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Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Horror/Scary · #2061508
A disillusioned Vampire wants out on his terms.
Peter Out; A Reluctant Vampire.*
Derek B Thorpe.

As much as I detested the meeting, I could no longer ignore the repeated messages.

On waking that morning, the messenger saw fit to deliver a stunning raven-haired lass to my bed as I slept. It was a brilliant reminder, evoking shades of 'The Godfather' novel. But, I couldn't help wonder whose daughter's torso ended up staining my satin sheets. His signature slice; from the young girl's left shoulder, across her chest to under her right breast, required no further identifying features. There would be more like her if that evening's reservation was not made. I was sure of that.

I sat alone at an oval dining table. The cascade of the ivory tablecloth over the edge and onto the floor pleased me. It was my assumption the meal would be complimentary, so I ordered the most expensive items from the menu. The Beluga whale with Petrossian caviar garnished with black truffle shavings arrived and I looked for every excuse to despise the meal. Regrettably, the chef's couture at Blago's Restaurant was beyond reproach, and my palate rejoiced without consent. It had been difficult, but over the years I conditioned myself to enjoy this human food, and I was almost free of my dependency for real blood as sustenance.

Personalities of consequence populated the mezzanine level restaurant. I saw the Mayor and his Chief of Staff lifting exotic cocktails to their lips as they looked over the balcony edge at the dancing figures below. A woman in tight beige leather pants gazed past the shoulders of her date a few tables away. She looked at my polished shoes, my cuff links, and at the glide of the four fork prongs as they left my mouth. I could tell she paid no attention to his conversation even though she nodded appropriately. I did not engage her vision. What for? It had all become far too easy.

The chair legs from the party sitting behind me scraped along the marble floor and a woman of rare beauty came into view at my right arm.

"I don't mean to bother you, sir. Pardon my intrusion, but what is that cologne you're wearing?"

I closed my eyes and took a breath. Should I lie or tell her the truth? I really didn't want to be rude, but I was not in the mood.

"It's 'musk of me', ma'am. I'm not wearing any cologne," I said, without looking too much in her direction.

"Shit!... I mean, 'goodness me', sorry. You smell like this all the time?"

I sighed and swallowed my caviar. She wore elbow-length gloves the color of my table cloth and an elegant throwback Christian Dior dress. A shiny mesh cap covered her hair to complete the 1940's look she tried to capture.

Before I could answer, the presence of the gentle lady with the beige leather pants, filled the empty chair at my table. She parted her lips to speak.

"I told my date that I knew you from work. I...I wish he would dress more like you. I really like your suit. I feel like I know you from somewhere. Have, have we met before?"

I knew what she wanted. I knew what they both wanted and I was loath to let them look into my eyes tonight. I'd seen this opera multiple times before. I reached inside my jacket for my shades just as the Maitre d' rested her palm on my shoulder.

"It's time."

I rose and tossed my napkin into my unfinished two-thousand-dollar meal. "Excuse me, ladies. It's not our time now, in the near future perhaps."

The Maitre d' weaved between the tables and paused at her station. "Mr. Out, please follow those two gentlemen in the gray suits at the end of the bar. Enjoy the rest of your evening."

I appreciated her efficiency and pressed two hundred-dollar bills into her palm, with discretion, before walking off in the direction she advised. The two men greeted me with a nod and they led the way down a plush, red-carpeted hallway. Fats Domino trailed behind us in pleasant decrescendo. Admittedly, I held onto its musical tail longer than I expected, as I siphoned off the last calming notes before my meeting with the Godfather of our kind.

The gold elevator doors opened and the men parted for me to enter first. They frisked me with bare hands initially then moved a crystal sphere around my person, intently looking for some sort of change to occur within. The elevator was none like I had seen before. There were no panel buttons and the cylinder moved sideways for less than a minute before beginning a silent descent, perhaps three floors in total. There was a feeling of calm serenity. I could have been in there all alone as the reflection from the elevator walls just showed my well-dressed silhouette. Certainly, the coarse breathing on both sides of my shoulders reminded me I was in the company of brutish henchmen. However, what they possessed in brawn, I could tell they'd fail miserably in sensory awareness.

I've been on this planet for multiple generations and I've seen many portraits of luxury and squalor. I've witnessed countless domiciles of kings and paupers alike. But I wasn't prepared for the majesty of the living quarters when the doors opened and I stepped out from the elevator. If my heart had been human it would surely have paused.

The lair of Nemelos was visually arresting. His residence rivaled the size of a cathedral. One large open rectangle with no walls save the four at the perimeter. The elevator rested at roof-level, and a wide stone staircase narrowed and curved to the ground floor thirty feet below. The floor plan was a cross between a museum with varied exhibits and a living orchard with trickling brooks. Exotic birds squawked and flew around at will. Behind my shades, I marveled internally at the floor-to-ceiling aquarium that occupied more than half of the opposite wall. The thick glass changed colors as it held back an underwater seascape like no other. In the far corner to my left, at the base of the aquarium, his swimming pool of crimson liquid could double as a red carpet for royalty. Mozart's third movement from one of his concertos poured from sunken speakers in that corner of the living space.

One associate stood at the elevator doors and the other led me on a serpentine meander to about the left center of the room. He motioned to stop walking while he continued on and stood poolside. I was still in awe of the tropical underwater splendor before me and I gazed around at my immediate surroundings.

There was lush vegetation all around. Actual trees bore fruit next to ornate furnishings and fine tapestries. I tried to stay focused and remember protocol. Even though it was not technically required, as we were of different clans, it was probably advisable that I show some degree of deference in his sanctuary. I looked for a pedestal of sorts close-by, it should not have been too far away. I was sure that this entire meeting would be choreographed and he was watching me from some vantage point. Just to my right, a heavy metal mace balanced on a short column. I removed my shades and walked past a dark hole with a locked heavy grate on the surface. The smell of urine and feces assaulted me as I went by. I placed my right hand on the mace and bowed my forehead to meet it.

I was unsure which was more distasteful; the show of respect or the foul stench escaping the floor cage. I returned close to my mark. Something big and angry was under that grating and I heard it scratch at the walls and ram the hatch as I passed. The heavy metal clasp strained against the concrete, but it held firm.

I did not give him the pleasure of seeing me flinch.

There was no sign of Nemelos after three minutes. He was following his script, I was sure of this. With patience, I scanned his priceless collections of paintings and artifacts from around the globe, some notoriously missing from prominent museums.

I looked over in the direction of the sentry-like, muscular associate. The pool, just then, seemed to exhale. The red liquid swelled and Nemelos broke the surface and glided to the far end. I'm sure this was not blood. No self-respecting Vampire would associate with such fluid that was removed from its life source. This, though, was an impressive facsimile in texture and smell, and it drained from his form as he stepped from the pool.

His form indeed.

This is what he wanted me to see. The feeding form of his kind. His image, in its most potent, dominant state with all of his muscle fibers exposed, raw and engorged. He stood tall and naked, with his back to me and gestured for his clothing. His kind had evolved to a point where some of his bones could expand with fluid to become instantly menacing. His shoulder scapula especially, separated like armor from his back and developed a sharp serrated edge that he used to sever flesh. His kind could not maintain this form indefinitely and he needed to lose this corpus erection to fit into his clothing. In the millisecond before his robe was put around his shoulders, he rebounded into a hyper-wrinkled prune of a man, showing all of his two hundred plus years.

"Ah, Mr. Out."

His voice surprised me. I'd never heard him speak directly before. It was deep and staccato and he extended the pronunciation of my last name. It reminded me of gravel pellets bouncing off a tight bass drum. He continued to towel off and spoke from poolside.

"I pay my staff very well for the services they provide. There is no need for you to tip them. Above you is a pear tree with ripe fruit. Pick the one closest and take your two hundred dollars from the core, if you don't mind."

My hands remained pocketed for some time before I reached for the fruit. I bristled at the thought of obeying his order.

Sure enough, there were two tightly rolled one hundred dollar bills protruding next to the stem.

A cheap parlor trick, but he'd not persuade me that money grew in trees today. Score one for him, but I was sure I'd figure out how he did that before the meeting was over. I rested the pear on a ledge with the bills untouched.

"Welcome to my grotto, Mr. Out. Let me offer you some advice; Sasha has a very long and muscular tongue. If you don't want to be pulled through her grate when she gets a hold of your legs, I'd step over the dotted line on the ground in front of you."

I looked to the floor and I was indeed two feet behind a patterned arc in the tiles and one foot in front of a slug-like tongue snaking out from the iron grating.

I stepped forward and Sasha's tongue just clipped the heel of my shoe. He was having fun. Score two more for him.

"Don't be offended, Mr. Out. Sasha seems to like you."

...For dinner. I added under my breath.

He continued to towel off as he approached me. The lapels of his purple robe crossed just under his neck. As he drew closer it became apparent that it was less a piece of clothing and more an exotic exoskeleton. It embraced him in a way no fabric I'd ever seen before and likely afforded defense from any physical attack.

He tossed the red-streaked towel to his associate and stood before me.

Nemelos was not an attractive man. He wore a decent platinum ponytail, but his nose was oddly bulbous. He had a few prominent moles across his forehead and they rode the five furrow lines that creased his skin. They looked like notes on a music sheet and I hummed the tune in my head.

"What's that thing in the cage?" I asked.

"I am not really sure. I dabble in a bit of genetic mischief as a hobby. A little reptile, a little avian, a little mammal, I just call her Sasha. Just a few notes of music in her ear and she's fine. You can go to the edge and have a look at how beautiful she is, but you might not come back."

With intent, he swiveled his neck and some of the red fluid from his ponytail splattered on my face and suit. He picked the pear up from the ledge and tossed it across the way through Sasha's iron grating. He glanced over to make sure I was watching. After a moment, the fruit shot out from the floor cage with high velocity clear across the room.

"That was naughty of me. Fruit is an insult. She wouldn't be caught dead eating something that didn't bleed."

"Interesting version of pear pressure."

He smiled at my wit. A stingy smile that kept his teeth imprisoned.

"If you think she's impressive, you need to witness my twins. I see you like my seascape."

Wiping the faux blood from my cheek and suit, I dampened my true opinion. His script was going well so far.

"It's okay, if you like that sort of thing. The guppies in the fishbowl on my desk are happy with their lot in life."

He stepped forward to tap the sides of the thick walls. "Hello, my little liebchen. Come out and play for papa," he said in a paternal tone.

He stepped back to get a better vantage of the massive tank of fish, weeds and rock formations and boasted about his centerpiece.

"I lived for eighty years on the Greek island of Limnos in the Aegean Sea, until I fell out of favor with the village folk. It was an ugly scene in the end, but I just could not leave my wondrous backyard behind. So, I brought it with me. This is the actual water, sand and rock face I fell in love with on the island. Saline and temperature controlled of course.

"How--," I began, but didn't complete my question for fear of revealing my true fascination. I was losing this proxy game of chess.

"My twins are shy today. You are making them nervous, Mr. Out."

He gestured to his guard. The muscular man went to a bin attached to the tank and pulled out the head, shoulders and right arm of a young Asian male. He skewered it onto a hook and activated a vertical conveyor up to the top of the tank. I lost sight of it behind panels but soon the torso was jettisoned into the blue waters of the aquarium.

Small fish nibbled at the loose flesh but in a flash, two enormous octopuses appeared from the crevasses of the rock face and pinned the partial body to the tank walls. They fought and wrestled like true siblings for the biggest share of the prize and the once placid waters churned and frothed.

I tried sincerely to show as much nonchalance as possible, but I fear he might have detected that glint of fascination.

"That one is Castor and the other, Pollux. They are actual clones from the original Kraken." He looked to be in genuine delight, as his bony lips tugged at the corners and his eyes danced with every movement of their sixteen arms.

It was all that I could do to turn away prematurely and feign disinterest. "You tell sea stories that are hard to disprove, Nemelos."

I edged around the arc of Sasha's probing tongue and waited for him to lead me to our meeting area. He pointed to a circular leather couch on a raised platform and we sat.

"Care for a beverage?"

I declined. I needed my sharpest wits at this time.

"Of late, Mr. Out, I do not like the things I'm hearing about you."

"Lots of people say crazy things these days. Do you trust your sources?"

A yellow cockatoo appeared and landed near his shoulder on the couch back. He smiled at it and adjusted his robe. "Oh, Mr. Out, I know a lot of things. We live in the information age, remember?"

He reached over and picked up a tablet from a side table. "For instance, I know exactly what is happening in room 509 upstairs."

He tapped a few buttons on the tablet surface with flair and the entire aquarium face became a giant video board with exceptional clarity. On the screen, the Mayor and his Chief of Staff were undoing each other's neck ties and kissing passionately.

"Let us give them some privacy, hmm?"

The image faded and the twin Kraken still fought over the shreds of their Asian dinner.

"You disappoint me, Mr. Out. You come from a pure and historic line of Vampires. I do not need to remind you that you are a direct descendent of Serbia's first Vampire; Petar Blagoutavich. I named my restaurant after him for fuck's sake. And what do you do? You reject your heritage, bastardize your proud last name and call yourself one 'Peter Out'. What are you trying to say with that? That you had enough or that your genitals are exposed?"

"Last time I checked, it was still my last name. I can do whatever the hell I want with it. Personally, I prefer my maleness kept toasty warm."

"Watch your tone, Mr. Out."

I bristled with contempt at his referencing my family's legacy and his unauthorized use of a portion of my last name. Even if I had decided to retire it, it was still mine. I still, however, had to remember that the relationship between us was more like a Baptist Bishop meeting with the Pope. I hummed the ridiculous tune on his forehead to calm down.

"Listen, call it a midlife crisis... in human years, that'd be about forty-five, in our years, it's happening at one hundred and eighty. Call it depression, call it whatever. I just don't want to represent myself as a Vampire any longer. There is no joy left for me in this masquerade."

He spat out the next few sentences, "You cannot abdicate your birthright because you have felt blue for a decade! It does not work that way! Why would you forego your gifts? In your prime, I heard you were one of the fastest of your kind. Weren't you blessed with that...what do you call it...that auditory premonition gift? You hear something a second before it actually happens?"

"All of that is gone by the wayside, Nemelos. Where is the thrill of being constantly superior, knowing you can have any woman at any time and give her twenty orgasms in the first hour alone?"

"Hmm. Twenty orgasms huh?" I saw him ponder wistfully then he reset his argument. "You stupid piece of myopic turd. Have you no vision for what power can bring for you and your offspring? Listen, I am the one who determines discipline among our kind. I am the one who takes away power! But you--you want to give it up on your own. I throw up in my mouth every time I think about it."

The yellow cockatoo flexed his halo of head feathers and flew startled, from the couch back, where he was perched. I sat in silence. I sensed that he had lost some of his gameplan. His breathing cadence shifted and he seemed to thumb through his internal Rolodex.

He continued with renewed passion.

"It was I who engineered your present position as network bureau chief of cable and web news. I don't need to remind you that was done for a very specific reason. Your prime directive is to manipulate the news in such a fashion as to sway these mindless citizens to vote for our kind for President of these United States come next election. Our candidate has slipped in the polls because of your disinterest. I need you to do your part in ensuring that the next leader of the free world is a Vampire, Mr. Peter Out."

"It sounded like a fab idea at the time, Nemelos but what of the unintended consequences. I have little zeal for that project any longer. I simply want out."

"What unintended consequences? Power and the influence it carries are everything!"

"You are wasting your time, Nemelos. Count this as my official notice of cleavage from my clan. You cannot persuade me otherwise."

He paused and looked around his palace. "What do you want? Everyone has their price. Pick something that you want as a gift. I have Rembrandts, Picassos, Mozart's original score sheets, Michelangelo's doodles for fuck's sake. All this could be yours in a hundred years or so."

"You haven't listened to me. I am not interested in any of this shit. I have enough baubles of my own. After the first two-thousandth victim, how much different can it be to take someone's soul and possess them?"

His mouth fell agape as if I had said the most sacrilegious statement he had ever heard. And I probably did.

"Okay--okay, Mr. Out. You leave me no choice. Let me tell you how it's going to be from now on if you don't change your mind today. You see that I have the resources and the motivation to make your existence a living hell from here on out. I can hurt you over and over in many creative ways."

He paused and corkscrewed his neck such that it cracked like arid bark. With his tension dissipated his features softened and he continued. "Before I allow you to leave me today, Mr. Out, I need to see something for my own eyes. Indulge me this final request and you may go."

I groaned internally. What do you have up your sleeve now, old man?

He rose and descended the five steps to the ground level. When he saw that I was still seated he turned to me directly.

"This will only take a second. Follow me."

We walked along narrow tiled corridors of priceless artifacts on both sides. Some of the treasures were in small glass cases and some were trapped in spectacular displays of etched crystal. He truly lived in a museum of life not just of this planet, but of other worlds beyond perhaps. He had lost his desire to show off his playthings and we came to another circular platform with a pleated red velvet curtain suspended around it. He Looked his age as he took me by the arm. He wrapped his arachnid-like fingers around my bicep and we went up the steps together. He stepped on a floor lever and the red curtain parted.

Two figures sat slumped in the shadows at the bottom of a large multi-sided bed center stage. He stepped on another release, and light fell like a thunderstorm of rain from a black sky. My eyes adjusted to the blinding glare.

Nemelos' pegged, jaundiced teeth seemed to glow, as his lips allowed a generous sneer. "I believe you might be familiar with these two women."

One woman wore an ivory Christian Dior dress with elbow-length gloves and the other wore tight beige leather pants.

The two women from Blago's restaurant. I knew then, someone was going to lose their life. This was not going to end well...

He stepped close to the tranced women and put his knotted index finger under the chin of the gloved captive. He lifted her jaw to bring her virgin neck into full view.

"For old time's sake, Mr. Out, select one of these beautiful women and have your way with her. Show me what you could and used to do ten years ago. They obviously want you. Be my guest and ravish them." His tongue snaked out and licked his slender lips. "Drain their blood! Consume their souls one last time!"

Color returned to Nemelos' face like a ruddy tide. He had been watching me, even as I dined in his restaurant.

How was I to handle this? What would have been the point of my painful denial of this sport over these years if I engaged in this blood and sex binge right now? It would negate all I was working toward and I would show weakness to him.

The women sat docile, beckoning, wanton. Gripping the soft mattress and writhing their hips into the bed. I didn't know what he'd done to them but they appeared to be in a trance of submission. Their gaze never left my eyes. A breeze began from nowhere in particular and the corner of my jacket fluttered.

"Show me, Peter Balgoutavich! Show me what you once were capable of. Take one of them. Hell, take them both."

"No, I'm leaving, Nemelos. It's not that simple. Not anymore." My voice sounded embarrassingly weak. I was ashamed. It was bad enough that Nemelos challenged my right to be a passive feeder, but one of the women, in her trance, almost begged for this sanguine rapture with her eyes.

For so many years I sacrificed my desires and denied my instinct successfully, only now to be mocked and shamed by an elder for my pursuit of purity.

He goaded me with insults.

"Bite into her flesh, you weak son of a bitch. Consume her soul and devour her sex!"

The breeze picked up. I sensed that he thought he was close to breaking my resolve. His eyes mirrored the ecstasy of pushing me to the brink. Nemelos' excitement swelled over its embankments as if from a broken levee, and in a burst of uncontrolled frenzy, he shed his purple cloak.

He erupted out of his clothing and morphed into the hyper-muscled tumescent creature. In a spontaneous arc of his prowess, he lifted the woman with the ivory dress by her hair and sank his teeth into her carotid artery. He tore away her dress, exposing her full and flawless breasts, and prodded at her genitals with his spidery fingers. He hoped that this show would entice me into the orgy he orchestrated.

The other woman watched the gruesome scene with sedated awe, and periodically glanced to me for some sign that her own moment was not far away.

Nemelos had not just fed, but had feasted. His performance was impressive, but I am not sure he intended to go as far as he did. When he realized that he had chewed through more than half of the woman's neck and her life could not be saved, he tossed her into the air as flippant as if she were an aged rag doll. On her way down, he swiped at her torso with the expanded rigid edge of his shoulder blade and severed her from left shoulder across to the opposite armpit. One-third of her body fell, spewing blood and entrails onto the bed, the rest of her splayed twitching at his feet.

He stood there, satiated and erect. The other woman writhed, knowing her time was imminent.

I closed my eyes and listened for the sound that I had waited for over a decade to hear. I heard it a half second before it actually happened.

Nemelos was about to recloak and his gorged feeding physique prepared to transform with a soft hiss.

With the speed I had always been known for and maintained over the years, I knelt and detached the right leg from the woman in the beige leather pants. By design, the leather and the limb came away with ease, revealing the silver infused wooden spike I personally carved.

I swiveled and thrust that prosthesis directly through Nemelos' heart at his most vulnerable moment. The stake protruded from his back, carrying black putrid tissue as passenger. I detached her foot at the ankle and snapped it onto the exposed point to lock it in place.

The coup d'etat began.

Robeless, Nemelos had little defense. His mouth, frozen agape, pegged teeth at ragged attention, but the screech he uttered remained trapped inside. He struggled to pull the stake from his chest.

"Selene, the glove!" I shouted to my accomplice.

She tore off the elbow-length glove from the torso on the bed and ripped at the lining. I positioned myself behind the frantic Vampire and tried to hold him steady. I could not come into contact with the silver-garlic paste that I manufactured into the glove lining, and I depended on Selene to milk the mixture through the middle finger of the glove into his mouth.

He flailed and easily knocked her off balance, as her other leg was riveted through his chest. He bit with vicious intent at my fingers in his mouth. She got back on her leg and drained the paste as we practiced.

Nemelos sank to his knees and choked on the noxious material. Remnants splattered on my hands and my pain was close to unbearable. I wiped off the paste but the job was far from over. There was one more thing left to be done with him before I had to deal with his guards.

"Selene, the skull cap. Toss me Mika's skull cap!"

I was hoping both of my ladies would have survived the takeover but Mika and Selene knew the risks involved. It wasn't over.

Nemelos attempted to roll down the stairs to somehow break the spear off from his chest. I prevented him and caught the skull cap tossed by Selene. This was no ordinary piece of clothing accessory I invented. I snapped the corner edges of the lace material together and it energized with heat from the laser fibers. I had five seconds before it flamed out.

As he had done with hundreds before, I sliced at his body, diagonally from shoulder to right armpit with my weapon. The cut was so precise that he could look down and see his shoulders slide off from his torso like a block of ice.

I held his head aloft by his white ponytail and looked into his eyes.

"Your time has passed, Nemelos. You fell for my deception. Patience is a powerful weapon. But somehow, I want all of this now, not, 'in a hundred years or so'."

Rejecting the creep of his death, he spoke, despite being separated from his lungs. "Well played, Mr. Out. Well played indeed. But you know this is not over."

"How is this man still talking?" Selene asked.

"I don't know, but I do know how to fix it. Follow me."

"Sashaaa...Uccidere! Sashaaa...Uccidere!" The dying Nemelos was trying to give a signal to his caged mutant creature.

The guards were coming to kill us. I could hear their frantic tramping through the corridors. Selene hopped down the steps with me, and I trotted to an exhibit with a suit of armor enclosed in its class case. I broke the display with a swift kick and took the silver sword from the knight's grasp. I signaled for her to stand in the center of the corridor to lure Nemelos' Vampire guards.

As two came into view, just before they reached her, I ambushed and slew them with the silver blade. Selene never flinched. I tossed her the sword.

"Hold on and defend yourself for as long as you can. I'll be back as soon as I dispose of this head."

"Sashaaa...Uccidere," he wailed, but with somewhat less volume.

The animal jumped at and rammed the iron grate barrier repeatedly with titanic force. Two guards stood directly in the path toward the aquarium. They were no match for my speed and strength, although I admit that holding their leader's head by his ponytail offered me some tactical advantage.

Nemelos, somehow, was still able to claw at me with his only arm. We approached Sasha's pen and the enraged beast blared her battle cry and challenged her restraints. The latch held firm, but only just barely.

In my final gesture of contempt, I hooked his skull through one of his eye sockets and activated the conveyor chain on the side of the tank. Nemelos' twins would get to feast on their own creator. On his way up, he mouthed the words; This is not over.

The twin Kraken fought without mercy over their late night snack inside his beautiful seascape.

Before they devoured his head, I was sure I detected a wry smile on his bony lips. What could he possibly have to smile about?

The clanging on Sasha's grate stopped. I realized this was due, in part, to the fact that she had escaped. I saw her loom behind me in the tank's reflection. Clearly, this was the cause of his dying mirth.

I turned to face her. She stood fifteen feet tall on her muscular Tyrannasaurus-like hind legs. Devoid of pigment, her scales were as pale as the sand in the tank and ran from her neck down across her back. The light bothered her. She flexed her neck against her front feet, likely unaccustomed to being free of her dark cell. Where her eyes should have been on her elongated head, lay mere vestigial depressions.

Two crystal-like, lower canine tusks curved upward from her jaw and her tongue shot out from her mouth when she determined my position. Blind and angry, Sasha pinned me against the side of the aquarium and I regretted not having planned a solution for this problem.

She moved in for the kill to satisfy her master's command.

She advanced quickly as she retracted her tongue-- but, inexplicably paused at the last moment. She appeared momentarily confused. She opened her foul maw and I could see the tunnel of my demise down her throat. Her teeth were almost transparent, each one like a chiseled chandelier, lining the avenue to her gut. But her indecision gave me a few seconds to think. I was covered in Nemelos' blood. She had tasted him on me, but was I her master? She nuzzled at my neck where his wet ponytail left drops of the red pool liquid and inhaled.

I scrambled to think what else I could do to convince her that I was of no threat.

I remembered one benign sentence he used when he offered his advice to me. Just a few notes of music in her ear, and she's fine, he said. What could be more intimately musical to Sasha than the random notes on her creator's forehead? I hummed the simple tune over and over for my life. Her ears flexed and pivoted against her skull and the dramatic softening of the tension in her jaw muscles said she was embarrassed at her misguided aggression. She sagged her neck and lay at my feet, making mewling noises in her apology.

I had indeed become her new master.

There was movement in the corridors and bodies approached. I looked around for a weapon of defense. To my surprise, three guards carried Selene towards us. They set her down with reverence next to me and bowed before backing away. In her right hand, she held the mace that I had shown respect to on entering. In their eyes, whomever controlled the mace held the power.

I took the mace from her. "Good job, Selene. You are a fine warrior."

"Thank you, Peter. I appreciate that." She locked her arm around my elbow and drew close. "It's too bad about Mika, but there is this matter of my leg that I let you amputate in return for certain considerations. When are you planning on my conversion to Vampire so I can regenerate this baby?" she asked with a knowing grin.

"Patience, Selene. Patience is a powerful weapon."

*...of sorts.

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