"It’s been a while, Your Majesty," I said, which was simply all I could think of to say. "I’m so sorry I’m a bit late to greet you. Where is Eric?"
"He’s in one of the bedrooms," Felipe said, still smiling. His mustache and chin strip were perfectly black and perfectly groomed. The King of Nevada, Arkansas, and Louisiana was not a tall man. He was strikingly handsome. He possessed a vitality that was hugely attractive-though not to me, and not tonight. Felipe was also quite the politician, I’d heard, and he was certainly a businessman. No telling how much money he’d amassed in his long life.
I smiled back at the king in a frozen way. I was mighty put out. The Nevada visitors weren’t acting any better than, say, small-town firemen attending a convention in New Orleans. That these visitors were from Las Vegas and yet felt it necessary to misbehave in Shreveport … well, it didn’t speak well for them.
"In one of the bedrooms" didn’t sound good, but of course that was what Felipe had intended. "I’d better tell him I’m here," I said, and turned to Pam. "Let’s go, girlfriend."
Pam took my hand, and it was a measure of the evening that I actually found that comforting. Her face was still as wax.
As we navigated through the room (the muscular man wasn’t actually having sex with his companion, but it wasn’t far in the future), Pam hissed, "Did you see that? The blood will never come out of the upholstery."
"It won’t be as hard to clean up as the night Alexei went nuts here," I said, trying to get perspective. "Or the club, after we did-that thing." I didn’t want to say "killed Victor" out loud.
"But that was fun." Pam was practically pouting.
"This isn’t, for you?"
"No, I like my pleasures more personal and private."
"Oh, me, too," I said. "Why is Eric back here instead of out there?"
"I don’t know. I just came back from a liquor run," she said briefly. "Mustapha insisted we needed some more rum."
She was doing Mustapha’s bidding now? But I pressed my lips shut. It was no business of mine.
By that time we’d reached the door of the bedroom I used at Eric’s, since I didn’t want to be shut downstairs with him all day in his light-tight sleeping room. Pam, a step ahead of me, pushed open the door and stiffened. Eric was there, and he was sitting on the bed, but he was feeding off someone-a dark-haired woman. She was sprawled across his lap, her bright summer dress twisted around her body, one hand gripping his shoulder and kneading it while he sucked from her neck. Her other hand was … she was pleasuring herself.
"You ass**le," I said, and I reversed on the spot. Getting the hell out of there was my all-consuming desire. Eric raised his head, his mouth bloody, and his eyes met mine. He was … drunk.
"You can’t go," Pam said. She gripped my arm now, and I could tell it would break before she’d release me. "If you run out now, we’ll look weak, and Felipe will react. We’ll all suffer. Something’s wrong with Eric."
"I really don’t give a damn," I told her. My head felt oddly light and distant from the shock. I wondered if I would faint or throw up or leap on Eric and choke him.
"You need to leave," Eric told the woman. His words were slurred. What the hell?
"But we were just getting around to the good part," she said, in what she thought was a seductive voice. "Don’t make me go, baby, before the big payoff. If you want her to join in, that’s all right with me, sugar." It took all her effort to get the words out. She was white as a sheet. She’d lost a lot of blood.
"You must go," Eric said, a bit more clearly. His voice had the shove in it vampires use to get humans moving.
Though I refused to look at the brunette, I knew when she got off the bed, and Eric. I knew when she staggered and almost fell. Now I can keep my car, she thought.
I was so startled to hear this that I turned to look at her. She was younger than me, and she was skinny. Somehow that made Eric’s offense worse. After a second I could glimpse, past my agitation, that she had a lot of sickness in her head. The stuff churning around in her mind was both awful and confusing. Self-loathing made her thoughts all tinged with gray, as if she were rotting from her core out. The surface still looked pretty, but it wouldn’t be for long.
The girl also had twoey blood, though I couldn’t tell what kind … maybe werewolf. One of her parents was the real deal. That made sense, given Eric’s condition. Twoey blood packed a punch for vampires, and she’d amped it up somehow to make herself more intoxicating.
Pam said, "I don’t know who you are or how you got in here, girl, but you must leave now."
The girl laughed, which neither Pam nor I had expected. Pam jerked, and I felt a solar flare go off in my head. I’d added rage to disgust. Laughing! My eyes met the girl’s. The smirk vanished from her lips, and she blanched.
I was no vampire, but I guess I looked pretty threatening.
"All right, all right, I’m going. I’ll be out of Shreveport by dawn." She was lying. She decided to make one last attempt to … what? She sneered at me and said deliberately, "It ain’t my fault that your man was hungry …" Before I could move, Pam backhanded her. The girl lurched against the wall, then slid to the ground.
"Get up," Pam said, her voice deadly.
With visible effort, the girl rose to her feet. There were no more smiles or provocative statements. She passed close to me as she left the room, and I smelled her; not only a trace of twoey, but another scent, blood with a sweet undertone. She made her way down the hall and out to the living room, supporting herself with one hand against the wall.
After she’d cleared the door, Pam shut it. The room was oddly quiet.
My brain was running in a hundred different directions. From my late arrival, to the new guard at the gate, to the strange thoughts I’d read from the girl, the odd scent I’d caught when she was near … and then my whole focus fell on a different subject.
Eric still remained sitting on the side of the bed.
The bed I thought of as mine. The bed where we had sex. The bed where I slept.
He spoke directly to me. "You know I take blood …" he began, but I held up a hand.
"Don’t speak," I said. He looked indignant, and his mouth opened, and I said again, "Don’t. Speak."
Seriously, if I could have gotten away by myself for thirty minutes (or thirty hours or thirty days), I could have dealt with the situation. As it was, I had to do a speed speech in my head.
I knew I wasn’t Eric’s only drinking fountain. (One person could not be the sole food source for a vampire; or rather, not for a vampire who doesn’t supplement with synthetic.)