Trip Like I Do
“Hey, just letting you know I’m about to board the westbound water taxi with Scott,” Madeline said, calling Levi to give him a head’s up. “Just riding it there and back. I should be at home after that, but I’ll call or text if plans change.”
“Okay, thanks,” Levi responded appreciatively. “Have a good time.”
Slipping her cell phone back into her purse, she strolled down the wide sidewalk toward the ferry terminal, bundled in a cozy, hooded, long gray sweater. It was practically spring, but Seattle nights were still chilly, and being near the water tended to make things even colder.
It had been over a month since the failed katana job, and Levi had been cautiously screening all of her contract offers. Out of the five she’d been presented, Levi instructed to her decline only one - a proposal that required her traveling back East again. The others were typical transportations of sensitive materials, which she accepted. Other than that, her days had been thankfully uneventful.
Except for Scott.
The past month he had become increasingly edgy; more tattoos, piercings, and rebellious clothing. He also seemed more wired and twitchy than usual, as if he was impatiently waiting for something to happen. He had also made it very clear that he disliked Levi, Caslon, and the rest of Madeline’s friends. He hadn’t gotten to the point of saying he didn’t want her associating with them anymore, but his increasing agitation at the mere mention of any of their names made it apparent that it was only a matter of time before that demand was made.
After a few minutes spent lazily walking toward the terminal, she could see Scott approaching from a distance, an anxious smile on his lips. As they met, she withdrew her hand from the warmth of her pocket and placed it in Scott’s as they ascended the ramp to the terminal. They flashed their ride passes at the ticket counter and proceeded to board, heading for their usual bench. As Madeline fastened the top button on her sweater and pulled the drawstring of her hood snug against her hair, Scott wrapped a loving arm around her so she could snuggle into his comforting embrace.
“I got a new barbell for my tongue the other day,” he revealed happily, exposing the silver and giving it a flick. “It vibrates. I heard it’ll make you go wild.”
Images of what he was implying dirtied up her mind for a few seconds before it reminded her of a recent murder she had seen on the local nightly news.
“Did you hear about that guy who got killed in the entertainment district a few weeks ago?” she asked. “A shop manager at a tattoo parlor. It’s just crazy how something like that can happen so close. Used to be you’d never hear about anything like that around here. How scary.”
“Yeah, it was pretty grisly wasn’t it?” Scott shivered dramatically and then smiled. “But I’m sure the guy had it coming. Probably pissed off the wrong person. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Madeline was taken aback by his reaction. His lack of compassion and the words he chose to use made her uncomfortable. She was able to deal with the antsy change in his personality to a degree, but not an attitude like this.
“Speaking of which,” Scott continued, oblivious to the discomfort he was causing her. “I brought you something. Close your eyes…”
She was apprehensive to close her eyes. The way he used the news of the murder to tie into a gift made zero sense. Before she obliged him, she focused her senses on sound and motion around her. She felt the sudden need to remain alert given his odd behavior. She could hear other passengers nearby, and the splash of water lapping endlessly against the ferry as it carved toward its destination. She remembered her training and how important it was to go for a spot that would bleed to send a vampire fleeing. All of that came flooding back into her mind now, and she discovered she was oddly calm considering the next steps she might have to make.
Scott took her hand, and she felt the cold touch of metal as a ring was slipped onto her finger. There was a grumble of frustration on his part as he realized it was too big for her ring finger, so he moved it to her index finger.
“There,” he said proudly, prompting Madeline to open her eyes.
She looked down at the stainless steel ring now adorning her finger and the black tribal pattern that wrapped all the way around it. It was not something she would have worn, it just wasn’t her style, but she smiled graciously, thanking him nonetheless.
“I figured it was time for a promise ring,” Scott said. “Sort of like a pre-pre-engagement ring.”
“A what?” Madeline asked, horrified. She could not believe what had just come out of his mouth. “I don’t want you to get upset, but I am in no way looking for that kind of commitment in my life right now. Not to anyone.”
Madeline's words prompted a noticeable twitched in his smile as he fought to stifle his anger.
How dare she.
“Then consider it a gift,” Scott offered, biting back his temper.
“Okay then,” Madeline accepted. “Thank you.”
He pulled her tightly to him, feeling a few tiny raindrops land on his head.
“By the way…” he began. “How about you and I take a weekend trip to London? You’ve been so hospitable showing me around Seattle that you’ve inspired me to show you my city. There’s even a couple of good bands we could catch.”
“This weekend?” Madeline asked. The conversation was undoubtedly strange today.
“Yeah,” Scott confirmed. “Or the next. It will be fun.”
“I can’t,” Madeline replied. “I’ve got a lot to do locally, and I just can pick up and run away for the weekend.”
“Is it because Levi won’t let you?” Scott asked, his voice beginning to show signs of the agitation he’d been trying to suppress.
“What? No,” Madeline replied, feeling increasingly put-off by his questioning. “It’s not like that at all. It has never been. I have responsibilities, and I have to put my wellness first. I’m taking care of me, and I can’t jeopardize that.”
“But I told you I would take care of you,” Scott continued. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore. If you let me, I’ll take care of you for the rest of your days.”
For a second she thought about it, about how it would feel to not have a care in the world for the rest of her life. Then she thought about how obligated to him it would make her feel. She hadn’t known him long enough to want to be at his side for the rest of her life. And would he try to pressure her to become like him? A vampire? That was NOT going to happen. Not to mention the red flags that went up in her mind just a few moments ago.
“I appreciate your offer, I really do,” Madeline began, “But I’ve always been one to depend on myself. To make my own way. It wouldn’t feel right if I couldn’t support myself.”
“But you aren’t doing that now!” Scott accused, clearly aggravated. “You are nothing more than a pet to him. Don’t you see that? Are you sleeping with him?”
Madeline’s eyes widened. What the fuck triggered this? Not appreciating what he was insinuating in the least, her blue eyes narrowed.
“No. I am not,” the redhead responded with an icy glare. “And though you might not see it, I do have freedom. I do what I want and go where I want.”
Scott was breathing heavy now, right hand clutching his chest as he stared at the deck of the ferry, his brown eyes darting all over the diamond plating.
“I’m sorry,” he gasped, still not making eye contact with her, “I’m not sure what came over me. I wasn’t feeling very well today for some reason. I should probably call Cole and make sure nothing is wrong. Will you be okay getting home by yourself?”
“Yeah, sure,” Madeline said, voice showing concern.
They were about to dock at the West Seattle terminal.
“I think I am going to take a cab back to the hotel. It’ll be quicker.”
“Hope you feel better,” she said sincerely, watching him descend the stairs, disappearing to the deck below. There was a gentle bump as the ferry docked at the pier, and the wind grew almost still as the vessel came to a halt. The handful of passengers disembarked, leaving Madeline mostly alone on the cruise back. Choosing a seat by herself in the lower, sheltered level of the ship, she dialed Levi’s number.
“I didn’t wake you, did I?” she asked when he answered in a tired voice.
“Nope, just tired from a long flight. What’s up?”
“Can people like Scott get sick?” she asked.
“You mean like catching a cold, or the flu?” Levi questioned in return.
“Yeah, like that.”
“No,” Levi answered. “Vampire blood treats everything that comes into contact with it like an infection and is very efficient at destroying it. So no colds, flu, chicken pox, measles, cancer… none of that affects them. Why? Something up?”
“Yeah, he got upset over something I said, then started breathing heavy and holding his chest like he was having a heart attack. He said he hadn’t been feeling well.”
“Why do you think I called you?” Madeline gave a small laugh.
“Did he look pale?”
“Not at all. He was his usual warm, healthy self.”
“Yes,” Madeline revealed. “The way he looked at the Halloween party was the worst I’ve seen him.”
“That’s got to take a lot of blood,” Levi said, yawning. “I’ll ask Maseo about it, but he’s not sick. If anything, he ate something that didn’t agree with him.”
“That sounds gross, Levi.”
“It’s supposed to,” he chuckled. “You heading home now?”
“Yeah. Scott is taking a taxi from West Seattle back to his hotel, and I am still on the ferry about to head back.”
“Wow, he even left you on the boat?”
“I’m a big girl.”
“I know that, but he doesn’t. Be careful heading back.”
As Madeline ended her call with Levi and tucked her cell phone back into her purse, she leaned back in the thinly padded seat and listened to the sound of the ferry engine as it engaged again, aiming the ship back towards downtown.
As he entered the business suite, Scott was relieved to let his false mask of cocky self-assuredness slip. Exhaling slowly, a panicked expression took its place.
Did he screw this all up? Had he pushed too much too soon? Just the thought that he’d done something he couldn’t take back caused his undead heart to race uncontrollably. Getting her overseas was important, more important than anything else in his life had ever been. He couldn’t disappoint Cole or Gideon. Couldn’t let them think so little of him that he couldn’t even get a simple girl on a plane to England. He had to think about what to do next and think about it carefully. She liked the ring, but it didn’t have the meaning behind it for her that he had hoped it would. He had over-estimated the pace of the relationship and under-estimated her independence. No more mentions of long-term commitments. Check. He could do that. In the end, it didn’t even matter because once he could get her to London, he could make her his by force.
Hands shaking, he raked his long fingertips through his silver hair. He just needed to calm down. Madeline was so concerned with her responsibilities that Scott suddenly got an idea. Perhaps he could trick her into going. Maybe he could hire her for a job to deliver something to London. But what?
Just then, his cell phone vibrated in his front jacket pocket. Reaching inside, he saw it was Cole.
On the other end of the line, he heard Cole take a deep breath, or perhaps it was a yawn. Scott couldn’t tell.
“Everything okay?” Scott managed to inquire. “You sound beat.”
“Fine, fine,” Cole replied tiredly. “I just spent the past six hours trying to encourage a representative from a rather large media conglomerate to support our ideals. How was your date?”
“Went great actually,” Scott lied. “I think she’s going to jump at the chance to come visit.”
“That is very good news indeed,” Cole replied, suddenly cheerful on the other end. “Master Gideon is looking forward to meeting her within the next couple of weeks. Do keep us informed.”
“Of course,” Scott affirmed.
“I will likely give you a call in the next few days to see how things are shaping up,” Cole said. “Until then.”
And then the call ended.
Biting his thumb hard enough to draw blood, Scott felt himself once again falling into a panic. He looked at his watch. If he was quick, he could make it back to the ferry terminal and catch Madeline getting off the boat, apologize, and invite her to stay overnight. He could start re-bonding with her. Taking the cute-and-cuddly approach. Maybe that would work.
Racing out the door, Scott made his way down the stairwell rather than waiting for the elevator. Jumping the flights too quick for the stairwell cameras to take notice, he was down in a matter of seconds. Hailing one of the waiting cabs out front of the lobby, he managed to beat the ferry by a couple of minutes and took the spare time to smooth out his appearance and regain his composure.
He watched the passengers disembark, easily spotting Madeline’s beautiful red waves peeking out from around her gray knitted hood.
She was a bit surprised to see him waiting.
“Everything okay?” she asked suspiciously.
“Not really,” Scott replied, offering her his hand to hold. He looked sad and ashamed. “I shouldn’t have left you. I was feeling so erratic that it made me bolt. I called Cole, and he helped me through it, but still, I should have never left you alone for the ride back. I’m so sorry.”
“I’m glad you came back,” Madeline admitted, taking his hand. “I was worried about you. You were acting really weird this evening, and I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t like it.”
“Cole said it might have been something from one of the donors,” Scott embellished. “If one of them took a drug or something, it could affect what happens when my body absorbs it. He said it should pass. I’m feeling better already. Just stupid.”
“Well, I forgive you,” Madeline smiled.
“Want to crash at my place tonight? Nothing physical, because I’m just not feeling up to it, but maybe watch a movie in bed?”
“Okay, that sounds nice,” Madeline replied as they walked toward the cabs lined up for customers. “Oooh, can I order up some ice cream?”
“Of course, whatever you wish.”
Madeline awoke to a tingling between her thighs.
She remembered watching a pretty good action movie wrapped in Scott's arms last night, and falling asleep after having some strawberry ice cream. She slept well, cocooned in the luxurious hotel linens, with Scott hugging her most of the night, but now she was on her back with her legs spread. Looking down, she could make out the shape of his head under the white sheet as she felt his tongue making her quiver with every stroke.
Leaning her head back, she began to lose herself in his care, moans of pleasure echoing in the suite.
And then it happened.
SCREAMING… she bolted upright, kicking Scott brutally in the head as a defensive reflex.
He bit her. He fucking bit her.
It wasn’t a nip or a tug with his teeth. He bit down hard into her flesh as if he was taking a bite out of her.
In a flurry of movement, Madeline tore off the covers on the way to the edge of the bed.
“Don’t go,” Scott pleaded. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what happened…”
Madeline said nothing, struggling to stand and grab her clothes. She remembered her pain training and how Levi taught her how to push through it. She wasn’t sure how she managed to get dressed, but she left her jeans and panties behind. It was too painful to put anything near the wound. Walking alternated between a sting and a lightning of pain, and her long, button-up sweater covered down to her knees. Her eyes were open, but her concentration was on an intangible point somewhere about five feet in front of her; a pin-point she pushed forward to with every step. And when she mentally reached it, she would start again. Another point, and another step, until she was nearly out the door.
“Let me call someone,” Scott said, just now getting out of bed. “Please.”
“No,” Madeline replied, holding her breath to speak. “I’ll take care of this myself.”
Grabbing her purse which rested on a table near the door, she managed her way out of the room and into the elevator, thankful Scott didn’t attempt to follow her.
His aggressiveness should have been her warning. His excuse had been that he hadn’t been himself lately, but it was just that - an excuse. This accident had given her clarity. She was done. She dug her phone out of her purse and began to dial Levi’s number.
No. This was her mess and she was strong enough to take care of herself. She just needed to get home. Outside the Sheraton, she called a cab and slid carefully into the back seat. Her phone started to blow up with texts and missed calls from Scott. She turned it off. Breathing as calmly as she could, she gave the outward impression that she was completely fine. The driver never suspected a thing, but it seemed like it took an eternity to get to her apartment.
When she finally was home, Madeline tossed her purse on the couch before kicking off her shoes in the hallway on the way to the bathroom.
Apprehensively, she looked down between her thighs.
It was still bleeding.
The skin between her thighs was smudged with crimson, some of it staining the weave of her long sweater. Glancing around her vanity, she searched for something she could apply pressure with. She didn’t use sanitary pads, so that wasn’t an option. The very thought of using a towel or paper tissue made her cringe thinking about how it would stick or tug. Gingerly, she bent down and opened the cabinet under the bathroom sink. The first aid kit was there, with gauze pads and medical tape. With a thankful sigh, she tenderly pressed one of the large, sterile pads against the bite. Luckily, they were designed not to stick, so there was a lot of relief in that fact alone. Working herself into a sitting position on the bathroom floor, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes for a bit, unexpectedly drifting off.
She awoke a few hours later, pad soaked with blood.
Tossing the gauze pad into the small bathroom trash can, she grabbed three more, unwrapping and stacking them together. Pressing them against the wound, she managed to slowly make it out to the couch where she tossed her purse. Retrieving her phone with her free hand, she didn’t hesitate to call Levi.
“I messed up,” she confessed as soon as he answered, making her way weakly back to the bathroom floor. “You were right.”
“What’s wrong?” Levi asked, voice etched with a touch of panic.
“Scott bit me,” she said, feeling her voice shake as she fought off frightful tears. “The bleeding won’t stop.”
As she spoke, she began to get notification after notification from Scott’s texts as turning her phone back on triggered a flood.
“Where are you? I’ll send someone over to bring you back to my loft.”
“My apartment. It’s not a lot of blood, but it just won’t stop. Levi…”
And then came the beeping in her ear, alerting her to an incoming call. She didn’t have to pull the phone away to know who it was.
“Who’s trying to call you?” Levi asked.
“Scott. He’s been trying to get a hold of me since I left. I don’t want to talk to him right now. Things have felt… I didn't think he’d do this…”
“Calm down,” Levi comforted, and then she heard another line ringing as Levi conferenced someone else into their call.
“Cas, I need you to go get Madeline from her apartment. 2022 6th Street, number 706. Vampire bite not coagulating. Contact Maseo on the way there and have him meet you back at the loft.”
Caslon hung up immediately.
“Keep pressure on it. I’ll stay on the phone with you until Caslon gets there.”
“Thank you,” Madeline said, voice reflecting her obvious exhaustion. “I’m sorry.”
“Baka,” Levi scolded softly. “None of this is your fault. All you need to do now is stay focused and calm. Everything else going on can wait. Did you have any deliveries today?”
Madeline knew he wasn’t being superficial, but was, in fact, distracting her from her injury.
“I have one. To The Golden Lotus actually,” she replied, pressing gauze against her inner thigh as she spoke. “To the club owner.”
“Good, good,” Levi praised. “Any more lined up?”
“Um…,” Madeline took a bit more effort to think about it. “I don’t tomorrow, but I do Friday.”
“My flight lands tomorrow around 6:00 p.m., so I’ll cover Friday.”
“You’re not in town?”
Levi could hear the disappointment in her voice. Unexpectedly, her tone made him ache in an unfamiliar way as if the front of his chest was made of rubber and an unseen force was slowly pulling it away from the rest of his body. When next he spoke, his voice was even softer than before.
“No, I’m wrapping up a job tonight in Quebec. But don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands. You’ll be safe. I promise you.”
Down the hall, she heard someone unlock her front door, and heavy footsteps hurried to where she sat on the bathroom floor. It was Caslon, and surprisingly behind him was his sister Tiff. Neither of them wore their usual expressions, as both were assessing the situation seriously.
Caslon took the phone politely from her hand.
“I’m here with Tiff,” he spoke to Levi. Caslon listened to Levi give instructions, something Madeline was unable to make out. “Sec, let me check…”
Tiff had already moved to Madeline’s side, her brown eyes following Madeline’s hand to where it held a gauze pad to her inner thigh. Unexpectedly, Tiff stiffened up as if she didn’t want to look there. Madeline didn’t understand. They were both women after all.
“He bit her up there,” Tiff declared maintaining her distance.
“What do you mean, up there?” Caslon questioned his sister, cradling the phone to his ear with his wide shoulder. “Oh THERE... Um, Levi? Tiff and I aren’t really comfortable looking between her legs.”
Caslon jumped, immediately pulling the phone away as Levi’s sudden outburst pierced his sensitive eardrums.
“Okay, okay. You don’t have to yell.”
Turning to Tiff, the twins suddenly did an impromptu rock-paper-scissors. Tiff lost.
Slowly removing the hand Madeline was using to hold the gauze, Tiff force a comforting smile and then took a look.
“Tell Levi he bit into one of her labia,” Tiff said as she pressed the gauze back in place. “And it’s good and bloody. I have no idea if something like that needs stitches, how deep it is, or if he bit all the way through.”
“Please tell me you heard that and I don’t have to repeat it,” Caslon cringed, asking Levi. “Okay, we’re moving her right now. I’ll call you when we get there.”
Hanging up, Caslon handed the phone back to Madeline, who held it close to her chest. He then wrapped her modestly in her long sweater and helped her down to the cab that would take them the few blocks to the safe house. Madeline was surprised how powerful Caslon was. He effortlessly carried her out of her apartment, to the elevator, and then out to the cab, explaining to the driver that she had twisted her ankle. Then when they got back to Levi’s place, he carried her all the way back to the guest room with as little effort as toting around a stuffed animal.
It felt odd to be back in Levi’s safe house. Caslon and Tiff helped her into the guest room that used to be her room and set her purse on the dresser. Caslon called Levi to let him know they got her home. The pair set her up with some more gauze, and within a few moments, there was activity in the kitchen. Someone had come up the freight elevator and was making a commotion on the way down the hall. Within moments, Gwen and Maseo appeared in Madeline’s room carrying a cooler and a large backpack containing some medical equipment.
“Okay kitty-cats, out!” Gwen ordered Caslon and Tiff, who wasted no time in leaving the bedroom.
Without the siblings in the room, Maseo began to set up some tubing and open the cooler, setting a few pints of B- on her bedside table.
“Before Maseo gets you plugged in, we need to get you clean and comfy,” Gwen told Madeline. “We need to get you into the tub so we can wash you up.”
Madeline’s eyes widened. That was going to hurt like hell.
“I know what you’re thinking, but we’ll make it so it’s not that bad. Promise,” Gwen assured, offering Madeline a pinky-promise before shouting off towards the living room. “Tiff! I need you to bring me something of Aya’s she can use as a nightshirt.”
Maseo, black hair pulled back in a long, glossy ponytail, went into the connecting bathroom and started the bath water running. He kicked off his pair of black combat boots and slipped off his socks. Rolling up the pant legs on his jeans, he stepped his left leg into the warm water and then sat, straddling the rim of the tub. After the pressure was decent, he grabbed the handheld showerhead and popped the faucet so the water started to pour through it. When he felt the temperature was close to that of Madeline’s skin, he gestured for Gwen to help her up and bring her in.
“Upsy-daisy!” Gwen sang, helping Madeline stand and walk towards the tub.
Once in at the side of the tub, Gwen helped Madeline strip off all her clothes while Maseo politely turned his head, then she handed the redhead a bath towel to wrap around her chest to provide a little bit of modesty.
“Now we’re not going to have you soak, that would just be too painful and would make you bleed more. Go ahead and have a seat on the side and I’ll leave you in Maseo’s hands while I get the bed ready. Be right back!”
Gwen smiled cheerfully and bounced towards the bed where she started to lay down some protective large gauze pads and arrange the sheets and pillows so that Madeline would be slightly propped up when she returned. Also, Tiff returned with a simple cotton nightshirt from Aya’s section of the closet in Levi’s room.
“How are you holding up?” Maseo asked sincerely, looking unwaveringly into her eyes. “Tired, scared, nervous to have me touch you?”
“All of the above,” Madeline admitted, her uncertainty evident on her face.
“Take my hand as you step in,” he instructed in the most soothing voice as he lifted his hand and offered it to Madeline. She guessed he was using his pheromones on her. “And then have a seat on the edge here in front of me on this towel.”
Madeline stepped cautiously into the tub one foot at a time, feeling the lukewarm water splashing against her feet. She carefully took a seat in front of where Maseo straddled the side of the tub.
“I’m sure Levi told you about the pheromones vampires can use to calm victims while they drink?”
Madeline nodded. She had guessed correctly.
“Well, I am highly skilled in that regard, so I am going to use it while we get you cleaned up,” Maseo further explained in his hypnotic voice. “The reason I am doing this, and Gwen is not going to use her mind tricks on you, is because I can judge your discomfort and treat you accordingly. I’m not going to assault you. I am not going to seduce you. I am not going to abuse you. You will feel warm and likely as you did when I let you get drunk at The Golden Lotus. Do you understand?”
Madeline nodded again, feeling herself being calmed by his voice alone.
“I am your friend. I am going to take care of you. I have no ulterior motives.”
Still straddling the wide rim of the tub, Maseo positioned himself against Madeline’s left side, and she began to feel just as he said she would - warm and languid. As he felt her muscles relax, she leaned against him, prompting him to direct the flow of water coming from the hand-held showerhead to her inner thigh, stopping about an inch short of where the bite was. He felt her tense up again, so he pushed his ability up a fraction, once again feeling her relax against him. He kept his position for a few seconds, and then let the water spray closer to the wound, increasing the release of his pheromones another couple of fractions to counter the pain. Looking down at the bottom of the tub, he saw the water run red as expected.
Other than knowing he was in the right spot, there was no other reaction from him. That was the reason only he came with Gwen. The likelihood of him lusting for blood was as likely as a human going berserk at a buffet and devouring everything in a mad rage.
“Feeling okay?” he asked Madeline kindly, her body still leaning sluggishly against him.
“Yep,” Madeline replied slowly as if in a daze.
“I want you to do your best to move your skin around down there so the water can do its job, and then we’re going to wash around the wound. Don’t worry about the wound itself. We’ll get some antibacterial ointment on it once Gwen has a look and we get you back into bed.”
Madeline nodded and did what she was told, all the while letting herself be supported by Maseo’s sturdy chest.
After a bit more rinsing, Maseo reached around her with his left hand and turned the water off. Within moments, Gwen came back to help Madeline put on the nightshirt and get into bed.
After slipping a bright blue glove over one hand, Gwen gently examined the wound, getting a good look at the details.
“Four deep punctures and bruising,” she began, giving Maseo the details he needed, “Two on the outside of her right labia, and two on the inside. The two on the inside look like they probably went all the way through. No coagulation present.”
“Well, we could liquid bandage her,” Maseo said crossing his arms, “But then his saliva would be trapped in her bloodstream for about eight hours, and considering I know nothing about where this barbarian came from, I don't like that idea.”
“So we let it bleed out?” Gwen asked.
“We let it bleed out,” Maseo confirmed.
“Did you get all that?” Gwen asked Madeline, who was feeling only half awake after Maseo’s treatment.
“I don’t understand,” Madeline said, weakly shaking her head.
“I’m going to provide you with clean blood, as we let your heart push out the blood tainted with Scott’s saliva,” Maseo explained, giving Madeline a reassuring smile. “It will be painless and simple, and all you have to do is lay there and sleep. Gwen and I will take care of things. Okay?”
Gwen applied some anti-bacterial cream, and then folded a thick square of gauze around Madeline's labia covering the wound on all sides before securing it with some medical tape to keep it in place. At the same time, Maseo leaned very close to Madeline, his cheek nearly touching hers, and exhaled softly. Madeline felt once again as she did on the edge of the tub. She didn’t even notice Maseo put the needle in her arm, or that she was now hooked up to an IV.
“There you go, little human,” Gwen whispered. “Now just relax and take a nap. We’ll take care of the rest.”
As she began to doze off, she could hear Maseo on the phone talking with who she assumed to be Levi, giving him all the details and almost sounding as if he was reassuring him things were going to be okay.
“I have to get back to Aya,” Tiff apologized to Maseo. “I left during her photo shoot with a wardrobe excuse.”
“Not to worry, I need to head back myself and deliver this package to The Golden Lotus for Madeline,” Maseo replied. “I take it Gwen and Caslon can watch over things here until Levi gets back?”
“Don’t worry, kitty,” Gwen addressed Caslon, “All you have to do is be our bodyguard. I’ll take care of the rest.”
The pantherinae was visibly relieved he wasn’t going to have to anything involving changing pads. He could if he really needed to, but wasn’t good at that type of stuff in general and was more afraid of hurting Madeline that anything else. He watched as she slept for a while and then turned to Maseo, lowering his voice to ask a question.
“How is he doing?”
“As expected,” Maseo replied. “He’s worried and very pissed.”
“Are we going after Scott?” Caslon hoped, excited by the thought.
“It depends,” Maseo replied. “But don’t even consider it until Madeline is better and Levi returns. In the meantime, I’m going to do a little digging on our friend when I get back to The Golden Lotus.”
It was around 7:30 p.m. the next evening when Levi returned. Making a quick stop to roll his luggage into his room, he then hurried through the open guest room door to find Gwen laying on the bed next to a sleeping Madeline, watching the wall mounted TV. Seeing his approach, the fae with the bouncy blond ringlets smiled and rose from the bed.
“She had a fever most of yesterday,” Gwen revealed, reassuring Levi. “Maseo wasn’t sure why because the blood types match, but he’s guessing it might have something to do with the issue you two talked about when he first met your human. After that passed, she slept through the night and was awake most of today, had some oatmeal, and then went back to sleep. Caslon is asleep on the couch. We’ve been taking shifts.”
“Has the bite started to clot yet?”
“Did you want to take a look?” Gwen asked honestly, about to lift the bed sheets and show Levi outright.
“No!” Levi said quickly. “That’s okay. Just give me an update.”
“For being a pervert, you get worked up over the most unexpected things,” Gwen teased. “Her wound finally started to clot last night, so I removed the IV. The punctures should heal on their own with time. She’s just going to be in some discomfort for a while.”
“Thank you, Gwen,” Levi said appreciatively. “And let Maseo know I said thanks. I’ve got things here now; you can head home.”
“I hope the little human gets better soon!”
With that, Gwen bounced off down the hallway, locking the front door behind her as she left.
The place was almost quiet, aside from Caslon snoring on the living room sofa.
“Hey,” Levi half whispered, nudging his friend with his knee. “I’m back now. You can head home.”
Caslon sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes and letting out a noise that was halfway between a yawn and a growl. “Did Gwen leave already?” he asked rubbing his eyes.
“Yeah. She said Madeline would be fine, just needs a lot of rest,” Levi whispered. “Thanks for responding so quickly.”
“That’s what I am here for,” Caslon said, yawning again as he stretched and then rose to head back to his own apartment.
Now that the place was empty of visitors, Levi went quietly back into the guest room and sat himself down on the bed next to Madeline, who was clutching her cell phone even in her sleep. He propped up the extra pillows against the headboard, so he could lean back comfortably and watch TV. For a few minutes, he debated taking his cat form but decided this was probably best. After about ten minutes of watching an old action movie, Levi noticed Madeline begin to stir.
“Thank goodness you’re home,” she said weakly, comforted by his unique scent.
Unexpectedly, she wrapped her arms around him and started to cry.
Emerald eyes wide with shock, Levi didn’t know how to respond. Her tears weren’t so much sadness as they were relief, so although his stomach felt a tiny bit uneasy, it was only a mild discomfort. Nothing like the out-right misery he experienced that night long ago when she was sobbing in the bathtub. Beyond that, he was surprisingly aware of the curves of her body and the press of her breasts against his chest.
Hesitantly, he wrapped his arms around her and slowly pulled her close.
“I am so sorry,” she sniffled, realizing being this close in this state of distress couldn’t be easy for him. She started to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her.
“It’s okay,” he asserted. “I can take it.”
For a few minutes, neither of them said anything. It was the closest they had ever been to each other, but only Levi was conscious of that fact.
“Gwen said you’re okay now, just need to take it easy the next few weeks. Everything will heal up on its own.”
Madeline wanted to say something, but couldn’t. She didn’t want to talk about what had happened and how. As it was, her friends had seen a lot more of her then she would have liked. How was she going to face them after this? How was she managing to even hold onto Levi right now?
“It’s okay,” he said suddenly in a low whisper, reactive to her nervous silence. “Whatever you’re worried about, it’s all going to be okay. No one cares about the how or why. We only care that you’re okay. That’s what friends do.”
Looking down past her body, he saw that she had released the cell phone, and it was now laying behind her face-up on the sheets.
“Is he still calling you?” Levi asked.
“He hasn’t tried to contact me for a while now,” Madeline replied. “I set his notification on silent, but only his. I didn’t want to miss a call from you, or anyone else. He’s left so many voice messages… but I just don’t want to deal with him right now.”
“May I take a look?” Levi asked.
“Sure,” Madeline allowed.
In truth, she didn’t want to read anything from him right now either, and although it seemed cowardly, she would much rather Levi filter through Scott’s communications than to have to do it herself.
Levi removed his right arm from around her and rolled them both toward the cell phone so he could reach it. Swiping her password in with his thumb, he saw that Scott had left fifty-three texts, and a dozen voice messages. Taking a deep breath to steady the anger he felt beginning to boil just thinking about Scott, Levi steeled himself and started reading.
The first twenty or so texts focused on apologizing and pleading for Madeline to come back so he could take care of her. There were about equal as many texts asking her where she was. It was the last handful or so that really pushed Levi’s buttons. At that point, the one-sided conversation moved from concern over Madeline to blaming her for not trusting him. Things like “After all I’ve done for you, you won’t come back?” and “You’re going to leave me because of one mistake? I thought I knew you better than that.”
“Do I want to know?” Madeline asked, voice muffled as she spoke into Levi’s chest.
“He was worried at first, but now it seems he’s trying to turn this back on you somehow,” Levi confessed before his voice and mannerisms took an all too familiar mischievous turn. “Should I take a selfie of us right now? Text it back to him? I'm assuming you’re done with him.”
“I appreciate your concern,” Madeline said sarcastically, as she pushed away from him.
Laughing, Levi was about to add something more to the conversation, when the vibrating of his own phone, tucked neatly in his shirt pocket, interrupted.
It was Maseo.
“Moshi, moshi,” Levi answered. “Yeah, I’ve got a minute. Just got in about an hour ago. What’s up?”
For a long time, Levi said nothing. He listened to the information Maseo had dug up about Scott. Using the name that was on the party guest list from a few years back, the vampire explained he came with nothing locally, so he contacted his clan as a last resort. Using Rupert Cole’s name as a basis to start the search, they were able to backtrack to Scott, finding a complete name that didn’t match what Madeline, or the owner of The Golden Lotus, was given. That was enough for Maseo to find everything he cared to know about the young vampire. His full name was Scott Donovan Pierce, and he had a sinister criminal record. He was indeed the son of an affluent family from California, and did end up involved with “the wrong people,” but had been arrested on numerous charges of assault, sexual assault, drug possession, and robbery. Each time, likely due to his connections, he was never formally convicted. There was also a rumor floating around of attempted murder, but charges were never officially filed.
When Maseo was all done, Levi was still silent for a while.
“What are you going to do?” Maseo asked over the phone.
“I’m going to tell her what you told me, and leave it up to her,” Levi replied. “Ja ne.”
“Tell me what?” Madeline asked, eyes narrowed suspiciously after Levi ended his call.
“That Scott isn’t who he led on to be,” Levi clarified.
Madeline backed away and sat up on the bed. Clutching a pillow to her chest, she prepared to hear the news. She wasn’t expecting to be too devastated since she was certain at this point her relationship with Scott was over. Anything Levi was about to tell her would only add to weight to her looming decision, tilting the scale against Scott.
“First off,” Levi began after he saw Madeline was comfortable with him continuing, “He’s not Scott Pearson, but Scott Donovan Pierce. Secondly, although he told you he got in with a bad bunch in California, what he didn’t tell you is the depth he had sunk to. Maseo is pretty much convinced he was more than someone being bullied into doing bad, and found an arrest record to back it up. We’re talking drug possession and robbery all the way up to sexual assault and accusations of attempted murder. He was never jailed because of his family’s money. They basically bought the silence of his victims.”
Wow. She never expected Scott was telling her all the details, no one would spill their most unflattering secrets voluntarily, but didn’t expect the truth to be this bad. What made matters worse was that his sire knew this. He would have had to, otherwise, there would be no need to falsify the name for a seemingly trivial Halloween party. Someone with that sort of past would probably make a pretty good vampire if they were careful about what they did. But given what she knew now, she was convinced Scott wasn't careful at all. And his temper. It took a while for it to surface, but he did have a bad temper. Even after all this time, the smallest mention of Levi or Caslon set him off. And when she turned down his offer to fly to England, she’d never seen him lose it like that. And the comments about the murder of the tattoo shop manager. And the consistent warm flush to his skin… It made much more sense now.
“Well then,” she said, taking a deep breath. “That certainly settles things. I’ll call him and see what he has to say, and then break it off.”
“Did you want some privacy or…”
“Please,” Madeline requested.
Getting off the bed gracefully, Levi exited her bedroom closing the door behind him.
Propping up all the pillows into one stack, Madeline pushed them against the headboard and leaned back, making herself comfortable under the soft, warm sheets. She took a couple of deep breaths and went over in her head what she was going to say. She didn’t want to bring up his past, because it wasn’t the sole reason for her decision. She was doing this because she didn’t feel safe in his company anymore. The more she thought about it, it was probably a bad idea to date anyone that wasn’t human. As if relationships weren’t complicated enough, she certainly didn’t need obstacles that being with a non-human partner would create.
Picking up her cell phone, Madeline thumbed through her contacts and selected Scott. As the line rang, she half hoped he wouldn’t answer.
But he did.
“Where have you been?! Are you okay?!” he shouted, exasperated. “Do you have any idea what’s been going through my mind trying to get a hold of you?!”
“I’m fine now, well for the most part,” Madeline replied. “Spent a pretty long time under medical care.”
“Where are you? I’ll come pick you up.”
“No. That won’t be necessary,” Madeline said. “I need to rest up for a couple of weeks, so I am not going to be accepting visitors. Look. I’m not going to drag this out any longer. Us dating? It’s just not a good idea. We gave it a good try, but it’s not going to…”
“Wait, what?! Don’t be saying that. I’m sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am that I screwed up. It won’t happen again. I promise. You can’t make this big of a decision on one mistake. Please, Madeline.”
“It just won’t work.”
There was a long pause on Scott’s end.
“Can I at least meet you one last time? Can we talk about this all face-to-face? I don’t want to do this over the phone like this. Doesn’t our relationship deserve that much?”
Madeline thought about it for a few seconds. As long as it was a public place, and during the day, it should be fine.
“Tomorrow at the coffee shop where I ran into you the first time. In the afternoon.”
“I see,” Scott replied solemnly, understand what calling him out in the daytime meant. “Sure. Tomorrow it is then.”