I turned to the last page where I have my tally marks before shutting the book. I looked into the vampire’s green eyes, “Thank you for this trip down traumatic memory lane, whatever your name is. Now, I’m leaving.” I twisted my body to a normal sitting position before standing up.
“Caderyn.” His voice was soft and careful as he stood up.
“What?” I squared myself off to him, a challenge.
He stepped closer to me, dodging around the small table. When I was trapped between the vampire and the chair, he stopped, the distance between us entirely too close for my liking. “My name is Caderyn.”
I scoffed, “Isn’t that a name for a Prince?” I lightly touched his face, “Do you fancy yourself as royalty?”
He grabbed my hand away from his face, “I don’t fancy it, but if it’s accurate.”
I narrowed my eyes, “You’re a Prince? Living in Vegas? I could think of plenty of places where I’d rather be if I were royalty.”
He shrugged, “I’m here because something told me that I was needed here.”
I pulled my hand from his and sidestepped away from the chair and him. “Keep your people away from me, Caderyn; so that none of them would get hurt again. Tell them that the Cerbera is in Vegas and let that fear of me keep them safe.”
I walked to the door and tried to open it, but he put his hand on it to stop it from opening. “Let Frost walk you home this morning and come back tonight.”
“Why should I? I’m a danger to your people and every second that I spend near them is another that can push them towards disaster.”
“You told me your story and I want to help you. I have resources that you don’t and wouldn’t you rather be somewhere where you could earn more tally marks for your book.”
I appraised him with a different temperament. “What kind of resources?”
“For one, I know the doctors here want some of your blood to test on to see if they can create a cure. For two, I know a wise woman who can see what needs to be done for you to be able to die.” He answered as he looked straight into my eyes, something that would put a normal human under his spell.
“Do you know how hard is it to draw blood from a body that constantly heals?” I asked him, an eyebrow raised.
“I’m sure that they will figure something out.”
“Why would you want to help me? I’ve killed over three thousand of your people. You saw names that you recognized…” I bit my lip, trying to figure out why he would help me.
“If you become non-poisonous, then you are no longer a threat to the vampires I need to take care of. It’s a win-win for the both of us. You get to die and I get to keep my people safe from you.” He explained. “Say that you will return tonight.”
“Fine, only because you are trying to help your people.” He let go of the door and let me open it. Frost and his brother stood on the other side and I watched as the gathered their composure. “Eavesdropping is rude.” I saw Frost holding my bag. “I’ll take that.” He handed it to me, as Blaze looked passed me to his Prince.
“My lord… There is grave news.”
I looked back to Cadeyrn, only to see him shake his head to Blaze. He looked to Frost, “Please escort her home and back here tomorrow. I will talk to the both of you after you drop her off at her home.”
Frost nodded once, grabbing my wrist, “C’mon, daylight is coming and what we need to tell our Prince is important.”
I shook him from my arm. “Then, stay here. Your twin has tasted my blood, so I’m sure that he can track me down pretty much anywhere.” I looked to Cadeyrn, “This sounds more important than a poisonous flower like myself. I can find my way home.”
“Are you sure?” He asked.
“Positive. I’ve been wandering since I was seven and have lived here since this was a Mormon mission, so I’m sure I can find my way.” I waited for him to give up and let me go alone, which did not take long after he took a long glance at Blaze.
“See you tonight, flower.”
“Cerbera.” I corrected as I walked towards the front door of the hospital.
I overheard Blaze giving a report to Cadeyrn, “The King has killed Elijah, my lord.” I escaped out the door before I overheard to much more than that. I looked down the long driveway, where trees lined both sides of the drive. The rocks and desert plants of the xeriscape looked natural beyond the line of the hardy evergreen trees. I walked down the drive, finding the front gate open for me, a guard standing in the small shack.
“The boss called down here to tell me that you were leaving and returning tonight.” He handed me a lanyard with a key-card. “If you need to get in and no one is in the shack, this card will help you come inside.”
“Thank you.” I put the key-card into my purse and looked to the guard. “What’s the cross streets for here?”
“Sunset and Pecos. Will you be able to find your way home from here?” He asked politely.
“Yeah, I’m not that far from here, actually. See you tonight.” I waved to him as I headed away from the Strip. I wandered down the street, hoping breakfast would be open for me. I saw the sign for the Blueberry Hill and rubbed my hands together, excited for the deliciousness that waited inside.
I walked through the 24/7 door and saw Holly waiting for me. “Saw you walking up. Your Alaskan Ice Cream Waffle is on its way, just the way you like it and the Diet Coke is on the table waiting for you.” The lovely plump woman spoke from behind the glass, pie-filled counter. Her extremely curly black hair fit her face well, as did the green cat-eyed reading glasses that she wore.
I sat into the booth that overlooked the rest of the restaurant, the same booth that I sit in every morning. Since sleep is not needed, I usually get up when tossing and turning becomes too much of a hassle for me to deal with. I inhaled most of the Diet Coke in a gulp, wetting my tongue and throat with its acidic chemically taste. I pulled my phone out of my purse and found a text from my agent, asking me if I could send in some of my work in a couple hours. I sent one back, replying that I wanted to go out and take pictures first, then I would send them later in the day. I put a reminder in my phone to get my car from the bar after breakfast.
The vanilla ice cream and chocolate chip covered waffle arrived and Holly refilled my glass as I handed her my card. I dug into the ice cream, mixing the chocolate chip pieces into the vanilla, before eating it in small spoonfuls.
I saw the frosted spiky tips of hair enter the restaurant and prayed that it was just another early morning riser. My luck was out at this point, so Holly showed Frost to the table. She gave me a look of interest and handed him a menu. “I’ll have a coffee, please.” He spoke softly to Holly, before turning to me,”I have never been here.”
“You have no right to invade my sanctuary nor to follow me.”
“Despite the importance of our meeting, Cadeyrn still wanted me to make sure that you were able to get home.”
“It’s daylight out, so I’m sure that I won’t be attacked.” Holly came back to the table with Frost’s coffee and took his order of eggs, bacon and a biscuit. She handed me my card and receipt, her cursive handwriting at the top of the main receipt, usually telling customers to have a lovely day, but on this one was a warning, “He’s a Daimhin with a strong master. Please be careful.” I caught her eye and nodded once as Frost added sugar and cream to his coffee.
I lost my appetite and could not finish my waffle, even though it was perfectly made. I glared at Frost, hoping that it would spoil his drink. It did not work, but it made me feel better. “Even though our masters sleep, Daimhin can still roam about and attack you on their master’s behalf.”
“Would have been fine if your brother didn’t blow my cover.”
“I know my brother is a hothead-” Holly came by to drop off his breakfast. He gave her a smile, before it faltered. As Holly left, he looked at me oddly, “She’s a-”
“Her master is perfectly fine with me eating here every day and he has yet to sic his dogs on me to follow me home.” I checked the restaurant and Frost and I were the only customers there. I waved Holly over, which she happily obliged. She brought a carafe of coffee, a cup and a pitcher of soda, before sitting next to me. “Holly, this is Frost and his vampire’s master is the reason why I was late this morning.”
Holly glared at Frost, “How dare you enter into my Prince’s area without his approval.”
Frost put the fork down and stared at Holly, “And who is your Prince, exactly?”
Frost choked on his coffee, “How long as he been here?”
“I’ve been here for years, but he is visiting from Istanbul.”
“Then this isn’t his area; this area belongs to Prince Cadeyrn.” He took a sip of his coffee, as the color drained from Holly’s face. I looked between the two of them and realized that Holly’s master was below Cadeyrn in rank, meaning he could not protect me from Cadeyrn. “Also, what kind of a Prince would have his people so far away from him?”
I kicked Frost under the table, “Not all masters are like yours where he tries to keep his people under his thumb. He trusts his people enough to not cause trouble and the fact that he only comes once a year for a meeting, means that his people respect him enough back to not cause trouble, unlike your brother.”
“As I was saying, he is a hothead and your scent made him blood lust.”
Holly turned to me, “You were bitten?”
“Yeah and I took care of him; he’s doing better.” I stared down Frost, “So, who is Elijah?”
Holly’s brow furrowed, “I know that name…”
“You weren’t supposed to hear that.” Frost growled under his breath.
“Well, I did, so who his he and who offed him?”
“Wait, Elijah as is Lord Elijah?” Holly placed the name in her mind. “He was killed?”
Frost nodded, “Yes, Lord Elijah and he was killed by the King.”
Holly choked and started coughing harshly. I rubbed her back, but she stood up, “I have to get back to work.” She walked away as quickly as she could without actually running away.
“What King?” I asked Frost, since he was still sitting in front of me.
“The Vampire King. We have a monarchy with a King at the top, Princes and the Princess next, followed by Lords and Ladies, then top generals, then the commoners. Not all Princes are related to the King and those who aren’t, can’t become King. Prince Steriling is an example of that, because he became a Prince when the last Prince he was under was killed. Commoners can become Generals, who can become Lords, then Princes, but only Kings can come from Princes within Dracul’s bloodline.”
“Classes aside, why would the King kill a Lord?”
“If a Lord can’t keep his people in line, then he can be marked for execution. The King carries these out himself, because our King is a sadistic one, who enjoys to watch them suffer before ending their lives.”
“How did Holly know that his was a Lord; aren’t there more than one person with the same name?”
“No, when a vampire becomes a Lord, they take on a name that no one else can have. There’s a book with the names that he can use, which the Wise Women update with their magic when a vampire rises into the higher ranks. Some vampires choose not to deal with the politics that come with the higher ranks, so commoners and generals don’t get names, but instead get nicknames, such as my brother. He is a General so instead of a true name, he is Blaze and since I am his Daimhin, my name matches his in some way.”
“Lovely, so is this vampire lesson over? I need to get my car and get to work.”
“Why do you work?” He asked and I could see the genuine curiosity through his eyes.
“Same reason Holly does; it allows us to meet other people who know about vampires and because I like living comfortably. Also, it’s fun and where I work, it allows me freedom of movement and time to myself. Holly works here because she enjoys being a waitress and it gives her something to do during the day. She’s like me and doesn’t need sleep.”
“Being a Daimhin does that to a person. We still need food and water, but sleep is not a necessity, because our masters might need us for something important.”
“Well, that’s good, I guess.” The restaurant was starting to fill up around us, “Well, I need to get my car and get some work done. I told your Prince that I would be there tonight and I don’t need a babysitter watching me and scaring the birds I need to photograph away.” I leaned in closer to him, “I’ve been on this earth for almost 670 years, I’m sure that I know how to handle myself.”
“It would make my Prince feel better if I was with you, so why don’t we compromise. I walk you to your car and I’ll stay in the car while you are out working. That way, I do my job and you can do yours.”
“Or you could leave me alone.”
“Or I could drag you back to the manor and restrain you.” He said without thinking first.
“Don’t tempt me with a good time.” I gained a small bit of satisfaction with the deepening red flush to his cheeks. “Promise that you won’t interrupt my work if I take you with me.”
“You will never notice that I’m there.”
“Fine, I guess.” I drank the last of the Diet Coke in my glass and stood up to leave.
“I didn’t get to eat my breakfast.”
“You killed my appetite, it’s only fair that you don’t get to finish your food. I’m leaving, so if you’re coming with me, you better lick the biscuit and come on.”
He paid Holly, who just glared at him for interrupting my breakfast. She took me aside, “Promise me that you’ll be careful?”
“I’m always careful, Holly. Can you gather some intel about his Prince?”
“I’ll have some for you by breakfast, where I expect that you will actually eat more than ice cream?” She raised a single eyebrow at me, chastising me from my eating habits. “Maybe I should just start giving you ice cream with the waffle.”
“Then you wouldn’t feel like you’re actually getting me to eat normal food. See you tomorrow.”
Her boss called her over to assist with a large order and I took that time to escape. Frost was standing outside, waiting for me, the sun on his face. “So, you left your car at the bar last night? Why didn’t you just get into it when we were chasing you?”
“Last time I did that, the vampire flipped my car and totaled it. It’s safer to run at night from them.” I took headphones out of my purse and rummaged for my iPod Nano. I found it and plugged the earbuds in and found the song I needed to listen to in order to drown out the noise from the area around me.
We easily found the Subaru Forester and I unlocked it for the both of us. I bluetoothed the iPod to the car and started to drive towards Mount Charleston. Frost tried to talk, but I found a song to drown him out, “Shatter Me” by Lindsay Stirling. He took the hint and stared out the window as I mumbled the song under my breath.
The desert fell behind as we started to climb the mountain. The lush green pine trees stood tall as I drove as close to the peak as I could. I found the small turnout for where I normally would go for photos. I stopped the car and climbed out of it, followed by Frost. “You said you would stay in the car.”
“Just stretching my legs and I see a picnic table over there where I can sit at.”
I grabbed my camera from the trunk and put the lens on it, then placing the secondary camera with a telephoto lens into a bag that I would carry. I took my ID and put it into my pocket, before grabbing my kindle out of the purse. I handed it to Frost, before hiding the purse and shutting the trunk door. “Something to keep you entertained.”
I watched as he walked to the picnic table and sat on top of it. I looked to the trail on the other side of the road and walked towards it. I carefully moved through the trail, hoping to catch some good photos in the morning light. I found the rocks that would take me to where I wanted to be. I started to climb them, my sneakers providing the grip I needed to scramble up the rocks.
I reached the top of the rock formation and stared out into the mountain scenery. It was a cool start to fall and some of the deciduous trees were starting to turn, even if the rest of the trees would just shed needles. I used the telephoto lens to capture some of the changing trees from my vantage point. I saw a bird overhead and snapped a few of it, before turning to take some of the trees that lined the trail I could have took here if I did not climb the rocks.
My foot hit a piece of lichen and I slipped backward as I turned. I was close to the edge and tried to catch my balance, but could not. I fell off the rock formation and closed my eyes. The fall would not kill me, but it would hurt and it would kill my cameras. I felt two arms wrap around me as I was pulled into someone’s chest. I opened my eyes to see Frost holding me, his eyes shining as blue fire.
“You promised that if I left you alone that you would be safe. That included not falling off mountains.” He set me on the ground, before his eyes cleared.
“Wasn’t expecting to fall off the mountain…” I looked at the ground, before back into his eyes, “Thank you for catching me. If I would have hit the ground, I would need to buy new cameras and I hate shopping.”
“Did you get what you came for?”
“No, I was going to start looking for a bluebird. They are native to these mountains and I wanted to catch one before they went south for the winter.”
“Since I can’t trust you to stay safe, I’m going with you. Give me your bag, so you can have use of your hands.”
I put the telephoto camera in the bag and handed it to him. I went up the trail with Frost following behind, this time not climbing the rocks. It took longer to get to where I had fallen, but when we reached that point, I stopped. I saw a bluebird sitting on a dead tree with a single branch, the trees from the other peaks a beautiful background. I slowly grabbed the camera from Frost and shot a single picture before the bird flew away.
I checked it but the picture was not as good as I wished it was. I sighed loudly, meaning I was going to have to find another chance at it, which could take weeks. Frost walked towards the tree and stood there, waiting. “What are you-?”
He whistled loudly, a single high pitch, before it started to mimick the sound of a bluebird whistle. A fluffy bird came over towards him, before sitting on his outstretched finger. I took the photo quickly as he whistled softly to the bluebird. I zoomed the camera at different points, taking pictures along the zoom scale, just in case the bird left before I could completely set the shot up.
On the last picture, the bird flew away and Frost walked back towards me. I just stared at him through the camera, before actually looking at him normally. “How?”
“When I was younger, I learned various whistles and calls for animals. You could call it a gift of mine. Did you get the pictures you needed?”
“I’ll find out when my agent gets them. It’s for a specific client and only they will know if any are good for them or if I’ll need to find another one. These are wifi enabled cameras and when I get back to the car, they should send automatically to him and I’ll get a call later.”
“Anything else you want to do?”
“I’m ready for a nap, so I guess that’s next on my list.”
“Thought you didn’t need to sleep.” He said as he passed by me, heading down the trail.
“I don’t, but I like dreaming and in dreams, life is better.” I followed him down the trail and back to the car. I put the photo equipment into the trunk and grabbed my purse, setting up the wifi hotspot to send the photos.
I kept the phone with me and set it into the cup holder. Frost sat in the passenger seat and stared out the window as my music blared going down the mountain. Once we hit the freeway, my phone rang. I turned the music down and answered it on speakerphone. “What can I do for you, Cam?”
A flamboyant voice answered me, “Cerbera, darling…”
“That tone is either good or bad.”
“It’s good, honey, all good. They liked the first picture you were able to get with the bird on the branch, but honey, since when did you use models?”
“What do you mean, Cam?”
“The hot guy in the picture, honey. His eyes are the same color as that bluebird and you’ve already had a couple offers for the picture with him in them. Where did you find this hotty-mctotty?”
Frost just looked at my phone with a weird look, “Well, Cam, his name is-” Frost made a motion to not give his name. “Ben and I found him on the trail. I took the pictures and asked if I could use them and he signed the release after he saw the photos. How many orders with him?”
“Half a dozen already. Ladies love the sexy man in nature thing and this guy has hot sex written all over him.”
“Thanks for that mental image, Cam. I have to get some sleep, so I’ll text you later. Just email me any other requests you get.”
“You and your sleep… Oh well, love you, darling!” Cam hung up the phone and I just stared out the front windshield, not sure how to talk to Frost.
“Hotty-mctotty?” Frost asked when we reached the edge of Vegas.
“Cam has an eye for models and he is one of the best agents out there. He’s also a Daimhin, with Holly’s Prince, so they both mean a lot to me.”
“Do you think that I have sex written all over me?”
I answered without thinking, trying to dodge around the morning rush to get home, “Well, you’re good looking, but I won’t know what he’s talking about until I get the picture up on a larger screen or see you naked.”
Frost started to laugh, “Sex on the brain?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you said that you like to be tied down and you just said you want to see me naked.”
“No, I said that I would be able to answer the question better if I have seen you naked. Which, as a warning, if I get a lot of orders for it, then it might happen.”
“And why Ben?”
“First thing that popped into my head.” I turned off the freeway and drove the streets to mine, then into my driveway.
“Thanks, I like it.” I climbed out of the car and unlocked the door. Two kittens and a puppy ran towards me, but stopped and slid on the tile when they saw Frost. The puppy started growling and the kittens hissed. I went to tell them to stop, but Frost knelt down and put his hand out for them to smell. Without a word, the puppy stopped growling and the kittens stopped hissing. The puppy started to bounce around him, like he found a new friend. “Puppy is Scooter and the kittens are Simon and Simone.”
“Would have never pegged you for a fur-mother.” He stood up and walked further into my home.
“I love animals and even if I outlive them by centuries, I never forget them and I give them long happy lives.” I walked passed the staircase and into the kitchen. I fed the animals and saw that someone had grabbed my mail. “Holly or Cam must have been here already.”
“They have keys?”
“Yeah, especially if I don’t check in at the right time, they will come over and check on the kids and grab my mail.” I yawned and stretched, leaning down to eating puppy and kittens, “I’m going to bed, little ones.” I scratched them on the heads before straightening back up. “I have Amazon Prime and Netflix, but no cable, so you’ll have to make due with what I have. I also have the kindle if you prefer to read. There’s also a spare bedroom if you want to take a nap as well.”
“And here I thought you liked me.”
“People disappoint me, so I try not to get attached beyond Holly and Cam and I’m only attached to them because neither will try to fall in love or get me to love them.” I looked at him, “So that counts out you and your Prince’s people, because I can’t trust that it won’t happen until I know you more.” He shrugged and walked away to sit on the couch, flicking the TV on.
Once the fur-babies were done eating, I tapped them on the head and they followed me up the stairs and into the master bedroom. I helped them onto the bed and they waited for me undress and climb under the covers. The kittens attacked my feet as I settled in, but curled up when I stopped moving. The warm darkness of my room helped me drift off to a comfortable sleep.