Silence surrounded her. Lemus had left and Komono, ever in search of food, had tired of the emptiness of her trash cans. By the play of light seeking entrance through the blinds, night remained an hour or two away. Kasha stretched as if her body ached from its cramped vigil. A glass of liquid sat on the table beside her. The contents of once frozen blood had thawed to room temperature and awaited consumption. Good old Lemus.
Kasha stood. She had never been much of a vampire, certainly she didn’t compare to any of the greats: living or fictitious. If anything, immortality had been a reprieve or in today’s vernacular: a do over. Sure she had killed innocents before. Vampires do. Yet she had been human long enough to remember her first love and the fleeting joy of childhood. It was the one thing she wished she hadn’t taken from Becky Lee. And why the child intrigued her so, Kasha couldn’t say. While their town was small, it did not lack the younger generations. More arrived with each passing year.
Ortega’s founders had planned for the city, swaddled it in legality and fed it from multiple sources to ensure its prosperity and growth. Being a historic community, laws were stringent and grandfathered from the founding. This kept out the monopoly fast food and mega stores. A horrific notion of progress: man’s unchecked need for power and greed, Kasha thought. Given the opportunity, Mom and Pop stores thrived creating a close knit community the chains had yet to break. Since the town’s inhabitants preferred a more idyllic life Kasha was not overly concerned about them. She could not deny that progress encroached and for that, even she had lawyers. As long as Kasha lived, Ortega would be her refuge; she’d protect it as a lioness her cub.
It seemed odd to her that this place, no bigger than a postage stamp should demand from her what she was no longer free to give – her blood. How it had claimed her was as much a part of her human story as her vampiric one. It seemed another time when she had run across these hills and meadows. Back then Kasha bounded like deer from predators. Her endless energy finding purchase in jumps while her toes climbed the air, arms gracefully outstretched as if God himself lifted and swept her across the fields. Was it this Father Joe feared?
Kasha shook off the memory. Her dreams up until then had been chaste, full of longing to fill the days with song, dance, and merriment. Her mother swore Kasha was destined for more than the traditional role of mother and wife. Perhaps she would head west or set her ambitions higher and travel to the old world. Kasha never got to find out. Her human life had been cut short.
Yet she had traveled, extensively for almost 100 of her years on and off. Wounds take forever to heal and the exotic locale had brought excitement, a relief wrapped in the new. Once her eyes had taken their fill of this world and the dust settled, it was to this soil her heart longed to be near. Always this place – where the last of her innocence had been shed. Kasha took a sip of blood. The past was cyclical. The irony was not lost on her.
“Have you been here all day?” Lumas asked stepping past the silent barrier that market their neutral territory. Kasha did not answer nor remove the glass from her lips. She reminded him of the ancients whose moves were methodical and painfully slow. Living within their bodies the monsters became apparent beneath their marbled alabaster skin. Kasha was not an ancient or sired from one. Though Lemus might have sworn at this moment Kasha’s strength rivaled them, maybe even predated them.
He waited a respectable minute suddenly careful not to encroach further into the den or pick the thoughts that floated upon the air. Lemus shifted as he watched the mental vision of a young and vibrant Kasha dancing in the field invade his sanctum. “I’ll leave you to your thoughts.”
“No.” Kasha said finally acknowledging him. “No need. What secrets remain between us?” Lemus met her gaze, one word surfaced in his thoughts: plenty. A sly smile graced her mouth as if he had spoken it aloud. He let his sapphire eyes fall to the floor out of respect and Kasha sensed a subtle shift. Something new. Lemus was wary of her. Now she stared at him, eyes narrowing in a hooded visage that caused Lemus to cringe. He had seen enough hunters to understand what happened next. “Lemus.” Kasha felt the hunger flair while speaking his name. Those two syllables coating her throat in a way the blood in her hand could not. “Curse you.”
Lemus watched the glass drop from her hands, the snarl twisting her lip faded as the poison he had added moved through her system. Thankfully it was quick or Kasha would have torn his limbs from the rest of him. “You crossed the line, Kasha.” She howled, her body following the glass to the floor.
Images of Lemus’s dealings filed passed her. Here she thought he was a companion, the faithful dog she fed scrapes when the entire time he had been a watcher. Hoping, she assumed, for her to make a misstep, to kill as she had an innocent. The knowledge began to fade; her eyelids fluttered against the wood of the floor in rasped movement. At least death would be swift.
“No, Kasha.” Lemus whispered. “No death. He does not wish you death.” This she did not hear. Already the poison succored by her minimal feed attacked the nervous system, brain and heart. It had been made to slow a vampire, interfere with healing and for the newly made return them to a state of dead. Lemus waited until the traitorous thoughts she held about him calmed to a whisper akin to sleep. Only then did he move in and begin his task of securing her.
“It is for your own good.” Lemus said to the unconscious benefactor he once viewed as a friend. A division of power had given Lemus an “in” into the upper echelon by being Kasha’s personal watcher. He did not view this division as anything other than a change of management, a restructuring he deemed in order since he could not remember the last time the ancients had risen from their slumbers. Clans grew weak, fat on the bloodied violence of today’s humans and careless. One such clan member rested at his feet. He could hear the vamping of her heartbeat and knew time was precious. She would awake with a vengeance that Lemus would not be able to contain.
“It is done.” He said into the cell phone. He nodded as he listened to the next set of instructions and moved swiftly to the fridge where a second dose of poison waited. “And if it kills her?” Lemus asked now standing above Kasha with syringe in hand. A brief smatter of guilt passed over his features. Given how long her sire had been tracking her, waiting for Kasha to make such a kill, he did not plan for her to die from an accidental overdose. Lemus stuck the needle in her neck and released the cool translucent liquid from the syringe. Kasha twitched, her eyes darted back and forth beneath her eyelids. Lemus sighed. She had been close to waking. “I’m sorry. “
Kasha fought the slow heat racing through her veins. Her core temperature plummeted then rose in a quick fever as the poison raged war upon her organs, again attacking those vital to her survival. She heard the soft almost undetectable remorse in Lemus’s voice but the words did not register. Darkness closed over her and Kasha surrendered willingly.
The figure appeared cartoonish, out of focus. Grumbling in her throat marked it a threat she recognized on a subconscious level. A fellow vampire, his scent strong and old: her maker. “I thought you were going to succumb, little one.” She cringed at the pet name. “You fear me still?” He asked amused, “After all this time? You were a hard one to find, Pequeña. Always traveling.” He shook his head sideways as though disappointed by her previous actions. “But I know you, Kasha. Every precious thought in that childish head of yours I knew before I turned you. I only had to wait. Patience was never a strong suit but if time has given me anything it is lessons on filling it. Where else would I find you other than here, in this godforsaken town, the place of your human life and the birth of your afterlife?” He chuckled. Once upon a time that laugh had been golden, a balm she cocooned in. It still had that rich timbre and musical lilt that attracted attention.
He opened a vein, “Drink. Drink as you did that night.” Her thoughts penetrated him and he stiffened at their strength. Gone was the girl he had turned. “Of course you have a choice, little one. Just as you did then.” He placed a hand on the top of her head soothing her hair. “So young, my sweet, of course you clung to any resemblance of life. And now you regret it? Now when you are finally becoming? Kasha!” He made a tsk-tsk sound. “I have been waiting for this day. Come on.” He slid his wrist toward her mouth. “You will not die if you don’t drink. It will just take longer to heal and I am impatient.” He jerked his hand away as another of her thoughts slapped him, “Fine. Suffer through it.”
Kasha felt as if she were scuba diving in the bowels of the ocean where the dark was interrupted by neon flashes of light. She sensed movement. It was not him but another. A woman, young, newly turned and not of any value else he would not let the girl tend to her. Kasha debated killing her anyway but knew the Spaniard wanted nothing more than to see his little one feed. “Won’t work.” She projected certain he was within her mental range. The girl hissed, taking a swipe at Kasha that surprised her.
“Playing with your food again?” The voice hung questioning. So much had happened between them Lemus was unsure what her reaction would be. He watched the figure propped against the wall, her eyes still unseeing, her hands cuffed and legs bound. She looked fragile; a kidnapped rape victim awaiting judgment by her tormentor. “Kasha.” Lemus shooed the girl away and knelt beside her. “Change is coming. Swift and on a pale horse for all. Please, you know him.”
Everyone knew the Spaniard. He was the Lestat of their world, enigmatic, colorful, a living, breathing requiem from times long past. By God he had been beautiful that night. In life he had been notorious for his way with the ladies – young and old. How he had charmed her. Housing an intensity unmatched before or since, this dare devil lived each breath out loud. Gifted with a charisma he possessed even before death, the Spaniard was a force akin to a million Hollywood greats. His passion left her winded and his immortal grasp on the world enthralled. Kasha briefly wondered why she had run away then remembered how he sustained these characteristics.
“He has vowed…”
“I don’t want to hear what he has vowed.” Kasha said finding her voice. Her eyes locked on Lemus. “You betrayed me. Brought me to the one I never wished to see. I’d rather you left me dead at the ancient’s feet. It would be less of a betrayal.” She lifted her arms and pushed against the cuffs. They bit her skin but did not give. She did not try to force the issue. Soon her strength would be regained. Besides, what was she to do once it was? There would be no escape; Kasha was sure every contingency had planned in keeping her exactly where he wanted.
“You’d prefer death than life at the Spaniard’s hand?” Lemus circled her, his own silent and embittered rage surfacing. “He offers you another chance at immortality – true immortality and you shun it as you always have. Do you really think your thoughts are so private?” He cut her with his eyes. “Everything has been given to you. Even the ancients ignore your disastrous sprees and the wake of blood you leave. Just once I would like the feeders to not clean up your mess. Instead they are greedy, lazy and weak, appreciative of the Cat’s left overs. The Spaniard won’t ask again.”
“Rennie,” Kasha interrupted, “His name is Rennie. And yes he will. He seeks what he cannot have and has eternity to wait. Do not think he cares for you or even me. We are toys, Lemus, nothing more. Once bored he will cast us away. I’ve seen him do it. Nor do I want to hear about his grand plans, or schemes about killing the ancients. Do not think they are unaware of him as well. Why we still live I imagine is because we are annoyances too small to matter. Perhaps my latest folly will arouse them.”
She stopped to think about that. Did the ancients even stir from their slumber anymore? Times had changed, become faster with its neon lights, 24/7 attitudes and noise. Kasha couldn’t imagine ancients preferring human progress to the silent darkness of their caves. In all honesty she had stopped paying attention to the order and the ancients much as people forget about their childhood associations. Given her current predicament, she actually needed Lemus or more accurately the information he possessed. The watchers already in place may be the ones pulling the unseen strings and if that were the case, she might decide Rennie to be of use too.
Rennie. He had given her a hundred and fifty year reprieve. Surely he had a plan for her or at least involving her. Kasha wondered if this time she was the bait. Not that her crimes against the ancients or humanity warranted such a fate. Just her time to die, at least in the eyes of Renato Durant. Abraam had been his first name, this she had learned in his arms late at night before the dawn broke the skies. It was the name she murmured moments before her death and never again.
Abraam Renalto Prisco Durant. His full name spun in the cobwebs dusting the sacred space of her heart. It lived as a curse blighting the living breath of her youth and exalted as a gift shared. If ever a bond twisted with both the bloom and thorn it belonged to Rennie. For without him Kasha would never have known love.
Abraam died as he lived and lived as he had died. Full: a bull fighter in love with all the pleasures life offered. He had been a man Kasha wished she knew, a sire she imagined often. Rennie could not shield her from his past or the flamboyance of his life. It had flowed from him to her at Kasha’s birth. Neither spoke of their human lives or the events of his turning. She never asked about Rennie’s sire. The memories stirred in her blood and if Kasha cared to trace it, on a good night she could travel back to the beginning. Rennie hadn’t cared nor had she for what could the beginning tell them that they did not already know? It wasn’t who he was now.
In her travels Kasha had walked across Abraam’s grave, followed the Prisco Durant bloodlines as they prospered and divided. Abraam Durant had birthed two sons of his own – though he did not know it. Kasha spent years abroad just to witness the birth and growth of another relative, a great-grandson with the same good looks and proclivities. Proof some things did run in the genes. The line was strong, thriving again in Rennie’s native Spain and here in a Texas town two hours south of Dallas.
Rennie shunned all things from his human life. This knowledge was the one thing, small as it might be, Kasha could use as leverage against him. Abraam had not been a cruel man; in no way did this human share the blood thirst of his vampiric self. Time prisoned him, turned him as finely as bones to dust. The last shred of his humanity fled long ago but Rennie never imagined his own kin could be used against him nor would he allow this final desecration. At least Kasha pinned her hope upon it. She could only guess and wait. Perhaps pray that this card would never have to be played.