It was seven days before anything happened. After all schedules had to be changed, limos had to be called, jets needed to be chartered, more limos had to be called, hotels needed to be booked, room service had to be ordered (for appearances), autographs needed to be signed for waiters’ nieces who were “really big fans,” and finally rooms had to be snuck out of without the paparazzi noticing, the last of which is a feat only an immortal could possibly achieve.
The vampire hadn’t moved from his spot on the couch in all that time. Not to sleep, not to feed, nothing. He just sat there, the only sign of unlife coming when you tried to grab the remote from him. He wasn’t even reacting to Simon randomly opening curtains, though this was in part because the vampire had painted over the windows one night. And no manner of asking by Amanda could get him to open up about what had happened or what he had said seven days before. He just switched from fashion contests to cooking contests to dancing contests. He even refused to pick up the phone and yell into it (without dialing) so that his favorite singer would win the “crush the dreams of the hopeful” contests.
Amanda knew she should be thanking her lucky stars. This new Yulric was practically a dream. He was quieter than the old Yulric. He didn’t threaten or bargain and showed no sign of killing any more of her patients. He was decidedly less trouble than owning a dog or a cat, even a fish. Yet still Amanda couldn’t shake the feeling that soon the other shoe would drop. Oh and what a shoe it turned out to be.
Amanda was in the middle of pushing Simon into the bath.
“You are ruining my experiment,” he pleaded, trying to keep his sister from stripping him down. “I am testing the benefits of cleanliness versus natural odors in how it pertains to an undetectable approach upon the undead.”
“Well, the results are in and they say that if the living can smell you, you stink too much,” she said, managing to wrangle his shirt from him.
“Ah, but the human nose and the immortal nose are attuned differently,” he argued. “People smell stink, whereas a monster is more likely to smell soap and perfume.”
“I’m pretty sure they smell both,” she replied, grabbing one pant leg.
“Pretty sure is not certain,” challenged Simon. He was now hopping up and down, trying to keep his other leg out of her grasp. “This is why experimentation is needed.”
“Look Simon,” she said, finally buckling, “if you take a bath, I will let you take your Houdini kit in with you.”
This stopped him hopping.
“Even the straightjacket?” he asked cautiously.
“Even the straightjacket,” she agreed.
“And you won’t leave it loose like you normally do? You’ll make it nice and tight.”
“There will be no way you could possibly escape,” she assured him.
“Very well,” he replied and finished taking his clothes off. Amanda went and retrieved the straightjacket from his room. She had never really been sure how he’d managed to get his hands on it, but decided to treat its appearance like she did most things having to do with Simon: with silence. After putting the straightjacket on him and chaining his feet and chest down below the water, Amanda stood over the bathtub with a wooden cover.
“Remember to leave the stopwatch on the sink,” Simon instructed.
“Wash your hair when you get your hands free,” she told him. His head was halfway in the water, which she was sure he would use as an excuse for having “not heard her” later. She placed the cover down on top of him and hit the timer as she left the bathroom, her war won.
Unfortunately, the war, like most, had taken longer than the combatants had thought it would and she was now running late. Going into panic mode, she began undressing in the middle of the hallway. She was doing her best imitation of Simon’s hop from earlier when the doorbell rang through the house, after which, Amanda’s profanity rang through the house. She tore down the stairs, nearly falling and only just remembered to put on her scrub shirt before opening the door and immediately wishing she hadn’t.
Deep brown eyes stared at her from the other side. Sad, but wholesome deep brown eyes that bore into Amanda and caressed her soul. Deep brown eyes whose every answer would be “you.” A strong nose divided the eyes into perfectly symmetrical halves. Above a strong, stubbled chin, a soft, tender mouth formed a mournful smile that Amanda just wanted to comfort with soft, loving kisses. All of this framed by perfect, shoulder length brown hair.
A cold wind blew across the owner of the deep brown eyes, sweeping his hair across his face and his long black coat across his body. His body! Amanda hadn’t even made it past his head. A black collared shirt hugged his ample muscular chest. The pants were black and long and not particularly tight, but Amanda had seen enough episodes to give her a fairly decent idea of what lay beneath and what she hadn’t already seen, she could imagine. Oh how she could imagine.
Amanda couldn’t catch her breath. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even respond to the urge to tear her clothes off. She was frozen in place with both the door and her mouth gaping open stupidly.
“Hi.” Words, blessed words emerged from the lovely sad mouth. “Amanda, right?”
Amanda nodded. In a deep part of her brain, she realized she should say something and so muttered, “Ph…Phantom.”
“Oh, you’ve heard of me then?” replied Phantom with a self-deprecating laugh that was so Phantom. Again, Amanda just nodded.
“You post on the fan site, right?” asked Phantom. Amanda’s eyes went wide. If he’d actually read what she’d posted. Everything she’d posted. The fan-fic and everything. Suddenly, Amanda wished her arms had the strength to close the door.
Phantom, unsure of what the silence meant, continued. “You are PhaNora4EVR640, aren’t you?”
“Y…yes,” answered Amanda, realizing he actually needed her to respond.
“Wow,” he said. “Wow, it is really great to meet you. The writers have said your posts are some of the most trusted and constructive they’ve ever read. Didn’t you guys?”
Phantom said this last to the street behind him. He moved to the side and for the first time Amanda saw that Phantom was not alone. Reclining against a limo were others. A man and woman waved in response to what Phantom had said. Amanda would have assumed these unfamiliar faces were the writers, would have except her eyes had already found the others: Berwyn, Phantom’s main rival for the affection of Sasha and a bad boy studmuffin of the first order; Cassan, the strong, silent leader of the coven with a tragic history as an African slave; Victoria, Cassan’s wife, whose full, supple body was much touted as a return of curves to the airwaves; Lord Dunstan, the villain from the third season who had been summarily defeated so that he could turn good in the fourth; The Gorgon, this season’s big bad who not only had kidnapped Sasha and convinced Phantom she had left him of her own accord but was also sleeping with the person to his right; the person who, other than Phantom, Amanda was most excited to see: Nora, the strong, smart blonde vampiress who could hold her own in a fight. The one Phantom truly belonged with, because she was a real woman who owned her sexuality and refused to be one-upped by a man.
Nora was right there. The main cast was right there. All except Sasha, and really who needed her anyway. The tramp.
“Anyway,” began Phantom, judging that he had let it all sink in enough now, “we were just in the neighborhood and tossing possible story ideas and I said, ‘Hey, you know who we should talk to as long as we’re here? Amanda Linske.’”
Amanda’s brain should have been screaming warnings. It should have been asking itself what the hell a bunch of TV stars were doing riding a limo through Shepherd’s Crook. It should have been asking how he was able to get her full name and address from a secure forum account. But her brain was currently mush and so just stared dreamily out of her eyes.
Phantom, who had not thought it would be this much work, stood awkwardly on the doorstep for another moment before having to add, “So we came all this way just to talk to you Amanda.” He paused again, just in case, but Amanda was still out. “Do you think we could maybe come in then?”
Amanda’s eyes went even wider with terror. How could she be so stupid? She hadn’t invited them in. And they needed an invitation, didn’t they? Oh, Phantom probably thought she was rude now. She really hoped Phantom didn’t think she was rude. But he probably did. She wished she could have asked him, but she knew he would lie like the gentleman he was. And he was…
Phantom waited patiently on the doorstep until the whirlwind of thoughts in Amanda’s head came back round to what he had asked. Finally she said, “Yes, of course. Come right in.”
Behind her, there was an explosion of glass. She would have screamed with surprise, but Phantom was crushing her throat.
Yulric was slightly aware that Amanda had been standing at the door for an inappropriate length of time. He was also aware of the smell of hairspray, cologne, and large amounts of makeup wafting in from outside. Yulric’s brain should have been able to put together that the vampires he’d met a week and a half ago were wearing the same level of hygiene products. But his brain was currently mush and so just kept watching the TV.
That is until the room exploded.
Glass flew everywhere as four massive objects crashed through the windows around him. Yulric tried to keep watching TV, but his self-preservation sense was telling him that massive objects thrown through windows don’t usually land lightly when they hit the ground. People, extremely powerful and athletic people, sometimes do. He turned and managed a feeble “Berwyn?” before a fist backed by big, heavy muscles met his face and sent him over the end of the couch and into the nearby wall.
Yulric hit the wall and bounced off, landing on his hands and feet in a spider-like crouch. His brain tried to analyze the sight it had glimpsed before being blocked by the index and middle knuckles of a left hand. Unfortunately his assailants had no intention of giving him a chance to think. A kick to the ribs sent him back into the wall and a fist to the back of the head tried to put him down.
If I may? proposed Yulric’s instincts.
Very well, relented his conscious mind.
And with that Yulric’s arm shot out and broke an ankle.
A broken ankle may not seem like a very big deal, particularly for an immortal creature of the night. That just goes to show that you have never broken your ankle. Vampires, like the humans they were before, are primarily bipedal creatures. Two legs propel them through this world. Take one of those away and what you have is a pathetic hopping thing, followed closely by a pathetic, easily killed writhing-on-the-floor thing. Even for a quadruped one broken ankle can mean the end of a good run at being the surviving fittest. You have to be a millipede for one broken leg joint not to impair you at all, and even then, it would probably throw off your rhythm.
And why? Because it hurts. Being immortal just means you won’t die from whatever is causing you intense amounts of pain. Sure vampires heal, but only if they leave the injury alone, which is next to impossible when the injury is a leg and the vampire is in the middle of a fight. Both fight and flight require legs and attempting either on a fractured ankle will only make it worse.
The owner of the ankle fell to the floor, howling in pain. A moment later, he was howling in terror as a still grounded Yulric made to eat his face. Someone grabbed Yulric’s robes and pulled back to stop the sprawling attack. Yulric let his assailant place him back on his feet before spinning around and smashing her head into a wall, then another wall, then a chair. He was about to make his way to the kitchen to see if she would make it through the refrigerator when he was attacked from behind by a spray of holy water.
The holy water struck him in the back, soaking through his robes and burning his skin. Yulric released the head he was holding and turned, just in time to get another spray full in the face. Yulric clawed at his skin, tearing away chunks where the water had touched. One of his eyes bubbled and boiled and the intense pain blinded him. He was in the middle of plucking it out when he was struck and forced back against the wall. His arms were pulled out and pinned. Yulric tried to struggle, but met with only pain and weakness. The two holding him were pressing crosses into his arms.
These weren’t just any men though. Deep in the recesses of Yulric’s brain, behind the pain and snarling instincts, there was a moment of recognition.
That’s Berwyn, thought his conscious mind.
Can’t be, replied his animal instincts.
It is, assured the conscious mind. And the one on our right arm is Cassan. Look.
You’re right! said animal instincts. Would you…?
Only if you don’t mind, replied conscious mind.
By all means, said instincts.
Yulric blinked and reason returned. The situation was easy enough to assess. He was pinned by crosses, being sprayed with holy water and facing down at least seven assailants, nine if the footsteps upstairs were to be believed. But who his assailants were, that was the surprise. Cassan and Berwyn held his arms. The Gorgon held a bottle of holy water. The two trying to stand up were Damien Black and Sanguina Marlowe, the writers he’d seen in the behind-the-scenes DVD commentary. Back by the archway, Nora leaned against a wall and standing next to her, holding Amanda by the throat was Phantom himself in the far less than spectral flesh.
“We’ve got him,” Phantom yelled, presumably to those upstairs. “Find anything up there?”
“The bastard had a kid chained underwater,” called down a voice Yulric loathed: Lord Dunstan, the redeemed vampire. Oh how he wished to get his hands on that “man’s” throat and show him the error of his now virtuous ways. “Just give us a minute.”
“Good. We’ll take care of things down here,” replied Phantom. He turned to the struggling Amanda. “Don’t worry. I’ll let you go once we’ve broken his power over you.” He turned away too quickly to see her roll her eyes at that.
So, thought Yulric, they think I am controlling the girl and her brother. And they mean to break that control. Which means…
“Nora,” said Phantom, “would you like to dust him?”
“Always,” replied Nora.
Surely not, thought Yulric. A plan formed. Not a great plan, but it would have to do.
Meanwhile, Nora had sprung up from the wall and grabbed the wooden stake from Phantom’s outstretched hand. The two seemed to share a moment, a moment in which looks were exchanged, breath was held, and the silence asked “Will she kiss him or kick him in nuts?” In the attractive vampire’s grasp, Amanda’s eyes went wide, taking in every detail and prepared to jump up and down, proclaiming to the universe how right she’d been. The moment was finally broken when Phantom looked away sheepishly. Nora turned toward Yulric dejected, but ready to take out some frustration.
“Ready to die, beast?” she asked.
“Dhyhol a ver ph’logga shee…” began the ancient vampire.
“Stop him!” shouted Phantom. Cassan punched Yulric square in the jaw, dislocating it and preventing him from finishing the spell. No matter, thought Yulric. It had only been a distraction anyway.
Nora walked right up to the ancient vampire. She pressed the wooden stake lightly to his chest and slowly pressed with all her vampiric strength. Yulric let out a single cry of pain as the stake bored through his heart and stuck into the wood and plaster behind him. A moment later all his skin turned to dust and fell to the ground, leaving a twisted, robe-clad skeleton hanging on the wall.
 Everyone in the neighborhood merely thought Amanda had caught on that every male within a mile radius was trying to peer through those windows. And secretly, every female was pleased.