When he drops by her house unexpectedly, a misanthropic teenager must play hostess to the one and only Florian Werther Bathory Byron, a vampire with a tragic life story, a luminous complexion, and a dangerous reluctance to actually kill anything he decides to eat.


10. We

A great deal happened at once then, faster than I could see. There was a great crack, and a shattering of old glass, as the window burst inwards, out of its frame, and a shadow that must have been Florian surged through.

Momow screamed, and leapt for him. There was a sharp crack as Florian caught him mid-air.

Then he was gazing triumphantly at me, with a limp Siamese hanging from one fist.

"Look, all better now," he said, with a blinding smile, giving Momow a little shake, so that his apple-shaped head flopped back limply, at a gruesome and impossible angle. "Do you have an extra carrier around?" He nudged the nearest one with his foot, and the cat inside complained loudly.

"No," I said, slowly clambering off the bed. "The rest are in the attic. What for?"

"To put him in. What? I am familiar with the conditions of the will, you must have figured that out by now at least. You're not completely helpless! I helped Cordelia write it. It was just more - fun - to come in without your knowing. Anyway, since his condition is now manageable, we should be set for life."

"We?" I inquired stonily.

He gave a little impatient sigh.

"Well, for the duration of your lifetime, anyway... Of course some adjustments must be made to the exhibit, but you're a handy for a girl, and resourceful, aren't you? Throw in a few feeder mice every other day, and put some solid grilling in the windows, and he'll be around as long as we need him to be."

"And since I'm allowed in again, I'll make sure he never touches you, don't fear. A little eye to eye..." As he spoke, he tilted Momow's broken-necked head right-side up again, and flicked the ear with one finger. "He may not like it, but he must obey his maker – so to speak – whether he likes it or not, while we're under the same roof."

One of Momow's eyes winked open. He made a sort of furious mewling sound which didn't quite leave his voice box, given the broken neck.

Florian took a step forward.

"Bill? The carrier? Much as it warms the cockles of my heart to leave him hanging like this, my arm is beginning to stiffen up."

He was holding the cat at arm's length away from us both. After a moment he brought the other hand up and tucked a stray lock of hair from my ponytail behind my ear. I shivered.

As I had been the night before, I was again very conscious of the lack of space between us. This time, though, it was not possible to keep my eyes from his. They were bold and lovely and patently insincere.

Instead of freckles this time I looked away and focused on his lashes. I've always envied people with eyelashes. Mine are pale and sparse and nothing striking, like my face: quite forgettable. My hair's the only thing about me people ever remember, and most of the color does come out of a bottle, just like Cordelia's.

Florian ducked his head down and brushed his cool lips across mine.

"Well?" he murmured, drawing back effortlessly after a long moment. "What do you say, Bill? How about another lifetime?"

With the blood rushing into my face again, mute and frozen at the same time, I found myself wishing very suddenly: if only he weren't so beautiful. If only he weren't so much who he was. Because I did want to be lovely and interesting and important to someone. I did, very badly. And Florian knew it.

I could see it in the way he was looking at me right now. When I let him in, I thought I was helping him because he needed me, but the truth was he had just needed someone like me.

I knew I wasn't on his level, not the way he measured people, and he knew it, and yet he was still staying right there. As if he truly had an equal stake in the step he was encouraging me to take. There was something about that that wasn't right: something that made me feel very angry, and very cold.

"Wait a minute," I ordered, with a calmness that surprised even me. "Hold him still."

Then I moved. There was a long rattling screech from Momow, which made me wince, and a surprised shriek from Florian: but I dug the sharpened stake that had once been a knitting needle in deep, up between the Siamese's narrow ribs, and twisted, hard. Momow's stick-like legs flailed: his claws raked against my arms. I seized his limbs and held them still until it was no longer necessary.

Gore pooled on the carpet below. The cats began to meow again, and hiss, and growl again. Florian shot me an injured expression, and let the crumpled thing that had once been Momow slip to the floor.

"Well, then," he said, gazing down at it, and up again at me,"If that's how you feel about things, I suppose you'd better put him in the oven for a bit too. You never know with cats."

And I did, until there was nothing left but ashes, and the stench of burnt fur and bones permeated the house.

Then I packed my bags, and left for Florence's. Needless to say, she was surprised to find me on her doorstep at three in the morning, but she did not turn me away.

I slept on her couch for two weeks, before I heard back from Azure Tech about the internship I'd applied for, and left for their headquarters on the last week of the month.

I'm in Austin now. The last text I got from Florian was a picture of Drusilla, who's taken to nursing Cordelia's old gloves in place of her slippers. He seems to have adapted well to the domestic tyranny of the remaining cats: and I suppose, all things considered, they couldn't ask for a better housekeeper. 

THE END (for now)

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