Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Pam threw the end of her scarf over her shoulder and started her professional airport terminal stride toward the baggage claim area. She could have taken Anubis to Boston, but she opted for commercial instead. She loved flying into this city. She loved seeing the lights of land give way to the dark of ocean. Somewhere, straight ahead, was London and a life she had happily left behind her. Pam wasn’t sure what had her thinking about her childhood lately, but she was pretty sure the charming Victorian mementos the New York King had been sending her had something to do with it.
She supposed it did seem like a game to him. He sent gifts. She returned them. Flowers were one thing. The very first evening she returned to Minnesota, Misha sent her an arrangement of yellow roses. The second night, a second arrangement arrived, but this time the flowers were not alone. There was a box set in the middle of the arrangement that contained a brooch cunningly crafted of cut crystal and cloisonné enamel to resemble two ripe strawberries hanging by their stem. Pam smirked, and then found an envelope and FedExed the brooch back. Doubtless the gift was a reference to his remarking that she tasted like strawberries. Pam strengthened her resolve not to encourage Misha any further.
On the third night, more yellow roses arrived along with a rare prayer book, beautifully illustrated and bound in velvet. It was an elegant gift. She expected it was meant to convey that he was hoping, or ‘praying’ for something. It was the kind of thing a suitor from her human days would have done, found gifts that carried meanings. Pam had a hard time not feeling flattered. Still, it didn’t stop her from asking that it be carefully packaged and returned to sender.
On the fourth night, the roses arrived along with a strange, rigid box. It was large, the size of a portfolio. “He is persistent,” Maude observed. “You must have made one hell of an impression!”
“He likes to pursue, like every other male vampire we know. If I was smart, I’d just give in to him for a month. He’d get tired and we could both move on,” Pam sighed.
“But you’re not,” Maude said quietly. “Any reason?”
“I don’t have time to waste in satisfying his ego!” Pam huffed, but deep down she knew that wasn’t the real reason, and from the way Maude rolled her eyes, she knew it, too.
In the box was a frame cocooned in bubble wrap. Pam untaped the wrap to find an exquisite pencil sketch. She didn’t need to check the signature. It was by Edvard Munch, a study the artist had made of his lover, Tulla Larsen. The card that accompanied the drawing had only one word, handwritten upon it, ‘Zolotse.’ “Oh, fuck a zombie!” Pam exclaimed.
“You are going to have to speak with him if you really want this to stop,” Maude told her. “These are not small gestures.”
“And what would I say?” Pam sighed. “He is the most stubborn, aggravating person! He knows what returned gifts mean! He’s just goading me, looking for my tipping point.” She ran her fingers along the frame, “And he’s pretty fucking close with this one. Bastard!” With another sigh, Pam covered the surface back up and slipped the picture back in the box. “Return!” she declared, and left the kitchen.
“He’s not going to stop, is he?” Deirdre wiped her hands on her apron.
“I think our girl would be disappointed if he did,” Maude replied.
The next night there were no roses. “Looking for something?” Maude chuckled when Pam walked through the front hall a fourth time.
“I misplaced my favorite pen,” Pam huffed, but they both knew it was a lie.
The sixth night, a florist’s box arrived with two yellow roses tied with a ribbon. In the box was a thin metal palm tree with an odd bent wire that ran its length. The card inside read, ‘Zolotse, I must ask a favor of you. I was presented this item and I have been unable to identify it. Can you help?’
Deirdre peered over Pam’s shoulder, “I give. Any idea what that might be?”
“It’s a hair pin,” Pam mumbled, her finger involuntarily stroking the beautifully intact piece.
Maude was sitting at the table sniffing combinations for a new sesame sauce. The table surface was covered with tall-necked jars designed to allow the scent to concentrate. “So, what you going to do this time, Missy?” she asked.
“Return it,” Pam replied, but she took the card, wrote the answer, and placed it in the padded envelope along with the pin.
The next days were a stream of Victorian trivia, a mustache brush, a chatelaine, a nosegay holder, a needle case. Each item brought back a happy memory from her childhood, taking piano lessons and running in the garden. For some reason, the unhappy memories of her society marriage, indentured to an older man who shut her away like another Victorian treasure, didn’t intrude. The night before she was to head to Boston, only roses arrived. The card read, ‘Thank you, Zolotse’ and nothing more.
Now, in Boston, Pam joined the stream of travelers, her pumps clicking against the tiles. There was so much to be done this week. She had six days until the Summit, six days to narrow down choices for locations for the new sex club venture. She had to inspect Fangtasia North and Fangtasia Back Nine. There were the last minute details she needed to approve for the Summit itself with the simmering détente that was her relationship with Twy.
Back when they were still a couple, Twy had rather enthusiastically booked them a suite at the Colonnade. Now, the last thing Pam wanted was to share rooms with her temperamental ex-lover. The vampire had made a series of calls, but there were no rooms to be had in the City, and even being across the river in Cambridge was not an option with the business Pam needed to complete.
As she approached the exit doors she sighed, “Maybe I should just turn her. If she’s my progeny I can order her to shut up!”
Pam was pulling out her baggage ticket when she had felt the unmistakable feeling of being watched. She looked up and found herself face to face with Andrew, Misha’s house man from New York. “Good evening, Miss Ravenscroft,” he said smoothly.
Pam struggled not to show her surprise, “Andrew, what are you doing here?”
“This is for you,” and he held out one of the thick bond envelopes Pam had come to recognize as Misha’s personal stationery. When she reached to take it, the houseman took advantage of her movement, taking the baggage claim from her fingers, the coat from her arm, and the carry on clutch that contained her laptop, “His Majesty offered me a week off to visit friends in Boston in exchange for transporting you from the airport and delivering that,” and he gestured again at the envelope.
Despite her better judgment, Pam knew she had to open it. Instead of the usual card, there was letterhead folded in half.
It is unthinkable that a woman of quality should stay in a city as charming as Boston on second hand sheets. I offer you the sanctuary of my townhouse. Please use it as your own home during your stay. I will be arriving in the city in two nights. I have alternate accommodations, so you do not need to worry about being crowded.
I am sure you have business meetings you need to conduct. The house is a perfect setting. The housekeeper, Mrs. Graves, has been instructed to treat you as Mistress. She is capable of making any arrangement, from small group to large affair, and I encourage you to exercise her inventiveness.
I ask only one thing in repayment.
Please plan to spend the evening I arrive with me. There are things I enjoy about Boston that I can’t find anywhere else in the world, and it would give me great pleasure to share those things with you. Mrs. Graves will make sure you have the right attire for the evening.
You can give Andrew your answer.
I hope ~’
“Fuck a Zombie!” Pam said softly and then glanced up to see Andrew grinning at her. “You know what’s in this?” she asked.
“His Majesty was not discrete,” Andrew said smoothly. “He has been busy redecorating, but he accelerated the project recently. I believe he is proud of the outcome.”
“So, he’s been here to see it?” Pam asked, tapping the letter and buying time.
“No, Miss,” Andrew leaned forward. “He has only seen the results over the Internet. You will be the first to see the finished residence in person.” That made Pam pay attention. There was something about Misha allowing her to be the first to experience his new lair that was touching. Andrew was still speaking, “The King had an apartment here, overlooking the harbor. It was pleasant, but the King wished for something that felt more permanent.”
Pam didn’t know why she asked. Andrew was so clearly Misha’s man and he would have no possible motivation for telling her the truth, but the words came anyway, “What does he intend to happen with me, Andrew?”
There was no sign of guile in the man servant’s expression, “I don’t know how to answer that, Miss. He has never shown this kind of interest in any other being. You may wish to remain unengaged, but I would ask a favor of you. If you decide not to pursue what my King would offer, be kind to him. He is unsure when it comes to you. You are… different,” and Andrew bowed low.
“Get up!” Pam chided him. The vampire’s movement had caught the attention of other travelers, and people started taking photos, assuming she was royalty, a celebrity, or both. When he straightened, his expression was mischievous, “You’re going to tell me that if I don’t at least take a look at this place, things won’t go well for you, aren’t you?”
“My King would be right to doubt my ability to persuade,” Andrew agreed, “There might be personal repercussions.”
“You need to get your King to double your pay, Andrew. You really know how to deliver a line, and I’ve met some masters!” Pam snapped.
“As you say, Miss,” Andrew smiled broadly, and with a gesture, he waited for her to precede him through the doors to the loading area outside. There were two vampires on the sidewalk. Andrew handed one Pam’s baggage tickets while the other spoke into his wrist. By the time Andrew laid her coat across her shoulders, a black town car had pulled smoothly to the curb and Pam was assisted in.
For some reason Pam assumed they would head out of the city, but instead the car made the turn out of the tunnel that would take them further into town. “Where are we going?” Pam asked.
“The King has regular business in town, so being headquartered near the Garden was most convenient.” Pam knew Andrew was referring to Boston Garden, the public area near the heart of the old city. When they turned into a street of brownstones with gas streetlights and red brick sidewalks, Pam realized it felt inevitable.
“The King’s new apartment is in Beacon Hill?” Pam asked.
“The King now has a home here, yes,” Andrew confirmed. They made a second turn into a narrow street, just wide enough for the vehicle. The road was paved with cobblestone and the red brick row of houses stretched in either direction, punctuated by windows framed with black shutters and recessed doors outlined by carved pediments. The buildings had been built into a hill, and it looked odd, the lines of the buildings sloping down, and the doorsteps not quite square to adjust for the angle.
The car stopped and the door opened to a shiny, black house door. The white granite step was curved out into the sidewalk and there were clipped topiary bushes in pots to both sides. The house door opened, spilling warm light onto the sidewalk. “Welcome home, Miss Ravenscroft,” Andrew said beside her.
“My home is in Minnesota,” Pam said softly, but her eyes never left the hall she saw beyond the door as she stepped forward.
“As you say, Miss,” Andrew replied. An older human woman Pam assumed was a housekeeper waited inside. She bowed, smiling graciously, and Andrew made the introductions.
“Everything is at your disposal,” Mrs. Graves reiterated. “Donors are available on call at any time. I have been informed you will want to conduct business meetings here. Your guests are welcome to visit or stay. We have several additional bedrooms and they are fitted with the latest safety glass. As long as you are here, Miss Ravenscroft, you should consider yourself the Mistress of this house. I certainly will.”
It was overwhelming. Mrs. Graves stepped past her, “Please allow me to show you your house.” As Pam followed, she noticed a formal dining room to the right. It featured a lovely fireplace with a marble surround. There was a chandelier wired for electric, but there were also sconces on the walls that held real candles. “We can take the stairs or the elevator,” Mrs. Graves was saying, “Your bedroom is on the third floor, but there are two floors above. The fourth floor is the second best, and has its own family room. There are additional bedrooms on the fifth level under the roof, which gives the rooms spectacular views and their own charm.” The housekeeper nodded before walking up the beautiful winding staircase.
Pam was shown the second floor, with its living room, library, and office space. The electronics and equipment in the office would allow Pam to speak with anyone anywhere in the world. The desk was Queen Anne, and Pam could see herself sitting there, perfectly at ease.
“Of course, you won’t mind my sweeping for bugs,” Pam said archly, at which Andrew, who was trailing her, laughed.
“I think His Majesty would be disappointed if you didn’t!” he chuckled.
When they rounded the landing on the third floor, the housekeeper opened the dark, heavy door, revealing the luxurious suite beyond. The tall, canopy bed was impressive, rising just to the perfect height. There was a large fireplace in the room and the bathroom suite was sumptuous. A whole half of the floor was taken up with a walk-in closet that had its own small fireplace. From the closet or a hall leading back from the stairs she could access a private deck from which there was a spectacular view of the Charles River and the lights of Cambridge beyond.
Pam turned to Andrew, “This is the master suite, isn’t it?”
“It is your suite, for as long as you choose to stay,” Andrew answered. There was a sound and they turned to see a vampire entering the closet area, followed by Mrs. Graves. Pam’s suitcases were opened and the older woman began expertly shaking and hanging clothing in the empty cupboards. She slid open cedar lined drawers for sweater sets and silk lined drawers for socks and lingerie. For Pam, it was like every dream come true.
Pam turned away to look out across the river again, “Your King lives very well,” she said out loud.
She didn’t need to see his face to know he was smiling, “My King did not always live well. He makes it a point to do so now that he is able.” After a bit, Pam turned to look at Andrew again, and she realized he had been waiting, “What should I tell him, Miss?” He could have been asking about the house. He could have been asking about the request to meet in two nights. He could have been asking about any number of things, but Pam knew there was only one answer to all the questions.
“I can’t believe you found a place on the Hill, too,” Angie said a little too brightly. The woman had spent almost fifteen minutes talking about the accommodations she secured at the vampire-friendly hotel located next to 15 Boston. Angie had dropped ‘Beacon Street’ at least three times during her babble.
Pam was sure that the cost to secure the room had been astronomical, but it was the kind of grand gesture Felipe de Castro required. He wanted to rub it in the face of every vampire he met that he was staying on ‘The Hill.’ The other Clan Chiefs and their contingents had rooms at the Colonnade in the Back Bay. The Summit itself used rooms in the hotel as well as the Hynes convention center across the street. The accommodations were suitably luxurious, but there was something about being on The Hill that was an automatic prestige card and Angie thought it would impress Pam.
It was petty, but Pam couldn’t resist, “It’s a residence that was loaned by a friend. If you like, we could go there after we finish looking at the places and compare notes.”
Pam could tell Angie wanted to be snarky, but Felipe smiled smoothly, “Thank you, Pam, that would be delightful.”
There were four pieces of real estate lined up for their review. One was near the downtown crossings. It was an upper floor and the ceilings were high, but the entrance and surrounding area were seedy. “Pass,” Pam declared shortly.
“But it’s near Chinatown!” Angie pointed out, “The Orient, mysterious! It could give that film noire feel.”
Pam was impressed Angie knew what ‘film noire’ meant, but she spelled it out, “We want them to feel dangerous, not in danger. I want them to feel like they are walking into dark velvet. Just being on the sidewalk around here feels like slumming.”
The next place was a walk down, but the stairs were wide and the address was Newbury Street. There were interesting shops and cafes on both sides and there was a lively parade of well-heeled street traffic. The interior would need work, but the dimensions and ceiling height were sufficient.
After that, there was a place on Commonwealth Avenue and another near the Custom House. All three were real possibilities; right neighborhood, access to transportation, and the right dimensions. It was close to two in the morning when the town car provided for Pam glided to the front of the Beacon Hill residence. “You’re kidding!” Angie huffed.
“You didn’t mention who this benefactor was,” Felipe said smoothly.
“A friend,” Pam shrugged. She led the way up the stairs and Mrs. Graves opened the door to them.
“Good evening, Miss Ravenscroft,” the woman bowed. “May I take your wraps? There is warmed blood upstairs in the library.”
“This is King Felipe de Castro, the Clan Chief of Narayana,” Pam made the introductions, ‘and Angie, his second.” She turned to the Nevada vampires, “This is the housekeeper here, Mrs. Graves,” and Pam smiled at the human, “Thank you for staying up for us. This must be late for you.”
“Not at all, Mistress,” the woman chuckled. “I have had the privilege of caring for vampires for most of my life. I don’t think I could go back to those other hours at this point.” She turned to the King and bowed formally, “Majesty, please let me know if there is anything I may do to make your stay with us more pleasurable.”
Pam had a sinking moment when she worried that he would ask for live donors. Pam remembered another time De Castro and Angie had been guests at a party at Eric’s house. Angie had destroyed Eric’s table, dancing on it in her high heels, and the King had filled the house with cheap whores and worse acquaintances, but Felipe only said, “I will let you know.”
Pam gestured toward the staircase and together, they ascended to enter the formal living room. There was a fire in the fireplace, and soft lighting around the room made the polished wood of the antiques shine. Each item in the room was a treasure, each place you set your eye spoke of old money and refined taste.
“Wow, what a mausoleum!” Angie said dismissively.
“It reminds me of Spain,” Felipe said quietly, and Pam saw his coldly appraising stare. The King continued to walk around the room, and then made a sound when he spotted the library through the pocket doors. “Querida!” he purred, running his fingers over the leather spines of the books.
The blood was on a tray in this room, and Pam poured it into three heavy lead crystal wine glasses. Felipe seated himself in one of the matching leather chairs. Pam handed him the goblet and felt relieved when the King used the matching leather coaster when setting the goblet on the cherry table. “You are sure your friend doesn’t mind us being here?” Felipe asked, hinting yet again that Pam hadn’t revealed the identity of the house’s owner.
“This is Mistress Pam’s home,” Mrs. Graves said as she brought a bowl of fresh cut yellow roses into the library and set them on a console table that was set by the shelves. “She is welcome to use her own home to entertain anyone she chooses,” and the housekeeper bowed to Pam, saying, “I’ll be downstairs, Miss. Call if I can provide anything. When your friends are ready, I can ready rooms or call the town car to take them wherever they wish.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Graves,” Pam stammered. She was at a loss for words. She didn’t want to call the woman a liar, but it was an outrageous statement to make and she wasn’t sure how she would respond to the questions she knew would follow. Pam pasted a smile on her face, and when Mrs. Graves had disappeared, she turned back to Felipe, “Look, it’s a long story, and all I can tell you is the real owner has an overdeveloped sense of courtesy, but as someone who understands the culture of ‘mi casa, su casa,’ I’m sure I don’t need to explain.”
“Well, perhaps this will be the little mystery that keeps our relationship fresh, Pam,” Felipe smiled, but Pam couldn’t help noticing that the smile didn’t travel to his eyes. He suspected her now, and that was probably for the best, because she’d never really stopped distrusting the Nevada King.
“Are we going to make some decisions about the locations?” Angie drawled. She looked happier now, and Pam knew it was because her boss wasn’t trying to make nice any more.
“Of course,” Pam nodded. “I like Newbury Street and the Custom House location. The traffic at Custom House will be quieter at night, but it’s close enough to the financial district to keep it from getting rowdy. Commonwealth is just too close to Newbury.”
Felipe shrugged, “I would prefer Commonwealth to Newbury. While Newbury is attractive, I think it’s too busy. Too many will know what happens behind the door. It may work against us.”
Pam nodded. Hearing the King put it this way, she was surprised she hadn’t seen it herself, “I agree, Felipe. So, we are decided?”
Felipe smiled, “We are. If you wish, I can have my agent make the call. The contracts will be reviewed by both of us, of course. Do you have an attorney who is doing your review?” Pam texted the information for her legal team in Minnesota to Angie’s phone, and within the hour, Felipe made an excuse and the car was sent for. It wasn’t a long drive, but De Castro knew the power of a gesture. He would be observed by the hotel staff and others exiting the private black car. It would add to his mystique.
As they walked through the small lobby toward the jewel-like elevator that would take them to their rooms, Felipe turned to Angie, “That is two you can strike from your bed list.”
“Pam, and who else?” his child asked him.
“Mikhail,” Felipe nodded.
Angie shrugged, “Even if he’s interested, she’s not. There may still be a part I can still play between them.” Angie smirked, thinking of the possibilities, but De Castro shook his head.
“I don’t think so,” the King said, “If you are willing to be their surrogate, it puts you in an inferior position. Think, Angie! How do you defeat the unbeatable enemy?”
“You become their friend,” the vampire repeated the lesson she had been taught.
“And what better way than to offer a partnership in a venture located within his own kingdom? We offer Misha a piece of the action so he needn’t ask, and we do it before Pamela does, then we watch and we learn. If he has a vulnerability, we’ll find it,” and De Castro smiled indulgently. “Who knows, perhaps if we are very smart you can have Pam as your consolation prize.”
When Pam rose, it was with a certain excitement. She had agreed to meet Misha, and she still had no idea what was planned. It was lucky the venues for the sex clubs were resolved, but it only meant that the next phase would start, and the inspections and recommendations for the Fangtasia clubs were still ahead. Pulling out tonight left her precious little time to conclude business before the start of the Summit. Under any other circumstance, Pam would have been angry, but she wasn’t and it surprised her.
Pam pressed the bell that would summon the housekeeper, and Mrs. Graves appeared rather quickly. “Good evening, Miss Ravenscroft,” and the woman moved to open curtains. “I should let you know that Andrew will be here to collect you in two hours. I have something special for you,” and she walked to the tray she had carried into the room and poured from the carafe. “Now this is not spiced with fae blood or anything like that, but it does have a special quality.”
“What kind of quality?” Pam had no intention of being in any way impaired for this evening.
“It has a natural carbonation which I’m told is very soothing,” the housekeeper beamed. “It’s regular A positive, which I understand is your favorite, but it was shaken over a prolonged period of time which gives it a lighter texture.”
Pam could smell nothing amiss with the blood in the goblet. She could see small bubbles against the inside of the glass, so taking a deep breath, she sipped. It tasted like well-filtered blood, and it was her favorite flavor. The bubbles played across her tongue and she found herself smiling, almost involuntarily. “That’s remarkable,” she complimented the housekeeper.
“I am so glad you approve,” Mrs. Graves smiled. “Now, if you will indulge me, I will lay out some clothes for your evening.” In no time, Pam had a choice of dark pants or a longer skirt. A pink sweater twin set was laid out and a twisted multi-color pearl necklace joined the ensemble. “I would suggest you forego the pantyhose,” the housekeeper said. “Pumps are appropriate for the first part of your evening, but you will want something informal that you don’t mind being damaged for later.” That had Pam frowning.
“I don’t suppose I can ask what we’re doing,” Pam sighed.
“You can ask,” the housekeeper responded, but in a way that made clear Pam wouldn’t gain any insight if she did.
With a pair of canvas espadrilles in a bag, Pam walked to the vestibule to find Andrew waiting beside the door of the car. He bowed, smiled, and in no time, they were driving slowly through the night traffic of the City. Pam recognized the Prudential Center, and within a short time, the car pulled up to a curb where a vampire awaited. Pam vaguely recognized the building, but she wasn’t sure. The vampire bowed and gestured her toward the building. As she walked up the wide stairs, Misha emerged from between the columns, “Good evening, Pamela! Thank you again for agreeing to give me this evening,” and he kissed her on both cheeks before offering his arm.
“Thank you for giving me the use of your beautiful house,” Pam answered sincerely. “It is… well, I feel like a Princess there.”
Misha didn’t look at her, but Pam could see the smile curve up. He escorted her into the building and through a small lobby. They walked into a concert hall where there was one table set on a wooden floor, and a small group was assembled on the raised stage. The King pulled out her chair and once she was seated, took his seat next to her. There were yellow roses in a bowl on the table, and at his nod, the group began to play, first Telemann, and then Bach. There was a quick piece Pam recognized as Mozart and then the group started the Summer portion of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The group was small, but the sound of the music was so pure it was as if she was within it. As they neared the end of the first movement, Misha leaned across and said, “The acoustics here are near perfect, one of the few halls in the world that can make that claim,” and Pam understood as the music encircled her again the gift that was being given her ears.
The group didn’t play long, only a little over an hour. The King rose and offered Pam his hand. Together they walked to the stage and Pam thanked the group, praising each for some detail of their performance. Beside her, Misha beamed, and when it was his turn, bowed and thanked the group as well.
Next, he tucked her hand under his arm and they walked to the curb. Misha handed her into the waiting car, and once seated himself, apologized. “Normally I would walk to our next stop, but there is much traffic and your shoes look very high. I understand you brought a flatter pair?”
“I did,” Pam laughed. “Are you going to tell me what we’re doing?”
“Oh, no, Zolotse!” he grinned. “The look on your face, and surprise, that turns to delight, it is something I wish never to forget!’
The car was stopping almost as soon as it started, and Pam saw they were at the entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts. “I love this place!” she said out loud.
“I hope you will enjoy what I chose for us,” and the King squeezed her hand.
There was a human who met them at the door, and Pam realized that like the Symphony Music Hall, they were the only people in the Museum. “You arranged a private showing for us?” she whispered.
“Yes, Pam. I wanted to share another moment with you, as we did with Adele in New York. But first, I have a surprise that I think you will like.” He turned the corner and showed her into the Decorative Arts and Textiles exhibit. All around them were showcases demonstrating fashion through the ages. The King took her hand and soon they were laughing over shoes and dresses, embroidery and corsets. Pam got the impression when Misha gave her the tour of the Garment District in New York that he enjoyed fashion, but now she realized his interest was as lively and informed as her own. They compared modern houses to looks and cuts from by-gone designers and speculated on the next trends that would hit the runways of Europe.
“Now, you must come with me to Fashion Week!” the King laughed, “If only so I can collect on my bets!”
“You will lose,” Pam said archly, “And I’ll be deciding how you’ll pay me back!”
“Don’t think you can shame me, Zaichik! It will take much imagination to devise a forfeit that will bother me!” As they rounded one of the last galleries, Misha said, “Ah, and now, it is time for us to see the real beauty that I wished to show you tonight!”
Together they walked up the stairs and then made a series of turns. Pam found herself in a gallery, and there, at the end was a single bench sitting before Klimt’s ‘Adam and Eve.’ “When I heard it was visiting here, I knew I had to bring you,” Misha sighed, his eyes never leaving the picture. “Who else could appreciate this as I do?” Slowly, reverently, he held her hand as she sat, and then he moved so he could sit beside her, far enough away that they didn’t touch, and together they looked at the canvas, not speaking.
After a while, he said, “Of all his paintings of women, it is in this one that she is the strongest. She faces you, unafraid and dominant above the man. She is beauty without parallel.” Turning to her, he said, “She reminds me of you, Pam.” Before Pam could protest, he stood and held out his hand, “But, if you are ready, I have one more thing I like to do here, and I hope you will indulge me. It was not always this way, but now, with the Charles so much cleaner, and the park so beautiful… come with me. We will get your walking shoes!”
In no time, they were crossing the bridge that took them from the city down to the river’s edge and onto the Esplanade. They walked the paths, Misha talking about the things he was doing in the City and Pam finding herself talking about the venture with Felipe de Castro. When they came to a dock, there was a pair of vampires waiting for them. They were holding the rope to an elegant row boat. “Do you trust me?” the King winked.
He rowed them with strong, steady strokes out into the river. Bridges stretched over the river connecting the twin cities, Boston and Cambridge, both competing with their lights and liveliness. Somehow, being here, out in the middle of the slow current made the immediacy of the city noise lessen. “Where did you learn to row?” Pam asked.
“When I was younger, there was money to be made in taking people and cargo to ships, things the custom men shouldn’t see. I became a strong rower,” and the King shipped the oars and leaned back, letting the current take them. He checked his watch, and then leaned over, and took her hand in his. There was a noise, and then overhead, the first of the fireworks exploded. Pam found she couldn’t pull her eyes from the show above her, and somewhere she knew that in all the time she stared and smiled, Misha never stopped looking at her.
When the fireworks ended, Pam looked at him, aware that blood tears had formed in her eyes. “Why did you do this?” she asked.
“Because you have captured me,” he answered, “and I wished to see if I could capture you, perhaps, a little bit.” He smiled his crooked smile, and Pam leaned forward. Misha didn’t move to meet her. Instead, he lifted her hand to his lips, “Zolotse!” he whispered against her skin.
Pam closed the distance between them, kissing the top of his head. He looked up then, his eyes so patient, “I think you should come home,” she said softly.
“I demand nothing of you,” he told her, his thumbs stroking the hand he held between them.
“I know,” she nodded, “But I also know we are sophisticated people,” and he laughed to hear her use his words, “and I bet we can figure something out.”
It became clear Pam had no intention of showing up to use the suite, and frankly, that suited Twy fine. She found an amenable bed companion, worked out some kinks, and got her tablet warmed up. As soon as this Summit was over, there were plenty of potential clients to approach, and the farther away Pam stayed, the better Twy’s chances of finding a few more paying customers over the next week or so.
For now, there was Bill Compton. He had managed to make it to the hotel from the airport. He announced rather late in the game that he wouldn’t be staying for the entire Summit, which was okay, since it relieved Twy from having to babysit him. The writer told her he was leaving for some ‘family’ obligation or another which sounded like a pile of bullshit. After all, everyone knew vampires didn’t have families; they had blood ties and alliances. In the end, who cared? Compton’s Hollywood handlers were paying big bucks to sell the ‘softer, kinder’ vampire angle. With the recent bad press about vampire/human relations, including the debacle that was unfolding in Indiana, the producers were anxious to convince anyone and everyone that vampires were just like you and me, only sexier – not scarier. Scarier didn’t sell tickets to young women, and that’s where all their advertising dollars were aimed.
In her follow-up with the producers’ publicist, Twy let drop that the Indiana King had engaged her services to help turn around the bad publicity in that state. She’d said enough that the producers offered to pay her an under-the-table bonus if she was successful. ‘Yes!’ she thought, ‘vampire business is good business!’
She couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of the Silent Witness angle herself, but since she was the one spinning the story, it would be easy enough to suggest that Bill Compton becoming a vampire face to the largely human group was her idea. If she spun it right, she could come out of all this with more personal brand to sell than when she’d met Eric Northman, and that was saying a lot. Any doubts she’d had about the chances of success were gone the first time she walked into the Boston office and found herself face to face with her former assistant, Sonder. It was serendipity.
It had taken all of five minutes to convince the young woman that Twy firing her had been her own fault, and that Twy had actually done Sonder a favor, leading her to the Silent Witness movement. Twy played Sonder’s emotions, and when she got to the point, which was getting Bill Compton into the group, Sonder had rather blankly nodded.
“I think I know him,” Sonder said, her voice taking on a strange, distant tone. Twy had to work hard not to show her disgust. She wondered if Sonder had started using drugs, she looked so out of it.
Instead, Twy manhandled her professional tone into place, saying, “I wouldn’t be surprised, Dear. He was at several of the events we arranged from Mr. Northman. He was in New Orleans at the palace when we were there, and then he was at the Summit when Eric was pledged to Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Yes, that must be it,” Sonder still had that vacant look. “I don’t hear from Meg anymore,” the young woman rambled. It was a strange thing to say, and Twy had no idea who Sonder was talking about, but if being kind to this nutcase would get the job done, so be it.
“I’m sure you’ll hear from her again, soon, Dear,” she patted Sonder’s arm, “So, you’ll introduce Bill and allow him to get involved? He has the ability to really help your cause. He has media coverage, and with his books and that movie coming out, people are following him.”
“Yes,” Sonder nodded, and then she shook her head and her eyes looked a little clearer, “Yes, of course.”
‘Good,’ Twy thought, ‘Back from Prozac Nation,’ when Sonder pulled up her calendar. They made arrangements for Bill to come over and meet with the leaders of the Boston chapter the following night. It would time perfectly, because if all went well, he’d be wearing the group’s button for his Hasty Pudding induction at Harvard. Those liberal types would eat it up. Bill, with his books and his movie might even get picked up for national news. Twy poked at her tablet, instructing Brock to arrange a photographer.
Bill smiled, feeling the dark part of him unwinding, threatening to step forward. Seeing Sonder, the woman he had abused, smiling and accepting him, had been an unexpected gift. Of course, she had been glamoured and he had done his job well. He could tell she had some residual recollection of him. He might have muffed the cover story, but Twy rather quickly constructed the idea that the younger woman found Bill attractive in their past, and Sonder had accepted it, including a blush.
The others in the office had taken more convincing, but Bill talked about his family in Bon Temps, the way he had been taken by Lorena, and soon there were sympathetic nods. He avoided mentioning Northman or Sookie. That had been hard. They asked about the people who inspired his book, and he wanted to tell the real story, but his instincts warned him it was too soon. If he told too many people, Northman would hear and find a way to trip him up.
“I’d be flattered to stand with you at a press conference,” Bill told them, using his courtly Southern gentleman accent. “There are bad characters among vampires, just as there in any species. I think it’s high time we spoke out together!”
Twy arranged a professional photographer, and Brock, her new assistant, was tweeting and posting shots in no time, announcing the wonderful new partnership. “Famous vampire author vows to help the Silent Witnesses be silent no more!” As they left, Bill was so tempted to capture Sonder, suggesting she come to his hotel, that his palms itched, but he kept his frozen smile in place and allowed Twy to guide him from the office.
“You really are a marvel, Compton,” she preened. “Look, I have some calls to make. Are you going to be able to look after yourself tonight?”
“I’m sure I can find something to occupy me,” he said, and then he asked the question that most concerned him. “You’re involved with the Summit. Is Northman coming?”
“Yes,” Twy said absently, poking at her handheld device, “But he’s not coming until the second night. Not sure what’s holding him up.” The publicist looked up from her device, “You know he’s no longer my client. He’s trying to do this press thing on his own.”
Bill ignored her, “Is he bringing his wife?” Bill was sure he sounded too anxious, but Twy seemed oblivious.
“No, Sookie’s not coming at all,” but then Twy looked at him and Bill was worried she had found him out. Instead she said, “Look, why don’t you take Brock and go clubbing tonight? It would be good to have you out and about, bon vivant on the city.” She stared at her assistant who stopped making waving hand motions when Bill’s head turned in his direction, “You have some ideas for where Bill could go, right Brock?”
“Sure, Boss,” Brock said through clenched teeth. Bill considered the assistant, but dismissed the idea of playing with him. The young man was too thin. Bill didn’t like skeletal. It reminded him of Sookie when she’d been sick in the days of Sam Merlotte.
“That’s okay,” Bill smiled, “I want to go back to my hotel. I’m working on a new story and I’m anxious to get some more down on paper.”
The assistant looked relieved, and Bill could tell Twy had mentally moved on. It was perfect. In only four nights Bill would be done with Boston. He would convince Portia to visit her good friend, Sookie, and she would take her children’s Papaw on the visit. Northman would be out of town so there would be no warden keeping a watchful eye. They would sit on her porch and talk as they used to. Sookie would see Bill for what he was, a family man who was more human than vampire. She would smile at him and he would hold her hand. His voice was sincere as he told Twy, “I really owe you.”
“No problem, Compton,” Twy finger waved him, “You’ll get my bill!”