamed, howled, beat her fists against her blackened skin.

She reached one final hand out to anyone that would help her, her eyes pleading as the fire consumed her entirely.

With one final exhale, she collapsed against the ground.

Not a one of the onlookers moved. The morning sun threatened the panes of glass, but they remained safely inside. Straud nodded at the piles of ash the fresh breeze began to scatter across the yard, satisfied.

“Another bad apple put to rest,” he said, clapping his hands together. “Refreshments?”

Most of the gathered turned away, but Mizuki looked to Straud.

“Was this necessary?” she asked in a quiet voice.

Straud’s lip curled at the suggestion. “Catherine Driscoll has left a string of dead and a multitude of changed lovers that I am having to clean up. What else would you have me do?”

“You ‘clear the ranks’ every time you get a whiff of dissent, Vladislaud. You decimate our numbers to keep order. You kill to control.”

His eyes narrowed. “I suppose you’re right. But I have to question what your punishment would be for the Lady Catherine.”

Her fingers curled together as he brushed past her, leaving the party to its means. With a shake of her head, she stormed away.

It was less a wake than a parlor game to the other guests. Life and death meant little to the undead, even those that feared the sun’s rays. Lady Catherine was gone, but they were not.

It spiked an anger in Lilith as she glanced over the other guests. Laughing. Joking. Drinking red wine or its approximate. She turned to her brother.

“Imagine if we could have done something,” she said. “Reformed her. If she didn’t need to drink the blood of the living…”

Caleb placed a hand on her arm. “What would you say to Straud?”

“I don’t know.” She let out a breath. “It’s unfair, though. How have we given him absolute power over us?”

“He’s strongest, facing him one on one.” He nodded to where Lady Catherine’s latest beau remained alone. “Luckily we will have numbers.”

Byron had gone to the window, where he watched the crumbled remains of the woman who had turned him. His chest was tight, his throat dry, and he could not express exactly what he felt. What was it, to be relieved and mournful at the same time? His thoughts were interrupted as the pair approached him.

“Byron, right?” Caleb offered him a smile in greeting. “We’re sorry for your loss.”

He glanced over the Vatore siblings. He didn’t know many names, but theirs had been passed around those who rejected things like dilapidated mansions and empty crypts. He spent his evenings in bars, flirting and chatting until someone was willing to take his hand and be led into the night. Their names were often whispered, with the suggestion that trouble followed. His eyes drew to the door that the Grand Master had retreated behind, and to the other guests at the party. This was a room filled with predators.

“Not a loss at all,” he said, adopting a smile. “The charges brought against Lady Catherine were all true. Now mankind is safe from her terror.”

“‘Mankind’ is the proper word for it.” Lilith crossed her arms. “You’re, what, her seventh lover she turned? I’m amazed Straud didn’t act sooner.”

“Lilith,” her brother said in a low voice.

“Caleb.” She glanced at Byron. “You didn’t like her methods.”

“Killing’s so gauche, isn’t it?” He grinned at her. They were both attractive, but he liked the fire stoked in her eyes. “Buy them a drink, I say. Give them a kiss and a nip, and no one is worse off for it.”

“We avoid any blood,” she said proudly. “At all.”

Ah, Byron realized quickly. One of those types.

“We don’t think any of us should kill,” Caleb said. “There’s never been any reason to. But we don’t believe we should have to hunt either. Straud would rather us be animals than the civilized folks we once were.”

Byron’s smile dimmed. “You should say it a little less like you’re selling something.”

“We are blessed to live in a time of scientific advancement,” Lilith said. “We’re not evangelizing, we’re stating facts. There’s no need to drink blood at all.”

“You’ll have to excuse me for not seeing the difference,” he said. “Am I right in thinking you came here to watch a vampire be torn apart by the sun so that you could see your new type of thinking? ‘What if vampires didn’t kill?’ It’s novel, I’ll tell you that.”

He was delighted to see Lilith curl her hands into fists and her eyes narrow. “We’ve all had an eternity to better ourselves, but people like Straud don’t want that. He thinks if we submit to our base instincts, he has all the more reason to keep our nature a secret, and all the more power over us.”

“Conspiracy as well.” He passed his smile to Caleb. “You’ll now ask me to join your club, I imagine.”

“Not a club,” he said. “But we are hoping to gather some like-minded people–”

“I am uninterested.” Byron gave them each a nod. “If you want me to buy you a drink sometime, please, come find me, but politics are not my forte, and I’d rather not be the next one facing the sun.”

He strode away from them before they could offer a response. There were too many people here, all of them staring at him, and he pushed open the doors to another room. Before him, a tall grey cloaked figure poured drinks. Straud stood straight as he entered, giving him a disapproving look.

“Master Thornley,” he said, his genteel voice brimming with class and upbringing. “You fared well through my presentation.”

“Illuminating, sir.” Byron glanced for an escape, but there was no leaving the conversation until Straud allowed it.

“I was worried Lady Catherine’s influence might rub off on you. But you’ve no intention of following in her footsteps.”

“I’d like to be very far away from her footsteps, actually,” he said. “As far as I can manage.”

“Good.” The Grand Master moved closer to him, his grey face like stone.

“I mean this, Master Thornley,” Straud said, words dropping like leaden shoes. “Not a word of misconduct from you. I have separated the chaff from the wheat, but do not think I won’t burn the fields to find you again if I must. We live quiet lives, or we do not live at all.”

Byron backed away, raising his hands in a gesture of good will. “I understand completely. You won’t hear a thing from me again.”

“Good,” Straud said. “Then I suggest you make your plans.”

Byron could not have fled any faster. Disappearing, at least, was what he was good at. And with luck, he’d never fast the Master again.


 

Today

Byron raised a fist to the door. He was never very good at keeping promises, but he suspected this one was life or death.

7

The door pulled back, and for a moment he considered fleeing to the hills, getting far away from this part of the world, and hoping the Master could never unearth him.

Yeah, right.

8

He stepped inside.

Interlude: Laemmle High

While I am still taking a break from my projects, the second part my 1950s monster mash, Laemmle High, is uploaded today and can be read at my writing blog Black Cat Fiction. I’m not much of an artist, and I’ve only occasionally tried to actually create the characters I picture in my head, but I have gotten into simlit, so the least I can do is introduce you to the main characters of Laemmle High.

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Hiatus

I mentioned before, but I desperately need to take a break from a few of the projects I’ve been working on, this being one of them. Like Dabney Diaries, this was a first attempt at simlit, getting the feel for it, and understanding the mechanics of it. I sort of jumped on this idea because the expansion had just come out while I was in the midst of putting together story ideas, and I think my barreling directly into it is part of the stress. It’s also about to be the summer, which is my busy season, and I’m trying to give myself some room to breathe.

This does not mean I’ll stop posting here entirely while I’m working on the next part of the story. I’ve been playing around in game with a few other challenges and ideas, and something a little looser might be easier to chronicle in the interim. Dabney Diaries will continue to update consistently through July, and I plan to post something here in June when part two of my 1950s monster mash goes up. (Part one can be read here.)

It’s honestly been great writing and posting these, and I really appreciate the response I’ve gotten. I really want to put in the effort in the future, so for now I’m giving myself a break. Stay tuned for side stories and more announcements. Thank you guys so much for reading!

Chapter Sixteen: The Grand Master

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Ada looked up at the tall manor the four of them approached. The steepled tower jutted into the night sky, tall points creating spikes against the darkness. Shadows fell across it in a hundred odd angles, and bats fluttered away into the thin, scraggly trees that surrounded the estate. Night fell early in Forgotten Hollow, and a thin fog covered the marshy grass. Caleb and Lilith walked in front of her confidently, but she could see the slight shiver in their stance, the nervous glances they gave each other, and the silence they carried with them was uncertain. Belinda opened the wide doors for them to step through, but she did not follow.

Ada tried to concentrate on this, instead of looking to the man beside her. Byron Thornley looked, well, exactly like the kind of dude she’d invite back to her place and then never see again. Handsome, yes, aggressively charismatic, possibly, and with a wardrobe that said, I care way too much about what other people think of me and need to prove I don’t. She wished she could remember anything about the night, like what he said to her, or why he went with her of all people, but his expression was more terrified than anyone else’s. She had a suspicion this wouldn’t be strike one for him.

They stood in the empty foyer. If the four of them had breath to hold, they would have, and Ada grew antsy from waiting.

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“So what is the deal here?” she whispered, unsure of proper protocol while waiting on the king vampire.

Caleb held out a hand. “We’ll do all the talking.”

“But, like, is there a vampire court or something? How does he decide we’re guilty?”

“Vlad just decides.” He let out a breath. “He thinks he’s judge, jury, and executioner.”

“I’ve earned all those titles,” said a voice, and Ada jumped up when she saw the tall, grey man who’d silently entered the room.

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Vladislaus Straud could not have been more of vampire if he’d tried. The grey coat pressed against his scarecrow frame, the thin genteel features faded away into pale, pale skin. He did not make the most imposing figure, but there was something in his presence, a feeling of unease that radiated off him. Ada thought of all the other vampires she’d met who remained, more or less, human until that other side of them came out. She wondered how long you had to be a vampire before you started to look like this.

“I’m afraid there’s an unrecognized vampire running around,” he said as he glided towards them. His nostrils flared as he looked at her. “She smells fresh.”

“Turned a little over a month ago,” Caleb admitted. “Ada’s not the problem here.”

“She’s a child.” Straud looked her up and down. “It’s any wonder she hasn’t slaughtered yet.”

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“Hi!” Ada said. “I haven’t done anything wrong. Haven’t slaughtered a soul yet. I swear.”

Caleb put a hand on her. “What she means is, Ada didn’t ask for this. This is all one big, weird accident.”

A single eyebrow raised. “How exactly does one accidentally become a vampire?”

Ada gave a nervous smile. “If I could remember, I’d tell you.”

“Ah.” Straud’s eyes turned to Byron. “I see Master Thornley has returned to us.”

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“I’m also pretty sure this is not my fault,” Byron said. “Yeah, I went back to her place, but all I’m guilty of is the bite and run. I didn’t even drain her all the way.”

Lilith had her arms crossed in front of her. “You didn’t use your powers to get her to invite you back?”

A look of annoyance passed over his face. “I used my normal human man powers of being ridiculously attractive.”

She scoffed, and Straud held a hand to his temple.

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“We’ll see if it’s even worth keeping the girl alive,” he said. “Miss Ada, was it? Come with me.”

Ada gave an alarmed look to Caleb, but he could only raise his shoulders. Straud stalked into the parlor, and, giving one last desperate look to anyone who might throw her a lifesaver, she followed. Each step felt like walking towards the gallows. He gestured towards a large sofa for her to sit on, and she did as he paced around the room. After a minute of thinking to himself, he looked at her, grey eyes narrowed.

“I’m afraid I may have to kill you,” he said in the most congenial of tones.

Ada raised a hand. “I’d like to request that you don’t.”

To her surprise, he sat beside her.

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“It’s my own fault, really.” His voice had a strike of annoyance. “You would not believe the coups I have had to put down, or the violent uprisings that a few power hungry vampires every few fifty years think they need to go through. Some three hundred years ago, was it? A group decided they were going to turn everyone in the world. A rash of fresh dead had to be put down. Now anyone who wants to be turned must be… reviewed.”

“Surprisingly bureaucratic,” she said. “But I’m not violent, and Byron didn’t turn me into a vampire to enact an uprising.”

“No, he wouldn’t have it in him.”

“It was one night, and now we’re both getting screwed for it.” She clasped her hands together. “I don’t even want this. My friend and I have been searching for a way to reverse it.”

“The mysterious Compendium.” Straud shook his head. “I half think it’s an invented fairy tale. Every vampire, at least once, tries to cure themselves of immortality. You either learn to deal with it, or you do not.”

Her mouth clamped shut. She’d thought if anyone knew where that fourth volume was, it would be the Grand Master.

“I suppose you’ve kept your family alive so far.” He looked at her again. “But you must understand, secrecy is essential to our kind. It’d be inconvenient if the police began investigating every vampire related death, and I’m sure the religious groups would go into a frenzy over this. We operate best underground.”

“So you can get away with whatever,” Ada murmured.

His lips quirked up. “Perhaps. I may still have to kill Master Thornley. His incompetence has led him before me time and time again.”

“Oh.” She chewed on her lip. “He didn’t mean to, though. I don’t think either of us are at fault for this one.”

His gaze was penetrating, not just the dark steely gaze shared by vampires that made her feel dizzy, but as though he were reading her thoughts. She looked away. Her gaze turned to the odds and ends of the house, strange scrolls and tapestries like the ones she’d seen at the oddity shop.

“You really don’t know where it is?” she asked. “The Compendium?”

“No,” he said. “Though my partner has made a fine show of searching for it.”

That made her glance up. “Partner?”

“Ah, and he arrives.” Straud nodded towards a dark shadow that had entered the room that glided towards the lamplight.

“I apologize,” the shadow said, voice like a coffin opening. “I heard we had guests.”

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Ada recognized the voice immediately, and as he came into the light, she saw the grey visage of the shopkeep, the long robe descended down his body. Straud smiled and stood to greet him. Anger sent a red hot spike down Ada’s spine.

“Did you know already?” she asked, voice trembling. “Who I was?”

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The pair looked at her. Neither seemed concerned about her growing rage.

“Mortimer keeps an eye out for me,” Straud said. “I find less and less of an excuse to leave the manor these days.”

“So you could’ve done this anytime.” Ada’s hands curled into fists. “You could’ve dragged me out here and shoved me into the sun whenever you wanted but you waited until Belinda started gossiping because why?”

“It’s important to let the little ones have their games.” He shrugged, as though that was how the world worked. “And we weren’t sure who the culprit was.”

“I suspected it was Byron,” Mortimer said. “It seems his sort of mistake.”

Ada jumped up. “You knew?”

“Suspected,” he repeated.

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“You knew this whole time!” she shouted. “I could’ve used the help! Would’ve been nice to not drain every person I met! Would’ve been nice to have anyone in this whole place to talk to! But, no, you want to have your little games.”

“My dear,” Straud started, but she turned on him.

“And you get to sit in your high tower and look at all the peons! What was even the point of this little charade? To assert some kind of dominance? To prove you serve a purpose? You–you made me into a pawn, and you were going to punish the both of us for it! Whatever!” She shoved her way through them. “If you want to kill me you can get off your ass and find me. I’m leaving.”

She heard no protest from them, and she stalked out the door, shoulders hunched, brow knit together in anger. Caleb called out to her in the foyer, but she didn’t answer, only pushed open the double doors and stormed out.

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“What the fuck was that about?” Byron asked.

“Shut up, you idiot,” Lilith snapped. “You’re the whole reason we’re here.”

“I’d like to reiterate that I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“We both know that’s a lie,” Caleb muttered.

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Black smoke appeared behind him, and Byron cringed. The Grand Master stood before him, anger bleeding into his features.

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“You’ve never done anything right, Thornley,” Straud snapped. “The maiden has plead for the pair of you, against all better judgement. Today is not the day I roast you alive, but if you step foot in my home again, you will not leave it. Take care of this. The last thing we need is some unaffiliated dead running around.”

“But–” Byron started to protest.

“Come on, Byron,” Caleb said. “The sun’ll be up soon.”

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The three of them walked from the estate and into the early morning mist. They stood in silence for a brief period, none of them exactly sure what to say.

“Well,” Byron said after a while. “What now?”

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2

Chapter Fifteen: Surprises

Ada now spent as many nights out with her new gang of vampires as they’d let her. Lorna disapproved, but what didn’t she disapprove of? Ada was grateful she was distracted by her new boyfriend.

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Caleb and Lilith didn’t seem to mind much. It helped her case, she realized, if she was part of the central gang of vampires. She hadn’t expected so many politics, and rules, but at least she was gleaning. Caleb played a more neutral party, but Lilith had all the gossip, and she was unafraid to share it.

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“It’s all kinds of messed up,” Lilith was saying as they sat down in the dark mausoleum bar. “I mean, she turned Simon and they were married for like three hundred years. Now she’s running off with some twenty year old freshly turned nobody. It’s absolute scandal. He’s so mad about it.”

“How do you even do relationships like that?” Ada asked. “I’ve never liked someone for more than five minutes.”

“God, do not get me started on that.” She rolled her eyes. “My last relationship ended magnificently.”

Ada fiddled with her drink. “Have you ever turned anyone into a vampire?”

“No,” she said slowly. “I mean, I’ve thought about it. We come from a family. Caleb hates the idea though.”

“Family?”

“There’s, like, vampire lines. It’s super complicated.” She moved her fingers in parallel lines through the air. “Some of us get born, it’s weird. The Vatore line started hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and it ends with me and my bro.”

Ada’s brow knit together. “I don’t know how to feel about that.”

“Don’t.” Lilith shook her head. “We don’t deal with it anymore.”

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“What’re you talking about?” Caleb asked as he sat beside them.

“Angelica going absolutely bonkers,” Lilith said without missing a beat. “Ada has three hundred years of drama to catch up on.”

“It was bound to happen,” he said, ducking his head down. “The two of them tried to poison each other ten years into being married. I bet it won’t even take a decade for them to get back together.”

“This happens a lot, huh?” Ada asked, resting her chin in her hands.

“Way too much. You get bored sometimes.”

Lilith scoffed into her drink. “You get bored some times. Some of us value relationships.”

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“Speaking of,” Caleb said. “Don’t look now. It’s you know who.”

Lilith’s lips became a thin line as her eyes glanced up at the person who’d just walked into the bar. Her eyes narrowed at her brother.

“You are so unbothered,” she said in a low voice.

“Who is it?” Ada asked.

“Lilith’s ex,” Caleb said. “She hates him.”

“Because he cheated on me with my brother,” she snapped. “I thought he wouldn’t show his face again after that.”

“She practically destroyed him,” Caleb said in a mock whisper.

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“Hold on,” Ada said. “What happened?”

“It wasn’t on purpose or anything,” Caleb said. “I didn’t know they were dating.”

“Byron Thornley doesn’t care about anyone but himself.” Lilith sat back in her seat. “Look at him. I bet he’s pretending he doesn’t even see me.”

Ada glanced at the man who’d come in.

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A sense of unease washed over her. The newcomer tipped back his drink, and she caught the line of his strong jaw and well shaped cheek bones. The red jacket was a familiar shade that made her eyes water. The same deja vu from when she met Salim rattled around in her head. As Lilith continued to complain, he glanced their way, and the light caught his eyes, making them, for a moment, look yellow. The memory of that night rushed back.

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The voices of the arguing siblings filtered in her ears from a thousand miles away. Her whole body had gone cold, and if her heart still beat, it would’ve stopped.

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“You could’ve asked!” Lilith shouted.

“You’re always the one who’s got to have secrets,” Caleb said, rolling his eyes.

“Sometimes you are the absolute worst.”

He turned to Ada, some jab prepared, but his face fell when he saw her expression. “Ada? You okay?”

“That’s him,” she murmured through her fingers. “He’s the vampire who turned me.”

Both of the siblings’ expressions carefully arranged themselves as they both tried not to look at the man at the bar. A look exchanged between them. Ada swallowed.

“You’re absolutely sure?” Lilith asked.

Ada nodded, hands still clasped to her mouth.

She looked at her brother. “I get to tell him.”

“No you don’t.” Caleb glanced again behind them. “You’re going to turn it into another screaming match.”

“If you-know-who found out–”

“He’d probably kill all of us.” Caleb moved to stand. “I’m gonna talk to him.”

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Ada looked at him. “What are you going to say?”

He sucked in a breath to steel himself. “He has to know the truth.”

Lilith leaned forward. “This is going to be good.”

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Ada couldn’t hear what the pair of them were saying, nor could she see Byron’s expression with his back turned to her. Whatever it was, it convinced Byron to follow him to the back of the room. Disappointment colored Lilith’s face, and she stood up. Ada remained where she sat. She wanted to follow, to meet the man who’d done this to her, to figure out why, but fear rooted her to her spot. There was no good explanation from him. She didn’t even know if she wanted to know him. All she’d ever wanted out of him was a one night stand, and now…

Her eyes gazed at them, and she watched the argument take place.


Byron looked at the pair of siblings as they approached him. Caleb hadn’t meant to spook him, but absolute delight was all over Lilith’s face. Byron had screwed up badly, and he didn’t even know it yet.

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“Look,” he said as Lilith approached. “I’ve said everything I can to you.”

“This isn’t about us,” Lilith practically sang.

“Alright.” He gave her a look. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“It’s not,” Caleb assured him. “Do you recognize that girl we were sitting with?”

“The redhead?” He shrugged. “Plutos was telling me you’ve been dragging her around. She your new pet project?”

“Are you sure you haven’t seen her before?” Lilith pressed. “At a bar maybe? The Shrieking Llama?”

His brow furrowed. “Maybe? I go there sometimes.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re such an idiot.”

“Seriously, Byron.” Caleb narrowed his eyes at him. “You didn’t meet anyone at a bar a month ago? Didn’t go back to her place? Didn’t bite her a little too aggressively?”

“It’s not a vampire bar,” he said.

“She wasn’t a vampire then.”

His eyes widened, his face fell.

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“Oh shit.”

“Oh shit is right, dummy.” Lilith brought a hand to her mouth. “You honestly didn’t remember?”

“I-I don’t know!” Panic was taking over him.

“How do you not remember turning her?” Caleb asked. “You ruined her life.”

“That was all her!” Byron snapped. “I bit her a little, you know, and she was into it. She bit me so hard it bruised. I didn’t think it broke the skin.”

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Lilith started laughing, and she couldn’t stop. “You absolute dolt! You’re the only person I know who’d break vampire covenant because he got too frisky in bed.”

“This is really serious.” Caleb glared at his sister. “What do you think’s going to happen if Straud finds out?”

“You wouldn’t tell him,” Byron pleaded. “I didn’t do anything. It’s not my fault.”

“It absolutely is,” Lilith said. “But luckily, we’re the ones who’re figuring this out.”

Caleb gave a smile. “We’re not going to throw you to the wolves.”

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“You don’t have to,” a voice said behind them, and all three froze. Belinda emerged from the shadows, smiling. “Byron is going to come politely with me.”

“Go to hell, Belinda,” Lilith snapped. “Stop trying to get brownie points with the master.”

Her dark eyes narrowed. “You aren’t the law in this land, Vatore.”

“And you aren’t the sheriff.” She boxed her shoulders against her. “What’re you going to do about it?”

“Hold on, Lil.” Caleb put a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “What does Straud already know?”

Belinda smirked. “Your little charade with the newbie is see through, you know that right? She’s green as she is warm blooded. Try harder next time if you’re going to pull something under the Grand Master’s nose.”

“I suppose he loves your little gossip sesh,” Lilith said through gritted teeth. “What is it, tea every Sunday? Do you call him up on the phone every night?”

“He respects me,” she growled.

“I bet.” Lilith looked at her brother. “We aren’t really going to go with her, are we?”

“Actually…” He glanced at Byron. “Might be better to sort this one out. Okay, Belinda, take us away.”

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Her lips curled up in a satisfied smile. “Then let’s go see the Grand Master.”

Chapter Fourteen: Phases

Zella rattled the small parcel delivered to her apartment happily as she pushed open her front door. Every attempt to find the mysterious fourth volume of the Encyclopedia had led to frustration and dead ends, but she’d at least managed to find these strange seeds. Now to see if they actually grew.

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She pushed over the rich soil as she planted the seeds. Plasma fruit. They were an absurdity, but what these days wasn’t? A few blurry photos of the blooms was all she had to go on, and she prayed they were as fruitful as promised.

She’d ran into Ada in the hallway and tried explaining the find to her, but her enthusiasm had started to flag. Zella didn’t mind that their dead ends had led to new venues. The oddity shop, the strange plants she was finding, the new information on ancient texts, but to Ada it was all bottling into the same answer: there was no such thing as a cure for vampires. There were bandaids. The fruit could replace her need to drink, and apparently she could do the same thing by catching frogs. Her friendships had softened the blow, but Zella wondered how much comfort it was knowing these new relationships would last an eternity.

Zella tried her hardest. She hunted through her books.

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She went out with Ada whenever she could.

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She kept her up to date on her progress.

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But as more time passed, the further away any real answer seemed. Things fell back into patterns.

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Old worries.

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New interests.

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New relationships.

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Finding distractions.

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Finding focus.

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Research.

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Experimentation.

Zella was surprised to see how large the plasma fruit tree grew, especially in her small apartment. She’d gotten wolfsbane as well, but the flytrap was proving more difficult. Recipes were listed in the Encyclopedia, and though they weren’t the one she was looking for, it felt useful to try anything. And when it was time, she invited Ada over to see her work.

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“It took a while,” Zella said.

“It still grew fast.” Ada looked in awe at the tree. “You got those seeds a month ago.”

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“It’ll be great once it gets ready to harvest.” Zella smiled at her work. “I know it’s not a lot…”

“It’s something.” The smile eased off Ada’s face. “More than I’ve been doing.”

Zella’s hand moved to hers. “We’re both looking for the last volume. We’ll get there.”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “I hope.”

“I promise. I’m not giving up.”

“Thanks.” Ada pulled her closer. “I mean it.”

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Zella hadn’t given up, but she’d run low on options. There was one place she was willing to return.

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The oddities shop wasn’t so much a collection as a collage. Skulls and books, quills and statues, arranged in an esoteric order she was still trying to decipher. Items had been removed and reorganized since their last visit.

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The books were different too, but with no sign of what she was looking for. All her deep diving on the web had only turned up the truth: the Compendium was nearly impossible to find and possibly only existed in the hands of people alive at the time of publishing. Zella knew first hand there were still some people around that might fit that category.

The shopkeeper eyed her as she approached, his vampiric visage obvious. Just looking at him scraped needles across her skin, but she stood tall and approached him.

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“You’ve darkened my doorway again,” he said.

She offered up a friendly smile. “I’ve been looking for that fourth volume you told me about. No luck.”

“It’s likely you’ll live your whole life without seeing it.”

“Sure, sure,” she murmured. “But we both know some people who live lives much longer than that.”

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“If I knew where it was,” he said, raising up his shoulders, “it’d be in my collection. And I wouldn’t be likely to share it with you.”

“But you must know people,” Zella urged. “Potential sellers who would’ve been able to get a copy of it. You don’t collect all this weird stuff without figuring out who can get their hands on it.”

“And you think I’d share that information with you?”

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She sighed. Mortimer had been openly hostile to her before, but she needed this. More than anything she wanted to get her hands on the Compendium, and it wasn’t just to complete her collection. Ada had relied on her. Ada had come to her for help, assuming she knew about this kind of thing. Zella had assumed she knew about it too, before realizing how deep this rabbit hole went. How could she match knowledge with ancient vampires? How could she compete with Ada’s new club? When all of this was over–if any of this was ever over–Zella would still be in her lonely apartment with only her books for comfort. Her new vampire friend would phase out of her life, or, more likely, Zella would phase out of hers.

“Is there anything I can do?” she asked in a small voice, suddenly aware of the emptiness in her life Ada had been filling up.

Mortimer examined her with his bright red eyes. He was more gargoyle than man, almost a bad Halloween costume of some wraith. She clutched her arms to her sides.

“Be patient,” he said. “The answers we seek are not always so obvious.”

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Zella trekked home, feeling worse for her visit. All she wanted to do was help her friend, and she’d failed at that. Curling her fingers, she headed home to tend to her plants. There wasn’t anything else she could do.

Chapter Thirteen: The Vampire Club

A/N: womp womp. I got super sick last week, and while the next few chapters are screenshotted, I couldn’t even look at my computer to edit the screenshots and do what I do. Chapter thirteen’s coming a little late, and hopefully I can get myself back on track for the weekly updates. I am going to hit that break pretty soon, and I might put an interlude up, or I might actually let myself sort out the projects I keep taking on.

An uneasiness had taken root in Ada over the past week since she and Zella visited the oddity shop. They’d shared custody of the third volume of the Encyclopedia, but her spooky neighbor had been consumed with the thought of a mysterious fourth volume. It piqued Ada’s curiosity as well, but at the moment she was tiring of vampire stuff. What she really wanted to do was eat mac’n’cheese with her sister, and get her next chapter sent to her editor, and maybe flirt with a few people without worrying about biting into their necks. She missed sleeping in her bed, and walking the city during the day, and trying spicy curry in the Spice Market. She was exhausted without being tired. She wondered how any other vampire could stand it.

But, as Friday rolled around, she got a text from Caleb, asking to meet her at the same vampire bar they’d gone to before. She’d debated it for a while, but Ada got in a cab, and she made her way to the club.

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It wasn’t just Caleb there. He’d brought his sister Lilith, along with a cadre of other vampires: Belinda Drake, Simon Bloodstone, Vladimir Lumos, and Plutos Artemisia.

“Do I also have to pick a cool vampire name?” Ada asked. “There’s no way when you were alive you were named ‘Simon Bloodstone’.”

“Don’t think too hard about it,” Lilith said. “Something about the bite makes you want to move into a Victorian and start calling yourself Count Bludhaven. Do you know how many Vlads we know?”

They moved to the bar, where Caleb ordered a round of drinks for everybody.

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“I mean do you guys have any hobbies?” she asked. “Does anyone here watch sports or read the newspaper?”

“Vladimir here plays organ,” Caleb said.

He laughed. “I think that might be playing into the stereotype. What about you, Ada? You said you were a writer.”

“I write historical romance,” she murmured as she took a sip of her drink.

“Ha!” He leaned into her. “That’s almost as bad!”

“It must be a predestination thing. Those of us who enjoy wearing leather pants and putting on way too much eye makeup have only one choice in this life.”

“I think that’s a jab at me,” Belinda said as she approached.

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“Oh, trust me,” Vladimir said. “If any one of us could take a jab at you, we would’ve done so already.”

“You do dress like the bride of Dracula though,” Ada said.

“It’s possible,” Belinda said as she raised her glass to her lips, “that those of us who are changed recognize we no longer have to look like everyone else. A makeover would suit you, Ada. You should embrace your woman of the night.”

“I think it’s more likely that old people hold onto old things,” Caleb said. “When did you die, Belinda?”

She frowned slightly. “Before you were born.”

“Vlad here died in 1957 and dressed like one of the Beatles until he saw Angel for the first time.”

Vlad shook his head. “Giving away all of my secrets.”

“Vampires aren’t ones to innovate,” Caleb said. “We prefer the old ways.”

Vladimir rolled his eyes and held out a hand to Ada. “Let’s sit far away from him, before he starts on another speech.”

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They joined a table with Plutos, who was working on his drink as well. Ada was mildly relieved to meet the other vampires, though she would like to met one that didn’t wear all black and didn’t call himself after an ancient god.

“There’s no normalcy in what we are,” Plutos mused. “And no turning back either. I’m willing to guess we’ve all decided to go big or go home.”

“You talk about life like you remember it,” Vladimir said. “How long have you been this way?”

She chewed on her lip, knowing that the answer of “about two weeks” might raise some troubling questions. Her glance went to Caleb, who was distracted by a conversation with the bartender.

“Ten years,” she decided on. “I guess I’m still with the times.”

“You lose it eventually,” Vlad said. “I’m going to refresh my drink. Ada?”

She shook her head as he stood up from the table. So many new people, so many stories to tell. A drink would only confuse her more.

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“But there is no turning back,” she said slowly as she turned her attention back to Plutos. “There isn’t a cure?”

He looked at her, head tilting as though considering an unusual sculpture. “You must be fresh. We all dream of being turned back, none more than Caleb and his sister. They’ve been pushing the vegetarian movement. The Grand Master is none too pleased.”

She blinked at that. “The Grand Master?”

Now his eyes narrowed. “You haven’t met him? I thought all new blood did.”

“Oh, sure.” She quickly pulled back. “But what Caleb and his sister are doing–they’re playing pretend. No one’s ever tried to cure this?”

Plutos shrugged. “Most of us like this. Who would give up eternal youth and power over others?”

She frowned. “Doesn’t the expense seem kind of high?”

“I guess it depends on how much you value that sort of thing.”

More drinks were bought, and Ada reluctantly made her way back up to the bar with the others. She wasn’t sure what Caleb was trying to prove with his little club, or if he was trying to give her some more contacts in the underworld. Everyone here was content, an emotion she hadn’t reached yet. They sipped back plasma drinks and talked nonchalantly about their tombs. Ada didn’t know if she was ready to be buried.

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“You really know how to throw a party, Caleb,” Belinda said as she took her glass.

He smiled easily, but there was a tension underneath it. “You love our little get togethers. You’re telling me you dress like that to stalk around your home?”

She tossed her head back. “Some of us have social lives.”

“In lieu of actual lives,” Ada murmured as a drink was placed in front of her.

Belinda looked at her, dark eyes narrowing beneath her heavily made up face. Maybe she did walk around her probably Victorian mansion like that, looking like a mysterious avenging devil, skulking around in shadows while she lured strangers in to drink their blood. Ada tapped her fingers against the table as the image bloomed in her mind. Maybe she could use that.

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“Ada,” she said, purring her name like a tiger, “we haven’t had a chance to chat yet. The boys have been hogging your attention.”

“I guess.” Ada glanced at Caleb. “I’m just trying to make friends.”

“Let’s talk, then.” She grinned widely, teeth sharp. “As girls.”

“Belinda,” Caleb started.

“Caleb,” she finished. “You invited me out. It’d be rude if I didn’t talk with your guest.”

Belinda dragged her to a seat away from the bar, away from the crowds. Ada shifted nervously in the cushioned seat, growing more uncertain by the second. Caleb kept glancing back at them, and he was talking quietly with his sister now.

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“There’s no reason to be nervous,” Belinda said. “I’m only trying to understand. Caleb said you arrived recently and don’t know anyone in this area. How long have you been part of our coven?”

Ada swallowed as she tried to remember the number she spit out earlier. “Ten years.”

“So exciting, isn’t it? I barely remember life. It must all seem brand new to you.”

“It’s been an adjustment.”

“I try to know everybody.” Belinda leaned back, the sly smile still on her lips. “Caleb and Lilith mock me, but it helps to have connections, doesn’t it? That’s why he brought you around here.”

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“You know me now,” Ada said.

“It’s just strange that we never crossed paths before. Caleb must’ve been hiding you away.”

“I was hiding myself away,” she insisted.

“Well you’ve intrigued me.” Belinda’s hand curled beneath her chin. “I want to hear all of it. What were you doing before the change? What brings you here? Go on.”

Ada stared at her, and from the corner of her eye she saw Lilith waving a hand at her. She stood quickly.

“Lilith is calling me,” she snapped. “I’ll be right back.”

Belinda only waved her fingers. “Hurry back.”

Ada escaped through the gate and made it to Lilith’s side. She tugged Ada further into the alcove.

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“Can I make a quick recommendation?” she said. “Belinda Drake is no one’s friend, and talking to her is only going to make your life harder.”

“I figured that out.” Ada pursed her lips. “Why do you even hang out with her?”

“Because not having her in your cadre is even more dangerous.” She tugged on her arm band. “Belinda rolls with the Grand Master and would do anything to get in good with him.”

“Who’s this Grand Master?” Ada asked. “You’re like the second person who talked about them.”

“It’s way too much to go into here.” Lilith sighed.

“You and your brother have been weirdly vague,” Ada said. “So what if I’m brand new? What’s the Grand Master going to do?”

“Vampire rules,” she stated simply. “And if he wants to, the Grand Master can leave you dried out and waiting for the sun to rise. Belinda will gladly hand you over to that fate.”

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“Oh,” Ada said. “Snap.”

“Yeah.” Lilith frowned as she glanced at where Belinda sat. “I’d worry about it. Look, me and my brother want to help you out. The Grand Master’s rules are dumb and we hate him. You shouldn’t get fried up just for having something done to you.”

“Thanks.”

“Seriously. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to face him.”

“So what do I do now?” Ada asked.

“Just, you know.” She shrugged. “Chill. Be friendly. Don’t get stuck in a room alone with her.”

“Right. Chill.” Ada sighed. “I can do that.”

Chapter Twelve: Oddity

Ada stared at the imposing structure in front of them. The shop was not like anything else on the street, its tall peaked roof and stone windows creating uncomfortable angles. Stone images greeted them as they walked up the steps to the oddity shop.

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Lorna’s new boyfriend had given them the address to the shop, a few hours out of the way of Windenburg, only open after the sun had set. There was no Google street view of it, no Yelp reviews, not listed on any website. Zella had vibrated with excitement when Ada told her about it. They’d half expected to find some abandoned building or another graveyard. They were relieved to see it standing.

Ada pushed open the door for Zella, and they both walked inside. She struggled to find the words to describe it.

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Hodgepodge was the word that came to mind. Nearly everything looked ancient, and large signs warned people away from touching the merchandise. A bronzed butler greeted them, and a large book made of vellum and ancient ink was pulled open to a random page. More statues stared at them, eyes watching them from across the room, and the only word for everything was antique. Zella grinned as she looked around the room, but Ada felt a little more nervous. She’d learned in the last week that vampires lived up to every cliche, and this looked like the sort of place a lot of them would be hanging around.

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“I guess we should look around,” she said.

Zella’s eyes were wide. “Look at all this stuff! I could fill my whole apartment with this!”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” The butler leaned down on them, and she gave it a nervous glance. “I have a feeling everything in this store is cursed.”

She clasped her hands together. “Do you really think so?”

Ada rolled her eyes. “We’re looking for a book, remember?”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t browse.”

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Zella prayed everything in this store was half as interesting as it looked. Large gaffes were put on pedestals, crates and chests left propped around the room, and skulls and remains left in glass jars were carefully set out. Between that were ancient quills and large leather bound books and fossilized imprints. How much of it was fake and how much of it was real? One particular statue caught her eye, some kind of winged llama or strange medieval creature.

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She was supposed to find one thing in this store, but there were a hundred things to look at. How could she possibly focus on a single book?

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Ada was having even less luck. She’d found a wall full of old bookcases, the tomes presented on it from every era. With a small amount of concern, she noted a red cover copies of Veronica Lovelace’s novels. Some days she was very happy to be published under a pseudonym. No copies of the Encyclopedia Vampirica stood out to her. She sighed. It’d seemed to good to be true. A rare books shop falls into her lap thanks to a friend of a friend. She hadn’t really been expecting success.

She shivered slightly, feeling a presence behind her, and she turned, startled somewhat by what she saw.

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The gentleman’s ghastly pallor matched well with his black robes. He looked like a medieval executioner, or worse. His red eyes were set beneath dark black lids, and it was hard to tell what was makeup and what was simply his face. A coldness emanated from him, worse than other vampires she’d met. He nodded at her in greeting, and when he spoke, his voice was ancient stone, a tomb being pulled open, gravel upon gravel.

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“You are unfamiliar,” he said in a clipped tone.

“Um, I’m new,” she said and quickly added, “to the area.” Caleb had seemed set that if word got out about her creation, it’d be a whole mess of a trouble for her.

“There is something…” he said slowly and stopped. “What is your name?”

“Ada. Is there a reason you’re all…?” She waved a hand in his general direction.

“You’re a child,” he said, not as an insult but as a fact. “Still fresh, I see. You’ve still got a bit of life about you.”

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She snapped her mouth shut. Caleb had said there were ancient, more powerful vampires out there, and it occurred to her that this was one of them.

“I’m, um, looking for a book,” she said slowly. Ancient vampire probably meant lots of knowledge. “The Encyclopedia Vampirica. Volume three, specifically.”

A singular eyebrow raised. “You seek knowledge?”

“Sure. I’m stuck like this, aren’t I?”

From the corner of her eye, she saw Zella race up, a grin plastered on her face. She stopped suddenly as she saw the pair of them.

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“Any luck?” she asked nervously.

The vampire sneered. “She still has a heartbeat.”

“Who are you?” Zella asked, a little indignant. Ada desperately wanted to put a hand over her mouth.

“In life I went by Mortimer Murray,” the vampire said, “but in death…”

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“I devoted myself to this place.” He gestured around. “A haven of items for our kind. Knowledge for those who have no other place to seek it. I do not give it out easily to the warm blooded.”

They both stared at the mask of a face, uncertain what to make of it. Red eyes glowed out of his grey expression, and he looked more stone than man. Ada knew she changed when she took her other form, but she couldn’t look at herself in the mirror or examine her complexion. Is this what she looked like? A monster?

 

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She swallowed down her fear and grabbed Zella’s arm. “Zella here is all about knowledge, and she can keep it to herself.”

“I’ve been searching for the third volume forever,” she said in a hopeful tone.

He examined them both for a long time and then pointed a finger to one of the tall bookshelves. “It is by luck that I have it. But I would be wary of the answers that you seek.”

Zella glanced at Ada before scuttling off to the bookshelf, where her eyes searched the dusty volumes. Ada forced a smile at Mortimer.

“Thank you,” she said. “It really is a major help.”

His expression was serious when he looked at her, almost concerned. “You’ve not been dead long?”

“Um, no.” She shifted uncomfortably. “Not really.”

“And you still remember what it’s like. Being alive.”

Her mouth twisted up. “Yeah, I do.”

“And you wish to return to that.”

She swallowed. “Yeah. I do.”

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The bright red of his eyes pierced through her. She looked away.

“We often seek warmth,” he said, his voice growing softer. “It is the nature of our kind. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there is redemption. The dead deserve to remain buried.”

She couldn’t respond, and he crept away, his undead expression gently hidden behind the stone mask of his face. Zella cried out triumphantly as she removed the volume from its place on the shelf, showing it to Ada.

“This is it!” She hugged it to her chest. “I thought I’d never see it!”

“Good.” Ada tried to smile, but it wasn’t there. “Can we get out of here? This place is seriously creeping me out.”

They went to go pay for the book, and Zella could barely contain herself. She opened the pages right there, her finger gliding over the words. They carried on their backs a promise.

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So enthralled in her book, Zella didn’t notice the presence that loomed over her until it was too late. Startled, she glanced up, where Mortimer stood again.

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“It is a shame about the final volume,” he said.

She carefully closed the book. “What about it?”

“Only a few copies were published.” His tone was almost wistful. “Admittedly it was mostly drink recipes and descriptions on growing plasma fruit, but I’ve never seen the Compendium.”

Her eyes widened. “The what?”

The Ultimate Vampire Compendium. The final word in all that is vampire.” He gestured to the book in her hand. “Written after the other three, with all of his findings laid out.”

Zella’s fingers squeezed the binding. “This… isn’t it?”

“No, my dear.” He grinned a toothy smile. “You have so much farther to go.”

Chapter Eleven: Breathe

Lorna hadn’t been expecting Alton’s call. A few days worth of texting had gone on between them, and he’d sent her a file full of research on the Straud estate. It’d been a long time since she’d gone out with someone. Her sister had her weekend flings and her one night stands, but Lorna took the slow approach. Their night had been filled with bar games and cheap beer and long talks about their lives. As they walked out into the cool night, the breeze off the water filling the air with salt and ocean, she wasn’t quite ready to let the night end.

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“It’s been a while since I’ve gone out,” Alton said as they walked out into the street. “This was really fun.”

“Anything to give you a break from your research.” Lorna said. “Do you mind if we walk to the water front?”

“Of course not.”

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She smiled as he led the way through the stone street. He’d spent most of the night talking about his research and the legends he’d discovered.

“Next time you’ll have to take me to the Bluffs,” she said. “Show me where I’m supposed to see the monster.”

“First off, Emily is not a monster.” He grinned at her. “And I was actually thinking the Von Haunt Estate. It’s a little more romantic.”

“I really needed this,” she said as they came to the water. She put her hands on the iron fence that separated the canal. Sometimes the city was overwhelming with the tall buildings everywhere, filling the sky with advertisements, and so many people constantly around. “It’s nice to get a break from the drama.”

“Your sister that bad?” he asked.

She cringed. Way to bring up baggage on the first date.

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“She’s really not,” Lorna said. “But she always manages to get herself in the weirdest situations.”

“How’s her vampire book going?” he asked.

“Good, I think.” Maybe. Ada had moped around the apartment the few days following her meetup at the mysterious vampire bar, and spent the rest of her time digging into the books Zella had given her. “She’s been digging into those Encyclopedia Vampirica books.”

“Oh, yeah, I’ve read a few of those.” He shrugged. “The third one’s supposed to be impossible to find or something.”

“Yeah, she’s been looking for a copy.”

“You know…” he said slowly. “If she’s really into it, I may know a place she can go.”

“Really?” Lorna asked.

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“A buddy of mine was hunting for this really obscure atlas for a project of his, and he found this oddities shop somewhere near here.” He shrugged. “I can hit him up and see if he still has the address.”

“Anything’ll help.” She smiled softly, moving closer to him. “I hope you don’t think I brought you out here just to pump you for information.”

He laughed. “Who says I mind?”

“I was really happy when you called.” Her hand touched his. “And it’s so nice out here. Do you really like living in Windenburg?”

“I do,” he said. “There’s some annoying stuff, like the tourists and how far out the houses are, but it’s quiet for the most part. Lots of spooky stuff too.”

“I might have my fill of spooky stuff for a bit.”

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She leaned closer to him, and he noticed the closing space.

“Maybe next time you can show me around the city,” he said. “I’ve only been to San Myshuno once for the convention there.”

She stifled a laugh. “You would. Did you dress up?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

Still laughing, she closed the space between them.

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God, it had been a long time. Her last boyfriend was in college, and it’d just been a few flirtations since then, all of them going nowhere. She didn’t want to let Alton go. Lorna stepped back, searching his face for his reaction. His hand held hers, the thumb moving softly on her skin.

“I didn’t realize my nerd talk was such a turn on for you,” he said.

“Oh my God.” She rolled her eyes, covering her mouth with her hand. “You’re the worst, you know that?”

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He waggled his eyebrows at her. “You don’t seem to mind.”

“Seriously, though.” She looked at him. “We should do this again. Soon. I need an excuse to get out of my apartment.”

“As long as I can offer one.”

He walked her back to the train, and they kissed again. Lorna’s whole body was buzzing a she made it back to the apartment, and as the elevator doors opened, she let out a sigh.

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Ada was lounging on the sofa as she came into the apartment. Lots of things hadn’t changed since her sister’s strange transformation. Her hours were about the same, and her diet probably hadn’t changed that much. Now the only book she read was that encyclopedia. Lorna wondered if she’d written anything at all since this whole thing started.

“Hey,” Ada said, looking up from her book. “You’re back late.”

Lorna smiled. “Did I miss anything exciting?”

“Zella came over, gave me volume 2.” She waved the book at her. “It’s got a lot of drink recipes in here.”

“I guess if you’re hanging out with vampires, that’s what interests you.”

“So.” Ada’s eyes glanced at her from over the top of the book. “Who’d you go out with?”

Lorna shook her head. She rarely shared her dates with her sister unless she knew they were worth sharing, but Ada always knew anyway. Maybe this one was a little more obvious. She could feel her goofy smile.

“Someone new,” was all she said.

Ada rolled her eyes. “Is he cute?”

“He researches local legends.” Lorna tapped the book in her hands. “I asked him about vampires.”

“Oh, yeah?” Ada set it down. “I kind of got the inside scoop now.”

“Well he told me he knows a place where you could track down volume three of this.”

Ada sat up at that. “Really? Zella’s been looking everywhere for one.”

“He said it’s not certain,” Lorna said. “But there’s this oddity shop or something. He promised to send me the address.”

She jumped up. “That’s amazing!”

“I’m sure your goth friend will be happy.”

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Ada shook her head. “You could be nicer to her.”

“I’ve very nice,” Lorna said.

“You aren’t. She’s helping me.”

“She also wants to be turned into a vampire.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked over her sister. “Have you left the apartment since you went to that bar?”

“Uh, no,” Ada said, deflating a little. “I’ve been kind of nervous to. The last few times haven’t gone well.”

“Let’s go for a walk,” Lorna said.

“It’s after midnight.”

“I’ve got a vampire with me.” She smiled. “I think we’ll be okay.”

Ada did seem relieved to leave the apartment. Inside she’d been a ball of nervous energy, constantly typing away at the computer or pacing around. Lorna heard her at night, walking around or watching TV. It reminded her too much of after mom died, when the pair of them were processing in their various demented ways. If Ada started chewing her nails again, it was time to worry.

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“You have not told me a single thing about your boy!” Ada said as they walked down the path of the Arts Quarter.

Lorna rolled her eyes. “I did, actually. He researches local legends or something. He’s doing a research project on Emily the Sea Monster.”

“That touristy nonsense?”

She shrugged. “He likes it. I told him you’re writing a vampire novel.”

Ada stuck her tongue out. “My editor would throw that in the garbage.”

“I didn’t tell him what name you publish under.”

“Thank God. You know what I found in Zella’s apartment?”

Lorna smirked. “Was it a Veronica Lovelace book?”

“I didn’t take her for historical romance.” Ada sighed. “I can never tell her.”

“She’d probably die if you did write a vampire romance.”

“If it was ten years ago, maybe.” She shook her head. “Caleb invited me out again.”

“Yeah?” Lorna said, noncommittally as possible.

“He wants to introduce me to more vampires.” Her fingers made their way to her hair, tugging on the ends. Lorna glanced for chewed cuticles. “He’s vegetarian.”

She snorted. “No way.”

“He and his sister run a vampire charity.”

“They don’t.”

“They do for me.” A melancholy expression made its way onto her face. “I’m so nervous I’m going to screw up. I’m breaking a vampire law just by being alive. Or, whatever.”

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“Listen to me,” Lorna said, turning to her sister. “Caleb wants to help you. He wants to keep you from breaking anymore rules. As much as I don’t like it, hanging out with him will only help you. And Zella’s not the worst. She’s helping you too.”

Ada smiled. “Does it frustrate you that you can’t do anything?”

“No.” Lorna squeezed her arm. “And I’m doing plenty. I got you this address, didn’t I?”

She laughed. “You got yourself a date.”

“And a connection. I’m basically spying for you right now.”

“Aw, thanks.” Her sister reached over and pulled her into a hug. “I mean it, Lorna. I don’t deserve a sister like you.”

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Lorna squeezed her tighter. “You really do.”

They finished their walk around the neighborhood and went back inside. Lorna was exhausted, and she laid back in bed, closing her eyes. She was still flushed from her date, only tamped slightly by her worry for her sister. Warmth flooded through her, and for a moment, she thought this might all turn out okay.