“When shall I meet your family?” Mary asked as we took in the moonlit sky together, arm in arm on the German coastline. I smiled at her sadly, wishing to avoid this topic.
“Mary, I do not think that it’s wise. Could we pretend that they do not exist, and for now just enjoy the moment, and each other?”
“They accept you loving women, something that I wished my own parents would understand.”
“They tolerate it because they have to. Mother and Elladora disagree with everything else I do.” I pressed my lips to her forehead as she curled into my embrace.
“You’re cold to the touch, Mircalla. Please, partake of me.” Mary’s hazel eyes wavered with concern, reflecting the need in mine. I cupped her cheek and pressed my lips to hers gently.
“I don’t want you to lose your rosy cheeks, Mary. I’ll feed again in a few days.”
“My dearest Mircalla, I ache to feel yourself within me, fangs and fingers alike.”
“I dream of the day when I can do that and not risk killing you.”
“Risking death is meager compared to risking eternal hellfire to be with you. And should you drink too much of me in life, I trust that you will have me drink from your chalice of damnation, so we could be together in the deathless night.”
“I have researched the lore behind your kind, Mircalla. I wish to be with you forever, watching the stars turn in the sky and observing how man adapts through the ages.”
I frowned at her beautiful words. “My dearest Mary, I love you because you are mortal. Once you are transformed into a fellow creature of darkness, I will no longer be able to sustain myself upon your blood.”
She nodded in understanding. “And when that day comes, we shall need mortal companions of our own. It does not bring me pleasure to think of it, but I would share my heart’s one true desire with another so that you may stay well fed.”
“Dear Heart, I would not subject you to the same hell I have withstood for over a hundred years.”
“Tell me, Mircalla, would you still desire me as I age and grow feeble? When I am wan and sickly and you still appear to be in the prime of your youth?” I could see fear in her eyes as she asked that, worried that I would discard her once she was no longer of use to me.
“My dearest Mary, I shall love you with as much strength as I have to love until your dying day. And upon that day I shall meet Death himself for I will not drink from another as my heart and soul belong to you.” As I made that vow under the stars, I knew that I would keep it. I could traverse to the desert and meet the noonday sun, and have it strip me of life until Death takes me.
As the words settled in between us, the sound of a horse-drawn carriage distracted us as a familiar voice called out to me.
“Oh how positively loving and dreadful.” Elladora stood there, looking at me with derision and disgust in her eyes. “Mircalla, introduce me to your little mortal here.”
Mary faced my former lover, clueless to the danger she was in. “You must be her sister. I’m Mary. Pleased to-“
Elladora’s eyes rolled over to meet mine. “It’s talking to me. I thought you trained your pets better than that. At least Li-Juan knew when-”
Mary jerked back as if she had been slapped. “I beg your pardon, but I am not her pet!”
“Silence.” With that one word from Ell, Mary found herself unable to make any noise. She turned to me in panic and fear.
“Ell, leave her be.” I stated, forcing to keep my voice even. Her gift of persuasion was unnerving.
“What is this, the sixth mortal lover you’ve taken since me?” Mary’s expression went from fear to betrayal. “Yes, Mary, I was her first mortal lover. Mircalla here won’t turn you; she hates her own kind too much to ever share immortality with you.”
“I don’t hate my kind, I hate how you treat people.”
“Oh, this tired old argument again. You would think that the Inquisition would have taught you a lesson. Mary, get the shovel out of the carriage and start digging.”
I looked towards the carriage and saw a coffin. “God’s blood, no…” I swallowed down the lump of dread in my throat. “Mother put you up to this.” I gathered my resolve and broke out towards her with a burst of speed, unsheathing the stiletto from inside my cloak.
All I was able to see was a red flash of her eyes before I found myself kneeling at her feet and my blade transecting my neck, blood pouring down my knuckles as I held it with a trembling grip. She made me stab myself. It took me another second to realize that I couldn’t move.
“Hand me the blade.” She whispered as soft as one would to a lover between stolen kisses in the silent night. I pulled out the silver dagger and put it into her hands, even as my body rebelled my mind’s control. “Now go dig your grave. Mary, prepare the coffin and the silver chain.”
STOP THIS! I told myself to no avail. I kept digging into the soil with the shovel, knowing what my fate was to become.
“You don’t have to do this to me, Ell. We could leave Mother, run away together and never look back-”
“You mean like how Wilhelm did during the Decembrist Revolt? No, dear sister, I won’t let you poison my mind with your ideas of being good, of changing what it means to be a vampire! You might not want power from Lophilliphormes, but Mother and I do. I won't let you destroy everything I have built here, so I’m just going to bury you alive.”
As she said it, I was helping Mary lower the coffin into the unmarked grave. When the truth hit me, I couldn’t feel anything as shock numbed me while I laid myself into the coffin and teary-eyed Mary began to close the coffin lid. Mother was no longer in control of Ell.
“Mother didn’t tell you to do this.” Ell’s gift turned out to be more than mere persuasion, she could subsume a person’s will entirely.
“Oh, she’ll believe it was her idea all along once I’m done here. You see, while you’ve done your best to play with your food, I’ve been growing in strength to rival Mother herself.” She wasn’t even using out verbal commands as I heard the heavy silver chains wrap around the coffin to seal me inside.
“Say that you love me.” Ell demanded through the coffin lid.
“How could I ever love a monster like you?!” I screamed back, still unable to move a muscle if Ell didn’t permit me.
“Tell her that you love her.” Mary’s voice called out, missing all warmth from earlier.
“Mary, RUN!” I begged, unsure if it were even possible. A loud snapping, cracking sound was followed by a dull thump upon the coffin. The quickly cooling blood left a trail of warmth above me as I heard dirt falling onto my coffin.
“Say it before I can’t hear you, Mircalla!” there was a power in her voice that compelled me to comply, even as she was burying me alive. I will never forgive you for this, Ell.
“I love you, Elladora.” My vocal chords betrayed me.
“NOOO! Noooo!” Carmilla’s voice is urgent, snapping her out from the depths of her nightmare, face etched in despair. Her hands were clawing at the air as she gasped for air.
“Shh, Carm. It’s okay. I’m here. I’m here.” She wakes as I roll over, grasping her shoulders, holding her. I reached over her and turned on the light to see her face was etched with anguish, dark eyes wide and brimming with pinkish tears.
“Laura,” Her voice is a breathless whisper, the taste of fear tarnishing her mouth. I can see her eyes dilate into narrow, vertical feline slits as a painful reminder of her fight against Baron Vordenberg and Z’Katheggon. “Sorry, I-”
“Shh. I'ts okay.” I reply, pulling her into a hug. Carm has buried her face into my neck and shoulder as if I’m a talisman to keep the darkness at bay.
“I had a nightmare…”
“I know. I’m here, I’m here.” She’s had the same nightmare I’ve had; getting there too late and seeing Danny die.
“Laura.” She breathes my name, and it’s a ward against the black choking panic coursing through her body.
“Hush, I’m here.” I curl around her, my limbs cocooning her, warmth leeching into her body, forcing back the shadows, forcing back the fear. I’ll be your sunshine, I’ll be your light… walk away from the darkness.
“Thank you.” Her voice is hoarse as she wraps her arms around herself, shivering from the memory of the dream.
“I mean it. I don’t know how I’ve lucked out to have someone like you in my life. Someone who accepts me this way.” The words rush out of her mouth in a tumble of emotion and confusion and anxiety.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Carm. It’s just a bad dream,” I whisper and my lips are on hers, comforting her, bringing her back to the now. I stare up through her curtain of hair and meet her gaze with a contented sigh. Carmilla is beside me, stretched out on her bed. My girlfriend and Mistress rolls over to sip from the glass of water on the nightstand as I roll onto my side and take the position of the big spoon behind her.
“Aren’t I supposed to be the protective big spoon?” She whispers into the night air as I turn off the light on the nightstand.
“You’ve done a lot for me already. Now I’m going to protect you from the nightmares. You get chased by monsters, I'll be there saying 'pew, pew' with my laser blaster.”
“Laura Hollis, my personal superhero-slash-dreamcatcher.” Carmilla said with a smile, cuddling into me as the little spoon.
“Yup. And don’t you forget it.” We curl into each other and drift back to sleep.
Carmilla’s alarm on her phone wakes me up, blaring Korn’s Coming Undone as I see JP is already setting out Carmilla’s clothing for the day.
Choke choke again
I thought my demons were my friends
Getting me in the end
They're out to get me
Since I was young
I've tasted sorrow on my tongue
And this sweet sugar gun
Does not protect me
It’s all business today it seems as I sit up and yawn the fog out of my brain. Carmilla nearly mirrors me and reaches for the fresh glass of ice water at her bedside and takes a long gulp.
“Thirsty?” she asks, offering me the glass.
“Yes,” I mutter sleepily, taking it from her and enjoying the cool liquid as Carmilla gets out of bed and walks into her bathroom, the shower already on and at the perfect temperature.
“Armitage, you’re a godsend. Schedule?”
“Nine A.M with Sue, then you two are meeting with the Jewelry executives who inexplicably can’t seem to meet the demand for diamonds that don’t come from the conflict region. It’s like someone single-handedly destroyed the warlord responsible for smuggling them into the world market…”
“Bastards are finally coming around, huh?” Carm asked as she stripped naked.
“Their latest marketing ploy, so-called ‘chocolate diamonds’, is failing horribly according to cable news.”
Carmilla scoffed at that. “They are brown! Nobody wants high-end jewelry where the centerpiece is brown. Tell Perry I want hash browns and orange juice.”
“Right away, Ms. Karnstein.” JP nodded as they left the bedroom and I crawled my way out of bed. They still had a bandage on their neck from Carmilla’s bite, but it was healing quite nicely and was hidden under their high-collared Victorian-era-inspired suit.
“Laura, come, uh… help me conserve water.”
“This your way of asking me to shower with you?” I chuckle.
“It’s for the environment.” Her voice suggested otherwise. I smiled at that and stripped off my pajamas, stepping into the large shower enclosure as Carmilla patted my butt in admiration.
“Such a cute little bum; I really want to see if I can leave a hand-shaped bruise on it.”
I grabbed the soap and decided to play coy as I washed myself.
“That would take time, and I thought I was here to help you conserve water.” My eyes met hers as I deliberately lathered my breasts a bit more than was needed and trailed my hand down my stomach to run my fingers over my already needy lips.
In less than a second, Carmilla’s hands were at the back of my neck and I was pinned to the wall as her lips hit mine with searing passion. Her leg slipped between mine and I gasped as I opened myself up for her, arousal pooling within me as her teeth nipped at my neck.
“We’ll just have to have a quickie then.” Carmilla purred, fingertips finding and rubbing my clit in a tight circle. I moaned at the contact as her other hand moved to grasp my breast and pinch my nipple, forcing out a strangled whimper as her two fingers found their way home inside me, making me gasp as she whispered what she was doing to me in explicit detail.
When Carmilla’s thumb pressed down over the hood of my clitoris, her eyes were locked onto me as she drank in the sight of me coming undone by her hand.
“Beg for me to finish you, my Laura.”
“Call me Carmilla, love.”
“Carm-sexy-FUCK!” My thighs trembled as the warm water cascaded on her and the resulting spray barely hit me as I felt myself tighten around her dexterous lovemaking inside me, loving the quickening friction within me.
“You can’t even talk right now. Good.” Carmilla cooed, increasing the pressure as she fucked me breathless and I came, violently, and found my lips on hers as I floated back down from where I was a moment before.
“You’re good. Really... “ I gulped in some more air, “good.”
“If you wish to reciprocate, kneel.” Carmilla asked more than ordered as her hands were on my shoulders and I knelt down in the shower, eye-level to her smooth and tantalizing sex. She lifted her left thigh to rest on my shoulder, calf pulling me in closer so I could bury my face in her, my fingers working their way inside her gently.
My lips and teeth seized upon her folds and I gently sucked, smiling as her hands automatically clasped my head and she ground herself into the sensation. I focused on her movements and her sounds and decoded exactly what she wanted done to herself as I made a pattern of sucking, licking, and fingering her with a building intensity as I added a second and third finger into her, quickening my pace. Carmilla was already so close to orgasm that it only took another minute before the she tumbled into an abyss of pleasure, cursing in Romanian as she did. I was fairly certain that her screams were probably heard all the way into the kitchen.
It turns out that they didn’t need to hear Carmilla and I having shower sex as I couldn’t help the look on my face as we ate breakfast and I was still in Carm’s bathrobe.
“Spent the night in Carmilla’s bed, huh?” LaFontaine smirked as they bit into their toast.
“Um, yeah. And then we conserved water together this morning.”
“Conserved water. Right.” They deadpanned.
Perry was unflappable as she tried to make an excuse for me. “LaFontaine, it’s obvious that Laura here is tired this morning. Let her eat in peace so she can go get ready for work.” I flush as Carmilla stifled back laughter at my expense.
“Yeah, I didn’t get much sleep last night.” I fib pointedly at LaF, hoping they would drop it. Last night was actually JP’s night with Carmilla, and they extended the offer to include me as well to watch Mulan and the sequel as we all cuddled in Mistress’ bed together. I had fallen asleep before the first one ended.
“Me neither.” LaFontaine grins, as they take their plate to the sink. I scowled at them and idly wondered what was going on between them and Perry.
“Kirsch will drop me off at work today as I'm having the Jeep's interior replaced. JP will finish mending my gear.” Carmilla ordered as she flipped through the Wall Street Journal.
My ears perked up at that. “Does that mean I can drive myself to work?”
“I don’t see why not; Mother has been taken care of, James is gone, and SJ’s been admitted for long-term observation.”
“Thank you Mistress!” I exclaim as I finish my food, kiss her on the cheek, and hurry off to my bedroom to get ready for my next to last week of the internship before school resumes.
As I make my way into work, I can tell that the mood of the place is seriously subdued. Lana is cleaning out James’ office of personal effects and smiles sadly to me.
“Morning, Laura. Elsie seems to be out today so I’m left cleaning out James’ personal effects. Guy really trashed the mini-fridge he had in his office.”
I nodded, confused at how he rated a mini-fridge here. “Oh, okay. I can still work at my desk, right?”
She shrugged at that. “I guess so; don't classes resume soon?”
I sighed, wishing that Elsie were here for this. “Well I wouldn’t mind staying, but I can’t handle a full-time internship and be the the Floor Don at Silas. I’d happily stick around part-time in the evenings if possible…”
“Definitely talk to Elsie about that, then. It’s weird; I think this place has had an incredible turnover rate lately.”
“Well I think we know why.” I said, frowning at the folder of research my former boss had for potential story leads.
"James was never formally investigated for the sexual harassment rumors that spread." Lana shrugged, and there was a lot of meaning behind it.
"He hasn't exactly been proven innocent, either." I said bitterly, glad that he was gone.
“Did you know that James was only here for 5 years? And he had the most longevity over everyone else in this department?”
“Really? How long have you been here?”
She chuckles at that. “Well it feels like forever; the stories I could tell. Hey, want to get lunch with me today? There’s an amazing Monday special at the Chinese place around the corner.”
“I was planning on surprising Carmilla at work today.”
“Oh then let’s do it next week. You can invite her too; about time I really get to know this woman you keep talking about.”
“Um, okay.” I agree as she walks by with a box of James’ stuff, her perfume making my eyes water slightly.
“Oh, Lana, what’s with the perfume?” I say, trying to not choke on it. She winced in apology.
“Sorry, force of habit. It repelled James, so…”
“Oh. Totally understand.” I reply as I keep sorting through James’ documents and notes. Carmilla had taken his hard drive and scoured his office for anything else electronic, but I was left staring at news articles and photographs that went back at least a hundred and fifty years.
One of the earliest photographs labeled Christmas, St.Petersburg, 1825 had a figure circled who looked eerily like… Will.
Another page showed a receipt from the British East India Company with the name Lilita Morgan on it from 1837.
My jaw dropped finally at seeing a portrait labeled Gräfin (Countess) Mircalla von Holstein from 1847.
I kept going through the documents and found photos of Carmilla holding up a “VOTES FOR WOMEN” sign in 1919, working at a bar ‘Speakeasy, Greenwich Village, 1932’, in an Army uniform in 1943, and in Vegas with Frank-Freaking-Sinatra in 1961.
Holy Crap. James was stalking Carmilla.
I gathered the documents and photocopied them, having even more of a reason to see Carmilla at lunchtime. My stomach grumbled and I realized that it was already twelve-thirty.
I quickly gather my things and make my way over to Carmilla’s workplace, bluetooth headset in place as I called Armitage.
“Laura, what’s up?” JP said in a chipper tone. They didn’t have a quickie this morning; is JP this happy just from cuddles and a movie with Carm? I shrugged it off and asked if Carmilla was free for lunch.
“Sorry, I’m at home mending her gear. Brody is on detail today.”
I hung up and called Kirsch. He picked up and mumbled something as if he were eating right then.
“Hey, is Carmilla free for lunch?” I rolled my eyes as he smacked his lips, confirming my suspicion.
“Just about; she hard-balled the jewelry CEO’s by hinting that she was going to fund a documentary with Michael Moore about blood diamonds that would be worse than ‘Gasland’ was for fracking.”
“Wow, she is going to do an expose… wait, she was bluffing, wasn’t she?”
“I’m not entirely certain, to be honest. There have been stories published and documentaries done in the past, but gems are pretty fungible, even with laser inscription. At this point, we just have to prove that the tech makes it cheaper to create than mine.”
“Wait, fungible? How did you know all that?”
“Sue, Natalie, and I role-played the encounter with Carmilla beforehand. Those ladies are some tough negotiators, but I think Carm’s got this in the bag.”
“Well, I’ll remember that if I ever need to get into the money laundering business. I’ll be there in about five minutes, don’t let Carmilla grab lunch without me.”
“Um, okay, but what if she wants to go get lunch and you’re not here?”
“Stall her ‘till I get there?”
I could have sworn I heard him utter a small ‘eep’.
“Gotta go.” Kirsh said as the call ended.
By the time I got there with Baby Smaug, Kirsch and Carmilla were waiting by the curb. She looked smug while Brody frowned slightly.
I pulled to a stop and lowered my passenger window as Carmilla lowered her sunglasses and winked at me.
“Oh, Laura, what a nice surprise!” She was being sweetly sarcastic. I like playful Carmilla, even when it's at my expense.
I shot Kirsch a ‘traitor’ glance as Carmilla laughed.
“Vampire hearing, sweetness.” She opened the passenger door and got in. “Kirsch, go have lunch with my secretary; I’ve seen the way you two look at each other.”
“Um, really? You think Natalie likes me?”
Carmilla chuckled at that. “Your puppy-dog eyes do have some charm, you know.”
Kirsch was already on the phone, his face lit up like it was Christmas as Carmilla closed her door and hit the button to raise the window back up.
“Maybe they want to join us, make it a double date?” I offer, shrugging.
“Cupcake, as much as I like the gentle giant, the last thing I want to do is-” He knocked on the glass, startling us.
“Boss, Nat swears she just saw you walk back into your office.” Brody said, puzzled. He spoke into his cell phone. “Yeah, Carmilla is right here, Black suit, white pinstripes, grey shirt-”
I looked at the pair of them. “What’s going on?”
Carmilla gasped and reached for her phone. “Oh, FUCK. KIRSCH, CODE 12! I’ll text JP to secure home...”
Without missing a beat, he un-holstered his gun and had it pointed at her. I sat there, frozen in fear, as I heard him command authoritatively, “Bulldog.”
Bulldog? Is this a code word?
Carmilla fumed, rolling her eyes at him. “Goddamn it Kirsch, if I were the Doppelganger I wouldn’t know what code 12 is.”
Doppelganger is code 12? Then who is up in her office?
He clenched his jaw in consideration, lowering his pistol. “Right. Um, what about Hollis?”
“Ask her something only she would know… well, and that we could confirm…”
So paranoia suggests that I could be a doppelganger? THINK!
“Uh, my middle name is Trevelyan.”
Carmilla nodded, relieved as Kirsch looked back up at the Karnstein Industries building, panic in his voice. “Nat, get out of there!”
I felt more than heard the boom of the explosion on the top floor, car alarms blaring everywhere as a cold panic flooded through me. As I looked up to the twentieth floor, dark clouds of smoke were rolling out of the building from where Carmilla’s office used to be.