Blood Rose Ch. 05byicehead©
Twelve years ago...
Dorian shoved his way through the hospital doors and bolted for the front desk. "Where is she?" he demanded.
"Excuse me sir?" the startled receptionist said, shrinking back from him.
"My wife! Where's my wife? She's having our baby and I'm late, now where is she?"
"Uh, it would help if I knew what your wife's name is, and if you calmed down please, sir."
Dorian took a breath. "Melissa. Melissa Steel. Now please, just tell me where she is."
The receptionist began tapping at her registry computer. "All right, just a moment sir."
Dorian gave a frustrated grunt. He didn't want to wait just a moment. He should have been with Melissa hours ago. He took off running down the halls. The maternity ward couldn't be too hard to find. "Sir, please wait!"
He'd waited long enough. It was as if everything had transpired specifically to prevent him from getting here on time. The trouble at the office, the traffic pile-up, all of it had been like one big cosmic conspiracy. But he was here now, and Melissa was somewhere in this building. There was a definite chance he'd already missed the big event.
He called for her as he ran. "Melissa? Melissa!"
"Mr. Steel?" Dorian came to an instant halt at the sound of his name. "Are you Dorian Steel?"
A doctor with a clipboard in his hand was standing in a doorway. "Yes, where's my wife?" Dorian demanded.
"Please just relax," the doctor smiled, "everything's fine. She's waiting for you, this way."
Dorian eagerly followed him, as the doctor led him to the maternity ward and to a partially opened door. The doctor stepped to the side and allowed Dorian to go ahead. Dorian pushed the door open, and stepped inside.
As soon as he took one step inside, he stopped. She looked up to him with a smile. "You're late," she said. But Dorian didn't care anymore. He was looking only at the bundle she held in her arms as she sat in that bed.
"But I'm here. That's all that matters now."
"Yes, you're here," she said. "And so is your daughter."
Dorian shakily stepped forward, and sat down to accept into his arms the bundle she offered to him. He took one look at the sleeping face surrounded by the blanket, and felt his heart melt. He was holding his child. He could barely breathe. "My God... Melissa, she's so... beautiful! Look what we did!"
She laughed with him as he handed the baby back to her. If he'd ever been happier in his life, he couldn't remember when.
"Looks like someone else was cheering for us too," Melissa added. "Particularly for you."
Dorian looked at her curiously. "What do you mean?"
She gestured her head to the bedside table, where Dorian hadn't bothered to look before. "Somebody sent us a present."
Dorian took one look at what was on that table, and felt most of his elation vanish. It was a narrow glass vase with a single red rose. Upon closer inspection, he saw a tag on it with handwriting he would recognize anywhere: "Congratulations! To Dorian, with all my love."
"Do you know who it's from?" Melissa asked.
"Yes," Dorian said gravely. "I do."
A tense moment of silence passed. "What's wrong?" she asked. Dorian said nothing. "Honey, you're scaring me."
"It's all right," Dorian said, rising from the bed. "I'll take care of this. I'll make sure she doesn't bother us."
Dorian paused at the door. "Let's just say... some people have trouble moving on."
With that he walked out of the room, and down the halls. Once he'd gotten a good distance away from the room, he stopped and looked around him carefully. She was here. Somewhere.
"Where are you Electra? You can come out now."
"Hello lover," her sultry voice spoke behind him.
Dorian casually turned around, and saw her standing there with a calm grin on her face, as usual. "You know I'm a married man now," he said. "I implore you to stop calling me that."
She reached a hand up to stroke his face. "You'll always be my precious Dorian to me."
He slapped her hand away. "Not anymore. How many times have we had this conversation, Electra? Try to get it through your head this time: it's over."
She angrily folded her arms. "Honestly, what does that woman have that I don't?"
"My child," Dorian said. "And my heart. Which is something I never gave to you."
She seductively moved closer to him, putting her hands on his chest. "You're deceiving only yourself, my love. I know there was a time when I was everything to you. I was your definition of bliss."
"Times change, Electra," he said. "And you're over 700 years old. You ought to know that by now."
"Yes, I'm over 700. I am immortal. Forever. And so was the love I offered you."
"It's too late now," Dorian shook his head, stepping away from her. "I love her. Not you. And I want you out of my life. Don't try to see me again." With that he headed back to the room where Melissa and his newborn daughter waited.
"You're just going to walk away from me?" she said.
"I walked away from you a long time ago."
He managed to get a good distance before hearing her voice once more. "I will find you again. I promise you that, Dorian." He turned around in response to that—and she was gone.
Kaeli was psyched. Friday had finally rolled around again, and they were making their return to the Deadly Rose. She didn't know what it was about the place, but she had been waiting for this all week. The line to get into the club was moving way too slow; couldn't the fanged hulk of a bouncer just let people the hell in so she could get inside?
"Is it me, or are you really on edge tonight?" Andy said behind her.
Kaeli responded by letting out a breath to calm her nerves, which she hadn't even realized had been on edge. "Sorry."
"I was just curious," Andy shrugged. "I mean you've been kind of distant all week since the last time we were here. What's going on anyway?"
"She's just pent up from all the hunting and needs to get out and party!" Jade suggested.
Kaeli rolled her eyes. "Thank you Dr. Freaky."
They were finally getting to the front of the line; only one more person stood in front of them, a woman with neck-length dark hair. The huge bouncer took one look at her, and an odd look of amusement appeared on his face. "Well I'll be damned. And what would you be doin' here, Annabelle?"
"Hi, Chill, nice to see you too," she replied. "I'm here to see Electra, where is she?"
Kaeli had suddenly developed a keen interest in the person standing in front of her. "Didn't you and her have some kinda blowout or something like five, six years ago maybe?"
"Good to see your memory still works. I'm not here to make any trouble; I just want to talk business with your boss. Now are you gonna let me in or what?"
Kaeli turned back and exchanged a glance with Andy, and saw that he was thinking the same thing she was: this definitely merited investigation. Andy carefully produced a tiny audio bug from his pocket and smoothly handed it too her. She gave him a nod, and turned to face back forward. They knew what to do.
Making himself look clumsy, Andy pretended to accidentally stumble forward and bumped into Kaeli from behind. This caused Kaeli to stumble into the back of Annabelle, and in that motion she smoothly planted the bug on the back of her dress. "Watch it dickhead!" she shot back at Andy.
"Sorry babe," he returned.
"Hey, sorry about that," Kaeli said to Annabelle, who was looking back at her with an annoyed glare.
Annabelle remained silent a moment, before finally saying, "Not a problem." She turned her attention back to the bouncer. "As we were saying?"
Chill shrugged. "All right, your funeral. Go on in."
Kaeli and the others followed without much trouble, moving casually into the din of the revelers. Andy leaned close to Kaeli and said, "Was the dickhead part really necessary?"
Kaeli grinned mischievously. "I was just living the part. Now where's our guest of honor?"
Andy produced the small tracking device disguised as a cell phone Ethan had provided them. A dot appeared in the corner of the screen. "She's in this direction somewhere."
"Tell you what, you go find her and see where she leads. I wanna check out the chick who was in line in front of us and what she has to say with the boss."
Andy shrugged. "Works for me, I guess." He pulled another ear transmitter and handed it to her. "This is tuned to the bug I gave you. Just plug 'er in and you're good to go."
Kaeli nodded, and fitted the device to her free ear. A quick tap, and a new influx of noise began coming into her ear, along with the woman's voice saying, "Excuse me." Kaeli gave Andy a nod, and moved off through the crowd to see where she led.
Gradually the sounds of ambient noise coming into her ear lessened—punctuated suddenly by the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking. The gun was relaxed a second later, accompanied by another woman's voice chuckling. "I never thought you'd be stupid enough to come back here again."
"Don't sound the fire alarm, Jackie, I'm just here to talk to Electra," Annabelle's voice said.
"And the stupid just keeps on coming."
"The fact that I'm even standing here proves Chill was good enough to let me in, doesn't it? He knows I'm not going to make any trouble."
"Big Chill is not the brightest bulb if you recall. But all right, I'll let you go talk as long as you have me as a chaperone."
"Now that hurts, Jackie. Don't you trust me?"
There was a brief moment of silence. "Do you really want me to answer that?"
The transmitter in Kaeli's other ear beeped. "I've spotted our little miss worm-on-the-hook," Andy's voice came through.
"Keep an eye on her," Dorian's voice said back. "If our hypothesis is correct, she'll probably be looking for the vamp that bit her last week."
The other voices she was hearing were punctuated by the sound of a door opening. "Hey Electra," Jackie said, "you'll never believe who decided to drop by."
Andy's voice in one transmitter acknowledged Dorian's instructions, while a feminine voice in the other began to laugh. "I'll be damned to hell," a silky female voice with a thick English accent said. "And to what do I owe this dubious pleasure?"
"Long story short, Electra," Annabelle responded, "I'm interested in reinitiating our business arrangement."
There was the sound of chuckling, as Andy's voice in the other transmitter said, "She's on the move. And she's going like she's got a purpose." Kaeli was getting tired of dividing her attention between two transmitters. She sighed, and after a brief hesitation, removed the transmitter that was allowing her to keep contact with the team.
"And why, daresay, would you be interested in that?" said Electra.
"I can't continue to fund my house and my lessons indefinitely, that's why."
"Where were you when we had this discussion six years ago?" Electra snidely said. "I'll repeat what I said for the benefit of your obviously limited mind: I have no further interest in that pitiful mansion of yours, or those sad excuses for vampires you call disciples. I have my Chosen; I don't need you any more. You'll just have to swallow your pride and get yourself a damned day job."
"Yes, I recall you saying that."
"So explain to me what exactly I stand to gain by continuing the arrangement we officially terminated back then?"
"I thought my newest pupil might interest you."
Just as Kaeli heard Electra say, "And what led you to that curious notion?" she spotted the vampire from the previous week sitting at the bar in the same place. She ducked back so that another patron blocked his view of her; she didn't want him recognizing her.
Annabelle's response to Electra's question was: "Because she mastered ultra-sensory perception in a single session."
The transmitter in Kaeli's ear fell suddenly silent. Either something had gone wrong with the signal, or Electra had been thoroughly stunned by what Annabelle just said. Kaeli suspected the latter to be true, which was confirmed when she heard Electra say in a shocked voice, "You're certain of this?"
"I know I didn't live up to your warrior fantasy, and we've never agreed on much of anything, but have I ever lied to you?"
Kaeli barely noticed Electra saying, "No, I honestly can't say you have," as she spotted the blonde bimbo from the previous week approaching... only she wasn't approaching her. She was being drawn by the hypnotic lure of her Prince of Darkness. As they'd surmised, she was returning to the dark-haired, long-ponytailed, golden-eyed vampire that Kaeli was trying to avoid being seen by.
Kaeli returned the team transmitter to her other ear, in time to hear Dorian loudly calling to her. "Kaeli! Kaeli, answer!"
"Yes, Dorian, I'm right here. And I see her. She's with him again."
"Where were you? We've been trying to get a response from you for like five minutes!"
"I'm sorry, I was trying to listen to... wait, hold on." Electra was talking again.
"What else have you taught her?"
"The night following her first lesson, I instructed her in soul scanning," said Annabelle. "That was last Saturday. She came back last night telling me she'd achieved it. She should now be working on hypnotic charm."
"Perhaps if you were to bring this prodigy of yours here for me to meet, I might tell you if she was worth reestablishing our partnership," Electra said.
"Well, trouble is she's still underage."
"How old is she exactly?"
"That young? A mere tot has displayed that kind of proficiency already?"
"As I said before, have I ever lied to you?"
Dorian called to her again. "Kaeli, what's going on?" She groaned, and again removed the team transmitter, returning her full attention to eavesdropping. The conversation she was hearing was getting very interesting.
"So my understanding," Electra mused, "is that you want me to visit your mansion again, where I have had the good sense not to bother myself with in decades, so that I may meet this child prodigy, and if I find her interesting I resume supplying your funds to support your perverted teachings of my discipline?"
"I think that about sums it up," Annabelle chimed.
"And when precisely would you like me to make this thrice-cursed trip?"
"I would say whenever you want, but that would probably be never, now wouldn't it?"
"Unless it proves worth it, that is very correct."
"I instructed her to come back next Wednesday to inform me of her progress," Annabelle said simply. "You can meet her then."
"I do have my own matters to attend to, I'm sure you're aware," Electra warned.
"Oh trust me, you'll appreciate the time you took when you meet her."
For a brief moment the dialogue ended there. And it sounded like Annabelle was moving, probably for the door. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me this girl's name before you leave?" Electra said then.
After a brief pause, Annabelle responded, "Elizabeth."
Kaeli then heard the footsteps that indicated Annabelle was leaving. And she was officially intrigued. This mansion they had been talking about definitely merited investigation... but how would she find it, and then how would she get in?
Offhand, she could only think of one answer—and she knew it was one she'd rather not run by Dorian. He'd never let her do it. But for some reason, she felt this was something she had to do. She clutched at her crucifix, whispered a prayer, and started walking.
The hunter girl was doing her damnedest to be sneaky, but Anthony had been aware of her presence long before she was of his. He was just finishing up his taste of Caitlyn for the night when he noticed the girl starting to move towards the back. It seemed like she had found something that interested her more than him. He had a feeling he had best find out what.
First things first, though.
Caitlyn was just coming out of the trance she went into while he fed. "Caitlyn, dear," he said gently, "I have some things to do now. Will you wait for me out front?"
"Of course," she said with a weak smile.
"Go on now."
Caitlyn turned and began heading for the exit, and Anthony looked around him carefully. As he'd hoped, it didn't look like anyone—at least anyone who wasn't a vampire—was going to notice the disappearing act he was about to pull. They were all too busy dancing and drinking. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, letting himself drift into a deep trance. He felt his body slowly beginning to dissolve from the outside in, fading a little bit at a time. Within less than a minute he was no longer a solid shape, but a floating, drifting mass that saw and heard in all directions as it drifted along the floor.
According to Electra, the Old Ones—or at least Dracula—were capable of fading into mist almost in the blink of an eye. Anthony still needed some more work. It sometimes tugged at his patience that he was still so slow at that trait; the way Electra always talked about the glorious night when they would take back the throne, he was becoming particularly anxious to hear her say he was ready. He'd been training for six years, and the act was still a physical chore.
His vision in this form was hazy and colorless, and his hearing slightly distorted, but it was clear enough that he was quickly able to find the hunter girl again. And she was in fact moving towards the VIP area in the back, where she was most likely going to be greeted by Jackie's gun, but with a hunter one couldn't leave anything to chance. Then another woman emerged from the VIP area, and the hunter girl's attention instantly seemed to fixate on her. Anthony focused his own attention on that woman as the hunter approached her...
Wait, I recognize her. She was Electra's former protégé before she began training me. What was her name? ...It began with A... Abigail? No, that wasn't it... damnit, I can't remember.
The hunter girl got within speaking distance of her, and she spoke. "Excuse me, uh, Annabelle? That's your name, that's what the bouncer called you, right?"
Annabelle, that's right.
The hunter girl hesitated. "Um... I was wondering... well... I mean... are you a vampire?"
Had Anthony been in solid form at that moment, his brow would have furrowed curiously. What was this girl up to? "Who are you?" Annabelle asked.
"My name's Kaeli," said the girl. "And I want to be like you. I want to be a vampire."
And it just kept getting weirder. Could he have been wrong about her? Maybe she wasn't a hunter after all... unless this was some kind of ploy. He was sure last week when he looked at her eyes, he was sure she had to be a hunter, and if she was there had to be some ulterior purpose to what she just said.
"Why don't you give me the long story?" Annabelle said curiously, folding her arms.
"Well, I just sort of heard a rumor that this was a vampire club, and when we were in line, and you were talking to the bouncer about the boss, I just... kind of figured you probably were... one, you know. So, I figured I'd try talking to you."
"And just why do you want to become a vampire?"
Kaeli paused. "Look, I... I have my reasons, just... can you make me one or not?"
Annabelle gazed at her studiously, looking straight into her eyes. Anthony recognized that look. If she did in fact study under Electra, what she was probably doing now was looking into the girl's soul, just as he had done. She probably had already figured out what Kaeli was thinking, whether Kaeli was aware of it or not. Then an odd smile suddenly came over her face. "So when and where do you want to do this?" she said.
"Well, not here," said Kaeli, "and not tonight. Do you have a place I could come to, or something? Somewhere you live?"
Ah-hah! Anthony understood the girl's plan now.
Annabelle grinned suspiciously. "Yes," she said in a rather oily way. "I do." She reached into the pocket of her coat and pulled out a small card, and handed it to Kaeli. "Why don't you come by... Wednesday?"