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Blood & Bourbon

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Caroline VII, Chapter VIII; Celia III, Chapter X
Dangerous Playdates

“Break a bird’s wing and you might someday release it to fly again. But for us? They broke our wings too young, too often. Now there’s nothing left for us but the cage.”
Caroline Malveaux-Devillers

Wednesday evening, 9 March 2016

GM: After killing her sister, Celia returns to her haven and sleeps through the day. Her dreams are untroubled, like usual.

She rises for the evening. Work calls. Her next appointment isn’t at Flawless, but the home visit she planned with her mother to the Devillers house. It’s a short drive to the Garden District with her makeup kit.

The Walter Grinnan Robinson House is one of the most beautiful homes in New Orleans. Located at 1415 Third Street in the exclusive Garden District, the palatial Antebellum mansion incorporates a sophisticated blend of Greek Revival and Italianate styles with a Neoclassical cast iron fence adorned in delicate shell motifs. It feels like a throwback to an earlier age of opulence. It’s far from the only multimillion house in the historic neighborhood to feel that way.

Viewed from the street, the house presents an impressive sight. It’s far back on the lot, sideways to the street, with a Palladian carriage house and iron gates. The impressive scale of the house results from its two nearly 16-foot stories of equal height. Double galleries with curved ends, an essential feature of Garden District homes, adorn the façade. These feature Doric columns on the first floor and Corinthian on the second. Cast iron panels in a somewhat heavier than normal pattern link the columns and blend well with the feeling of solidity which the building gives. The southern exposure has double galleries framed in ironwork of a lacy design, which effectively lightens and gives delicacy to the whole of the building.

The snow-white mansion is also one of the largest properties in the city, covering close to 14,000 square feet if one also includes the 1,500 square foot carriage house that likely served as servant quarters when the house was first built.

The spectacular grounds have a beautiful pool. Outdoor features include multiple balconies/porches, a Neoclassical fountain, and formal gardens with weeping willows, palm trees, and vibrant flowerbeds of roses, violets, magnolias, and other sweet-smelling blossoms. Neatly-trimmed green hedges and a wrought-iron fence make the home’s privacy tastefully but abundantly clear. Access in is controlled through an intercom by the gate.

Multiple security guards are present, but let Celia through after hearing who she is.

Celia: A decidedly not nervous Celia Flores parks and knocks on the house’s front door with her fingers wrapped around the handle of a silver box. It looks like some sort of bulky, hard-cased roller luggage, though with what Caroline knows of her purpose here that is, probably, not the case. The girl looks much the same as she remembers from that fateful night in college, though she’s aged. Aged well, to look at her; there’s not a sign of premature wrinkles, graying hair, or the ever-present hyperpigmentation or leftover scarring from the poor skin that took her in her youth. She looks positively radiant. Then again, she’s not yet 30, perhaps they all look radiant at this age.

She has kept it casual this evening: slacks, blouse, flats that are reminiscent of pointe shoes, natural makeup. Nothing to draw attention from the little girls whose faces she will be polishing and painting before their lesson.

She has a pleasant smile on her face, though her eyes widen minutely when she sees who it is that answers the door.

“Why, Miss Malveaux-Devillers, I did not expect to see you here.”

Caroline: The heiress eyes the case for a moment, but turns her attention from it quickly to the kine before her.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather be, Miss Flores,” she laughs lightly.

So that’s how it is?

Celia: “Here I thought Momma had brought me in to pamper the little ladies.”

Caroline: “Please, come in.” She steps inside and gestures for the other woman to join her. “It’s been a long time. Years, I think.”

Celia: Celia’s eyes sweep the blonde. She’s a little one herself, next to Caroline in her heels. She does step inside, though, and lifts the case into her arms rather than roll it along.

“Too long,” she agrees. “How’s life been treating you?”

Caroline: Laughter dances behind Caroline’s eyes. She wonders how she must look to the radiant, living girl before her, but she knows the answer: like hell.

“Oh, you know,” she answers. “Life seemed easier in college. These days it seems like there’s always ten things pawing for my time.”

Celia: Celia’s lips part, giving voice to the laughter that Caroline didn’t utter. She does know. That pawing she mentions is more like clawing, scraping, the thing inside of her reacting to the presence of the one in Caroline. She is suddenly glad for the lessons given to her by her sire’s cousin to keep her own scent from spilling out and wonders whose toes she is stepping on by being here.

“I completely understand. Always feel like I’m being pulled in seventeen different directions.”

Not that college was any better.

“Emily, you might remember my roommate from…” she trails off, “well, anyway, she mentioned you left the pre-med program?”

Caroline: “Well, in part,” Caroline answers. “I finished pre-med, but decided to sell out for law instead of medicine in post-grad.”

“I don’t know that anyone I was in the program with will ever forgive me, but when I look at my old classmates beating their head against the wall in med school or residency… well. It wasn’t the right way forward for me.”

Celia: “I’ll be honest, I think you made the right decision. The stories she tells me about everything she gets up to in residency, the sleepless nights… that’s entirely too much for a person. But, hey, can’t complain about having a doctor in the family.”

“I’m glad you found something that works better for you. I had a… hm. Ex-boyfriend, I suppose, who went to law school.”

Caroline: “Oh? Anyone I’d know?” Caroline asks.

Celia: “He was a few years older than us, but you might know his dad if you’re in the field? Garrison.”

“He, ah… he passed away. A few years ago.”

Caroline: “Henry Garrison?” She winces. “I’m sorry to hear that. It seems like everyone has at least some tragedy in their lives.”

Like your dead sister.

Celia: “Thank you. Sorry to bring up such dark things, sometimes my mind just… well, you know.” She waves, a vague gesture. “Hopefully that’s the last of the tragedies for me.” She forces the air from her lungs in a sigh, then gives Caroline a small smile. “And hopefully none for you.”

Caroline: There’s a twitch there at the end of the comment. Please, set your dead boyfriend against the tragedy of my life.

“Are those the goods?” she asks, gesturing to the silver case in Celia’s hands as she closes the door behind her.

Celia: Thank god for small mercies. Even without the Beast roaring in her ears she’d be off-balance here; she’s thankful they’ve moved onto safer topics. Her fingers tap against the side of the case.

“They are! I wasn’t sure how many girls to expect, and you know at that age there’s not really a lot of skin concerns, so I just… brought a little bit of everything. Are you sticking around for a bit? Maybe you could join..?”

“Not,” she adds hastily, “that you need anything. You’re gorgeous, of course.”

Oh boy. She abruptly shuts her mouth.

Caroline: Caroline’s laughter is light and fluttering, girded in a smile.

“Should I take that as a professional opinion? To hear Cécilia talk, there’s not anyone else in the city she’d let do her makeup and skincare for the wedding.”

Celia: Celia beams at her, nerves swept aside. “I am beyond thrilled that she asked me to do her up for the wedding. Cécilia was one of my closest friends in high school, and to be able to do this for her… I’m honored. Truly. She will make the most beautiful bride. Did you get roped into helping them plan?”

Caroline: “Oh, there wasn’t very much roping involved,” Caroline answers. “I can think of painfully few things that could keep me away from my sister’s wedding—most of them very painful. Still, like always, she’s trying to make everything as easy on everyone around her as possible. I swear she had half of it planned out before he popped the question.”

Celia: “Don’t we all?” Celia laughs.

She tries not to think about the wedding she’ll never have.

Caroline: “I don’t know how you find the time. I don’t have a daughter and I still don’t seem to have enough hours in the day.”

Don’t we all? Did she? The only man she ever consider marrying with any seriousness was Neil, and that scared her more than it excited her. Scared her enough that she went and ruined everything.

Caroline runs a hand through her pale blonde hair, so much like that of her sisters.

“I should take better care of myself, though, for her. I couldn’t live with myself if I ruined her wedding photos.”

Celia: Celia’s lightness immediately dies with Caroline’s remark, replaced by something sharper, more assessing. She sets down the box and takes a step closer.

“May I?”

Her hand is lifted, as if to touch.

Caroline: “Of course, far be it for me to reject professional help.”

She wonders faintly if Autumn would mind doing her makeup moving forward. To make her look a little less dead. It seems more the type of thing she’d have experience with, and might even enjoy.

Celia: Celia closes the gap between them. The height difference is staggering, with her in flats and Caroline in heels, but Celia was a dancer for a number of years, and old habits die hard. She rises to the tips of her toes in her flats, balancing as easily on them as she had in her youth. It doesn’t close the gap, but it narrows it, and her eyes scan Caroline’s face as if looking through a microscope.

“As far as finding time, Momma has been a godsend with the childcare,” Celia tells her. Her lips barely move as she speaks. “There’s the three of us raising her, so it’s been easier.”

Caroline: Perhaps it was a bad idea. She wonders what the woman will see in her dead face.

Celia: Her touch is light on Caroline’s chin. She slides her fingers up, over her jaw, and then sweep back around across her cheekbone. She seems to be looking beyond the skin more than at it, though after a moment of intense scrutiny—and a longer moment of the wild scratching and snarling inside of her—she drops back.

Caroline: The Beast doesn’t like being touched, but Celia’s touch is light. It beats the hugs most kine insist on.

Celia: “You have good bone structure. Good base. Skin… needs some hydration.”

That is a tactful way of saying ‘dead,’ she thinks, though of course Celia isn’t supposed to know that.

“I could get a routine together for you, if you like.”

That’s something she’d offer to someone who isn’t a corpse, isn’t it? So normal.

“But as far as ruining wedding photos, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. A little color here, some black in the waterline to darken there…” She shakes her head as if to cut off the train of thought before she ventures too far down it. “Like I said, Caroline, gorgeous.”

Caroline: Caroline lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. At least she won’t have to mind-rape the other girl to explain away that something is dreadfully wrong with her.

She taps a finger on her lower lip and wonders if such a regimen would do any good. It might, she considers, though she’d have to tailor it for things that help day of, vice over time. It’s not so different than her sire shaving every morning. Image is important.

Celia: She’s seen that look before. She’s spoken to others, like the two of them, about what can still be effective after death and what can’t. She supposes she could offer the services of Jade, though that seems… dangerous. She smiles politely all the same.

Caroline: “I may very well take you up on that,” she agrees after a moment. “As long as my mistreatment of such a regimen wouldn’t offend your professional sensibilities.”

Celia: “I expect my clients to lie to me. It’s like telling the dentist that yes, of course you’re flossing.” Celia winks at her.

“I can show you some things after the little ones are done, or, if you’d prefer a different atmosphere, I can bring you in to the spa. Do a full service, really get into it.”

Caroline: In the French Quarter. That seems like it’ll end well. For some reason, she doesn’t expect the same warm welcome she’s received in the past.

“We can talk during their lesson, if that works for you?”

Celia: That went over about as well as she expected. She wonders if Cécilia is going to have her do everything here, if Caroline is in the wedding. She’ll need to figure out the logistics of that.

“That works beautifully for me. Anything I don’t have with me I can have sent over. Are you living here now? I remember you said you had an apartment near Tulane last we spoke.” Years and years and years ago.

Caroline: “Oh, I spend the night sometimes, but I have an apartment near the French Quarter. I like remaining grounded with my family, but there are certain things that I don’t feel the need to share with my little sisters—or my mother—if you know what I mean.” Caroline offers her own wink.

Her eyes sweep the shorter woman up and down. “And I’m sure you do.”

Celia: Did she just…?

Celia averts her eyes, a small smile pulling at her lips. It brings to mind a certain awkward family dinner where she had felt the need to share with her mother and Emily. She had, thankfully, been forgiven for her less-than-stellar showing that evening. When she looks back at Caroline her smile is nothing short of wicked.

“You’d win that bet.”

Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue over her teeth. “Well, I guess I can take some comfort in not being the only daughter that didn’t keep her purity ring.”

Celia: “My own wasn’t proof enough?” She nods her head toward where she can hear Lucy’s laughter echoing through the house. “Pretty sure I had it on the night she was conceived. You’re in good company.”

Caroline: That conjures an wretched image for Caroline, of Maxen fucking his purity ring-wearing daughter, but she pushes past it. She picked the topic.

“Well, I mean, it happened once before, so I’d rather not assume.”

Celia: She is ignorant of the vision that plays for Caroline; her own features her mother bending, naked, to clean up what dripped out of her the night her father kidnapped and raped her. Someone’s hand in hers, telling her to breathe. Three toes on the soft carpet.

“I imagine the two of us get up to all sorts of things that would make our mothers’ heads spin.”

Caroline: You have no idea, Caroline thinks.

“Better to leave some mystery,” she agrees instead.

Celia: “Speaking of mothers, perhaps I should set up to get the little ones going before mine comes looking for me. Do you know where the best spot for that is? I don’t want to be in the way of their dancing.”

GM: Speak of the devil and she’ll appear.

Celia’s mother rounds the hall. “Hi, sweetie! I’m so glad you could make it!” she exclaims, pulling her daughter into a squeeze.

Caroline observes it all. The way Mrs. Flores’ face lights up when she sees Celia. How tight her initiated hug is. How long it lasts. How widely the dance teacher smiles. How she closes her eyes for just a moment. She looks as if seeing her daughter brings her genuine happiness. Like it actively, immediately makes her day better.

Even in her new family’s house, it’s hard not to think back to Claire. Her first mother. Her stepmother. Whatever.

All those years of stiff embraces and clipped words.

Or just as often, no embraces and sharp telling-offs.

Or bitter arguments and just not seeing each other.

Celia: Celia has to set the case down again to let her mother wrap her up in her embrace. Her smile is warm, face as open as the arms she spreads for the older woman before enveloping her in a hug. There’s nothing forced in her smile.

“I wouldn’t miss it, Momma. We were just coming to see you. Caroline and I got caught up swapping stories. Where’s my baby Goose?”

GM: “She’s in the living room with the other girl, Stephanie, and her sister Autumn. They found some kitties to play with,” Celia’s mom smiles back as she pulls away. “I’ve got your products bag with me, by the way, but looks like you came pretty well-equipped.”

Celia: Kitties. Cats. Of course there have to be animals. She wonders if they’ll respond as negatively to the thing inside of her as her mother’s two cats had. Her smile dims marginally.

“Why don’t I set up elsewhere so I don’t interrupt them. Is that where you’re giving the lesson?”

GM: “I usually give Simmone her lesson in one of the sitting rooms,” Celia’s mom answers. “I figured we could have you pretty the girls up first, so they can feel glamorous while they’re dancing. Though it’ll mostly be going over the five positions for tonight’s lesson, on account of Stef bein’ a beginner.”

Celia: What, house this big doesn’t have its own dance studio? She hasn’t been here since she was a teen, but she thinks she remembers the way to the kitchen. She says she can set up there, if that’s amenable, or one of the other sitting rooms. Out of the way.

Caroline: “The kitchen works fine,” Caroline answers.

She doesn’t linger on the sight of Celia and her mother. Doesn’t dwell on Claire. What she has is better.

Celia: “Perfect.”

Wednesday evening, 9 March 2016

Celia: Celia heads that way, case clutched in her hands, and sets up at the kitchen island. There’s something about sitting on the big stools that makes little kids feel like adults. She opens the case on the counter. Inside is a treasure of cosmetics and bottles of serums, ointments, and cleansers. Foundation ranging from ivory to ebony sits in tiny little bottles, blushes made of powder and cream, pencil and liquid liners. And the palettes. The eyeshadow palettes are what little girls live for: sparkles, rainbow, glitter. Every color imaginable, set in little pink carboard boxes with their tiny pans of multicolored pigments.

Celia pulls out a black bag that unfolds into what looks to be a toolbelt, which she fastens around her waist. Its pockets are filled with brushes of varying shapes and styles, tweezers, two tiny spritz bottles of clear liquid and one of blue. They’re all labeled in neat writing: water, alcohol, Barbicide. There’s a small mirror, too, so the girls can look themselves over when it’s all done.

It only takes a moment to get everything in order.

“Who’s first, then?”

Caroline: “Can I get you something to drink while you work?” the towering blonde asks as Celia sets up.

Celia: Nothing you have here.

“Oh no, thank you so much though.”

GM: There’s plenty for her to drink here.

But it probably wouldn’t be polite.

Cécilia and Simmone look to have come downstairs, while Caroline and Cécilia talked. It also looks like everyone finally got around to the iced tea. Cécilia remains the same pale-skinned, high-cheekboned, and willowy-figured vision of beauty who she last worked on. She’s wearing a pale blue skirt and white blouse.

The 10-year-old sitting next to her (close enough by, in fact, to touch) looks like a miniature version of the woman, down to the same milky skin, pale long blonde hair, and clear blue eyes. She’s wearing a belted white knee-length dress that suits her complexion well. Compared to most preteens, there’s no awkwardness, no acne, no nothing: she’s like a swan that skipped its ugly duckling phase and is simply a miniature swan. Her hair is a little mussed, though, and her eyes are a little puffy. She’d look prettier, too, if she was smiling. She needs Celia’s careful hand.

Then there’s Caroline. That marble, statuesque icon, so tall in her heels. Her aristocratic bearing, lovely angles, flawless skin, and haughty eyes, rides the edge between elegance and allure, remaining refined enough to avoid the overtly sexuality of many beautiful women. Those eyes take hold next, lovely and precious diamonds, and just as cold as the stones they resemble. While there may be light within them, there is no real life: the light is a reflection off of them rather than a projection from within. They’re eyes Celia could spend a decade staring into for all their facets, and it would not be a lost decade. There is, however, so much else to see there, if she can look past the window dressing and break free of that gaze.

They’re all so fucking pretty.

So, so pretty.

Celia can imagine them under her hands. She could take their beauty and make them goddesses. There is so, so much to work with here. It seems almost offensive to have the plainer-looking Stef girl and her sister in the same room. It’s like hanging an amateur’s painting next to a Van Gough. It’s just in bad taste. Her mom’s and sister’s faces are tolerable, at least, when she worked on them, but it’s still a simply inferior grade of material.

But Celia doesn’t need to imagine something else.

She would very, very much like to have a drink here.

And it’s fucking obvious who should be first.

Celia: It isn’t fair.

How can mere mortals be this beautiful? How can Lucy, Stef, and Diana stand here in the room with these four goddesses—yes, Celia herself is a goddess, though not with this mask on—and even call themselves the same species? They are perfection. Divine. Sculpted marble beauties that put all others to shame. Could Veronica even hold a candle to this?

No. No she couldn’t.

Celia had said it to Caroline earlier when the woman’s jaw was clutched in her hand, when she was staring into the eyes of the monster beneath that exquisite bone structure: gorgeous. It is a wonder she was not caught then, like a fly in the bear’s honey. She sees now that the matching trio of them only serves to amplify what is already there. She cannot ignore it. She does not want to ignore it.

She wants it. Wants them. Wants their skin, their faces, their silken hair. Wants to touch and caress and lick and feed. Her Beast, that monster, wants this beauty. All of them.

Her heart would stutter if it were not so carefully controlled by the blood pumping through her body. A smile splits her face a second too late as she stares, transfixed, at the girls. She has finally been given a reason to live, and it’s here in this kitchen with her.

Smooth steps take her to Cécilia’s side in an instant, arms outstretched to bring her old friend in for a hug.

“Oh, Cécilia,” she says in a voice that’s more purr than not, “you are simply ravishing.”

GM: “Thank you, Celia,” Caroline’s sister smiles as she returns the hug. “I can’t wait to see how you’ll make me look for the big day.”

“Or I suppose ‘big night.’ We’re having it in the evening.”

Celia: “You will be the most breathtaking woman to have ever walked the world, I promise you that.”

That’s the advantage of having one of them in the family already, isn’t it? Celia doesn’t need to worry about the schedule. Caroline will do it for her.

She pulls the girl close during their embrace, nestling her face against the crook of her neck for a very, very brief moment. She can hear the pulse beating away beneath her skin. Fractions of an inch away. It would be so easy to just…

She wrenches control of her mind back from the Beast. Soon. Soon she’ll have this one, she thinks, and the other as well, and they’ll be a pile of beauty together. But there are others here, watching, and Caroline’s presence complicates things considerably. She pulls away with a final smile, then looks to the miniature version of Cécilia. No less beautiful. Like a little porcelain doll. Celia crouches in front of her, eyes level with the child. Her smile is warm.

“You must be Simmone. You were so little last time I was here.”

She’ll grow up to put her other sisters to shame, Celia is sure of it.

Sure of it because she can ensure it, she thinks. She can sculpt the child. Start young and it’s less work. They grow into their features. How stunning would she be if Celia were to get her hands on her now?

The thought causes her to reach out, stroking her fingers through the girl’s hair. So soft. So luxurious.

“Do you want to go first, Simmone, or should I do your friends so you can hang with your sisters?”

Get them out of the kitchen that much quicker.

Leave her alone with these treats.

GM: Simmone stiffens and looks a little apprehensive as Celia starts touching her hair.

“Okay, you can do them,” she says.

Celia: Celia’s eyes soften. Her mother’s words come back to her: the child is afraid of everything. She has fits and seizures. The shooting.

She’ll need to be gentle with this one. Coax her like she would a stray, offer treats and rewards for opening up. But, oh, what a rose she would be if tended by the right hand.

Celia reaches into her belt to pull out a pink bottle with a black squirt cap on it. She offers it to the child, very serious.

“Can you be in charge of the Fix Plus for me? It has a very important job at the end of makeup application: just a spritz over your whole face and it melds all the layers together. Think you can handle that, little fawn?”

Fawn. Someone had called her that once, hadn’t they? Innocent, like a doe. Not so innocent now, she reflects, but she keeps her thoughts contained within the charming smile.

GM: Simmone looks at the bottle for a moment, then reaches out to take it.

“D’accord. Okay.”

“Can we bring back the kitties?” asks Lucy.

Celia: “Sorry, Goose,” Celia says to her child, “can’t have the cats playing in the makeup. Clients with allergies. But I can do your face first so you can get back to playing with them, how’s that?”

She doesn’t so much as wait for a response before scooping the girl up to put her on the stool.

GM: “Oh. Is it not okay to have them in the room?” asks Stef.

Caroline: Caroline watches the exchange from across the island, beside Autumn.

Celia: “Prefer not. Dander and hair get everywhere. I’ll make it quick though.” She smiles at the other girl. It isn’t quite as wide as the one she’d used for the Devillers sisters. She doesn’t shine like the sun, as they do.

“Then you can dance and play with the kitties to your heart’s content.”

While I play with another sort of kitty. Celia’s gaze flicks towards Caroline.

GM: “Yeah, cats probably a bad idea,” Autumn echoes.

After all, she hasn’t seen them around her domitor.

Celia: That decided, Celia gets to work.

She doesn’t tut over the way her daughter looks, but her eyes don’t shine for the child as they do for the sisters. It’s not her fault, she can’t help but think, she didn’t ask to be born plain. And she is. Plain. Celia’s beauty had somehow skipped this generation. She’s cute enough, for a kid, but there’s a little too much of him in her for her to ever say the girl is anything but normal.

She tries not to dwell on it.

She asks Lucy and Stef what colors they’d prefer and gets to work with her brushes and paints. They don’t need foundation or concealer—no one at that age does—so she doesn’t bother with it. Instead she gives them loud, sparkly looks, the kind of thing she enjoyed when she was a child that no sane adult would ever wear, going bigger and more glamourous at their urging.

She is an artist, and they her canvasses. Ordinary canvasses. Not the pristine, flawless kind she’s itching to get her hands on. Still, it doesn’t take long before the girls are done, each with a scented lip balm of their own to take with them for touch ups, and her eyes once more turn towards the ladies of the house.

“Children like color,” she says, almost bashfully, as her eyes find Cécilia and then Caroline.

GM: Lucy is cuter than Stef, at least. Her features have more attractive proportions. There’s also the fact she’s younger. Lucy squeals with delight and Stef smiles by the time Celia is finished.

Caroline: The Ventrue gathers up one of the cats and carries it out of the room at Celia’s direction, enlisting Autumn to hep with the second, then settles in to watch the artist work.

GM: Her mother, Autumn, and Cécilia all applaud the Toreador’s handiwork.

“Children and adults,” Cécilia agrees. “They look simply perfect, Celia.”

“Yes, they look just gorgeous, sweetie! Ready to knock ’em dead!” her mom smiles.

“Yeah, lots of color,” says Autumn.

Celia: Celia might flush under the praise of her longer-named friend. It’s hard to tell beneath the layers of foundation, concealer, and contour. Perhaps her cheeks are always that rosy. Her eyes shoot towards Caroline’s face as well, as if seeking similar praise.

“Simmone’s turn.” She turns to regard the girl, offering another one of those smiles. She’d let her spray the Fix Plus onto Stef and Lucy and she’s hoping that it at least calmed the child enough to let her touch her.

GM: Simmone seems to enjoy spraying on the Fix and feeling like part of the process. Cécilia looks pleased as she lifts her younger sister up onto the stool.

Caroline: “How’d you first get into doing cosmetics?” Caroline ask Celia as she works.

Celia: “I think I saw one of those pretend kits at the mall when my mother took me. I was very little.” Celia leans in to look over Simmone’s face. Her touch is whisper-light against the fair skin. “I asked Momma if she’d buy it for me and she did, and since then I’ve been… a bit mad for it, really. Poor skin in my youth, spent a long time correcting it. Not like you, Simmone, yours is pristine. A little angel all our own, aren’t you?”

“What do you think, Caroline? Blue, for her eyes? Purple would bring it out as well, though she’s so fair it might look mottled…” Brown would be a good color to bring out the blue, Celia knows. Tans and golds. It would make her eyes sparkle. But neutrals are not colors that kids generally enjoy. There’s no color there. No life. No vibrancy.

GM: “Celia loved to do face painting when she was little,” her mom confirms, smiling. “That, what, $10 kit was the best investment of our lives.”

Caroline: “Something you did together as mother and daughter?” Caroline asks. “Or, I suppose, mother and daughters. You’re fortunate enough to have a sister too.”

She turns her head as Celia works on Simmone. “What about a silver? It might work well with her hair, give her an ethereal look.”

GM: Simmone seems to think, then nods.

“Good choice,” says Cécilia. “The best makeup complements what’s already there.”

“Yep. We definitely got a lot of mileage out of that kit,” Celia’s mom answers. “Still do, too! These days, of course, Celia’s the one who does all the face painting. Leavin’ it to the pro and all. She pretties me up at least once a week. I won’t ever set foot inside another spa or salon in my life.”

“I’m not gonna either!” exclaims Lucy.

“Celia’s gonna do alllll my hair and face stuff, forever!”

Caroline: That could have been me. The thought runs through her mind, watching the mother and daughter interact. A normal life—even with the twisted beginnings. There’s a hint of jealousy that she’ll never have a child of her own.

Celia: Silver. Silver can work. Silver is second to gold but Celia can make it shine.

Her work begins. The world fades out around her. She nods at opportune moments, as if listening to the chatter of the children, but her attention is focused on the task in front of her.


It starts with primer swiped across the girl’s lids with a gentle touch. She lets it sit while she dabs a spot of color on her cheeks and blends it out in a deft hand. Then white across the lids. Pure white, no pigment, no mixing or muddying of colors. Base coat, to blend, to make anything she puts on top of it that much more striking. Her hands reach without her eyes even moving from the girl’s face for the small black palette, the only one of the bunch that hadn’t been opened yet. It sits innocuously in her belt, and when she opens it up it’s easy to see why: this is no kiddy palette, no face paint, no chalky hues from drug store counters. It’s high end. Buttery. So pigmented that Celia only needs a tiny amount on the end of a wet brush to sweep across Simmone’s eyes. She selects another blush for blending, buffing the silver out until where it begins and the white ends are intertwined like a pair of lovers. There is no separating these two. Then a darker silver, graphite even, for the outer corners. A small triangle of color, buffed and blended until her eyes shine.

She isn’t done.

She uses a pencil to line the girl’s brows, a powder to fill them in. Not dark, but darker. Liquid color between each lash to darken the line above her eye. Rosy cheeks. A tinted balm on her lips: MLBB. My lips but better. The same Celia uses for herself, though this one shimmers.

She stares, once she is done. The girl has gone from child to ethereal being. She is no porcelain doll. She is fine china, a delicate nymph, innocence incarnate.

She is an angel, and Celia created her.

Caroline: Caroline watches Celia work over her youngest sister, watches the almost frantic energy with which she paints and draws and sculpts. Mostly though she watches Simmone’s reaction.

Watches to see how the withdrawn pre-teen handles a stranger’s touch. To make sure she enjoys it. When she sees her tense the heiress takes a seat next to her, one cool hand resting on her sister’s leg reassuringly. She’s safe here. There are no monsters here that can hurt her.

The only monster in the room is Caroline, and she could never harm her sister.

GM: Simmone is tense the moment Celia starts working on her. Cécilia lays a hand on their sister’s shoulder. Many of the others, at least, don’t seem to notice: Stef and Autumn have their phones out as the esthetician works. Lucy and Mrs. Flores both watch the whole process, though, the latter with glowing and all-too evident pride.

After all, she is creating art.

It’s liberating to have such a quality canvas to work with. There’s only so pretty she can make flawed mortals, after all, before the Masquerade comes apart at the seems: before they become like unto butterflies emerged from ugly cocoons, and people gasp over how such a jaw-dropping transformation could even happen. Kenya had to be reborn as Alana to become as pretty as Celia made her. The stupid, ugly kine tie her hands.

But sometimes they don’t.

Sometimes she can work her art to heart’s content, painting and pampering already perfect flesh to make it divine. Like she did for Veronica, who might have tasked her with improving perfection as a cruel joke, only to have her dead breath stolen away when Celia did exactly that. Simmone looks radiant. Immaculate. Cherubic. Pristine.


Applause goes up from Lucy, Celia’s mother, and Cécilia as she finishes, which Autumn and Stef join in as they come up. The Toreador is showered with compliments, not the least of which are Simmone’s, whose earlier tension seems to evaporate like steam out of a sauna as she stares, entranced, at Celia’s work.

“Je ressemble à un ange!” she exclaims to her sisters. “Hou la la, comment a-t-elle fait ça?”

“That means she’s very happy and impressed,” Cécilia smiles at her former schoolmate. “Would you like to take pictures for your Instagram? I know you have a pretty large following.”

Caroline: “La magie prend de nombreuses formes ma chère. Mais cela aide lorsque vous êtes déjà magique,” Caroline answers, admiring Celia’s work, but more than anything taking in Simmone’s obvious joy.

GM: “Oh, that’s an excellent idea. We should definitely keep some pictures!” Celia’s mom chimes in.

Celia: The French goes over her head, though Celia recognizes the word “angel” at least. She cannot help but preen under their praise. Her clan might think that art is brushes on paper canvas or music fluttering through the air, but Celia knows the truth: true art is that which touches and transforms the souls of people, and Simmone has blossomed beneath her attention. Celia touches and the girl blooms.

She is all pleased and happy smiles for her hostesses, her mother, the others. A photo is a brilliant idea. She pulls a new phone from her pocket and unlocks it with a tap of her finger on the print scanner, then lines up Simmone for a shot.


Photo taken, her eyes turn toward the two elder Devillers girls as the phone disappears back into her pocket. Her gaze smolders, locking in on Caroline.

“Your turn.”

Caroline: “Are you ready to get started with the girls, Mrs. Flores?” Caroline asks, breaking her gaze from Simmone.

GM: “I think so! They all look like stars, it’d feel almost criminal not to dance and strut their stuff at this point,” Celia’s mom smiles.

Simmone’s hand shoots around Caroline’s.

Caroline: The monster’s hand is there waiting.

“Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas chérie?” she asks softly.

GM: “Je te veux ou Maman,” she entreats. “Ou Cécilia.”

Caroline: “Bien sûr le plus cher. L’un de nous sera là avec vous tout le temps,” Caroline answers gently.

Will you take the first bit? she sends to Cécilia.

GM: Of course. I think it’s better if we don’t have too many people crowding the lesson, anyways.

Simmone’s hand relaxes.

The other women and children politely don’t comment.

Caroline: Caroline lets Cécilia lead the girls to their lesson.

GM: “All right, y’all, we’re gonna start today’s lesson with positions, which are ways you hold your body,” Mrs. Flores explains as she and Cécilia head off with the children. “Basic ballet moves all start or end in one of five positions, or a slight tweak of them, so…”

Wednesday evening, 9 March 2016

Celia: Alone at last. Or… well. She looks over at Autumn.

GM: Autumn remains behind with her mistress.

Celia: Her lips press together. She wonders if this chit is as devoted to her mistress as Alana is to Celia. She doesn’t mean to conjure up the images, but there they are in her head.

GM: Who cares about a stupid sister next to her domitor? She’s not anywhere nearly as pretty.

Celia: Her very presence dims the room. It’s an assault to Celia’s senses. She’d have to overhaul the girl completely if she wanted to make her better, a full face lift.

Too much work. Celia turns her back to the ghoul to get the eyesore out of her line of vision.

GM: “Hey, Cécilia was right. I think I’ve seen your MeVid channel,” says Autumn.

“I got some good makeup tips from it.”

Celia: “Oh?” That gets her attention. She doesn’t turn away from Caroline, but her lips pull up in a smile. “I’m happy to hear that. I spent a lot of time learning how to edit the videos to get everything just right. More of a full-time job than the hobby people make it out to be.”

Caroline: “It makes a difference,” Caroline agrees. “I can’t stand the trashy half-baked videos most people put out.”

“The ones that are actually professionally done sparkle like diamonds in the sand.”

GM: “Yeah, it definitely is a full-time job,” Autumn agrees. “Lot of people who hire full-time assistants for it.”

Celia: Her eyes sparkle like diamonds at the compliment. She doesn’t know if Caroline has ever seen her videos or followed her Insta, but she’ll take what she can get from this golden-haired queen.

“I was considering the same,” she admits, “bringing someone on before it wears me out.”

“Beauty is a full time gig,” she says with a long sigh. “Though you don’t seem to have to worry about that, Caroline. God, I’d kill for that bone structure.”

GM: “That’s not a bad idea if you want to keep growing your brand online,” the ghoul agrees again.

Caroline: “Bringing in an assistant was the best thing I ever did,” Caroline laughs. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t know what I would do without her.”

She laughs lightly at the compliment, running a hand across her check and down under her chin. “We all have our crosses.”

Celia: “Hardly a burden,” Celia disagrees, “unless you’re fending off people with a bat.” Some use for that outside apartment, hm? “Perhaps I’ll see what my salon manager can whip up. But you…”

She doesn’t ask permission this time, not verbally. There’s just a gentle lift of her brows as her hands close in, the pad of her thumb soft against the Kindred’s jawline.

“If Simmone is silver, I’d drape you in gold. Put you on the pedestal where you belong.”

Caroline: Caroline runs her tongue over her teeth, her Beast half recoiling at the touch even as Celia’s words wash over her, stroking her ego.

It’s a shame Celia isn’t in college still. That she lives in the Quarter. That she already has so many ghouls. The compliments agree with her.

“Where I belong? Do you always lavish these kinds of compliments on your clients?” She seems amused, but pleasantly so.

Celia: “None of them look half so good as you, Caroline.”

She’s emboldened by the touch. She takes a step closer. Her hand slides around to the back of Caroline’s head, fingers running through her hair. How had she never noticed this dazzling beauty during all those years at political events? Eternity stretches before them now. No time like the present to make up for all those lost years.

GM: Autumn studies her phone.

Caroline: She shouldn’t let the kine get this close. Not when it’s so obvious that she’s not alive. When her body is so cool.

“Not until after they leave your salon, I’m sure.” She studies the other woman, her eyes dancing with interest. Is Celia really coming on to her?

Celia: She makes no comment to the coolness of her body, the papery feeling of her skin, the fact that Caroline is nothing but a walking corpse animated by whatever dark sorcery keeps them all from the grave. Celia’s heartbeat is clearly audible, her skin warm where she touches the taller girl. Her nerves flutter, though she does not shy away.

“Not even then.” Celia leans in. It’s an invasion of personal space, though the movement itself is slow enough to give her time to back away should she choose. Her Beast is tense with anticipation. Fight, fuck, feed, that’s all it knows. All it wants. And Caroline is in its sight.

Her eyes ask for the permission her lips don’t give voice to.

Caroline: Oscar Wilde once observed everything was about sex, except sex.

Caroline never would have entertained a same-sex relationship in life. In death her tastes shifted, expanded and narrowed both. Sex was about blood, and her tastes were specific.

Celia’s blood doesn’t suffice. It’s still blood, but she knows it’s far from the satisfying fair she wants. It doesn’t stir her Beast’s interest in a more than passing way—like a shark watching a minnow swim by—not worth the effort.

But sex isn’t about sex, as Oscar Wilde observed. It’s about power. And Celia’s attraction makes her feel very powerful.

What’s the worst that could happen?

She leans back into the shorter woman, the hints of points forming on her fangs even as their chests brush against each other. She drops her voice. “And you like beautiful things. Live for beautiful things?”

Celia: Celia finds herself nodding to the question. She does live for beautiful things. Beautiful things are what brought her here, to this place; they’re what made her life go so far off track in the first place. The beautiful goddess on the staircase. The beautiful monster under her sister’s bed. And now, here, this exquisite creature as well. What had she ever been nervous about?

“You’re not just beautiful, Caroline,” the words leave her in a whisper, “you’re so much more than that. Alluring. Divine. Enchanting.”

As if realizing the truth of those words, her gaze drops from Caroline’s eyes to her lips. She wants her. Needs her. Purveyor of beauty, isn’t that what she had said once?

Caroline: She hopes Autumn is taking notes from this exquisite mortal. Divine. Maybe she can find room for Celia in her retinue after all.

She leans in further, their bodies pressing against each other, her lips beside the shorter woman’s ear as she whispers, “You have no idea.”

Her lips move down, gently brushing their way down the side of Celia’s neck. Not quite kisses.

Celia: Maybe she says something. Maybe there’s a noise she makes, something encouraging. Something happy, Veronica would say. It could be Caroline’s touch that sends the shiver down her spine, or it could be the closeness to the corpse. Who’s to say?

GM: The kitchen door opens as Celia’s mom walks in. “Oh excuse me, have y’all seen my pho…”

She shuts up the moment she sees the two kissing women.

Caroline: The Ventrue breaks off, without shame, slowly but deliberately disentangling herself from Celia.

Celia: The moment is immediately ruined when Diana’s voice cuts through the fog in her mind. Her head snaps in her mother’s direction. She looks down at Caroline, then back at her mother.

Maybe the floor will open and swallow her.

GM: Her mother’s hands go to her mouth.

Celia: Fuck.

Caroline: Troublesome…

Celia: It isn’t what it looks like? They were… gossiping? With Caroline’s lips on her throat? That’s plausible, right? Secrets are better when they’re whispered.

GM: Her mom’s mouth opens behind her hands.

Nothing comes out.

Caroline: “Mrs. Flores,” Caroline says as her gaze sweeps the room languidly, “I do believe that might be your phone on the end of the counter.”

She hopes Autumn was wise enough to make herself scarce.

GM: Caroline doesn’t see her ghoul nearby.

Celia: “Um. You… ah, phone? Did you… pocket..?” the words die as Caroline speaks for them.

GM: “…yes. Yes, I suppose it must…” Celia’s mom finally manages.

She crosses the room. She picks up the phone.

Celia: Maybe she should step away from the source of all this.

She should probably step away.

She does so. Slides around the counter to put it between the two of them. She doesn’t manage to meet her mother’s eye.

This is worse, she thinks, than the family dinner when she was rolling on ecstasy.

GM: Maybe her mom is looking at her. Maybe she’s not. But her footsteps sound. She makes it most of the way back towards the kitchen door before she turns around and looks between the two. Her hand re-covers her mouth.

She looks as if she’s about to cry.

Caroline: Fuck.

Caroline isn’t particularly attached to the obviously closeted Celia’s relationship with her mother, but it simply won’t do to have Mrs. Flores this upset when she goes back to the lesson with her sister.

GM: “Celia, baby… I’ll always love you… but this is not a healthy choice,” she whispers in a pained voice, slowly shaking her head.

Celia: She thinks about calling out to her mother. Thinks about what will happen if she doesn’t, if Diana causes some sort of something with the Devillers’ youngest daughter. Someone had told her about the monster who lived here putting a girl in a wheelchair for a stolen diary. She doesn’t want to imagine what will happen if her mother causes a problem.

“Mom, I… can explain..?”

“Is your lesson over?”

GM: “God will judge you, Celia.”

Tears start to trickle down her mother’s face.

“I will always, always love you. But God will judge you.”

Celia: “Momma. I didn’t… we didn’t…” Celia gestures between herself and Caroline.

She doesn’t know what to say. ‘It isn’t what it looks like,’ ’we’re both dead,’ ‘Kindred don’t see gender’ doesn’t seem like it will go over well.

Caroline: The Ventrue watches the exchange. It’s bittersweet, seeing another family with their own problems. Reassuring in some ways.

The Germans, she knows, have a word for what she’s feeling: schadenfreude. Pleasure from someone else’s misfortune.

GM: Celia’s mother is full-on crying now.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Celia. I love you. Please, please don’t do this.”

Caroline: The Ventrue reaches out through the midnight-black thread tying her to her family.

Please keep the girls occupied for a few minutes, Caroline sends to her sister. There’s a… small hiccup here.

GM: All right. I’d ask if I could help, but it sounds like that’s how.

Celia: Irritation surges through Celia. How dare she? She, who let a black man defile her. She, who carried two rape babies to term. She, who lived in squalor rather than stand up to the abusive piece of shit she catered to for twelve years. She dares judge Celia?

Her movements are quick and precise as she begins to pack up her belongings.

“It seems I’m overstaying. I’ll get out of your hair, Caroline. Please ask your sister her forgiveness for not saying goodbye personally.”

Caroline: Suddenly it’s there, in the room with the three of them. Overpowering. Overwhelming. Inescapable. A monster stalking among the kine. It pulls at their awareness, tears at their inhibition’s, wears at their objections.

Her gaze rolls to Mrs. Flores, meeting the older woman’s gaze even as it is drawn to her like a moth to the flame. “I must have missed something, Mrs. Flores.”

GM: Celia’s mother instantly looks towards her, mouth caught open in mid-response to her daughter.

Celia: It hits her. The wave that Caroline—for it can only be Caroline—sends out. Her knees threaten to buckle. Not from any desire to please, but from fear. Her mother is so fragile. So breakable. She knows what their kind can do. Her eyes are drawn toward the blonde almost against her will.

Caroline: “I’m not certain what you think you came in on,” she begins, reaching out with her will to smooth over the older woman’s perceptions and working her control into her mind.

She’s had more than enough practice to know that the best lies are the ones that someone won’t strain against. That have something in common with the truth. A twisting of feelings and perceptions instead of a complete overwriting of it. Move the pieces around.

“But Celia had nothing to do with the kiss you saw Autumn and I sharing when you came in. She was in the restroom and only just got back.”

GM: Mrs. Flores closes her mouth with a glazed look to her eyes.

Her features slowly calm.

Celia: Her eyes close. She’s next. She’s next, she’s next, she’s next. She has to be next. There’s no way Caroline can explain what she just did to her mother. She thinks Celia is like them, the kine, the ordinary folk. To not worm her way into her mind now would be a slipup. At best, her mind is wiped of this display. At worst, everything else is found out.

She could run. She should run. Back to the Quarter. Back to safety.

Leave her mother here with these monsters. Her daughter, too.

She is a terrible, terrible person.

She looks down at the bags. They don’t seem as important now.

Caroline: “You should go back to the lesson,” Caroline tells the dance teacher suggestively.

Celia: If she finishes packing and heads to the door will anyone notice? Maybe she can use the cover of her mother’s exit to bolt.

And be chased down outside. All those guns. She’d seen them on the way in.

The last of her tools are zipped inside the bag.

GM: Mrs. Flores blinks slowly as the impression sinks in.

But the esthetician can’t help but note.

Her face is messed up from the crying.

Celia: She doesn’t look at Caroline. She can’t look at Caroline.

“Momma,” Celia calls out. “You’ve smudged, a little. Why don’t I fix that for you before you go back.”

GM: “…oh. Okay, sweetie,” her mother answers slowly.

“Yes. Yes, please.”

She keeps her gaze fixed on Celia, but her eyes still seem to slide towards Caroline.

Celia: There’s nothing pleasant about this get-together now. She should have left the moment she’d seen Caroline at the door. Her mind races: excuses to leave, rationalizing what she’d seen Caroline do, something that will keep the Ventrue out of her mind. Her very presence is calling to Celia, even while she does her damndest to ignore it.

Fixing her mother’s makeup is quick work. She wipes away the black lines of mascara and smudged liner and fixes the tear tracks and puffy under eyes with concealer. She doesn’t say anything while she works, aware that Caroline is right there and probably listening. A fresh coat of waterproof mascara finishes the job. It takes less than two minutes.

“Call me when you get home, Momma, okay?” Celia kisses her cheek. Some assurance, at least, that the woman will make it out of this.

GM: Celia’s mom hugs her back. Her hugs are normally very tight and long, but there’s an almost…

It feels like the hugs she gave when she was in the hospital.

“Oh, but wait, sweetie,” she manages with an utterly at odds and almost fake-feeling smile, “I baked you some snickerdoodles, to take home… they’re in my bag.”

Caroline can’t recall Claire ever baking cookies for her.

Caroline: The Ventrue watches patiently as Celia tends to her mother’s makeup. Wonders what must be going through the kine’s mind. She’s smart enough not to make a scene at least, so Caroline will give her some props. On the other hand, the fun of the moment is gone, sucked away. It’s her own fault. It always is.

The heiress let her amusements get in the way of her family, in the way of her duties, and it ended badly. Like it always does. Stupid. Unbecoming.

She should have known better. Did know better.

Celia: “Why don’t we go get them, Momma? I’m on my way out. I can’t wait to dive into the snickerdoodles.”

There’s no good way out of this. Will Caroline make a scene if Celia bolts? Of course she will; she’d shown that she is already willing to force her way into the minds around her. Isn’t this how it had gone last time, too? I’m fast.

Not fast enough.

“It’ll just be—”

Caroline: “Perhaps you should wait a moment, Celia. You can grab them on the way out later as the lesson wraps up,” Caroline interjects, her presence still oppressive in the room. “There’s a few things we still need to talk about.”

GM: “Ah. All right. You can grab ‘em when we’re done, sweetie,” Celia’s mother demurs.

Celia: Oh.


That decides that.

“Of course.”

GM: “Thanks for fixin’ my makeup, sweetie. You make me look flawless as always,” her mom offers with a weak chuckle.

“I should… get to the lesson.”

She sees herself out with a final, half-averted glance back towards Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline waits for the elder Flores to depart the room and gestures to the high stools on the opposite end of the island from her. “Please.”

She moves around the kitchen, fishes a pair of long-stemmed wine glasses from a cabinet, and a bottle of white from the refrigerator. She deftly pops the cork and pours for each of them.

Celia: Celia takes a breath she doesn’t need that does nothing for her. She watches her mother disappear out the door. She doesn’t quite meet Caroline’s eye, though she moves around the island to the offered stool. She hovers rather than sit, eyes still downcast. How long can she stare at these countertops?

Caroline: She slides one of the glasses across the island to Celia and sighs, the overwhelming presence receding to just her radiant one.

“She doesn’t know?” she asks at last, swirling the wine in the glass.

Celia: Doesn’t know that she’s dead? That she sold out her family? That she regularly visits with a monster?

No, that can’t be what she’s asking. Celia has done nothing to arouse her suspicions. She focuses on the glass. Caroline wouldn’t be offering wine if she knew. It hits her, then.

She thinks I’m gay.

She seizes the excuse, shaking her head as she sinks finally onto the stool. This, at least, is safe. She wipes at nonexistent tears to keep her hands busy.

“No,” she says. “She… none of them do.”

Caroline: The heiress nods. “I can see why. She didn’t seem to take that very well.”

She takes a sip of her wine.

“That’s hard. Lying to family members about who you are.”

GM: At least she still said she’d love Celia.

Dad still hasn’t so much as called.

Celia: “I never wanted to hurt her, but what she wants… it’s just not me,” Celia says. There’s a hint of a flush on her cheeks. She looks so young, despite the fact that they are the same age. So uncertain. “Sorry, I… it’s not worth getting upset about, right? She’s just old fashioned.”

Caroline: Caroline shrugs. “I think it’s perfectly worth getting upset over. Getting rejected for who you are by people that you love is never easy.”

“Trust me, I know.”

Celia: She does know, doesn’t she? For all that she’s done and been, Celia hasn’t really had to face that issue just yet. Carefully concocted lies have let her avoid the worst of it. She sniffs, staring down at her wine glass.

“I shouldn’t have been so forward, it was…” she can’t say the word. “Silly. I don’t even… I barely know you.” She gestures vaguely toward where Caroline sits across from her.

Caroline: “What’s that phrase? It takes two?” Caroline answers.

Celia: “Something about a tango,” Celia supplies.

Caroline: “Another woman I think said two, ‘to make a thing go right.’” Caroline smiles weakly.

Celia: “Was that a woman? I’d always assumed it was a very high-pitched male. Like, ah, Michael Jackson as a child.”

Caroline: Caroline laughs more genuinely. “More well-known for the remake, but the original was Lyn Collins.”

“But that’s neither here nor there. So, are you just going to keep things hidden forever? That part of yourself?”

Celia: “I was planning on it. I have a… cover.”

She thinks of Randy. She thinks, too, of this entire persona that she wears, and the one she didn’t don tonight. How different they are.

“I mean… you know what it’s like, you said, it’s… it’s not worth it, right? There would be too much fallout.”

Caroline: A nod. “There can be. My father hasn’t spoken to me since he found out. Mind you, it wasn’t in the best of ways, and he had other considerations.”

Celia: “I wish my father wouldn’t speak to me. Or send my brother to speak with me. Or play his mind games. Trade you,” she offers.

Caroline: Caroline pauses, then seemingly decides to go ahead. “Is she his?”

Celia: Anything she was about to say is abruptly cut off. Her entire body shudders at the question, face closing off. For a long moment, she doesn’t speak. Anything she says here can have far-reaching consequences. For herself. For her daughter. For her mother.

She shakes her head, emphatic. “No. No, of course not.”

Perhaps it’s telling, how her eyes don’t meet Caroline’s. How long the pause was. How eager she seems to assure Caroline that Lucy is, in fact, not Maxen’s daughter.

Caroline: Caroline falls silent.

“I’m sorry,” she says at last.

“For everything you went through with him. For everything your mother went through. For everything your sister went through.”

She sets down her glass.

“I’m sorry.”

Celia: “I can hardly lay the blame at your feet. You didn’t turn him into what he is. You didn’t do anything worth apologizing for.” She trails a finger around the stem of her glass. She still hasn’t looked up. “But… thank you.”

Caroline: “My father had a part. In covering it all up. I’m sure you must know. Many people played a part in covering up his excesses. Many people benefited from them, from the holds they gave others over him.”

“I had a part in it. I benefited from it.”

“If nothing else, I knew about it and did nothing.”

Celia: Her words are met by silence.

This is not the conversation she had expected to have.

How long had she blamed herself? How long had she thought that it was her fault, all of it, every decision she had ever made, starting with that one dangerous idea that she could stand up to her father? Choosing Emily over her mother. Emmett over Stephen. Monsters over men in uniforms. And then him, the man in the shadows, the voice in her dreams. Him above it all. Untouchable on the pedestal where she has placed him. No one else comes close. But here, now, Caroline offers the words of an apology for a long ago crime. Celia had known that he couldn’t do it himself, but to hear the girl so blatantly admit what she did, what her father did.

Her response, when it comes, is a hollow laugh.

“You warned me. That day in school. Entire teams, you said, tens of thousands of dollars. How many others? How many others sat idly by while that man terrorized my family? How many people benefit from the corruption at the heart of our party?”

She shakes her head.

“Don’t tell me. It doesn’t matter. If you want to make amends, Caroline, truly make amends, give back whatever it is you benefited. Start a fund. A shelter. A scholarship. Something. Just give it back. That bastard does not deserve to win.”

Caroline: The Ventrue shakes her head. “That’s the logic everyone uses.”

“That it’ll be better on the other side, that you can do more in the future. That you can make up for it. But you never really make up for it. You just keep falling further and further into darkness until it swallows you up. One day you look up and you can’t tell who the monsters are because you’ve become one.”

Celia: “So we do nothing? Let the darkness win? Become the monsters willingly?”

GM: Dad always said the Democrats were just as bad.

Or worse.


Caroline: “I don’t know what you should do,” Caroline answers. “I won’t pretend to tell you how you should live your life. We all have to make our own choices.”

She gestures between them. “This is mine. Well, one of them.”

Celia: “Apologizing for long ago transgressions over wine?”

Pretend that makes it all okay.

Caroline: She shrugs. “People matter more to me than principles.”

Celia: “And yet you crush them on command.”

Caroline: “Depends on the people,” Caroline admits. “A stranger? Absolutely. Perhaps more than ever.”

She takes another sip of her wine. “I’m sorry, this must be very uncomfortable for you. Honestly… well. It’s as selfish as anything.”

“I don’t get very many opportunities to talk with other people that understand what it’s like. Hiding who you are. Issues with fathers. Family problems in general.”

“It’s not easy wearing a mask.”

Celia: She almost laughs. How well she knows that feeling. Perhaps, if Caroline had stayed in the Quarter, they might have been something like friends. If such a thing can even exist in their society.

“Truer words have not been spoken.” Does she want forgiveness? She will not have it from Celia. “Wear it too long and you don’t know what’s real anymore.”

Caroline: Caroline nods. “It has to come off eventually, or you start to become the person you’re pretending to be.”

GM: Are things all right, Caroline? Mrs. Flores feels a little off.

Caroline: She walked in when Celia and I were being very…. friendly with each other.

GM: Oh, I see. I would ask that you not feed on the Floreses, if it’s not any trouble. Celia is a friend and her mom has taught us for years and years.

Caroline: She came onto me, Caroline answers defensively.

GM: She did? That’s strange. There’s puzzlement, but not doubt.

Caroline: Her mother was unpleasantly surprised. I thought it better for everyone if she remembered something a little less… personal.

GM: There’s some feeling of apprehension across the bond. Caroline remembers Celia not wanting to tamper with her fiancé’s mind either.

I’ll admit that makes me uncomfortable. If this is who Celia is, I think that might be best left between her and her mother how they deal with it.

Caroline: Maybe, Caroline sends. But I keep enough secrets of my own that I can respect someone else’s.

She doesn’t add that she won’t let her own lack of self-control cause a scene at an event for her youngest sister. Cécilia can read her well enough to read between the lines.

I was gentle.

GM: Okay. Do you think this is going to be an issue in the future, so far as Celia?

Caroline: Not with me, comes Caroline’s clipped response.

GM: I’m sorry, I meant from her. Caroline feels the apology as much as she hears it.

I’m okay if you and she are interested in each other in that way, too. But Celia shouldn’t act on it while she’s here in a professional capacity.

Though maybe that could have been more clear to her. I don’t think it was established that we were paying her. Her mom had just suggested that she come along.

We do pay Mrs. Flores for the lessons, so things are pretty professional between us.

Caroline: Call it a moment of weakness, Caroline answers. I shouldn’t have let it come that far.

GM: You’ve wanted to find someone after Jocelyn. You deserve to find someone, too.

Celia: “Indeed. Sometimes I wonder who I am anymore.”

Now seems like a good time to go. While Caroline is… distracted? Something is making those wheels turn inside her head (her pretty head, Celia still thinks), and Celia would prefer to not be her focus. Too much rides on keeping this identity secret and she’s been careless enough with it, especially considering the location. Vidal’s personal territory. What was she thinking coming here? Hadn’t she pressed her luck enough by venturing into Tulane? Perhaps some good will come of this: she can use the interaction as an excuse to never, ever come back.

She rises.

“For what it’s worth, Caroline, I would have very much liked for this to happen.” Celia gestures between the two of them. She sounds sincere. “There are just too many complications were we both to remove our masks.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a fluttering laugh. “You have no idea how right you are.”

Her expression turns contemplative. “You haven’t asked what I did to your mother.”

Celia: Shit.

“I assume, as a senator’s former wife, she understood the implicit threat in… making a public scene, and that your words reminded her of the proper decorum.”

Caroline: “If it was that easy, my life would be far less complicated,” Caroline answers.

“Your secret is safe, at least one more night, from her.”

Celia: She’s going to cause a scene. This fledgling is going to cause a scene and reveal things she shouldn’t, and it puts Celia at risk. She studies the granite countertop. She tries to keep the wariness from her voice.

“Then you have my thanks.”

Caroline: The Ventrue looks at Celia’s case. “It would have been better if you’d finished, but I can fake something with what Cécilia has on hand. I hope you’ll forgive me for a passable job with your name on it.”

Celia: “The… makeup?” Her brows draw together. “You want me to finish your look.”

Or she wants an excuse for Celia to stick around. That shouldn’t exhilarate her as much as it does. She tells herself the feeling fluttering through her is from being found out in this area, not the quiet promise behind the other’s words.

Or it’s a threat, and Caroline thinks she can quietly dispose of her. Ha.

Caroline: Caroline taps her fingers on the counter. “If you’re willing, that would be best.” It’s the little details that mess with people’s memories, that unravel the entire tapestry.

Celia: She is willing. That’s the worst part, isn’t it, that she knows staying inside of the Garden District is nothing but trouble, but… her mom is here. Lucy is here. She can’t just leave them, not when the only other witnesses to their presence tonight are a ghoul and Caroline’s sisters. And it’s… Caroline. Months old. She’d been intimidated by the blonde when they were mere mortals, but this? Here? She should be at home here. She’s been at it far longer. She’s faced down bigger, scarier things than Caroline Malveaux-Devillers and survived to talk about it.

What’s the worst that could happen?

“I can stay.”

Her jaw moves as she considers her words. Finally, she asks, “Are you going to hypnotize me as well?”

“I’ve seen those shows, you know. On Webflix. Power of suggestion and all that.”

Caroline: “Yes,” Caroline admits without shame. “It’s better if your memories and hers match.”

Celia: She could remove her eyes. Keep her from ever using that particular ability again. It would be a simple touch to get it right, and her hands will already be near her face. How many people will she need to mow down to get to the door once Caroline starts screaming? Let it happen, maybe. She’s played that role before. It will protect her secrets, at least. ‘Celia’ would be safe.

“I remember walking in on you kissing Autumn,” she says slowly. “I was on my way back from the restroom.”

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t argue the point with her. There’s no value in it. She could reassure her, tell her that she’s not going to go digging in her mind, but she doesn’t think those things would have been terribly reassuring to her.

Caroline considers eavesdropping on the woman’s thoughts, but she’s already hurt her enough, will already violate her privacy enough.

“We can be quick, if this is making you uncomfortable. Well… more uncomfortable.”

Celia: “What if I don’t want to forget you?”

Caroline: “It was better that your mother walked in,” Caroline answers.

Celia: What will she be giving up? Almost kissing Caroline? That’s not so bad, is it? She has other beautiful monsters to occupy her thoughts at night. Her hands move on the countertop, unrolling the makeup bag. The products are waiting within.

“Because you don’t find me suitable, or because you do?”

Caroline: Her eyes linger on the kine. God, it feels good to be desired. But Caroline has already basked in that glow once, and flying so close to the sun has left her more than pink.

“Both?” Caroline answers after a moment. “It would be a beautiful disaster, but it would still be a disaster.”

Just like Jocelyn.

Celia: “I’m more durable than you might think. The scandal with my father saw to that.”

He had told her it had made her strong, the years of abuse. She suspects he just didn’t care enough to make it stop.

“Perhaps that alarms you. The children of abusers often grow up to abuse others, don’t they?” She lifts her chin, though her eyes remain on the products before her. “I wouldn’t hurt you.”

Caroline: “Rather the opposite, I suspect,” Caroline replies.

She’s persistent.

Celia: “You’re worth the risk.”

Caroline: “Am I? You were alone with me for five minutes and we reduced your mother to tears.” The wavering that was present at first is falling away.

Celia: “You forget I’ve known you most of my life. All those years with our dads at events. Do you think tonight was the first time I’ve had these thoughts? You’re brilliant. Captivating. Enchanting. More than that… this,” Celia gestures between the two of them, “you get it. You know. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not around you because you know what it’s like with our families.”

“Even if I have to give up the rest of it… I wouldn’t want to give up that connection.”

“Would you, now that you’ve found it?”

Caroline: Years? Caroline wonders what it’s like to carry a torch like that. She supposes she’ll find out.

“You don’t have to pretend around me, Celia. Won’t have to,” Caroline answers.

But that’s a lie, isn’t it? She’s still wearing a mask here. And a mask under that one.

Celia was right. You wear a mask so long, you forget what’s underneath.

Celia: The island is the only thing separating the two of them. That, and the lies they’ve both told, a mountain of them that separates the two: alive. Normal. Two girls from fucked-up families trying to make it in this world. Would it be easier if she were to just admit the truth of things, or would that result in being dragged before the proverbial throne to be dealt with as an interloper? Even Caroline’s offer—won’t have to worry about pretending—doesn’t set her at ease. She wishes that it did. That she could take off the mask, the one under that, the one under that. That her brain would cease compartmentalizing everything she looked at into two categories: threat vs non-threat. Get the upper hand. Survive. Fight, fuck, feed. That’s all the Beast wants.

Celia would be set at ease though, wouldn’t she? If she were truly the human she pretends to be now.

She forces herself to breathe. To keep up appearances. She picks up a brush, a bottle of liquid pigment, and slides around the counter. Within reach. Right into the arms of the waiting monster. As if this is nothing more than chatter at the salon. As if her dead heart isn’t beating in time to her thoughts, pitter-patter inside her chest. Liar, liar.

She pumps the top of the bottle onto the back of her hand and dips the brush into the foundation. She hesitates, not yet touching it to her skin. Her eyes finally meet Caroline’s.

“Can I confess, then?”

Caroline: The island is too wide to reach across easily, so she comes around.

Not too close, but not so far away.

She tilts her head. “There are worse things you could do,” Caroline answers, settling into another of the stools, her eyes on Celia.

Celia: That response draws a smirk from Celia.

“I can think of plenty worse things.” Actually confessing, for one. “I’m afraid that if I told you the truth you wouldn’t like me very much.”

Caroline: That draws a smirk of its own. Oh yes, what darkness do you hide Celia? She’s certain the other woman can scarily imagine the darkness inside Caroline.

“Taking the words out of my mouth now?” Caroline asks, her blue eyes amused.

Celia: “You’ve got me,” Celia grins, “I’m hoping to trick you into confessing something devious. Is it working?”

She looks down at the brush in her hand. She reaches for a bottle instead, pumping a small amount onto her fingers, and with a raised brow closes the distance between them. The gel is cool to the touch and smells faintly of oranges. Celia applies it to Caroline’s face with a light touch. Moisturizer. It won’t do much in the long term for dead skin, but it’ll allow everything else to go on that much smoother. She had said she’d set Caroline up with a routine.

Caroline: “Devious?” Caroline doesn’t shake her head while Celia works, but she’d like to. Her eyes are distant, looking past Celia as she continues, “Necessary, mostly. Turning a blind eye to your father was hardly my gravest sin. I wanted to play the game, wanted to be part of the club. They played hard.”

“You made the right choice, getting away from it.”

Celia: Celia is quiet a moment, eyes focusing on what she does, on the color she mixes on the back of her hand to match Caroline’s complexion. Brush back in hand, she makes the first swipe across the Ventrue’s jawline. Then another, just above it. And all around her face, dipping back into the puddle of color whenever the bristles run dry.

“That night at Tulane,” Celia says, finally, “when you stopped that girl from calling the police. Did you know, even then, that it was my father who did that to me?” The broken arm. The bloody dress.

Caroline: Caroline bites her lower lip. “Not then. But I did when you came back in the morning. Or at least suspected.”

Celia: Something like grief clenches inside her. People had known and done nothing.

“When I was twelve he took my makeup away from me. He told me that boys would look at me differently, like it was my fault. My mom, though, she had stockpiles of concealer that she smuggled in before the divorce. I thought, at the time, she was just indulging her daughter. Now I know what he was doing to her. To Isabel. To Sophia, and the boys.”

She paints a picture with her words alongside the one she paints on Caroline’s face, blended and buffed and polished until there’s no telling where her skin ends and the makeup begins. Truth and lies, who can tell the difference?

“Getting out was the best choice.”

“He wants to meet her. Lucy. His ‘granddaughter.’ My brother told me when we spoke last.”

This, at least, is not a poison-filled lie. This is something she hasn’t brought up with Emily or her mother, hasn’t had the courage to. But Caroline’s family, to hear her tell, is just as broken. Maybe she knows the proper course.

Caroline: “You don’t owe him anything,” Caroline answers softly.

What pathetic advice, coming from her. Caroline, who spent her whole life trying to please her father. Who’s spent her Requiem trying to impress her sire.

“Unless you want something from him.”

Celia: “For a long time I just wanted his death. To make him suffer. To take away everything he loved and watch it burn. To ruin him, so he’d be cast out.”

Caroline had told her that. Create enough scandal and his own party would turn their backs on him. She’d even managed to do it.

“And now Logan… Logan says that he’s proud of me. That he’s impressed by what I’ve created with the spa. That he misses me.”

What she’d give to hear those words about him.

“How can you want someone so much when they’re the one who destroyed you?”

Caroline: “When you associate love with abuse long enough, abuse feels like love.”

She knows the feeling too well.

“Childhood trauma is like any other childhood injury—if you don’t fix it when you’re young, it stays with you forever. Like a bone never reset.”

“Break a bird’s wing and you might someday release it to fly again. But for us? They broke our wings too young, too often. Now there’s nothing left for us but the cage.”

Celia: “I read a poem once about a girl whose mother offered her a sugar cube. She put it in her mouth and crunched down, and it was salt. That is what abuse is: knowing you are going to get salt, but still hoping for sugar for nineteen years.”

“Your wings, too, Caroline?” Spoken more softly than before, though no pity in her voice. Just gentle understanding.

Caroline: “We are what we are,” Caroline answers. “I won’t pretend we had the same experience. Just the same outcome.”

Well, almost the same. Celia’s still breathing. Has her daughter.

“If you need his approval… after everything… well.” She smiles, but it’s not a happy smile. “Who am I to blame you?”

After all, she always has…

Celia: She had maybe expected a story from Caroline. Something to bring them closer, to bridge the distance between them. Two girls from the same background, and here they are on opposite sides of a war that began long before either of them were ever conceived. Perhaps Celia does her a disservice by withholding the full truth.

But her comment, wings, gives life to the Toreador’s hands. They are not a blur, but each motion that she makes now is precise. It starts with the eyes. She had said, earlier, that neutrals would not do for children. But Caroline is not a child; Caroline is a woman grown, a woman died, a predator in her place. If Caroline’s family took her wings then Celia will give them back to her.

She begins. White across the lid, then bronze, then gold with warm undertones, no yellow to detract. Darker brown—the color of the bare branches in the dead of winter—in the corners, then beneath the eyes. Smudged, blended, turned up toward the brow’s tail. No black; black will wash her out. Black is too severe, too angry. This Caroline is not angry. This Caroline is a sculpted goddess who has waited long years to be acknowledged, who will destroy everything in her path and do it with a smile, who will fight, tooth and nail, to take what is hers. She is severe, but she will not look severe. She will look alive. She will look as she should were her heart to beat in truth, not this pale echo.

A pot of taupe pomade fills in her brows, tiny little strokes that mimic the growth of her hairs. Bronzer, where the sun should touch but never will. Contour at the sides of her chin, the hollows of her cheeks. Celia sculpts her face as easily with powder as she would with her own fingers. Less permanent, no less striking. Blush along the cheekbones to lift her face. Then the highlight: cupid’s bow, beneath the tail of her brows, the bridge of her nose, a light dusting just above the blush.

Blend. Blend, blend, blend. Blend until it is smooth. Until each color fades into the next. Until there is no telling death from life, truth from lies, love from abuse.

And the wings. They start at the corners of her eyes and lift up, a clean line of dark pigment sharp enough to cut a man.

She finishes with color on the dead girl’s lips, swipes it on with a deft flick of her brush.

She had promised to drape her in gold, and so she has. Her eyes sparkle out from her face, given light and life by the powders and creams Celia set upon her. Some women apply makeup, dresses, or accessories and think they are wearing it, when the truth is it is wearing them. Celia does not make that mistake. She has taken every perfection of Caroline’s and amplified it tenfold. It is Caroline on steroids. Caroline on the pedestal Celia promised. Caroline, golden queen.

She holds out the mirror and her breath, waiting.

Caroline: Caroline waits as the other woman (what a joke, she’s not a woman anymore) falls into silence in her work. She’s seen the look in Celia’s eyes before. The focus. An artist at work. It’s something she can admire.

She wonders for a moment if she’s said something wrong, and then perhaps if that’s for the best. There’s no future with a kine. Cannot be any future with a kine. Even if she weren’t the childe of the prince.

So she waits, the shorter woman’s firm but gentle hands on her face, her delicate brushes. She thinks the last time she had an experience like this was before her prom. It just always seemed…. indulgent. And it is. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy it.

She worries for a moment that Celia is caking on too much, going over the top, but doesn’t interrupt. She waits, until she sees the finished product.

For a moment she doesn’t recognize herself. She’s grown accustomed to seeing the same face every night in the mirror, but darker. More monstrous. Changing for the worse, but not changing at all.

This face is someone else’s. It’s not the face of the haughty heiress she was in life. It’s not the face of the naïve fledgling. It’s not the face Caroline, who has scrapped and clawed and fought her way to her teetering, precarious position on such a high ledge.

And yet… it is her face. It’s fierce and regal. It’s refined and sharp. It’s the face of an empress, not an heiress. Of a goddess, not a warrior. The face of who she wants to be. Of who she’s always wanted to be in the eyes of everyone.

It’s a face she wants to see in the mirror every night.

She holds the mirror in a death grip.

She explores a smile and likes the look of it, before finally lowing the mirror to look at Celia once more.

“It’s breathtaking,” she finally admits to Celia.

Celia: She recognizes that look. Veronica had worn the same the night she’d tasked Celia with the impossible: improve perfection. She had done it then. She has done it again now.

Her smile spills across her face, unrestrained, to lift the corners of her eyes in something that might be true joy.

“It’s you.” Celia reaches forward to touch her finger to where Caroline’s heart should beat. “What’s in here.”

Caroline: Caroline knows that’s not quite true. That what’s inside her is the pitch black of bubbling tar, blackness that might one day swallow the stars. But the sentiment matters. That someone sees her as more than what she is.

She’s silent for a long moment.

Then, “Thank you.”

Celia: It’s an easy transition for her hand to move from heart to the back of her neck, the same position that got them into trouble earlier. The stool is sturdy enough for two, and Celia has always liked laps. She slides onto Caroline’s without a word of warning. As if she belongs.

“You’re welcome.”

Caroline: Celia can feel the tension in Caroline as she makes contact, feel the steel enter her spine, the stiffness of a corpse.

This is a bad idea, but the kine is so soft, so eager.

She promised herself she wouldn’t succumb, but look at how the kine looks at her. Look what she’s done for her.

Caroline bites her lower lip, the fangs too obvious. One hand circles the other kine’s back, rests on her hip.

She doesn’t remove her.

She told Cécilia she wouldn’t do this. Told her this wouldn’t be a problem.

“This is a bad idea,” she breathes in Celia’s ear.

Celia: “It is,” Celia agrees, though she doesn’t make a move to displace herself. She settles in instead, one arm around Caroline’s shoulders, the other lifting to stroke the back of her hand across her cheek.

“Someone could walk in at any moment and see me draped over a beautiful Kindred and wonder why they aren’t so lucky.”

Caroline: Caroline’s dead heart skips a beat, but she doesn’t immediately react.

Ghoul? She could see it, a Toreador as enamored with Celia’s talents as Caroline is. They’re famous for abandoning their ghouls when the next thing comes along, too. It would explain her lack of shock, how hard she came on when she knew what Caroline was.

She can see it. She’s certainly put on a hell of an audition if she’s looking for a new domitor.

But no ghoul has ever been quite so comfortable around a strange lick before, have they?

The fangs are out now. Her other hand reaches up under Celia’s arm to stroke her neck, to caress her throat.

“What a wicked game you’ve played…. how long have you known?”

Celia: Her eyes close at the touch, breath stuttering to a halt before it begins again. A better reaction than she could have hoped for. Caroline either has exceptional control, or Celia’s lack of predatory smell has kept her Beast in check.

“I didn’t mean to deceive you. You opened the door and I panicked,” she admits.

Caroline: Several possibilities flow through her mind. That the timing on this is too coincidental, but are dismissed just as quickly. Cécilia has been planning for some time. This was no impromptu opportunity. The margins on inserting a dagger into her family here are too small.

She turns her senses to the girl in her arms more fully, more fiercely. Sends the Beast sniffing about. She has to know.

And just like that the illusion falls to pieces. Or, perhaps, she tears it to pieces. The woman might be fooled, but the Beast recognizes its own. She doesn’t have a harmless kine in her arms, but another predator. Another monster.

An oh-so alluring one.

If the woman was conflicted about what to do, the Beast is not. It knows what to do when it sees another predator: its list is short. The decision is easy.

This lovely thing that wanted her kiss so. That flattered it, that tempted it. It gets what it wants.

Caroline’s arms tense around Celia, no longer caressing, instead controlling. Establishing what the Beast always wants: control.

Her fingers tighten around the other vampire’s throat even as she traces a fang down Celia’s back, hard. Hard enough to part skin with its razor sharpness, to set the room alive with a smell far sweeter than Caroline had previously imagined.

“And all this?” she hisses, pausing to lick lightly at the flowing vitae. “Was this foreplay for you?”

Celia: She knows the moment the jig is up. It’s there in the way Caroline’s arms tighten around her, the sudden stiffness that wasn’t there moments ago. Celia goes absolutely, perfectly still, even while her Beast rages inside of her. It’s mindless, it wants out, but Celia has survived this long by keeping it tightly lidded. Still, when her skin splits she lets its growl be heard.

“You told me not to pretend with you.” Her voice is husky, fangs long in her mouth.

Caroline: “I meant it,” Caroline answers with a hint of iron, her fingers digging into Celia even as she runs her tongue along the length of the wound she’s opened, lapping up the slow-flowing vitae. Those fingers dig into the other vampire’s throat, into her hip, around to her inner thigh. Almost clawing at her.

“Did you?”

Celia: Her body shifts at Caroline’s touch, thighs parting beneath her steel fingers to drape herself more fully across the blonde. Pliant. Willing. The tension leaves her shoulders, head tilting—if it can—to let her get at what she wants. The noise she makes might be a whine; she wants to play, too.

“Every word.”

Caroline: The Beast wants to throw her down, to take her violently on the island. To discover if she’s as willing as she seems. She fights it.

Something nagging at the back of her mind. Her sisters are here. Celia’s mother. Her daughter. People could walk in.

The should stop. Every word.

There’s a flash. They’re in another room. A door slams shut behind them. She shoves Celia off her, down—she’s falling—but she lands on something soft. A bed. The fangs in Caroline’s mouth loom.

“Show me,” she hisses as she falls on the dark-haired beauty.

Celia: Falling. She remembers the sensation of falling. The world going out from beneath her. The rush of wind, her dress floating, strong arms around her. This bed is softer than the water that shattered her. Softer than the rooftop.

Show me. Another way of saying ‘prove it.’ A challenge from this goddess that towers over her.

She loves a challenge.

Quick as a tabby, she’s out from underneath Caroline, clawing and hissing and springing onto her to sink her teeth into any available skin. Clothing rips beneath her hands, hangs in tatters from her frame. She’d learned the art of Kindred fucking from Veronica, mistress of pain, but Celia had never liked the pain. She’d liked the control. The power. Been drawn to it, ensnared by it. The Beast recognizes it, respects it, wants it.

Wants Caroline.

She comes on like a storm.

Caroline: She finds Caroline waiting. Caroline, who has never not been in control with another Kindred. But just as obviously inexperienced. Instinctual.

Are they fighting? Are they fucking? More the former. She writhes under Celia’s kiss and heedlessly sinks her fangs into her whenever she wants.

Inner arm. Wrist. Inner thigh. She drinks like she’s dying of thirst from the source. She pulls hard on Celia’s hair to bare her throat and triumphantly penetrates her. Conquers her.

She offered herself up, and Caroline can’t resist. Doesn’t want to resist. But like all good worshipers she’s rewarded in turn. A wrist. A thigh. An inner arm. Finally, the Ventrue bares her slender pale throat, pulling Celia to her breast and nuzzling her against herself.

Celia: Fighting, fucking, pain, pleasure: it all blurs together once the fangs come out, a chorus of snarls, growls, and hissing their constant companion in the otherwise silent room. They are two beasts set upon each other, woe to all in their wake. Caroline wants to be worshiped? Celia will be her priestess and offering both.

When it’s over she’s covered in the typical bite and claw marks, her body stained red with blood. Hers, Caroline’s, it doesn’t matter; she’d ended up on her back, not a match in a brawl even against this fledgling. Some part of her nurses her wounded pride, but most of her rides the high. Her Beast is sated, glutted on blood and sex and not holding back with someone as durable as she. Now, curled on her side with an arm and leg draped over the blonde, her entire body vibrates with the purr rumbling up from her chest. Her lips move against Caroline’s throat, tongue lazily lapping at the flow of vitae dripping from an open cut beneath her jaw.

Caroline: The Ventrue isn’t even left panting at the end, like she might have been as a mortal. She just lays there, as still as the corpse she is. There’s actually something peaceful in not having to breathe.

“That was…. fun,” she finally murmurs contentedly.

I might have lied when I said it wasn’t going to be a problem.

Celia: Celia nestles closer to her partner, worming her way beneath the blonde’s arm to settle against her more fully. For all that their Beasts don’t play well together, Celia is more hands on than most. Her lips haven’t stopped their movement against the slender, pale throat of Caroline, even now.

“Fun,” she agrees, nipping at her ear. She trails a hand down her body. “I suppose we missed the dancing.”

GM: Is there something I or the others can do?

Caroline: It’s a little late for that. There’s a mixture of amusement and shame in the response. You should know, your friend is dead.

“Oh? Were you disappointed?” Caroline asks.

Celia: “Not at all. I’d miss a thousand dance recitals if it lead me here.”

Caroline: Caroline purrs in amusement. It’s easier to stay in the moment than to think of the future.

GM: There’s a flash of horror.

Oh—Caroline! You could be in danger, she has a very large social media following!

Caroline: “Wicked, but I suppose we are wicked things.”

She seems to manage it well enough, all things being equal.

Celia: “Is it wicked to lavish you with admiration?”

GM: Mana… ah.

That was a mean prank.

There’s amusement, though, in the tone.

Caroline: It’s so rare that I get to see something fluster you.

Caroline laughs, lightly running her hand down Celia’s back. “Never. My Requiem would be easier if everyone did.”

Celia: “Tell me who withholds their affection and I shall cut them down to size,” Celia says, smirking.

GM: Ha. I suppose so. It’s no wonder Yvette looks up to you so much. That would have made her laugh.

Celia is Kindred, though? I suppose we all have our secrets.

She’s likely affiliated with Savoy, to have her salon in the Quarter. I wonder why she’d come all the way out here? This is the prince’s territory.

Caroline: We all do unreasonable things for family, Caroline answers. I wouldn’t hesitate to tear into the Quarter for any of you, and if she’s just one of the many associated with him, coming here would be far less risky.

“You’re going to fight my battles for me?” Caroline smirks. Toreador. Definitely Toreador.

GM: Of course. And I for you. But I’m not sure it makes sense, for just Lucy’s dance lesson. She might be here for something to do with you.

Caroline: As if she couldn’t taste it on her tongue.

Celia: “Do you need me to?” Celia glances between herself and the taller, more defined Kindred against whom she is curled. She touches a fingertip to the muscles in her arms, as if to prove her point. “I think you don’t, not on that front. But wars are fought with more than swords, aren’t they?”

Caroline: Caroline had been fast. Very fast.

“Are you going to go singing my praises?” she muses.

Celia: “I’m more physically artistic than musically inclined.” She splays her fingers out across Caroline’s stomach, as if to remind her. “Would you like me to choreograph a ballet for you?”

Caroline: “That sounds like a great deal of work. We had our own dance here.” She looks around and almost giggles. “And we made a mess.”

The timing does beg certain questions, Caroline agrees. But there are easier places to hurt me than here.

“I need to clean up before Cécilia breaks herself away.”

GM: That’s true. But when your getting hurt could be on the line, I don’t want to make any assumptions.

Celia: Celia lifts her head to appraise the room. Clothing scraps are strewn across the floor and the comforter upon which they lie is smeared in blood. She drops her head and nuzzles up against Caroline after a moment.

Then the dismissal. She tries not to pout.

“Do you think they heard us?”

GM: I don’t want to hurt Celia. She is my friend. But you’re my sister. I don’t think it would be a good idea for her to leave until we know more about her.

Caroline: “No,” Caroline answers. There’s a look of musement. “But not for your lack of trying. Are you sure you’re not a singer?” She runs her tongue across the Toreador’s chest, still smeared with their mixed vitae.

Celia: “My preferred medium is people.” She shifts, flat on her back, stomach and throat exposed to the Kindred above her. Her eyes dance in amusement. “But I confess, sometimes I sing in the shower.”

Caroline: A smile spreads across Caroline’s blood-streaked face. “You confess? Am I your priest?”

She rolls over to straddle the smaller Toreador and leans over her, tracing her tongue up to the exposed throat once more.

Celia: “I thought I was worshiping you here.” Her back arches, head tilting back so she can lean into the touch.

Caroline: I don’t know that will be necessary.

“Oh, but I like the confession game,” Caroline moans, raking her teeth across Celia’s skin again.

Celia: Her breath leaves her shivering body in a hiss. “Will you make me pay penance if I confess my sins? A Hail Mary for each time I coveted something I could not have?”

Caroline: “I think we can come up with more appropriate uses of your tongue than a Hail Mary,” Caroline answers.

Celia: “Then I confess, Caroline, to wanting you. Here, like this. Atop, beside, beneath; it makes no difference to me.” Celia reaches for her, touch light against the Ventrue’s cheek. “I wanted you and I knew it was a bad idea, as you said. Does that make me a sinner?”

Caroline: If only it were that simple. But she knows it’s not. Knows they’re both still wearing masks.

“Yes,” Caroline answers between nibbles on her neck. “Is that why you came here?”

Celia: Celia squirms. Her hands fall back above her head, ready to be pinned by this creature above her. She makes a motion with her head that might be a shake, though she doesn’t move so much as to dislodge Caroline’s lips at her throat.

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” she says honestly. Her breath comes in short pants. Caroline can hear the flutter of her heartbeat. “I came for my family, and because your sister asked it of me. I could not think of a way to refuse that would not betray what I am. But for all those alarm bells ringing in my head, I could not stay away once I saw you.”

“I’d have left and been sorry for it, but you asked me to stay. How could I refuse?”

Celia: “Do you remember,” she asks, “when I came into Tulane with that weapon, and you were standing at the desk? And I thought, this is it, I’m going to be ruined. But you worked your charm in a way I could not. You had steel in your spine and voice, even then. I thought that I could hide behind tears and weakness and stupidity, and it worked for a time. But you? You cut through the weaker people as if they were naught but cobwebs. We speak of masks and, I confess, I donned yours. I borrowed your strength, your clarity, your poise and stature. One part Caroline, I think, each time I play that role.”

Caroline: She’s either well and truly enamored with Caroline or is a well-practiced liar. Maybe both.

Who is Caroline kidding? Celia is from an even more fucked up home than she is. Of course she’s a good liar. The best lies are the ones the other person wants to be true.

Does she even care if Celia is lying? Does it matter here? She’s enjoyed herself. Enjoyed the Toreador’s company. Even if reality calls.

She nips a last time at her throat, takes a long pull from her, then laps the wound closed.

“You can have that piece of me,” she says at last. “Take it. My gift to you, Celia.”

Celia: There’s nothing pretend in the noise that builds in the back of her throat as Caroline sinks her teeth in, the way she writhes beneath the blonde’s lips until they’re pulled away and her body collapses back onto the bed, limp. She gazes up at Caroline with wide eyes, biting her lower lip.

“Is this goodbye?” she finally asks.

Caroline: “Is it?” Caroline rises. Looks around. The only piece of her clothing that might be salvageable are her heels.

She turns her gaze back to Celia. “You’re welcome to join me in the shower. After that….” She bites her lower lip. “I may be going out tonight, but I’m not going anywhere, so that’s very much up to you.”

The blonde runs a hair through her bloodstained hair. “Do you want to see me again?”

Celia: “Yes.” The answer is immediate.

“To both,” she clarifies. Celia isn’t ashamed of liking who she likes. She’d enjoy a shower with this beauty, another reason to stay close to her, to nip and touch and play and bite. She needs a shower as well, covered in blood as she is, though that is not her most pressing concern at the moment.

“Can I? See you again?” She doesn’t put into words what they both must be thinking.

Caroline: “Not here,” Caroline answers. “This was reckless. By both of us.” She runs her tongue across her fangs. “But I have a place of my own.”

Is there anything good that can come of this? Probably not.

But Celia is intriguing. It’s like looking into a carnival mirror, another warped version of herself. And there are still so many lies and secrets between them. It’s a challenge. And Caroline can’t turn down a challenge.

Celia: Celia’s face betrays her: uncertainty, though not regret. “I… I didn’t mean to cause problems for you, Caroline. I mean that. Here, or elsewhere. It was reckless, and I’m sorry for my part in that. I wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t assured of their safety. My family, and yours. I would never hurt your sisters.”

She pushes up off the bed, still small beneath the blonde but not laid out before her. Her arms encircle Caroline’s waist, hands flat against her back.

“I would like to see you again. Your place, if… if that’s safe. Edge of the Quarter?”

Caroline: “The Giani Building,” Caroline answers, one hand stroking Celia’s hair. “Right across Canal Street.”

Celia: Her eyes close. She turns her face into the touch. Her lips brush against Caroline’s wrist.

“It’s a date.”

Caroline: “I’ll give you my number, before we go. And my assistant’s number. If you have a ghoul they can set it up.”

What the hell is she doing? Celia is the enemy in more than one ways. But she doesn’t feel like the enemy.

Celia: Another trip into Vidal’s territory. Another chance at being snatched by his goons.

Caroline is worth it.

Her smile lights up her face. “Then I suppose we should get into the shower before you sisters come knocking and we give them a fright.”

Caroline: Caroline leads her off by the hand.

Wednesday evening, 9 March 2016

Caroline: The water is almost scaldingly hot. Hot enough to make Caroline feel alive, to put heat under her skin for a little while. It’s also spacious enough for two. Especially two willing to get a little more intimate.

It runs pink coming off them.

Celia: Heat seeps into her muscles. It makes her pliant and indulgent, and though the space is larger than the norm, especially considering Celia’s petite frame, she uses it as an excuse to stay curled against the blonde, body slick with whatever luxury products they keep inside this mansion. Her hands work it into a lather, gliding and stroking and kneading the length of Caroline’s body.

It’s a shame, she thinks, that each of them left enough blood on their bodies to swirl down the drain. A shame too that Caroline’s face is not permanently altered beneath the cosmetics, that the powders and creams will be washed away with the rest of the evidence of their tryst. Maybe one night Celia will offer to make that look as eternal as the Kindred herself.

One night, but not tonight. Tonight she has spilled enough secrets, and her ability to sculpt flesh need not be something she offer on a silver platter to every monster who tops her. And what a surprise that was, to go head to head with a months-old fledgling and still end up on her back. Fast, strong; she wonders what other secrets Caroline is hiding.

Caroline: Caroline seems to enjoy Celia’s touch, enjoy the attention, and simply lets the Toreador work her over. It’s as close to surrender as Celia’s seen since they started. Her expression shifts from contented to troubled as the water runs off them, shifts from pink to clear.

It’s tugging. It’s always tugging, but more so with the heat of the moment gone. There’s too much time for her to think, to worry.

Celia: Celia has not gotten where she is in life, and in her Requiem, by being ignorant to the moods of others. Even if she could not read Caroline’s face she would be able to feel it in her body: the tension in her muscles beneath Celia’s fingers, the resistance that she meets. Nothing like knots or nodules, just energy in the muscles that makes them stiff. She doesn’t pull away, instead resting her chin on Caroline’s chest and peering up at her through the spray of water.

“You seem agitated.” Not quite a question, though the curiosity is there in her voice, the silent promise to listen.

Caroline: “Every night of my Requiem,” Caroline answers lightly.

“And you’re not?” she asks skeptically.

Celia: “Every night? No. Some nights more than others. Some nights I am so agitated that I cannot stand it, that I want to rip my claws into my brain and chest to find this Beast that seeks to control us all and see if I can tear it out.”

“Other nights I’m content to enjoy a fuck and a shower and let my troubles swirl down the drain… until such time that they are rudely awakened by the fact that I haven’t brought a spare change of clothes.” Celia gives the blonde a rueful smile.

Caroline: God, she’s either a fantastic liar or…

She isn’t sure what else. But she does know Celia’s a talented liar.

She laughs, a hand sweeping over Celia’s hip as though taking her measure. “House full of girls, I’m sure we can find something you’ll like.”

“Or I could make you leave in nothing…”

Celia: “There’s a cruel joke. My mother’s distress is what got us into this; imagine if she were to see me streaking across the lawn.”

Caroline: “Would you have just walked out, if she hadn’t come in? Left me blissfully unaware of you?” Caroline asks.

Celia: Yes. That’s the safer option, isn’t it? Don’t let anyone else know what she is. Keep everything safe.

“I meant what I said when I was going to leave, you know. That I wanted to, but it would cause problems.” She doesn’t need to mention whose territory they are in, or the fact that she lives in the French Quarter.

“It doesn’t… need to cause problems. I didn’t think you’d be here. Not that…” not that saying so sounds any better. “I just came to make my mom happy. And see Lucy dance. Her recitals are during the day, I never get a chance. Not that kids their age are graceful, but…”

GM: She’s probably missed most of the lesson by now.

Caroline: She’d like to believe that. But the timing… and other things… would it be easier or harder to believe though, if those other things weren’t true? Is she really that sure?

“So you would have just vanished out of my life and left me none the wiser?” Caroline answers, seemingly disappointed.

Celia: A frown mars her face. The water is no longer welcoming, beating down as it is upon her. She doesn’t know what the lick wants her to say.

“Caroline… this, with us,” she gestures between them, hand grazing the underside of her breast as she makes the motion, “it’s… God, no, who could walk away from you? It’s not possible.”

Caroline: “Are you sure?” The shower is spacious, but Caroline looms close enough that their dead flesh touches. Threatening or intimate? There’s no heat in her voice.

“It seems like you want to. Want this to be a one-off instead of recurring event.”

She leans in, nuzzles her lips against Celia’s throat, and whispers, “I could live with that, but don’t lead me on.”

Celia: Teeth at her throat. Teeth. At her throat. Hiding just behind the tiny bit of flesh that contains them. Predators don’t nuzzle their prey, and Celia isn’t prey. Out of her element in this domain, certainly, but not some rabbit in the forest.

Rather than pull away she only tilts her head, exposing more of her throat to fangs that lurk inside Caroline’s mouth. Celia’s hand travels the length of her body, coming to a rest at her hips. She gives a squeeze.

“I could have left once we’d finished in the bedroom,” Celia reminds her, “and I told you that I’d like to see you again.”

Caroline: “So did I,” Caroline whispers.

“But words are easy, and there are a dozen good reasons you could disappear. So let me show you.”

The Ventrue’s fangs dip into that gracefully extended neck, and her kiss finds Celia as she takes long, fevered pulls from the Toreador. Directly from the Toreador.

Celia: It’s not the same as in the bedroom. There’s no mad scrabble for power, no biting, hissing, or scratching. Celia’s lips split the moment the two pin pricks of fang cut into her skin and she makes a noise that is entirely human; the breath leaves her lungs in an arduous sigh. Her eyes close, head tilting forward to rest against Caroline’s body as she drinks. She moves her hands up her body in gentle strokes.

This. This more than anything is what she’s searching for in her Requiem. Intimacy. It had been easy to resist the call of her blood in the bedroom, but she knows the reason for the deliberate biting and drinking. Show me, Caroline had said.

Her body responds to the challenge, fangs extending in her mouth until all she need do is sink in. A crime to do so, a crime not to. The echoes of exclusive resonate through her mind. So, too, does the image of her head rolling across the floor if she’s caught here.

She doesn’t see another way out. She sinks her teeth in and drinks directly from the source.

Caroline: Caroline writhes against Celia. This is so much better than the scrambling, fighting, clawing blood-drawing fucking that is Kindred sex. No asserting power, just locked in each other’s kiss. Not that this can happen without that first. Without their Beasts knowing the terms between each other.

She remembers the last time. Remembers every time. The raw shiver of need it brought on. The kiss is better than mortal sex ever was, it sets her entire body on fire, could take away her breath, if she still had it. Here in the shower, with the hot water, with both of their bodies warm to the touch, she can almost pretend they’re alive.

It’s all she can do to stay latched onto Celia in turn. To create this perfect system. Give and take in equal measure, not a drop wasted.

Her hands roam the other Kindred even as she grinds herself against her, wants to be inside her, to have her inside of herself, to be as close as she possibly can.

She doesn’t know how long it goes on. Doesn’t care. In the kiss she doesn’t have any worries. When it finally breaks it’s like being born, being thrust out into a harsh world, to sever such intimacy.

She doesn’t want it to end, but it has to. She leaves Celia with something, though. A gift for this moment.

She looks down into the Toreador’s eyes. “Thank you.”

Celia: She’d been unsure. Hesitant. But locked in Caroline’s embrace, both of them experiencing the ebb and flow of shared blood, it dissipates, dissolving into nothing. She rides the wave of red, the bliss that comes with the viscous platelets across her palate. Rich, thick; unexpected, but so much better than she could have imagined.

Maybe it’s the collar snapping into place around her neck, or… there, the burning, as it travels through her body. Not like last time. Last time she was human and it took her by surprise. This time it’s a gentle, rolling warmth from Caroline to Celia. She could lose herself here forever and still be content. She’s still enraptured by the blonde even as the kiss fades away into nothing.

She doesn’t want to go. She presses closer, lips moving across her flesh, reveling in this new… gift. Wings beat inside her chest. She wants to dance. To run. To make it last forever.

They have forever, and already a promise to see each other again. Celia presses a final kiss against Caroline. No teeth, just lips, like the humans they once were.

“Thank you.

Celia III, Chapter IX
Sisters' Goodbye

“Here you are in front of me and there isn’t any time left.”
Celia Flores

Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Jade spends some time seated on her grandsire’s lap. He strokes her cheek, pets her hair, and murmurs sweet nothings in her ear. Such sweet-sounding nothings they are, too: like verbal cotton candy soaked in honey, air-light and gooey with sugar.

“Sir, you had a remaining order of business to discuss with Miss Kalani,” states Preston.

“Ah yes, that’s right, Nat,” replies Savoy as he gives Jade’s head a conciliatory pat. “Always a shame when business can’t be combined with pleasure… but the past doesn’t ever rest easy in the Quarter, does it? Tonight, my dear, there is another we ghost might summon from the past to build our glorious future!”

Celia: All too soon the petting and fondling comes to an end. Preston’s words cut through the barely concealed temptation of sinking her teeth into her grandsire like a bucket of ice water. She tucks her fangs away and begins to disentangle herself without a sound, disappointment curling quietly in her gut. One night, she thinks. One night she’ll get him alone so they can consummate the desire she has harbored for years. Better, maybe, that it isn’t tonight in the wake of such hedonism that took place below.

Jade is not an afterthought.

Jade presses a final “kiss” to his cheek before she withdraws from his lap, smoothing her dress down her legs as she reclaims her chair.

“Which ghost is that, Lord Savoy?”

GM: Savoy motions to Preston. The Malkavian taps against her tablet, then turns it around so Jade can see the image filling the screen. It’s of a young woman sinking her fangs into a blissed-out-looking man in a dark club setting.

The woman’s features are indistinct, but not indistinct enough to hide the fact that she’s Danielle Garrison.

Stephen’s sister.

Celia: Oh no.

“Garrison,” she volunteers. She can’t take her gaze away from the slightly blurry photo. Dani. He couldn’t have wanted this for her. She wouldn’t. Does he know? No, he can’t; he’d have swooped in already, wouldn’t he?

“What information do we have on her?” Jade finally asks.

GM: The photo isn’t blurry. It’s dark, but it’s distinct enough to make out the vampire’s face.

“Let’s start with this,” Savoy chuckles, tapping the tablet’s screen. “The picture came out rather nicely, didn’t it, for a Kindred who didn’t know she was being photographed?”

Celia: “It did,” Jade allows.

She doesn’t want to focus on what it means, doesn’t want to think the word, but it’s there in the back of her head: thin-blood. Dani the thin-blood. Not even a real vampire, just a pretend, a fucked up, not-as-good undead thing. Christ. She wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Not even the cunt locked up downstairs. It’s the worst of both worlds. Her brother is the childe of the primogen and Dani got stuck like… this.

She remembers that family dinner, the way Dani had shrugged and stammered about not knowing what she wanted to do with her life, how she’d seemed like she was used to walking in her brother’s shadow. Even in death she hadn’t been made his equal. It’s a crippling blow. Or will be. To both of them. Jade wants to sigh, wants to press her fingers against the bridge of her nose to stave off a nonexistent headache. She just stares, at a loss.

She sits back in her seat, eyeing him over the tablet. She’d asked what they knew because she’d assumed that they were sending her after the girl. Perhaps she’d overestimated her worth. Why send her when anyone else would do?

GM: “I’d like you to take this picture to Roderick, my dear,” says Savoy. “I’m certain he’ll be very upset to discover that Danielle is now Kindred, and a thin-blooded Kindred, no less.”

“I’d like you to ask him how safe he expects she’s going to be in Mid-City.”

Celia: “Of course, grandsire.”

Another ghost indeed. Will he shoot the messenger, she wonders, or just beat her into another bloody pile? She doesn’t bother to tell Savoy that she hasn’t spoken to Roderick since the night they terminated their relationship. Jokes on her for even thinking about him this evening; it’s like his very name drew this to her.

“May I ask… how long ago this was taken?”

GM: “Yesternight,” answers Preston.

“I’d like you to offer Roderick his sister’s protection in the Quarter, as well our aid in taking down Hound Agnello and Will Carolla,” continues Savoy. “So much the better we’d already planned on removing the former! That, on top of Mr. Durant’s discontent over the trial’s outcome, and his general dissatisfaction with Vidal’s rule, should be just enough to do it.”

“In return, I’d like him to stay where he is and to supply me with information on his sire’s and the Cabildo’s activities.”

“And of course,” smiles the French Quarter lord, “you’ll get to have him back.”

“Better you don’t give away that my people took this picture. In fact, if you can manage it so that Roderick feels Danielle is receiving my protection without my knowing who she is, even better. This should be all your idea—and Danielle your two’s secret.”

Celia: “It will be done as you say, Lord Savoy.” Already her thoughts are moving towards how to spin this. What to say to him.

“Madam Preston, when you have a moment I will need a copy of that photo, as well as where it was taken. Roderick will want to know if anyone has, ah, claimed her, and what else we—I—know about her state. He’s very thorough.”

She pauses a moment, then asks, “Did you already take her into custody, or shall I track her down as well?”

GM: “Oh, no!” Savoy chuckles. “We wouldn’t want Roderick to feel as if we’re strong-arming him, now would we? No, Danielle is off in the wild. We have her under surveillance, just in case there’s any need to mend up the Masquerade. But she seems as if she’s been Kindred for a little while, now. Knows how to feed, hasn’t left any messes behind. It’s to be completely up to Mr. Durant how he handles his sister and approaches me. I’m sure that between your two’s brains, he’ll realize the best option.”

“Miss Garrison remains unclaimed by any Kindred,” states Preston. “We have yet to verify her sire’s identity. Doubtless, there are few sires who would wish to claim such a feeble-blooded wretch for themselves.” She gives the photo a cursory glance. “The photograph was taken at the Beach on Bourbon nightclub. She is either ignorant or uncaring of Lord Savoy’s territorial boundaries.”

“Mr. Durant doesn’t need to worry about his sister being punished for her ignorance. Or pushed to the ghetto.” Savoy chuckles. “Isn’t that what the thin-bloods call their slice of the Quarter, Nat? ‘The ghetto?’”

“It is, sir. Among other less flattering sobriquets.”

“Well, he needn’t worry about her winding up there! We can do much better for a Kindred providing a service as valuable as Mr. Durant’s, if Miss Kalani can persuade him to see things our way.” He smiles at her. “Another word of advice, my dear, though I’m sure it’s already occurred to you—don’t be so crass as to bring up spying on the Cabildo directly. He’s a smart boy. He knows what he has to offer.”

Celia: Her smile is wry.

“Yes, sir. Of course. Thank you, Madam Preston.”

Word games with Roderick. How fun. Perhaps this time he will stick to his tongue instead of his fists.

Her smile fades after a brief moment. She’d asked him, years ago, to join her here. He’d made a comment about not approving of Savoy’s business dealings. The Mafia. He has to know. Why else offer Corolla and Agnello?

She doesn’t want to ask what the situation will be should she fail. She is sure that Danielle will go the way of Roxanne, and the blame will be at her feet for it.

Best not fail, then.

Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

Celia: Jade wastes no time after leaving Savoy and Preston to get to work. It isn’t so late that she fears the sun rising before her plans are set, though she knows she has a tricky evening ahead of her with the ghouls Savoy had loaned her and the facial reconstruction she will need to do. That plus drilling into them what they need to know to pass for the two for the meeting… It’ll take a while.

She pulls out her phone for the second (fifth?) time this evening, scrolling through the contacts until she once more lands upon his name. Roderick Durant. She’d avoided him since that night he’d told her with his fists that they were over. Not completely, of course—they’d shared looks at Elysium—but neither one of them had broached the subject or sought to mend the bridge.

She’s glad that she hadn’t thrown the bar crawl party. Glad she hadn’t been so petty as to flaunt her domain in his face. Glad she hadn’t thrown herself at Gui any more than usual as a cheap ploy to get back at him. Except tonight, when she’d finally given in and let the Mobster share her with Pietro.

There goes that blossoming romance. “You’ll get to have him back.” She tries to ignore the way her dead heart leaps at the thought.

Celia struggles with whether or not she should call or text for a moment. Finally, she settles on a text; it’ll let him get back to her at his own pace, and she can work in the meantime. In case he’s busy. Or a dick. Or any other—her mind ceases its spiraling before it can go too far down that path.

She types and deletes at least a dozen messages before settling on something simple:

Hey… I really need to talk to you. HMU ASAP.

GM: For all the thought and anxiousness behind Celia’s simple text, there is no immediate response.

Could be he’s busy.

Celia: Busy. Ignoring her. Sure, sure.

Why would he want to talk to the ex that he beat the shit out of, right?

Not that she’s staring at her phone or anything. She’s busy collecting the two ghouls that Savoy set aside for her and locating the bodies of the hunters.

Because she’s got other things going on in her unlife. Obviously. Like finding out if Pete cracked the other phone and if there’s anything she needs to let the ghouls know.

It’s all just a distraction from the lack of sound and vibration coming from her phone.

GM: Pete has not cracked the other phone, though only because he doesn’t have it yet. When Celia turns it over, he traces his hand over the screen and then taps in a PIN.

“You can give Tantal his makeover while I look through this,” the Tremere says. “Make sure you modify his vocal cords, too.”

Celia: Celia tries not to stare at Pete as he unlocks the phone with what appears to be a simple handwave. She thought she’d done something impressive to get into the other, and here he is just outdoing her with a gesture.

She’s glad she didn’t make it sound like getting into the pattern-protected phone was hard.

GM: The large-framed ghoul shows Jade off to a walk-in freezer on the Evergreen’s third floor called the Red Room. The French Quarter lord’s revels can get out of hand, sometimes. Other times there are kine he specifically wants dead. This is where the corpses all go, or at least get temporarily stored. Jade recognizes the bodies of the two hunters she slew.

Celia: She’s glad, too, that Tantal is the relative height of the hunter she’d killed. She still doesn’t know how to modify bone, so switching his height would be tricky. She has him lay out and starts her work, beginning with the face. She warns him that it’s painful and waits for his acknowledgement before she starts to sculpt his flesh.

GM: Tantal lays his coat underneath his head as he lies down and lets Jade get to work. The ghoul is a big guy. Well-muscled. Bigger than the hunter, actually. “I’ll wear loose clothes,” he says in a distinctly high-pitched voice, as if noting that fact.

“I’ll try not to scream like a bitch then, ma’am,” he replies to her warning as he lies still. He might or might not be joking.

Celia: With that, her fingers dive into his skin: his jaw lengthens, nose cracks as she twists it into a new position, lips thin to resemble those of the fiercely scowling man who’d held her down and fucked her.

Vampire slut echoes through her mind, but she pays the words no heed. She’s been called worse.

She coaxes hair from the ghoul’s head and colors it appropriately, using her fingers to lengthen and thicken the strands, curling them gently to mimic the coiffed waves of the boy. Then deeper changes: muscular changes. She doesn’t cut him open, but she does press more firmly against his chest, his arms, his legs, putting everything in its proper place, with occasional rests to let the ghoul catch his breath. A brief respite before she’s back at it again, poking and prodding and chiseling. Her attention is focused mostly on the face; the body need only be approximate, but the face… that’s where it needs to be perfect.

GM: Tantal doesn’t scream, but his jaw clenches and a vein bulges along his neck as the Toreador agonizingly twists and re-shapes skin and muscle like it’s silly putty. The bald ghoul has no hair at all, so Jade has to transpose it from the hunter’s corpse. She supposes that’s faster and results in a perfect likeness anyway.

Big, bald, white guy. He could actually pass for a crude Maxen, in the same way Randy passes for a crude Em.

Celia: The fat comes off of him in droves. Pounds of it. Buckets of it. From his legs, his stomach, his face, even the back of his head. The hunter wasn’t something special to look at, but at least he wasn’t this hulking monstrosity. She leaves the muscles that she can lest she physically take his strength from him while she carves. The excess goes into a fresh garbage bag. Crude, but effective, and it’ll be waiting for him when he comes back. If he wants it back. She doesn’t know why anyone would want to weigh that much, but she supposes it’s not really her call. Not her body. Not her ghoul.

She’d had him talk to her while she worked the vocal chords to get the voice right, and by the time she’s done it’s a very close rendition of the man in the house.

GM: “Guess I’m lucky you didn’t need to change my eye color, ma’am,” the deeper-voiced ghoul and now-hunter lookalike pants out with a grimace when Jade is done. He’s at least not sweating much in the cold storage room.

Celia: “Eye changes are worse than most,” Jade agrees as she checks him over. “You have to know the anatomy perfectly, and in the middle your subjects go blind.”

‘Subjects,’ she says, not ‘victims.’ As if they’d asked for it. She touches a hand to his shoulder when everything is set.

“Do not leave the Evergreen except to go to this meeting. There’s a possibility that others are looking for the man with this face, and I’d prefer not to take chances with you. Stay where it’s safe, Tantal. Clear?”

GM: “Warden’s briefed me,” he nods. “I’ll stay put. Catch up on the game.”

Celia: Not that she thinks he had paid any heed to her desperate message. She tries to give him the benefit of the doubt; she’s been locked in the Evergreen since she woke up. Maybe it hadn’t even worked.

Still, doesn’t he have a phone? A way to communicate outside of face to face interaction? She knows some of the old ones can beam thoughts straight into your head. Is she not worthy enough to check in on?

No, a small voice tells her, just like she isn’t worth a text.

She wants to throw her phone across the room.

She doesn’t. She’s not a child.

She quizzes Tantal on the things she’d told him instead, the behaviors she’d picked up during her brief time with the hunters. Reminds him of his new name and the fake name as well.

GM: The ghoul answers her assorted questions. When she offers to restore his old body, he stares at the wet, fat-filled trash bag.

“I like my body, ma’am,” he says in his new and deeper voice. “But when it looks like… that. Don’t know I want it back.”

Celia: Jade follows his line of sight to the bag full of fat. It is distinctly unappealing; she doesn’t relish splitting his skin back open to stuff it inside. It’ll liquidize at room temp, too, so she has to do the service in the cold storage room again. Doesn’t much bother her—reminds her of someone, really—but she’d watched him shiver the whole way through. Maybe she’ll have someone pick up some anesthetic so he’s only cold instead of cold and in pain.

“If everything goes well tomorrow maybe we can sculpt a new body for you.” She doesn’t make any promises, but it’s no skin off her back if the ghoul wants to look different. Could sculpt him to be more muscular if he wants, instead of all that fat…

GM: Celia’s phone gives a heartbeat-skipping buzz.

What’s going on?

Celia: Her planning is interrupted by the chime and buzzing in her pocket. She glances at the text.

She hates texts, she decides. How are you supposed to determine what someone else is feeling through text? How do you know if that’s a polite “what’s going on” or an angry “what’s going on” or an I miss you and I’m sorry I beat you up again “what’s going on?”

Probably not that last one. He’s had ample opportunity to say that to her if it were the case. Years of opportunities. He knows where to find her.

She ignores it for a minute. Makes him wait.

“Good. Glad to hear. Any questions?”

“Make sure you’re, ah, full up when you go in.” Jade taps a perfectly manicured nail against her wrist. She thinks she might like the big guy, doesn’t want to see him end up on the wrong end of anything. Her fault, too, she’d have no doubt. She touches a hand to his shoulder in the excuse of checking her work one more time.

“Please be careful, Tantal. They’re supposedly… dangerous.” And his domitor might never forgive her if something goes wrong. So much for glorious future.

It’s pretty spectacular, she thinks as she does look him over. Good likeness. She still has that job to do for the archon, the face that’s seared into her mind, but she thinks that she’s gotten really, really good at recreating faces rather than drawing on her own imagination.

“Shall we find the warden, then?”

The phone is burning a hole in her pocket. She doesn’t know what to say. Something coded, obviously. But not a lie. He has a thing about lies.

As if I’m not about to lie and manipulate him when we meet.

Where is she even supposed to meet him? Not here. Not there. Her place? Could tell Pete to check on her after a set amount of time if she doesn’t show up again, just in case Roderick thinks this is the kind of thing to smack her around over. Maybe she should have Randy teach her how to throw the right hook like he’d offered. He can show her and Logan both.

She nods. Yes. She’ll finally learn. Not that it helps her tonight.

She still needs to put him back together. He’d been sleeping when she left, but she doubts he’s going to complain overmuch if she takes the opportunity to give him back what she had taken. And she’s awake. That’s what matters. Be more firm, her kind are fond of saying. Maybe a firmer hand will keep him from doing dumb things in the future. Like drinking sewer water.


For the second time this evening her nails lengthen, filing into tapered points with edges as sharp as any scalpel. A quick flick of her wrist has the skin of the hunter’s backside splitting open before her. She peels it back with one hand, using the razor edge of one claw to scrape away the fascia and fat from the gluteal muscles beneath. Like the white, pulpy part of an orange; she flicks it aside as she goes, the stringy stuff landing on the dead man’s back. Another slice of her nails severs the tendons connecting the glutes to the ilium, then the sacrum and coccyx. She’s careful there, makes sure to leave all the connective tissue behind. She hadn’t actually taken that much from Randy, just a handful, but she’ll take more than she needs from here to avoid an unnecessary trip back.

She finds another bag to slide the muscle into and pinches the hunter’s flesh closed. His butt sags without it, like a woman who’s never done a squat a day in her life.

The entire process doesn’t take longer than a few moments, and she finally looks back to Tantal.

“If he’s amenable, and if you’d like your size back without the extraneous adipose tissue, I could graft some of these muscles onto you. Fun experiment, see if it affects your strength at all.” She lifts her brows.

GM: “Wouldn’t say no to more muscle, ma’am,” the still-shivering Tantal answers after they exit the Red Room. He still looks pretty beefy, with the fat suctioned away, but Jade supposes there aren’t many security-type ghoul who wouldn’t want to be even larger and stronger.

“I like being my size. But thinking of you sticking that bag of fat back inside me makes me want to lose my dinner.”

He shakes his head at her question on questions.

“I’ll ask the warden for a hit, ma’am. In case things go sour.”

Celia: “No reason to put it back in if it’s no difference to him, then. Like an instant bypass surgery combined with years in the gym.”

Maybe she should graft some muscles onto herself before she faces the Brujah again.

Christ, this is going to go poorly, she’s sure of it.

Still, she pulls out her phone while they walk, pausing to dig a piece of sinew out from under her nail before she starts typing.

Batman v Superman. Got an early copy. ;)

She’d thought about saying trouble or urgent or family, but she hadn’t wanted to alarm him. Or leave a trail. He’ll just have to trust that she isn’t breaking four years of silence for no reason. He knows her enough to know that it’s code, doesn’t he? He’s smart enough to figure it out.

GM: Your place midnight tomorrow? comes her ex’s answering text.

Celia: That had been surprisingly easy. Maybe he wants to see her. Or maybe he thinks she actually has the movie. Should she get the movie? She can probably find it by tomorrow. Lots of places out there to do so.

Let’s watch this while I twist your arm.

Cool. Cool cool.


…but what is she going to wear?

Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Pete says it’s fine if Celia replaces Tantal’s former fat with added muscle bulk when she sees him next.

“You won’t need to give the other renfield a makeover. He knows some shadow dancing.”

Celia: Celia nods in answer to his statement. She fidgets for a moment. No matter how long she’s known the guy she always feels like she’s done something wrong when she sees him, as if her mere existence is one giant fuckup and he’s been sent to admonish her for it. Does he know what Savoy wants her to do?

She doesn’t bring it up yet.

“Find anything useful on the other phone?”

GM: Pete nods. “Some other targets they were planning on going after. Mid-City Anarchs.”

Celia: Stephen.


“I’m supposed to see him tomorrow,” she adds, “so if he’s dead that kind of…ruins that.”

GM: “I said ‘planning.’ Future tense.”

“Those two’s plans count for about as much as an empty blood bag now.”

Celia: “Lord Savoy has plans for him,” Celia says, “if his identity has been compromised it’s the kind of thing I need to know before I waste my time bringing him to heel.”

GM: “Roderick wasn’t one of them.”

Celia: Thank god.

“Thank you, Warden.”

There’s a pause while she fidgets.

Then, “Is, ah, Celia safe, or is that still being… looked into?”

She’s stalling. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who knows her.

GM: “Being looked into. I take it from the stalling that you and Lord Savoy talked about your sister.”

Celia: She forces the air out from her lungs in a sound that might be a sigh if she wasn’t dead. She nods. Picks at a loose thread in the seat of her chair. Finally, she looks back up at him, and when she speaks her voice is quiet. She has no doubt Savoy will know everything she says here.

“He wants me to be the one to lay her out.”

GM: Pete gives that a long look.

“I can’t imagine him insisting if you didn’t want to do it.”

Celia: What can she say? That his favor is worth more than her sister’s life?

“I owe him a lot.”

GM: “Well, you’re hardly paying him back. It isn’t skilled work. Anyone could do it.”

Celia: Is that meant to make her feel better? She sinks lower in her seat.

“Felt like it was important to him that I… prove myself, or something.”

GM: “Prove what?”

Celia: She fixes him with a look. He has to know what happened last time. Why their stunt with Maxen didn’t work out.

How does she ask him if he’s going to think less of her if she does do it? There isn’t a real way to win here, and she’s afraid that even having this conversation means she isn’t sure.

But she is sure, isn’t she? Savoy has asked her to kill others in the past and she’s done it without batting an eye. Why would this be any different?

Because part of her thinks it’s a test as to her true loyalties. As if she’d ever pick her sister over him. But she’d picked her father once, hadn’t she? That’s what it looks like to him. Only she hadn’t picked her father, she’d picked her sire, and that makes all the difference.

It’s going to get back to Savoy that she came to his warden. He’s going to think she’s weak. Unable to put her family behind her. Then what? He’s magnanimous for an elder, she’ll give him that, but he’s an elder all the same. If he weren’t her grandsire he wouldn’t give her the time of night, she’s sure.

Snake in the grass, Donovan had said, but isn’t Donovan the same? Another would-be prince using her to his own gain.

“I should talk to her,” she finally says, “one last time. Sister to sister. Like you said.” She pauses. Waits for him to say… something. Absolve her of this guilt, maybe, or offer to show her to the room, or offer to take it off her hands, or something.

Maybe she shouldn’t have come to him.

But she doesn’t know where she’s supposed to lay out Isabel. If there’s a spot for it. Or if it means just take her head off. Or… what. She hadn’t wanted to ask. Preston has a way of making it seem like she should know these things already. As if she’s killed another lick before.

Pete doesn’t see the way they look at her. Like she’s useless. Vapid. God, how good had it felt when they’d praised her for her work with the hunters? And now her stomach is all in knots again, worried it won’t work out, worried she’d been captured for nothing, worried one or both of the ghouls are going to die and it’ll be her fault, all her fault, and how can she say that to Pete? How can she tell him that she feels like she doesn’t belong, that every time he looks at her she thinks he’s judging her, that no matter how much time passes she’ll always hear her dad’s voice in her head calling her stupid, and her sire’s voice inside her head saying advantageous byproduct, and Roderick’s voice inside her head calling her a whore?

She knows what they think of her, with her Instagram feed and her salon. She’s not ignorant. There’s a reason she buries herself in her work.

But it hurts.

Maybe she should just cut out her heart like her sire did. Cut off the rest of her family. Refuse to feel. He doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that people talk a bunch of shit about him, though it’s never in his hearing.

She wants him, she realizes. Not Pete. Not Roderick. Not Savoy. Her sire. He won’t care that she has to kill her sister. He won’t judge her for it. He’ll probably tell her it’s the right move.


It doesn’t matter. Savoy asked her to do the thing. She’s going to do the thing.

She knows what she wants from Pete and it isn’t going to happen. Coming here was a waste of both their time.

GM: Pete fixes Celia back with a look.

“You know, I think you do what you do, most of the time, because someone else is saying you ought to do it.”

“Or you think that’s what they want you to do.”

“Would your mom have kept her toes if I hadn’t been there to browbeat you?”

“You don’t seem to be hurting too much for money these days. That sure would’ve been a shame if she’d lost them for absolutely nothing in the end.”

Celia: “I was going to get the money for it. I wouldn’t have just left her crippled.”

Not fair that he brings that up now. She’d been a newborn. She was still adjusting.

GM: “Go be who you are, Celia. I’m not going to stop you.”

“She’s ash anyway, after all.”

“It’s definitely not like making her old man rape her was.”

Celia: Celia rises to her feet. Her knees threaten to give way beneath her, and the knuckles where she grips the back of the chair she’d been perched on are white.

“Yes, Warden Lebeaux,” she says to the floor, “thank you.” Her body jerks in what might be an aborted curtsy before she sees herself out.

Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: Jade has to get Tantal to unlock the interrogation room’s door for her, but true to Pete’s words, her sister hasn’t gone anywhere. She’s exactly where the Toreador last left her.

Celia: She had thought of this moment for years. Roxanne—Isabel—helpless in front of her. All the nasty things that she would say. All the terrible, cruel, petty, mean things on her mind. How her sister was a disappointment. How she was a slut. How she would never be anything other than the failure that she is.

But now that it’s happened, now that Isabel is here in front of her, the words don’t come.

It’s over. This is Jade’s moment of victory. Her triumphant conquest over Celia’s long-hated sister. She reaches for those feelings, that chest-pounding, heart-thumping joy, satisfaction, relief.

There’s nothing.

Nothing inside of her.

She is empty.


Where there should have been the sweet taste of the win there is only ash in her mouth, lifeless and dull and as gray as the rest of the world around her.

Her heart is hollow. Her feet are leaden. Every step she takes is an eternity down a hallway that stretches and stretches in front of her, lengthening no matter how her feet eat up the ground.

Until she’s in front of Isabel and can see the damage that she has done to her sister. Here because of her.

She hadn’t been lying to Logan when she’d told him that she had written Isabel letters. They had always come during her darker periods, when she’d felt as if nothing would ever be bright again, when her eyes had threatened to leak and her jaw would not cease its trembling and no one in the entire world would have been able to take away the ache inside of her. They were written on her bleakest nights, empty promises that never once were kept, hatred and vitriol and filthy accusations. All of them fed to a candle that took her words away.

Except for one.

One of them she keeps close to her heart. One of them isn’t anger. One of them isn’t inferno personified, destroying everything that it touches.

Her nails lengthen. She touches the tip of her index finger to the flesh above her sternum, just next to her left breast, and draws it down. Her skin splits in its wake and she makes a noise that’s halfway between a hiss and a sigh. She peels back her own skin and fat and muscle to find the tiny piece of paper tucked inside.

She pulls it out. Seventy-something percent of the human body is made up of water, but Jade isn’t human. She’s Kindred. There is no water inside of her body, no spit, no tears. Everything she has is blood. It is blood that covers this tiny slip of paper, blood that smears the letters on the page. Like the blood that’s on her hands. For all that, it’s still legible, her slanted, flowery script written in dark ink.

She reads it to her sister.

Dear Isabel,

I remember when we were children we used to lie in our beds and make wishes on the glow-in-the-dark stars plastered to our ceiling. You wanted to be an astronaut, you said, or a zookeeper, or race dog sleds in Alaska. I wanted to be a teacher or a writer or a concert pianist, and we said we’d always stand by each other.

I remember when we used to play dress up, you’d let me put sparkly pink eye shadow on your face, and we’d take turns being the princess or the knight. We didn’t know then that Dad was the dragon we needed to defeat.

I remember when we first moved into the big house and you and I would sneak into each other’s beds at night and read those old books about mermaids and talking lions and witches who were good instead of evil. I remember the night I lost my makeup you smuggled me in a tinted lip balm. It was the only color I wore for years.

I remember when it changed.

I remember when we learned that monsters are real.

I remember the fear of growing up in that house, what it was like to walk on eggshells around Dad, how any moment we expected him to snap. I remember the boys crying, I remember Sophia crying, and I remember us crying when we were sure that no one else was looking.

Strong, they call us, to survive that kind of life. We were children. We didn’t need to be strong. We needed to be safe.

I have made countless mistakes these past years. I lit the flame beneath your feet rather than rescue you like I was supposed to. I let one incident of teenage emotions put a knife between us that will never come free.

I’d always thought that there would be time to mend it. That you and I could be sisters again. That I could apologize for all of my mistakes…

Celia looks up from her wet paper.

“But here you are, Zee. Here you are in front of me and there isn’t any time left.”

GM: Roxanne growls, at first, when she hears the door open. Lips pull back to reveal fangs. Perhaps it’s Peter Lebeaux come back to pump her for more info. Or Jade to spew more venom.

From the way her jaw falls open, though, her sister was probably the last person on earth she was expecting.

She’s silent as Celia reads her letter. Perhaps giving the Toreador time to finish. Perhaps incredulous over the words she’s hearing. Perhaps trying to think of a way out.

Celia: Celia is silent when she finishes. For long moments she waits for her sister to say something. Anything.

They’re just two girls from the same broken home, on opposite sides of a war that started long before they were ever born. Isabel hadn’t chosen this. Celia did, sort of, and in her choosing had damned her sister.

GM: Isabel finally starts to talk.

“Look. You hate me. I get it. I’ve had a long time to piece together what happened that night. You made him him rape me because you found out I tattled over Mom.”

“Dad was out of jail less than 24 hours after getting arrested. It didn’t even make the headlines. There was no way Mom was going to keep us. Just no way. And this was going to make him madder than he’d ever been. I was terrified of what he was going to do. To me. To David, Sophia, Logan. You.”

“So I told him where to find us. I’m not proud of that. I wanted to get away. But that wasn’t happening. It was either get on his good side or wait until he got us back anyway, and did God knows what.”

“I was the good girl. That was how I survived, okay? I didn’t have Mom. I didn’t have you. All I had was Dad. The others were too young. So I tried to make him happy. And every minute was like walking on eggshells. I couldn’t let the mask down. Ever.”

“But it didn’t work. He never looked at me the same way again, after that night. Even after Donovan edited his memories. He didn’t hit me, because that might hurt the baby. He kept me locked in my room 24 hours a day. He installed bars on the windows. There was a slot on the door, for Luana to slide in meals. I got to use the bathroom once a day under supervision, with her watching. Other than that, I had to piss and shit in a pot, and slide it out for her. If I didn’t use it right before she showed up, the whole room would smell like piss and shit, until Dad knocked down the wall between my bedroom and the bathroom, and sealed up its door.”

“He even got a treadmill so I could exercise. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life in that room. It was like being in a max security person. I never got to talk to anyone. I couldn’t use a computer. I couldn’t even look out the window. He kept the shades bolted to the wall, and had the bars installed over them, so the neighbors couldn’t see anything was weird. All I could do was sit in bed, re-read the same books over and over and over, talk to the baby in my tummy, and go crazy.”

“I went crazy. Sometimes I’d scream and tear things up or bang the walls. He’d tie me down to the bed and leave me there for 24 hours, without food, without the piss pot, until I could tell him I was calm again. And then he’d take away a book, or a stuffed animal, or some other object. And that was even worse than not getting to eat, because every time that room got emptier I’d go even crazier.”

“I tried to go on a hunger strike, once, and he force-fed me. Then he installed a sieve on the toilet, so I couldn’t try to dump meals in there. I guess Luana had to pick up the poop. He eventually got rid of that and just installed a lock on the bathroom door, and I could only use it twice a day, after my plate was empty. Luana would unlock it from the other side.”

“That lasted nine months. When my water broke, he let me out. He brought me to the hospital, and the doctors all thought I was crazy because I was laughing and babbling and running my hands over everything, because I’d finally gotten out of that room. I kept trying to get up from the bed, so the nurses tied me down, and when I wouldn’t shut up they stuck a gag in my mouth. So I had a gag and cuffs on the entire time I was in labor. I couldn’t even hold him, when he came out. They didn’t even let me see him. They just took him away. Then they gave me a bunch of drugs, and when I woke up I was back in my room again, tied down to the bed.”

“And I wanted to die.”

Isabel gives a broken laugh from the St. Andrew’s cross.

“Look. You want revenge on me, for what I did? Dad already got it for you. He already fucking got it for you.

Celia: Celia had never gone back for her. She’d gone back for Mom. For Emily. For Stephen. Christ, she’d gone back for Em. But not once for Isabel. Hadn’t even checked up on her. Oh, sure, she could lie, tell herself that it wasn’t safe to go back to find out what happened, that she was afraid of what Donovan might do. And maybe there’s some truth to that.

But deep down, she knows.

She knows she didn’t go back because she didn’t care. Because she was angry. Because she wanted Isabel to hurt as much as Celia was already hurting.

That’s the joke then, isn’t it, that they were both already hurting and trying so hard to stay strong and cling to their pride that they didn’t let the other one in after that night when Isabel had found out what sort of justice Maxen doles out to people who defy his rules. Spanked until bloody.

Some small, unseen part of her had thought about fixing Isabel’s toe, too. Had wondered if they’d doctored her memories. But, no, why would they have? Why would he have? She was nothing. Is nothing. She’s not the prize race horse. Just the… byproduct.

Nausea swells within her. It’s an alien feeling to the Beast. Purely human. It starts in her stomach, a clenching of jaw and gut, but nothing comes up. The Beast clings to its closely guarded resource like Celia had clung to every semblance of safety she could find when she was still alive.

“It wasn’t supposed to be you,” she says after a moment. Her voice doesn’t tremble or crack, but it’s soft. So soft. Like if she speaks too loudly her sister will crumble away with the wind from her breath.

“That night, it wasn’t supposed to be you. It was supposed to be me. Maxen hurting me. Raping me. Getting it on film to distribute. Then I saw what he had done to Mom, and I remembered your text, and I saw the way you offered to help him. And I wanted to burn the entire world down.”

She’d let the hatred fill her until she was nothing but a vengeful spirit doling out her own justice, Maxen-style. Take what they love.

GM: Her restrained and blindfolded sister is silent for another moment.

“It’s why he Embraced me,” Isabel says. “Good Christian girls don’t get pregnant by their dads.”

“It was the only way out of that room. So I said yes, I did it, yes, I’d seduced him.”

Celia: It takes her a moment to realize that the Embrace was meant to be a punishment. Isabel had always been more into the faith than Celia; even as a lick she’d apparently been… fanatical.

“How did he know about it? Your sire. If you were trapped in your room.”

GM: “He’s close to Donovan. It came up between them. When he was looking for a childe.”

“He wanted someone who deserved it and wasn’t attached to their kine life.”

Celia: “Why didn’t he take your memories?”

GM: “I don’t understand.”

Celia: “You said he changed Dad’s. Donovan. Why would he let you keep yours if he took Dad’s?”

GM: A broken laugh.

“Because I was never going to leave that room alive.”

“I think he fed on me while I was there. Why not, right?”

Celia: “Do you remember that birthday party when Dad’s dad interrupted? And later that night you and I snuck downstairs? You woke me up because the light was on.”

GM: “I… think so?”

Celia: “You were young. Six, maybe.” Does it matter? “I saw him for the first time that night. Shaking hands with Dad. Making a deal. Everything went to shit after that.”

GM: “That’s what we do. We’re damned.”

“Though you’re only half.”

Celia: “Sure. But I guess my question is… if you knew that he was behind all of this, why would you stay on that side?”

GM: “The same reason I stayed on Dad’s side. Safer not to cross them. Him. And at least they let me out of the room.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a moment.

“They told me you want to turn me.”

GM: “I was panicked. I was furious. I was hurting. I was saying anything.”

“Meadows killed Evan.”

Her voice breaks. “I never even had a boyfriend when I was alive. He was my only one.”

Celia: “I’m sorry. I… know what it’s like to lose someone. D’you know why…?”

GM: There’s another broken laugh. “Because she’s fucking insane and she kills licks for absolutely no reason. Who even knows what goes through her head.”

“And now my whole krewe’s dead. All dead.”

Celia: “If they let you out, what would you do?”

GM: “My friends are all dead. I don’t… don’t even know.”

“Maybe leave the city and start over.”

Celia: “You wouldn’t be able to come back. Ever. No contact with Dad or Logan or any of them. Is that what you want?”

Freedom. Complete freedom from her mortal and Kindred lives. A new beginning.

GM: “I haven’t spoken with any of them since I was turned. That’s the Eighth Canon of the Catechism.”

Celia: Celia nods, even though her sister cannot see.

Jade can get her out of the city. She knows people. Knows people here and other places. Get her into Texas, at least; Emerson does runs there all the time. From there Isabel will be on her own. She’s pretty sure Alana kept the purse of that co-ed she’d killed. Could change her face. Make up for being the one to ruin her life by giving her a new one.

“I’ll speak to Lord Savoy.” Celia takes a step toward the door. “I’m sorry, Zee, for what happened between us. For not being there for you. I wasn’t a good sister to you, but I can… I can do this much, at least.”

GM: “Lord Savoy won’t listen to a renfield. That’s just how it is. Talk to someone… someone lower down.”

“But, do that. Get me out of here, and we’ll be even.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t tell her the truth, even now. She just nods. Says okay, that she will, and closes the door behind her.

Long moments pass. Not nearly long enough for Celia to have made good on her promise before the door opens again. Footsteps across the threshold. The door closes. They don’t come any closer.

Silence for a moment. Then,

“Saw your sister crying in the hallway.” Jade’s voice.

“Seemed to think if she let you out of here you’d just leave and not bother any of us again.”

She steps forward, circling around to where Roxanne’s back is displayed. Her eyes move across Roxanne’s destroyed body. She reaches out, her hands warm against the Ventrue’s skin. She’s mindful of the open wounds, mindful of the scrapes and cuts and other hurts beside. There isn’t a lot of area for her to work on, not really, not with Roxanne as beat up as she is, not with her body vertical instead of horizontal. But what there is safe to use she touches. Her fingers splay across her back, pressing against her skin. It’s a soothing gesture, meant to calm, and maybe if Roxanne weren’t strapped to a cross about to die she’d enjoy it.

She’s always been good with her hands.

Letting go of Roxanne is a big risk. Even asking Savoy to let her go is a risk. So Jade needs to know the truth. The impression leaks out of her: trustworthy. It’s a subtle thing, combined with the touch, and even though Jade had previously belittled and goaded her, what’s not to trust? She’d been angry at the attack on her girl, that’s all, surely Roxanne understands anger; we’re all friends here. Why would she be touching her if they weren’t friends?

And it feels so good, too. So soothing, so soft. Deep enough to touch the muscles she’d hurt in her fight against Meadows. Deep enough to assuage some of that pain from being held on a cross for hours.

It takes some time. Long minutes of work. Jade’s consciousness projects forward, though she doesn’t enter the other lick’s mind. No, it isn’t her mind she’s reading; she’s not some telepath to break into people’s thoughts when reading their bodies will do just as well.

It’s an energy that passes between them. A feeling of relaxation that takes Roxanne from this room and puts her at ease. Jade can feel her hands working over Roxanne’s back, but her mind delves deeper. Into that waiting sea of energy. Into the spinning disks of light inside of her. She can see, even from this distance, that they are out of order; they spin lopsided or not at all, their flow halted by the world around her.

Jade can fix it.

She starts at the base. The root chakra, base of the spine. Muladhara. Like all things in their life, its color is red. Red for blood. Red for life. Red for survival. All hierarchies put survival at the very bottom. Food, air, water; those are all base needs. So it is that Roxanne’s body—all of their bodies—start with the need of survival. Without this falling into alignment the rest of them will suffer, too. And this one is just a lump of brown clay, a log of fire that has been charred beyond recognition.

Jade doesn’t touch it physically, but mentally she sends the signal that makes it start spinning again. Your needs are being met, she tells it, you are safe. Meadows cannot harm you here. Warmth flows from her hands to set the newly rounded sphere to spinning again.

She moves on. The lower abdomen, the sacral chakra. Svadhistana. Orange follows red, though this one too is nothing but a dying ember. It is the home of wanting. Sensuality, sexuality… but pleasure, too. Desire. On humans it’s simple things, but with Kindred it encompasses both man and Beast. Passions, dreams, cravings—it touches on them all.

Jade sends her energy spinning along it. The color starts to shift from burnt sepia to something brighter. But not full, not yet. Jade doesn’t know what her sister desires. That’s what she’s here to find out. Blood is the expected answer. It’s always blood. But beyond the blood there is more, and that’s what Jade searches for. She sends her name—her real name—spinning along those pathways. Celia. Family. Loyalty. Something to meditate on while Jade moves higher.

Higher, into the solar plexus. Manipura. Yellow. This is fire, truly, the resolve and determination to get what you want, to set your sight on something and go for it. Roxanne does not lack color here. This is no disk inside of her, no sodden lump of nothing; this one burns brightly. Jade does not need to meddle here.

Higher still, into the heart. Anahata. Green. Love and compassion. Healthy relationships. This is air, but Kindred do not need air to survive. This chakra does not spin. It is a bleak, black disk. Her heart is solidified calcium. There is nothing here.

Except… except maybe there could be. Jade was named for the color of a goddess’ eyes, and what do these goddesses do if not bring life back to dead things? She sends a pulse along it. Thump, it says, a half-hearted thing. Her mind rips through her options—her family, her dead lover—and settles on the God she professes to serve. Love comes in all forms. Jade lets her know. Damned, certainly, but a wolf sent to guard and thin the flock. Another pulse. Thump-thump.

It sets itself to spinning. Slow, sluggish, but movement all the same.

It is enough. She moves on.

Her energy and focus drift higher, from the heart flowing up into the throat. Vishuddha. Blue, but what a blackened blue this is, its color filled with oily slicks of the lies and deceits that are all around them. Jade presses deeper into that circle of light, letting it surround her, letting the blackness fade away until she finds the shining thing within. The sliver of truth that Roxanne—Isabel—wants to speak. Deep inside, where no one can see it, it’s spinning and shining. Jade wants to let it out. The snaking tendrils of falsehoods become brambles around the rose garden, and Jade blasts them away with a thought. There can be no release if you are wrapped within your lies.

Higher still, into the third eye. Ajna. Indigo. Inner thoughts, intuition. It’s a murkier place up here; man and Beast struggle for dominion. But Beasts belong in a cage, don’t they, when they are not serving their purpose. Jade makes it happen. The mental image of a lion inside a zoo—they’d been to this zoo, doesn’t her sister remember? It’s so familiar. The lion cannot hurt her behind its bars. Let the man free.

And finally the crown chakra. Sahasrara. Violet, but a dead and withered thing. Spiritual connection, peace, union, bliss… Jade can fix this one too. She burrows inside, connects their energy together, lets Isabel see and feel the light coming from her.

Outside their bodies, they are just two girls inside a room, one tied to a cross, the other rubbing her back.

Inside it is more. So much more.

It is from inside this place, where all has finally been righted, that Jade finally speaks to Celia’s sister.

“What did you hope to accomplish by going to see your sister in the Quarter?”

GM: Roxanne snarls at Jade’s initial touch, but the sound soon dies as the Toreador’s practiced hands work her magic.

She works her ways up along each chakra like a flute. Emily had thought it was a load of “alternative medicine not-even-pseudoscience mystic bullshit” when the topic of chakras came up between them. But Emily also isn’t a vampire, so her perspective on the world might be somewhat more limited.

Jade is, and hers isn’t. Strung up on a cross isn’t the same as laid out flat on the table, but it’s a change of pace, and in some ways even helps the Toreador spatially conceptualize the flow of energy from low to high. Vampires may be dead creatures, but they’re animated by energy, the same as object or entity that engages in sustained activity. Jade intimately knows that energy’s ebbs and flows.

More than knows. Directs. She can see almost see the shifting colors as glowing lights as the wounded Ventrue moans with equal parts pleasure and relief under Jade’s expert touch. It’s such a tempting message that the Toreador’s hands have to say. You are safe. You can let down the walls. You can just relax.

It’s her craft. Her calling. To make people just relax.

Star mode helps a lot, too.

When Roxanne speaks, her voice is tranquil, monotone, and far away, as though coming from the depths of a luxuriously soft bed.

“I wanted to Embrace her.”

“I needed to rebuild my krewe. I’d failed them. I’d shown Prince Vidal I was a failure.”

“I was angry at her, too, for what she did to me. Meadows made me feel so helpless. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to make someone else suffer.”

“She deserved to suffer for what she did to me. She destroyed Dad’s love for me. She crippled me. I still can’t walk right from that toe I’m missing.”

The words are spoken without anger or pain. They’re in that same calm and tranquil place Jade’s hands have taken her.

“She is a bad person who deserves to be damned. But she can still serve God’s will.”

“She would have gone to Hell when she died if I hadn’t Embraced her. She’d still go to Hell, if I had. But she could do something good.”

“And I was lonely. My krewe were all dead or traitors. They were my friends.”

“I could have a childe. She could have a sire. She could see everything she’d done wrong in her life, and make it right again in her Requiem, with my help. We could be a family again.”

“I could get revenge on her at the same time as I fixed everything between us. I’d have my cake and eat it too. I couldn’t not do it.”

The words all come in that same calm and peaceful monotone.

Celia: Jade’s hands continue to work over Roxanne’s back as she speaks. Now that the energy has been restored, now that everything is in balance, her focus is on the touch. The play of muscle beneath the skin, the soft and hard tissue that she finds underneath, the little nodules of pain that she can press on to take away.

She does it all while the Ventrue tells her of her plan to Embrace her sister. Sweet revenge, wouldn’t it be, to take Celia from her mortal life and make her pay for everything that she has done. Damn her to the same fate. And what a terrible fate that would be—the illicit childe of a nobody.

Only Celia is already dead. She’s already paid the price for betraying her family, the sheriff had seen to that. This is just another example, another thing she has to do to make up for all the bad she’s done: put her sister down.

She created the mess, now it’s time to clean it up.

Her next question takes a moment to form.

Jade doesn’t need to know what Roxanne’s plan is if she gets out. She isn’t getting out. There is no freedom for her. It had all just been another game, another web of lies. A chance for a sister to come clean before her death, but Roxanne had tried to manipulate her instead, to play on the human sympathy that no longer exists within Jade. Some small part of her wants to ask about Celia’s family, too. What Dad thinks happened that night. But it doesn’t really matter, does it?

She asks something different instead. A long shot, considering Roxanne’s status—or there lack of—in Kindred society.

“The prince,” she says, purposefully vague to encompass anything her sister might know, “his allies, their plans.”

GM: “He is as God,” Roxanne replies tranquilly.

‘The Lord lays his hand upon my heart and I know the last gift I am to give.
To my childe I entrust the keeping of the lance that had begun my enlightenment O those many nights ago.
I know that it is now his blessing and his burden, and I praise the Lord for these things.’

“He meant Prince Vidal. Only Prince Vidal. Prince Vidal has been touched by God.”

“He is not Ventrue. He is not Kindred. Not to us.”

‘You shall honor the Dark Prophet and give thanks for the perfection of his sinfulness and the miracle of his transformation. Say to the Lord: My God, all praise is due to you for the miracle of transformation that you bestowed upon the centurion. Blessed are we who know the truth of divinity in the world because of the blood of the Christ that gave the centurion sight and life! May we ever walk in his ways and follow his example, by your power and will. Amen.’

Celia: Yikes.

“And what does Prince Vidal have in store for those who would move against him?”

GM: “Annihilation.”

Celia: No shit, Roxy.

“Do you know of his plans to stymie these would-be usurpers?”

GM:‘Do not let yourself be lulled into complacency by faith in the Purpose and the teachings of the Dark Prophet. For serving the Purpose cannot be accomplished by mere mouthing of doctrines and groveling to one’s betters. No, God’s Purpose is a burden and a charge, and he who claims to exemplify Damnation without effort or proper works is not in communion with the faithful.’

“Prince Vidal is not Kindred to them or us. They cannot withstand him. For he is of the Blood of Longinus, not the Blood of Caine.”

“Do you understand?”

“The Second Generation walks among us in the Final Nights. He walks among us.”

“I do not fear for him. I fear only my own failure and inadequacy before him.”

Celia: Jade says nothing to this. She steps closer. One hand continues to massage Roxanne, kneading and stroking her muscles. She keeps her in that mental state, only half-aware of her surroundings. Kinder this way. Merciful. She can give Celia’s sister this much, at least.

The other hand snakes around Roxanne’s body, pressing between it and the cross. Her fingers don’t grow claws; they don’t need to, not when the tips of them serve just as well at getting inside the body.

She had never learned how to do the bone work. The archon had disappeared before their supposed lesson. She cannot simply move the bones that stand in her way, that encircle the organ she seeks like a protective pen. But she knows the body’s anatomy, knows the path that she needs to take. Maybe it will give Roxanne some solace that, in the end, she died like Jesus. Nailed to a cross. Blade cutting into his side. Only the blade is not a blade, just a hand, snaking its way up under the rib cage from beneath the sternum, diving past the dermis to the tissue, fat, and muscle within. There’s no thump-thump to give away the heart’s position within this body, but Jade doesn’t need it. She knows what she’s looking for. Deep inside the chest cavity, her fingers close around the dead organ that hasn’t worked in years.

She leans in to press a final kiss against Roxanne’s cheek.

“The Lord be with you,” she whispers.

She pulls the heart free.

GM: Jade’s nailed hand swims through the thick fibrous pericardium like butter. She feels the inert and lifeless heart around her palm. An unlife literally in her hands.

Then, just like that, she wrenches it out.

The heart rots and blackens before her eyes. A smell like rotten eggs fills the Toreador’s nostrils as Roxanne’s eyes bulge, then turn gray as the whites dry out. Her muscles stiffen against Jade’s arms. Nutrient-filled blisters appear over her pale skin, along with an unsightly dull sheen. The Ventrue’s skin sags over her body like a too-large coat as her mouth falls open. A blackening tongue lolls out. The seemingly days-old corpse limply sags in the cuffs of the St. Andrew’s cross as death catches up with Roxanne in an instant.

Finally getting her like the monster a younger sister once asked Celia to check under the bed for.

Celia: Jade fades away as soon as Roxanne is dead, leaving Celia staring at the remnants of Isabel’s life. Torn and bloody, from all the people who had stood against her, who had hurt her, who had abused her. Evidence of their mistreatment on her skin. Evidence of Isabel’s own misdeeds on her flesh: in the tongue blackened by her lies, in the heart rotten by her sin.

Only the sulfurous stench of decay remains, a mockery of what she might have been. What they might have been had their feet trod different paths.

Celia searches inside of herself again for the for the guilt or shame or grief… and finds it curiously absent.

Her heart is gone. If she were to reach into her own chest to find it she’d come out empty-handed. Ash; it’s been dead far longer than the rotten corpse in front of her. When she speaks, her voice is soft—a final act of reverence for the sister-who-was.


Celia III, Chapter VIII
Party at the Evergreen

“Make the game more fun. Isn’t that what we all want?”
Pietro Silvestri

Tuesday night, 8 March 2016, PM

Celia: It’s vanity, perhaps, that makes the Toreador pause on her way to the party. Pete’s words echo inside her mind—do something nice for your family—and she thinks of the younger brother that she had left at Tulane. A party, she’d promised him, a new job of sorts. But this isn’t the type of party he’d fare well at, and Jade is not yet willing to throw her brother to the wolves.

Mind on him, and remembering the photos that had been taken of her at Tulane, Jade opens the Instagram app on her phone to scroll through her feed. She double taps a few posts, leaves a comment on a few of the pictures she’d been tagged in from her admirers on campus, and finally navigates to her own page. Her most recent post stares up at her. Randy had been cooking something in the small apartment kitchen where Celia “lives,” and she’d taken the opportunity to snap a photo of the two of them with his creation in the background. No matter that she doesn’t eat; it sends the message she wants it to send, that she does eat, that she and Randy are a perfectly happy couple, that they do cute things together.

She makes a sound and reaches into the clutch purse Alana had foisted off on her, pulling free a tube of lipstick. The program she uses to upload photos is set for the rest of the month, but there’s no reason not to add another now while she has a moment. She wants to feel normal after her interaction with the hunters, Isabel, and that… dream.

Jade snaps a few photos with her phone, first of the tube of lipstick itself, then with her nails, then a glamour shot of it on her lips. She makes sure that the branded TF is easily seen.

New Tom Ford shade! she types in the caption. Wes! Perfectly centered between plum and scarlet; not really a Spring shade but we’ve got a few weeks to go before I have to bring out the pastels.

“Vampy” is the word that comes to mind when she views the shade, but she doesn’t use that on her page.

Swatches soon! She presses the post button after adding a smattering of hashtags.

GM: It’s not overlong before comments on her screen start to appear.

Omg super cute you lady are beautiful love the pics


Si nos costaba quitarnos lade nosotros imaginate esa AJAJAJAJA

Name of the song

Amazinggg :DDD

All that pretty makeup and she can’t even smile lol typical

Echas mucho produ


To whoever is reading this, I hope you have a wonderful day and remember you are loved :)

What? What is this? And the song? Lol everything is so what??

So pretty! :D

Randy always seemed a little out of his element when striking Instagram-worthy domestic pictures with his domitor. Alana loved the idea of more people being able to admire how beautiful Celia is, but was a little slow to learn how to ‘get with it’ herself. It’s one of the few areas where Jade can tell the seemingly 20-something ghoul is actually her mother’s age.

Celia: It’s hard to still be upset when almost a dozen comments roll in within moments. She clicks the heart next to the positive ones and ignores the negative comment about smiling—if only you knew what kind of day I had, she wants to say but doesn’t—then types out a few generic omg thanks ;) responses to the particularly complimentary.

She has no idea what song they’re talking about. People are weird.

She flips back to the photo of Randy. How fake is his smile here? Is he tired of their “life” together? It shouldn’t bother her, really, but it does. She’s going to need to up the ante with him soon. They’ve been “together” for six years now; it’s a wonder Diana hasn’t started asking about grandbabies already.

Really, though, the licks like her who don’t take advantage of the internet adoration are missing out. Nothing like a handful of new followers to boost her mood.

GM: Randy feels a little out of place in the domestic setting, but his smile is completely sincere. He loves his “babe” more than anything. Including his car, if he’s to be believed.

He probably is tired of not having had sex, though.

Or at least hungrily anticipating that promised night.

Hungry probably more so than tired.

Celia’s mom might not be asking about grandbabies, but only because they spent her last spa session talking about marriage. Diana might not have had her last kid within the bounds of wedlock, but it does at least remain a cherished ideal.

Celia: How, though, is she supposed to make it special for him if she’s spent the past six years denying him? Boy’s hand is probably about to revolt.

She should just have that stupid fake wedding she and her ex had talked about all those years ago.

No, no. Marrying a ghoul is just… pathetic. Her lip curls at the thought.

If there was ever a time to call him, now is it, chimes a traitorous little voice in her head. She shoves the thought aside and returns to her phone.

GM: Her comments have gotten a few likes in response. The pictures themselves have gotten a few more, including a comment from Emily’s Instagram username:

Always flawless!

Celia: She really is, isn’t she?

Pristine. Her complexion was the first thing she’d fixed when she’d learned how to manipulate the skin. She’d gotten rid of all the acne bumps and pustules that had plagued her since puberty. Smoothed out her face to reflect the glowing goddess within. Tapered her chin, taken off a small amount of lip, narrowed her nose. Her face is heart shaped rather than the oval she grew up with. Wider eyes, too. Brighter. Longer lashes.

No one looking at her now would ever think she was the same twelve-year-old with globbed-on concealer or homemade lemon juice and baking soda remedies. She hadn’t made radical changes, just turned her face into its ideal version. Gorgeous. Glowing. Glamorous.

Perfection incarnate. Flawless.

Tuesday night, 8 March 2016, PM

GM: “Look, stew over this and you’ll feel worse, since there’s squat you can do about him right now. Go do something nice for your family. You’ve got a mom, a grandma, and a gaggle of brothers and sisters.”

“You’ll feel better. With that many relatives I’m sure you can think of something.”

Maybe Celia could.

But right now it’s hard to think about anything except bacchanalia.

As Jade arrives downstairs in the Evergreen’s main lounge, she enters a world transformed. Everything that is red. Strategically placed LED lights shine from the ceiling, bathing her skin crimson. Gauzy red curtains divide the lounge area into sections. Red cushions are strewn about everywhere. Many of them are large enough to be more akin to mattresses, and stacked high into walls and corridors. The once-spacious lounge feels cramped and confined now, like it’s been turned into a maze built from pillows: a child’s dream fort. Roses and rose petals litter the floor. The scent of that same flour hangs heavy in the air along while a jazz band plays from the lounge’s main stage. All of the band members are comely. All of them are naked except for crisscrossing red leather straps that do more to emphasize their charms than conceal them.

Antoine Savoy reclines on a seat in front of the musicians with an easy grin. Mélissaire smiles by his side. Assorted Kindred are gathered about, including Veronica, Pietro, Harlequin, Shep Jennings, Reynaldo Gui, Arthur Duchamps, Laura Melton, Laura Ravenwood, Emerson Newhouse Hearst, Elias Tremaine, Corey and Zofia (of the High Rollers), Edith Flannagan, several other Kindred Jade doesn’t immediately recognize, and many more ghouls.

“…but you aren’t hear to listen to me talk. You’re here for a good time! Well, we’ll just see if my people can oblige,” the French Quarter lord grins.

“Mr. Gui, if you’ll kindly do the honors?”

“On your marks,” smirks the Ventrue.

“Get set…”

He raises his hands.



Suddenly, it hits Jade’s nose. Makes her fangs go sharp and stiff in her mouth. Blood. A panoply of mortals materialize, seemingly from thin air. All of them are dressed in the same revealing red leather garb as the musicians, with the addition of some strategically placed gauzy silk. Jade’s eyes are immediately drawn to the glistening red cuts along their arms and legs before a thick cloud of scarlet fog fills the air, obscuring the Toreador’s sight. Bare footsteps smack against floor as voices scream and cry.

Heavier footsteps immediately thump after then as excited snarls and growls fill the air. Bodies shove and jostle against Jade’s, making her Beast snarl dangerously.

The hunt is on.

And so is the party.

Celia: Red everywhere. Red roses, red lighting, red pillows, red curtains, red leather. Crimson, claret, carmine, scarlet, ruby, garnet. A dozen various ways to refer to the same sanguine hue. The color of life, isn’t it, for all that the ancient Egyptians thought that it was green. Red flows through the veins of all creatures. It’s what makes their hearts beat, what nourishes their muscles to make them contract and expand, what delivers the much-needed oxygen to the brain.

More than all of that, though, it’s what feeds the Beast. The snarling, snapping, yowling thing inside of each of then. You can do anything with Blood, someone had once told her.

Jade’s Beast comes howling to the surface when faced with such delicious, bountiful fare. Not hungry, though, just greedy; Jade gives it a mental pat and it settles down at her promise to sate its voracious hunger. She imagines it as a green-eyed tiger sitting on its haunches, tail flicking back and forth while it licks its chops and waits to feast.

So much red, and before the night is through there will be more yet. On her. In her.

First, though, she has to catch it.

The thick haze of smoke obscures her vision, but she does not need to see to hunt. The band’s music flutters through her veins as she moves, guided by the smell of blood, the sound of hysterical breathing, the pitter-patter of human feet against the floor.

Different sorts of predators hunt in different ways. Bears, she knows, are opportunistic: they’ll take whatever comes their way, the first thing that they come across. Felines are focused predators: they pick a target and they stalk it until they can take it down. So, too, does Jade operate; she picks her mark from among the scents of blood that hit her nose and stalks after the panicked footfalls that take it across the room, always just a step behind. She hisses and growls when it thinks to turn back into the fray. When it tries to duck away she reaches out to shove it back, listening to its shriek. Only when she smells the saline leaking from its eyes does she finally pounce.

GM: Jade’s Beast finds someone. She doesn’t know who. All she smells is their blood—and their fear. She tackles their struggling, sweating, all-but naked body onto a cushion before she’s rudely bulled aside. Another vampire sinks his fangs into the kine and drinks ravenously. His arms are bound behind his back with a black armbinder, and his muscular body is otherwise naked except for a dog collar and leash. He’s missing his cock and balls. There’s just a scabbed-over mass of scar tissue where it used to be.

The effectively armless vampire is a thoroughly messy drinker. He snaps his jaws several times over the screaming figure’s thick thighs and stomach (female, as she also lacks a cock) and spills blood all over his chin when he feeds. He doesn’t care. He gulps down blood by the mouthful, clearly trying to take as much as he can, as fast as he can, before his leash’s holder gives the tether a sharp yank.

“That’s all you get, bitch. Don’t you even think about your owner?”

Celia: But she does know who. That missing cock and balls can only belong on one lick; she and Veronica have discussed how she’d like Jade to smooth him over so he can’t grow it back anymore. Coco’s other childe.

The name of the Brujah primogen, even in her head, floods her with irritation. Both of her childer are incapable of not causing problems. Jade’s claws come out, thick talons that itch to rake down his back at the affront, but she resists the impulse. Her lips curl in amusement instead when he is rudely yanked away. Let Veronica keep his leftovers, then; there’s other prey to be found.

Jade slips away in pursuit of another vessel.

GM: Jade’s purported sire steps through the smoke. She’s dressed tonight in a black leather bra and thong that resemble a porcupine’s quills: the surface is almost totally covered in silver-colored metal spikes. Some gauzy strips of silk drift around her hips. Her thigh-high leather boots are dotted with spikes too around the shoe proper, and have single long silver spikes for the heels. They must be murder on any floor, but Jade doubts the other Toreador cares.

She falls on the struggling, yelling kine and drinks her fill.

They had discussed removing Micheal’s cock for good. Veronica had said the idea was “very tempting” for Jade to give him an actual vagina. One that he could wake up to every night and know this was eternity.

On the other hand, “It’d mean I can’t listen to him scream anymore when I rip it off.”

Celia: Far be it from her to deny her sire the screams she so desires. She had suggested, though, that Veronica could keep his cock and balls as a little souvenir if she wanted, and fuck him with it if he ever truly displeased her.

GM: Leaving the harpy and her bitch to their feast, Jade sprints off deeper into the scarlet maze. She can hear the sounds of thumping footsteps, hammering hearts, and alternately terrified screams and wantful moans amidst the feasting. The smell of blood hangs everywhere, an aphrodisiac driving her Beast on in its hunt. There’s a flash of skin, through the smoke. Dark skin. Jade tackles the warm body down onto a cushion, leans in to bite—and feels her fangs sink into cushion.

Mere feet away, Pietro drinks from a blissfully moaning dark-skinned vessel underneath him.

He always has preferred the taste of stolen things.

Celia: Claws sink into the cushion beneath her, shredding through it. The sound of ripping fabric does little to assuage her. Dark thoughts swirl through her mind, things she’d like to do to the thief for stealing from her. She reins it in. She could join him, she thinks, it isn’t like they haven’t shared before, then swiftly escalate from feeding to fucking. Smack him around for stealing and call it foreplay. Tempting.

She edges nearer.

GM: The vessel, another girl, gasps with ecstasy from underneath Pietro. His hands lithely knead and massage the tips of her nipples as he feeds from her neck.

Celia: She remembers those hands. The way he’d touched her like that before, that night they’d met in the bar. Chase and Cici on the kitchen counter. Again, later, in her mom’s temporary house when he and the green-eyed goddess had shared her. If it were possible for her to do so she’d salivate at the thought. As it is a shudder runs down the length of her spine. Her own nipples stiffen beneath the black dress. She kneels on the floor and sinks her fangs into the girl’s thigh.

It’s not like she’s here for the kine, anyway.

GM: Pervert, he’d probably say if he could see her nipples. They aren’t nearly so dead as his flaccid cock.

But he looks busy.

The girl’s blood is sour with fear and sweet with lust. Sweet and sour, like teriyaki. The sour is bold and strong: this fear is for her own life, that most primal of all fears. It must have been induced quickly. It’s a good sour and a classic flavor of fear, though Jade has heard from Kindred who prefer the taste of slow-building dread or even specific phobias. The blood’s sweetness, though also strong, is cheap, unsubtle, and rather too strong, like someone poured sugar all over teriyaki. The girl’s lust is entirely due to the kiss rather than any natural arousal she’s feeling. There’s a faint undertaste of a more subtle, better sweetness, though: there’s a reason Pietro is massaging her nipples. It’s the same reason he fucked Cici over the counter. Real lust always tastes better.

Celia: Easy to tear something down when you don’t understand it.

She almost feels sorry for them, the licks who had to give up the pleasure of sex because they died. Sure, sure, they can talk all they want about how it’s all about the blood now, but Jade knows the truth: they’re jealous. Their cocks and cunts don’t work, so they can’t begin to fathom the double ecstasy of blood and sex at the same time.

She drinks from the girl. She doesn’t take much. She’d never been one for Asian dishes, and the forced, syrupy sweetness of the blood reminds her too much of the hunter who’d fucked her earlier. Something burnt to the taste, too, but that’s what happens when you go black, isn’t it?

Jade takes her fill and slides away. She’ll throttle Pietro later. Right now she wants her own writhing, gasping mortal to play with.

GM: She sprints deeper into the maze, the red LED lights bathing her skin crimson. Raucous jazz plays in the background, egging her on even if the heady traces of blood in the air weren’t already doing so.

But unclaimed vessels appear at a premium. She spots Edith Flannagan on the cushions having her way with another moaning black girl (that makes 3/3 vessels thus far who were black girls). The Caitiff seems like a less thoughtful lover than Pietro, though, and isn’t bothering with any nipples. She’s simply buried her face in the girl’s neck and gotten to work.

Celia: Silly to only bring enough vessels for a few, isn’t it? It’s just here that they’re at a premium. Jade moves deeper into the maze. She knows what she would do if she were a mortal here; she’d find a quiet, out of the way place to hide and bunker down until it was over. Breathe slowly. Burrow under a pile of cushions. Nothing to do about the heartbeat or the blood, maybe, but someone might fall for it. She slows her steps, listening for the sound that will give them away.

GM: The heartbeats and fresh blood are the giveaways. The kine might think they’re safe, might think they can hide, but they’re not and they can’t. Jade hears the telltale thump-thumping and smells the coppery tang of blood wafting from just behind one of the ‘wall’ cushions.

The blood smells like blood.

But the thump-thumps sound like two sets.

Celia: Silly mortals, fabric will never be enough to keep the monsters from finding you. That whole ‘blanket over the head’ trick only works when you’re a child.

She’s intrigued, though, that she managed to find not one, but two hiding vessels. Everyone who had stolen from her or bullied her out of the way is missing out with their easy catch. So much better to come across them like this when they think they’re safe. She can already taste it.

Jade finds the gap in the “wall.” She slides through it to join them.

GM: She sees a man and a woman dressed in the same skimpy attire as the event’s other vessels. Both look in their 20s and, once again, are black. She can smell their fear off the sweat dripping down their backs. They are pressed flat to the building’s actual wall as they hide behind the mattress-like cushions. It’d be a good hiding spot, if not for the fact that any Kindred would find it laughably easy to smell or hear them.

They freeze like deer in headlights when they see Jade.

Celia: Jade flashes a smile.

Then she hits them with it: that thing that makes people adore her. The thing that oozes out of her in waves. Sensuality. Sexuality. Power. She’s so pretty, isn’t she? Wouldn’t they like to play with her? She extends a hand.

GM: The man slowly takes Jade’s hand with an awestruck expression.

“Please help us…” the woman whispers, her eyes wide.

Celia: “I will,” Jade tells the woman. She pulls herself close to the man who has taken her hand as the words leave her lips. She will help. She’ll help them feel good. Really good. So good it’ll leave them aching for more even as the blood drains from their body. She knows; she’s been there before.

She lets the man put his arms around her. She likes that. Likes it in a way the rest of her kind don’t. Her mouth presses against his bared chest, his neck. His pulse flutters beneath his skin, dances against her lips. So easy to just bite down and take what she wants. To just… sink her teeth in. But the taste of that other woman lingers on her tongue; sweet and sour, adrenaline and lust. She’s looking for something… better.

She turns in his arms, her shapely body brushing up against his. A little wiggle of hips, what’s not to like? Jade is pretty. Really pretty. Her dress is so suggestive, too, so short. It’s just a sex party, isn’t it? He can touch. He should touch. Doesn’t he want to touch? She’s so… alluring, so human. She’s even warm. Can’t he feel her heart?

Her eyes find the woman’s. She extends a hand, taking hold of her wrist, pulls her close. His arms around Jade. Jade’s arms around her. A little chain of affection hidden behind the cushions.

“It’ll be okay,” Jade whispers. One hand slides through her hair, the other tilts her chin back. Jade trails kisses from her temple to her cheek to her lips. “No one can see,” she murmurs against the woman’s mouth, “it’s safe back here. So clever, hiding like that.” She kisses the woman’s neck then has her spin, her back to Jade, one arm around her stomach. Her fingers travel lightly over her body, brushing against the sensitive skin beneath her breasts, trailing in ever-smaller circles around her nipples. She doesn’t touch them, not yet, just suggests that she might by the way her hands move.

“Just stay quiet,” she breathes into the shell of her ear, “it’s only us three back here.” Safe.

GM: Jade’s second wave of supernal charm washes over the still-anxious pair like an irresistible tide.

The effect is immediate. The man is more direct in his affections, like men so often are, and eagerly kneads Jade’s breasts from behind her. She spots the faintest surprise on his face when he feels the bare skin of her underboob, thanks to the dress’ risque cut (she supposes the kine man can’t appreciate it in the dark, even if she wasn’t facing away). It’s a pleasant surprise. His hands work around the dress, feeling for the fabric’s edges to pull aside. He pulls Jade away from the girl so he can suck her breasts, his tongue hungrily flecking over the stiffened nipples.

The woman whimpers with pleasure at Jade’s delicate, teasing touch. The Toreador can already smell how aroused she is. Irritation briefly flashes across her face as the man takes Jade’s magical fingers away, but the expression doesn’t last long before she gets to her knees and plants her face between Jade’s legs. Alana didn’t include any underwear with the dress. The woman slowly kisses and licks the skin around the Toreador’s crotch, mimicking Jade’s teasing touch as she draws steadily closer to the other woman’s clit.

Celia: Now this is the sort of treatment she came for. Not to be tossed aside and stolen from. This adoration, this worship… yes, Jade can get behind this. Or… well, between it, as it were.

Her nails lengthen, sharpen, and shred the dress. She’ll find another. She doesn’t want to be bothered by the material, doesn’t need it to get in the way. The black fabric flutters to the ground, landing in a heap beside the woman on her knees. Just as she likes it. Her head tilts back, nails disappearing back into her fingers so she can run the soft digits through the woman’s hair. She makes encouraging noises as the woman’s tongue finally finds the spot she wants.

GM: The woman’s kisses trace Jade’s pubic lips. Her tongue ducks in and out of the Toreador’s womanhood, sampling her juices, before her licks and kisses finally arrive at Jade’s little nub. She seems like she could pleasure the other woman’s sweetest spot for a while, but the man seems to get tired of sucking Jade’s breasts. He kneels behind her, his tongue flecking in and out her asshole to get it as wet as he can, before she abruptly feels his cock filling her rear hole. He wraps his arms around her chest, holding her tight as he humps her ass.

Celia: There’s no pain. Not like last time someone had tried this move on her, when she’d been bent over his lap so he could deliver nineteen (twenty-three) smacks to her ass before he had shoved himself roughly inside. No warning. No prep. No, her current partner is more considerate, using his tongue and saliva as a lubricant to ease his way inside so that when he begins to fuck her it brings the enjoyment, the pleasure, that it’s meant to.

Jade can’t help the noises that she makes. Low, primal, purring and hissing and growling by turn, nothing more than a cat in heat caught between these two creatures that give her everything she’s ever wanted. She comes apart in their arms. Undone. Shiver, shuddering, climax after climax that (if she were mortal) would leave her breathless and gasping and panting for more. But Jade isn’t mortal. She doesn’t need air. She just cries out, again and again, as they take her to the edge and over.

Only when the fourth—fifth?—rips through her does she lift the woman from between her legs, press a kiss against her lips to taste herself—and oh, what a mess she made down her chin and chest, her dark skin glistening under the red light with evidence of Jade’s pleasure. She pushes her back against the wall, converging on her with all the hunger of her kind, teasing her with hand and mouth to bring her toward her own release. The man moves with her, humping away, and Jade finally sinks her teeth into the dusky little minx.

GM: The woman’s blood is sweet. So sweet. It’s full of lust. There’s a faint artificial tinge to it, the kind star mode usually leaves, but it’s only faint. It’s leagues beyond the vessel Pietro fed on. The woman’s arousal is real. It’s the difference between sugar dumped over teriyaki and a fruit plucked at natural sweet ripeness. Jade can taste the lust. Drink it into herself. Even as the man continues to busy himself in her ass, she feels like she’s swallowing a second orgasm down her throat. It’s a peak that lasts for as long as she drinks. Why would she ever want to stop?

Celia: It’s always worth getting them in the mood.

Jade drinks. The woman writhes beneath her as soon as she begins to slurp at the red deluge that drips from her neck. Jade’s lips fasten around it, the taste sweet on her tongue. Intoxicating. How easy it would be to drain the life from this vessel, to take all of her delightful self into Jade’s body, to extract every last drop, to feed the Beast inside of her so that it is nothing but a sated, lazy thing curled in her chest.

But… no, she will not be the reason her grandsire has a mess to clean up. And besides, there are others who might enjoy the true taste of rapture that Jade has coaxed out of these two fine specimens. It does not take long for her to hit her limit. She licks the woman’s neck to close the bloody holes and nibbles at her ear. All the while the man is buried inside of her, thrusting, thrusting, thrusting—until she twists, leaving him humping the air with his erect cock, a look of confusion on his face at the sudden loss of Jade’s offered promise. Still aroused, still needy and wanting, Jade wraps her hand around his length to help keep him in the mood.

But only a moment. She does not let him finish. She slows her stroking, leaning up to press her lips against his ear.

“Come with me,” she murmurs, “come with me and let me show you off, let me show them how lovely you are, let me show them your magnificent form, your strength, your grace; come with me so I can give you the release you so crave, so I can return tenfold the joy you’ve brought me.”

She moves his arms so that they are around her once more. She even lets him rub against her as she turns to the woman, pulling her close as well, to whisper the same sort of encouragement in her ear.

GM: The woman moans and shudders as Jade withdraws. Her eyes take a moment to focus. More than a few moments.

“They’ll… they’ll kill us…” she whispers.

But it’s such a weak-sounding defense against Jade’s strong and seductive words. It isn’t like the poetry and prose that spills from her perfect lips. It’s just whining. It’s small.

It’s also belied by the color flushing the woman’s cheeks and the wetness between her legs.

Some flies try to resist the spider.

The man, though, just nods raptly, his breath coming short and fast as Jade strokes his cock.

“Yeah… sounds… good…”

Celia: Jade strokes a hand down the woman’s cheek. She leans in again, lips against her neck, nuzzling this woman with as much affection as she knows how to give. It’s more than enough for most people. Two fingers slip inside of her, coaxing her closer toward the promised release.

“They won’t,” Jade murmurs, “I’ll be right there with you.”

Flush with their blood, it’s almost easy to see her as human herself. She’s certainly warm enough, breathes just like them, has a pulse. Her hand slides free, fingers taking the woman’s wrist once more, giving her a gentle tug. She takes the man by the other hand and works her way toward the slit in the cushions she’d entered through to find a worthy recipient.

GM: The woman must be most people.

She moans softly under Jade’s fingers, then just nods her head and takes the Toreador’s hand.

Celia: Vessels in hand, Jade stalks from their hiding place. She keeps a tight grip on both of them, leading them through the maze of cushions, pillows, and… well, that feels like a dead body there, or at least an unconscious one. Jade guides them well away from it so they do not lose their nerve. Every few steps she pauses to press a kiss against one or the other, teases them with mouth or fingers to keep their libido aflame.

Thick fog still obscures the Evergreen, but Jade had not needed her eyes to find these two, and she does not rely on them now. She searches with her other senses, uses the Beast to track down those like her, listens for the sound of jazz to guide her back to the main room where she assumes most of the guests had halted after they’d found their easy prey.

GM: She finds Veronica in one of the ‘chambers’ by the main area ramming the spiked heel of her shoe up Micheal’s asshole. His arms flop around uselessly in the armbinder as he howls and thrashes, but Shep Jennings still pins him to the floor by his waist and neck. He doesn’t even get to lie on a cushion. The other two Kindred both laugh.

“Scream like a bitch and get treated like a bitch, is that so hard to grasp?” sneers the harpy.

She jerks her foot around. Blood trickles down the Brujah’s exposed crack as he screams into the floor.

Jade remembers how much Paul liked it when she bled from there. He wouldn’t even use lube when he did it up her butt.

“Whores like you exist to be used, Celia. Your comfort doesn’t matter,” he’d said.

He liked it when she screamed. When she cried.

Celia: The sight of it doesn’t make her sick—she doesn’t have that sort of gag reflex anymore. But she isn’t interested in lingering. It’s ultimately possible that Veronica and Shep will kill these mortals, and while she certainly isn’t opposed to that (it’s not like she knows them), she has no interest in handing them over to Veronica to be used like… like the Brujah. She can’t even think his name. He’s only ever called “bitch” anymore.

Jade shoves the memories of Paul from her mind. She isn’t his whore anymore. She was never his. It was someone else, the other girl. She won’t let the thought of him bring her to her knees. Or think about how he’d put her on her knees. Bent over. Taking it like—

She tugs the mortals along before they can catch a glimpse.

GM: “Oh my god, what’s that—someone’s screaming,” the woman pales as Jade pulls her away from the smoke-enshrouded scene.

Celia: Jade pulls her close, presses her lips against the woman’s throat, runs her hand in little circles across her wrist. Calm, soothing gestures.

“He broke the rules,” Jade tells her, “you’re okay, sweetheart.”

It’s why they’re moving away from the screaming.

GM: The woman’s eyes swim under Jade’s supernal mien. She looks like she might want to say something, then just nods along.

“Can we… can we help him?”

Celia: Better this way. Better she says nothing and just follow along. Jade tugs her closer, though; she doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea, doesn’t want someone to snatch her up. She’d said they wouldn’t kill her. She’d promised. Arm around her waist instead of her hand, fingers stroking her hips in long, slow gestures. It’s okay, those fingers tell her.

She pauses at the question.

GM: “C’mon, let’s go! So we can have… tenfold joy,” says the man, his tongue clumsily moving over Jade’s earlier words as his eyes shine.

Celia: Jade had wondered that same thing. If there is a way to help the Brujah. Distract his mistress with a new playtoy, maybe, but she doesn’t think that’s going to net her a positive outcome in the long run. She’s not interested in alienating Veronica or Shep when she’s frequently around both; the former as her “sire” and one of the harpies, the latter because she occasionally runs with his krewe.

“Not tonight,” Jade tells her, pulling her along. Pulling them both along, the eager and the uneager alike.

GM: And after all, Micheal’s own sire hasn’t lifted a finger to help him. Roderick had admitted he and his elder brother-in-blood were never that close. “He called me Coco’s pet a few times and we just never hit off. And it made me think of your relationship with your parents, actually, insofar blood can mean a lot… but it doesn’t always.”

“Like a lot of things, it’s what we make of it.”

Celia: Like her relationship with her own sire. Blood could mean something. It could mean everything.

And it does. To her.

Just not to him.

Not that she’d been able to share that with Roderick. She’d just nodded her head, made some vague comments about being close to Veronia and Pietro both (that’s blood too), and had let him change the subject.

She looks for another of her kind, whispering words of encouragement to the boy and the woman she has with her.

GM: Exiting the “pillow fort,” she finds an orgy unfolding in the center of the Evergreen. Kindred lovers alternately ravish or lounge about with their vessels over increasingly wet-looking cushions as the band plays on. Throaty moans, wantful cries, and the odd shriek of pain provide an accompanying soundtrack to the jazz. The LED lights bathe everything scarlet. The twin perfumes of roses and vitae hang heavy in the air. Crimson bacchanalia reigns.

Celia: It’s enough to make her fangs lengthen in her mouth again. She wants to dive into the pile of bodies in the middle of the room, to demand the attention she’s entitled to as the most stunning, most alluring, most beautiful Kindred in the city. She can simply start in a corner and fuck her way to the middle if she’s so inclined.

Her eyes dart toward the stage, where her grandsire sat with Mel at the beginning of the party. If she fails to find him she looks toward the writhing bodies instead, searching for one of her preferred partners.

GM: There’s Pietro, with his tongue between a moaning girl’s legs. Priming her for the real action. Reynaldo Gui, finally choosing pleasure over business, has another girl’s legs over his shoulders as he pleasures her with his fingers. He must not be willing to expend the precious blood to get his member hard. Harlequin isn’t unusual for the fact he remains fully clothed (the Kindred guests range across the spectrum in their states of undress), but even his mask is still on. Jade isn’t sure how he’s feeding, but the vessel he’s with, a comely young man, seems to be enjoying himself if the sounds he’s making are any indication. Many of the other regulars to Savoy’s court are present, locked in the throes of passion with mortal vessels or one another. The mass of bodies heaves and shudders with pleasure.

Celia: The hypocrisy is staggering.

Gui and Pietro both using tongue or fingers on their vessels to get them in the mood so that their blood is flavored the right way. It’s like adding salt or pepper to a dish; it’s a necessary part of feeding, and they (almost) all do it. Why, then, do they look down on her for enjoying the process? Why gripe and grouse about it if it’s simply a fact of (un)life now?

Christ. No wonder licks are so fucking miserable.

She’d been looking forward to smacking Pietro around. Has been fantasizing about Gui since their first flirtatious exchange. It’s been years of foreplay now and not once have they sealed the deal, despite what rumor claims. She can’t help but think of what she really wants. Who she really wants. It’s a poor host who leaves his own party, she muses. No sign of Preston, either (not that she expected her at an orgy), and Lebeaux is otherwise occupied. That last one is a real shame, too. She’s pretty sure she could show him a good time if he ever let his hair down.

No, the licks she wants to fuck aren’t here. Who does that leave? The masked harpy, Flannagan, The Rollers, that street magician, a handful of nobodies…

She could snag one of those unfamiliar faces maybe, make a new friend. Make a handful of new friends. She’s never minded being shared, has she?

But, there. A welcome sight. Adrieux and Melton on adjacent cushions.

Jade’s heels click against the floor as she strides toward them. It’s all she wears now, her dress long since shredded, and she keeps a hand on either human she has claimed as her own. She flops onto the pillows between the two licks and pulls both mortals down with her, the male to her side and the woman on her lap.

“My two favorite wolves, and me with an extra to share.”

GM: Roxy rolls over from her partner, a spent-looking black man with closed eyes whose breath comes in low gasps. The first of the two Gangrel is naked except for her panties. The pupils of her eyes don’t dilate so much as narrow, until they’re slit like an alligator’s, as she smiles at Jade’s man.

“Look at this one! He’s in the mood, I can smell it on him…” she murmurs, sniffing deeply of his hair.

The man just grins and squeezes her breasts, seemingly uncaring of the Gangrel’s eyes.

“Yeah, you bet I’m in the mood…”

Laura, a short blonde with wavy hair, giggles and runs a hand along the cheek of Jade’s woman. Her own partner is a caucasian woman who looks just as spent as Roxy’s.

“This one smells all shy…” She giggles and stares at the woman’s crotch. “But wet, too…”

Celia: Her eyes move to the boy, amusement at his antics curling up the corners of her lips. She wonders how many men have lost a hand for attempting the same thing with Roxy. Jade leans in to whisper to him, asking if he wants her friend to show him a good time. She nudges him toward the Gangrel.

“She’s very shy,” Jade confirms to Laura, attention drawn back to the squirming woman on her lap, “but so sweet, and so eager to please. Aren’t you, darling?” Jade nuzzles the back of the woman’s neck. Her lips pull back from her teeth, fangs exposed, and she trails them down the black flesh. A pair of tiny slits appear in the wake of those sharp points. Blood wells in the rivets of her flesh and Jade laps at it with her tongue. Her hands slide down her body, coaxing her thighs apart with a gentle touch. She makes a motion at Laura with her hand, a gesture for her to take her fill. She’s sharing, after all.

GM: The man hardly needs Jade’s encouragement to start pulling at Roxy’s underwear. The Gangrel, though, looks rather less interested in having a cock inside her than Jade. The man’s hand falls away as her fangs sink into his neck. He gasps and moans against his partner as she wraps her arms around him, grinding herself against his body. Someone seems to be enjoying the flavor Jade worked so hard to cultivate.

The woman perhaps starts to answer, but under the vampire’s kiss and teasing touch, all she replies with is a soft moan. Laura giggles again.

“Don’t worry, little thing, I’ll treat you nice…”

She slides her fingers up the woman’s pussy and bites down over her breast. To an onlooker, it might just look like she’s sucking the nipple, but Jade can smell the scent of flowing blood. The woman closes her eyes and gasps with pleasure, her other nipple immediately stiff.

Celia: Everyone looks less interested in having a cock inside of them than Jade.

They’re missing out, really, but she doesn’t blame them for it. Their skin and nerves are dead. They don’t get the same sort of pleasure from it that she does, the moisture pooling between their legs, the flutter in their stomach. She’s so much more alive than them that it hurts.

She’s happy to reap the rewards, though. The sweet flavor of the blood on her tongue from her vessels, none of that fake, corn syrup taste that comes from star mode or the Kiss itself.

She’s an artist. A pleasure artist. A beauty artist. So unappreciated by those who simply fail to understand. Like someone who eats instant ramen or hot pockets. Or someone who uses boxed broth rather than learning to make their own.

Not her problem, really.

She watches her two vessels feed the Gangrel. Her own nipples are hard from where the woman writhes on her lap beneath Laura’s kiss, and it isn’t long before the Toreador wants more than the blood of the mortal. She shifts the moaning girl aside and nuzzles her cheek against Laura’s, running a fang along the blonde’s shoulder in an almost-kiss.

She waits only seconds before her fangs penetrate the Gangrel’s skin, drawing the blood she seeks forth. She lets it cool before she laps it up from the surface of her skin, feeding on her while she feeds from the writhing, moaning mortal.

GM: The sensation there swiftly draws the other vampire’s attention. Laura breaks off from the girl to bite the skin above Jade’s breasts. She peppers the Toreador with one tear and puncture wound after another, giving the blood from each one time to cool. When she’s finished her initial handiwork, Jade’s chest is smeared red. The Gangrel happily falls on it, licking and sucking the surface clean like a bloody canvas.

She only gets too for so long, though, before Roxy yanks back her hair and throws her clanmate off. She buries her own face against Jade’s chest, nuzzling her nose against the wet skin as her tongue methodically laps up every bit of red.

Laura growls, fangs fully on display, and kicks Roxy hard in the ribs. The shorter-haired Gangrel hits a cushion as the blonde tries to get back to Jade’s tits. Roxy yanks her away by her leg. The two snarling Gangrel look about to fight.

Celia: It’s a fight that doesn’t need to happen, though. Jade is happy to be shared. Enjoys it, even, after her introduction to their society so long ago. Sharing is just another way of showing affection.

Jade’s lips pull past her own fangs, and she bites into her wrist. Offers it to Roxy, then falls upon the blonde, biting and licking and suckling at her chest. She yanks Roxy in after a moment, trails her fangs across her cheek in what passes for a kiss in their society, then sinks her fangs into the Gangrel’s shoulder. She drinks, lapping at the blood after it has a moment to cool, then shifts her attention to the blonde to do the same. The Toreador tops them both while they let her, alternating her attention between the two.

GM: At Jade’s benedictious offering, the quarreling Gangrel cease her feud. They fall on her, sucking her wrists, biting her arms, raking claws along her chest. In short order, Jade is tenderly running her hands through their hair as both outlanders bury their faces against her breasts. Their tongues lap at the blood cooling over each tit like tamed hounds.

The man tries to get back into the action a few times, but the Gangrel impatiently kick him away. He slakes his lusts on the woman instead, pumping and thrusting into her from beside Jade.

She tries to push him off and get closer to the three vampires, but he makes an annoyed sound and holds her down against the cushions as he fills her.

Celia: And tamed hounds they are. Nothing but little beasties that need someone like Jade to keep them in line. She’s happy to be their keeper, their benefactor, their master. At least for this moment of bliss, at least.

She writhes beneath them, just another lick caught up in the ecstasy of the kiss, happy to be fed upon by twin mouths at her breasts. She bites them each in turn, drinking her fill from the wolves at her teat, happy to be shared between the pair. They bite, lick, suck, snarl, and Jade gives as good as she gets. Their cushion is wet with blood by the time she and the wolves have slaked their lusts. Jade is content to stretch out on her back while they continue to nuzzle her breasts, though the moment is ruined when the mortals at her side catch her attention.

The woman said no.

She doesn’t want him, she wants Jade, or Laura, or Roxandra, and he isn’t listening.

It’s an ugly word she can’t help but think. Jade has been there before. Has been held down against her will, forcibly penetrated, taken, like she gets no say in the matter.

Jade only has to twist to yank the man off of her, snarling in his face to cow him.

The bitch is hers.

GM: Maybe it was Jade’s glamor earlier. Maybe he just really didn’t notice, amidst the red fog and hazy lighting. But with the vampire’s LED-painted face howling in his face, fangs fully distended, the man gives a yelp and starts to go limp in his cock.

“What the fuck…!”

Roxy sniffs deeply of his hair. “Oh, he’ll taste different… scare him a lot, or a little…?”

The woman scrambles away as Jade pulls the man off. Laura pushes her onto another cushion, pulls the struggling kine’s legs open, and busies her mouth between them.

“Relax, just relax, let me get you back in the mood…”

Celia: She waits only a moment to make sure that the woman is well in hand, spread open in front of Laura with the lick’s head buried between her thighs, before her attention returns to the man. Presumptuous, unworthy piece of trash.

“A lot,” she says to Roxy, “really get that dread-induced fear going.” She trails the tips of her nails down his chest, her lips curved up in a saccharine smile that does nothing to warm her eyes. Her fingers wrap around his swiftly softening cock, and she leans in to whisper in his ear.

“Put it where it isn’t invited again and I’ll remove it for you.”

GM: The man just stares at Jade’s mouth, then her hands.

He swiftly nods.

It’s harder to make out under the red lights, but his face seems to have distinctly less color.

Celia: She pats his cheek, then gives him a squeeze.

“There’s a good boy.”

She got what she came for, anyway.

Jade gives a little wave to Laura as she turns away—not that she sees it with her head buried in the woman’s snatch as it is—and slides close to Roxy to nuzzle her cheek. She tells the Gangrel she’ll see her later, to enjoy the boy, and melts into the crowd to find another playmate.

The cowboy, perhaps, or the thief. Maybe the host himself if he’s decided to rejoin his own party.

GM: She finds Pietro deeper in the maze of cushions. He’s abandoned his mortal toy for Reynaldo Gui. The two half-naked vampires are locked in one another’s sanguine embrace as they growl, kiss, and tear at one another’s blood-painted skin. There’s also a third set of seemingly extraneous pants on the ground next to them.

Celia: Or both.

Both is good.

Both is great, even. Jade sandwiched between Pietro and Reynaldo? She’ll take it. She’s already fantasizing about it. She stops to enjoy the sight. Some part of her wonders who the third set of pants belongs to, but the curiosity is driven from her at a growl and fresh spray of blood from one of her two marks. Jade stalks forward to join them.

GM: There isn’t much talking. Or, actually, any talking. They see she’s already naked. They pull her in. Pietro isn’t a new lover for Jade: she’s fucked him as a breather, as a renfield, and as a lick. She’s not sure how many more ways (or at least states of being) there are to have fucked him. But familiar doesn’t mean bad. She’s not sure she’s been with anyone as fast, besides her sire, and he wasn’t as inventive. The older Toreador’s tongue feels like it’s everywhere at once across her body, and so is he: licking blood from her nose, from her ears, from her underbreasts, from her thighs, from her asscrack, from her armpits: Pietro usually isn’t as interested in the neck or the wrist. “You can’t steal where they’re expecting you.” He bends and twists her like a pretzel to get at all the good places.

It’s hard not to miss his feather-light fingers. He could give her sex organs such pleasure with those. But he’s made the same “pervert” comments as Veronica.

Reynaldo, meanwhile, is a new lover. He feels direct and forceful, yet also vain and preening: the stylized image of a mobster. He 69s with Jade, inviting her to lap blood off his cock (even limp as that is) while he drinks from her inner thigh and Pietro drinks from her ass. When they’re done there, he sinks his fangs into her neck and laps the blood from there as he humps and grinds against her ass. He hoists one of her legs into the air, rips and bites the flesh along her ankle, and laps up the blood flowing down her knee like champagne running down the sides of a bottle. The taste of the Ventrue’s blood makes Jade think of wads of cash stacked in smoke-filled rooms, while scantily clad girls massage thick-muscled guys with tommy guns. It’s a similar flavor to Pietro’s: the enormous ego (though what Ventrue lacks one of those?), the preening vanity, the belief that money makes a man irresistible to women.

It’s a good thing she and Roderick aren’t an item anymore, to be letting this mobster fuck her.

Celia: This is what she came for. Not the gentle caresses of her ghouls, not the flesh ripping of Veronica, but this. Being used, manipulated, bent, twisted, fucked. Pervert, they call her, and she is. She gets off on it just as much as her Beast does, maybe even more so. Pietro won’t put his fingers where she wants them but nothing stops her from using either one of them to relieve the ache, and when it hits her she bites and drinks deeply from one and then the other.

Pietro is an old, familiar taste. The sort of thing she longs for after a hard night, that she can sink into and enjoy. He’s the only one who has kept her attention for the past seven years, the one she keeps returning to. But the Ventrue is new, exciting, fresh. Power, money, danger. She drinks it all down and goes back for more, taking a sick sort of pleasure in finally giving in to something that she considered taboo for so long. Giving herself to a Mafia man. It makes this threesome that much more enjoyable.

A thief, a mobster, and a whore.

It’s a perfect pairing.

GM: An unholy trinity.

Eventually, the trio lies spent and exhausted and painted in one another’s blood (what they haven’t licked off), the cushions wet and coppery-smelling beneath them.

“My name’s Reynaldo, by the way,” the Ventrue quips.

Pietro smirks.

His eyes roam over Jade’s form.

Celia: Jade makes sure that she winds up in the middle of their pile when all is said and done, a lick on either side. Her head rests lazily against Gui’s shoulder, though when she catches Pietro’s eye she lifts her brows.

GM: “I’m admiring the view. What else do you think?”

Celia: “All sorts of wicked things, darling.”

GM: “I don’t doubt you are,” Reynaldo smirks.

“Someone’s missing her clothes. I’m sure Alan would be happy to sell you something,” remarks Pietro.

“Alan’s always happy to sell things,” says Reynaldo.

“True,” replies Pietro.

Celia: “Why would I deny others the sight?”

GM: “All good things come to an end, lush, unless you were planning on showing the whole Quarter your charms,” says Reynaldo, running his hand along her sides.

“Though I suppose you might not stand out that much, next to some of the street people.”

Celia: “This is art, Reynaldo.” Jade entwines her fingers through his, turning to look back at him.

GM: “Oh, she’ll always stand out,” says Pietro, his stroking hands joining the Ventrue’s.

Celia: Jade smirks at the pair of them. She will always stand out. A cut above the rest, isn’t she?

Celia: She takes a moment to preen, to simply soak in the adoration of these two, nestles herself further against Gui while he and Pietro take their sweet time admiring her body.

“Whose pants did you steal, Pietro?” Her eyes flick toward the discarded clothing.

GM: The other Toreador laughs.

“I guess someone knows me.”

“Shep Jennings’.”

Celia: Jade forces a sigh. So much for running into a pantsless Savoy.

GM: “Jealous?” smirks Reynaldo.

“Hardly. Veronica’s the biggest slut I know. But anyone who wants to fuck my cousin should expect some of their things to go missing.”

Celia: “How,” she asks, “did you even get them off of him? Was it a smash and grab? Or were you in and out before he even noticed?”

GM: “Please. Any idiot with two hands can do a smash and grab.”

Celia: “You do turn thievery into an art form.”

“Easy to steal something when its owner is distracted playing master to the cockless wonder, though.” She touches a hand to Pietro’s cheek.

GM: Pietro laughs. “Veronica wants to give him a real vagina, soon. Thinks the novelty of just ripping off his cock is wearing off.”

Reynaldo gives a laugh too. “I’m still amused how fast Kelly’s rep sank. Like a stone.”

“I remember when I first showed up to this city. Everyone was saying what a badass Micheal Kelly was and not to fuck with him. I guess that’s what you call a paper tiger.”

Celia: “Mmm, your cousin had her heel halfway up his ass last I saw. Par for the course, isn’t it? He simply bends over and takes it.”

GM: “She and Savoy have mindfucked him so many times I’m not sure how much mind is even left in there to fuck.” Pietro.

“Bending over and taking it seems par for course, with him.” Reynaldo. “We all might’ve gone on believing he was a badass forever if the Boggs hadn’t burned down his bar. And stuck all their pricks up his ass, of course.”

Celia: “Salt in the wound, isn’t it. Doubt he was even worth the blood.”

GM: “I’m just wondering how he fooled everyone so long. Licks were saying he fought in World War II.”

“He disappeared for a while in the ’40s,” Pietro shrugs.

“You think he faked it?” muses Reynaldo.

“I think that’d have taken too much thinking for him to pull off,” smirks Pietro.

“He probably just got torpored and lied about where he’d been.”

Celia: “His broodmate told me he didn’t know how to spell his own name until a handful of years ago.”

GM: “I can believe that,” says Reynaldo. “Fewer people who knew how to read, when he was breathing. Especially potato eaters. Might have just never learned.”

“I’d be more surprised if he learned how after so long.” Pietro. “But he wouldn’t be alone there. I’m pretty sure Rocco and Meadows don’t know how to read.”

Celia: “You say that like it’s some sort of surprise,” Jade drawls, though her smile takes the sting from her words. She drums her fingers along where Reynaldo’s hand rests on her hip. “Personally I’m impressed by your restraint in moving against him.” She turns her head to regard the Ventrue, one brow lifting.

GM: “I don’t need to move against him, lush,” Reynaldo smirks. “He’ll self-destruct all on his own. You were there for that Elysium, weren’t you?”

Celia: “That means the timing is perfect, sweetheart.”

GM: “I’ve known hotheads like him. Only a matter of time before he does something even more stupid.”

“Could be he’ll win back Vidal’s favor,” Pietro muses. “Though I suppose it’s easier to spiral down than climb up.”

Celia: “Mmm,” Jade says. It’s less of a word than a sound. A musing. An invitation to set their sights higher and kick a man while he’s down.

Like the greedy, backstabbing, self-serving bastards that they all are.

The opportunity is ripe and all that.

GM: They don’t hesitate.

“You hang with Becky Lynne sometimes, don’t you? Are those stories true about the ‘neonate party’ he had?” smirks Reynaldo.

Celia: “Telling, isn’t it, that it’s all he could get.”

GM: “Or all he thought he could handle,” smirks Pietro.

Celia: “All he can handle, no thinking involved.”

GM: “Rarely is with him, if that Elysium’s any indication.” Pietro.

“Wonder if Marcel’s been muscling in on his casino.” Reynaldo.

“He’d probably rip the ‘prince’ a new one if he thought so.” Pietro. “He might be stupid as Kelly, but that one’s even crazier than his sire.”

“Stupid gets itself killed, sooner or later.” Reynaldo. “Crazy just means more collateral damage along the way.”

Celia: “We should really save them the hassle of infighting and just liberate it from him.”

GM: “You got a bone to pick with Rocco, beautiful?” Reynaldo asks, amused.

Celia: “Can’t a lick just want to do something nice for her favorite cowboy?”

GM: “I don’t think you’re a nice girl,” the Ventrue smirks.

“Or lick.”

Celia: “What can I say, Reynaldo, one bout with you and I’m ready to mend my wicked ways.”

GM: “That doesn’t add up. I’m not a nice guy either.”

The Ventrue chuckles.

“I’m not opposed to moving against Rocco, beautiful. He’s bleeding and we all smell the blood in the water. But what’s your interest?”

Celia: Jade takes the opportunity to spin over within the loose circle of his arms, propping her chin up on her hand. She uses the other to pull Pietro closer at her back, keeping the three of them together in an unbroken line of flesh with her at its center, then traces small circles down the Ventrue’s chest and stomach while she considers her words.

“I don’t have a vendetta against him, personally. But I want what he has.”

“And in the game of families, isn’t he your rival?” Her smile turns sharp. “That’s enough for me to want to be the knife in the dark.”

GM: “It’s nothing personal. Just a bigger slice of the pie for me if he no longer gets a piece.” The Ventrue smiles at her delicate touch. “So you want in on the casino business, huh?”

Celia: “I’ve always had a thing for Hold ’Em.”

GM: “You don’t need a casino for that.” He smirks and holds one of her breasts.

Celia: Jade flicks her tongue across her lips.

“No, but I want one. And you want one. And Pietro is interested because we’d be stealing it right out from under their noses, aren’t you, doll?”

GM: “Pietro is getting bored by all the talk about Rocco and casinos,” says the Toreador. “You steal things. People, sometimes. But any lick can ‘steal’ another’s domain.”

Celia: That must be why he’s done so much of it.

GM: “So steal a thing or a person that’ll steal the domain,” says Reynaldo.

“Like what?” Pietro.

“Rocco’s a hothead. Steal something to make him lose his shit again.” Reynaldo. “Do something stupid.”

“Like what?” repeats Pietro.

Celia: “That girl of his. The gloomy one.”

GM: “Bella.”

Celia: Jade waves a hand.

GM: “He’d go apeshit if he lost her,” smirks Reynaldo.

“Pretty old renfield, isn’t she?”

Celia: “That’s what I’ve heard.”

GM: “Yeah. Older than me.” Pietro.

Celia: “Didn’t she belong to Lord Savoy’s sire?”

GM: “Yep.”

“I heard she’s a casquette girl.” Reynaldo.

“That’s bullshit.” Pietro.

Celia: “Value in her, all the same. Plus, darling, think of the bragging rights. Steal her right out from under the outlaw. He thought she was safe. That he’d stolen her. Thinks himself a thief, doesn’t he.”

Jade twists to look at her older clanmate.

“Can’t let them think they’ve won, can we?”

GM: “Didn’t hear he stole her.” Reynaldo.

“He did. From Lord Savoy.” Pietro.

He considers Jade with an amused air.

“All right. I’ll make her go poof. But there’s something you can do for me.”

Celia: “You know I’m game.”

GM: “You ever hear of the Julia Street Panthère?”

Celia: “No.”

GM: “It’s an urban legend.”

Celia: “Enlighten me.”

GM: “A ghost along Julia Street. He has never been seen by any living man, but all the art curators laugh nervously at his name, for only a ghost could steal and replace their precious paintings with the subtlety and stealth that he does. There’s not a security system that can keep him out, nor or a guard that can hear his footfalls. Surely, he can only be a ghost, for no living man could be capable of such impossible burglaries.”

“He’s also me. I’m offended you haven’t heard of him.”

Celia: “I was about to say he sounds familiar.”

“Better, isn’t it, that the masses haven’t heard of you though? Leaves them that much more susceptible to your games.”

GM: “Oh, but they have heard of me.”

“Most of them think I’m just that. An urban legend. A ghost.”

“But there’s this one cop who believes with all his heart and soul that I’m real.”

“His friends laugh at him for it, but he doesn’t care. He’s got a giant hard-on for me that’ll only go away when the Panthère is behind bars.”

Celia: “And you want him… taken out? Disabused of his notion that you’re real?”

GM: Pietro laughs.

“My god, no!”

“He’s the most fun I’ve had in years.”

“I actually have to watch my step around him. Be a little more careful.”

Celia: “You do love a challenge.”

GM: “He stops things from being too easy.”

“And you can always say, ‘why not steal things from licks,’ but he’s a fresh challenge. A different challenge.”

“So if you’re both giving each other hard-ons, what do you want Jade here for?” asks Reynaldo.

“Well, he’s single,” says Pietro. “Every night when he goes to bed, there’s only one person in that bed.”

Celia: “You… want to reward him for a job well done?”

GM: “Hmm. Maybe I should,” the other Toreador muses.

“But no, I want you to fuck with him.”

Celia: “Break his heart?” She smiles at the thought.

GM: He laughs again. “Ah, it’s always a pleasure to work with a professional. Break his heart. Well, why not.”

“I want to add some more spice to our game. Maybe see how well he can still challenge me with a girl like you to distract him.”

Celia: “So you think,” Jade muses, “that he won’t be as on the ball if he’s getting his dick wet.”

GM: “If he is, I’ll be impressed. And maybe then I’d like you to reward him.”

Celia: “You’re making him choose between his long-hated foe and his new woman.”

GM: “Or just how well he can still focus with his dick buried between your thighs.”

Celia: “No one can focus with their dick buried between my thighs, darling. He won’t know which way is up.”

GM: Pietro smirks. “You could also ruin his life a little, if you think that’d be too hard. I don’t need to say there’s all sorts of ways a girl can do that.”

Celia: “Give me his name, Pietro, and he’ll be on his knees in no time.”

GM: “Vinny Cardona.”

“He’s a slim guy. Looks Italian. 30s.”

Celia: “Isn’t he part of a family?” Jade glances at Gui. The last name sounds familiar.

GM: “He is,” says Gui.

“But he’s a cop. Upright sort.”

Celia: As if there’s such a thing.

GM: “I don’t care what happens to him.”

Celia: She looks back to Pietro.


GM: “And you know, if you really don’t think he stands a chance, maybe don’t bring your A-game,” the older Toreador says thoughtfully.

Celia: “Your family?” Jade asks Gui.

GM: He shakes his head.

“Like I’ve said. He’s impressed me,” says Pietro.

Celia: “So distract him, but don’t ruin him.”

GM: “Ruin him if you want to. Just not irreparably. If he does well, he might have a future as my ghoul.”

Celia: Jade gives him a nod. She understands.

GM: “Test him. Challenge him. Make the game more fun.” He smirks. “Isn’t that what we all want?”

Celia: Jade twists again, back to Gui. She leans in, lips pulled back from her mouth to expose the fangs that she trails down Pietro’s cheek. She nips at his lips, then finally pulls back.

“It’ll be done as you say, Mister Thief.”

GM: “I knew I could count on you,” he purrs, his own fangs distending as he traces a feather-light finger across Jade’s back.

“Tell me when you’re finished with him. And Bella’s as good as gone.”

Celia: Jade smiles at the Toreador. A clash of fangs on skin seals the deal between the pair of them. Business and pleasure mix well, regardless of what Gui had once told her. Only when it’s over between the two of them does she turn to regard the mobster once more.

“Once she’s gone and our friend loses his shit, be ready to take the rest of it.”

GM: Gui’s fangs distend at the sight, but he doesn’t attempt to join in. Perhaps taking his own advice.

“So Pietro here steals Bella. Rocco goes crazy. But if you want a piece of the action with the casino, beautiful, what’ll you be doing?”

Celia: Jade doesn’t bare her fangs at him, though she thinks about it. Presumptuous fuck. She’s the reason Pietro is involved in the first place.

She touches a hand to his cheek, then trails it down his throat and back to his chest. She presses herself closer against the Ventrue, head on his chest with Pietro’s arm around her from behind.

She’s quiet for a moment while she considers the options.

“That depends,” she says finally, “on how hostile our takeover will be.”

“More importantly, Reynaldo… what will you be doing?”

“Because, as you’ve seen,” she flashes a smile at him, “I’m rather flexible.”

GM: “I bet you are,” he smirks. “What I do is get Agnello’s crew working for me, once he’s taken out. I can let them keep their old jobs, instead of you having to fight and kill them all. I know how to run Agnello’s crew. I know how to run his casino.”

“So what’ll you do?”

Celia: “That doesn’t quite answer the question of the takeover itself. To get his crew you need to take him out of the picture.” She eyes him, up and down, perfectly blatant about it.

She finally meets his gaze with an arched brow, though she does smile at him.

GM: The Ventrue shrugs. “Could take out a hit on him, but he’s old and tough. Easier if loses his shit in Elysium again. The prince can’t let him off the hook twice. Banished or ash makes no difference, so long as he’s out of the picture.”

Celia: “The first few weeks and months will be rough with the prince breathing down our necks, I imagine. Trying to get the territory back. Sheriff dispatched to take care of the interlopers…”

Jade lifts one shoulder in what might be a shrug.

“I can handle him.”

GM: Gui raises an eyebrow.

“You? The sheriff?”

Celia: “Haven’t you heard? My pussy is magic.”

GM: “Is your pussy hot enough to melt that block of ice?”

Celia: Jade shrugs again.

“Is it your neck on the block if not?”

“You seem to think you’ll just slide in and they’ll bow to you.”

GM: “Guess not. Whatever, then. Rocco out of the picture still a net gain for me.”

“As to that, if it were easy, anyone could do it.”

Celia: “That’s why I brought you in, silly.”

Jade rubs her face against his chest, nuzzles his neck. Makes him feel needed, wanted, desired.

GM: He strokes her hair.

“It sure is. So don’t worry about Rocco’s people. Once he’s out, I can take over Harrah’s fast. I guess it’ll be on you to see if we hold it.”

Celia: “I can hold the sheriff,” she reminds him. “If Meadows comes calling that’s another story. She doesn’t seem as interested in my feminine wiles.”

GM: “We’ll deal with that.”

Celia: “I want the Blackmatch.”

GM: “The capo?”

Celia: “Mhm.”

GM: “Why not, I guess. Blackmatch will be out of his old crew if you want him as your renfield.”

Celia: “Then I suppose we have a deal, don’t we.”

GM: “Few things last.”

Celia: Jade sighs at him.

“Shall I bite you, Reynaldo, to show you how serious I am?”

GM: “First, Rocco going apeshit. Like I said, easiest way to take him out is if he loses control again in Elysium. I can provoke him, but that’d feel like a surer thing with you and your sire lending a hand too. Also stop the prince from putting Rocco’s loss all on one lick’s shoulders.”

“Oh, she’d love to help there,” Pietro smirks.

Celia: “My sire has no lost love for him. I imagine she’ll play ball.”

GM: “I truthfully don’t give a shit about Harrah’s one way or another,” says Pietro, “but if you two want to take it over, you could do worse than to talk with Lord Savoy. I’m sure he’d be happy to help a couple licks extend his territory south.”

Celia: “Planned on it,” Jade says to Pietro. “I was hoping those were his pants you’d found and that he’s naked somewhere further in the maze.”

GM: “Oh, he most surely is.”

Celia: Jade sits up.

“Is he? Surely the two of you don’t mind if I bring this to him, then.”

GM: “Go ahead,” says Reynaldo.

Pietro smirks knowingly. “If you can find him.”

Celia: Jade rolls until she has straddled the Venture, taking his wrists in her hands to pin above his head. She applies very little pressure; he could break free if he wanted to with a thought.

“We’ll discuss further, sweetheart, but until then…” She lifts a wrist to her mouth and sinks her fangs into it, offering it to Gui. If he drinks, she does the same to him.

GM: “All right, lush.”

He takes a draught. Lets her take one from him.

Sealed in red.

“You’ve got yourself a deal.”

Wednesday night, 9 March 2016, AM

GM: After the party is over, Mélissaire tells Jade that her grandsire can see her in an hour. She’s free to spend that time as she wills before Savoy receives her at his usual spot at the rooftop garden. Preston is also there.

“It’s never anything less than a delight to see you, my dear, but tonight it’s no small relief as well!” he exclaims after kissing her hand. “Warden Lebeaux filled me in on events with those hunters.”

“The gall of those kine! I’d promise revenge, normally, but from what he tells me you’ve handily seen to that already.”

Celia: Jade doesn’t know where Alana found the dress. It isn’t the flouncy thing that she’d wanted to wear for Savoy, that she’d been planning for days since the original summons came. Nor is it the type of gown she’d wear to Elysium. This is entirely its own thing, a dark, slinky thing that frames her body and hugs her curves, that shows her long, lean legs with every step that she takes through the waist-high slits on the side. Cuffs around her wrist keep the open-topped sleeves in place. The opal sun ring is ever present on her finger.

As always, Jade dips into a curtsy when she greets her grandsire, batting her lashes at him as he presses a kiss upon her fingers. She smiles for him, then turns to offer Preston her acknowledgment as well.

“Madam Preston, good evening.” Her eyes flit back toward her grandsire. She does not adopt the more familiar pose of perched on his lap as she would were they alone; decorum, her respect for him, and various other warning bells trigger in her mind and keep her at a more formal distance. Would that the steward were not here, though; she’d have liked a moment to be more familiar with the Kindred sitting across from her.

“Please accept my sincerest apologies for missing our meeting last evening, Lord Savoy. Were it not for my untimely adventure I would not have been absent.” She takes the offered chair, inclining her head at his words. “Yes, grandsire, Warden Lebeaux and I have discussed our options regarding their meeting tomorrow.” She doesn’t take credit for cracking the phone and finding out about it. Nor does she presume to ask him for use of a ghoul; Lebeaux said he would handle it, and once this meeting is over she will see to the ghouls in question to twist their features into the proper shape.

GM: “Miss Kalani,” the Malkavian greets with a loo up from her tablet.

Savoy makes a dismissive motion. “The only people who need apologize for your absence last night are the hunters, my dear, and their corpses make better apologies than anything that might come from their lips. They have been growing troublesome, of late.”

Celia: “The warden has implied that I should expect more of that in the future.” She looks between them, the question clear despite her lack of vocal inflection. “The, ah, hunters suggested… something big is coming, though I daresay he has already told you of that as well.”

“I was, unfortunately, unable to obtain more information from the pair that took me, though if we manage to take one alive then I have no doubt they will sing.”

GM: “The Tremere would know that better than any of us,” Savoy smiles at Jade’s second statement. “Fortunately, more intelligence on local hunter activities might be about to fall into our laps. Warden Lebeaux tells me we have you to thank for that.”

Celia: Jade inclines her head in deference, as if to wave off her part in all of this, though she cannot help the satisfied smile that crosses her lips.

“Yes, Lord Savoy. I… am pleased that I was able to turn an unfortunate situation into this opportunity. I was able to crack one of the phones, and the other shouldn’t prove difficult once I find the proper resources.” A pause. There’s no harm in giving credit where credit is due. “Your Mélissaire proved a valuable asset after I neutralized the subjects, and mine helped gather part of the information on location.”

“He told me that he would speak to you about borrowing one of yours to send tomorrow. Has he had that opportunity? I will make myself available after this meeting to transform them appropriately.”

GM: “Excellent,” Savoy smiles. “You can go over the details of all that with him, and hand over the phones too. He can get into the second one while you work.”

“Sir, you had two orders of business to discuss with Miss Kalani,” says Preston.

“Ah yes, that’s right, Nat.” The French Quarter lord’s expression turns sober. “The first one was regarding your sister, Jade. I can’t imagine this has been at all easy for you. What course of action would you recommend, where she’s concerned?”

Celia: Send her to the hunters.

The thought is as immediate as it is snide, though Jade bites her tongue rather than blurt it out. Her jaw clenches, fingers digging into her thighs for just a moment.

“If I may be blunt, my lord?” She waits for his nod before continuing. “Warden Lebeaux mentioned rehabilitation. I wonder if that is even possible given her mental state. If we are loathe to cross the Traditions and bring wrath down upon us,” and here she smiles at Savoy, as if the prince can touch them within the Quarter, “then the only rehabilitation I see possible is to start her with a fresh canvas and a new face. It’s… possible, yes. But…”

Is she a terrible sister? A truly terrible sister?

“Her mind broke long before her Embrace. The fact that she still harbors so much hatred towards me makes me hesitant to release her.”

She meets his eye directly. Her thoughts spill outward, unrestrained. She’s long thought that he could simply look into her head to see her thoughts, though she has never so blatantly tested her theory.

She came after me. Without some degree of safety or anonymity I am loathe to allow her the possibility of doing so again. Following in the wake of the hunters I would not risk further complications until that is resolved.

GM: “It’s a dilemma indeed, my dear,” Savoy muses. “Like yourself, I’m not inclined to allow a neonate loyal to Vidal to simply wander back into his camp. His loss is our gain! But she is your sister, too. Better for everyone, if we could simply convert her to our side and way of thinking.”

“The Storyville Krewe are known for their fanatical loyalty to Vidal, sir, even were Miss Gerlette’s mental state less precarious,” states Preston. “Simplest just to execute her if we cannot utilize her.”

Celia: At least she hadn’t had to be the one to say it.

She should feel something. Guilt, maybe. Or shame. Or… loss. Loss for the sister she’d once held so dear. Loss for what could have been. But life—unlife—isn’t built on could have beens. It’s built on actions. And ever since Isabel took their father’s side in the war between parents, they’ve been on opposite sides.

Some part of her knows that her sister’s decision was survival. Maxen ruled with an iron fist. Better to be on his side and loyal than opposed and crushed, isn’t it?

She blinks back whatever emotion that might bring forth.

“She has a son,” she says finally, “whose father is my father, and hers. Should we seek to make a move against Maxen, we could use him. Prove that the allegations lobbied against him years ago were true.” Pete had told her to avoid anything to do with her father. But in this her hands will be clean. It was only her idea.

An idea that has, no doubt, already occurred to Lord Savoy.

“If you still wish to take him away from your childe,” she adds.

She’ll need to keep herself away from the sheriff until the deed is done, lest he draw the thought from her mind with his… affection.

So timely, that affection. Only when he needs something, or suspects something. Never just for her.

GM: “There is little reason Lord Savoy should not wish to deprive the prince’s bloc of a useful pawn. Whether that end result merits the effort and resources expended is another matter,” states Preston.

Celia: Jade chokes back the flush of shame at the steward’s words. Her fault that their first effort didn’t work. She doesn’t voice it; she’s sure that Savoy knows exactly how their plan came to light.

He’d have killed her if not. He plays games with her—the heights, the fall—but he’d have killed her if she hadn’t spilled. She knows it. It’s the only thing that kept her… animated, if not alive.

GM: “As it always does, Nat,” replies Savoy. “A child, though! That’s some evidence that’s rather hard to deny.”

“I can’t say that removing Maxen from his position is an immediate priority of mine, given the prior returns on our investment—such as it was. But the child could be a useful thing to hold in reserve.”

Celia: It’s an effort not to flinch. She nods instead.

GM: “What of yourself, my dear?” the French Quarter lord asks Celia. “What does Isabel mean to you, beyond simply her strategic value? Nat here has made her opinion plain, but I couldn’t bear to see any sadness cross a face as radiant as yours, if any sisterly bonds of affection yet remain.”

Celia: Celia is quiet for a long minute. Her thoughts turn inward, searching for the feelings that the idea of her sister’s death brings up. She thinks back to the memories they made as children: playing dress-up with mommy’s old clothes, homework help at the kitchen table, making wishes on the glow-in-the-dark stars fixated to their ceiling. They should have had a relationship to explore further. They should have been sisters in life and unlife, both cursed to an eternity of… this. Fast friends and allies; they could have leaned on each other when everyone else fed them poisoned lies.

But their relationship ended the night her sire had stolen into her house to take her father’s soul. He had taken everything from her: her dad, her sister, her life. And now her sister in truth, for without his actions Jade would not be where she is, and without his actions Celia would not have needed to rescue their mother, and Maxen would have never been a monster she’d needed to defeat, and Isabel… Isabel would not be Roxanne. They would be Celia and Isabel. The Flores girls.

Not this. Not these monsters that wear human faces.

She should feel something. Affection, even if it is a pale echo of what it means to be sisters. Grief, maybe, or rage, or… something. Something beyond the mental fog that plagues her now.

But there’s nothing, and that hurts her all the more. She is numb. Empty. Something is broken inside of her. Has been broken these long years.

Does he know, and that is why he puts the question to her?

“Warden Lebeaux has reminded me that there is a war going on,” Jade says finally, quietly. “It would be remiss to not push our advantage when it falls so neatly into our lap.”

There it is, finally. It starts in her stomach. Churning. Roiling. Snakes its way up her throat, where its fingers threaten to choke her on her own words.


She imagines her mother’s face at the news that her daughter is dead. No, not news; Diana will never know the truth. Celia will never tell her. Isabel will simply disappear. Her conversations will peter out into nothing. There will be no closure for her family.

Another knife in their gut. Thank you, Celia, for your service.

Do something nice for your family. His words echo inside her mind. They eat at her. She should have told him. Should have told him the thoughts that came to mind: the nicest thing she can do for them is to disappear.

GM: Savoy takes Celia’s hand in his and stares meaningfully into her eyes.

“You’re as steadfast and loyal a descendant as any Kindred could ask for, my dear. I’m just sorry Isabel wasn’t as good a sister to you as you’ve been a grandchilde to me,” he says softly.

“I’m sorry for what could have been between you and wasn’t.”

“I’m sorry for what she took away.”

Celia: She doesn’t clutch his hand. But she wraps her fingers around his and holds on for as long as he lets her while her heart breaks. Another piece of her soul neatly portioned off for the thing inside of her to consume. Another black mark.

Jade can’t tell him that Isabel didn’t do anything wrong. That it was her, Celia, who caused all the problems. I slapped her once and she ruined my life. They’d made their choices. Two girls trying to survive in a fucked-up world.

Jade is just better at it.

“Thank you,” she murmurs at last, “you have long been the balm to all of my wounds.”

GM: “If it would bring you pleasure, Miss Kalani, there is little reason you could not lay out Miss Gerlette to the sun yourself,” states Preston.

Celia: “Thank you, Madam Preston.” Her eyes find the steward’s face. Her voice stays soft, and she rubs her thumb along the back of Savoy’s hand in small, soothing strokes. The repetitive motion seems to bring her some measure of comfort.

“If that is the wish of yourself and Lord Savoy, then I will perform. Perhaps the act will bring about… closure.”

GM: “If you’d like to do the deed yourself, my dear, she’s all yours,” Savoy answers. “If you’d sooner not stain your hands, someone else will take care of it.”

Celia: “It is no small task to be asked to slay a sister,” Jade says to him, “no matter how frequently she and I quarreled, or how large the gap between us, there is history there. But these past years…” she shakes her head. “Since my Embrace I have endeavored to put the sentiments of the kine behind me. She is not my family.” Her eyes meet his. “You are. I will do this thing, and in doing so release the lot of them from where they hold harbor inside my chest.”

“And it… it means much to me,” she continues shyly, dropping her eyes to the table and then back to his face as if uncertain if she should speak the words, “that you would take my personal concerns into consideration in regards to her fate. Thank you, grandsire. Truly, I was blessed that you chose to retrieve me, and to receive your guidance and that of Madam Preston and Warden Lebeaux in these and other matters these past years.”

GM: The French Quarter lord smiles at Jade’s words, evidently pleased.

“I’ve often found good things to beget more of the same, my dear. It’s easy to be concerned for a grandchilde who’s been as loyal, clever, and faithful as you’ve been.” He chuckles to himself. “I haven’t had a peek at Nat’s notes, but I’d hazard they say Celia Flores has returned her investment a hundred times over!”

He lifts Jade’s chin to meet his eyes.

“Let’s bury the past, then, if that’s what you’d choose to do. Let’s bury it deep, so that it might haunt us no more. Fabien, some glasses of the good wine, if you’d be so kind!”

Jade didn’t see the ghoul. But the red-filled crystal glasses are suddenly right there on the table as Savoy lifts one into the air and clinks it against Jade’s.

“A toast—to the glorious future that awaits!”

Celia: Jade sincerely hopes that Preston’s notes do indeed say she has been worth her investment. A smile draws itself across her lips at Savoy’s praise, causing the corners of her eyes to crinkle genuine pleasure. She is happy that he is happy; happy to serve, happy to be useful. She’s flush with it, eyes alight, smile radiant.

Jade lifts her glass with him, echoing his toast to a glorious future, and drinks.

GM: The other two vampires drain their glasses.

Celia: Jade follows suit. The blood dances across her tongue, a sweet reminder of the power her grandsire commands. She sets her glass down upon the table once she has swallowed the sweet red, and the look that she levels upon the Lord of the French Quarter is no less predatory than the one she had given the kine at his party.

“There is another matter, grandsire, that I would bring before you.”

GM: He gestures grandly for Jade to proceed as he sets down his glass..

Celia: Jade smiles prettily for him.

“Harrah’s,” she says after she has cleared her mouth of the taste of the blood he provided for her. She mimics their movements, setting her empty glass on the table. She folds her hands on her lap.

“I seek to bring it under your rule by removing Agnello from the game. Silvestri, Gui, and I have come to an arrangement, though I would be remiss to try such a thing without consulting someone as knowledgeable as yourself, grandsire.” She dips her head.

She tells him, briefly, of their plans.

GM: He makes a sound of approval after Preston is finished asking questions.

“I’m very pleased with your initiative, my dear! I suppose this rather removes the need to take out Hound Agnello by another means,” the French Quarter lord chuckles. “If you three, or I suppose two, can take Harrah’s, I can tell the rest of my people that the domain’s borders are moving south. You’ll have to live with vagrants like Flannagan nearby, but they’ll be bodies between you and whoever Vidal sends to regain the territory. Perhaps I’ll talk with Mr. Gui about involving the rest of his krewe, too.”

“I wonder if we also might take this moment to lure Prince Guilbeau to our side. What do you think?”

Celia: “I’ve long thought that Mr. Guilbeau could be swayed to your side, grandsire, though I only hesitate due to the fact that I have not gotten to know him.” There’s a pause while Jade considers. “I could arrange a meeting, sir, and get a better read on him. There’s talk of throwing his name into the ring for prince once Prince Vidal enters torpor, but…” Jade trails off.

“Is he more interested in Baton Rouge or New Orleans? I could find out.”

“Should he desire to stay within the city, I imagine he will be clever enough to sense the shifting sands despite his clan’s ties to our current ruler.”

GM: “Oh, he wants his old city back. But I don’t see any realistic path to that happening.”

“Prince Meeks is too entrenched. Their covenant won’t pit one Invictus prince against another. While Mr. Guilbeau’s clan has bigger fish to fry in the city here.”

“He strikes me as a long shot for prince here, too. There’s not much he brings to the table that Regent McGinn and Primogen Poincare also don’t.”

Celia: Jade inclines her head. “I had only hoped to consider all the options. I believe, then, that we can sway him. He wants his own city back. Should we promise aid… well, does it matter how realistic it is versus the enticement of such a thing? We’ve all heard the story of what happened there. Who, I ask, is truly logical in the face of vengeance?”

“Thought I admit that you know his type better than I.”

GM: “They most certainly are. But you’re not in this just for a handsome ghoul, I imagine,” Savoy chuckles. “What sort of role do you want to play in the new management of Harrah’s, my dear?”

Celia: She’d wondered how Gui had bought that line.

“Are you familiar with Hold ‘Em, grandsire? When I was a child, still a breather, I had an uncle who taught me how to play. All sorts of games of chance, dice and coins and numbers, but that was what we kept coming back to. Cards. House always wins in gambling, you see, but in the poker room the players are in charge. You might get a bad beat and think your opponent lucked out on the flop, or caught the nuts on the river, but if you’re the one still throwing chips in it’s because you failed to read the board or your opponents properly.”

Jade leans forward in her chair.

“You’ve given me the time to study the opponents and the board, and I’ve slow rolled my way into the persona I’ve established.”

“As far as management…” Jade drums her fingers across the armrest of the metal chair. “People have this sort of idea of players, you know, about how tight-lipped they are while at the table. They say the same sort of thing about clients on my table. Truth is, when you’re naked and when you’re gambling, that’s when you’re the most honest.”

GM: “Hardly, Miss Kalani. Gambling is built on lying,” states Preston. “Lying to one’s fellow players and lying to oneself.”

Celia: “Certainly, Madam Preston. We lie about what’s in our hands. We lie when we throw the chips into the pot. We lie when we limp in with pocket aces. But the true nature of a man?” Jade cuts a look her way. “That’s what comes out.”

“My uncle, the gambling one, he used to travel all over the states to play. He told me that most of the stories he’d collected weren’t fit for my ears, but you’d be surprised what people talk about at the table. Employees don’t exist to the players; they’re just there to sling cards, run drinks, or rub the stiff muscles in their back and neck after they’ve been playing for hours. Mistresses. Bookies. Who was dealing what. Interesting little tidbits.”

GM: Savoy chuckles. “I believe I see where this is going. You’d like to provide spa services to the players?”

Celia: “‘A Touch of Luck.’”

GM: “And a very modest-seeming piece of the action to want in on. Very good, my dear! Always let the Ventrue think they’re holding the prize and leaving you the scraps.”

Celia: “You mentioned the exiled prince before. Were you looking for a way to bring him over with this particular piece?”

GM: “I do see an opportunity here,” the French Quarter lord smiles, drumming his fingers. “Something more tangible than just future aid he might think I could always never follow through on.”

“To ask him to betray his clan and prince in the present in return for aid that may take years or decades to realize in the future is an exceedingly poor bargain,” Preston concurs. “The Ventrue believe in nothing if not solidarity.”

“Oh, we both know Ventrue solidarity only goes so far, Nat,” winks Savoy. “Everyone has their price.”

“I’m not opposed to installing a Prince Guilbeau in Baton Rouge who’d owe his throne to me,” muses the Toreador. “But I do agree promises of future aid go down much more sweetly when there’s some present aid, too! ‘Half payment up front, half on completion’ is always my favorite way to do business.”

“We have considered him among our shortlist of potential regents for the CBD, sir. Even if assisting a praxis seizure in a foreign city looks to promise insufficient returns relative to the initial investment, domain over the CBD will put him in a better position to orchestrate his own eventual return to power.”

“Yes, that is a nicely more tangible thing to potentially offer him, Nat. But it’s not quite immediate, either. I’d like to offer him something more immediate in Harrah’s. How much is it worth, next to the Alystra?”

“The Alystra is valued at approximately $150 million, sir. Harrah’s $790 million.”

Savoy smiles at Jade. “A related lesson for you, my dear. It’s a common myth that we ‘control’ institutions. Harrah’s, for instance, is owned by a corporation headquartered in Las Vegas worth… how much, Nat?”

“$25 billion, sir. Harrah’s is one of many properties to its name. The age of the individually or family-owned Vegas casino is long over.”

“Too true,” Savoy chuckles. “Ownership of Harrah’s has gone back and forth over the years between various companies and parent companies and private equity funds with headquarters all over the country. I doubt that Agnello has any stake in them.”

“Or that a half-literate Mafia thug is even capable of understanding the movements of corporate capital on that level,” states Preston.

Celia: Jade quite likes Preston when her barbs are directed at other people.

GM: “Perhaps so,” Savoy chuckles. “Rather than truly ‘controlling’ Harrah’s, I suspect Rocco simply skims the cream off the milk. Is that how it is, Nat?”

“Even less so, sir. As best our sources have been able to gather, Agnello has no ghouls among the staff at Harrah’s, nor any personal financial stake in the casino. Vidal simply recognizes the domain as his, and Agnello has the freedom to do as he wishes there. The Mafia has a crew with an interest in the casino that, as you say, ‘skims off the top.’ It is from those mobsters that Hound Agnello skims off the top himself.”

“Mr. Guilbeau owns the Alystra through a fabricated mortal identity and is intimately involved in its daily affairs. Agnello, however, is uninvolved in Harrah’s actual management, beyond supporting the Mafia crew which skims off its profits. He simply feeds there. If he were to disappear tomorrow, the casino would carry on without him.”

Celia: “A firmer, more tangible hold on Harrah’s, then?”

GM: “To an extent, my dear,” says Savoy. “Unless the good prince has a spare $790 million lying around, he can’t own the casino in full. It’s simply too big. As Nat says, it’s corporations rather than people which own major casinos these days.”

“But that’s a good thing for us. Harrah’s is a very big pie.”

“Mr. Gui would like to take over the Mafia crew skimming from its profits. So much the better for us! I’m sure he can run a Mafia crew better than you or I could, and there’s all sorts of useful things a gang of toughs happy to commit illegal acts can do for a casino’s ‘owners.’”

“But there’s simply no way Mr. Gui can run the entire casino by himself, either. I’m certain he grasps this. He hasn’t attacked anyone in Elysium lately, so he seems more aware of his own limits than Hound Agnello does.”

Celia: “He seemed more interested in the taking than the holding when I spoke to him earlier this evening,” Jade agrees. “He does have a krewe… the High Rollers, isn’t it? Runs a den in the Quarter. I imagine if Mr. Gui is in we can bring them in as well, but as you say, big pie to share. Even split a handful of ways it’s still a large slice for our soon-to-be friend.”

GM: Savoy smiles widely.

“Exactly, my dear. A very large pie.”

“Rather than ask Mr. Guilbeau anything so drastic as ‘support Lord Savoy against your prince,’ we simply offer to remove Hound Agnello—clearing the way for him to petition Prince Vidal to take over Harrah’s. He’s perfectly suited to manage another casino, after all. In return for our help, Mr. Guilbeau cuts you and the High Rollers in on the action. It’s a more than large enough pie for everyone.”

“And… if they keep their presences in the casino circumspect, with the whole domain nominally belonging to Mr. Guilbeau, Vidal will have no cause to dispatch your sire to violently expel you and the Rollers. We instead establish a beachhead inside the CBD, unknown to the prince, ready to use when and if the city’s temperature turns… warmer.”

Celia: Jade smiles. “It’s a very neatly tied bow, sir.” She had planned on a different front to present to keep her sire from lopping heads, but that would have had too many moving parts, too many unknowns. She wonders, not for the first time, if Savoy’s chosen medium is the adroit art of scheming.

“There’s one more opportunity that this presents.”

“I can’t imagine that Agnello will keep his position as hound once all is said and done.”

GM: The French Quarter lord smiles back. “Annabelle is like a sister to him. A broodmate. I can’t think of a surer way to arouse his ire.”

“They were both ghouls to my sire at the same time, you know.”

Celia: Jade dips her head. “I had hoped to return her to her rightful place, should you want her.”

GM: “How would you return her, Miss Kalani, when Mr. Silvestri will be the one to ‘steal’ her?” Preston inquires critically.

Celia: “Mister Silvestri lives for the chase, Madam Preston. He is much like his cousin in that regard, and we see how she flits through partners. Put something bigger, better, shinier in front of him.” Disparaging words, but her voice is fond. She does so enjoy the thief.

GM: “Which causes you to believe he will simply give up a century-old ghoul for free,” the Malkavian states flatly.

Savoy chuckles. “Ladies, ladies. You pursue different roads to the same destination! I’ll richly reward any Kindred who returns my sire’s property to me—be that Mr. Silvestri or our own Miss Kalani.”

Celia: Savoy cuts her off before she can tell Preston that of course she doesn’t think Pietro will give up the ghoul for free. She’s not an idiot, despite what the Malkavian may think in that addled brain of hers.

She offers Preston a smile instead, inclining her head at her grandsire’s words.

“As he says, Madam Preston. I do value your pragmatism, I just also believe there is a way to ensure she winds up with Lord Savoy.”

GM: “So much the better for us all! Annabelle would make a lovely fixture here in the Evergreen, don’t you think?”

Celia: She’s not even being sarcastic.

GM: “Lovely indeed, sir,” Preston repeats dryly.

“I think she and Mélissaire would get along famously,” the French Quarter lord smiles.

“Oh, and two other things, my dear,” he says to Jade. “If we want to cut the rest of the Rollers in on Harrah’s, you and Mr. Gui might ask for their assistance in… any other components to this plot, really, where you think they might be useful. It’s only fair they should do some work if they want to share in the reward!”

Celia: “Of course, sir.”

GM: “If you want an additional in with Mr. Guilbeau, you also might try approaching his newest lover first. Josua Cambridge. By all accounts, he’s an extremely lustful creature.” The elder Toreador chuckles. “And one worth lusting after, himself!”

Celia: She’s heard of him. Almost as many notches in his belt as Veronica claims.

GM: “It’s really too bad Mr. Guilbeau got to him first. His temperament is well-suited to the Quarter.”

“But maybe not too bad, if he’s able to be of use here.”

Celia: “Is Mr. Guilbeau the possessive sort, or do you think the usual in would work?”

GM: “Mr. Guilbeau cycles through lovers like Mardi Gras krewes through plastic beads. I think he might be aroused to hear his latest plaything was intimate with someone else.”

Celia: And they call her a whore.

“Speaking of intimacy…” Jade drums her fingers against her thigh.

“There was a guest at your party that isn’t who they claim to be.”

GM: “If that never happened in the Quarter, it wouldn’t be the Quarter,” Savoy grins. “And which ostensible guest was this?”

Celia: Jade answers his grin with one of her own. He’s right, of course, but she wouldn’t be bringing it up if it were something as innocent as that.

“Miss Melton. The Gangrel.”

GM: “Ah, that lovely blonde thing! I suppose rumors of her death haven’t been exaggerated after all, have they, Nat?”

“It is still possible they have been, sir, although the presence of an impostor makes her continued survival less probable.”

“I suppose it does. Ah, well. If you see any more of ‘Melton’ around, you can assume the new one is operating with my sanction,” replies Savoy.

Celia: She hadn’t expected such clarity from him. She nods, eyes dipping to the roof below her feet before she looks up again.

“Yes, grandsire.” There’s a pause, then, “If she’s shadow dancing and needs a more permanent solution, I’d be happy to assist.”

GM: “I’ll be sure to let her know. But I suppose we’ll need to bring her up for a talk, first, to see if she wants to work for me! This Saturday should be a good time, if she’s back at the Evergreen. Would you enjoy helping to lure her somewhere private?”

Celia: “I always enjoy being pursued.”

GM: “Splendid,” the French Quarter lord beams. He pats his lap for Jade to come take a seat and runs an appreciative hand through her hair.

“I’m very pleased with you tonight, my dear. I can hardly wait to see what the coming nights have in store.”

Celia: Lord Savoy certainly knows the way to her heart, dead though it may be. She takes the offered seat upon his lap without hesitation, her smile positively radiant; she could outshine the moon this evening, she’s sure. Her eyes shine with adoration for the Lord of the French Quarter. With Preston sitting at the table Jade doesn’t let herself become overly familiar with him, doesn’t try to continue that speaking of intimacy comment she’d made earlier by taking it in his direction, but she does curl herself against him, nuzzles his chest and neck and cheek with her own. Wordless affection and gratitude and joy. She’s happy to help.

This is her favorite place in the world: on the lap of a powerful man.

Celia III, Chater VII
Roxanne's Rock Bottom

“Easier for things to turn to shit than to turn around.”
Peter Lebeaux

Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016

GM: Jade wakes up. She’s in a comfortable silk-sheeted bed. Alana is curled up next to her, wearing nothing except for a leather harness and collar, the one from earlier. Its leash is wrapped in Jade’s hand.

“Good evening, mistress,” the ghoul purrs, planting a soft kiss on her lips.

Support: Randy’s there, too. He’s more fully clothed, but seems equally excited to see her. “Nice to see you, babe.”

Celia: Jade’s only response is to roll onto her side, her hands moving immediately to pin Alana’s wrists to the bed above her head. Her thighs part, knees on either side of the girl’s hips, and her lips press down against Alana’s.

There’s a pause when she hears Randy’s voice. She lifts her head to look at him. Her gaze is… intense.

“Both of my pets in one bed,” she muses. “What’s a mistress to do.”

There are pressing needs, she knows. Things she should be doing. Information she should be looking into.

But this is a wonderful way to wake.

Support: “Well, I could think of a few things,” Randy says. “Like, ah.” He fidgets on his one good asscheek.

GM: Alana moans wantfully and struggles a bit under Jade’s grasp, but not enough to break free. Helpless. The Toreador can already see how wet her underwear-less ghoul is.

Celia: Needy, needy, needy.

Jade’s mouth opens, fangs out. She sinks them into the girl beneath her, sucking and nipping at her while she draws the blood forth. Her hands travel down her body, squeezing, pinching, stroking. Her fingers slip inside of the girl, curling upward. When she draws them out they’re slick.

She doesn’t take much from Alana. Enough to do the work she needs to do with her. She licks the holes closed when she’s done. She ties the leash to the headboard, keeping Alana still, while she turns to face Randy.

“What happened after I fell asleep?”

Her fingers slide back inside Alana. She keeps her eyes on Randy, though. Makes him watch while she fingerfucks the prone girl.

GM: Alana makes happy noises as her cheeks flush. Loud and wantful. She squirms and tugs against the leash, smiling widely as the collar chokes her and its bell goes ding-a-ling-a-ling.

Her motions definitely seem more sluggish than normal, though, and her ‘happy noises’ have an almost slurred quality to them. Her mistress was very hungry.

Celia: Her attention drifts back to the girl after a moment. She focuses on what she’s doing, on bringing the girl the release she so desperately wants. She recognizes that sign: she took too much. The ghoul will be out of it for most of the night.

GM: Of course, she could always feed her toy again. Alana loves that probably just as much as the sex.

Celia: Why not both? She pierces her own tongue and presses her mouth once more against the girl.

GM: Alana meets Jade’s kiss hungrily, lapping up every last red drop. The rush of blood gives her all-too evident vigor as she throatily gasps and moans, straining against the leash so that her tongue may explore her domitor’s mouth.

Celia: Her world narrows to the girl beneath her. The sounds, the taste, the feel. She gives until Alana is flushed once more, until the color returns to her cheeks and the bell is not the only thing chiming. When she pulls her mouth away to nuzzle at the girl’s neck she settles heavily against her, rolling to the side to pull her into her arms. She pats the spot at her back, an invitation for Randy to join their pile.

“Tell me what happened yesterday,” she says again.

GM: Alana snuggles up at her mistress’ side, planting gentle nips along the Toreador’s neck while continuing to finger herself. Randy eagerly piles on, spooning against Jade with an all-too tactile bulge in his crotch as he delivers his report.

Savoy’s people showed up, Mélissaire among them. They’ve brought Jade back to the Evergreen.

They’ve brought the hunters’ bodies back with them, which are currently on ice. Alana asked that they be turned over to Jade, and the other ghouls were happy to outsource body disposal to someone else.

Celia: She asks if they were able to find anything useful in the house or the belongings after she’d passed out. She rises once the report has been given and scans the room with her eyes, looking for appropriate clothing. None of it will compare to the positively flouncy dress she’d prepared for her original meeting with Savoy—that’s the real tragedy of last night, she thinks—but there is bound to be something suitable. She glances down at the writhing ghoul.

“Did you secure a meeting for me with Lord Savoy for this evening?”

GM: The pair answer that they did find something. While the hunters seemed to go out of their way to avoid carrying around identifying items in their apparent safehouse, there was a giveaway in the sleeping bag. Bryan Clayton was written over the name in faded print. This doesn’t match the ID he had in his wallet, which was for a Jeremy Chapman. Randy thinks the name on the sleeping bag is the real one. It’s the sort of thing you might honestly forget about.

Jade also finds that Alana has primmed and pampered her as she lay sleeping. She smells like she’s been bathed and had Sycomore perfume applied. Her nails are painted a fresh red. When she looks into the mirror on her phone, she sees Alana has also done her hair and makeup: after all, the Kindred don’t move, perspire, or do anything besides go back to being dead when they’re asleep, so there’s no risk of any cosmetics getting smudged or any clothes rumpled. Jade has been dressed in a tight-fitting, mid-thigh black dress with a very suggestive horizontal cut across the chest, a gold pair of sandal stilettos, and matching jewelry.

“Yes… mistress…” Alana whimpers as she strokes her clit, still tugging against the leash. “It’s for… later tonight… full schedule… Warden Lebeaux is… seeing you first…”

“I hope you like… how I’ve done you up…”

There’s also something more modest set out by the bed. Alana explains through her ‘happy noises’ that it’s there if she wants to meet with the detective or do other “work instead of play things” in less suggestive attire.

If she wants to play, though, there’s always a party at the Evergreen. Clementine said Veronica might be stopping by.

Alana seems to grow less aroused, though, as she sniffs how Clementine mocked her for her missing ear. The older ghoul was very, very cruel.

She stole it, too. Dropped it down a public toilet. Forced Alana to madly scramble to pull it out, mid-flush, before it was sucked away.

Celia: Jade takes a moment to soak in her appearance in the phone’s camera. She presses her lips together and blows a kiss at her reflection, fluttering her lashes. There’s nothing subtle about the look that Alana painted on her. She is positively ravishing. She doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the girl’s words until she tuts at Alana for responding so poorly to the teasing.

“’Lana, Clementine has done nothing of note for her mistress. Her claim to fame is putting other people down to make herself superior because she has no other talents besides the tongue in her mouth. You stopped a hunter attack.”

“She’s jealous she’s not nearly as pretty as you are, pet.”

GM: Alana smiles past a few sniffles. “You’re right, mistress. Like always.”

“Could we reattach my ear, mistress? I want to look pretty for you. You could take me out like this, on the leash and all fours, to show everyone at the Evergreen how much you own me.”

“I wouldn’t say no to getting something else reattached, babe,” says Randy, massaging Jade’s shoulders. “God, you’re so hot.”

Celia: After last night, there’s nothing she would enjoy more than being able to stay in bed all evening with the pair of them. But there’s work to be done. So much work. Lebeaux, Savoy… others whose names she dare not even think here less someone be listening in.

Another night. Another night when she does not have pressing concerns, she will find a bed large enough for the three of them, bring a handful of toys, and bar clothing from the room.

Just not tonight.

Her hand slips over Randy’s and she gives a gentle tug to bring him around the front of her.

“Fetch the ear, pet,” she says to the girl. “I’ll need material for you, Randy. What do you think, the man who fucked me? I could take his cock off and smooth it over your rear. Then that part of you will have been inside me, at least.”

“I could always give it to the monkey,” she muses. She wonders if the Nos would see it as the joke she intends, a smoothing of hurt feelings, or if he’d find some way to take offense.

GM: “Babe, it was your family’s house… someone woulda noticed…” Randy protests. “That earns me a… muscle graft from the girl, doesn’t it?”

“Thank you, mistress,” Alana exclaims with relief. She quickly slides off the bed, only for the leash to yank taut. She makes a little choking sound as her back hits the bed frame, hands reflexively flying to her neck.

Randy looks like he finds it more than a little hot.

“You’ll need to let me off my lead, mistress,” the ghoul smiles sheepishly from the floor, batting her lashes up at Jade as she rubs the collar.

Celia: She hides her smirk behind a hand and reaches out to do just that, allowing the girl free. She waves a hand at her to get on with it, hands returning to Randy.

“I suppose you found the information,” she allows. Her fingers twine through his hair, pulling his neck to the side. Her lips brush across his skin. She bites, puncturing his neck with her fangs.

GM: “Oh… ohh, that’s… good…” Randy moans, his erect cock bulging through his jeans. His hands hungrily fondle Jade’s breasts, but the ecstasy of her kiss leaves him weak, like it leaves any of the kine weak.

“Vroom… fuckin’… vroom!”

Alana scampers off on all fours, the leash trailing after her. She returns shortly later, around when Jade has taken her fill, with an ice-filled plastic bag clamped between her teeth. She rises to her knees to proffer it like a dog with a fetched stick in its mouth.

Celia: One night, she thinks, he’ll get what he actually wants. One night, maybe when Alana messes up, she’ll let him actually have her and they’ll make the other girl watch. Jade doesn’t mind his hands on her. Not after almost losing him to illness, not after the panic she’d woken up in during the day, surrounded by enemies, wishing he was there to protect her. She even laughs around a mouthful of blood at his expected noises. Her tongue seals the wound when she’s done and she shifts him slightly, moving so that he is behind rather than in front of her. It’s an open invitation for his hands.

GM: Randy moans needfully as Jade’s fangs withdraw. The disappointment in his voice is all-too apparent. He rubs against her longingly as they spoon, his no longer limp hands hungrily squeezing and kneading her breasts as he plants kisses along her neck.

Celia: She reaches for the bag, taking a moment to pat Alana on the head and murmur that she’s such a good girl. Then she’s in work mode, pulling the ear out of the bag and off ice to search for any sign of decay that needs fixed before it’s reattached.

“How many people saw you without it?” she asks idly. “Any hearing impairment?”

GM: Alana glows at the praise, but sits still as Jade works. The timely ice seems to have preserved the ear fairly well, much like it did with her own mother’s toes.

But unlike that time, Alana doesn’t have to undergo surgery. Her domitor can do it all right here.

“Mélissaire and Savoy’s people did, mistress,” Alana answers as she kneels still. “And Clementine. Only other ghouls. I called in sick at Flawless: there just wasn’t any way to explain that. Piper and Landen were annoyed over how it took me until past noon to call, but they and the others showed up to work anyway, even when their boss no-showed. Paying and treating them like real employees really keeps them loyal.”

“I can still hear, mostly, but it’s harder to tell where sounds are coming from. I could hear the jazz downstairs, but I couldn’t tell you where the speakers were.”

Celia: “Whose ghouls?” Jade asks as she works. She’s glad for the fact that Emily is in med school; she’d borrowed a few books on anatomy as she was studying how best to use her ability to sculpt flesh, and it gives her the edge she needs now to make sure that everything is in order. Luckily for Alana it had only been an ear. The stirrup bone is internal, and aside from the muscle attachment to the temporal, there isn’t much the ear does besides literally serve as a dish to catch and direct sound. All of the rest happens inside. She’s pleased to see that even the canal itself didn’t sustain any damage.

GM: “Lord Savoy’s, mistress. Also Warden Lebeaux’s. Mélissaire showed up with backup, when it sounded to her like there’d been hunters.”

“It’s possible I could’ve regrown the ear on my own,” Alana adds assuringly. “We can do that. I tried to, I held the ear to my head and made the blood mend, but it just didn’t take.”

Celia: “I am simply making sure that you can accompany me to this party with your ear attached, and that no one who does not already know what gifts I possess will learn of them. You, my dear,” she kisses her nose, “did very well. Last night. Today. This evening.”

The last of the flesh is melded together. It’s seamless. Can’t even tell the ear was taken off. She checks to make sure that it is even with the other, that her ghoul is once more the flawless being that she created.

“It’s okay, pet. You did what you could. If you continue to have hearing problems, tell me immediately.”

GM: Alana’s eyes wetly shine as the ear comes back on. She climbs back atop the bed and nuzzles her face against Jade’s stomach, perhaps in substitute for the Toreador’s breasts with Randy’s hands still occupied there.

“Yes, mistress,” she whispers, rubbing her head back and forth. “Thank you. I love you so much. I’m so thankful you’re letting me stay your flawless, happy toy forever.”

Celia: Jade takes the moment she has to soak up the adoration of these two mortals. She doesn’t know how real it is, or if their minds are simply twisted by the perversion of her blood. Maybe she doesn’t want to know. Doesn’t care. It’s enough that they feel the pale echo of affection brought on by the addiction and the bond, isn’t it?

As always, she has more to do, and relaxing in a pile of hedonism with these two is not on that list. She tells the pair of them to sit tight, exchanges her dress for the more casual and conservative outfit, and leaves the room.

Warden Lebeaux is waiting.

GM: The outfit is a simple blouse and knee-length skirt. Alana and Randy both protest, though, that Lebeaux isn’t here right now. He’s an ‘early riser’ for one of the Damned and Jade has slept later than usual. He’s off doing his own things. They have to call him. Which they do.

But until then, the pile of hedonism calls too.

Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016

GM: Shortly later, Celia heads to one of the Evergreen’s upstairs rooms to see Pete. In contrast to the priceless decor, raucous crowds, and ever-playing jazz on the first story, the sitting room where the pair meet is quiet and intimate. It’s decorated with a few pictures and other amenities that call to mind the court of the Sun King, but for the most part, its sensibilities seem grounded in the present.

So does the Tremere. He looks like he’s aged since his first meeting with Celia. That’s also because of his continued meetings with Celia. He’s asked her to make him just a little bit older, every year. Some thinning and graying to his hair, some wrinkles to his face. His ‘annual touch-up.’ Better for the Masquerade. Will let him stay a police officer for longer.

He’d only given a flat look when she’d asked him, perhaps facetiously, whether that was so he could date her mom.

Tonight he’s dressed (like usual) in a gray trenchcoat, rumpled white shirt, and loose-hanging tie as he greets her with a simple, “Celia. Seems you had a busy day.”

Celia: In her defense, she’d also told him that if he wanted to date her mom she could take away the wrinkles and the graying hair so he had a shot at wooing the younger woman. Not in so many words, of course. She’d kept him as attractive as she could within the parameters he’d set for her.

Celia dips her head in deference to the detective as she enters the room, taking the offered chair across from him. She is glad for the toned down clothing; though it wouldn’t be unusual for one of the rose clan to show up to a meeting like this in a getup like that, there’s still some propriety to be observed with this particular Kindred. She tucks her feet beneath the chair and places her hands on her lap.

“Good evening, Warden Lebeaux. Indeed I did. It was most unfortunate; I shall have to apologize profusely to Lord Savoy for missing our meeting.”

GM: Lebeaux had also told her the approximate age he’d wanted to appear. By 2016, it’s early 40s. The same age group as her mom, in fact.

He’d also crushed the Toreador’s soul when he’d told her he hadn’t wanted to look especially attractive. “Attractive people stand out. Attractive cops all the more so. For the most part, we don’t age well. Bad diet. Bad work hours. Bad company. It’s a stressful job. Make it show on my face.”

So Celia did the best she could within the parameters he’d set.

Celia: He’s so difficult. She’d gotten her mom a cop calendar that year for her birthday instead. Emily had thought it was hilarious.

GM: Emily had had a good laugh over it. Diana had enjoyed the cop calendar, remarking playfully how much she “liked a man in uniform.” That led to Emily wondering if they should set her up with a police officer, military guy, or firefighter. “I mean, they tend to be old-fashioned, like her. More jerks to weed out, though.”

Celia: They’d decided on mailman, in the end. Handle with care and all that.

GM: She’d also demurred on the subject when asked about it. Teenagers in the house still. “Maybe later, when it’s just Lucy.” Always “maybe later.”

Celia: Logan is out of the house now. Maybe she’ll bring it up to Pete again.

GM: “You can still call me Pete,” the Kindred cop waves off. “I’m not that much older than you.”

“And Savoy’s still a reasonable lick, so far as apologizing. You didn’t choose to get jumped by hunters.”

Celia: Celia flashes a smile at him. She likes it when he gets riled up about the Warden thing. Maybe she should court him instead.

“Should I assume that’s why you asked to see me, Pete? So I can tell you what happened?”

GM: “Yep. I’ve interviewed your ghouls already, but they obviously weren’t there for it all.”

Celia: She gives him the rundown of the evening. Grabbed at the spa—how did they even get in?—and waking up tied to the bed. The questions. The misinformation she’d given them about how some of their abilities work, just in case she happened to die. The “others” they kept mentioning. She hadn’t been able to find out about the others, she tells him, but she repeats what they said about them. The identification they’d found, including the name inside the bag, plus the name “Brooke” that the male had shouted when the girl had died. The location of the house, too, in case that helps any.

“I kept the bodies. I know you have a… thing you can do sometimes.” She waves vaguely, indicating his magic at large.

“They were trying to get into my phone.” She doesn’t know if it’s relevant or not, but it reminds her that she has theirs. She tells him that, too.

GM: Pete patiently listens to Celia’s rundown of events, nodding every so often and interjecting with the occasional question of his own.

“There are things I can do with blood samples,” Pete says. “I’ve already taken two. Their phones though could potentially be more informative. They probably knew that about yours, too.”

Celia: “I’ll be sure to get them to you.” Celia is happy to pass the task off. For as much time as she spent with her former tutor, she still doesn’t think she’s as savvy as he is with the technology.

GM: “All they have to do is look at your call history to see who you’re calling, at what times, and for how long. Could tell them quite a lot.”

Celia: “I didn’t let them in. They didn’t get access.”

GM: “Good. Me getting access to theirs is exactly what they wouldn’t have wanted. Seems these people were being relatively careful to hide their identities while on the hunt.”

“Your ghouls also lied to me about not having the phones, though I’ve let them hold on to those until you and I could talk. I appreciate you being more forthcoming than they were.”

Celia: “That… seems like a ridiculous thing to lie about.” Celia can’t fathom why they would. To give her credit for cracking them, maybe? She doesn’t want anything to do with it. She’d prefer to stay as far away from future hunters as she can.

She pauses, hesitant. He has been something like a mentor to her these past few years, has shown her more kindness than almost any of the others. If anyone knows what to do about this situation and can guide her toward the best outcome, she reasons that it’s him.

“They saw my face. Celia’s face. Were inside my business.”

GM: “Well, ghouls aren’t always rational. Kindred either, for that matter.”

“And yes, they were. That’s what will be so informative about their phones. To see whether they told someone else, or whether that secret died with them.”

“But I’d cautiously say to be optimistic. From what you and Alana said, they avoided giving away directly identifying information over their phones.”

“The police are in Vidal’s pocket, after all. You’d be amazed how many ways even local departments have to listen in on your conversations. It isn’t just the NSA these days.”

Celia: “There’s a terrifying thought.”

“Perhaps I’ll have my girl make some calls during the day from my phone. Send her out in public with my face.” She doesn’t phrase it as a question, there’s no lilt at the end of the sentence, but she lifts her brows at him all the same.

GM: “It’s a terrifying reality,” Pete responds to her first statement. “Technologies like StingRay let us fool your phone into thinking we’re a cell phone tower. We can listen in to your conversations in real time. We can watch you type your text message. View your photos, calendars, notebooks. It’s all fair game. We don’t even need to get a warrant.”

Celia: She gives him a flat look.

“How do I prevent that?”

GM: “You can’t,” Pete answers. “If law enforcement really wants in to your phone, we have lots of ways we can get in.”

“But you’re on to something when you bring up prevention, because that’s always better than a cure.”

“The most obvious prevention is to never say or text anything that would break the Masquerade or personally screw you over. Communicate through euphemism. That’s the bare minimum any lick who still wants to use a phone should do.”

“There’s also simply not drawing scrutiny in the first place. Your idea to actually send someone out in the day with Celia’s face is a great idea.”

Celia: She’s glad he thinks so. She wasn’t sure if it would work, if they’d already shared her identity. She’s not ready to burn it just yet, but if she has to. Still, it’s something she should have been doing all along. She has a whole social media platform she can use to let the world know she’s still “alive.”

“Will you let me know what you find on the phones?”

GM: “I will. Until then, I recommend you avoid Celia Flores’ usual hangouts, just to be on the safe side. It shouldn’t be too long.”

Celia: “How long?” She has someone waiting for her there. She can’t just leave her.

GM: “It depends what I find on their phones. How much time it takes me to run the leads down.”

“I’ve been to Flawless already, though. So were my ghouls, during the day.”

Celia: “Find anything? To worry about?”

GM: “Besides your tied up and nine-tenths-dead sister,” Pete deadpans, “there were some informative clues as to the hunters’ MO.”

“She’s been moved to the Evergreen.”

Celia: For a moment she isn’t sure what to say. She sucks in air she doesn’t need, lets it out slowly. Presses her fingers to the bridge of her nose, as if to stave off a headache she doesn’t feel. All habits leftover from her time as a breather.

He speaks before she can ask.

“She’s okay, then.”

She sounds relieved.

GM: Pete gives her a look.

“Not by a long shot, from the state she was in.”

Celia: “I didn’t… that wasn’t me.”

“I was trying to fix her without her losing it on me.”

“This whole mess is because I was trying to find someone to bleed for her.”

GM: “The hunters notably didn’t take her. My guess would be she played dead.”

“We’re pretty good at that, without a pulse.”

Celia: “Smart.”

“Is she… what happened to her here?”

GM: “Smart, or just desperate. A blue blood like her had to have been really hurting, hungry, or both, not to even try to mind control them.”

He frowns. “Don’t know if that fits her character, though. Could be the hunters just overlooked her and she never got the chance.”

“As far as what happened, I haven’t interviewed her yet.”

Celia: “But I mean, where is she? Is she… was she fixed? Is she up? Moving around?”

GM: Pete gives her a look.

Celia: She doesn’t know what that look is supposed to mean, but she isn’t sure she likes it.

GM: “She has 12-inch piece of wood buried in her chest. I should hope the reasons are apparent.”

Celia: She looks down at her hands. She should have known that. They wouldn’t take chances.


“Does everyone know she’s here?” Savoy. Preston.

GM: “There’s a war going on out there while you’re not on Instagram, Miss Kalani. A mostly cold war, but a war all the same. She doesn’t exactly play for the same team as we do.”

Celia: “I was trying to find out why she showed up at my door like that when they grabbed me.” The use of her name like that—formal, the sort of thing they never do with each other—almost makes her flinch. The room is suddenly colder than it was a moment ago.

GM: “I’ve informed Lord Savoy. I don’t know who else he may have chosen to inform.”

“I’m of several minds on your sister, personally. She may not play for the same side as we do, but that isn’t a crime that merits punishment, in and of itself. But until I was able to talk to either of you, it wasn’t apparent what she was doing in your spa and why she was in the state that she was.”

“If she was the one attack to you there, though, she has violated the Second Tradition.”

Celia: It’s an easy out. Say she was attacked. Let them deal with her. She had attacked. Came at her like she meant to rip Celia apart, hadn’t she?

Her lips press together. She shakes her head.

“She showed up in that condition. She was staked before she could cause a problem.”

GM: “Mm-hmm. Didn’t even try to feed on anyone, after risking that trip into the heart of Savoy’s territory?”

“It’s in your grandsire’s hands, in any case. I’m going to interview her, but he’ll decide what happens to her.”

Celia: “She’s my sister, Pete. Or… or she was, anyway, I don’t even know what we are now.”

GM: “I understand,” the detective replies. “But you should also understand that you two have done things which many siblings might reasonably never forgive each other for. All before the matter of your Embraces, or the fact you’ve chosen to cast in your lots on opposite sides of a conflict.”

“Much like with your mom, I might hope for the best but still prepare for the worst.”

Celia: She lifts her face from her hands at his words.

“D’you mean you’re finally taking her out?”

GM: “I don’t think your sister’s actions warrant being ‘taken out’, Celia, or that I should be the Kindred who does that. I’m a cop, not an executioner.”

Celia: They both know that isn’t what she meant. She gives him a look for a change.

GM: The Kindred cop heaves a deliberate sigh.

“It’s been close to seven years since you were turned.”

“You know what we are. All of what we are. Why in God’s name would you want one of us close to your mother and baby sister in that way?”

Celia: “You’re breaking my heart, Pete. You can make it up to me, though. Let me come with you when you talk to Roxanne.”

Celia doesn’t bother to point out that she sees her mom and sister all the time and there haven’t been any issues.

She’ll win him over eventually.

GM: “Okay. You can come along for that. But wake up,” Pete says gruffly. “Forget the fantasy. Your mom and I are a terrible idea.”

Celia: “Of course, warden.”

GM: “It’s been seven years. Don’t tell me she hasn’t found a real man by now.”

Celia: “She says she’s not interested.” Celia lifts one of her shoulders in a helpless sort of ‘what can you do’ shrug. “I think she’s lonely and afraid of being hurt.”

GM: “Well, that’s too bad for her. Because this is it. One life. All you get, unless someone turns you into a monster. It’s a waste to spend it alone.”

Celia: “Aren’t you spending it alone? Seems like a good solution for both of you.”

GM: “Longinus in fucking lingerie, kid,” Pete says with another deliberate sigh, then traces the sign of the lance at the minor blasphemy.

“Okay. I don’t know how well this is going to sink in with a Toreador, but I’ll try.”

“First, everything else aside, I’m nocturnal, just like you. I’m betting it’s already been a balancing act to explain why you’re never around during the day. As an adult child who doesn’t live with her mother or stay in contact as frequent as a significant other.”

“That’s damn hard to explain in any meaningful relationship why you’re not around, ever, during sunup.”

Celia: “Retinol.”

GM: “And when she tells that sad story to her girlfriends? There are so many licks who think they’re so clever with their ‘xeroderma pigmentosum’ explanation, except for how they’ve not been the only ones to come up with it. It’s bad for the Masquerade.”

Celia: Celia crosses her arms. She looks away from him.

“I know. I know, Pete. I’m not ignorant to the challenges we face. I know my time with her is limited, too, that soon I won’t be able to see either one of them again. It’s dangerous. Like you said. For them. For me. For the Masquerade.”

“She lost two kids to this. I just want to see her happy before Celia has to disappear.”

GM: “Yes. And introducing another vampire into her life? Danger doubles, at least.”

Pete’s voice softens. “I know you want her to be happy. I’m flattered you think I could make her happy. And if I wasn’t Kindred, it’s entirely possible I might take the two of you up on your offer. But I am Kindred. And there are men out there, good and decent men, who don’t pose anywhere nearly as much danger to your family’s lives as I do.”

Celia: “She thought Maxen was a good and decent man when she met him.”

GM: “Sometimes our judgment sucks like a crack whore.”

Celia: She tries to huff. It turns into a laugh instead.

GM: Pete allows himself a faint smile.

“But your dad was a while ago. I’m guessing your two’s judgment doesn’t suck nearly as hard, these days.”

Celia: “Maybe,” she allows. She’s done some questionable things lately. “I won’t bother you about it again.”

For a month.

Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016

GM: For all the Evergreen’s image of genteel hospitality, and for all the laughter and music that may waft up from the first floor, there is a room where the kid gloves come off. Every elder has a room like this one. It’s cell-like and utterly bare save for a variety of heavy steel restraints and related ‘tools.’ Roxanne is staked and bolted to a St. Andrew’s Cross that’s free-standing in the center of the room, the better to keep its occupant’s back exposed.

Pete waves off Jade’s offer to resculpt his face. Her sister is blindfolded.

He removes the stake. Roxanne’s fangs gnash as she screams and howls, futilely tugging against the steel restraints.

“Hello, Miss Gerlette,” he says. “You’ve been apprehended for intrusion within Lord Savoy’s parish. We have some questions. Answer them honestly, and things will go better for you.”

“Mr. Savoy,” Roxanne spits.

“Okay, he’s Mr. Savoy. Doesn’t matter to me what you call him.”

“You look like you could use a drink,” the Tremere continues. “Play ball and you’ll get some drinks. Sound like a fair deal?”

“I’m not telling you anything,” Roxanne hisses. “I’ll never betray the prince to a usurper.”

“My questions are about you, actually, not the prince. What were you doing at Flawless?”


“Sounds to me like that has nothing to do with Vidal, unless you were there on his orders.”

“No,” says Roxanne.

“Okay. So you showed up to your sister’s spa, starving and out your mind and three-quarters of the way to final death. What were you hoping to accomplish?”

He continues, “It’s pretty deep in Mr. Savoy’s territory. Either you went there with a specific purpose that was worth the risks, or you were already in the area and it was simply convenient.”

He pauses for a moment.

“Like, say, to feed on the sister who’s on not so good terms with the rest of your family.”

Roxanne is very still at the word ‘sister.’

“Yes, Miss Flores, we know who you are. Obviously you didn’t show up at Flawless completely by accident.”

“Though it also raises the question why you’d do this now,” Pete muses. “If you just wanted to feed on your sister, you could’ve done that anytime she left the Quarter. Bunch of possible ways to lure her out. So either something’s changed in your personal life, to send you after her now, or she was convenient because you were already in the Quarter on unrelated business.”

Roxanne remains silent.

“My bet would be #2,” says Pete. “Obviously you were in a pretty bad state. Going this deep into the Quarter is a risk. You showing up at Flawless feels spontaneous rather than premeditated. You were already in or near the Quarter and it was convenient.”

He pauses.

“You look thirsty. Obviously, you were in a fight with somebody. A personal fight, rather than one under Vidal’s orders. So while you’re hanging there, being thirsty, I’d ask yourself whether this fight is going to become a matter of public knowledge. Whether there was collateral damage, or other licks ashed, that’s going to result in it getting talked about at Elysium. And us knowing anyway, and you being thirsty for nothing.”

“Actually,” he muses, “less than nothing. If any other licks go suspiciously missing around now, you’re the prime suspect.”

Celia: “She’s been missing for a while now. Funny how no one has come looking.” Jade’s words, Jade’s voice.

It’s entirely too similar to her daytime ordeal with the hunters. She tries not to think about it.

“Family thinks she’s overseas. Lick thinks they finished the job.” Dark amusement drips from her tongue. The threat is there; wasn’t Isabel always the smart one? She can figure it out.

GM: “I didn’t ash any Kindred,” Roxanne growls.

“So the other side did, then,” says Pete. “That’d be consistent with how you seem to have lost the fight. If you won, you could’ve taken a drink from the loser, then ashed them.”

Celia: “Brings us back to why you came after your sister. Figured you’d poach in the Quarter, no one would know?”

GM: “Fuck you,” the Ventrue spits.

Celia: “Don’t tell me it was sisterly love that brought you there.”

GM: “Fights with Gangrel can be nasty affairs. So who did the other side ash, that you’re innocent of? Because it sounds to me like this is going to come out, and it’d benefit you if the truth did.”

Pete bites his wrist and holds the bleeding, coppery-smelling font close.

“In more ways than one.”

Roxanne howls and snaps at the offered wrist with distended canines, only for the Tremere to pull it away. She howls and roars and strains. Pete waits for the frenzy to subside, then holds the wrist close again.

“It… was Caitlin Meadows,” Roxanne relents. “She killed Wyatt Jenkins.”

Pete lets her drink.

She sucks vitae ravenously, but he doesn’t let her feed for long. The Ventrue’s despair is plain as the wrist withdraws.

Celia: As interesting as it is to learn of the death of another by the scourge, she doesn’t know Wyatt on a personal level. Just rumors that he has a penchant for making off with mortals and that he’s one of her sister’s krewe. She can imagine a number of reasons Meadows would have to murder him.

No, her curiosity is more intimate in nature. Why Roxanne was in the Quarter to begin with. What brought her to Flawless. Whether or not she knows that her sister is among the Damned, though she finds a clever way to word this to protect the secret if not. If she admits to being there for a nefarious purpose, she asks why: what did Jade do to her that makes her hatred this intense?

She supposes she’s curious about the coterie’s feud with Meadows as well, and she tacks that on, more to keep abreast of current and political situations than any personal investment.

GM: Roxanne says that Meadows killed her lover, Evan Bourelle. The Storyvilles wanted revenge on her.

Pete asks why they think Meadows is to blame. Roxanne answers that Caroline Malveaux-Devillers, another blue blood who “works for me,” dug up the information.

Pete asks why they were stupid enough to go after the scourge, and how they could have possibly expected to win.

Roxanne says nothing, then screams obscenities as she gnashes her fangs, madly trying to throw herself upon the Tremere detective.

Pete lets Jade take over the questioning.

Roxanne screams and raves what a “filthy whore” her sister is, and how she “deserves it, deserves every last bit of it! IT’S HER FAULT! IT’S ALL HER FAULT!”

“So you were going to kill her, is that it?”

“HA! Ha ha ha HA HAH HAAAA!” Roxanne shrieks.

“I was gonna TURN her! Yes! I’ll say it out loud! HA! Why! The! Fuck! NOT!?!”


She throws herself in the direction of Jade’s voice, laughing hysterically as the metal cuffs dig into her bruised flesh.

Celia: “Why?” The only question she can get out around the lump in her throat. The only thing she can think to ask.

GM: “’Cause she made ME one!” Roxanne spits. “She can see what it’s LIKE!”

“Ha ha hahaHAHAHAHAH!”

Celia: “Your sister had nothing to do with your Embrace.”

GM: “She’s sooooo stupid! She’s a dog walking on its hind legs! She’s a college dropout! She’s so fucking STUPID!”

Celia: “So you’d want to spend eternity with her?” The sneer is audible.

GM: Roxanne giggles.

Celia: “That means your death as well, you imbecile. Are you so eager to meet your lover again?”

GM: “She’s so fucking stupid! Dropout dropout dropout dropout!”

“She was a dance major too! Ha! How can you flunk a dance class?! Ha ahahaHAHAHAGH-!”

Celia: The stake slides neatly back into her body.

GM: She cuts off as the wood sinks into her heart. Her mouth is still silently laughing.

Celia: She should feel something. Disgust. Anger. Guilt, maybe, or pity for the girl who used to be her sister. She sinks into herself to find it. She reaches, but nothing’s there.

Her heart is empty.

Numb eyes turn to regard Pete. Her lips haven’t even flattened into the thin line of disappointment; there’s nothing on her face but a flat, blank affectation.

“She violated the Second Tradition. She would have violated the Third. She is a breach waiting to happen.”

GM: “Sure seems like it,” says Pete. “Evan and her friends must have meant a lot if they turned her this way.”

He heads outside the room with Celia and closes the door behind them.

“It’s soundproof. You know her better than I do.”

Celia: Celia’s laugh is as hollow as the rest of her.

“She was like this before she was turned,” she says to him once the door is shut.

GM: “Do you think they caused this, or…?” he starts, then trails off.

“Like this in what sense?”

Celia: “Unhinged.”

GM: “Abuse can do that. You had your mom as an anchor. Doesn’t sound like she had much of anyone.”

Celia: “She had Daddy. That’s all she needed.”

GM: “What she thought she needed. The results rather speak for themselves.”

Celia: “There’s nothing to be done about that now. She’s a danger to our society.”

GM: “I’m curious if she could be rehabilitated and perhaps converted. Seems like she’s hit rock bottom. Fat lot that Vidal has done for her.”

Celia: “She is a ticking time bomb, Pete. You can’t rehabilitate that. The first chance she has to get out she will, and she’ll be coming after me.”

GM: “Might be you’re right. Always easier for things to turn to shit than to turn around.”

“I’m going to question her some more before Lord Savoy gets back. Have you had enough?”

Celia: “What’s left to find out?”

GM: “I haven’t heard her full version of events. You never know what little details of interest may come up. But I’m not sure you need to see any more of her in this state.”

Celia: “I will not let it be said that the thing in there chased me from the room.”

GM: “By my count driving a stake into someone’s chest is rather the opposite of being chased.”

Celia: “I’d love to know what other issues in her life she blames me for.”

GM: “Her blame isn’t completely without basis. That tape’s circulation destroyed her mortal life. She’d be fair to blame me for that too, though.”

Celia: “I know what I did to her.”

GM: “We all have a breaking point. Everyone can snap.”

“In any case. I’m going back to question her. If Lord Savoy decides she can’t be rehabilitated, I can ask him to give you two a last moment.”

Celia: “I have a question. Before you go. For you.”

GM: “What’s that?”

Celia: “I was looking into an addition at the spa.” The change in subject is clear: she has completely written off her sister. The deranged maniac in the next room is nothing to her. “One of the Nos mentioned something about a spell to keep out water for a room under sea level. Is that something you can do?”

GM: “It is,” says Pete. “Storage space?”

He doesn’t press the matter of her sister further.

Celia: “Yes.” Technically.

GM: “Okay. Tell me when it’s ready.”

Celia: Her face becomes no more animated as they talk about this than it had been in the room. Her tight jaw is the only indication that she is less than fine.

She nods.

“I’m going to wait for Lord Savoy.” Her eyes flick toward the door, then back to him. Maybe he sees the way her lower lip trembles for a fraction of a second before she presses her tongue to the roof of her mouth to stop it. Maybe he dismisses it as a trick of the light.

Maybe he knows what’s going on inside her head.

She blinks at him. “I’ll be upstairs.”

GM: Pete just looks at her for a bit.

“Okay,” he repeats simply. “Two last things before you go.”

“Well, three. The roof isn’t accessible when he’s not here. Party’s on the first floor. Probably be a while before he’s back on the roof.”

Celia: Maybe she’d been hoping someone would steal her from the roof. Or shove her off it.

GM: “But there’s a guy I know, if you’re still looking to set someone up with your mom.”

Celia: “Yeah?”

GM: “He’s single. Retired cop. Current P.I. My former partner.”

“He’s… a lot of things. But he’s a decent guy. Doesn’t have any family or kids of his own.”

Celia: “He’s not like us?” She has to check.

GM: “He’s a renfield. Independent. No domitor. Stays out of politics.”

Celia: “You trust him?”

GM: “He keeps a lot of secrets. I never knew he was on the Blood until after my Embrace.”

A pause.

“I trust him where it counts. He was one of the guys I got to stand watch outside your mom’s hospital room, back when that went down.”

“You might not remember him. She probably doesn’t.”

Celia: It’s enough for her. She nods again. She might even smile, though it’s brief.

“I’ll see if I can talk her into a date. I could change your face, you know, if you wanted to come with me. Double up. Or observe from afar. Like a stakeout.”

Definitely smiling now.

GM: “I trust you can look after your mom. And I more than trust that a gorgeous Toreador can find a double date all on her own,” Pete says dryly.

“His office is 5666 Canal Street, if you want to meet him yourself.”

Celia: “Breaking my heart, Pete. Your friend got a name?”

GM: “Lou Fontaine.”

Celia: She nods and tucks that name away for future research. She’s never heard of him, but she hasn’t heard of a lot of ghouls, so that doesn’t surprise her. The Internet can tell her more.

“And the third thing?”

GM: “Watch your back.”

Celia: She waits. There has to be more than that.

GM: “There’s been a number of disappearances in recent months. Inside and outside the Quarter. Uptick in reported hunter encounters. For whatever reason, seems like they’ve been busier lately.”

“So watch your back. And watch what you say over phones.”

Celia: “Thanks, Pete.” She touches his arm. “I know you think…” She shakes her head. It doesn’t matter. “Thanks. I’ve always appreciated you.”

He’d called her gorgeous, so she knows he appreciates her too. She doesn’t tell him he slipped, though.

Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016

GM: Celia finds a text waiting on her phone from Emily as she returns to the accommodations with her ghouls.

Mom told me what’s up with Randy. Sorry what he’s putting you through.

Celia: Jade should calm down before she goes to the party. She should find a way to take the edge off. A bout with one of her ghouls, maybe, but they’re so fragile. She wants someone more sturdy to rake her claws down. Someone like Roderick, who she never minded putting her on her back.

But he won’t come here. Won’t respond to a text. They’d had no contact since that night in her haven. She knows it. Knows that asking is a waste of her time. That she shouldn’t even be thinking of him right now. He won’t come running because she had a bad day; their long ago promise to always be there for each other is nothing but an empty gesture that neither has broached since.

Maybe Gui is downstairs. She knows Veronica is. She could always see if she brought the thief around. Her two favorite Toreador, always good for a laugh. Or a fuck. Abellard’s words come back to her at the thought—spend as much time on your back as you do looking in a mirror—and then Pete’s snide comment about the Toreador, too. Her lip curls.

She scrolls to the text from Emily. Is nothing in this family secret?

Thanks, Em. We’re working on it. Mom gave me some good advice. Hey, speaking of, I might have a friend to set her up with. She includes the cat emoji with the star eyes.

GM: Oh awesome! Who’s the guy?

Celia: Former cop, ha!

GM: Well she said she liked a guy in uniform.

Or at least formerly in uniform lol

Celia: What kind of cute things you think they’re gonna do? Minigolf?

GM: Maybe dancing actually? Something inside Mom’s comfort zone that she knows she’s good at.

Celia: Oh yeah you’re right, that’s a good idea. Bet I can convince her to get a new dress, too.

This is gonna be fun.

GM: Yeah I bet you can she likes shopping.

She does. It’s her one ‘guilty pleasure’ besides the spa visits. After so long shopping at thrift stores following the divorce, she’s enjoyed being able to afford nice clothes.

I’ll try and see if I can watch Lucy that evening. Med school is just so brutal.

Celia: Almost over though.

GM: Residency pretty brutal too. But yeah. Finally get to introduce myself as doctor.

Celia: Dr. Em.

You gonna make Robby take your last name?

Mister and Doctor Rosure.

GM: Haha. Not thinking any further ahead than surviving med school right now. I knew it was intense but it’s just been beyond crazy this last year.

Celia: Anything I can help with?

GM: Eh it’s been a good crazy too. Think I’ve found a mentor with one of the doctors.

Celia: Nice! What do they have you doing?

Wait is this like a Grey’s Anatomy mentor??? ;)

He cute tho? Lolol

GM: Hahaha NO she’s a woman and has as many kids as Mom anyway

Ok that was kinda sexist of me having kids doesn’t mean you want sex less

Celia: You’ve got a terrible role model in that department.

I don’t think she appreciated those passion parties

GM: Ugh don’t we know it


I still can’t believe you gave her vibrators for Christmas

Celia: The woman needs an orgasm before she dies.

GM: Like I thought the lingerie was already risque

Yeah I’d bet real money she’s never had one

Celia: Soon she’ll be old and dried out.

GM: ;(

Celia: And it’ll be bottles of lube.

GM: I don’t get how someone can have more kids than fingers on their right hand and never have an orgasm.

Celia: Religion: not even once.

GM: But yknow I kinda feel like virginity is a state of mind as much as it actually is whether you’ve had sex

Celia: That is the weirdest thing you’ve ever said to me.

I’ll let my dad know I’m still pure.

GM: I’m just saying it seems utterly bizarre someone can have as many kids as her and still never orgasm or barely even know what a vibrator is. It’s incongruent. It’s like she’s still a virgin mentally even if she isn’t one physically

I guess that’s religion and being a Republican tho

Celia: Did I ever tell you about that kid who told me he was still a virgin because he didn’t get off? Like he didn’t enjoy sex so he just didn’t count it.

GM: Yeah you did. Feel like your dad would still count any sex you had even if it was bad sex. Yay double standards

Celia: I spoke to Logan the other day. He said Dad is ‘proud of me.’

GM: Fuck him and fuck what he’s proud of

Celia: Pretty much.

GM: If Logan was even telling the truth

Your dad thinks I’m a ‘mongrel’ tho I know that’s true

Celia: Oh yeah he mentioned you two chatted. And that he hung up. :/

GM: Hitting your girlfriend is not okay. Not gonna tiptoe around it.

Celia: I told him the same. Can’t believe he did that.

GM: I used to think him and the others splitting time with Mom and Maxen was a good compromise. Except it’s like getting your bones broken, letting them heal, then breaking them again, ad infitum, and trusting the ER doctor to fix you up every time because they’re such a good doctor, then getting mad you’re always in pain

When the answer is to stop breaking your bones and not always needing a fucking doctor. Prevention always better than cure

Maxen is completely toxic. He’s breaking their bones as fast as Mom can fix them

And no matter how well she does it’s always gonna hurt and there’ll be cumulative long term damage

I don’t know what else we coulda realistically done at the time but letting him stay in their lives was horrible for them

Celia: Nothing we could have done. But they’re out now. They’re all at college. I’ll see if I can find David a job or different internship, I’m working with Logan, and Soph is… well, you know.

The less they see him the better now.

GM: I’m just so fucking thankful he never got his hands on Lucy. Genius idea what you did there.

I love that kid so much. She’s growing up right.

Mom there to be sweet, us to toughen her up.

I kinda wonder if that’s why Mom isn’t dating. If she thinks we have a great thing going and doesn’t want to jinx it bringing someone else in

Celia: Eh. Maybe. It’s not like bringing someone into the picture is going to have Lucy calling him “dad” though.

We’ll talk to her and see how it goes I guess. I don’t think she NEEDS someone to be fulfilled, but I’d like to see her get back out there again.

Healthier role model for the kids when they are with her.

GM: Agreed. Think you were right ~7 years ago tho. Someone older w/ grown kids or w/o kids is best

Celia: Well if this guy is a retired cop he’s older. Friend told me he’s got no kids. Think it’s perfect.

GM: Can also say from personal experience it’s never too late to start thinking of someone as a parent

Celia: Awww you’re right.

GM: :)

Yeah retired guy sounds great

Celia: I’ll hook it up.

Celia closes out of the message with Emily. She’s no less wound than she was when it started; it had done little to take the edge off, only reminded her that she, too, needs someone in her life. Unlife. Whatever.

For all that she hasn’t been around him in years, Roderick Durant sure has been on her mind lately. She scrolls through her phone to stare at his name in her contacts list.

She’d left him alone. All this time. Hadn’t gone back to the Anarchs. Hadn’t pushed her way in. Hadn’t called or texted or seen those games of his for herself. Was that why the Nossies were so rude to her? She recalls he was “in” with them. Maybe it was payback for… what, breaking his heart when she was 19 and still alive? That’s a stretch. They’re just dicks. A society of raging dicks, that’s what Lebeaux had once said.

She makes a noise. Might be disgust. For the months after she’d spent almost every night at her haven, the one she’d taken him to. Pretending to paint, to practice her face in the mirror, writing, reading, waiting. Waiting for him to show up. Waiting for her sire to show up. Waiting on boys.

Well, she’s done waiting. She doesn’t need either one of them. She’s going to go fuck Veronica or Gui or Pietro or maybe all three, throw in Lord Savoy himself for good measure. Maybe she’ll give that twat Preston a tumble, see if the bitch ever unwinds and lets her hair down. No, that’s unkind of her; Preston had seen to it that Jade knew what she needed to in order to get by with the older licks, and once she’d gotten it down they hadn’t had any issues.

She sets her phone down and changes into the dress Alana had brought for her. Short, tight, black: it checks all the right boxes.

GM: Alana is more than happy to help her into it. The ghoul is still naked except for the leather harness’ crisscrossing black straps.

“You can’t seduce Pete if you always show up in such boring clothes, mistress,” she purrs as she helps her domitor dress.

Celia: “What makes you think I want to seduce Pete?” Jade asks, amused, as if she hadn’t just been thinking the same.

GM: “Why wouldn’t you want to?” Alana only laughs.

Celia: Because he’s the only lick around whose good opinion means as much to me or maybe even more than my sire’s.

Jade just offers the ghoul a coy smile.

“I’ll take it under consideration. Did you happen to find out if Madam Alsten-Pirrie brought her lover?”

GM: “Not for sure, mistress, but last I heard they haven’t been fighting. It seems pretty likely he’ll be by if she is.”

She strokes Jade’s exposed underbreast. “I just love the cut of this dress. Pete and Pietro would too, I bet.”

Celia: Even when they’re not fighting they’re fighting. Jade can’t help but smile at her ghoul’s persistence. She is not seducing Pete. The poor lick will have whiplash if she bounces from trying to set him up with her mother to trying to claim him for herself.

“I have a task for you, starting tomorrow. New phones. Three of them. I’m also going to need you to use mine during the day to keep up appearances. This… fiasco with the hunters has shown me just how delicate our little ruse is.”

She touches a hand to Alana’s cheek, trailing a thumb across her lips.

“How would you like to be me for a week? Put in some appearances.”

GM: “I’d like to do anything you’d like, mistress,” Alana smiles at her touch. She kneels and rubs her head against the Toreador’s leg like an affectionate dog.

“Different phones. Actually being around during the day. You’re so smart.”

Celia: “You know you’ll have to act like Celia if you take this role.” Jade looks down at the ghoul. Even she isn’t that submissive. She runs her fingers through Alana’s hair. “We’ll practice later, pet. Stay here with Randy; poor boy looks so forlorn over his missing cheek. Be a good girl and I’ll come get you shortly.”

GM: Alana rubs her head against Jade’s leg again, closing her eyes. “Yes, mistress. I won’t let you down.”

Randy is konked out on the bed. It’s easy to overlook that her servants are diurnal by nature.

Celia: Poor boy. She’ll fix him soon, she promises herself. As soon as she can get back into the spa and collect the necessary materials. What a waste of a trip to the sewers; it irritates her again just thinking about it.

“The warden told me that you and Randy hid the phones from him, ’Lana. Where are they?”

GM: At least she has the materials. Two mostly fresh bodies.

Alana looks marginally alarmed that the Tremere saw through her.

“Under the mattress, mistress. I thought you might want to look at them first.”

Celia: “I do,” Jade confirms, moving toward the bed. “Very clever of you. You’re not in trouble, sweet, don’t look so shaken. He didn’t accuse you of lying, only mentioned he thought it odd they didn’t have any.”

She lifts the corner of the mattress to find the phones and pulls them out. She could just hand them over to Pete, she knows, but… last time she’d handed him evidence he’d refused to tell her what it was he’d found, and she’d almost died for these stupid phones. She isn’t going to take the chance that they leave her in the dark again.

Make yourself useful, they’d said to her.

So she will.

She presses the button in the bottom center of the screen to wake the phones up. Enter PIN, greets her from one, while the other displays a 3×3 grid of dots for her to trace over. This one, at least, will be easier to get into than trying to hack a PIN-protected phone.

If only they took a print, she thinks mournfully. It’d be so easy to nip down to the cooler and take off a finger to get inside instead of trying to guess a PIN or draw a pattern. How many combinations of four digit numbers are there? Ah, yes, thousands.

Jade doesn’t have time to try thousands of PINs. Nor is she willing to hand these phones over to the warden without doing a cursory search of them herself. His earlier words come back to her: while you’re busy on Instagram there’s a war going on around you. Fuck you too, Pete, for thinking she’s so busy with her page that she doesn’t understand what’s at stake for the rest of their kind. She had been captured. Kidnapped from her business. Not by someone older, stronger, and wiser than her. Not for venturing into Tulane without permission. No, she’d been abducted from a place that is supposed to be safe. Supposed to be hers. Kidnapped, missed her meeting, stabbed, body parts cut off, fucked by that piece of shit.

Fuck them if they think their phones are going to hide further secrets from her. Fuck Pete if he thinks she’s handing these over without getting into them on her own. Every snide comment anyone has ever made about her—pretty but stupid, spend as much time on your back as you do looking into your mirror—comes back to her. She’d killed two hunters. Not only that, she’d given them misinformation; if they had spread the word it’s full of lies, sending them running after someone else’s dogs.

She pulls at the thing inside of her. The monster that has taken over. Lets it come sniffing to the surface on a tightly held leash. She controls it, not the other way around. Seek, she tells it, and it does, drawing her eyes to the residue on the screen.

Residue left behind by the oils in human fingers. Pattern-protected phones are less secure than their PIN-protected counterparts. Unless the hunters had wiped them off recently—and it doesn’t look like they had, filthy as the screen is—the pattern will still be there. Seared into the phone.

Light, she thinks, taking the phone to the floor lamp in the corner of the room to view the smudges left behind.

She’d heard once that to protect your phone with a pattern is just asking for trouble, and now she sees why: under the light it’s easy to distinguish the prints left behind from human hands. They’re clustered toward the bottom of the screen, where the virtual keyboard usually hangs out and people spend most of their time. But there, in the center of the screen, is the information she’s looking for: a clear pattern that had been traced over and over and over again. Stupid design, really, to have the unlock so much higher than the rest of the keyboard, but she supposes there are flaws in every design.

Except hers. Celia and Jade are both flawless.

She winks at her reflection in the black surface of the phone before she traces her finger across the pattern, following the tracks left behind by the hunter.

GM: Flawless in visage.

Flawless in deed.

The Beast’s eyes make out what Jade’s can’t. The phone’s screen looks like it was smudged, perhaps by one of the hunters’ hands, perhaps by Alana’s. But there’s still enough of an oil-based residue under the light for Jade to re-trace the pattern. Her own fingers leave no residue behind. She supposes that makes pattern unlocks more secure for Kindred than kine. Just another perk to being dead.

The Solaris comes open with a light click.

Celia: Something like pride flares up inside of her as the phone opens. She makes a note of the pattern for future use, though perhaps she’ll just change it to a PIN code. Her fingers flick across the touch screen, swiping from right to left to take stock of the apps on the phone, looking for anything… unusual. Not that she expects to find something as obvious as “Hunter Info—Please Click Here,” but some people are less than intelligent. Case in point: this phone’s lock screen.

She can only assume that if the hunter was stupid enough to use a pattern she is stupid enough to leave other clues as to their identity lying around. Jade navigates to the settings and turns off the location data, then begins a methodical search: text messages, call logs, internet browser, photos, any other messaging apps she has on her phone, social media, banking. Anything that will give Jade a clue as to who this girl is or who she’s working with.

GM: The phone’s contents may at once be more and less than Jade may have hoped.

There are no banking apps, but there is an Instagram app that’s open to Celia Flores’ thousands-followed page. That’s it, so far as social media. The recent browser history consists of searches for Celia Flores. There are some pictures taken of Flawless and the license plate of Celia’s car. There’s also a text message which says that “we’ve picked up groceries” and asks where and when would be best to drop them off. The nameless contact replies with an address in Bridge City along with “1 PM tmrw.”

Celia: She checks the time stamp from the messages.

As an avid user of Instagram, Jade knows that in order to use the app on the phone there has to be an account created and summarily logged into. She presses the icon down in the lower right hand of the Insta feed’s screen to take her to the girl’s account to see what she can find.

If there’s nothing on the account, at least she had to register with an email address. She can check that, too, while she’s in the phone. See if there’s any incoming or outgoing emails that the girl forgot to delete.

If not, well, she’s at least got something. An address and a phone number.

Is it weird that she’s flattered they knew who she was?

GM: The account looks like a dummy one created with a dummy email.

However, a backup email address exists for the dummy email in the event of a lockout:

GM: Alana rubs her head against Jade’s knee again.

“You’re so smart, mistress, getting into their phone like that.”

Celia: Perfect. Jade finds a piece of paper and jots it all down. There’s more she could look into, she supposes: date of creation for the dummy account and if it followed anyone else, perhaps as a way to mark targets; recent browser searches; the address itself in Bridge City (also who the fuck even lives in that cesspit across the river?).

It’s enough for now. Pete might be pleased she’d managed to get into the phone for him, at least. Pat on the head forthcoming, like she does for Alana when the girl rubs against her.

The memory of that sugar-laced blood is thick on her tongue. Artificial. Like Alana’s affection for her, she supposes, and the thought… well. She doesn’t dwell.

“You did well today, ’Lana,” she tells the girl. “I’m proud of you. Even in pain you didn’t betray your mistress.” Her nails lightly scratch across the surface of Alana’s scalp.

GM: Alana glows under the praise, like always.

“Beauty takes pain, mistress. So does anything worthwhile.”

Celia: “The night before last I woke up to the strap-on again,” she says at length. “Is that what you wish from me? To take you in truth?”

GM: She leans in to her domitor’s touch.

“I’d love nothing more, mistress,” she purrs. “Besides going to the party with you, for everyone to see how you own me.”

Celia: “You know what they do to your kind at these parties,” Jade says fondly, stroking her hand down the ghoul’s cheek. She sets the phone aside and pulls Alana onto her lap. “Prettiest girl at the party,” she whispers in her ear, “do you want them all to use you like I do?”

GM: Alana nuzzles her domitor’s breasts.

“Whatever makes you happy, mistress. I just want them to see I’m yours.”

Celia: “What I want, pet, is to take the cock from the would-be hunter and fashion it to myself so I can fuck you.”

“Then we’d both have been fucked by the same cock; what’s more special than that?”

GM: “I can’t think of anything, mistress,” Alana beams.

Celia: “But we can’t do that tonight,” Jade says, tilting Alana’s face towards hers, “so I’ll save that thought for later. We’ll make an evening of it, when we’ve both recovered from this ordeal. Tonight, then, I’ll bring you down, and we’ll play mum about the escapades with the hunters, and I’ll let them play with you. As you wish. A reward, for services rendered.”

GM: “Thank you, mistress,” the ghoul smiles. “And can I say how how amazing an actress you were, back with those hunters. You were so fragile and innocent I almost believed it too.”

Celia: Jade is not immune to praise, even if it comes from one she’s so handily collared. A smile spills across her face, radiant.

“Often these licks think that aggression is the only way, that a display of strength or brute force will get them out of everything. Sometimes a more delicate touch is needed to survive an ordeal. You disarm them by playing human.” She presses her lips to Alana’s throat. The flutter of the girl’s heartbeat is there, right beneath the surface. She wants to drink… but, oh, she’s already done so; she won’t leave the ghoul weak before her appearance at the party. Let the others have their fill of this beauty. She settles for nipping at her neck instead, teasing with lips and teeth.

“People reveal who they truly are when you play at being stupid.”

“I think, perhaps, I’ll try out for a movie soon. I’d like to grow my brand beyond the online crowd, and… I had a dream…” Jade shakes her head. The details don’t matter to the girl on her lap. She won’t tell her of the dream. “Get me a meeting with the man from Zodiac, won’t you, pet?”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” Alana nods, even as she presses her own lips to the leaning-in Jade’s head in turn.

“And you’re right, like always. There are so many guys who look at me and think ‘airhead,’ just because you made me beautiful. But it can be useful for them to think that.”

Celia: “Always use the tools you’re given. You’re much more cunning than an airhead.” Jade trails her lips higher along Alana’s neck. Her teeth don’t split the skin despite her desire. “Silly them if they underestimate us because of how we look.”

Her hands traverse Alana’s chest, pinching and pulling at her nipples so that she makes the sound Jade enjoys so much. Happy noises.

GM: The ghoul obliges with all-too evident happiness. Soft little gasp-like moans. Her nipples stiffen under her domitor’s touch, and Jade can tell how wet she is, too.

Celia: “You’re dripping, pet,” Jade whispers in her ear.

GM: “I can’t help it, mistress, with how hot you are,” Alana breathes back.

Celia: Her fingers slide inside the girl, curling upward to find that spot inside of her that makes her shudder. Her thumb traces circles around her clit.

“I can’t wait to show you off,” she tells her, “everyone is going to know you belong to me, they’re all going to want a taste… you make your mistress so proud, pet. Such a good girl.”

GM: The ghoul’s moans deepen as she breathes heavier, her breasts rising and falling.

“Yes… mistress… I’m your property… your happy toy…”

Celia: It crosses her mind to tease the girl. To draw it out, make her mourn the loss of the fingers dancing inside of her. Leave her begging and panting for more. Jade likes it when she begs.

She doesn’t, though. She presses that spot with the pads of her fingers until her ghoul is well and truly spent, until she can feel the walls of her pussy clamping down around her fingers; she keeps them moving even then, prolonging the pleasure for her favorite toy.

GM: Her toy squeals. Her toy moans. Deep and throaty. In short order, she’s a goopy, wet, orgasming, and finally spent mess on Jade’s lap, her cheeks flush with color. She tenderly rubs the back of her head against Jade’s neck as she half-whispers, half-pants,

“I… love you… mistress…”

Celia: Jade beams at her pet. Such a good little toy. She tells her so, that she’s a good girl, that there’s all this and more waiting for her down at the party, that she deserves every pleasure imaginable for her actions today. She strokes her hands up and down Alana’s body fondly, once more nipping at her neck. She breathes it into her ear, “Your mistress loves you too,” the half-lie dripping from her well-practiced tongue. Loves her like a toy. Like a favored pet.

She wouldn’t hurt her toy by telling her the full truth. Let her believe the beautiful lie. It’s sweeter that way.

Tuesday evening, 8 March 2016

GM: Jade passes some more time playing with her ghouls until the party is due to start. Alana begs to come with her domitor when Jade considers leaving the spent ghoul behind.

“Please, mistress. I love it when everyone can see how you own me.”

Celia: Jade nuzzles the girl’s cheek with her own. “I didn’t even get to tell you that I stopped at Hustler Hollywood on the way home from campus to pick us up new toys. Don’t you want your collared debut to be with all the things that mark you as mine?”

GM: The ghoul’s eyes shine.

“Oh, yes, mistress! I’d love to wear whatever you’ve picked out for me.”

Celia: “Then we’ll make a spectacle of it. The great unveiling. Do you up in all your glory, put little roses in your hair… oh, ‘Lana, it’ll be divine. Let’s not spoil it by letting them see you without.”

GM: “Oh, yes, mistress!” the ghoul purrs, rubbing her head against Jade’s breasts. “That does sound divine. I can’t wait to see what you’ve picked out for me. I’ll wait. Good things come to those who wait.”

“I had another idea…” she murmurs, rubbing her head lower against Jade’s stomach. “You could give yourself a cock, and make yourself bleed through it, when you want to give me juice. So it’d be like you cuming inside my mouth. Like a real blowjob.”

She rubs her face along Jade’s groin next, planting kisses over the Toreador’s crotch.

“It’d be an honor to suck you off like that, mistress.”

Celia: Jade runs her hands through the ghoul’s hair.

“I love that idea, ‘Lana. I’ll need to do some research to make sure I get the tubing right, but once we try it one time we can keep it going, and I’ve got plenty of material to work with now.”

What a thought. And Jade had always mused that she was the depraved one.

GM: Alana tilts her head enough so that Jade can see her beam.

“You could also give Randy his juice that way, too,” she suggests with an amused purr.

Celia: Jade had considered that.

“Come now, pet, the boy has it bad enough. He doesn’t get nearly the attention from me that you do.”

GM: “It’s an honor to suck you off, mistress. He needs to think of it like that. He needs to accept that any attention from our mistress is a gift.”

“It’s his business if he wants to go around sucking other people’s cocks, but if he really loved you, he’d be happy to suck yours.”

Celia: “Do you suck off other people, ’Lana?”

GM: She rubs her head against Jade’s crotch again. “Never, mistress. My body belongs to you. I don’t get to decide what other people do with it. That’d be like stealing, to let someone else fuck it without your permission.”

Celia: Jade pats her head affectionately. That’s a good girl.

“If Randy fails me again maybe I’ll have you show him how it’s done, then.”

GM: “Oh, I’d be happy to show him, mistress,” Alana purrs. “It’d be a real bonding moment, for us to take turns sucking you off.”

She looks up with a delighted expression.

“You could even give yourself two cocks, so we both could, at once! Like how moms with more than one baby sometimes nurse both.”

Celia: “I wish you would bond with him,” Jade says with an affected sigh. “You know I hate it when you two squabble.”

GM: “I’d love to bond with him, mistress. I can’t think of a better way than by helping you get off together.”

“You’re not like other licks, you’ve said. You can still enjoy it.”

Celia: “Maybe I’ll have him fuck me while I fuck you, then. You think he deserves it? Seven years and I’ve told him no every time.”

GM: “I don’t think he deserves to put his cock inside you, mistress. That would take something truly outstanding. But for good behavior, he should get to take your cock inside him.”

“He deserves to be fucked by you, not for you to be fucked by him.”

Celia: How amusing. She’d offered to let Randy fuck her the other night and he’d turned her down, then refused to listen to her in the rat’s territory. Maybe he’ll find a way to make it up to her. If not, Alana’s suggestion bears some consideration.

Jade tousles her hair.

“Keep an eye on him for me while I’m downstairs. Let me know if he wakes up and does anything particularly silly.”

Support: He stirs slightly in his sleep, as if to promise that he probably will.

Celia: Jade inclines her head toward Randy, as if to say ‘see?’

She makes to stand, moving Alana off of her, the phones she’d lifted from the hunters in her grip.

“I need to see the warden before I can enjoy my evening. Sit tight, pretty. And get some rest. You’ve a big day tomorrow.”

GM: Alana nods from the floor and nuzzles Jade’s knee. “Yes, mistress. Thank you for making the next party so special for us.”

Celia: A final smile for both her toys sees her from the room.

Tuesday night, 8 March 2016, PM

Celia: Jade doesn’t know how long she was occupied with her ghouls and the phones that are now clutched in her hand. Long enough for the party to start, but she hadn’t been paying particular attention to the minutes themselves. She looks for Pete first in the room in which they’d interrogated Roxanne and, failing that, his office.

GM: Sound is inaudible through the door where Roxanne is being interrogated, though Pete’s ghoul Eric is standing outside. The large, bald man asks if Jade wants to see “the boss” in his distinctly high voice, then knocks on the door. Pete reappears.

“Miss Kalani?”

Celia: Jade waits until the door closes behind him to speak.

“Sorry to interrupt, Warden Lebeaux. I have the phones for you from the two who grabbed me and additional information. Is now a good time?”

GM: “My conversational partner isn’t going anywhere.”

Celia: Of course not. She’s bound to a piece of bondage gear.

“I managed to get into one of the phones. I didn’t bother with the other, not without the proper tools. Have a name for both of them. A contact number for these ‘others.’ And… a, ah, meeting time and location. To hand me off. For tomorrow.”

GM: “Oh, really?” Lebeaux looks thoughtful. “Might be a chance to find out a lot more from these people.”

Celia: “I had the same thought.”

GM: “You could disguise us as those two pretty well.” He frowns. “Though probably at day. Ghouls, then.”

Celia: “1:00PM,” Jade confirms. “But… yeah. I thought a ghoul or two. Maybe some others to bring them in, if needed. And if they need a body, I could come up with something.”

Jade’s eyes don’t quite flit toward the door.

GM: The Tremere looks at her, then motions for Eric to leave. The ghoul does so.

“You want to hand your sister off to hunters?”

Celia: She almost says yes. She also almost says no. In the end she shakes her head.

“I meant one of their bodies. Altered. It’s dead, but… y’know.” Jade shrugs. “Shove a stake in it and they… might not know.”

GM: “They might not. Could also stick a bug inside it. But they’ll know they’ve been had, if these people aren’t rubes. Show up empty-handed and we might be able to stretch this out.” He thinks. “Granted, might not be able to anyway, depending on what they want. If their only interest is more staked licks, might as well get as much mileage out of a bug as we can.”

Celia: “Bug the stake itself, might keep it to use in the future.”

GM: “Smart. Make it a high quality one. They could toss the corpse, but stake less likely. And likely to be somewhere we’d want to snoop in the future.”

Celia: Jade nods. “Do you have a pair in mind to send? I’ll need some time to get them ready for tomorrow. And a body for the lick.”

This time her eyes do flick past him toward the door. “Anything, ah, interesting?”

GM: Pete’s initial response dies at Jade’s question.

There’s a… troubled, is perhaps one way to put it, look to his eyes.

“There’s no delicate way to put this. And maybe better you hear it from my lips than hers.”

“You’re an aunt.”

Celia: “…oh.”

“Wha…? Um.” She’s thrown. It’s obvious in the way she stumbles over her words. She opens and closes her mouth twice, then, “…my dad’s?”

GM: Pete looks as if he’s weighing his words for a moment, then just settles on,


Celia: Her fault.

Her fault.

Her fault.

The world pulls away from her until all she can see is Isabel tied to the bed, Maxen violating his daughter, her broken smile when he finishes.

She sways on her feet. Shakes her head. Swallows against the lump in her throat, but it doesn’t go anywhere.

“Um.” Celia blinks large eyes at him. “Where… where is it? The kid? Who has it?”

“I mean. Does he…?”

How many lives had she ruined?

GM: “Him,” says Pete. “It was a boy.”

Celia: A boy. A little Maxen.

Was he proud when the kid was born?

Another son. Seven kids. Seventh son. Isn’t there some sort of magic in that?

She thinks she asks Pete that same thing, forms the words without conscious decision.

GM: But does it count as a son or grandson?

Celia: Both.


GM: “Well, in Romanian folklore, a seventh son is destined to become a vampire,” says Pete.

Celia: “Oh, well, his mom and aunt beat him to it.”

“Does Maxen have the kid? I… assume he knows it’s his?”

GM: “The folklore varies by country,” he continues, as if to temporarily take Celia’s mind off things. “Sometimes it has to be a seventh son with no daughters in between. Sometimes it’s the seventh son of a seventh son. People had larger families in agrarian societies than they do now, so that wasn’t as rare it might sound.”

“The kid’s name is Ethan. He lives with his aunt Mary. She and her husband couldn’t conceive.”

Celia: Aunt Mary. Celia hasn’t seen Aunt Mary since her grandparents died. Some… weird family drama that set Maxen against everyone else, Celia was too young to remember.

“Do they know?”

GM: “Your sister said she doesn’t know if they do.”

Celia: “Two women in the same night and they both end up pregnant.” What are the fucking odds?

GM: “Well, that’s what can happen when you don’t use a rubber.”

Celia: “Is that why she blames me for her being that?” Celia points at the door.

GM: “You’d have to ask her that yourself. I didn’t.”

Celia: Celia reaches for the door.

GM: Roxanne’s inside. Still blindfolded, bolted up, and otherwise as her sister left her. It’s not as if their limbs get tired, so Celia supposes it’s less inhumane.

Celia: For a moment all Celia does is stare at her bound sister. How is it possible that it has come to this? That two sisters grow so far apart that they’re each willing to kill the other. How is it possible to hate someone so much when they share the same blood?

Family isn’t blood. The words echo inside her mind. Family is choice.

Isabel had made her choices. So had Celia. They’re not Isabel and Celia Flores anymore; they’re Roxanne and Jade, two broken girls from the same broken home.

She’d tried to protect her that night. Eighth birthday. Had sent her back up the stairs to hide under the covers like a good big sister should, had faced the monster on her own. Protector, right? Only that had died the moment their dad sold his soul to it. They’d both been marked that night.

She pulls the door shut behind her with a look at Pete. She needs a moment, the look says. A moment alone for the two broken girls.

GM: He just nods.

Celia: Once the door is closed her eyes seek the face of her sister. Her body is still mangled. Hungry, then. Has to be, or she’d fix all of this. Pete’s given her a bit, she’s sure, enough to keep her talking.

Jade strides forward.

“Heard Maxen knocked you up before you died.”

GM: Her face looks bad, still, past the blindfold. Flesh sliced down to the bone. Gangrel can fuck you up something fierce.

“What the hell is it to you!?”

Celia: “The girl you tried to kill belongs to me. I’m familiar with her story. What happened in that house.”

“Seems to me you’d be mad at the prick who set you against each other rather than her.”

GM: “Ohh, you’re Jade, is that right? Well it’s such an honor!”

“If you were a real Sanctified, you’d turn her right now!”

Celia: “Why?”

GM: Roxanne giggles.

“That’s my big sis! Guess she pulled one over even on you, huh?”

Celia: “Does it hurt knowing that your dad loved her more than you? ‘Lady of the house,’ wasn’t she? After your mom bailed. Didn’t love you anymore. Wow, that probably hurt. And then your dad picked your whore sister over you, huh? She was always prettier than you, wasn’t she. No wonder Maxen loved her most.”

GM: Roxanne screams and throws herself at Jade, the cuffs digging into her wrists as her fangs gnash.

Celia: “Oof. No wonder you carried the baby to term. Thought he might love you if you gave him a son?”

“Too bad he shunted it off to his sister. Shame, that’s what that is.”

GM: “You have no idea! No! Fucking! Idea!” Roxanne froths, tugging against the cuffs.

Celia: “I think I have some idea. Celia told me enough.”

GM: “She told you SHIT!”

Celia: “Oh?” Jade laughs. “I imagine you have a different version of events? Paint yourself as the hero, yeah?”

GM: “She’ll do to you! What she did to HIM! What she did to me! Just WAIT!”

Celia: “What am I waiting for, Roxanne? What did your whore sister do?”

GM: “Gimme a drink, if you really care!”

Celia: Jade laughs again. “I can make her hurt, you know. She’s disappointed me lately; give me a reason. Just one.”

GM: “Oh, just you WAIT! You don’t know what a snake that bitch can be!”

“I slapped her! Once! And she destroyed my whole life! Her fucking SISTER!”

Celia: Jade forces the air from her lungs in a sigh, long and heavy.

“I’m sure the two of you would have made up if you hadn’t died. The fact that you’re holding onto it when you’ve been given this new unlife is… kind of pathetic, really.”

GM: “Yeah? She’s my REAL sire!”

Celia: “She’s mortal,” Jade says flatly.

GM: “And that was a metaphor, stupid! You think she can’t fuck up your whole Requiem, that she won’t stab you in the back when you really need her, you just WAIT!”

Celia: If Jade weren’t Celia she might even be convinced.

“Your sob story is starting to bore me, Roxanne.”

Her nails shift while the Ventrue talks. They lengthen beyond the tip of her fingers, tapering into fine points. An ombre of maroon to black; Jade doesn’t do anything that isn’t pretty. Their sides are razor sharp.

She touches the back of one to Roxanne’s cheek.

“Scourge really fucked you up, didn’t she?”

GM: Roxanne’s fangs, already partly distended, just out all the way at Jade’s touch. A low hiss sounds from the Ventrue’s mouth.

Celia: Jade trails those cruelly pointed nails down the lick’s cheek and over her jaw, then to the soft skin of her throat. She doesn’t press hard enough to break the skin. Not yet.

“Your daddy, though. That’s an interesting angle. Still love your daddy, Roxanne? Even after he put a baby in you and made you carry it to term… then gave it away?”

GM: Roxanne clenches her jaw at the contact.

“As if a Toreador slut hasn’t put worse things inside herself.”

Celia: “That’s a yes.” Roxanne can probably hear the smirk in her voice.

“Do you think he’d stick it in me if I cut off your face and wore it over my own?”

The tips of her nails press against the underside of Roxanne’s jaw, as if she means to carve her now.

“Maybe I can give it to your sister, instead. See if your daddy’ll give your son a cousin. Or… sibling?”

“Or maybe,” she breathes into the Ventrue’s ear, “I’ll go carve up your son into tiny little pieces. Then you can forget about what a slut you were, spreading your legs for your daddy.”

“I saw the sex tape, by the way. Titillating.”

GM: The Ventrue gives another low hiss, though whether at the contact, the skin-digging words, or both is unclear.

“Too much of a coward to even say that to my face. Feel safe with your blindfold on?”

Celia: “Oh no,” Jade says, deadpan, “the bound Ventrue calls me a coward because she thinks it’ll make me take off her blindfold.” She makes a noise. Might be a huff, might be a laugh. “You really are as stupid as your sister says. No wonder your daddy doesn’t love you.”

“You know that your brother is one of my clients? He told me all about how proud your daddy is of your sister. Gushed about it.”

GM: “How typical of a Toreador to only look at the surface of something,” Roxanne sneers. “I’m still nine-tenths dead and probably in the middle of the Evergreen, you idiot. And while I don’t doubt I could crush a mind as stupid and vapid as yours like a beer can, with only you as my thrall I doubt it would even help.”

Celia: “You presume that I give enough of a fuck about you to give you whatever prestige you’re looking for by removing your blindfold. You’re sub-Kindred, Roxanne. Sub-human, even. I think the Nos’ pet ape ranks higher than you. You don’t deserve to look at me. You’re a whore, Roxie. Just your daddy’s little slut.”

“I was going to ask you for the passcode to your phone so I could let them know you said goodbye after we ash you, but I guess watching your family wonder what happened to you will be more amusing. Just another little cunt that couldn’t hack it after daddy went balls deep inside of her.”

“Though… I guess to wonder they’d have to care.”

GM: Frenzied howls tear from the restrained Ventrue’s mouth as she mindlessly throws herself at Jade, slavering and gnashing her fangs.

Celia: Ah, sweet victory. Jade’s smirk doesn’t quite reach her eyes as she turns away from the slavering sight of her sister. She opens the door and steps outside, yanking it shut behind her with a final click.

Her sister is dead. She’d died long before her Embrace, back in college when Celia had made their father beat her bloody. Something had snapped inside of her that there’s no coming back from.

Whatever victory she thinks she’s won, it rings hollow.

GM: Pete glowers at Celia upon seeing the smirk.

“Had a touching moment between sisters, I take it?”

Celia: Celia stares back at him. She tries to keep her face as neutral as she can make it, but she’s never been able to lie to Pete. She shakes her head.

“No.” Her voice is soft. The bitch that had gone into the room hadn’t come back out.

GM: “Well, thank you so much. I’m sure she’ll be just as cooperative now as I’d managed to make her before you walked in.”

Celia: A dozen snarky and self-deprecating comments flit through her head, but she bites her tongue rather than say any of them to him. She’d only be saying them to save face, and he… he’s right. She wilts. Like the weed she is, choking the life out of everyone around her.

She wants to tell him but she doesn’t think he cares. Society of raging dicks, right?

She offers an apology to the floor. It’s all she has now: shame and regret. She’d broken her sister. Rather than mend the bridge she’d torched it. And she’d let Pete down.

Why is that cut the deepest?

Maybe it would have been better if she’d let the stupid hunters keep her.

Celia has no idea why Alana thinks she’d want to chase after the warden. He’s like an older, more grizzled version of Roderick: just too… beyond her. Too morally good. The satisfaction she’d gotten from riling up her sister had faded as soon as she’d left from the room, turning to poison in her mouth. She doesn’t even think she’d felt anything in the moment, either.

Empty. She’s just… empty. As broken as her sister, only she hides it behind pretty dresses and makeup and multiple lovers. Debauchery and sin. As if that fills the gaping hole in her chest where her dad and sister used to be.

“I’m sorry,” she says again. “If you still want me to fix up the ghouls for tomorrow I can. I’ll be…” Celia gestures vaguely. It doesn’t really matter where she is. No one cares.

GM: She can hear it. In her dad’s voice.


Celia: Pete hasn’t said anything, though, and that silence is… oppressive. Worse than her dad’s voice inside her head. Worse than her sister’s screams. Worse than her mother sobbing. That weighty silence is killer.

She chances a glance up at him.

GM: “At least one I want is your grandsire’s, so I’ll have to talk with him.”

At Celia’s look, Pete effects a sigh.

“Odds are good Savoy isn’t going to let her leave the Evergreen. If that happens, might be she and Celia should have a face to face. If your mom hasn’t started hating your sister since we last spoke, maybe you should take a leaf out of her book. Last I checked you weren’t the one who got maimed, beaten, and raped as a result of Isabel’s choices.”

Celia: No, it was the other way around. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? That Celia is to blame for everything. Not fixing things with her sister. Not sheltering her from Maxen’s impossible standards. Abandoning her mom the night she needed her. Taking out her anger on her dad on the sister she’d already failed.

And then giving them up. All of them. For someone who doesn’t give a fuck about her. Who probably never will.


Her lower lip trembles as she looks at the detective. She tries to stop it by clenching her teeth together, flattening her tongue against the roof of her mouth, but then the burning starts in the corners of her eyes and the back of her throat. She turns away, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes.

“I hate him. I hate him so much, Pete.” Her dad. Her sire. Herself, too.

Pete’s the wrong person to fall apart in front of. They all are, really. There was someone once, but she ruined that too.

GM: “I hear you. He’s done a lot to earn your hate,” Pete replies.

With her gaze averted, Celia can’t see what the look on his face might be.

“Look, stew over this and you’ll feel worse, since there’s squat you can do about him right now. Go do something nice for your family. You’ve got a mom, a grandma, and a gaggle of brothers and sisters. With that many relatives I’m sure you can think of something. You’ll feel better.”

“Probably best you avoid anything to do with your dad.”

Celia: Her shoulders don’t shake. She doesn’t need to breathe so there’s no hiccupping sobs or snot or spasming diaphragm. Just the faint smell of blood as it leaks from the corners of her eyes. She wipes at her face and her hands come away red.

It would be easier if she didn’t respect him as much as she does. Easier to just continue to be a shitty person, forget the consequences, mess up everyone around her and call it a night.

But she does respect him. She craves his approval as much or more than she has ever craved her dad’s. As much or more than she has ever craved her sire’s.

“Good job, kid,” she wants to hear him say just once in that gruff voice of his. Or have a conversation that doesn’t devolve into judgment. Christ, she’d take a pat on the back at this point.

Even now it’s like… like pity. It tastes of failure.

But Pete doesn’t want to hear about the misery and gut-wrenching guilt. They’ve all got ghosts. When she finally turns to look back at him she’s wiped the worst of it from her face. She nods. Tries to smile, even. It’s a faltering, broken thing. Like the rest of her.

“You’re right.”

Can’t tell him that every time she tries to do something nice she manages to mess that up, too.

Celia III, Chapter VI
Crumpled Flowers

“You know how you feel utterly alone, sometimes, like nobody else can ever understand why you are the way you are?”
Emmett Delacroix

Date ?

Celia: Celia dreams.

Something floats in the distance. Dark as the night around it. Darker, even, a spot of black; it sucks in the light around it, a black hole that nothing can escape. It would blend into the sky if not for the fluttering at the edges of its silhouette, silver from the light of the moon. Far off stars twinkle in the night.

What monster dreams of starry nights?

Fabric flutters. A dress, a gauzy thing of tulle that dances with every movement the floating thing makes. The girl to whom it belongs is draped in the dark thing’s arms, body bowed with one arm beneath her knees and the other at her back. Her feet are bare, head bent back, throat exposed. The dress is torn across her chest.

The thing has the vague form of a man, though his figures are blurry, indistinct. The shadows shift around him.

Dark curls spill across her throat, float through the air behind her as their bodies drift along an unfelt breeze. The thing is at her neck, slurping. Red stains its mouth, her body; droplets of blood fall to the earth below, freezing before they ever hit the ground.

The thing stops drinking to whisper something in her ear.

“You’re safe now, baby girl.”

Support: And then it’s him, carrying her.

“Hey, Cici. It’s been a minute.”

Celia: Her eyes snap open at the sound of his voice. The dark figure is gone, another dream whisked away, and in his place…

“Emmett.” His name comes out as a whisper. She lifts a hand to touch his cheek.

Support: “Yeah,” he says, hollowly. “Look at you, huh?”

She touches his cheek. It’s a jolt when her fingers don’t go through his flesh.

“I went to your spa, earlier. But you weren’t there.”

Celia: Her fingers slide into his hair, eyes alight. Maybe it’s the moon. Or maybe she’s genuinely thrilled to see him.

“I thought they killed you.”

Support: “They did,” he says. “It’s not so bad once you get used to it. But you know that, anyway.”

He’s quiet, for a minute.

“You never visited.”

Celia: “I came. In the hospital. My grandmother told me you had been arrested, but you were…” Her eyes slide down him, as if looking for his legs. “I didn’t know how to fix you.”

GM: Her grandmother told him she sentenced him to death, too.

He made his own bed. He dug his own grave. He knew full well what not to do, and still did it anyway.

Support: He wiggles one foot. “Dying fixes a lot of things, turns out.”

They float there, for a while. Him carrying her.

“Would you like to go somewhere else? I can redecorate.”

Celia: The world is never as nice as it is in her dreams.

“We never got to explore the upstairs.”

Years ago. The date that wasn’t a date above his favorite restaurant. The memory of absinthe and rum dance across her tongue, like the two of them had twirled around the ballroom.

Support: “That’s true,” he says, and he twirls her neatly to her feet. He couldn’t pull it off in real life, but this is a dream.

When she lands, twirling under his arm, they’re on the same floor they danced over so many years ago. She’s dressed in the same clothes as then, too.

He leads her in a dance across the empty ballroom, the lights of the Quarter night outside the windows.

“I missed you,” he whispers in her ear. “Even when I didn’t know I was missing you.”

Celia: It’s all the same, though somehow more surreal than it had been in the flesh, and her arm is whole; it no longer dangles, broken and bound by a splint, and the steps she takes with him are not hindered by the smarting flesh of her backside. It’s a perfect replication. Mirror image, but better.

Even knowing who he is—the word cousin echoes through her mind—doesn’t make her maintain proper decorum. She holds herself close to him as they spin across the floor.

In her dreams she isn’t a monster; his whisper sends shivers down her spine.

“This was my last happy memory,” she tells him.

Support: “Well, now it doesn’t have to be. I can visit you tomorrow, if you like. And the day after. We can do whatever we want, in dreamland. I think that’s sort of my specialty.”

He spins her, and is content to dance in silence for a while; or near-silence. Soft music plays, swells with their movements.

“They made you a vampire,” he says, seconds or hours later, with her arms around his neck and his chin grazing her nose. “The night everything went to shit.”

“Is it silly that I’m jealous?”

Celia: She’s quiet as they dance, her eyes on him. His legs. His face. The eyes that she had found in someone else; she’d whisked him away rather than let go again.

She doesn’t deny his claim. When she smiles she shows teeth; an echo of a long ago smile, one where she had tried to tell him despite the warning of death.

“They killed us both,” she sighs, “but you stayed dead. I don’t want you to be dead.” Her lip trembles. She looks away. “We were supposed to be friends. Partners.”

Support: “I stayed dead,” he agrees. “But I’m here now.” His lips graze her forehead, and his fingers run through her hair. “We can be those things now. I was actually hoping that you would still want to be.”

They’re in his apartment, suddenly, splayed out on that too-small couch, limbs tangled.

“Do you want to be friends, cousin? Something else?”

His hand traces her thigh, slides under her dress.

“We’re alone, now. Me a ghost, you a lick. Nobody to judge.”

Celia: It’s a familiar scene. His couch, close together, his hands sliding up her thigh. The material parts before him. Something tells her this is wrong—cousins— but she doesn’t think she cares. Are they really still cousins if they’re both dead? She has imagined more heinous things than sleeping with her dead (ghost?) cousin.

This is how that night should have ended. Not with blood.

She remembers the rejection. It’s an old ache inside her chest. A blame for which she’d never pointed fingers. One moment of what she’d thought was happiness and then the soul-crushing rejection that had led to her entire world crumbling around her. Does he mean it now, or is he just playing games again?

Her fingers hook through his shirt, pulling him closer. Her lips find his neck, breath cool against the shell of his ear. She whispers that she missed him, then asks him what he wants.

Support: “To tell you,” her cousin says, as he waves away her clothing as if dismissing smoke. “I know what you did. The night we fucked.”

She’s naked, suddenly, in his arms. Pressed against him. It’s her dream, but his movie.

“I know you did to me what you did to Maxen.”

He doesn’t, actually.

But he’s pretty sure. And her face will tell him.

Celia: This isn’t the way the night is supposed to go. She’s naked but there’s nothing intimate about it; she’s exposed, vulnerable, looking up at him with eyes widened by surprise… and hurt.

“I didn’t.”

She doesn’t want this anymore. She moves to pull away, covering herself: an arm across her chest, a hand between her legs.

Support: He looks at her.

His face falls.

“I’m sorry. I must have been mistaken.”

The dream is still.

“I was going to say, that…”

“Well. I guess it doesn’t matter now.”

“I’m sorry I ruined your life, Celia. I ruined my own, too.”

“I’m sorry for scaring you. I thought… but it doesn’t matter. I was going to say, I’ve done bad things. Worse things, than that. And I know how much it hurts. The regret.”

“I’ll go. If you’d like.”

Go somewhere and rot, probably.

He stands, and she sees him as he is. The dead man, with the dead arm. The empty eyes. The dark wings.

“I’m sorry I… I’m sorry.”

Celia: His words keep her glued to the couch. She averts her gaze, but she doesn’t try to flee. Not like she had that night, when running made everything worse.

She listens. To his apologies, to his fragmented sentences, to the emotion beneath them.

To the boy that she raped just to prove she could.

“We were both broken,” Celia finally says to him. “You were just transparent about it, while I clung to some vague idea of pretend.”

Support: “But you broke because of me,” he said. “Should never have turned you down. I wanted you but didn’t want you to hate me. I should have kept you with me, that night. I’m sorry,” he says again, uselessly.

“Let me make it better.”

Celia: “You can’t put me back together, Em. Life doesn’t work that way. Once you crumple a flower it stays crumpled.”

Support: “But I can kiss it better.”

He reaches for her. Pulls her close, slowly.

“We can pick up the pieces.”

Celia: Flowers don’t have pieces, she almost tells him, just petals and stems and sometimes thorns, and when you pull them apart they die.

She’s wary. He’d been the catalyst before, there’s no denying the hand that he’d had in her fate. But she’d made choices, too. She can’t blame him for everything that had happened. She’s stiff, but doesn’t pull away.

“Why?” she finally asks. “Why me? Why now?”

Support: “Because you’re the only family I have left that wants me around,” he says, hating himself for not being able to think of a lie.

Celia: Not for her, then. For his own reasons.

No one ever wants Celia for herself.

The disappointment is clear on her face.

“Oh,” is all she says.

Support: “And that I trust.”

“And… might trust me.”

“And because I was telling the truth when I said I missed you, even though I couldn’t remember exactly why, beyond that you treated me like a real person when nobody else would.”

Celia: “What do you mean, you don’t remember why?”

Support: “I do now, but they… did things. To my head. To make me forget what we did. What I saw on the tape. What happened to you. I was a mess when I got out. I couldn’t keep what happened straight in my head.”

Celia: “They do that,” she says. They. Not we. “They’ve done it to me.”

She quits fighting against him. If he wants to pull her close again she doesn’t move to stop him, though her arms and hands remain firmly where they are against her naked body.

Support: “I should have known,” he says, and as he wraps an arm around her her body is draped in a blanket, protected, soft.

“You know how you feel utterly alone, sometimes, like nobody else can ever understand why you are the way you are?”

He lifts her chin to stare into her eyes. “We don’t need to feel that way anymore.”

Celia: She does know. She hates being alone. There’s no one to talk to about things, no one she can trust, no one she can turn to that won’t seek to use it against her.

She pulls the blanket tighter around her shoulders, sinking into it.

“Isolation is devastating to the human psyche.” She’d read that somewhere once, and she’s often wondered if their self-imposed isolation is what makes licks so awful to each other.

“You told me, once, that I could come back to you. But then you disappeared.” They both had.

Support: “Only for a time. When I could come back… well, I’m here now. And so are you.”

He squeezes her shoulder, to reassure her of his presence.

Celia: The gesture does what it’s meant to. Less wary, Celia curls against him, a position that might have become familiar had things not panned out this way.

“Are you back for good?”

Support: “If I have anything to say about it. I’m still pretty new to this.”

“This dream stuff, too. Can you imagine doing this all the time? We could have so much fun, and nobody would be able to touch us while we dream together.”

The couch doesn’t move, but the world around them swirls like wet paint that takes on new shapes and colors. A star-filled night on a ship manned by pirates in cute outfits, bright rags and scarves.

A castle with soaring turrets, a bayou creaking with the noises of insects.

The sun. Warmth on her skin.

He laughs, delighted. “We can go anywhere.”

Celia: The sudden appearance of the sun makes the thing within her chest snarl. Its claws scrape and grind against her insides, yowling its displeasure. She feels it rise up inside of her and pushes it back down with as much of her focus as she can spare; outwardly she doesn’t so much as flinch, though she does pull the blanket up over her head and tucks herself further into Emmett’s body. As if his slight form will shield her from the rays.

“Mermaids,” she says, “underwater.” Underwater, where the sun can only penetrate so far.

Support: “Under the sea!” chirps a certain trademarked cartoon crab, and the sun’s rays are suddenly replaced by the faint feeling of water against her skin. They aren’t soaked, though, even though when she looks up she sees the titular mermaid of this particular movie zooming overhead in response to the dance number.

“Don’t tell anyone,” Em says, dead serious, “but this was always my favorite Disney movie.”

Celia: Celia’s hair can’t escape the blanket to float around her head the way it should beneath the water, but that doesn’t stop the smile that spreads across her face at the sight of the crab, mermaid, and fish swimming just in front of them. She thinks she hears them singing, but that might just be a trick.

“It had catchy songs,” Celia agrees, “though when I was a kid that scene when the witch got big always scared me. I also,” she confesses to him, leaning in to whisper in his ear, “cried when the dad lion died.”

“Do you think mermaids are real?”

Support: But it isn’t a trick.

Darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from meeee…

“They can be real when I’m with you,” he says.

Celia: She can make them real too, she knows. She’s thought about it. Going to the ocean and giving herself a tail.

“My dad took us all to the pool once. We played hookie. Iz and I were real young, maybe… I was six? Seven. And she and David and I pretended to be mermaids in the deep end, kicking our legs like flippers.”

“There’s a documentary about them. Mermaids, I mean. About their evolution and how they’re real. It’s not… I mean in the credits it says it’s fake, but sometimes it’s nice to pretend.”

Support: “Yes, it is,” he says, and they sit there watching the mermaids for a while.

“We can spend every dream like this.”

Celia: “Pretending? Or together?”

Support: “Both. And who’s pretending? There are mermaids there. Look, I can make them wave.”

Celia: “But they’re not real.”

“Are you real, Em, or is this one of those trauma dreams?”

Support: “I’m really dead, and I really miss our talks. Does it feel traumatic?”

Celia: That isn’t what she’d been referring to, but she supposes she shouldn’t admit to her (ghost?) cousin that she’s just killed a handful of people.

“It was never traumatic with you, Em. You always had a happy place in my memories. Even when things were… not good.”

Support: “That’s good. I always wanted you to be happy. Are you, now?”

The mermaids dance and sing as he hugs her close. They might not be real, but they might as well be.

“You can talk to them, if you want,” Em says. “We don’t just have to watch.”

Celia: Happiness. There’s a loaded question if there ever was one. She’s killed countless people. Taken a boy from his life because his eyes remind her of her dead cousin. Alienated the only lick who knew enough about her to love her anyway.

Christ, that’s the problem isn’t it. That she expects there’s anything real to be found in this society of selfish, self-serving licks who do anything and everything they can to get ahead. They laugh at her because she hasn’t been sucked into their bullshit game of fucking over everyone she can just for kicks and spends her time being adored instead.

How can she tell him that? How can she tell him that they broke her the night she died and she’s been trying to hold herself together and cover up her scars with concealer and false lashes ever since?

She extends a hand toward the mermaid, touching her fingers to her fish tail as the red head swims by.

“I have a daughter,” she says finally, as if that is an answer.

“She’s happy.” That’s what’s supposed to matter to moms, isn’t it? She wouldn’t know. Her womb is as dead as the rest of her.

“Where did you go, when you left?”

Support: “You mean when I died.”

The mermaid giggles at her touch and swims above them, fish-end dangling.

Celia: Maybe. She’d meant when he’d disappeared for years. She won’t admit to stalking him, though, or watching his apartment.

“Yes,” she says instead.

Support: “There’s a place that overlaps with the real world. It’s grayer and full of ghosts and quite boring. It’s called the Shadowlands.” He shrugs. “It’s where I live now, I guess.”

Celia: “That sounds… awful.”

Ghosts are real. Everyone says the Quarter is haunted, but somehow she’d never thought about it.

“No Heaven or Hell, then? Bible lied to us.”

Support: “Yeah, but you knew that already. And this place is kind of like Hell, if you squint.”

“Funny thing, though? It beats Death Row.”

Celia: “That’s… bleak.” Her grandmother had sentenced him. It weighs on her. That and being unable to visit. Barred from seeing him before they put him down. Just legless, in the hospital. Broken.

“What do you get up to over there?”

Support: “It’s a bleak world, Cici. And mostly, I… plan. I do things I’m not so proud of and try to get revenge on the people that did me wrong. Take care of the people I should have taken care of better. Like you, I guess, though you’ve done all right for yourself.”

He’s quiet for moment there.

“Can you help me?”

Celia: Has she? She’s glad he thinks so. She’s always hated disappointing people she cares about.


Support: “Your father. And my uncle.”

Celia: “Ron.” She’s never spoken about him to anyone else. Just Em. “What… what do you want me to do?”

Support: “Get close to him, if you can bear it. Maybe tell him you’re his daughter. He’s… he’s not a good guy, but after Jermaine, he went weird about being a dad. You might be able to get him invested in you. I have some relatives he might need to look after, some movies I might want him to publish. I might need to slide into his dreams, too. But it’d be helpful to have… somebody like you… in the Skinlands, too. Who can handle him.”

He squeezes her hand. “You don’t have to. I understand.”

Celia: “I haven’t approached him for twenty-seven years. He doesn’t know I exist.”

The lie comes easily. They always do.

“Do you… know the best way to bring that up around him? The best way to handle him?”

Support: Em considers for a moment.

“You’ll want to be patient, accommodating,” he tells her. “He has a whole procedure for testing people claiming to be his kids. He’ll have you take a swab in front of him, probably be pretty cold at first. But he’ll be grateful if you seem to understand that. He’s one jaded motherfucker, Ron. Showing him you get why is half the battle.”

Celia: “He raped my mom,” Celia says flatly. “I don’t suppose he’ll offer any sort of apology for that. She was sixteen. Sixteen.”

She exhales in a sigh, pushing the air between her lips.

“Should I go out for a movie, then, or approach him directly?”

Support: “Maybe he will, maybe not,” Em says. “But it’ll mean as much either way. If you don’t seem to hold it against him, he’ll be intrigued, I think. And approach him directly, for sure. Maybe say you want to collaborate. You’ve got all the social media stuff going on, right?”

Celia: “I’ve got a pretty large following,” Celia admits, “and… honestly, I love my mom, but I wouldn’t exist if not for him, so.”

“I suppose if he did want to collab he’d get a nation-wide audience instead of the locals. I’ve been putting off talking to him for years.”

Support: “Well, there’s another way to get his attention.”

“You can mention me.”

Celia: “Oh?”

“I know he’s your uncle, but… what, specifically, would you want me to mention about you?”

Support: “That you’re how you know you’re his kid. Because we were cousins, and I told you.”

Celia: “Doesn’t he… not like you?”

Support: “Not at all. Which is why you can bond with him over what a piece of shit I was.”

“I would keep my name out of it at first. Use it to grab his attention if he starts trying to roll you over.”

Celia: “What’s your plan? Use him or ruin him?”

Support: “Use him. My grudge can wait. And anyways, he kind of had a point. I killed his son.”

Celia: “Because, Em…” She turns to him, touching a hand to his cheek. “He was nothing but a squirt of cum in my momma’s cunt. You’re my family. My friend. And if you tell me, I can help. Will help.”

Support: “I know, Celia.” He touches her hand. “I’m trying to play a lot of hands right now. Things are difficult.”

Celia: “Em. I’ve been in your corner. Always. You don’t have to pretend with me.”

She doesn’t tell him the worst of it: that she was head over heels for him all those years ago. That if she hadn’t found out she was his cousin everything would have been completely different.

Support: He sighs. “There was a dead girl in your salon. Her ghost, anyways. You make a lot of ghosts?”

Celia: His question about the girl makes her pause. She draws back into herself, removing her hand from him.

“I… do what I have to,” she hedges, unsure of what answer he’s looking for. She doesn’t quite meet his gaze. Doesn’t admit to killing her.

“I do what she tells me,” she finally says, falling back on the familiar lie.

Support: “So do I. I’m not pretending. There’s a deal I made. Souls for power. If you kill people, I can—”

He frowns. “She?”

Celia: “Kill people?” she asks at the same time.

Support: “Who’s she? You have somebody you need to listen to?”

Celia: “I…” she hesitates. “You called me a vampire, but I’m… I’m not. But… what do you mean, deal for power?”

Support: He frowns. “Why are you sleeping during the day?”

Celia: “Tell me about your deal,” she presses, “and I’ll tell you about… me.”

Support: He hesitates. “I… okay. But I’m confused.”

“I made a deal with a… thing. That eats ghosts. And living things. And if I give it enough to eat, it’ll grant me my heart’s desire.” He shrugs. “Who knows if she’s telling the truth. But it’s all I have, right now. Perks of being a family friend.”

Celia: “What’s your heart’s desire, Em?”

Support: “Don’t know, yet.”

“I guess I’ll think about it when I get there.”

Celia: “Because I…” she pauses, flushing. In dreams she’s as human as any breather, and the pink in her cheeks is testament to that.

Support: “What?”

He runs a thumb across her cheek. “What’s wrong?”

Celia: “I went to your grave, you know. After you died. Because I couldn’t visit you while you waited for the needle.” Her eyes are downcast, but when she looks up at him he can see the sincerity there. “I thought about… ways to help. To bring you back. To… to get you a body that you could inhabit.”

Her eyes close momentarily, a long blink or staving off her emotions. She can’t tell him what she felt for him those nights they were together. But a new body, one that isn’t bound to him in blood? That wouldn’t be unnatural.

“I didn’t know that ghosts were real.” Keep up the lie. “And everything I’d heard was fiction. Hearsay.”

GM: It wasn’t much of a grave. White concrete cross identical to thousands of others, all spaced exactly 3×9 feet away from each other. DOC number, name, birth date and death date. Even the dead inmates at Angola still wear uniforms.

‘Marble’ proved a little high an expectation too.

Celia: She doesn’t need to tell him that, though.

She had gone regardless. And left roses.

Not that it matters.

Who checks the graves of dead people, really.

“I thought, maybe… maybe your heart’s desire is to come back.”

Support: “I don’t know if that’s in the cards.”

Celia: Her heart sinks. Maybe it’s always been broken.


“Ghosts, though. You want me to kill people.”

Support: “But that doesn’t mean I can’t become something… better. Stronger.”

“Something that can be with you.”

“And…I don’t know. Not if you aren’t…Not if that’s something you aren’t doing anyways. I thought you were a vampire.”

Celia: She wants to believe him. But he’d turned her down twice now.

“D’you mean that? That you… that you want to be with me?”

“Even if we’re… y’know.”

Support: He answers her with a kiss.

A proper one, too. Years pass, and they pass too quickly. Her mouth tastes like smoke and absinthe. When his lips break from hers, they hover close, still, so she can feel his words on her lips as he speaks them.

“Shit, Celia. I’m dead. Who cares, anymore? I’m here. You’re here. It’s just us, in your dreams. Why can’t we do what we please?”

Celia: Oh. Oh. It’s… everything she’s been thinking about for years now. What it might have been like if he hadn’t turned her down. His tongue curled around hers, his hands on her waist, her hips, everything.

She doesn’t mean to come apart at the seams, but she does, and he’s there to keep her from drifting too far. She’s breathless by the time it’s over, pressed close against him. Cousin, but more than that, isn’t he? Hadn’t he always been? Hadn’t she always denied what she felt for him, years later, tried to ignore the pull because it wasn’t right, wasn’t proper, but they’re both dead now, what does it matter?

Celia is curled against him before it’s over, perched on his lap with her arms around his neck, and when he finally pulls away he can hear the disappointment in her sigh.

“I kill people,” she finally asks, “and this… this is…?” she trails off. How can she admit it to him, even if he’d guessed?

Support: “It’s okay,” he tells her, seeing how she struggles. “It’s just us, and the mermaids. Or wherever else you want to be.”

A crab skittles around them, still whistling faintly.

Celia: She doesn’t need to finish her thought. She doesn’t know what she is asking anyway. Confirmation? A promise? Why label it? A ghost and a vampire wake up in a dream.

“If every dead person becomes a ghost, then there’s two of them you can take from the Ninth Ward.” She gives him the address.

“I killed them,” she says shortly. No further clarification, no justification as to why.

Maybe that’s what she’s been looking for. Someone to whom she doesn’t need to explain her actions. Someone just as messed up as she is.

Support: “Okay,” he says quietly. “That’s…helpful, actually. Thanks.” He squeezes her shoulder. “So if you’re not a vampire… what happened to you, Celia?”

Celia: There’s the flaw in all the lies she’s told: he was there that night. He’d seen her disappear from the apartment. Had seen what was on the tape; had he been the one to edit it, to scrub her voice from the footage they’d given to the detective? He’d had that movie thing going, once.

Lie, a voice inside her head says. Protect what she’s built. But it’s Em. He’d always helped her, had plotted with her how to take out Maxen, had come running when she’d called that night with the monsters.

She’d already told him she’d killed two people. He hadn’t even asked why. If they’d deserved it. Volunteered to do more for him, as if knowing that he were there to collect the souls of the dead made killing them for parts worth it. Their blood will nourish her, their souls someone else.

She bites her lip. Looks away from him. She’d already lied to him. Last time she’d come clean after something like this it hadn’t ended well.

“They call them licks,” she says, as if that explains it. “Or Kindred, I guess. ‘Vampire’ is apparently offensive.” The corners of her lips curl upward in amusement.

“But even licks don’t eat souls,” Celia says after a moment, “what other sort of monster are you indebted to?”

Support: He sighs, and the room sighs with him. Mermaids shudder, coral shifts.

“The one I told you about, long ago. Abélia Devillers.”

Celia: “You told me she isn’t human,” Celia recalls, “but if she isn’t human and she isn’t Kindred… what else is out there?”

Support: Em shrugs. “We have forever to name them. I’m not too caught up in it.”

He strokes her hair. “Mermaids are a bit old, now. Do you want to be puppies? Astronauts? I could take us to the moon, if you like. Then everybody in the world would wonder why the sky was so beautiful tonight.”

Celia: Trouble, she had told him once, and it crosses her mind again now. She flushes at both word and touch.

“I would like to see the moon,” Celia says to him, “and galaxies more distant than that. Or the rings of Saturn, or Neptune’s cloudy skies. Alien landscapes. Anything that isn’t New Orleans. You can do it all, Em?”

Support: “All.”

The couch spins, hangs suspended in space, with the light of the moon turning their faces white. There’s no sun in this galaxy, but the stars more than compensate. They glitter in a matrix of nothing, a grid of jewels without flaw.

Just like her.

“All the things you can dream of,” he tells her. “Every time you fall asleep. Forever.”

The world is a blue-green ball the size of her head. In real life, she knows she could never see it turn, but in her dreams, it tilts and lists on its axis like a gentle mobile.

He’s kissing her, again, but not just on her lips. On her neck, her ear. Her thighs, her womanhood, her toes and fingers. Ten tongues press themselves to her, twenty lips send goosebumps down her flesh.

“We can do anything together. If you’ll dream with me.”

Celia: For a moment the stars are all she can see, shining brightly in the distance. They light her face, her hair, her eyes. Eyes full of wonder, adoration… and there, burning in their depths as his mouth and phantom tongues descend, desire. The answer that she gives him is wordless: a parting of lips, a soft sigh, a complete surrender. Her to him, him to her; does it matter? They’re the same. Together they can be whole.

The stars in her eyes shift until he is all she can see. Yes, of course, of course she’ll have him. She’ll dream with him every night. Forever.

Celia III, Chapter V
The Hunter Hunted

“Talk or we burn you.”
Unknown hunter

Date ?

GM: Pain stabs through Celia’s flank. Her Beast roars.

“Wakey-wakey, bloodsucker.”

She can’t see. Her sight is covered. There’s something thick in her mouth.

“Here’s how this is going to go.”

Someone pulls the blindfold away. It’s painfully bright out.

Day out.

Celia’s head throbs. She’s in a bare room, handcuffed to a bed in spread-eagle position.

The man and woman from the car are sitting on the bed. The woman is holding a bloody knife. The man has a cigarette lighter.

He flicks it on. Moves it closer to her face. Celia’s Beast gnashes its teeth and rears it back.

He flicks it off.

“You’re going to answer our questions, or we’ll burn your pretty face.”

“If you’re still stubborn after that, we’ll get creative.”

“Nod if you understand.”

Celia: She doesn’t know how it works, the thing that Savoy did that night when he felt her die. She doesn’t know how strong the bond is, or if he or her sire will be able to feel it, if she’s doing it right, if there’s even a way to do it consciously.

But she screams. Inside her mind she screams, wordless, panic and rage and fear. That deep-seated fear of fire, of daylight, of these two people standing over her with their knife. Her mind is an echo chamber of please and God and help me, save me.

Her face isn’t flat. It doesn’t betray the rage, but the terror? She lets that show. Anyone would be scared in this position. It puts her back to that time in Em’s apartment. Watching her mother get raped. Tied down, just like this. Hacksawed.

She can’t talk around the gag in her mouth, but she nods. She nods vigorously, all the while pulling in that predatory smell and projecting the same thing she had shown them… before. Last night? How long ago?

It doesn’t matter. She projects that impression of innocence.

GM: The man’s face seems so soften, perhaps a bit.

The blindfold goes back on.

The gag comes out.

“How recently were you turned into this?”

His tone isn’t kind. But it’s perhaps less cruel than when he waved the lighter in her face.

Celia: She could lie. She could tell him she doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But there’s an easy way to test that, isn’t there? Push her outside. Let the sun ash her. There’s a tightness in her chest where her heart used to be. Dread curls in her gut.

They want information. It’s not often you find yourself with a vampire on your hands. Would they ash her for lying? Or just put that cigarette lighter on her, slide that knife under her nails?

Her voice comes out in a broken whisper, a pained whine. Breathless. Afraid. “I didn’t know what she was.”

Keep calm. Keep calm and scream inside. Cooperate. Someone has to know she’s missing. Savoy has to wonder why she didn’t show up. That’s not like her. She wouldn’t miss a meeting. Maybe he sent someone to look for her. Maybe Pete…?

She doesn’t pull at the bindings. She is very, very still.

GM: She couldn’t see them, anyway, Just like she can’t see the man’s expression.

“How recently?” he repeats. Not angry, yet, but pressing.

Celia: When was the last selfie she’d posted on Instagram? She remembers it because it had a sunny background. Augmented reality. Photoshop. That’s what she’d told Coco years ago when she’d asked.

Too young and they’ll think she doesn’t know anything. Too old and they’ll know this innocent mask is a lie.

There’s no way to win. Another game without an end.

It isn’t fair. All she wants to do is fix her family. Her dad finally said he was proud of her. Her sister is waiting for her to come back.

Her lip quivers. She draws in a shaky breath so she can tell him what he wants to know.

“A few months.” She prays it’s the right answer. They can check her Insta page if they need to; it’ll show that sunny photo, date stamped from a few months prior.

GM: “What’s your phone PIN?” asks the woman.

Celia: “Face scanner.” Jade’s face.

GM: There’s a pause. The blindfold gets pulled away. The man’s eyes are shut as he holds up the phone to her face.

Celia: It doesn’t open. Celia isn’t wearing Jade’s face. She’d never had a chance to change for her meeting.

GM: She’s blindfolded again.

She can hear the man’s scowl.

“Dumb of you.”

Celia: “Is—is that a white phone? Mine isn’t white.”

GM: There’s silence.

Retreating footsteps.

Door opening.


Celia: She strains to hear anything beyond the door. Anything that will give her more information on where she is or what they want with her. All the while she remains still. She breathes, just to make herself look human, just to give her something to do.

GM: She hears plenty. Muffled yelling and screaming.

Alana’s voice.

Celia: No.

GM: “Mi-fre-f!!!”

“Open your mouth,” says the woman.

Celia: Her mouth opens. She keeps her fangs hidden away.

GM: The gag gets shoved back in. The blindfold comes off.

Alana is gagged and tied up. The man traces the knife’s edge along her face.

“Talk or we burn you. That’s what we said, starting with your pretty face.”

“But you fucks can come back from anything.”

The ghoul is very still, but her damp eyes are wide and fearful.

Celia: Celia shakes her head, eyes pleading. She shouts from behind the gag. The words are muffled.

GM: “Can you unlock the phone?” asks the woman.

“Nod or shake your head.”

Celia: She doesn’t know what’s on her phone that they want. Selfies? Business receipts from her email? Sexts to Randy? She’d learned, long ago, how technology could fuck someone. She doesn’t keep anything worth saving on her phone. That’s just ignorant.

But she can’t take the chance she was sloppy. Sell out a ghoul, or sell out her entire kind?

It’s an easy decision to make.

She hates herself for it.

She shakes her head.

GM: The woman holds down a crying Alana, and then the man saws off her right ear. Blood messily spurts everywhere as the ghoul makes muffled screams past her gag and thrashes in place.

Celia can feel her elongated canines pierce through the gag’s cloth as the heady coppery scent fills her nostrils.

Celia: She thrashes against her bindings. Against whatever is holding her back, she thrashes, yanks, pulls. Her body bucks and bows, bending, twisting. Her fingers curl into claws. She screams again. Wordless. Rage. Panic. Shakes her head. Again, again. Stop it, she’s screaming, but they can’t hear.

GM: Perhaps her Beast bursts out and overtakes her. Perhaps she howls like the monster is. The handcuffs cruelly dig into her flesh and hold her fast.

Perhaps Roderick or Veronica could burst those steel bonds. But she’s just Celia. Weak.

“Is this her phone?” the man asks Alana, holding it up.

The sobbing, newly-one-eared ghoul mutely bobs her head, over and over, as if that will make the pain stop.

“Oh, look. More lies.”

The blindfold goes back on. The gag comes out.

“Punctured it,” says the woman.

“She’s a monster,” says the man. “Look at those fang marks.”

“There’s monsters and then there’s monsters,” says the woman.

Someone’s hand touches Celia’s shoulder.

“You say you’re pretty new to what you are,” comes the man’s voice.

“Okay. You’re a sweet girl something bad happened to.”

“This will go easier if you cooperate. Just tell us how to get into the phone.”

Celia: The skin where they’d stuck the knife knits itself back together beneath her shirt. The wound is bloody enough that they might not notice, even if they were looking at it.

How long has she been here? How long until nightfall? Until someone comes looking for her? Did anyone even notice? Does he care that she was screaming in her mind, or is he snoozing, peacefully, behind those steel doors in Paul’s house? Alana will fold soon. The girl wasn’t built to withstand this kind of torture.

Her mind rips through her options. They seem to feel at least something for her. Pity, maybe. But that won’t stop them from taking her head when they get what they want. Her and Alana both. And then what? Then Roxanne fades away into nothing, or breaks free of the restraints. Kills one of her employees. If they get into the phone and find what they’re looking for—what are they looking for?

She doesn’t need to see the man to make him feel things. There’s no eye contact required. She pours it down that line of energy that connects the two of them, the one from her shoulder to his hands to his heart. She makes him feel it. See her how she wants him to see her: friend. Not a monster. Just a sweet girl something bad happened to. Someone who wants to help, she just can’t, and she doesn’t want to be this way, she wants to help, of course she wants to help, she’s a people pleaser, she’d do it if she could.

“J-Jade has to do it.” She puts a tremor in her voice. “I can help, just—what do you need?”

“Please don’t hurt her,” she tacks on, because that sounds like the kind of thing someone nice would say, the kind of thing someone decent would be worried about.

GM: “Who is Jade?” asks the woman.

Celia: “She’s in charge. She’s the one… the one who…” she breaks off.

GM: Celia can’t see Alana’s face, but the ghoul’s gag-muffled sobs are still all-too audible.

“The leech who turned you,” fills in the man.

“Blankbodies now,” says the woman.

“Suppose they are,” says the man.

Celia: Celia nods her head. She presses her face into her arm, even tied as it is, as if to hold back tears.

GM: “That’s good,” the man says encouragingly. “Tell us about Jade.”

Celia: “She—she’s hurts me. She makes me do what she says, I don’t want to, but she… she makes me and… she kil—she killed—” She cuts off into a hiccupping sob. “I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to, she r-raped me, she ju-just takes over when I…” Her head shakes, back and forth. “Please, please, tell me w-what you want, I’ll help, I will, I c-can’t go back to her.”

GM: The pair question Celia extensively about Jade. Her name. Her haven. Her routine. Her demonstrated powers. Her preferred vessels.

The lies drip from the Toreador’s too-practiced tongue like honey. She was spouting bullshit long before her Embrace.

And besides, it’s not even completely a lie. Once you can fake sincerity you have it made, so it’s even better if you don’t have to.

The pair seem to swallow it all. Hook, line, and sinker.

Celia: She tells them what they want to know. She tells them about the woman who came to her. The old woman with the curling gray hair, leathery skin, wrinkles upon wrinkles upon wrinkles. Evening appointments only, but that’s not strange—a lot of people work during the day. The woman had wanted her to fix her flaws. To make her younger. More beautiful. Only any change Celia made came undone the next night. There’s no way to make it permanent. Nothing she can do for them.

She tells them about the rage. The beating she’d endured inside her own establishment when her client hadn’t liked her news. When they press for details about what the woman can do, she tells them about the durability. The healing. The mind control. Smart to cover her eyes or mouth. So smart. You need direct eye contact, she tells them, that’s how they get you. Both eyes. Nothing in between. That’s the drawback, she says, that there are ways around it if you know what you’re doing. She’d had a special pair of glasses made for when she deals with the woman. Maybe they saw her with them?

She tells them about the dirty table where she was taken apart. The table covered in blood, filth, excrement. The bindings like these—and here her voice breaks again, because these bindings remind her of being beaten, of being violated, and she tells them that, too, and she presses her face again into her arm as her body trembles. Helpless. Her friends are hurting her. She tells them, too, about the laughter. The screaming. The broken bones. Sometimes she’d be suffocated. Her vision would go black and then red. The blood vessels would pop in her eyes and face. She’d have to pile on the makeup after that. The woman would always bring her back from the brink of death, though.

Until one night she didn’t.

Now she’s one of them. A leech. A slave to a more powerful master. She just wants to be left alone. To make people pretty. She’s good with makeup. She seizes that idea, showing them excited desperation: she can help them. She can help them get in to where the woman stays. It won’t be strange for Celia to show up, and she can disguise them, bring them with her.

She can help. She just wants to help. To help them. To let them help her. To get her out from under the thumb of the evil thing that stole her life from her.

She asks, at some point, if they can put the ear on ice. Maybe a doctor can reattach it.

There’s a ritual, she tells them, haltingly. Breathlessly. A ritual that will make them fast and strong. It will help when they fight the woman. When they go after Jade.

But there’s a price. Two prices, really, and she’s flustered as she tells them that. Shy. She makes them draw it out of her, coaxing. She’s afraid to scare them, she says, she doesn’t want them to think less of her, doesn’t want to be seen like… like the woman. She seems reluctant to part with the information.

She needs blood, first. Their blood. She doesn’t need to bite them, not if they don’t want her to. They can put it in a cup. Feed her with a straw. Hold it to her lips. It’ll leave a scar if they cut themselves like that though, she can’t fix that. But if they do want her to bite them, she promises it won’t hurt. She can take it from their wrist if they want, and it’ll close after, no scars. She won’t take too much. Enough for the ritual, that’s it. The other one can hold the knife to her if needed, if it sounds like their partner is in pain.

She doesn’t want to hurt her friends.

The second part… she trails off as she tells them. She bites her lip with flat teeth, sends the blood to her cheeks to redden them. She plays up that picture of innocence; demure, chaste, pure. She squirms as she tells them.

The second part is to seal it with a kiss.

GM: Celia can’t see anything happening as she talks, but she hears Alana chokingly add to the story. She sobs about the unspeakable things Jade does to them both. About how she and Celia are both victims. How she didn’t want this, any of this, for herself, she doesn’t want anything to do with vampires, but Jade forced her. She begs the pair not to hurt Celia, who’s done so much to shield her from Jade’s wrath. Who’s endured beatings and worse, so much worse, in her place. She begs the pair to save them from Jade.

Celia: Celia pictures the girl’s words as she talks. She puts herself in that position, the both of them in that position: playtoys for more powerful Kindred. It isn’t a stretch to imagine. She sees Veronica’s face twist as she destroys things. Hears the phlemgy, squelching laughter of the Nosferatu. Imagines her sister’s wounds. She didn’t even get a chance to ask what happened. Who had hurt her.

Celia lets that fear fill her voice. Shows them the way her body trembles at the thought of being subjected to more abuse. It isn’t even a stretch: she knows if she plays this wrong the rest of her kind will have something to say, too, and that’s assuming she gets out. Savoy has never had cause to be disappointed with her before, but she can see it in his eyes when she pictures him. Failure. He’ll say he should have left her in the water. Should have let the sun ash her. Donovan threw her away, and Savoy will say he should have left her like the garbage that she is. It’s a quick execution to sell out their own kind, she knows. Maybe that’s the best she can hope for now.

Or maybe they’ll sell her off to the highest bidder. Make an example of her: this is what happens when you get sloppy. Veronica had smugly told her she’d taken someone like that. He’s just a bitch now. Treated worse than she’d ever treat a ghoul, or even the kine. A primogen’s childe and he still has no recourse.

All of that she pours into her words. Halting. Splintering. But not for her. For Alana.

Please, she says to them, please would they consider letting Alana go? She can get a head start out of the city, before the others wake up, before they learn about the betrayal. Alana doesn’t deserve this, she tells them, voice breaking, and if Celia… if Celia is going to find her ruin here—pleasedontendme—at least Alana would be free from it.

GM: Once more, honey drips from the Toreador’s practiced lips. Perhaps the alternating gag and blindfold would be enough to shield them from Celia’s powers of enthrallment, were she a childe of Ventrue whose gaze must be assiduously averted, but the Rose Clan’s vitae runs through Celia’s veins instead.

Celia cannot meet their eyes. She cannot read their faces. But she can read their voices, and the silences in between. She can feel their hearts paining for the innocent victim she proclaims herself to be.

She has, after all, had so much practice playing the victim.

Being the victim.

Her captors don’t apologize for Alana’s ear. But she hears retreating footsteps, an opening door, and the mutilated ghoul stammering out here thanks. There’s the door opening and closing again, and the woman’s voice saying to “keep applying pressure.”

Celia’s request to be let go is met with a hard but pained, “I’m sorry, but that’s out of the question,” from the man.

“It’s good you’re cooperating. This will go as gently for you as it can.”

“Things are about to get a lot worse for your kind. A lot worse. You’re lucky we were the ones to get you. We’re teddy bears, honestly, next to—”

There’s a sound from the woman.

They tell Celia to keep talking.

They pause when she gets to ‘the ritual.’

Celia: She tells Alana that the ear can be reattached. It can be fixed. To go to a meldical—sorry, she’s slurring, medical, she’s so tired, her brain is fuzzy—and she can get it fixed, she won’t have to live without an ear.

She sounds hopeful. So hopeful. And so grateful when they let Alana go, when she hears the retreating footsteps. She thanks them for their kindness when the door shuts, not a trace of irony in her voice. She understands. They can’t let her go. She tells them she understands. But there’s hurt in her voice.

“Next to what?” she asks, desperate. Fear seeps from her pores. She’s helpless. Bound. Gagged. They know how to beat her. They’re scaring her. She doesn’t want to go out screaming. Can they tell her? Please? She doesn’t want… she doesn’t want to be surprised by it. When it happens. She asks, quietly, when they pause, what will go gently. “Are you going to… to finish me?” She doesn’t say ‘kill.’ She’s already dead. That will just remind them.

GM: “Please don’t! She never wanted this!” begs a too-familiar voice.


“Stay quiet,” says the woman. “The more pressure you maintain, the less blood you’ll lose.”

Alana falls silent.

“We’ll talk about that later,” the man answers Celia’s question. The words are gruff, but not without pain of their own.

Celia: Oh. Oh no. They hadn’t let her go. Celia had just been making up stories in her head. Imagining the things she wanted.

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair, Alana shouldn’t be here. She’ll have to watch her die. She’s going to watch her die.

She makes a sound. It might be a sob.

GM: She feels the man’s hand against her shoulder.

“You’re doing good. We won’t draw this out. Just answer some more questions. About this… ritual…”

They question her. They patiently listen to her answers. About becoming stronger, faster, tougher. About the blood cost. About the kiss to seal it.

Chaste and demure. It’s not hard time slip into character. It’s what her dad taught her to be all her life. It’s the only thing he could love her as. It’s what her mom still is, in all frankness. She’s had a lot of practice with this act.

“…we could use that,” the man says finally. “Stronger. Faster. We can’t go toe to toe, against… leeches. Have to fight dirty. Hit where they’re weak.”

“We’ve lost friends, when we couldn’t. Your help might save lives.”

Celia: “Will it… will it save mine? Hers?” She nods her chin to the last spot she had heard Alana’s voice.

GM: “We can’t let you go,” the man says heavily. “You’re still human now, but eventually, you’ll turn into a monster. As bad as Jade.”

“Do you really want that to happen? Do to some other poor girl what she did to you?”

Celia: “You don’t have to let me go. I… I’ll stay here. I want…” Celia’s lip trembles. “I want to… to be normal again… if you… you could keep me, you could… a cure, maybe, there has to be…”

“They say… they say the worse you get, the worse you look. It shows in your face. You could monitor me. Look for signs. If… if I start to go…”

GM: “I don’t know if there’s a cure,” says the man. “We’ve heard… rumors. Things like killing the leech who turned you.”

“But we’ve never seen it,” says the woman. “I don’t know if a cure even exists.”

“Maybe… they know more…” says the man.

“They wouldn’t help,” says the woman.

“We could try. Hold her here, like she says…”

Celia: “I met one once. Before Jade. I didn’t know what he was at the time. But we talked about saints and sinners, and it came up… it’s compounding. It builds. And if you help enough people…”

“I can help you. With the ritual. Every night. You can… I don’t know who they are, but… maybe, maybe they would help, maybe they would know more, and I’ll help, I will, whatever you need from me.”

“Are they… rivals?”

GM: “No.” A pause. “Well. Mostly, no. But things aren’t going to be like they used to be, anymore. For you or us.”

“She shouldn’t hear this,” interjects the woman.

Celia: “I’m sorry. I just wanted to help. I thought maybe… maybe I might know something about them, but I don’t know who…”

GM: “They’re no one you’ve heard of,” says the woman. “And they won’t help. It’s better if—”

“—we want to kill her sire anyway,” interrupts the man. “Maybe that’ll do something, maybe it won’t. Doesn’t hurt to see if it does.”

Celia: “I can’t go anywhere.” Celia pulls at the bindings, to show them. “I’m… your prisoner. I’m yours. It’ll… it’ll let me redo the ritual. Each time you need it. So you… you won’t lose each other.”

GM: There is another silence as the two seem to mull over Celia’s words.

Maybe they are finally coming to their senses.

Maybe this sounds all-too suspiciously like ghouling.

Maybe they know about that.

Maybe they’ve realized what she is trying to do to them.

Maybe they’ve realized the innocent victim mask is a lie. That it has been a lie since even before her Embrace.

There’s a sound like footsteps.

The door opening.





Then, an unmistakable coppery tang in her nostrils, even before she feels something cool and ceramic pressed to her lips.

“Okay. Do it.”

Celia: Her mouth opens. She does her best to keep her fangs tucked away.

GM: The luscious, too-brief taste rolls down her mouth like red velvet. Veronica called it “the best sex you’ve had, the best high you’ve had, the best food you’ve had, all rolled into one.” There’s a decidedly bitter note to this hunter’s vitae, which has a strong, hearty flavor. Celia can imagine it might taste even better in the thick of combat, laced with adrenaline.

It’s not without a note of sweetness, too… sweet with the man’s feelings for her, because it has to be the man’s. It’s a blatant and unsubtle note, like someone poured sugar all over a hamburger. It’s sweet, and might even pair okay, but there’s nothing at all subtle about it. Savoy and Veronica both always said that inspiring the kine’s lusts “the real way” made for better flavor.

Celia: She doesn’t need it to taste good. At this point it’s just sustenance. She hushes the Beast’s complaining at the taste; soon she’ll be out of here. Soon she’ll feed on something sweeter. Someone has to know she’s missing. Someone has to be looking for her.

She swallows it down, but it’s not enough. Never enough. The red clings to her lips and she licks it free. She won’t waste any of it. Her hand moves, but it’s caught fast by the cuffs. She turns her head to frown at the arrested motion.

“Runes,” she says.

GM: “Runes, what?” asks the woman.

Celia: “Ritual,” Celia says, as if that explains it. “Runes. For it to complete. Need to mark you.”

GM: “You just said there needed to be a kiss,” she says with a frown.

Celia: “To seal it. Blood for payment, kiss to seal. The ritual itself…” Celia trails off. “The sun. It makes everything I do weaker. I can wait. Until sunset. Stay tied. Or I can mark you. Infuse extra power into it. Make sure it sticks.” There’s a pause. She gathers her thoughts. Sends out a new impression: trustworthiness.

“How familiar are you with rituals?” she finally asks.

GM: “Brianna was the real expert at that stuff,” admits the man. “Leeches—blanks, killed her a few months back.”

Celia: Her lips pull downward.

“I’m sorry. They…” she hesitates. “They killed someone I was seeing. My boyfriend. Before. I didn’t know until I was turned that they were responsible for him.”

GM: “Jade killed my mom,” Alana speaks up quietly. “I didn’t even know why, for a month. Until she told me it was because she was hungry.”

“And because she knew where my mom slept. Convenient, was what she said.”

“That’s the thing,” says the man. “They’ll kill just anyone. And everyone leaves a hole behind. Other people to pick up the pieces.”

Celia: “I don’t want you to lose anyone else,” Celia says quietly. “I’d do anything to keep that from happening. I… if they found out I was doing this ritual…” she trails off. A delicate shudder runs down her body.

“I have a daughter,” she says after a moment. “She’s with my mom now. But Jade knows she exists. And… I live in fear that something is going to happen to her. That she’ll hurt her. To hurt me. Because I do something wrong.” Her voice is strained. “All I wanted… I just wanted to see her graduate… to know that she’s taken care of, and I…” She trails off.

GM: “You don’t have to worry about Jade for much longer,” says the man. “We’re going to hit her. Today, while the sun’s still out. Before she notices you two are gone. You can help us with your… ritual.”

He leans in and kisses her lips. It’s a somewhat awkward kiss, with no real lust or passion behind it. It feels almost sad.

Celia: She makes a noise, something that might have been a squeak of surprise, but she’s quick to recover. Celia’s lips part. Her mouth is warm, but there’s no moistness to the tongue that she slips into his mouth. Her hand pulls against the restraint almost reflexively, as if to cup his cheek or touch his shoulder. It’s held fast by the steel handcuffs.

There’s no exchange of power. Nothing happens.

Except the pulse that she sends down the line. The way her tongue curls around his. The desire that she infuses him with; a desire for her, to get these cuffs off, to take her like a man takes a woman. She’s so pretty, isn’t she? Beautiful skin. Tight body. Curves in all the right places. So soft, so warm, so inviting. She’s been so helpful. And how often is is that he’ll get a chance to bed a vampire? It’s desirable for the novelty alone, really. Hasn’t he read any pararomance novels? Vampires make the best lovers. She even has a heartbeat. He can feel it in her chest, pounding away. Her nipples are hard beneath the shirt she wears, straining, begging for him to touch them.

He’ll never get this opportunity again. He should bed her now, while he has the chance. Send the girls out of the room. Just the two of them; what sweet love they can make.

GM: Celia can’t read the man’s face. But she can hear his breath and how much quicker it comes. She can feel his hands lingering on her body.

And not least of all, she can feel the lust that inflames his kiss.

His tongue entwines with hers, his mouth all-too hungry as their lips meet.

Until they are interrupted.

“My turn,” the woman says thickly.

The man reluctantly pulls away.

Celia hears a faint noise, then another unmistakable copper tang fills the air. The ceramic cup is pressed against her mouth.

The woman’s blood tastes similar to the man’s. Hearty and bitter, but with a salty undercurrent, and nowhere nearly as much of the glamor-induced sweetness, though some of that is still there. The flavor feels natural. Mostly natural.

The woman leans in for a second kiss. It’s less sad than the man’s. Quicker and more businesslike. She’s doing this because she has to.

Celia: The man being ripped away from her draws a mournful sound, low and in the back of her throat. She misses him. She wants him. There’s a promise in that sound: what she can do to him if he comes back for more. If he gets her alone. But she doesn’t turn down the blood. She drinks again, swallows it down, and her tongue flicks across the woman’s lips.

Is this what jealousy tastes like?

Her fangs extend. Two points of fire in the woman’s lip, followed by the sweet ecstasy of the kiss.

GM: Celia sips, rapturously. The lips are a poor point to drink from, though. She works lower, nuzzling her head against the woman’s neck. The Toreador can feel the initial tension in the woman’s body drain away like a stressed client laid out on the massage table. Celia knows all about making people feel good. She shivers and pulls taut against the handcuffs as bliss flows down her throat. Oh, oh yes—

Suddenly, there’s rough hands squeezing her breasts, then pulling down her pants. Working off her panties. There’s the sound of a belt unbuckling, a fly unzipping, and then a man’s hard cock filling her.

“Ah, yeah, take it, you vampire slut! Take it!”

The man’s thrusts come hard and fast. If Celia were like most of her kind, for whom their sex organs’ nerve endings are as dead as the rest of their bodies, she might not have even noticed amidst the sanguine ecstasy coursing down her throat. The man doesn’t sound at all bothered. He presses down on top of Celia, on top of the woman atop her. He pins Celia’s cuffed wrists to the bed as his balls smack back and forth.

“You’re fucking mine! I OWN you, slut! Beg for your life! Work those whore lips!”

Celia barely hears him. There is only the rapture of the kiss, the rush of life shooting up her veins, making her warm, making her whole. She takes and takes and takes. Her victim moans and pushes herself closer against Celia, but doesn’t resist. They never do. The Toreador takes and takes until the woman’s heartbeat is a dull, weak thump, then silent altogether.

“You’re FILTHY! DISGUSTING! Yeah! You’re MINE! You’re gonna fuck me all day! My—pet—vampire—WHORE!”

Celia feels strong hands clamp around her neck, cutting of her air supply—if she still breathed. The man chokes the shit out of her as he thrusts faster and harder. There’s an almost manic quality to his voice as he half-screams, half-sobs,


The man gives a strangled inarticulate cry as he tenses and blows his load, filling Celia’s dead cunt with his seed.

Celia: Celia takes more pleasure in sex than most of her kind. They call her perverted for it, tell her that it’s the blood that she should get off on. She just smiles at them because she knows how wrong they are, how the simultaneous enjoyment of blood on her tongue and a tongue on her clit is better than anything they’ll ever get. They’re missing out. Deprived, really.

She’s been with enough men to know the signs. The way he speeds up. The nerves in her dead cunt telling her that his buried-to-the-hilt cock is beginning to twitch, just as she was starting to enjoy the ride. She might have even started to call him “daddy” the way he wants, or would have if his fingers weren’t curled around her throat. Maybe she makes a noise or two to urge him on. Happy noises, like Veronica taught her. Right there, those noises say, don’t stop. Even so, she can feel it. She knows it’s coming. Knows he’s coming.

She times her moment right. Waits for his fingers to curl around her neck, for that first sign of climax to hit him. She lifts her head and sinks her teeth into his arm. A tiny prick of pain, then prolonged pleasure. Waves and waves and waves of it.

Fucking his vampire slut is the best feeling.

GM: But just as Celia nips at him, a heavy thud hits the floor.

The man pulls back.

His voice is aghast with horror.

And fury.


Suddenly, there’s a click from one of Celia’s handcuffs.


Footsteps. Racing.

Colliding. A horrible shk sound.

That unmistakable coppery tang.

Alana’s voice, screaming.

A second heavy thump.

Celia: The Beast rears its ugly head. It yowls and hisses and spits, demanding blood, demanding payment, demanding life. For a moment maybe it’s free. For a moment maybe Celia hisses, too. But her teeth clamp shut, lips pressed together in a firm line. She cannot lose her cool. She beats it down through sheer force of will, stuffs it deep inside of her.

The sound of Alana’s continued scream is the only thing that keeps her calm. The body isn’t hers. The body can’t be hers. She wouldn’t be screaming if the body were hers.

She yanks her free hand toward her face to pull the blindfold free.

GM: But it is Alana. Lying in a heap on the floor, her right ear coated with blood, and her hands stained red as she cradles the savage cut across her abdomen.

The half-dressed man throws the knife aside, seizes a wooden stake, and lunges at Celia with a wordless scream of rage.

Celia: There is a single moment here where Celia has a shot.

A single moment where she can get out of this situation, hopefully alive. Or at least less permanently dead than she would be if this man has a chance to stab her through the heart with that stake.

Her vision, her world, narrows to him. To the stake in his hand. She can hear, distantly, the sound of Alana sobbing on the floor. She can smell the blood. See the rage twisting on his face.

None of that matters.

Nothing but the piece of wood in his hand. The distance between them. The arc as he brings it down toward her chest.

The world slows.

Her dead heart pumps.

She strikes.

Quick as the snake hiding in the grass, she lashes out. Her hand flashes towards the man’s face. There is nothing pretty, nothing glamorous, about what she is about to do. It’s the sewers all over again: she doesn’t create. She destroys. Her fingers seek his nose. His mouth. His eyes, if they can reach. They sink into his skin. Flesh-colored playdough. They don’t rip: they smooth. How many wrinkles had she smoothed over the years? How many fine lines and signs of aging had she stolen from people’s faces?

His lips are nothing if not giant wrinkles of their own. His nose is cartilage waiting to be splattered. The lids of his eyes will never open again.

When she pulls her hand away his face is smooth.


GM: Celia took an Intro to Psychology class at Tulane that briefly went into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. What people want and when they want it. First they want food, water, warmth, rest. If they don’t have those basic physiological needs met, they won’t care about more abstract needs like relationships and achieving their full potential. You start with the basic shit first, then you work your way up.

But Maslow got one thing about his hierarchy wrong.

He put ‘food’ at the bottom.

‘Being able to breathe’ should have probably been at the bottom.

Because if you can’t breathe, who gives a fuck about food?

Or, for that matter, killing vampires.

The man panics. That’s the only thing he can do, as he stops breathing and human nature sets in. He claws at his face as if that will do something. He claws and tears until blood runs down the baby-smooth plateau of flesh that used to be his face. He claws and gouges until there’s a sickening squelch and retinal fluid leaks down his cheeks, not from eyes that do not see, but eyes he no longer has—eyes fused solid with the flesh of his eyelids. Celia can hear the ghastly muffled sound coming from past the fused flesh that used to be his lips.

He has no mouth.

And he must scream.

It isn’t pretty. It isn’t quick. Celia watches the entire time as he dies a slow, torturous death on the ground from asphyxiation, writhing like an overlarge half-squashed bug no one even has the decency to put out of its misery.

But he dies the same way that anyone else who allows Jade to work her hands upon their face comes to live.


Celia: It had almost happened to her once. High. So high in the air. In the arms of the thing that had destroyed her life, she had almost suffered the same fate.


She had never intended to go into medicine. She hadn’t thought that the career would be fulfilling, or the concepts interesting. But that night her mom went into that shack with severed toes and came out whole? That changed everything. She knew she wanted to be able to do that some day. She’d studied. Learned everything she could.

So she knows, now, what is happening inside the hunter. No air holes. No oxygen getting inside his lungs. He’s struggling to breathe, to bring anything in, but what he doesn’t know is that it needs to get out. What people don’t realize is that it isn’t the lack of oxygen that will kill you: it’s the oversaturation of carbon dioxide. It’s toxic to the human body. That uncomfortable feeling in your lungs when you hold your breath? Carbon dioxide trying to leak out. All he has to do is stab himself over the mouth and rip free a breathing hole and he’s golden.

But the first thing to be hit by the lack of oxygen and excess carbon dioxide is the brain. It causes panic. Flushed skin. Perspiration. She can smell it, dripping off of him in buckets. There’s hemorrhaging in the sclera, though she cannot see how the whites of his eyes turn red with his skin sealed shut. Only after, when he punctures the skin and it oozes down his face, red and white mixed together.

She watches him stumble, scratching, clawing, hacking at his face with his own hands and nails. It almost ruins her beautiful work.

She doesn’t even give him the dignity of watching him die.

Her eyes turn away from the pathetic mass of flesh writhing on the floor. She reaches for the key still embedded in the steel handcuffs he had used to tie her down, swiftly unlocking her other wrist, then both ankles.

She rolls off of the bed to check both women. Alana’s sobs call to her, but her attention is on the other hunter for the moment it takes to determine her status. She cannot leave an enemy at her back.

GM: The woman has no heartbeat audible to Celia’s ears. She doesn’t need to touch the hunter’s so-pallid neck to feel for the pulse that isn’t there. Any medical attention came too late for this one.

Celia: The loss of information—who are they?—is the only pang of guilt that Celia feels for ending the lives of these two. Her hands close around the woman’s wrists and she drags the body to where Alana sits on the floor, hands pressing against the gaping wound in her stomach.

Celia bites her own wrist and offers it to the ghoul, ready to sink her fangs back into the woman to replace whatever her pet takes from her.

GM: The heady scent of blood is everywhere. All over the floor. All over Alana. It’s impossibly arousing: Celia couldn’t stop the ‘boner’ in her mouth even if she was trying to.

The ghoul falls on her domitor’s wrist with a wordless sob. She sucks and sucks like a babe at its mother’s breast. The nasty stab wound closes as thought it were never. The bleeding stops. Flawless.

“Mistress… my ear…” she whimpers.

Celia: “I know, darling.” She lifts a hand to touch the ghoul’s cheek. She has done so well. So well.

“I know. I’ll get it sorted. Do we know where it went?” Better to reattach the old ear than fashion a new one. Her hands move along the woman’s body, searching her pockets.

GM: “They… they took it outside…”

Celia finds a phone, but the screen asks her to ‘draw unlock pattern’ over nine dots.

Celia: “Then I’ll make you a new one,” Celia promises her. “I know it hurts. You have to be strong for me right now, okay? Just a little while longer. Just until we’re out of here and back home.” She checks the time on the phone’s lock screen before setting it down.

“Did you see anyone else here?” Then, a second later, “why outside?”

She crosses the floor to where the man discarded her clothing when he fucked her, pulling the material back over her legs. She searches his body for a phone, too. For his and hers. He had been the one holding it earlier.

GM: It’s around noon.

Alana nods slowly at Jade’s entreaty and rubs her head against her domitor’s stomach. “Outside the… door, mistress. Somewhere else, in the house. They had me blindfolded. I didn’t see.”

The ghoul’s ear is still gone, and her face is streaked with dried blood, but Alana’s voice is steady as more ceases to flow. She looks and sounds all better now, minus the ear. Miracle medicine, Pete called it.

Celia finds her phone, locked to any face but Jade’s. The man’s phone also asks for a PIN.

Celia: She’s going to need to change that, she realizes. Being stuck without access to a phone in a strange location is not doing her any favors. She is still a moment, mind ripping through her options.

She cannot stay here. She does not know if the hunters have others in the house, and if they do they’re likely to be like them, hunters as well. She doesn’t want to send Alana off on her own, but there’s work that needs to be done here that the girl cannot do. She presses her for information: did she hear anyone besides these two? She assumes, perhaps incorrectly, that if there had been others in the house they would have come running at the noise. She needs to be ready for that.

A moment of reflection later and Celia decides on a course. She tells Alana to watch the door. Her hands move to her face, twisting and shaping it with practiced ease to become what she needs it to become, to become the monster the pair had been looking for the whole time: Jade.

GM: Alana answers that she did not hear anyone else in the house. But the hunters were talking on their phones, and seemed in contact with other people. They sounded as if they were talking in code. They did not ever reference ‘vampires’ by name, nor did they volunteer their own names or Celia’s name, but they seemed to be insinuating they had a vampire in captivity. Alana does not think it is safe to stay here.

But it is dangerous to leave, too. Celia can feel the sun hatefully bearing down on her even through the building’s walls. She is tired. She is so, so tired. Beautiful corpses like her should stay properly dead when it’s this bright out.

Celia: The facial transformation doesn’t take long. It is an old, deft skill at this point, a transformation that she has performed multiple times per evening for the past few years. Once it is complete she unlocks her phone. She tells Alana to take the woman’s clothes so that she is no longer covered in blood.

She scrolls through her contacts to find Mélissaire’s number, then dials Savoy’s ghoul.

GM: That doesn’t make it hurt any less. It hurts as much as any plastic surgery without anesthesia could be expected to hurt. Protesting muscles pulled and contorted every which way, reshaped like putty in her hands. It feels like someone is destroying her face. Because someone is.

Beauty always hurts.

Alana strips and changes.

“Why hello, Jade. We missed you last night!” greets her grandsire’s ghoul over the phone.

Celia: She’s used to pain. Used to the way her muscles fight against the transformation, the way her skin feels as if it has been stripped from her face and reapplied with nothing more than tape to keep it down. Like a thousand paper cuts all at once. Or the fine edge of a blade sliding into the soft flesh beneath the keratin of her nails. Beauty is pain, but beauty is everything. She’ll pay the price.

“I found myself inexplicably busy,” Celia says into the phone. Her voice betrays her exhaustion. “I ran into some friends, and we had a wild night. I would love to make it up to you, but I seem to have misplaced my keys. Can I catch a ride?”

GM: “Sure thing. I can’t wait to hear all the sordid details.” The ghoul laughs faintly. “Where are you now?”

Celia: It takes just a moment for her to find her location on the phone’s map. She passes it along. She insinuates that her friends mentioned they might be having company over for lunch, and that she’d hate to be a third wheel.

GM: She’s in the 9th Ward. A bad neighborhood.

“Oh, well we certainly wouldn’t want that… someone as cute as you should have third wheels, not be one herself. Hang tight, I’ll be over in a jiff.”

Celia: “Appreciate it.”

Celia’s eyes roam the room in speculation. She needs to do something to clean this up. She could just take the bodies with her, she reasons. Inconvenient to waste building material when she has so much research left to do on what she can and cannot accomplish. Maybe Pete can do that blood reading thing and find out more. He only needs one of them for that, though. Still, the girl’s identity might be useful.

Her thoughts spin over each other in disarray. She’s exhausted. The sun is beating down on the house and she can feel it. She needs sleep.

She says something to Mélissaire about trunk space, room for a massage table. She’ll bring the bodies, she thinks, and then there’s just blood to clean up, but without a body there’s no crime. Maybe she can have Alana smash a few windows. Take some petty cash. She searches the bodies for wallets, identification, anything.

Support: It’s a few moments after she hangs up that a window opens and Randy rolls in like a ninja, shotgun brandished. “I got you, babe!”

Then he looks at the bodies, the blood, his very beleaguered and entirely freed domitor.

“Oh. You, uh. You finished without me.”

Wouldn’t be the first time, he thinks ruefully. He straightens up awkwardly, holding himself at an odd angle, all the better to compensate for his missing…cheek.

GM: “Wouldn’t be the first time,” Alana sourly remarks, arms crossed. Her face is streaked with blood and she’s missing an ear.

Support: Dammit.

Celia: The sound of someone else approaching is enough to make Celia wary. It’s too soon for Mel to be here, unless the girl is driving, as usual, with a lead foot. She’s already planning how best to dispatch this new threat when she recognizes Randy’s voice, and she abandons the half-crouched fighting stance she’d taken up.

She lays a hand on Alana’s arm at the typical exchange between her ghouls. She has no patience now to deal with their squabbling.

“Randy. Perfect timing.” Her voice is carefully neutral, though not cool. He can see the relief in her eyes, the emotion that she can’t put into words. Not here. Not yet. Her tightly coiled control is the only thing keeping her together. “Search the place. Anything useful. Identification. Wallets. Computers. Weapons. Documents. Anything. We need to know who these people are.”

Something. Anything to make all of this worth it. To make the fact that she was kidnapped, tied down, treated like an animal, and fucked worth it.

“Alana’s ear, as well,” she adds after a moment.

GM: The trio search the house. For the most part, it’s a wreck: decrepit and foul-smelling with significant water damage. One of many homes wrecked by Katrina that just never got fixed up. There are dust-covered hypodermic needles, what might be human feces (aged enough to no longer even smell), and other signs of habitation by junkies and squatters. The lights and sink don’t turn on.

The hunters have brought sleeping bags, toiletries, packaged foods, water, and an ice-filled cooler. They find Alana’s ear inside, along with more food. The ghoul immediately implores her domitor to reattach it.

Support: Randy picks up the ear and flicks it with a finger before handing it to Alana, somewhat apologetically. “Yikes. That… has to be a health hazard.”

He’s been polite enough to not say anything thus far, but Celia can tell from the way he keeps looking at her, biting his lip, his sluggish attempts to participate in the search.

He’s thirsty.

Celia: Her ghouls, she reflects, are so needy.

“I need a more sterile environment to attach your ear, ’Lana.” Celia touches her cheek once more, her thumb brushing across the girl’s lips. “We’ll put it on ice. I promise, when I wake up, when I have time to assess the damage and see if there’s any hearing loss, I’ll reattach. Where it’s clean. Randy wasn’t here because he was infected by the sewer water; I won’t have you, too, succumbing to something that can be prevented.” She pulls the girl closer to her, taking a moment to nuzzle her neck. “You did so well today. I won’t let you be without it. I promise.”

Her eyes flick toward Randy. He doesn’t need to say anything. She can tell.

Indecision wars in her gut. He wasn’t here. He wasn’t here when she needed him. And yet… he came down to the sewers for her when she called. He followed her, he was late, but he came. He’s useless without the blood. Nothing more than a junkie jonesing for his next fix.

She crooks a finger at him, beckoning for him to follow her back to the bedroom, back to the site of her ordeal. The body isn’t yet cool. She opens a vein for him with her teeth and drinks from the man.

Support: They make a morbid, lopsided human centipede, the corpse feeding her, her feeding Randy, Randy contributing nothing but those bright, bright blue eyes.

Eyes that look at her like she’s a goddess.

Randy might not be that smart, but he knows enough not to complain when she decides he’s had enough.

GM: Alana beams at the praise. She starts to get handsy with Celia, and leans close as if to kiss her, but then seems to mind herself and the present moment. So she simply nods, “Yes, mistress. Thank you, mistress.”

She watches with a sour expression, though, as Randy follows Jade in.

Celia: All the same, Celia lets Alana sit on her lap while she feeds the other ghoul, and despite the very, very inopportune place for it, her hand travels up and down the girl’s body.

“Your cheek as well, Randy,” she says to him once she pulls her wrist away.

GM: And just like that, the look is gone. Alana makes ‘happy noises’ as she nuzzles her face against Celia’s neck, planting soft kisses.

Support: “Oh, uh…” he looks at Alana.

Definitely not his brightest moment, he thinks, as he drops trou, displaying his uneven posterior to both his fellow ghoul and domitor.

GM: Alana snickers.

Celia: Her eyes flash in amusement.

“Later, Randy, is what I meant.”

Support: “…oh.”

“That, uh. That wasn’t clear.”

Randy coughs, and then pulls up his pants.

This is not his day.

GM: “Celia always makes herself perfectly clear. If we misunderstand her, that’s through our own fault,” Alana declares.

Celia: Her fingers pinch the ghoul’s nipple through her shirt.

“I prefer,” she purrs, “when you call me mistress.” She nips at the girl’s neck, though there’s no heat or threat behind word or deed.

Support: He eyes her sourly, trying to think of a joke about her missing ear but failing.

“Kiss-ass,” he mutters finally.

GM: Alana makes a light, so-sensitive gasp as she rubs the back of her head against Jade’s neck.

“I couldn’t think of a happier privilege than to plant kisses on the mistress’ rear,” Alana declares with a smile.

“I’ll do it right now, if she wants me to.”

Celia: “Enough,” Celia says to them, “both of you. We’re a team. Tonight, you can squabble. Today, cease your posturing.”

GM: “Of course, mistress. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was being catty, Randy. It is important for us to work together.”

Support: What posture? My back is killing me from the glute up.

But he shuts up with a pointed folding of his arms. He hates when she apologizes. He has to pretend he cares.

“I’m sorry, too,” he grates. “What’s the plan, ba—mistress.”

GM: It doesn’t sound the same coming from him.

Alana adores the word, they can all tell. She loves saying it. Acknowledging Celia as her superior, as her owner, not just her lover.

Celia: “Mélissaire is on her way to collect me. We take the bodies, and any evidence that they were here, with us. You two…” there’s a pause. Despite her words, despite her position as ‘above them,’ she sounds tired. “Find a place for the bodies. Stay with me today. Tonight. Until we learn the extent of these hunters’ reach I would prefer to keep you both near me.”

GM: Alana nuzzles her head against Jade’s cheek and runs an arm along her back.

“Of course, mistress. We won’t ever leave you.”

Celia: She reaches out to take Randy’s hand in hers. Gives his fingers a gentle squeeze. They’ll get through this.

Support: He squeezes back, some of his bad humor and humiliation abating.

Anything for his babe.

GM: And just like that, the Toreador is out like a light, slumped backwards over the bed.

Alana looks at her for a moment, then kisses Celia full on the lips. Deeply and hungrily.

Support: Randy lets her, and starts seeing to the other corpses in the room.

The things he does for love.

Celia III, Chapter IV
Family Troubles

“Like, our whole family hates each other. What happened to us?”
Logan Flores

Monday evening, 7 March 2016

GM: Jade comes back to work the next night with a full head of new hair. Her first client is Celia’s mom.

The older woman hasn’t brought along Lucy and has a fretful look on her face in the Tranquility Room. She puts on a smile when she gets up and moves to hug Celia.

“Hi, sweetie… how you feelin’ tonight?”

“I brought some of those biscuits with chocolate gravy, by the way. Lucy helped make some more and would just love to know what you think of them.”

Celia: Celia hadn’t realized her mother was coming in so soon after her last appointment. She would have had Alana cancel the appointment if she had known. She has a meeting to prepare for. An evening to forget. A wayward ghoul to deal with.

It isn’t until she’s staring at her mother across the room that the awkward dinner conversation comes back to her. She has the grace to look away for a moment, though she lets the woman hug her.

She’s not a monster.

“I’m great, Momma. How’re you? How’s Em?” Her voice is all fake cheer.

They can just pretend last night didn’t happen.

GM: Celia is positive that her mother didn’t have an appointment pre-scheduled for tonight.

But she was also the one to say her mom could schedule appointments anytime she liked. $100,000 bought that much.

“We’re both great too, thanks so much for askin’,” her mom smiles back. “Would you like to munch on some biscuits while you work? I don’t mind, I know you’ll do an amazing job with those magic hands of yours either way.”

“Oh, and I’m going to tip you today, plus cover the product fee,” she adds. “It hasn’t been a week since I last came in, after all, and today isn’t my monthly hair stylin’ either.”

Her smile is full of equally plaintive desire for things to be back to normal.

Celia: “No, thank you. I can’t have food products in the rooms. It sets a bad precedent for my staff. And, please, you don’t need to worry about the fee. Spend it on Lucy.”

GM: “Oh, that’s true. Okay, I can leave them with Landen if he’s all done with clients, I bet his day could use some more chocolate in it. And Natalie and Piper, if Piper’s still around.”

Celia: “I’m sure they’d appreciate that, Momma. Why don’t you get situated and I’ll deliver them to the front desk for you.”

GM: “Oh, they, that’s right. I’m sorry, sweetie, it’s just really hard to wrap my head around those pronouns,” her mom apologizes.

Celia: “I meant ‘they’ as in all three of them,” Celia clarifies. “But go hop up on the table, I’ll be right with you.”

GM: “Okay. I’ll see you soon.” Her mom touches her arm and gives her another slightly plaintive smile before heading off.

Celia: Celia waits until her back is turned before she makes a beeline for the front desk, where she hopes Alana is working. If not there it’s possible the ghoul is in the small office upstairs, but she checks the desk first.

GM: Natalie is there to take the cookies. She finds Alana upstairs in her office.

“Mistress?” she asks as Celia comes in.

Celia: “I’ll be occupied for the next hour. Find a vessel for me. Someone without drugs in their system.” There’s no need to repeat the mistakes of last night.

GM: “Right away, mistress,” Alana nods, rising immediately.

Celia: Celia flashes her ghoul a smile of appreciation. She returns downstairs, to the room she had sent her mother to. She knocks before entering, common courtesy in the spa, and shuts the door behind her.

“What’re we in for today, Momma? Just had a massage last week. Skin is looking good. Lashes? Or did you make the appointment as an excuse to talk?” Her tone is wry.

GM: Her mom gives another, somewhat sheepish smile.

“…how about you do my lashes, sweetie. Or, really, whatever you think best. You know I’m play-doh in your hands.”

Celia: “Looking a little blonde,” Celia says after examining them beneath the light. “They’ve grown out since the last lift and tint we did.” The timing is about right, too. They don’t generally do the extensions on her unless it’s for special occasions, but her mother has a pretty strict regiment now that she comes to see Celia regularly. Facials twice a month, one with chemical peels and dermaplaning, massage twice per month unless her leg is acting up, then they swap out the facial for more bodywork. Every six weeks it’s lashes and waxing, and she occasionally opts for the body wraps, peels, and steam showers as well.

Celia gathers the required tools: the lash shields, bottles of tint, rod glue, cream developer, mixing tray, brush, wands, tape, and eye pads. She sets them on the cart, laid out in order of use, and sits down to begin to clean her mothers lashes with a squirt of foam from a pump bottle onto two clean applicators. They’re actually used for lip gloss, but they make great lash cleaners as well, so Celia orders them in bulk, thousands of black stick doe foot applicators at a time.

She could start the conversation. Let her mother know she doesn’t need to mince words. Bring up the lies she’d told last night.

Or she could let her mother do it.

GM: “That’s right. Want to keep the hair blonde, not the lashes,” her mom chuckles. It’s a bit of a lame joke. And not really a joke.

“How are you and Randy doing?” she asks as Celia starts on her lashes.

Celia: Celia is polite enough to laugh along with her mom. She’s definitely heard worse jokes. As soon as her mother’s lashes are clean she tells her to open her eyes, then puts a gel eye pad down beneath her lower lash line. She has her mom look up, toward her, and tapes down her lower lashes so they don’t get an accidental perm. Then she can close her eyes again, and the real work begins.

A lash lift is like a perm for your eye lashes. It doesn’t lengthen them but it does add a nice curl, and it usually lasts anywhere from four to six weeks. Until the lashes grow out again. The first step is putting down the right shields. Some stylists use the same shield for every client, but Celia isn’t “some stylist.” She’s Celia Flores. She takes more than the length of the lashes into consideration when picking the shield: she looks at the shape of the eye itself. The hood, or lack thereof. At this point in her life Diana’s eyes would benefit from a lift themselves. She has less wrinkles than most women her age, but nothing can keep the enemy of time at bay forever.

She uses a small bottle of rod glue to adhere the shield to her mother’s lids, sliding it down until it is flush against the lash line.

“We’re okay. He was disappointed that he didn’t get any of the cookies last night. I’ll have to save him some.”

GM: Celia’s mom keeps her eyelids closed. She doesn’t feel tense as the shield goes on. She knows the routine, after seven years of weekly visits. Like she says. Play-doh in her daughter’s hands.

“Oh, he doesn’t have to worry a bit, then. These are exact same ones. I’ve included lots of chocolate gravy, too, so he won’t miss out on a thing.”

Celia: “I gotta be honest, Ma, when you call it ‘gravy’ it sounds decidedly unappealing.”

GM: Her mom chuckles. “I didn’t come up with the name, sweetie, that’s just what it is. They call it gravy because biscuits go with gravy like peas in a pod.”

“And, you know, it isn’t strictly chocolate. What it mainly has is cocoa powder. Most of the sugar comes from regular ol’ white sugar and vanilla.”

Celia: “It’s powder rather than melted chocolate and cream? I’d assumed it was just a fancy ganache, if I’m being honest.”

GM: “Oh no, this is somethin’ else. It’s also got milk, plus some flour to give it a slightly thick consistency.”

“So it’s like gravy, if someone just swapped out all the savory ingredients for sweet ones.”

Celia: “Huh.”

She hasn’t kept up much with cooking since she died.

“Sounds interesting.”

GM: “You can also add a few pinches of salt. It’s been a hit with Lucy and Emily, I hadn’t made it in a pretty long while. It’s classic Southern comfort.”

Celia: Once the shields are set Celia focuses on the next part: gluing the lashes down. There’s an adhesive she applies to one shield at a time. Then, with a special metal hooked tool that is reminiscent of tweezers, she lifts each individual eyelash onto the glue to hold them in place. She does one eye, then the other, until her mother’s lashes are all adhered to the shields and the shields to the lids.

It looks, in a word, a little wonky. Every time Celia did this in school she couldn’t help but laugh.

GM: “This part always looks so funny to you, I bet,” her mom chuckles.

She pauses, then ventures, “You’re sure things are okay with you and Randy, sweetie?”

“You seemed a little blue, last night.”

Celia: Celia sighs. She really hadn’t wanted to have this conversation. She focuses on what she’s doing for a moment, and swipes the first part of the perm onto her mother’s upturned lashes. It’s got a bit of a sulfurous smell, though the fan that Celia clicks on does its job in keeping the worst of it away. Just a thin blue coat goes on, then Celia sets a timer to let it process.

Lash lifts are pretty hands off once the lashes are all glued into place.

“I’m a little disappointed in him,” Celia says honestly. “But that’s not the problem. I was off yesterday. My Sunday, as you know.” Celia refers to certain days as her “weekends,” even when they aren’t, to represent the days she does work. “So I had a few drinks prior to coming over. I said something jokingly to Emily and I guess she took it the wrong way.”

It’s easier, she thinks, to claim to be drinking instead of anything else.

And technically not a lie.

Since she had been drinking.

GM: “She just wants things to turn out for the best with you and Randy, sweetie. She loves you very much.”

“Can I ask what he’s done, to make you disappointed? Is it not poppin’ a ring yet?”

Celia: “He doesn’t listen.” She doesn’t need to fake the way her voice raises into a whine. “I don’t want to have to yell at him to get him to do what I want, but that’s what I feel like I need to resort to, and I don’t want to be that person. A nag. You know? Like, why can’t he just… do it right the first time?”

GM: “Oh.” Celia’s mom is quiet for a moment. “Did he pop the question on you, just… in a less than thoughtful way?”

“Emily told me this story recently, about a man who proposed to his girlfriend in an O’Tolley’s drive-thru. Because they’d go there all the time, and really loved the food—heaven knows why—so he thought it would be romantic to get the staff there to slip the ring in her burger. And she just broke down crying instead, because what girl wants to be proposed to in an O’Tolley’s drive-thru.”

“Sometimes, sweetie, men can mean well, but just be… well, total boneheads.”

“Did Randy do somethin’ like that?”

Celia: “No, no, nothing like that. He didn’t ask.” He asks for other things. “I guess… we got into a bit of an argument. A while back. About what our future would look like. And it’s been a little strained. And I keep… I keep wondering if he even loves me anymore. If he ever did. Or if he was just using me.”

She isn’t talking about Randy now. Not really. Though she uses the human terms that her mother would recognize.

GM: “Oh, no!” her mother exclaims. “How’d it go, sweetie? Is he not sure whether he wants to spend the rest of his life with you, or not?”

Celia: “Something like that. He’s hard to read sometimes.”

“About feelings, I mean.”

GM: “Hmm. Well, I’m definitely not a relationship expert, but you know what they say about communication.”

“But more than that, you two have been dating… how many years is it, now, six?”

Celia: Seven. But who’s counting?


GM: “Well, at this point you know each other about as well as you’re goin’ to. I think you’re right to want to know where this is headed. And there’s really only one place it can be headed.”

Celia: “I guess I just… I have other options, you know? I’m still young enough to move on if he’s not serious about me.”

GM: Her mom doesn’t nod while Celia works, but exclaims, “Absolutely, sweetie! You’re 27. That is still just a kid. You have all the time in the world to find Mr. Right, still.”

Celia: The timer she set goes off. She cleans off the perming solution with a makeup remover wipe and puts the second one on, the one that will stop the solution from processing further.

“Exactly,” she agrees. “I have my whole life ahead of me.”

GM: “You know Randy as well as you’re goin’ to, like I said. I think he needs to… use the loo, or get off the pot.”

Celia: She wonders what he’d say if she were to say that to him.

GM: “And you’ve tried to bring this up with him. Could be all sorts of reasons he’s clammin’ up, now.”

“You really don’t know what’s goin’ on in someone else’s head. Could be there’s a sad story there and he’ll be Mr. Right once the cat lets go of his tongue.”

“And could be he’s just bein’ a bonehead.”

“Emily could try to talk with him, if you think he’s nervous around you. Or you could make an appointment to see a shrink.”

Celia: Now there’s a terrifying thought.


GM: “If you’ve been with him six years, it’s worth makin’ an effort.”

“But this relationship won’t go anywhere if he can’t open up and talk with you.”

Celia: “Anything for the listening, Ma?” She steers the conversation back to more relevant waters.

GM: “Sorry, you mean from me, sweetie?”

Celia: “No. Making him listen the first time.”

“Instead of feelin’ like I need to smack him.”

“Not that I would. Ever. Obviously.”

GM: “Hmm. I’d give him some space, maybe, if he needs to get his head in order. You could write him a letter. Just put out all your thoughts, hopes, dreams on paper, and be very clear what questions you need answered. Give him the day to mull them over.”

“He doesn’t need more than a day. You’ve been together six years. He’s seen the complete package, so far as Celia Flores.”

“If it’s hard for him to get the words out, you could even tell him he’s free to write you a letter back.”

“Or, like I said, see a shrink. It sounds like he needs to talk, more than listen.”

Celia: “That’s… certainly an idea, Momma.”

GM: “I’m sorry, sweetie, if you think it’s a rotten idea. Like I said, I don’t actually have all that much relationship experience, I suppose.” Her mom gives a faint chuckle.

Celia: “I read a sales book once that said silence is the real decider. Let the other person talk first and they give all their power away.”

“I guess maybe there’s some merit, there.”

GM: “Yes, I can see where that’s comin’ from. I mean, until your beau opens his mouth, we honestly don’t know what’s going on in his head.”

“I mean, all right, the letter might be a silly idea. But he really does need to open up with you! This relationship can’t go anywhere if he won’t even talk about it.”

“You could tell him that, if you really wanted to make your point, but I think there’s gentler ways to go about it.”

Celia: She uses a clean makeup wipe to remove the second step of the process while she mulls over her mothers words.

Would it be that easy? Just ask him? Get him to talk to her, let him open up? Somehow, she doesn’t think so. Somehow, she thinks it’ll end up with her body splattered along the ground, in a river, or her head taken clean from her body. He’s not the type of thing she can imagine herself questioning.

Besides, he has more important things to deal with than her. He has made that abundantly clear by their lack of recent contact. How many nights had she waited for him to appear, standing on top of the roof of her haven and staring at the night sky? Each time he failed to show she had been disappointed, had to swallow that bitter pill of acceptance. He doesn’t want to see her.

Still. She had been inside his head once. He had trusted her with that, if ‘trust’ is the word. Had killed her for it, really. There’s still some small part of her that thinks she was an accident. Another unwanted child, though with an ‘e’ this time.

Even so, she’d sold out her family for him.

She tries not to think about it.

She watches what she’s doing instead, using that same metal tool to lift her mother’s lashes from the glue that adhered them to the shield. Then she lifts the shield, cleans off the residue that remains on her lids.

She’d mixed the tint while they were talking and she uses another brush to apply it now, coating each individual lash in color, careful to get all sides of it. She sets another timer.

“Definitely something to think about,” she says at last. “Thanks, Momma. I’ll get it sorted.”

“Sorry for… dinner.”

‘Sorry’ isn’t a word that comes out of her mouth a lot these days.

GM: Celia’s mom fumbles a bit to take her hand and give it an assuring squeeze.

“It’s okay, sweetie. Me and Emily and Lucy all love you. We just want you to be happy.”

Celia: Me too, Momma. Me too.

“I know. I love you guys, too. All three of you.”

“You talk to Logan about what happened at all?”

“I haven’t been able to get ahold of him. Left a voicemail, texted. I guess he’s busy.”

GM: Her mom smiles at Celia’s initial words, but shakes her head. “I’ll give him a poke that you’re tryin’ to get in touch. I think he’s ashamed of what happened. Which is… which is good.”

Celia: “He still live on campus?”

GM: Her mom doesn’t nod while there’s work on her face being done. “Yep, still does. Requirement for their freshman year. I think he’s grateful for it, like you were… for the same reasons.”

Celia: “Maybe I’ll just stop by.”

GM: “I’ll give him a heads up,” says her mom. “Just so he isn’t surprised.”

Celia: “Sounds like a plan, Mom.”

The timer goes off again. Celia uses a final wipe to remove the tint from her mother’s lashes. She has her open her eyes, then undoes the tape from her bottom lashes and pulls away the eye pads. She offers her mother a handheld mirror so she can check it out.

The result is astounding. Even though the lift itself doesn’t offer length, it curls her mother’s rather straight lashes to the point that it almost looks as if they had extensions glued on. They’re a little wet from the color and various solutions, so they stick together, but once they’re dry they will fan out nicely and give her eyes a nice pop.

GM: “Oh, sweetie, these look just gorgeous!” Celia’s mom exclaims, beaming as she exaggeratedly bats her lashes at the mirror. “Those are just like… a brand new pair of pointe shoes, except for my eyes. I bet I’m going to get all sorts of comments at work tomorrow. I do, you know, from tons of girls, who are all following the Celia Flores on her Instragram and Twitter and everything else. They all ask if I get my face done by you, and I always tell them yes, why yes I do.”

“Some of them ask if I’m your sister or cousin. That’s how good a job you do.” Her mom laughs.

Celia: Celia is happy to hear it. She smiles at her mom, pleased that she is pleased.

“I was thinking of running a special for Prom this year. Get some teens in. I don’t usually cater to them, but it is my alma mater…”

“Oh wow. Do they really?” she laughs. “That is one heck of a compliment.”

GM: “You do one heck of a job, missy,” her mom smirks. “A prom special, though, that’s a really good idea! McGehee’s prom is comin’ up in a few months, you know, and anything to make it even more magical for the girls would mean so much to them—after that shooting last August…”

Her mom’s face falls a bit. “Some of them are still gettin’ over that. It would mean a lot to them, I bet, to have a prom special from the Celia Flores.”

Celia: “I can’t even imagine the horror they’re going through.”

Celia had remembered hearing about what happened. Even as busy as she has been in Kindred society, news like a Devillers being shot travels fast. She hadn’t been Cécilia’s first phone call, but she had been among them.

It had been… awful. The whole situation.

“Did I tell you Cécilia asked me to do her hair and makeup for the wedding?”

GM: “Oh, did she? That’s just wonderful, there’s certainly no better salon in the city for her to get it done at,” Celia’s mom smiles.

“That poor family went through so much. Did I mention I’m giving private lessons again, to their youngest daughter?”

Celia: “Are you? Which one is that again? There are so many.”

GM: “There are,” her mom laughs. “Simmone is the one. She… had to leave McGehee, the poor thing, she was so traumatized.”

Celia: “Oh, no. I hadn’t heard that. Are you going to their home to teach her, or does she come to you?”

GM: “Yes, don’t spread it around,” Celia’s mom nods. “I go to their house. There’s no way she could manage anything else. She has separation anxiety, I think. Just being away from her mom or Cécilia gives her fits. I can’t even give lessons without one of them being in the room.”

“They’ve had to cancel a whole bunch of times, when her anxiety was acting up, I think.”

Celia: It’s an effort to keep the smile on her face.

Someone had told her, once, that the house was dangerous. The woman is dangerous. She tries not to think about him. About the hole that his execution left in her heart. He’d been talking about monsters since before she became one.

“Really,” Celia breathes the word, “that sounds… terrible for them. How long have you been going there?”

GM: “Hm, well, the shooting was back in August. I think a few months, now? They really had to wait a while, until Simmone was up to receiving visitors again.” She adds in a low voice, “I think they might have considered a mental institution for her, but Mrs. Devillers wouldn’t hear of it.”

Celia: “Something besides the anxiety, you think? Are the fits… does she hurt herself…?”

GM: Celia’s mom shakes her head. “Well, not physically. But I don’t think what’s happening to that girl is all too healthy. Or, has happened, I suppose.”

Celia: “Can you be a little more specific, Ma?”

GM: “Well… I really shouldn’t be repeating this, sweetie, it’s the family’s private business, but just… little things. I think Mrs. Devillers still breastfeeds her.”

Celia: “Isn’t she… older than Lucy now?”

GM: Her mom nods. “She is. She’s in fourth grade now. I guess maybe it’s just a… French cultural practice.”

Celia: “That’s beyond unusual, Momma. I don’t think it’s a French thing. Don’t women stop producing after a certain time..?”

She’s sure that they do.

“Have you seen this?”

GM: Her mom shakes her head. “Oh no, they don’t do it in front of me. But I’ve had six kids and nursed ‘em all, so I know it when I see it. There’s just little signs.”

“Women can produce milk for a pretty long time, though. I was concerned about that with Lucy. Whether I’d still be able to feed her, or should use formula. But, didn’t have any problems at almost-40.”

Celia: “No, I meant more… after you nurse a child for a while, your body stops producing. You wean the child. You don’t keep feeding her for… years and years.”

GM: “Well, cultural practices can vary there, sweetie. I nursed Lucy for a while longer than I did you and your siblings. Until she was a toddler, you might remember, and I’m happy how that worked out. I know they feel the same way in Europe and tend to do it longer there, too.”

“Though you are right, no question. 10 is pretty darn old for it.”

Celia: “Yeah…” Celia trails off. “And it’s just anxiety? Not, like, seizures?”

GM: “I haven’t seen any seizures. She’s just so scared, all the time, the poor thing. Her mom seems to be all that calms her down.”

Celia: “That poor child. Maybe… I could have you bring her some products? A mini spa kit, kind of an at home thing? You think she’d like that?”

GM: “Oh, that does sound like a fun idea. The family seems like they’re trying to get her out more, or at least liven up her routine. Cécilia actually asked me recently if I wouldn’t mind teaching a small class, with a couple other girls Simmone can socialize with. I might bring Lucy.”

Celia: “Oh? Should I come along? As her ‘mom’?”

GM: Her mom thinks. “The other girls’ moms aren’t staying around for the lesson, but I could ask, if you want to. That mini spa kit sounds like a really fun idea for the kids. Get them to feel all prettied up while they’re dancing.”

Celia: “Let me know when you’re going. I’ll put something together. And if she has any allergies. Probably stick to neutral, non-reactive things for kids… should be fun.”

“Actually, tell you what. I’ll put together a little thing for you to take over to Simmone now, and if Mrs. Devillers wants me to make something up for the rest of them, I can do that too. I’ll meet you right outside the room, Momma, with a cute little basket of goodies for her.”

She smiles at her mother before she leaves the room, taking the opportunity to gather a few things: small bottles of a gentle hydrating cleanser, a face mask, a lip and eye mask, moisturizer, a tinted lip balm, a little pot of pink, sparkly eyeshadow. A spa headband, too, to keep the girl’s hair out of her face. It’s soft and fluffy with unicorns dancing around the rim. Truth be told it’s one of their best selling products. The headband, that is, not the unicorn one in particular. It’s the kind of thing you see at a checkout and think ‘oh, I need one of those,’ but don’t actively go out of your way for.

And all little girls like unicorns, right?

GM: “Oh, this should be so much fun for them!” Celia’s mom exclaims upon seeing the goodie basket. “That unicorn headband in particular. You were right about this bein’ cute as a bug’s ear.”

Celia: Celia smiles at her mother as she takes her toward the front of the spa.

“Let me know what she thinks.”

She has to trust that if Mrs. Devillers had it out for her mother for any reason she would already be gone. She’s been seeing the girl for months now, she said; there’s no reason to suspect foul play. Even monsters want to care for their families, don’t they?

She certainly does. Speaking of.

“I’m going to pop by Logan’s dorm so we can have our chat. Have a good rest of your night, Momma. And thanks.”

For the advice that she will certainly not follow, but it was a nice moment anyway.

Monday evening, 7 March 2016

GM: After Celia’s mom exchanges hugs and “I love yous,” Alana comes through for her domitor with a tourist to feed on. He’s moderately good-looking and isn’t obviously drunk or high.

She gives him the spa treatment to explain what he’s doing here. Jade takes him while he’s on the table. He gasps with pleasure at the pair’s “magic hands.”

Alana likes to watch her domitor feed. But her eyes, most of all tonight, are full of longing. She has been so very patient. And such a good girl.

Celia: She has been. Such a good girl. Such a good ghoul, too. Jade tells her so when she’s done feeding, as she wipes the corners of her mouth to rid herself of any unsightly bloodstains. She found this prefect vessel for her mistress, not like that mistake last night. She offers her ghoul a choice: she can get a kiss now, or she can pencil herself into Jade’s schedule tomorrow and they can make an event of it.

GM: The ghoul beams at the praise. There’s no hesitation as she picks the latter.

Good things come to those who wait.

Celia: Celia pats her cheek. She tells the girl to get rid of the tourist for her and that she’ll be occupied for the next several hours between the visits with her brother and then Savoy. She mentions that she’s going to Riverbend, and leaves the rest unsaid: if she goes missing or fails to show for her meeting later alert Mel, who will alert Savoy, and the two ghouls are to go to ground. Contingency plans and all that.

Celia packs a small bag to take with her to Tulane. It contains her outfit for her eventual meeting with Savoy, just in case things take longer with her brother than she thinks they will. She doesn’t bother to change from her work attire to go see him; she’d already been dressed in flared yoga pants and a blouse, which will fit in just as well among the college students as it does here.

She waves goodbye to Alana and heads out. She dampens her ‘aura’ (she still thinks that’s a silly word sometimes) before leaving. Celia Flores is a perfectly ordinary breather going to see her breather brother. Nothing to see here.

GM: It’s a 16-minute drive from Flawless to Tulane. No one stops Celia along the way from entering Vidal’s territory. Ordinary breather. Still, she knows it’s best not to linger: there are semi-periodic patrols against trespassers. She parks her car and gets out by Barbara Greenbaum House, a four- and six-story residential hall (one of the wings is raised over the others) with room for hundreds of students. Celias’s Beast licks its chops at the thought of so many vessels lying helpless in their beds. It’s not too hungry, after her recent meal, but the thirst is never entirely gone.

But there is something to see here. Tulane’s campus is emptier at this hour of the evening, but Jade runs into a number of avid female coeds who go, “Oh hey! You’re Celia Flores!” “Omigod, I follow your Instagram!” “Can we take your selfie?” “What are you doing at Tulane?” “Do you have a boyfriend here?”

Celia: Celia wonders at the wisdom of appearing here in her mortal face. She could have ducked into a bathroom and changed later. Worn sunglasses. Something to keep the kine from recognizing her.

But, really, how many of her type follow Instagram? How will any of them know? The only ones who know her face are on her side, plus the sheriff, and technically it’s his territory, and if she’s not feeding…

Her mind does the mental gymnastics that make this okay. She smiles for her fans, such as they are, and denies the boyfriend question with an, “I’m perfectly content with just the one.” She poses for a handful of photos, asks them to wait to post those until tomorrow because she’s here as a surprise and doesn’t want to spoil it, and moves on to find her brother’s room.

Celia: Besides, she reasons in regard to her sire, negative attention is still attention.

GM: But they all think she’s pretty.

They all want to be in her pictures.

They all want to look like her.

Some of them probably even want to be her.

There are worse wants to be the subject of. The miserable trek into the sewers seems an increasingly distant memory.

Celia: She doesn’t have long, she tells them, thanks so much for your shares and follows, be sure to tag her when they post (tomorrow!) so she can see them too.

She loves the attention. She really does. It’s sweeter than the blood of the sire she is so intent on avoiding this evening. And it’s that thought—being dragged before him, in trouble, arousing his ire—that gets her feet moving, that makes her answers a little more firm as she extricates herself from the crowd.

Of course her sire is not the only one of her kind to stalk the vast grounds and halls of Tulane (nor can she actually imagine him here amongst the booze-soaked, party kine); she is aware from both her own time here as well as current events that there are others to whom the regent grants feeding rights, and she keeps her eyes constantly moving for any who might fit that description.

So she can avoid them, naturally.

GM: The coeds all promise Celia that they will wait to post the photos and wave as she takes off. At least for now, she spots none of her fellow Kindred… though the college campus is an excellent feeding ground, and she can readily imagine her grandsire telling her she is wise not to linger.

She pulls out her Solaris on the way to Logan’s dorm.

The photos are already up and getting likes.

The girls have tagged her, at least.

Celia: Well. She supposes she’ll just need to bank on the fact that no one is watching her feed. That her kind don’t care enough about Celia Flores to pay attention. That anyone who is doesn’t know that she doesn’t quite belong here.

Maybe they’re not geotagged. Maybe there’s no obvious Tulane buildings in the background. She scrolls through the photos as she walks toward the dorm, sending a quick text to her brother to let him know that she’s here.

Hey L. Came to visit my baby bro. What room are you in again?

GM: oh hey sis. 312.

Celia: She heads up the stairs, taking them two at a time instead of opting for the often overcrowded elevator. A moment later she’s at his door, knocking.

GM: And a moment later he’s at the door, answering. Logan Flores is a tall, blonde-haired and brown-eyed 19-year-old boy with a clean-shaven face. His figure is pretty buff. He played football in high school, just like his old man did, though he’s dropped football in college in favor of the ROTC. It remains to be seen whether that will win Dad’s approval.

“Celia. Hey,” he says at the door, wrapping his arms around her in a hug.

Celia: Celia doesn’t need to feign the smile at the sight of her brother. She’s pretty sure he had another growth spurt since the last time she saw him, too, or maybe it’s because she’s in flats instead of heels. Regardless, it looks like he’s been working out, and the hug he gives her is practically enveloping.

“Hey, Log.” Pronounced with a long ‘O’ instead of likening him to a stick. “How’s your semester coming along? Can I come in for a minute?”

GM: “Yeah, sure,” he says, letting go after a moment.

Logan’s dorm room is fairly typical of an affluent college student. He has it all to himself, for one: no roommate’s second bed. There’s an American flag draped over the wall, along with a wooden crucifix, a high school football banner, and a Make America Great Again campaign poster. There’s also a few family photos. One is of his high school graduation, dressed in a cap and gown with a proud-looking Maxen clapping an arm around his shoulder. The second picture shows a middle school-age Logan, awkwarder-looking but still big, lifting up a smiling Diana in his arms. Her expression all but proclaims, ‘look how strong my boy is!’. The last picture shows Celia’s brother in his football uniform.

There’s also the usual laptop, assorted textbooks and binders, and dirty clothes and dishes. Logan looks like he’s trying to be more cleanly, and even succeeding, but still has a bit of a ways to go. He clears some of the school stuff from his bed and offers Celia a spot.

“Want something to drink?”

“And semester’s going pretty good. Have to be up really early for those ROTC runs, but getting used to it.”

Celia: She does, but she’s not going to take it from her brother.

“No, thank you, I just had a full meal.”

GM: “Okay. How’s the business? There’s a bunch of girls in my classes who all follow your Instagram.”

He heads back from the fridge to plop down on the bed.

Celia: “Glad to hear things are going well. Morning runs sound super yucky, though.” Celia makes a face. She takes the offered seat on his bed, pulling one leg up to sit more casually. Her eyes take in the room, then settle on the brother sitting next to her.

“Business is going great. I just saw Mom earlier today. And yeah, I can tell your classmates follow me; I was practically mobbed on my way in, ha.”

“Made it a little awkward to get the visit in, to be honest. Trying for discretion and there’s a bunch of co-eds screaming my name. I ever tell you about the time I was meeting someone for a date and was accosted by an overzealous fan?”

GM: “Oh. Man. That had to be awkward. How’d you play it?”

Celia: “He was pretty mad about it. Said something about ‘why do you always put your fans ahead of our relationship,’ ’can’t even go out without a camera on you,’ that kind of thing. Super awkward. Didn’t last long. Messy breakup. Before I met Randy, of course.” Celia shrugs, gives him a wry smile. “How’re things with your lady friend?”

GM: “Yeah. Well. Sounds like he was an asshole if he couldn’t be happy for you,” Logan smiles back. The expression lapses, though, at Celia’s question. “Uh. We aren’t really talking. Had a fight. Might be the end.”

“Oh well. Wasn’t gonna last past college anyway, when I commission.”

Celia: “He was definitely an asshole,” Celia agrees. She makes a sympathetic noise at her brother’s reveal.

“Anything worth fighting about? Thought you two were pretty cozy.”

GM: “Just…” Logan waves vaguely. “Stuff. Like that.”

“I dunno. Maybe she’ll be happier with another guy.”

Celia: “Maybe. Are you happy, though?”

GM: “I really, really wish I’d gone to West Point,” Logan sighs, rubbing his head.

“Like, Dad knows congressmen. He could’ve asked the Malveauxes. All the guys who go to West Point are the ones who run things.”

Celia: “Transfer. Get in on your own merit instead of asking Dad. If that’s what you want to do, then do it.”

“But if you’re only doing it to please Dad…” Celia trails off.

GM: “I’m not!” says Logan. “I wanna serve our country. I want to stop terrorists and be the good guy. It beats being a lawyer like David.” Her brother glowers. “He’s such a wuss.”

“But, no way I’m getting into West Point on my own.”

Celia: “Why?”

GM: “‘Cuz you need to be top of your class in, like, everything. And you need a congressional nomination, or a service-connected nomination. You literally can’t get in without one. And we don’t have any service nominations.”

Celia: “Right. I remember you talking about the nomination. I thought that’s why you joined ROTC, so you could ask one of them about it.”

“So you put your nose to the grindstone here, stay at the top of your classes, finish out the year, maybe next, and transfer. What’s your GPA?”

GM: “No, I joined ROTC ’cuz it was too late for West Point!” Logan says, frustrated. “And, they don’t like transfers as much. They want freshmen. If you transfer you actually start all over again as a freshman, ‘cuz they don’t think the ROTC is good enough.”

“My GPA’s, I think a 3.0.”

Celia: No wonder he’s so angry. That’s lower than hers had been.

“Did you ask Dad for a nomination, before?”

GM: “Dad can’t nominate me! He’s only a state congressman!” Logan exclaims, angrier.

Celia: “That’s not what I asked. I asked if you asked him to get one for you.”

GM: “No, I didn’t, ‘cause it’s too late! I decided to do ROTC after I got accepted into Tulane, remember? Dad chewed me out all over it.”

Celia: “Logan, just take a breath for me, okay?” Celia pauses. Waits for him to do so. “Do you need West Point in order to serve your country? Or can you finish here, continue with ROTC, and move on from there? You’ll be a commissioned officer, won’t you? That’s already leagues above someone joining with nothing.”

GM: Logan takes a breath.

“There’s tons of officers. I mean, so what. It’s nothing special. Anyone with a BA can be an officer. It’s the ones who go to West Point who basically run everything.”

Celia: “So you’ve got an uphill battle. And, as you just said, there isn’t anything you can do about it now. Can you make the most of what you do have access to?”

“Alternatively… do you need to go into the military to serve the country? You said, specifically, ‘stop terrorists’ and ‘fight bad guys,’ and you don’t have to do military service to do either one of those. What’s your plan? FBI? CIA? NSA? Other acronyms that are too secret for either one of us to know?” She grins.

GM: “The NSA’s for nerds, the CIA gets a million applicants, and the FBI’s, I dunno, I like the military more. I’d like to get out of here and see the world and just blow the shit out of some terrorists.”

“Look, read this.”

Logan pulls up a page on his phone and shows it to Celia:

“My most memorable moments were two that were almost identical. It was when I dropped a hellfire missile into four Taliban sitting cross-legged, indian style in a circle de-briefing their attack on us. I put a hellfire into the middle of them. Actually I put two hellfires in the middle for good measure. Watching the screen go white and then watching their fucking body parts fly everywhere, some of them were twitching, and knowing that I just fucking killed these guys. I just ended their lives. It’s a sense of joy and happiness that I’d only felt when I was a basketball coach. I coached a high school rec team when I was in college and I had this one kid on my team who was the scrub. I spent a lot of time with this kid just teaching him basic shit and he ended up scoring the last point of a game at the buzzer. I don’t remember if it was to win the game, but I remember the joy I saw on his face. There was joy in the stands, with his teammates, and obviously with me as the coach. That was the single most joyous moment of my life until I killed those fucking pieces of shit. And you can see the smile on my face right now, right (laughs)? I’m beaming from ear-to-ear thinking about killing those fucking people. I’ll never forget that. I just remember thinking, ’I’ll probably never feel this happy again.’ And actually it was the next day when I dropped a hellfire into the middle of five of them.”

Her brother grins at her.

“I mean, isn’t that just. Just, holy shit?”

Celia: Celia’s eyes scan the screen of the offered phone. She reads. She reads, then reads again, and wonders where her parents went wrong.

She killed someone last night. Mutilated bodies. Taken people apart, skin, viscera, muscle, sinew, all of it. Turned a gunshot victim into a blood bag. Raped an innocent boy. Plans a vile punishment for when her ghoul comes crawling back to her.

And it still isn’t as bad as the thought of watching the downward spiral that her brother is edging closer and closer to.

But she smiles back at him.

“Is it the killing or the fact that they’re a bunch of towel-headed, Allah worshipping A-rabs that’s got you into it?”

GM: “Well, that they’re towel-headed A-rabs. They’re total pieces of shit. I showed this to one girl in my class who’s a total libtard and went on all about how killing is wrong, and I said these guys are pieces of shit who make women wear veils and carried out 9/11 and blow up thousand-year-old statues because they aren’t Muslim enough.”

“Like, these people are just cartoon-level evil. World’s a better place without them.”

Celia: “Ugh. I wouldn’t even bother with girls like that. Or people like that. Anyone who makes blanket statements like that probably need to have their head surgically removed from their ass.”

GM: “Yeah. I was just showing it to her for laughs.”

Celia: “Riling them up though, that’s fun.”

“She get indignant? Red-faced?”

GM: He grins. “Yeah. She looked like she was gonna explode, that’s how red her face turned.”

“I, uh. I also might’ve showed it to Mom.”

Celia: “That…” Celia stares at him. “That might not have been the best call.”

GM: “Eh heh. Yeah. It… I’d just got really excited.”

Celia: “What did she say?”

GM: “Well, she just made this sort of, puckering expression, and her eyebrows went really up. Then ‘oh my lord’ or ‘oh my heavens’ or something like that.”

“I, uh. Kinda regretted it.”

“I was just showing it to basically everyone I knew. It really inspired me.”

Celia: “I bet. What about when they pull out of there, though? What’re you gonna do after you’re done blowin’ ’em up?”

GM: “Well, we’re sort of always in wars. There’s always more bad guys.”

Celia: “Yeah, but like… at what point are you gonna be the guy pushin’ papers instead of on the ground, you know?”

GM: “Well, highest rank still deployed on the field is a colonel. I mean, plenty guys don’t ever make colonel. Though by that point it’s not like you’re blowing them up yourself, yeah.”

“I dunno. Maybe I’ll stick with it, or go into politics. There’s lots of congresspeople who become captains and then go into public service.”

Celia: “I dated a guy a few years back. Real macho guy. Ex-military. Same ideas as you. OIder, though, so he was getting out right around when 9/11 happened. Told me that when he took his test he scored so high they put him into a special unit, secret base, all sorts of stuff. He didn’t quite say it, but he heavily implied his job was to get information out of people.”

There’s a pause while she eyes her brother.

“Think you’d be into that, or would you rather do it from afar, pressing buttons?”

GM: “I’d rather do it up close,” Logan says. “Like, I think you kinda owe it, in a way. To do it yourself.”

Celia: “Something real impersonal about a gun, yeah.”

GM: “Well, a gun’s pretty personal. I mean pressing buttons.”

“I guess someone’s gotta to do it. But it’s not as, it doesn’t feel as honest.”

Celia: “When Emi was going through med school, she told me that they had to work on cadavers. Rip them open, operate on them, things like that. Dead flesh and all. She said a couple people fainted the first time, and one of the boys withdrew.” Celia gives him a look. “Couldn’t handle it. Lotta cops who leave the force after killing someone too.”

GM: “I can handle it,” Logan proclaims.

Celia: “Maybe we should find out. Got any enemies?” she smirks.

GM: He laughs. “I wish.”

“Just campus libtards, but they’re not terrorists.”

Celia: “Well, at least you’ve got a code.”

GM: “That’s the difference between us and them.”

“Though Noelle Cherry and Bill Jay Roberts might be kinda close to enemies.”

Celia: “Those are Dad’s enemies,” Celia points out, “not yours.”

GM: “Well, his enemies are my enemies. And so are yours and Mom’s and everyone else’s.”

He wraps an arm around Celia’s shoulder. “You got any guys who are giving you a hard time, stalking you, whatever, ‘cuz you’re so popular, just lemme know. I’ll beat the crap out of them.”

Celia: “Aww.” Celia ruffles his hair with her hand. “I’ll let you know. You’re the best brother a stalked famous person could have.”

GM: Logan beams.

Celia: “Maybe I’ll have you work security at this event coming up, see if you can keep the hordes of people at bay. Get you a bat to break some kneecaps. You got some free time for me?”

GM: “Yeah, absolutely!” her little brother nods. “What’s the event?”

Celia: She tells him about it. High society kind of thing, the type of place she’ll need to wear her Celia face to. She doesn’t expect trouble, but every time she’s out in public she’s mercilessly hounded, and she tells him about a stalker she had a few years back when she was just getting everything off the ground with her business. Obsessed, she told him. Followed her on social media, followed her in person, it was all pretty creepy. Even attacked her one night, too.

“Would’ve been nice to have you there, then. Never know when the crazies are going to strike.”

GM: “Geez, you never said anything about this!” Logan exclaims. “What’s this asshole’s name?”

Celia: “Doesn’t matter,” Celia says, shaking her head. “I handled it. And he’s dead now, anyway.”

“Also you were like, prepubescent. Like this tall.” Celia holds her hand a foot off the bed.

GM: “Wait, he’s dead? What happened there?”

Celia: “Think he flipped his car.”

“Doesn’t matter,” she waves a hand, “it was years and years ago. And now I’ve got you watchin’ out for me, yeah?”

GM: Logan nods. “Damn, though. That’s crazy. I guess that’s the dark side of being famous.”

“Still, though. You’re famous and you’ve got your own business and everything. You’re really successful.”

“I know you don’t like to talk with him, but… Dad’s proud. He really is.”

Celia: There’s a moment of silence.

Finally, she says, “Is he really? Did… did he tell you that?”

GM: Logan nods. “Yeah. We were just talking about things we’d all done and he said you were really successful, and that he was proud of that.”

Celia: “That’s… that’s really nice to hear. Thanks, Logan.”

GM: “You’re welcome. Have you thought about… maybe seeing him again?”

Celia: “I, uh… I kind of thought he didn’t want to, to be honest.”

GM: “Well. He’s proud.”

Celia: “Doesn’t mean he wants to see me,” Celia points out. “Unless he told you otherwise.”

GM: “Our family’s weird. Dad and you don’t talk. Mom and Grandma don’t talk. Dad and Mom don’t talk. Mom and Isabel don’t talk. You and Isabel don’t talk.”

“Like, our whole family hates each other. What happened to us?”

Celia: “We let ourselves fall apart. We weren’t there for each other, not when it mattered.”

GM: “Oh, and Mom and Prudence don’t talk, forgot one.”

Celia: “Isabel and I exchanged a few letters. While she was at Liberty.”

GM: “How’d those go?”

Celia: “Not… terrible?” She winces. “Could have been better, we had a rocky start. I guess I just… when Mom and Dad split, she and I took opposite sides. I know you were young, but it got ugly a few times between us, and we were both really angry for a long time. I think her being away let me put things into perspective. She’s my sister, you know? So now… now with her being in Sudan, you know, it’s like, ‘how long is she going to be gone? What if she settles down over there and I never get to see her again?’ And that doesn’t sit right with me, so the effort has been more, as of late.”

“Why, got some tips for me on how to get through to her?”

GM: “Well, that’s good,” says Logan. “I haven’t been in touch with her a lot because, like you say, Sudan. She can be… pretty bossy. I mean, after… after you and Mom left, she kinda had to be. Dad called her the ‘lady of the house.’ I just remember this time she was giving me a bath and really scrubbing me to get all the dirt off, and…”

Logan kind of shrugs.

“Maybe just… show you know it’s been hard for her, too.”

“Plus that whole accident with her toe made it all extra hard.”

Celia: “I still don’t even understand what happened there.”

GM: “I don’t really remember a lot either. The others all said we were just going from house to house to house like ping-pong balls. Because of court stuff. Mom and Dad fighting.”

Celia: “It was a pretty turbulent time, all the way around.”

“She never said anything more about it? And with that… really, really ugly scandal?”

GM: “Oh. Yeah. There was how her face, in those videos… I think that’s kinda why she went to Sudan.”

“Just, even though they were fake… everyone still talking about her.”

Celia: “I kind of figured as much, honestly. I can’t imagine being at the center of something like that.”

GM: “Yeah. I mean, worse when you’re a girl, I guess.”

“And Mom didn’t have her face in the news, so… maybe Isabel kinda blames her.”

Celia: “Pretty sure Isabel blames her for more than that. I kind of feel bad for Mom sometimes, since she doesn’t talk to anyone else in her family. We’re all she’s got.”

“But yeah. I guess I just didn’t put it into perspective, that she bore the brunt of all that. Maybe I’ll give her a call. Anything you want me to pass on?”

GM: “Well, Dad doesn’t really talk to his family outside of us either, so I guess him and Mom have that in common.”

Celia: “Dad’s family is complicated, though.”

She hadn’t realized the parallels until the words were out of her mouth. Huh.

GM: “Giving Isabel a call sounds like a good thing to do, though. Sudan has to be pretty lonely.”

“Hey, you know you can talk over WhatsApp to avoid getting charged for international calls?”

Celia: “I didn’t know that, actually. I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the tip. Like I said, best baby brother a girl could ask for.”

GM: Logan smiles. “Yeah. I’ll definitely use it if I get sent overseas.”

“Oh, how’s Lucy, by the way?”

Celia: “She’s good. Doing really well. You should see her dance; so much better than I was at her age, all elbows and knees. Mom’s been a real gem with the childcare.”

GM: “Yeah, she basically lives with Mom, it seems like. It’s pretty cool to be an uncle though.”

Celia: “I bet. I’m sure Mom can’t wait for the rest of you to pop some babies out. She told me about that time you got her hyped up on sugar just before bed time, you know.” Celia gives him a look. “I’m just saying when it’s your turn, turnabout is fair play.”

GM: Logan grins. “Yeah, yeah. She doesn’t have to worry. I want a really big family too.”

Celia: “You could get a motorcycle. Be the cool uncle.”

GM: “Ha. That’s an idea. The whole motorcycle culture is pretty interesting.”

“I… feel kinda bad how Dad never gets to see Lucy,” he then says.

“I mean, he’s her grandpa, and he’s never even met her. And I think he really wants to.”

Celia: “Considering our extremely strained relationship and the things he said to me when he found out I was pregnant, I don’t really think it’s going to happen. That would take some serious apologizing and making amends on his end.”

GM: “Don’t you think it would be better, if we all actually talked and saw each other?”

Celia: “Logan, honestly, I wish it were different. I wish Dad and I got along, and Isabel and I got along, and that none of the stuff that ever happened to our family happened. I really do. I wish it never got bad and I could take back all the mistakes I made. But I can’t just wish and make something happen. It takes two parties. And Dad hasn’t called me, either, it’s not like I’m just ignoring him.”

GM: “Well, someone has to start it, though.”

“You can’t, like, both call at the same time.”

Celia: “At this point I wouldn’t even know what to say to him.”

GM: “Maybe just, you miss having a dad?”

Celia: Somehow she doesn’t think there will be a tearful reunion with hugging and exchanged sentiments if she were to see him again. Even so, it’s there inside of her, a little spark of something she doesn’t want to put a name to. It’s been tucked away for so long that she thought it was gone, but this conversation brings her right back to it.

It brings with it the night he’d made her stay up cooking. The time she’d introduced him to Stephen. The way his hands had felt as they came down on her, hard. The smell of blood. Her mother’s screams. The “eh-eh-eh-eh” from the tape.

Isabel’s broken smile.

“I’ll think about it.”

Maxen belongs to someone else. She can’t talk to him even if she wants to without breaking a bunch of rules and stepping on toes. Like she’s breaking by being here, even if she isn’t feeding.

“I should head out soon.”

GM: “Oh. Sure,” Logan says, getting up from the bed.

“But for what it’s worth… he hasn’t dated. At all. Like, not even once.”

“I mean, obviously, that isn’t you. It’s just… I think Mom and you left a really big hole in his heart.”

Celia: She thinks about telling him why he hasn’t dated. That she’d had this conversation once with him, after Mom had left.

And it’s like a little bulb goes off in her head. She closes her mouth. Hugs her brother tightly.

“Thanks, Logan. I’ll see what I can do to… to fix it.”

GM: He hugs her back. Lifts her up several inches as he does.

“Okay, sis. Love you lots.”

Celia: “Love you lots,” she says, laughing, as he puts her back down. “I’ll let you know about the party. Don’t be a stranger, Logan. You know I like hearing from all of you.”

GM: “Yeah. Me too,” he smiles back.

“Um. Also. I… hit Erin. When I was really mad.”

“What should I do?”

Celia: The mirth fades as quickly as it came. She looks him up and down. Debates what the best thing is to say to him that will get through.

“Erin is my size, isn’t she? So you’re… this much bigger than her. And you hit her.” She makes a noise that’s like a sigh, shaking her head.

“I won’t lecture you on how it was wrong. You know it was or you wouldn’t have said anything to me about it. You could try apologizing, but she doesn’t have to forgive you. Ever.”

GM: “I did say sorry, yeah. She hasn’t said anything back.”

Celia: “But the issue here is deeper. It’s that you thought it was okay to hit her in the first place. You were on edge when I came in. Do you have an outlet for that rage?”

GM: “I didn’t think it was okay! I just… I was just in a really bad mood, and she was being kind of a bitch, and it just… happened. I wish I could take it back but I can’t.”

Celia: “Hey.” Celia lays a hand on his arm. “You don’t need to explain it to me. I get it. I understand that rage. Trust me, I do.”

“Do you want to fix it? Or do you want to learn from it and move on?”

GM: “Well, why not both?”

Celia: “Because you can’t make someone else forgive you for something.”

GM: “I guess not. It’s just being the better person.”

Celia: “And look at it this way: if I told you that I forgave my stalker for attacking me, what would you think about that?”

GM: “Okay, that’d be pretty fucking crazy. He hasn’t done anything to be worth forgiving.”

Celia: “He’s Lucy’s dad.”

GM: Logan blinks. “Wait, what?”

Celia: “It’s a really long story. I’ll tell you, but I want to get you through this first.”

GM: “I wanna hear this! Did he… did he rape you!?”

Celia: “No.”

“We were together. We broke up. He started stalking me.”

“It doesn’t matter. It was years and years ago, and he’s dead. So that’s the end of that.”

GM: “Oh. Wow.” Logan blinks. “That’s… that’s really heavy.”

Celia: “That’s why I asked. What if I told you, after he hit me, I wanted to go back to him?”

GM: “Well… was he really sorry about it?”

Celia: “Maybe. What I’m saying, Logan, is that Erin and I were once in the same position. If she were me, would you tell her to forgive you?”

GM: “I… I guess not… and I haven’t. It’s just that I’m not a bad guy and I hope she could see that.”

“But, if she can’t, maybe we just aren’t right for each other.”

Celia: “Then show her that. But show her from a distance. That will mean more than any apologies. Give her space. Let’s find you an outlet for your rage. I have a few ideas, I just need to talk to some people first.”

GM: “Oh, yeah, you asked. We do a fair amount of physical stuff, for ROTC, and I work out outside of that. But it’s not really like football was.”

Celia: “That’s not the same as what I have in mind.”

GM: “Beating up your stalkers?” he smirks faintly.

Celia: “Something like that. Something outside of the rules of polite society.”

GM: “Wow, okay. I’m behind that. Healthy outlet.”

Celia: “Beats beating women.” She smiles, though, to take the sting from her words, and nudges him with her elbow. “For what it’s worth… I’m glad you told me. The fact that you did and that you want to fix it means you’re not a monster, you know?”

GM: “Yeah. I’m… glad to hear that.”

“I told Mom and I think she told Emily, cause she gave me a total earful.”

Celia: “Anything worth repeating?”

GM: “I hung up,” he says flatly. “Not to be sexist or anything, but… women can be nags in a way guys just can’t, you know?”

Celia: “I was just about to tell you that she gave me an earful for having a glass of wine before dinner,” Celia confides, “so I definitely get it.”

GM: “Well, you’re 27, you can have a glass if you wanna.”

Celia: “That’s what I said.”

“Women, right?” Celia rolls her eyes at him.

GM: “Haha. Right, women. Though I guess guys can be pretty thick too in their own way.”

Celia: “We’ve all got our issues.” She grins. “But, yeah, to sum it up, my advice is to leave her alone now that you’ve apologized, and to let me borrow some of your evenings to show you a better way to release that anger. I think you’ll like it.”

GM: “Okay, that sounds good. Text me about whenever.”

Celia: “Will do. And you know my door is always open if you need me. Take it easy, Logan.”

GM: “I know. You too.” He hugs her again.

Celia: She lingers momentarily, soaking up all the feelings of being human again that she can get from her brother hugging her. It’s a warmth she doesn’t get from others of her kind, a goodness she can’t find within Kindred society. Even knowing that he has rage problems, even hearing that he’d hit his girlfriend, she doesn’t think he’s nearly as bad as the people like her.

Before she goes she nabs the hoodie that’s slung over the back of his chair and tells him it’s to avoid the stalkers on the way to her car.

It’s worrying, she thinks, this obsession he has with wanting to blow people up, but maybe… maybe she can fix it. It’s not too late for him.

She touches a hand to his arm at the door, smiling up at him. He isn’t so far gone that he can’t come back.

Maybe her family isn’t as broken as she thought.

Monday night, 7 March 2016, PM

Celia: There’s something to be said for the differences in dealing with the members of her family. Her mother is handled with kid gloves and velveteen coated lies. Lucy with cotton candy smiles. Logan with patient understanding and shared joy over torment.

And Isabel… Isabel needs a firmer hand, Celia thinks. She has been thinking for some time now on how to play this, on the best way to begin mending the fence that their parent’s fighting cast down upon them. It isn’t fair, she thinks, that someone else’s actions were what began to throw shade over the sunny garden that could have been their relationship.

Perhaps it is Logan’s words that got through to her. Or perhaps it is just that opportunity came knocking late one night, and now she just needs a moment to kill time before her meeting with the lord of the French Quarter.

The store is on her way back to the spa. Hustler Hollywood, it’s on the far end of Bourbon Street near Canal, right next to a Walgreens. The neon light beckons to her, a guide toward the double doors that lead into the depraved fantasy world beyond. It’s amusing to see the looks of tourist kine as their eyes scan the front of the shop window, decorated with a display of mannequins in various poses with gauzy lingerie, strap-ons, and leather paddles dangling from their wrists. It’s amusing to see the disgust as mothers pull their children closer, avert their gazes, cover their eyes with their hands. She wonders, sometimes, why there is even anyone allowed on the street that is under the legal drinking age. Do they expect sunshine and rainbows in a place like this?

She pushes open the front doors.

The first floor is lingerie. Body suits, dresses, thongs, heels that are so impossibly high she can’t even fathom how someone would walk in them. DVDs, too, for those people who are too old or too dumb to know how to find what they want online. Purses, necklaces, body jewelry. She lingers for a moment in front of the glass case with the jewelry, eyeing the contents. She could get something for Alana. One of those body chains that attaches to throat and nipple, or perhaps the one with the extra chain that would clip around her clit. She wonders, idly, if the ghoul would submit to a piercing. A set of piercings. Ones that buzz when Jade presses a button.

Of course she would. She’s a good girl.

But Jade isn’t here for Alana tonight. She’s here for another reason, so she takes the stairs in the middle of the floor that lead to the second story, where things get a little more risque. This is where they keep the toys. The handcuffs and dildos and lube, the strap-ons and vibrators and leather cuffs and collars. She gravitates toward the section that looks more like it belongs in a dungeon than a sex shop, aisles lined with whips and chains and prong collars, electrical devices, paddles. And there, on their very own shelf, sits a collection of gags. Ball gags, o-ring gags, double ring gags, tube gags, gags with little silicone cocks that fit neatly into the mouth, gags with lips, gags with hooks, gags with straps that go across the whole face, dental gags, hooded gags, spider gags. Some are metal, some are leather, some are silicone or latex.

She takes her time perusing the selection. Her brother’s words and her own desire to fix what she broke play in her mind. But she cannot pretend her special visitor is not dangerous, and that if said visitor were to discover her secrets and spill them to the Kindred society at large there would not be problems. So Jade opts for a whole kit. A face mask with an open mouth where she can put the steel gag. Mittens to cover the hands, little booties for the feet.

She puts it all into a basket and tosses in an item or two for Alana, as well. Maybe one day she’ll collar Randy, she thinks, once he learns to submit. Perhaps a gag for him. She laughs at the thought, drawing a look from a nearby patron, and she winks at him as she walks away. Her hips swing with each step. She pays for her items. Loads them up into the car. Finds another parking spot nearer her own domain, Bourbon Heat. This time of night the party is already in full swing, and it’s to loud music and strobe effects that Jade walks into the door. Bodies twist and writhe on the floor.

She buys a drink. She pretends to sip, eyes scanning the floor for what she needs. Someone with a crucifix, maybe a pair of cross earrings. Someone who loves Jesus.

GM: Bourbon Heat is partying. Like always.

Hundreds of bodies are packed into the nightclub like sardines, writhing and undulating to pounding club music. Jade can all but smell their lust and sweaty desperation. The pungent musk is no less prevalent at the bar, where sharply-dressed, cool-eyed human predators leisurely pick out victims from among the throngs. Other individuals stare at the dance floor with drooping eyes as they hold hands to skulls pounding from one laced drink too many. Some of the predators molest them in plain view of the crowd, while others half-lead, half-drag their prey away to bathrooms where they may satisfy appetites even this jaded public cannot countenance. Yelling, sneering, and laughing faces are ghoulishly illuminated by the pulsating blue and red lights. The entire city seems present in the club in microcosm, driven by the knowledge that it will be old one day and no longer free to indulge its appetites. Better dance, drink, and fuck its way to an early oblivion.

Love for Jesus appears all-too scarce in this house of sin.

But it’s not overlong before the attractive Toreador starts to receive attention. There aren’t as many guys who follow her social media accounts as there are girls, but there’s still some. A smirking, green-haired young man in a spiked leather jacket, fob chain, and t-shirt that reads ‘FUCK YOU’ strikes up a conversation.

“I had a girlfriend who was really into your makeup vids,” he remarks.

He slips something into Jade’s drink while he probably thinks she isn’t looking.

Celia: Ah, well, Jade supposes that the mark was a guess anyway, and she doesn’t have the required time this evening to be picky. One juicebag will work as well as another.

The predators, though, those pose a challenge of another kind. A game of cat and mouse and they don’t know which they are until her fangs have sunk into their neck or wrist to draw that delicious meal forth. It would be all to easy to scoop up an overly indulged tourist or co-ed, but where oh where is the enjoyment in that?

She doesn’t even need to seek one out. He comes to her, this green haired bravado, and she plays the role of Jade oh-so-well when it’s male eyes on her. She smiles at him.

“She has good taste.” Her eyes linger on his body as she speaks the words. She reaches out to touch one of the spikes on his jacket. “Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve always admired a man in leather.”

She gives the boy the opportunity he needs to feel like a man when he spikes her drink. She takes another pretend sip. Roofies? She pulses with the music, lets the boy chatter in her ear, inane comments that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. The minutes tick by, her cup gets ever lower. Spilled across the floor, another sticky residue for the cleaners in the morning.

At some point she sways, leaning against him. Her words slur. Thanks, Randy, for the practice.

Find my car, take me home, go somewhere quieter; does it really matter what she says?

It doesn’t, in the end. It doesn’t really matter what she says or to whom she says it to, not in a place like this, not to a boy like him. Everyone here wants the same thing anyway: to escape from their problems. To find a partner to rub up against on the floor, someone to take home to ease the ache of the emptiness in their hearts for a night, to quench that fire in their loins.

She doesn’t feel anything about it anymore, particularly not when the kine are so eager to show off that they’re rotten people at their core. Predators are bad for business, anyway. So she leans on him on their way out the door, giggles at what comes out of his mouth, leads him to her car. Of course I can drive, she tells him, and that’s that.

They’re back at the spa in no time at all. She takes him inside to find her other visitor, the one receiving this present wrapped in studded leather and profanity-ridden shirts. She passes him off to Alana and tells the ghoul to keep an eye on him for a moment while she prepares a room.

She takes a moment to walk back to the car to retrieve her purchases.

GM: The boy looks amused at Jade’s suggestion she can drive, but doesn’t stop her. Maybe what he’s given her is slow-acting. Maybe he doesn’t give a fuck. Maybe he’s just being stupid.

Why does anyone do anything.

He’s reluctant to leave Jade’s side at first, but Alana presents such a tempting treat. When the ghoul starts making sexual advances, he finally follows her off. Jade supposes it makes the need for date rape drugs is redundant.

Unless he gets off to that.

Not impossible. People can be cruel. Vampires aren’t the only predators among the kine.

One might not even be the only predator here.

Jade almost doesn’t notice it at first, amidst the flow of traffic. But there’s only so much traffic in the Vieux Carre.

There’s another car. Plain and unassuming.

Following hers.

Waiting outside the spa.

Celia: Well this has certainly made for an interesting evening. A predator inside the club, and now a hunter outside the spa. Lonely fan? Police detective? Stalker? Could be a jealous girlfriend, maybe the one he mentioned earlier.

Or it could be someone following her from Tulane. Someone who saw her there. Kine? Kindred? Logan? The boy from the Hustler store?

There are only so many ways to find out.

She makes sure that her Celia mask is firmly in place. Draws that predatory smell into her body, so people like her won’t react, and in its place she projects the one she wants instead: innocence. Celia Flores is just another mortal in yoga pants and a university hoodie, another hard working woman going about her evening.

Her eyes scan the face of the man in the car. She doesn’t recognize him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Her steps take her past his car. Slowly.

Give them the opportunity they need and all, right?

GM: The man in the car doesn’t glance up at Jade. There’s a woman in the seat next to him. Brown hair, maybe in her 30s, casually dressed. They’re both hunched over the same phone screen as an entertainment video plays.

Celia: How anticlimactic, Celia thinks. She’d thought there would be another vessel to add to her collection tonight. A second juicebag for she and her guest to share. She might have even invited a second one in. But three? Three is pure gluttony. Excessive. Decadent, and not in the best way.

She walks right past the car and into the spa, the bags in her arms only a mild inconvenience as she locks the door behind her.

And yet… there’s that niggling thought in the back of her mind. The sense of trouble. Danger.

Her plans for this evening go out the window. It’s unfortunate, but then she really shouldn’t be getting sloppy. Not with this face.

She finds a mask for her mouth and nose, pulls her hair back into a severe bun to keep it off her face, dons a pair of those eyeglasses her lash techs use. The masks, too, are for the lash techs; there’s nothing quite like being in someone’s face and breathing their air, smelling their breath, for an hour or two at a time that makes you want to gag. Hence the masks. Standard practice. Celia doesn’t usually bother with them, but Piper has complained one too many times about clients coming in after their morning coffee, or bringing in the curry or Thai smell from one of the places nearby.

Plus, it’s generally bad form not to wear one during a dermaplaning session. Who wants to inhale all those dead skin cells that are scraped off with a scalpel?

It’s not quite as good a disguise as changing her whole face, she admits, but it’ll do.

She goes to find her guest.

The special one, not the punk.

GM: Celia’s special guest awaits on a steel, cuff-lined table in the Kindred frenzy room. Alana has cleaned it up from the girl’s death, disposing of the unused parts and saving what her mistress can recycle.

The current occupant looks like hell. Her face has been all but ripped to shreds. White bone freshly gleams from under raw, red, claw-shaped tears. She’s missing an eye, along with wholesale clumps of hair and chunks of flesh from lower down across her body. Celia can tell, because her clothes are little more than bloody tatters. The still-intact flesh looks like it’s been through a grain thresher. Hell has chewed her up and spat her out. The wooden stake protruding from her chest almost feels like overkill.

The vampire’s sole remaining, wide open gray eye stares up Celia with hate. Pure, frozen, paralyzed hate.

But, be that as it may.

Logan said she should talk to her sister.

Celia: It’s not her fault.

That’s what Celia tells herself. That it’s not her fault her sister had come after her. Not her fault she’d launched herself at her in a frenzy. Not her fault that Randy did his job and put her down, so easy to do once the girl had been torn to shreds by another.

Celia steps into the room. Her eyes are on her sister, wary. A caged beast, and she’s only made it worse, and the pair of people outside in the car have complicated things. Now she can’t just feed the punk to her.

Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe all that BDSM gear she’d just purchased shouldn’t be used on her sister. She’ll try something else instead. She puts on a new flavor. The face of a friend. The kind of friend you’d spill your secrets to, or maybe even the face of a sister: someone you sit up with late at night with your legs tucked under the covers, blankets over your head, flashlight shared between the two of you while you read from the magazines your parents didn’t want you to have, long after they turned out the lights. Before the monsters crawled out from under the bed.

She uses a scalpel to cut the inside of her wrist, too, and then her fingers to pry open her sister’s mouth so the blood can drip inside.

Nothing by half measures.

GM: At that sanguine taste, a monster overtakes Roxanne’s eye. It bulges in its sockets, the veins red and thick as any flow of blood. That monstrous eye screams for more. It screams to rip Celia to pieces and drink up every last precious drop from her veins.

Fangs visibly bulge in Roxanne’s mouth.

But that is all they can do.

Minutes pass before a sister stares back out from that bruised and bloodied eye.

A frightened sister. A hurt sister. A vulnerable sister.

A sister Celia never had.

But maybe one she could have had.

“She’s still really in her shell,” their mom had said. After Isabel and Diana and the others were all together again.

Maybe Celia could have talked to her. Before that fateful text to Dad.

Who knows what sister she might now have?

Celia: She broke her. Celia did this. Could have fixed it. Could have made any number of choices that would have taken all of them on a different path. Could have —

She pulls herself from the thoughts that threaten to drag her down into the depths of the hell inside her soul.

No one gets anywhere by looking in the rear-view mirror.

“I brought you a snack.” Her voice is muffled by the mask. It seems like overkill now; there’s no way Roxanne doesn’t know who she is. But she doesn’t remove it. “But his friends followed me. Sloppy. I’ll get you another.”

She moves around the table, checking her restraints, making sure everything is set. She had tested this table extensively. It was built to maintain the rage of Kindred much stronger than her sister.

Hopefully it holds.

“The problem is I don’t know what kind you like. Your preferences. I thought maybe someone religious; can you believe the lack of Christians in the French Quarter?”

She doesn’t expect an answer. No way for the girl to answer, really, with the stake still in her.

The scalpel flashes out once more, this time to the side of Roxanne’s arm. She lets the blood cool. Long enough that it shouldn’t cause an issue. Longer than she’s ever waited before, all that talk of ‘safe sex.’ Takes her back to that night.

She doesn’t want to think about that night.

So she counts to ten, fifteen, twenty. Plays the first part of her favorite song in her head. That catchy one that’s always on the radio that she’ll never admit to liking. That’s long enough.

Her finger dips into the blood, brings it to her mouth to taste.

She doesn’t want to think about that night, but there it is. In her head, dragging her down. Her sister spread out just like this, cuffed at wrist and ankle. She’d been smacked around then, too. Bleeding, even. But not like this. Bleeding from between her legs. Bleeding, a puddle of it beneath her on the pink fluffy sheets of Celia’s childhood bed, pink because her mother had been tied there moments before, had endured the same abuse. Red and white make pink.

Celia did that. Both of those. Left her mom that night, let her get kidnapped. Told her dad to tie up her sister.

And he had.

She’s doing this now, too. Her sister came to her broken. Bleeding. And she’d staked her for it.

Like the monster that she is.

The monster inside snarls as the blood hits her tongue. She’s so caught up in memories that she almost doesn’t taste it. But there it is: the information that she’s looking for.

GM: Red and pink. Maybe yellow, too. Or brown.

It’s funny to think about them tied up on the same bed like that.

Did their mom piss or shit herself? Celia can’t remember that particular detail, but she can attest that many people who you do terrible enough things to can lose control of their bowels. So Roxanne, Isabel, whoever (she was Isabel then), was raped on top of her mom’s piss and shit.

Does that make it better, if it came from from your mother? It’s better to sit on your own piss and shit than a stranger’s, she supposes, so is it somewhere in between if it comes from an immediate family member? It’s sort of like asking whether you’d rather find a hair from a family member or a stranger in your food, and the answer to that is a no-brainer.

Then again, maybe Roxanne just didn’t notice.

Or care.

And maybe the bed just went back to white after her dad finished inside her and it dripped out.

Celia might wonder who cleaned that up, anyway.

Awkward to ask Luana to do.

She can’t see her dad doing that himself, either. He didn’t do that after he finished inside her mom, after all. Celia remembers that too. How Diana cupped her hands around her vagina in a mostly futile effort to collect the cum after it pooled out. There went all of Lucy’s brothers and sisters, dribbling between her fingers.

She supposes pain and degradation has always been a Flores birthright.

Next to the memories, the tang of Roxanne’s blood is almost disappointing. It’s been a long time since Celia tasted her sire’s, but the Beast never forgets.

The vitae of these Kindred tastes nothing alike. Not even down to the same clan.

Celia: How long had she hated her? How long had she wanted to wrap her hands around her neck and squeeze until her head popped off? How long had she wanted to have her on her table here, like this, and flay the skin from her body so she could keep it as a souvenir?

She’d thought of so many ways to kill the bitch since she had ruined this new life for Celia simply by existing. She’d worked so hard to conceal her name, her real name, so this interaction never happened.

That’s the truth of it, then: they were sisters once.

They’re not anymore.

Jade buries the hatchet.

She reaches forward to pull the stake from Roxanne’s heart.

“Why did you come here?”

GM: Roxanne doesn’t gasp. Her lungs are dead.

The ravenous, almost dead, still-bleeding, monster just jerks and thrashes against her restraints. Madness burns in her eyes.

She rasps out a single word:


Celia: Celia leaves the room without a word. The door locks behind her.

Dilemma: feed her the boy and his friends outside know that this was his last seen location. That could bring up problems later on. It’s probably already brought up problems. Feed her the last of the blood from the girl last night and deal with a Kindred who might be on ecstasy. Feed her Alana? No, that’s too big a risk. Celia could feed from Alana, the girl, and the boy… and then spit it back up into a cup. Baby-birding, as it were.

Her Beast snarls at the thought of giving up what belongs to it. Its claws scrape against her insides in warning. No vomiting up the blood, then.

She finds Alana and the boy to see what sort of state they’re in.

GM: They’re fucking on the table. Alana mostly looks bored.

Celia supposes it’s keeping the guy occupied.

Celia: Perfect.

Well, not perfect. There’s a twinge of something territorial at the sight of someone else railing what belongs to her, assuaged only by the glazed look in the ghoul’s eyes.

Celia doesn’t make her presence a secret. She slips behind the pair of them and runs her tongue along her newly lengthened fangs. She bites the boy first, running a hand through that green hair of his while she swallows down his blood, slurping and sucking until she has taken what she needs before licking it closed. She makes the pair of them flip so she can get to Alana next, out of sight of the poorly performing stud. She bites. Drinks. Cups a bare breast in her hand while she does so, fingers pinching her nipple. She whispers to Alana to drug him and get rid of him when she’s done: out the back door, drop him at a club.

Then she’s gone. To find the leftover blood from the girl last night, drug ridden as it is. She pours it into a borrowed mug from the break room. Cuts herself to bleed what she’d just taken into the mug, swirls it around to combine it. Into the microwave to get it hot.

GM: The stud’s poor performance notwithstanding, he’s clearly into Alana. He hoots like a monkey and slaps her tits. She has eyes only for her domitor, though, when the Toreador comes in. She obediently flips, even when it makes the boy curse, and whimpers with pleasure as Celia squeezes her so-firm nipple. She whispers back, “Too glad to,” as her mistress takes her leave.

Celia watches the bug in the microwave go around and around. She covers a dish over it like Mom always said to. Don’t want any precious blood to get over the walls, after all.

Two minutes, for good measure.

Get it piping hot.

She wonders if Roxanne would appreciate her flesh bag.

The mug goes around and around.

Celia feels like she could stare at it for just forever. There’s nothing in the world but her and that microwaving mug. Sight recedes. Sound recedes. Just her and that mug and the lit-up microwave.

Something hard hits her knees, then her chin, and it all goes dark.

Beep-beep goes the microwave.

All done.

Celia III, Chapter III
The Sewer Rats

“Watch the Toreador barbie doll debase herself like the monkeysucking slut she is.”
Gerald Abellard

Sunday evening, 6 March 2016

GM: Jade and Randy make a pit stop back at Flawless to suit up for the sewer trek. Alana has laid out her mistress’ boots, leather pants, and any other clothes and provisions she’s asked for.

The ghoul is also lying prone on the floor as she fondles herself, naked except for the collar and leash, the latter of which she’s placed under Jade’s boots.

“Maybe you’d like to… ohhhh… fill them, mistress…” she murmurs between ‘happy noises.’

Celia: “You didn’t get enough last night?” Jade smirks down at the ghoul. “After our trip, pet.”

Support: “Eugh,” Randy grumbles as he follows her. “All the tables in here and you lie on the floor? That’s how you get ants, ‘Lana. Pussy-hungry ants.”

GM: Alana gets to her knees and rubs her head against Jade’s legs, the collar’s bell chiming as she does. “Okay, mistress… I’ll keep myself wet…”

Celia: “There’s a good girl.” Jade rubs her head for a moment, then finishes dressing. She hopes Randy brought a pair of boots; she hasn’t been in the sewers down here before, but she’s heard things.

GM: Alana volunteers to dress Jade for her. “You shouldn’t have to do something so menial as that, mistress,” she purrs. “What’s a salon for, if not to pamper you?” She kneels low to the floor and slowly wags her rear back and forth as she laces up the Toreador’s boots.

Celia: “I said after. Don’t make me repeat myself again, Alana.”

GM: “I’m sorry, mistress, of course I won’t,” Alana apologizes. She finishes lacing the boots more quickly and without shaking her rear.

Celia: “See to our guest while I’m gone. Collect the useful parts.” Blood, hair. Jade doesn’t need to explain that to Alana. Once her boots are laced Jade leaves, crooking a finger at Randy so he falls in line behind her.

GM: “Yes, mistress,” nods Alana.

The other ghoul follows after her. They get into a plain, boring sedan and start driving to the address Alana gave them. It’s in a rattier part of the Quarter.

Celia: Having never been to the sewers before, Jade isn’t quite sure what she’s looking for. Certainly not a large, neon sign that says “rats enter here,” though wouldn’t that be helpful.

She sideeyes Randy as he drives through the streets of the French Quarter in the gray Hyundai Genesis. He had been the one to pick it out when she’d sent him to go shopping for her for something less conspicuous than the flashy thing he drove. It’s the kind of car that doesn’t draw a second look unless you know what you’re looking for, he’d said, then waxed poetic about horsepower while her eyes had glazed over. It’s cute, though, in a camouflage coupe kind of way.

“No talk of Cici while we’re down here,” she reminds him, checking the mirror to make sure her Jade face is all in order. He knows. She knows he knows. Still, just in case. “Just don’t talk. Don’t even think too hard. Quiet muscle.” There’s no reason this should be anything but pleasant.

If traipsing through the sewers can be described as pleasant. She should plug her nose now with something. Just reach up there and pull a flap of skin down to prevent anything from getting in. Or smooth over the sensory neurons.

GM: It’s in, almost predictably, a dark and foul-smelling alleyway.

There’s nothing there, besides some dumpsters overflowing with assorted garbage and filth. Just a manhole cover emblazoned with the words ‘Sewage & Water Board—Crescent Box—WATER METER—Ford Meter Co. Wabash Ind—New Orleans, LA’ with little stars and moons.

Low phlegmy chuckles echo from behind Jade like bursting zits.

“Looks like I lose a swig of juice. Didn’t figure the Toreador barbie would show.”

The voice makes Jade imagine what it would be like to have a load of pustules on the bottom of her foot that squelch and burst with each step.

“We had a betting pool going. But it’s okay.”

A sight emerges from the shadows.

It’s a dermatologist’s worst nightmare.

It’s a walking, one-man freak show. He’s dressed in little more than moldering rags, and his face is a blasted wasteland of every type of acne in Jade’s not-inconsiderable vocabulary. Every inch of the dark, leathery skin is ravaged by pustules, papules, whiteheads, blackheads, nodules, cysts, and residual scars. Some are big, some are little. Some are whole, some look freshly popped. Rancid-smelling white pus freely runs down flabby cheeks and a squashed nose like water from someone who’s just stepped out of the shower.

Gerald ‘Greasy’ Abellard smiles widely, revealing yellowed and crooked teeth. Several stringy hairs protrude from his mottled gray lips.

“I’m pretty sure I’m still gonna come out ahead tonight.”

He sticks a warty finger up his nose and loudly hacks to the side, expelling a rancid-smelling stream of darker gunk onto the ground.

Celia: Jade’s disgust at the sound of the voice is rivaled only by the sight of the thing himself. She doesn’t even think her clinical strength “Max” line would be enough to help these pustules. Water logged corpses look better than this guy. That time she’d been teased for chicken pox because she’d run out of concealer has nothing on this.

Her smile still manages to reach her eyes. She’s had bad skin. She gets it. Judge not and all that.

“Tell me your next wager and I can sway it in your favor, if you’d like.”

GM: “Whether I’ll be on the cover of People next year. I’m trying to take better care of my skin, you know, and I think it’s showing a lot of improvement,” the sewer rat leers.

“You do skincare and all other girly barbie shit, right? Got any tips for me?”

Celia: “Well the fact that it’s purging is a good sign.”

GM: “Oh, that’s good. Maybe I could try running a cheese grater over my face, and give you a big jar of everything that comes off? So you can give me a really personal skincare recommendation?”

Celia: “I have less invasive measures if you’d like to solicit my services.”

Support: Randy looks down at the manhole, studiously avoiding eye contact.

As in, his eyes. From making contact with any part of this thing.

Celia: “Though perhaps a scalpel.”

“I use them for dermaplaning, see, where you take the top layer of skin off.”

GM: “Oh, I’d love to solicit your services!” Gerald exclaims with a hacking guffaw that sounds like someone taking a freshly ripped-off, really runny wart and smooshing it between their fingers.

He then does exactly that and loudly sniffs the running fluids. He holds his damp finger right up to Jade’s nose.

“Hey! Does this tell you anything? I think it smells different!”

Celia: “Maybe the top few layers, here.”

GM: Gerald rubs his soaked fingers along the skin below Jade’s nose and above her lip, giving her a ‘milk mustache.’ It smells almost like dried cum admixed with fresh piss.

“Mmm! You can just bottle that!”

“How about a trade? I give you free perfume, you cut off the top parts of my face? The whole thing is the problem, so I guess it makes sense to just get rid of it all.”

Celia: Her lip curls.

“I could piss in a bottle and sell it online. I’m sure a sac-less skunk somewhere is looking for what you’ve got to offer. But if you want me to take off your face, I’m sure we can arrange something. Once I get deep enough you won’t even feel it.”

GM: Gerald clasps his hands over his heart in exaggerated hurt.

“Oh, you’re just killin’ me! I think I’m never gonna be on People at this rate!”

“Well, okay guys, guess she thinks I don’t have it in me. Maybe I can learn to code or something.”

A chorus of unseen guffaws answers the Nosferatu. They sound like squealing rats being squelched into roadkill.

The manhole cover suddenly lifts up. The putrid stench from beneath beckons.

“Now most licks we usually give a hard time,” says Greasy. “But for a Toreador barbie like yourself, who’s probably on her back at least as often as she’s staring into a mirror, and who provides such a valuable service to the world by turning more breathers into barbies just like her, I’m gonna give the exclusive, VIP treatment. Direct access to the clan’s warren in our finest accommodations, through our fastest, most exclusive, most luxuriant mode of transportation. Does that sound amenable, Miss Barbie Doll, ma’am?”

Celia: Jade is certain that, whatever their mode of transport, it isn’t as luxurious or as fast as Randy’s car. Or even her car, with all that hidden horsepower Randy had told her it possesses.

Nor does she ask Gerald if the reason he’s so mad about her spending time on her back is because his partners, few as they are, would rather be bent over in front of him so they don’t have to look at his face.

Instead she smiles at him, tells Randy to watch the car, and steps closer to the pustule ridden Nosferatu so she can take his arm in her hands. The smell is overwhelming up close; maybe this would be a good punishment for Randy. Maybe she should tell him, later, that he’ll be spending the night with these fine folk next time he does something to mildly irk her.

“Lead the way.”

The worst part is that it’s not as if the fact she doesn’t need to breathe is helpful. Any time she parts her lips to speak the olfactory neurons on the roof of her mouth transmit the smell to her brain.

There really is no way to win.

GM: But there are so many ways to lose.

There’s a dull clank as the manhole cover comes off. Jade can smell the rank stench of the sewers even from up here. It smells exactly like she would expect it to smell, but there’s a strong note like rotten egg.

Gerald cackles as he walks her up to the literal hole in the ground, then gestures grandly towards the maintenance ladder down.

“Ladies first!”

The ghoul is left ignored.

Celia: Gross.

If she gets eaten by an alligator she’s going to be so pissed.

She casts one final look at the safety of her car and ghoul, then steps toward the now open manhole cover. At least she doesn’t need to breathe, right? That’s the saving grace here.

Her lips flatten into a thin line as she descends into the darkness below.

GM: Gerald patiently waits for Jade to start climbing, then stomps his foot down over her fingers.

Celia: It’s enough to cause her to lose her grip. Surprise flashes across her face.

She falls.

GM: There’s a loud splash as her head goes under, along with the rest of her, and painfully cracks against the tunnel floor. Raw sewage water envelops her. In an instant, everything from her boots to her hair is completely soaked—including her surprised, still-gaping mouth. The taste of the swallowed sewage is unspeakable. Like piss and shit watered down with brackish water left to stand and ferment for days. Jade feels a semi-solid, potato-shaped object brush against her tongue, and realizes it is a free-floating turd.

All is fouled. All is made filthy.

From all around her, a chorus of phlegmy voices laugh and laugh and laugh like hyenas.

Celia: There is nothing pretty about the way she rises from the water.

No, not water.


It clings to her. It seeps into her pores, her hair follicles, her nail beds. It surrounds her. It’s inside of her.

So is the Beast. Snarling. It wants her to pounce. To tear the skin off these ugly little things that think to break her with their crude ways. That fail to break her with their ill-conceived tricks.

Don’t they know who she is?

Don’t they know better monsters than them have tried?

Celia went into the water, and Jade comes out. Slime and muck and piss drip down her face. Her hair is a wet tangle of knots that will need to be shaved if she ever wants the smell to come out. And for all that, not a lash is out of place. Not a nail is broken.

She rises. Makes herself smile, showing teeth, though her eyes remain cold. Flat.

She laughs, too. Low. Throaty. Forces it out around the pit in her stomach. She can still taste the shit, lingering on her tongue. Fetid. Putrid. Her eyes find Abellard’s.

“How long has Garbage Barbie been your fantasy?”

GM: Abellard doesn’t take the ladder. He just jumps down with a splash and gives her a literally shit-soaked grin. Jade can only imagine what the sewage is doing for his complexion.

“Long time, barbie, long time,” he snickers, patting her sewage-caked hair. “I’ve got lots of fantasies. Sometimes the FBI tries to arrest me for them.”

There’s a dull clunk as the manhole cover slides back into place.

Celia: The Nosferatu appearance isn’t a curse. It’s the result of living in actual shit.

“If you wanted me wet, Abellard, there are easier ways.”

GM: “I bet there are. Like this one. Hey, Malo! C’mere, boy!”

There’s a simian screech as a chimpanzee bursts out from the sewer water.

“Look, Malo! Look what came home! Yeah! It’s a slut! A barbie doll slut! Don’t you want to fuck the slut, Malo?”

The chimp screeches its agreement, bounds up to Jade, and throws its hairy arms around her. She can feel the huge bulge between the creature’s legs as it starts dry-humping her thigh.

“Good boy, Malo! Good boy! Get hard for the barbie!”

The chimp screeches again and humps faster.

Abellard leers at Jade.

“Give him a blowjob and we can take the shorter route to the warren.”

His leer widens.

“‘Course, if you’ve had enough… you could always go back topside. If barbie’s had too much.”

The chimp screeches and keeps humping her leg.

Celia: Chimps are bipedal creatures. Their cock and balls are in the same relative place as a human’s. They make the same movements. The humping. The thrusting. It’s easy enough to reach a hand down her leg and grab the thing by the balls.

Her nails are long. Sharp. Filed to a point, like Veronica had taught her.

She uses them now. She uses them as the excuse she needs to dig into the chimp and sculpt its flesh clear from its body. It’s a quick, ugly, messy thing. She digs. Gouges. Rips.

GM: Precise fleshcrafting jobs take time and effort, Jade well knows, but there’s nothing precise or artful about this.

Just painful.

The chimp lustful screeches reach a suddenly agonized pitch as its cock and balls messily come away with a spray of blood, splashing into the water like another free-floating turd. Gerald gawks.

Then the chimp beats the shit out of her.

It comes without any pause or warning. The emasculated animal just hurls itself at her in a mindless rage, howling, biting, grabbing, slamming. It seizes her in its hairy arms and smashes her face-first into the sewer wall, screeching like a demon. Jade holds back her raging Beast and throws punches the way Reggie taught her, targeting its weak spots. She knows just the one. The creature’s screech as she drives a booted foot into its ruined genitals is especially satisfying. Unfortunately, the ape kicks back too. It kicks her into the wall, stomps her to the floor, underwater, and keeps kicking and stomping long after any human should have stopped moving from the sewage flooded into their lungs. Apes are much stronger than humans, she dimly recalls from a Tulane science class, and a steady diet of Nosferatu vitae can only have made this one even stronger.

Abellard just stands and watches. He isn’t laughing anymore.

He holds up the creature’s severed cock.

“You’d better hope this can come back on, barbie.”

Celia: Her nose is the first thing to splatter. It hits the wall when the demon monkey grabs her and crunch, there goes her perfect face. Her orbital bones are next. They collapse inward when the thing slams her down, again and again and again. Her face is in ruins. Tattered. Destroyed.

The rest of her is given the same treatment. One shoulder is ripped from its socket; her arm hangs, limp, at her side, useless to defend herself. The chimp takes full advantage. Sewer water fills her lungs. It makes her body heavy. She crawls away from the chimp when she can, through the filth.

Just like they want her to.

They want her brought low. Beaten. Submissive.

Ugly, just like them.

So she makes herself ugly. She makes the giggling coed’s blood work for her, but only so much. It starts deep inside, with the broken bones, the severed tendons, the muscles that have been twisted beyond human medical intervention. Her skeleton puts itself back together, a puppet pulled by the strings of a marionette. Joints click as they reattach. Her muscles bunch and curl. Her tendons, ligaments, fascia all stretch to adhere to their respective places, and with it they pull the ball of the humeral head back into the glenoid socket. Her clavicle rights itself, her scapula un-wings.

Her skin stays split. She is not beautiful. She is not pristine. She is not flawless. The gouges remain. The gashes are ugly, repugnant things. She is just another jade, shattered when it tried to play hard.

Jade cannot win this fight.

But Celia can, and Jade swallows her pride. She lets the girl come out so the lick can make it through to the other side. She halts at the feet of the monkey’s master, putting his legs between the two of them. Her shoulders stay hunched. Her grotesque face presses against the ghastly, wet pants of the Nosferatu.

She nods her head.

Yes, she can fix it.

GM: Abellard mockingly pats her head and rubs his flaccid crotch against Jade’s face.

“There’s a good slut! Boy, for a moment I thought you were gonna try something stupid like fighting us down here. That would’ve been pretty stupid, wouldn’t it, guys?”

Phlegmy guffaws answer the sewer rat.

Abellard makes a simian screech at Malo. The hooting monkey pauses in its tracks, but growls at Jade.

“We know all about the shit you get up to in your little dollhouse, barbie.”

He slaps the sewage-coated monkey dick into Jade’s hand.

“So that’s why I’m not trying to fix this myself. You also better hope antibiotics are enough to get Malo past whatever diseases he catches, given how this happens to be rather far from a sterile fucking environment. If I lose my podcast co-host we’ll have your dirty laundry spread out for the whole city to see.”

Celia: She could have run. Should have run. Gone back up the ladder, pushed at the manhole cover with her weak, useless arms. Been dragged back down and kicked around some more by the lot of them, raped by the monkey anyway.

She submitted. Her. It was an active choice, not a victory for them.

That’s what she tells herself.

Submit. Survive. That’s what she’s good at, isn’t it? Surviving. Reading the room. Knowing when she’s beaten, without letting them beat her.

It appeases the Beast and Beauty both.

She puts it out there, the impression that she has been cowed by the rats. It’s in the way she doesn’t flinch when Abellard rubs himself against her. The way she bites her tongue when they laugh. The calm, steady composure she keeps when he slaps the severed dick into her hand.

They know all about what she gets up to.

“Can you open the covering for my ghoul to join me?”

GM: The manhole comes off with another clunk.

Randy hits the tunnel floor with a yell and splash so like hers.

Support: Randy sputters in the filth, his cute chauffer’s uniform that he hadn’t thought was going to get dirty tonight absolutely ruined, his white gloves rendered immaculately disgusting.

He immediately retches, contributing to the sewage with his own half-churned waste.

Hopefully, not onto a Nosferatu.

GM: Phlegmy laughter goes up from all around him.

Support: After a few moments, he slowly slogs to his feet, shit-spattered and wretched.

“You called?” he says, voice tight, lips constricted to minimize…spillage.

Celia: Jade holds out a hand to him. She’s seated at the feet of the one who had appeared above, the same greasy piece of shit that he had seen stomp on her hands.

Her eyes warn him to keep his fucking mouth shut.

About that.

About everything.

GM: She looks as ugly as any of the sewer rats, too.

Celia: Beaten, most likely. Bruised. Battered. Bloody.

GM: Sewage-caked.

Support: Randy takes in the scene, his face greenish.

They linger on his domitor’s shit-stained lips, her befouled everything, the broken lines of her body.

Then his eyes darken with anger.

He takes her hand.

The other clenches in a fist.

What might be a turd squelches beneath his grip.

Celia: She pulls him in. Her hand slides down his arm to his shaking fist. Her fingers work against his skin, a soft, soothing gesture. It’s message is clear: no anger. Not here.

She presses the detached chimp dick into his hand. Tells him to hold it. Her hands make quick work of the buttons on his chauffer pants, pulling them down to expose his backside.

Those nails of hers dig into the cheek of his ass, right where it crests against the back of his thighs. Muscle, skin, fascia. It all comes off when she pulls her hand away.

Support: She can see those eyes, those beautiful blue eyes, so unlike Em’s and yet somehow so similar in their adoration of her, as she does it. She sees them simmer on her placating gesture. Sees them cross, askew in confusion, as she presses—is that a dick? Is that that monkey’s dick? What the fuck—Malo’s chimphood into his hand. Sees them blink as she depantses him, bares him to the monsters.

And she sees his eyes go wide with pain as she rips his flesh from him bones.

The noises he makes are not words or even proper screams so much as they are squeals, full-throated noises of agony he bites his tongue to keep from opening and letting the shitwater down his gullet as he splashes backwards into the septic waste. Blood and shit and his own screams compete for flavor on his tongue.

She catches a glimpse of herself in those eyes of his as he thrashes. They find their way to her like faithful needles on a compass find their poles. There is confusion, and agony, and more than a little fear in Randy’s eyes, but the anger is gone.

It is replaced by concern.

He is worried about her.

Celia: She only takes a handful. That’s all a good dick is, anyway. A handful.

The blood hits her nose. His blood, so familiar to her. She’s glad for the dead girl in the wet room. Glad that she had given in to the baser urges of the Beast, that she’s not knocking them aside now to get to him and lick what gushes from him.

A snap of her fingers draws him near. She presses a hand against the wound she’d made, sealing it. The skin is lumpy, lopsided, the muscles and sinew and tissue all akimbo beneath that severed skin.

“Go,” she tells him, eyes darting upward toward that open manhole cover. Go. Get out.

Support: He whimpers, gasps.

And blinks at her.

He stays.

GM: “Twue wuv!” exclaims Abellard, clasping his warty hands over his heart.

Celia: They’ll kill him.

One wrong move and they’ll kill him. This is their house, their rules. Why wouldn’t they want to take him away? Why wouldn’t they want to defile him, too, for his nice hair and his chiseled jaw?

A jaw she chiseled.

She scoffs at his words.

GM: “Okay though, since you want to.”

The sewer rat looks thoughtful.

“Pretty sure Malo’s gonna get sick from this, so we’ll just make things nice and even.”

He offers an ugly smile that would still be ugly even if he wasn’t.

“You can go ahead and just take a nice, long, drink, pretty boy.”

Celia: “He won’t get sick,” Jade says flatly. “There’s no reason to make the ghoul drink.”

GM: “Then there’s no harm in making yours,” Abellard leers. “Drink up, pretty boy! Glug glug glug!”

Support: He’s confused. He doesn’t know what the monster means. His mouth tastes like blood and shit, and—oh.


He eyes the sewage sloshing over him. Watches his babe negotiate for his life.

He’s already exposed to it, right? It’s like the five second rule. And he’s been in here way longer than five seconds.

What’s the worst that can happen, right? He’s a driver. He’s a winner.

He looks into the greasy, monkeyfucking, pus-faced Nos’s eyes, and he takes a sip.

The sip turns into a chug.

There are bubbles.

His face turns… not face-colored.

Celia: She grabs the moron by the back of the neck and lifts his head above the water.

She doesn’t say anything. She smacks him, hard, across the face.

GM: Guffaws echo from all around the pair.

“Whoo! Look at that stamina!” cackles Abellard.

“I bet ken doll here can just do you all night long, can’t he?”

Support: Oh, you have no idea, Randy deliriously thinks.

Moments before vomiting.


GM: The guffaws ring off the sewer walls.

Celia: The Nosferatu are being cruel, and petty, and mean.

Jade can be cruel, and petty, and mean too.

The extra flesh she had harvested from her ghoul is discarded. The extra big cock she had planned to make for the chimp is forgotten. These things will not know the difference.

None of them have even seen their dicks in years.

She puts the dick back on the monkey. She doesn’t make it bigger or longer or thicker. She doesn’t give it barbs or a second head or a bulbous tip. She just puts it back the way it was before. Attaches the insides, such as they are.

She ignores the ghoul and the rats while she sculpts.

GM: And just like that, Malo has a penis again. The chimp growls as she works, then hoots and beats its chest. Abellard slaps his palm in a high-five.

“Attaboy, Malo, attaboy! We’ll get you some more tail real soon!”

Malo screeches.

“I’d take you to the warren, normally, but at this point we’ve kinda had most of our fun already.”

“Watch the Toreador barbie doll debase herself like the monkeysucking slut she is and all that.”

“But, hey, you wanted to talk with Ramon.”

“Well, he’s right here. Been here the whole time.”

Celia: Of course he has. Jade fails to be surprised.

GM: Abellard cocks a hand to his ear.

“And since he’s such a gentleman,” the sewer rat leers, “he says you and him can talk right here. Or you can go clean up and he’ll meet you at your spa Malibu Dreamhouse in an hour.”

“Either way, I’m out. Thanks for the fond memories. I’ll forever treasure that look of the Toreador barbie swallowing a turd.”

“And getting humped by Malo. Ell-oh-ell.”

There’s two splashes, and Malo and Abellard disappear beneath the sewer water.

Celia: There isn’t a single reason why it would behoove her to respond aloud to the rat’s words, except to soothe a bruised ego and wounded pride. She keeps her mouth shut. Then he’s gone, and she’s left with the promise that Ramon is there, somewhere, listening.

She can deal with him now. Or let him come to her. As he would have if she had just waited an extra two nights, instead of coming down here to try to deal with them direct.

An old, echoing voice sounds inside her mind. She cuts it off before it can finish that two syllable word.

“See you in an hour,” she says to no one, since this is all probably a joke too. Another fucking game, from people who are too small to do anything but scurry beneath the ground. Big, bad Nosferatu picking on the neonate. A whole pack of them, too.

She takes the ladder back to the surface. The smell follows her out, clinging to her hair and skin and clothing. She strips from the offending garments right there on the street, tossing them into the nearest trash bin.

Maybe some rats will line their nest with it.

Sunday night, 6 March 2016, PM

GM: It’s a short drive back to Flawless. Randy looks pretty queasy, still. Alana looks positively mortified to see her domitor in such a state. She barely glances at Randy. She starts an immediate Vichy shower, if Jade doesn’t want to use a Swiss one, and lathers her domitor’s body with soap and sweet-swelling gels, washes, and scents to expunge the sewer’s filth. She croons sympathetic words as her trained hands meticulously scrub, scrape, and massage. She lavishes the Toreador’s body with adulation as though it is a temple.

“Oh, mistress… I am so sorry… they’re petty, hateful, disgusting creatures, who can only be happy when they’re destroying beautiful things… they’re as ugly on the inside as they are on the outside…”

Celia: The ghoul’s words to little to quell the blow to her pride. What had Savoy once said? Something to the effect of a Kindred can forgive you for hurting them, but not for making them look foolish.

That’s what the trip to the sewers had been. Blunder after blunder after blunder. Blinded by rage and pride, and no matter which step she took to correct the problem it was, apparently, the wrong one.

No wonder no one else likes the rats.

And rats they are. Truly. Vile, plague-ridden vermin. She had felt some small amount of sympathy for the things, some misplaced sense of affection that she’d reserve for a particularly ugly dog. That is gone now, burned away by the events of this evening.

Alana’s words wash over her like the torrent of water from the Vichy shower above. Her hands rinse clean the physical body, the broken skin, but they do not touch her where it matters. Inside. Her bruised ego retains the blemish of disgrace. There is no amount of massage in the world that can give that back to her.

“See to Randy,” Jade tells the ghoul once she is clean. “Wash him. Get rid of the filth. Let him know I’m waiting.”

Even with the particularly long showers to rid them both of the remnants of the sewers there is still time before her guest arrives for her to see to her ghoul. She mixes solutions while she waits. Pours liquid from one bottle into another, swirls it around to homogenize, sets it back down.

Jade is not yet dressed when Randy joins her in her suite. There is a fresh set of clothing waiting for her to step into them, but the Toreador is naked. Her flesh has knit itself back together. It is the pristine body of a twenty-year-old that he sees, all supple skin and gentle swells. She is not smiling. Not with her lips, not with her eyes. She tells him to sit on the table and, once he does, she seats herself on his lap.

It is not him that she wants. Not this petulant, disobedient race car driver. He is a ghoul, a toy, nothing but a pet. She wants Roderick. Donovan. Savoy. Someone older, faster, wiser, stronger. She wants to rage and scream and cry to someone who will not mock her for her failure this evening. She wants, just once, to not pair the indignity of losing with the vicious mockery of her kind.

Such a person does not exist. She can’t let her guard down around others like her. That’s the punishment in being predators: every moment they are waiting for a sign of weakness so they can pounce and rip out the throats of their former friends.

Nor can she show weakness in front of her ghouls. She can’t give in to the burning sensation behind her eyes. She can’t ask him to hold her while she weeps bitter tears and let him tell her that yes, their actions were unjustified.

There is no comfort in this world of darkness.

So she perches on his lap because he is bigger than her, because his arms can encircle her easily, and to have him sit on hers would be both impractical and silly. And, perhaps, she takes some small measure of solace from the simple action. She is silent for a long moment.

When she finally speaks her voice is soft. Empty. Neither accusing nor reassuring. She is the teacher and he the student.

“Tell me your mistakes this evening.”

Support: Randy doesn’t look good. The shower could only do so much. His face is pale and peaked, and she can smell his sickness on him like the whiff of rot from meat.

Even sick, though, he’s entranced by her, tries to smile roguishly as she puts herself on his lap.

Trembling hands pass over her in crude and clumsy attempts at foreplay.

“M-mistakes?” he says. “You mean. The girl. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that would happen.”

He tries to kiss her. With lips that drank literal shit less than an hour ago.

Celia: Her head turns away. He gets her cheek instead. Her hands encircle his wrists, pulling them from her body, holding them steady, denying him what he wants.

“What else?” she asks.

“Or should I list them for you? Should I explain how turbulent the affair in the sewer was, and how, by not leaving when I told you to, you made it worse?”

Her voice is sharp.

“Do you think that I’m stupid, Randy? Do you think that you somehow know more than me about my kind? Do you think that by disobeying my direct command to leave you did any favors for either one of us? And then you drank the water. The filth. The disgusting, foul sewage.”

“There was a reason I told you to stay with the car. You know what I’m capable of doing? Getting myself out of messy situations. You know what takes away from that? Needing to bring someone else with me.”

GM: Thinking she’s stupid.

Well, that wouldn’t be a first from men in her life.

Support: “I didn’t want you to be alone,” he whispers. “With them.”

Celia: “And that’s admirable.” She shifts, releasing his wrist so she can run a hand through his wet hair. “It is. I know you’re concerned for me. But, Randy, I can’t watch both our backs at once, and by defiling you they defile me. By listening to them instead of me, you put them above me.”

“You see the problem?”

Support: “I’m sorry,” he says. “I, uh. I’m sorry I drank shit, babe.”

Celia: “Did you know what I had planned for you tonight? I promised you something earlier. Fun. Me. Us. In front of ’Lana, even, I know how much that would vex her and amuse you.”

“This is what you get instead. Five minutes of an angry, naked owner on your lap, and you don’t even get to touch her. And if you didn’t look like you were about to keel over—if I didn’t think that what I had planned to remind you of this lesson would hurt me more than it would you in the long run—you’d get that tonight too.”

“So now I’m telling you again, Randy, to get out. Go to the urgent care center. Tell them what you did tonight. Tell them your friends dared you to drink raw sewage and you did. Get yourself some antibiotics. Get your stomach pumped, if they need to do that too. Rinse your mouth with as much Listerine as it takes to finally feel clean again.”

“And then come back here, face the punishment for your actions this evening, and we’ll move on.”

Support: “I… I can still… go down on you. If you want.”

He’s so desperate to please. To romance. Even now.

Celia: She slides off of him. That lithe, toned dancer body is out of reach. That prize she had dangled in front of him hours ago is snatched away. No touching. No sex. No feeding. No Kiss.

The look she gives him now is full of pity.

“Go, Randy.”

Support: He whines.

But he goes.

At the hospital, he tells them he did it to impress a girl.

He’s a shit liar, anyways.

Sunday night, 6 March 2016, PM

GM: Alana hovers over her domitor and picks out fresh clothes for her. Fresh scents and perfumes, to feel pretty-smelling again. Fresh cosmetics for her face, to feel pretty-looking again. She volunteers to shave Jade’s head at the end of the evening, “To fully get out everything, when of course it’ll regrow over the day. You have such beautiful hair, mistress. Such rich, beautiful hair. It’d be my privilege to style and pamper an all-new head of it for you.”

She doesn’t press for sex. She knows it is better, right now, to simply wait. To be the patient, sympathetic voice.

Celia: Alana isn’t who Jade wants, either. But with Randy gone, with the others out of reach, it is who she has.

So she lets the ghoul do her thing. Lets her apply a fresh face of makeup, powders, perfumes. Lets her doll her up in clothing she will never touch again after this. Concedes to shaving her head this evening; she’d been thinking the same thing earlier.

Once she’s ready, she tells the ghoul to send him in when he arrives through the private entrance. The one her Kindred clients favor. It’s out of the limelight, out of view of the main street.

She waits.

GM: He shows up. He doesn’t bother with a fake version of himself.

Ramon Acorda is tall, wide-shouldered and thick-muscled, with a build like a bull’s. His face is shaped like a rectangle, with a squashed nose, thick neck, and ear-to-ear mustache-less beard. His hands are large and calloused. They’re a working man’s hands.

For that matter, all of him is calloused. His face has the grayish look and texture of crack-riddled concrete, and his lumpish features are asymmetrical and off, like a crude hand tried carve his former face from that some block of concrete. Whiffs of a fine, dust-like residue periodically flake from his skin. He’s plainly dressed in a brown cloth jacket, worn-looking denim jeans, and heavy work boots.

“Mees Kalani,” he nods by way of greeting.

Celia: She isn’t sure what’s worse: the fact that up here they abide by the rules of civility, or that she could have gotten this same treatment and skipped the piss and shit shower if she’d have just waited. She had thought, by going to him, there would have been some measure of fair treatment.

She swallows her irritation. Like she swallowed that sewer water, and her anger at Randy. She is tired of the games. So young and already so jaded by the backwards politics that pass for Kindred society.

“Mister Acorda. Thank you for joining me. I presume your ghoul told you the gist of what I’m looking for?”

GM: “Si,” the Nosferatu responds. “Seecre’ roon. Undergroun’. Col’ storeege. Where do you wan’ te entrance?”

Celia: She gestures toward the table.

“Under there, if possible. Seamless. If not, another wall will do.”

GM: Ramon looks towards the table thoughtfully.

“How beeg you wan’ eet?”

Celia: “Large enough to move around in. Industrial cooler sized. Like a walk-in. I don’t know what’s under there, or if it will work with the foundation.”

“The table is on a hydraulic lift, if that helps.”

GM: Ramon considers it for a moment. “You probably know not many houses here hab basements. Te water table es witin a few fee’ of te surface for 6-9 months of te year, an’ abobe te surface for a few months depending on weather an’ elebation, si? Yust impractical. Gibe you water issues, guarantee. Eben powerful sump pump, humidity gibe you condensation. Possible issue for wha’ you wan’ to estore down tere.”

“Wha’ I can do es gib you someteeng, maybe four, five feet deep, an make rrt go under more tan one room, to geeve you space you wan’. Make eet a crawl-een, not walk-in. Tas your firs’ optieen.”

“Two, I yust gib you anoter roon, nex’ to tis one. Tall as you wan’ eet.”

“Tree, if you really wan’ ta freedge under here, ge’ a magia man. Tremere, Crone, Sancteefied prees’, whatever. Ask tem to cast el hechizo to keep te water a’ bay. I know a couple I can recommend. Obviously, tey not do tat for free. But tey do tat, I can beeld your freedge room, beeg an’ deep as you like.”

Celia: Jade considers the options. There are pros and cons to each, and she has no interest in the first. A crawl space is not what she wants. But neither does she want it above ground, or to have to bring in more people than what has already been demanded. Unless Pete…? She can’t imagine the detective casting spells for her to dismember bodies.

“What about a sub floor beneath the basement floor? Angled, so it sinks lower in the corners, pushes the water that way. Four pumps, one in each corner. Make the walls thick enough to block most of the moisture from the soil, and the sub floor for anything else that gets in. Would that work?”

GM: Ramon seems to think further.

“Could do tat. You a lady who know her way aroun’ houses.” He smiles faintly. “Te real question ees how long eet las’ you. 100-year, 500-year flood plans, mostly no’ an issue here een te Quarter. Katrina mostly deedn’ touch tis place, because it ober sea lebel. Tree fee’ ober. Howeber, you hab to understand te city ees seenkeeng. Pretty slow. Bu’ ebentually, te Quarter will be under sea lebel. Tas when your floodeeng problems ge’ serious. More serious. Eben eef tey build up de lebees, and de ceety doesn’ ge’ flooded again, you still below sea lebel. We seenkeeng ‘bou two eenches a year. So, call eet 30, 40 years by de time your basemen’ be under te water line.”

“So, I can make your sub-floor basemen’. I jus’ wouldn’ coun’ on eet lasteeng more tan a couple decades. Eef you fine weet tat, no problem. I beeld.”

Celia: “And the ‘magic word’ you mentioned earlier, can that be applied at a later date or it needs to be done before the construction begins?”

GM: “Later. But eet weell take a stronger ward, probably, once your basemen’ under te sea lebel. You should talk to a magia man to know for sure. I’m yus’ a handyman.”

Celia: She nods.

“Your fee?”

GM: Ramon quotes the figure. It’s a substantial markup on similar construction work, perhaps little surprise given the Kindred-exclusive nature—and the fact that Ramon promises he can finish faster than any kine contractor. Flawless can afford it, though budgets will be tight for a bit.

Alternatively, Ramon is willing to take payment in information (little surprise for his clan) or an owed favor.

Celia: She asks if Ramon has a particular piece of information in mind.

GM: He does not, beyond anything of general interest to Kindred society.

Celia: “I’ll be in touch,” Jade tells him. “Tomorrow or the evening after. Thank you for your time.” Because even if his clan humiliated her, it never hurts to be polite.

Nor does it hurt to offer the proverbial olive branch. Nothing but her pride, anyway, and what’s that in exchange for silence?

“Will you let your friend know that if his ape desires a more refined tool, I’d be happy to offer my services. He can come to me; there’s more material to work with up here.”

GM: “Si,” the Nosferatu answers. He will be in touch and let Abellard know.

That’s all one can sometimes do, Jade knows well. It’s a lesson she’s learned from her mortal and Kindred lives.

Just keep smiling like everything is fine.

Celia III, Chapter II
Roofied Dinners

“Look, you’re in a bad place right now.”
Emily Rosure

Sunday evening, 6 March 2016

GM: It’s around 8 the next night that Randy picks up Jade for dinner. She’s already ‘done up her face’ to be her old self tonight.

Celia: She’s hungry.

She paces, agitated. No clients this evening, no one for her to snack on. Alana had cleared her schedule for dinner and the meeting. She can’t even feed from the ghoul; she’d taken enough yesterday. Needs her to be hale and healthy to oversee the operations.

She texts it to Randy, too. That she’s hungry. With a smiley face. And a little pizza emoji. Hopefully, he brings dinner. If not, he gets to be dinner. She needs to eat prior to this meeting with her family.

Or maybe snack on Emily. The girl’s used to it by this point. All those feedings during college. Her Beast purrs its approval at the thought. She can feel it stretching inside of her. It wants out.

Support: There’s a girl in the passenger seat when he pulls up. She’s drunk, giggly, and according to Randy “knows a hot set of wheels when she sees one.”

Celia: Jade tells Randy to wait outside. She turns on the charm for the girl, flirts with her on their way back to Jade’s suite, tells her she’s pretty, funny, so insightful. All the things girls like to hear, the kind of stuff that would have worked on her if she were still a breather. She invites her into that specially designed room she has, the one that’s all steel and no escape. Puts her up against the wall.

She bites.

GM: The girl giggles and laughs the whole time. She doesn’t object at all to being taken inside the reinforced “dungeon room,” as she laughingly calls it. “This is so, just so. This is a room!” she giggles. “This is the room!”

Jade can feel her inner monster tearing to get out as she sinks her teeth into the probable coed’s neck and drinks thirstily. The blood is hot and sweet with the girl’s lust. Jade’s clan does so love sweet things. Everything is sweet. So very sweet. This is just the sweetest girl. In the sweetest room. The room! Ha ha ha! Jade hears herself giggling when she pulls away from the needfully moaning coed.

“Just what a… room!” the girl giggles.

She’s fucking hilarious.

Celia: She is. She is hilarious. Jade’s drawn in by the giggles, drunk on the sweetness. She doesn’t even want to stop it’s so sweet. Someone’s purring. Is that her? Is that what she sounds like when she feeds? It’s cute! The girl is cute. Jade is cute. Everyone is cute, even this steel room, it’s all cute.

She likes cute things. She’d told Randy he was cute once and she’d decided to keep him. Maybe she’ll keep this girl, too. Inside of her, though. She doesn’t need another vessel vying for attention. So she keeps drinking. Keeps going as the girl’s giggles get lighter and lighter, until it’s just Jade holding her up against the wall. Purring. Sucking at her neck until nothing else comes out.

She makes a pretty corpse, she thinks as she lets the girl fall.

GM: She’s finally stopped smiling, too.

There’s just that same blank-featured look as the corpse’s eyes stare sightlessly upwards.

Celia: She’s still giggling as she cleans herself up. She wipes the blood from her chin, licks it from her fingers. Kneels down to lick it from the girl’s neck, too, to be thorough. It’s so silly how the holes close, even after death. Her tongue did that. Like magic.

She leaves the body in the room and locks the door behind her when she goes. Good thing this is a spa! She’s got a whole station where she can redo her lipstick. Pretty pink for a pretty corpse. She touches up her foundation, too.

“You’re so pretty,” she says to her reflection.

GM: Her reflection beams at the compliment.

Celia: She checks her clothes for blood. Nothing, not even a spot. Isn’t that funny? She’s so efficient! She’s going to drain the girl later. Her hair was so long and blonde, it’s going to make the best extensions. She can’t wait to cut it off.

She’s all smiles as she totters outside to find Randy. She takes his arm and lets him lead her to the car.

“You’re so chivalrous,” she says to him, batting her lashes.

Support: “Yeah, I’m like a knight,” he says. “Sir Randy of the track.”

He flushes despite himself at the eyelashes.

“Did you, um. Have a good drink?”

GM: The girl hasn’t come out.

Support: She’s probably resting.

Celia: “She was wonderful,” Jade tells him. She’s beaming. Her cheeks are even a little flushed. She looks more human than most of her kind, but there’s a little extra tonight. Maybe a sparkle in her eye. A looseness to her face that he hasn’t seen in a while. None of the anger from last night is there.

She leans over the center console as he drives, whispering in his ear. Her hand slides up his thigh. She tells him to take a detour, just a quick one, long enough for her to show him how grateful she is for his love and admiration. A flick of her fingers has his pants undone, then her hand is inside. It’s quick and dirty, and she finds a napkin to wipe off her hands when it’s over. She kisses his cheek, then reclaims her seat after tucking him back away and zipping his pants again.

So thoughtful. Really, she’s the best. She’s so good to her toys and her family.

She even points out a parking spot for Randy when they get close.

Support: Randy’s all too happy to take a detour. He’s even happier, if confused, about what follows. He fumbles a wipe for her out of the glove compartment. He uses them on Ruby.

He’s wary, but he’s happy she’s happy.

And she found a parking spot. He hates looking for parking.

God, Jade’s the best.

Celia: “You’re really cute,” she tells him as he parks. “Like. Really cute.”

She thinks that girl might have been on something, but she wants to let Randy know what she thinks of him. It’s like that time she and Stephen had gotten that bottle of vodka and mixed it with… well, she doesn’t remember. But it had been a fun night. Maybe. She can’t really remember. She misses him, though. What they had. That had been real. Everything that came after is a cheap imitation. It’s kind of sad, really, but she’s trying not to think about it. She rests her head on his shoulder.

“We should race soon. Like. Real soon. I did some research,” she tells him, “about racing, and apparently you can add nitrous oxide to your engine and press a button on your wheel and go vroom vroom.” She mimes shifting gears. She’s never driven a stick before, so it looks kind of silly. She giggles.

“I like you,” she tells him. “Even though you’re, like, a ghoul or whatever. I was supposed to be what you are. They killed me instead.” She’s not sure if she ever told him this story. “I hope Momma didn’t make tacos. I miss tacos. Crunchy.” Her teeth click together.

Support: “I’m sorry,” he says, awkwardly. “I like you too.”

Then he says, maybe less helpfully, “I like tacos.”

He doesn’t touch the nitrous oxide thing.

Celia: “I really want a taco. Like. Anything that’s not blood. I mean. Listen. It’s great, okay? Like, it is. And everything else is awful. But also, like, there’s not… texture. No mouth feel.” She turns her head to look at him. “You know? Imagine drinking soup forever.”

Support: “Sounds kind of gross.”

“But you, uh. You like it?”

Celia: “I mean…” she draws out the word. “It’s all I got.”

“You know how you feel when I give you mine?”

“It’s like that.”

Support: So, perfect.


Even when you know it isn’t.

“Once,” he says, “my mom made me and my brother tacos. After we had been fighting, all week. I think I had broken his nose.”

Actually, Reggie had broken his.

“But she made tacos because we both loved them. And she was sick as hell of us fighting. That’s what she said, ‘sick as hell.’”

Celia: It just makes her want tacos more, really. She wonders if Savoy ever wants tacos.

“If you’re twins,” she asks, “how come you fight so much?”

Support: “So she made them, served us a plate full each. And then she dumped them out the window. And we both started sobbing. Just bawling.”

Celia: “Oh.”

Support: “Because we’re twins,” he says, answering her other question.

Celia: “That’s… huh.”


Support: “We were so busy being mad at her we forgot to be angry at each other.”

Celia: “You still don’t like him,” she points out.

Support: “Yeah. But I forgot for a while.”

“And I love him. He’s just a pig. Fucking wannabe cop.”

Celia: “The difference between a cop and a criminal is one bad judgment call.”

Support: He begins to snort, but catches himself. “If you say so.”

Celia: “I heard it in a movie.”

Support: “Ah.”

Hopefully not the same one she got that nitrous oxide shit from.

Celia: It was.

“I had a cousin who wanted to make movies.”

Support: “Sounds like a cool dude.”

Celia: “He was. He was my favorite person for a while. Then he died.”

There’s a pause.

“I miss him.”

Support: “I’m sorry.”

He thinks about asking how he died.

But it’s probably a boring story.

Celia: Probably.

“You remind me of him, sometimes. Not in a weird way.”

Not that she’s ever fucked Randy.

Support: “Uh, not in what kind of weird way?”

Celia: “I just mean, like, that’s not why I took you.”

Support: “Oh. Yeah, I thought you thought I was cute. And also, I’m obviously pretty badass.”

Celia: “Obviously,” she agrees.

“We should go inside,” she says after a moment. “Don’t mention my cousin.”

“He showered with Emily once, it’ll be awkward.”

Support: “Oh. Um. Okay. Can I shower with Emily?”

Celia: “She’s still with Robby.”

“Anyway, don’t you have a girlfriend?”

Support: “Oh, yeah. You know. Technically.”

“Kind of like how Jim Jameson is still married? I think?”

Celia: She thinks about telling him that she was once in his position. It had caused problems for her, too. But he’s a boy. It’s different.

“I think, once you’re that old, everything is kind of forgiven.”

“Anyway, his new wife is like… my age.”

Support: “So, it’s a happy marriage.”

Celia: “For him.”

Support: “I mean, presumably she gets paid out the wazoo. For the wazoo. Whichever wazoo, she’s getting paid.”

A pause.

“…so, we going inside?”

Celia: “We were discussing showering together, I thought.”

Support: “Oh. We were?”

Celia: “We were. You were telling me that I’m prettier than Emily. That you’d rather shower with me. Remember?”

Support: “That… sounds like something I would say.”

Celia: She looks at him. Crosses her arms. Waits.

Support: He looks confused. Poor boy.

Celia: It’s the first rule of psycho girlfriends: always tell them they’re the prettiest.

Support: “You’re gorgeous,” he says. “Flawless. I mean. Duh.”

Celia: “I was going to let you do things to me later,” she says with a heavy exhale that might be a sigh.

Support: “Oh, come on, babe. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I’d drive into traffic to see you naked. Come on.”

Celia: “You can’t just say it. You have to mean it.”

Support: He looks at her, hurt. “I mean it. I’d do anything for you.”

He leans forward, tries to kiss her.

Celia: She ducks her chin, lets him kiss her cheek.

“Remember that deal I made, when we met? Impress me tonight, Randy, and this?” she gestures to her body. “Yours.”

Support: “How high are your expectations?”

Celia: “With the sex?”

Support: “Um. With the dinner.”

Celia: “Don’t embarrass me. But you’re coming with me to the sewers tonight. That’s where the real magic happens. That’s where you call me Miss Kalani, or Mistress. Never ‘babe.’ Never ‘Cici.’ Never any of the other adorable pet names you have for me that I love so much.” She touches a hand to his cheek. “They’re like me down there. But worse. So much worse. And they can’t know who I am outside the mask I wear, so we both have to play our parts.”

Support: “Okay. I’ll… I’ll be smart. Smarter.”

“Should we go have dinner with your family?” Randy asks, touching her too-cool hand.

He’s hungry.

Celia: She’s not. The girl he brought her saw to that.

But she nods. Kisses his cheek for good measure.

Sunday evening, 6 March 2016

GM: The address of Celia’s mother on 1110 Burgundy Street, the lower residential end of the Quarter, is an 1880’s one-story house with blue doors and a small brick courtyard. The main house has two bedrooms, where Diana and Lucy sleep, while Emily stays in the adjacent one-bedroom carriage (at least when she isn’t over at Robby’s or the hospital).

Celia and Randy knock on the house’s front door together. It’s answered by Emily. The Toreador’s onetime roommate looks good. A little tired, maybe, typically of med school. Or maybe more than a little. There are traces of bags under her eyes. But there isn’t that same feeling of despair, like a pit she was exhaustedly scaling while knowing her hands would give out before she reached the top. She feels like she’s where she wants to be and going where she wants to go. She feels at home.

She still has great hair. Better, even, with the kind of care that Flawless can take care of it. She’s casually dressed in blue jeans, sneakers, and a long-sleeved tee.

“Celia, hi!” she exclaims, wrapping her friend up in a hug.

Celia: “Hey, babe,” Celia throws her arms around the other girl. She doesn’t mean to sniff her hair, but she does. Covertly. Or at least she thinks she’s being covert.

It’s kind of obvious, honestly, and she doesn’t look the least bit sorry about it.

“Mmm, Em, you smell amazing. Is that the Shu Uemura?”

GM: Emily pretends she doesn’t use that $49-a-bottle volumizing stuff, but once Celia got her started on that habit it was hard to break.

“Uh, glad you like it,” she laughs at the sniffing.

She rubs Celia’s back, then removes herself before greeting Randy with another hug and some small talk.

Celia: “Where’s your boy?” Celia asks Emily while she pounces on Randy. “Mom told me y’all getting serious.” She wiggles her brows.

Support: “Don’t tease her, babe,” Randy smiles. Then frowns. “Wait, are we serious?”

Celia: “Are you planning on proposing?” Celia asks him, brow arched.

Support: “Um… am I?”

Celia: “I guess we’re not serious.” Celia pulls Emily away from her not-so-serious boyfriend. She drapes an arm around the girl’s shoulder, lets loose a long-suffering sigh. “Boys,” she says, “am I right?”

“Maybe you and I should run off together, Em. Watcha think?”

Support: Randy looks a little like a kicked puppy, but he seems to take it in stride pretty quickly.

Chicks, man.

GM: “I’ve heard worse ideas,” Emily says with some amusement. “Maybe if med school makes me take yet another exam with buzzwords I haven’t spent any time studying. We can elope.”

Celia: “Whaaaaat?” Celia whines. “Elope? Are you kidding? Do you know how good we’d look in a pair of white wedding dresses? Girl, I have been planning your wedding since I met you.”

She leans in, voice lowered in a stage whisper. “But seriously if you want to elope we can elope.”

GM: “Like I said,” Emily answers wryly. “Just one more bullshit exam.”

“Keep the dresses picked out.”

Celia: “Excellent.” Celia winks at her. “Did Mom make tacos? Randy was just telling me he wanted tacos.”

GM: “Sweetie? Are they here?” calls Diana’s voice.

Celia: “Also, Em, you know if you need me to sleep with your professor for a good grade I will one hundred percent put Randy in a dress.”

GM: “Yeah, Mom, they’re-” Emily calls back, then cuts off with an abrupt giggle.

“You would look adorable in a dress, Randy.”

Support: “Luckily, not the first time I’ve heard that.”

His mother used to put him in dresses, when he was a baby. She often liked to show him the pictures.

He manages a good-natured smile. He’s happy Celia’s happy.

Celia: “He’s adorable regardless.” Celia holds out her hand to him.

Support: “Probably not as adorable as Celia, anyways,” he adds. He feels very clever.

He takes her hand with that same confidence he has never had a right to.

GM: Emily smiles as Diana comes out with Lucy, the latter of whom is now dressed in a puff-shouldered pink dress and mary janes that look like they were picked out for “having company over” instead of a fluffy bathrobe. Emily, mindful of the fact that Diana prefers women to “dress like women,” has bought pants for the six-year-old to wear, but those never seem to get worn during days when their mom helps Lucy pick out clothes.

Diana hugs Celia and Randy in turn. “Hi, sweetie! Hi Randy! Oh, we’re all so glad you could make it! Lucy, you want to give these two a hug?”

“Hiiiii,” says Lucy, outstretching her arms.

Celia: “Hey babycakes.” Celia picks the girl up and swings her around. “How’s my favorite little Lucy-Goose doin’ tonight, hm?”

GM: Lucy giggles and holds out her arms like an airplane. “Vrrrrm! I’m an airplane!”

Celia: “Mom,” Celia says to Diana, very seriously, “did you make tacos?”

GM: “Tacos?” Celia’s mom looks a little surprised by the question’s seriousness. “Afraid not, sweetie, but I think you and Randy will both just love what we have tonight. Lucy helped! She’s a real chef!”

“I helped! Vrrrrrrrrmmm!”

Celia: “Vroom vroom,” Celia agrees. “What did you make, little chef?”

GM: “Biscuits with chocolate gravy!” Lucy exclaims.

“There’s a side entrée to go with the dessert,” Emily adds wryly.

Support: Randy chuckles, eyeing his ‘babe’ out of the corner of his eye after her little taco bit. “Probably came out real good, if she’s got you two’s genes.” Did that makes sense? He thinks that made sense. That’s sweet. “That’s a great engine noise, Lucy. Sounds like the real thing.”

It is too bad there aren’t tacos, though.

Celia: “I s’pose we should get inside and dig into those biscuits. And let Robby know we’re running away together,” Celia adds, winking at Em. She sets Lucy down, taking Randy’s hand once more in her own. She’d meant to kiss his cheek earlier. Had she done that yet? She does it now, anyway, and follows the others in.

GM: There’s a knock from outside the door.

“Oh, perfect timing,” Celia’s mom says as Emily moves to open it.

Celia: “Oh, was he not here yet? I just assumed he was being rude.”

GM: “Oh no, just a lil’ later than you two,” Diana says, smiling to mask the briefly uncomfortable feeling in the air at Celia’s statement.

Celia: Is it uncomfortable? She thought she’d been doing the whole snarky joke thing. Oh well.

People are so touchy these days.

GM: “Hey, babe,” Emily says at the door.

“Hey, Emi,” comes Robby’s voice.

Emily’s boyfriend is tall. He’s closer to 7’0" than 6’0", but thin and lanky, with unruly black hair, larger glasses, and a very short beard that looks more like a week’s worth of stubble. He’s dressed up a little nicer than her with a button-down instead a tee to go with his jeans, but hasn’t gone so far as to put on a jacket or tie.

His girlfriend giggles as he picks her up mid-huge and swings her around not altogether unlike Celia with Lucy.

Celia: Celia shares a look with Randy.

GM: Robby gives Emily a peck and sets her down before saying hi to everyone else. Diana gets a hug, then Lucy, who giggles that he’s “Tall as an airplane!”

“Hey, Celia. Randy,” he nods to them both in turn. Celia gets a hug back if she initiates one. The two guys likely don’t.

Celia: Of course Celia wants a hug. She’s so human right now it’s painful. She wonders if Robby will take her for a spin, too.

GM: She just gets a normal hug. A tall hug he has to stoop down for.

Support: Ugh, he’s never sure whether to shake their hands or go for a fist bump.

He goes for the former with Robby. Seems like the kind of prick who sets store by that kind of thing.

“Nice to see you, Robby.”

GM: Robby actually looks somewhat unsure what to do either, having settled for just a nod, that then gets invalidated when they shake.

“Yeah, you two,” he nods again. “You still, uh. Sorry, what do you do again?”

“Robby, gimme an airplane ride!” Lucy exclaims.

“Say please, Lucy,” her mom smiles.

Support: He lets Celia describe it. Safer that way.

GM: “Plllllease?” asks Lucy.

Celia: Celia pecks his cheek, too, and smiles at him. Then she returns to her ‘boyfriend.’

“He races,” Celia supplies. The duh is left unsaid, but still heard.

GM: “Oh, like NASCAR?” asks Robby. He picks up Lucy and spins her around, well above any of the others.

Support: “Professionally, for a living,” he adds. “And less professionally, for fun.”

Celia: “I’m actually thinking about buying him a Ducati if he wins his next one. Isn’t that right, babe?”

Support: “Kind of. Not that famous yet. Grew up watching it, though.”

GM: “Oh, wow. That must be so exciting. Really exciting. I’m just a boring accountant,” says Robby.

Lucy shrieks and flaps her arms. “Vrrrm vrrrm vrrrrrrrm!”

“Robby isn’t boring. He fences with HEMA,” Emily adds helpfully.

Support: “Oh, you don’t have to do that, really. Ruby’s more than enough for what I do,” he says, while his eyes signal the exact opposite.

“And, you know, it has its problems, but boredom isn’t one of them.”

“Oh, for reals? Always wanted to learn to fence.”

Along with Kung Fu. And Krav Maga. And jet-skiing.

Celia: Good thing he has forever to learn.

Support: Yeah. Good.

GM: “It technically isn’t fencing. That involves the foil, epee, or saber,” says Robby. “What I do is historical European martial arts. That’s what HEMA is an acronym for.”

Celia: “Sounds super,” Celia says dryly. “You must be good at handling swords, hm?”

Support: “…huh.”

That actually does make it sound boring.

GM: “They’re a bunch of nerds who dress up like knights and go around swinging swords and axes,” says Emily.

Celia: “Did he show you his preferred technique, Em?”

GM: “Yeah, he practices techniques with me all the time.”

Celia: “I bet.”

GM: Diana gives a faintly disapproving frown.

Celia: “Maybe we can, like, double up sometime?”

GM: “Faster! Faster!” says Lucy.

Celia: “Show me something new, hey Robby?”

Support: Randy coughs. “What were you making, Mrs. Flores? Need any help in the kitchen?”

Celia: “Randy is real good at stick.”

Support: “Okay,” he murmurs.

GM: “Mind the kid please, y’all,” Diana chides. “And that’s so kind of you to ask, Randy, yes we could! We were in the middle of setting the table when y’all showed up. Dinner’s already cooked, so all we gotta do now is tuck in.”

Celia: Celia just smiles.

Support: “No problem, ma’am.”

GM: Lucy makes more noises and flaps her arms.

Support: He goes to do so, but looks over his shoulder at Celia and mouths ‘need talk.’

Celia: Celia is busy watching Robby.

You know what they say about tall guys.

GM: “Okay, Lucy, end of your ride,” says Robby.

“Airplane comin’ in for landing! Towers on alert!” exclaims Diana, holding out her arms for Robby to deposit Lucy into.

The six-year-old makes touchdown noises.

Support: Randy finishes the placemats, makes eye contact with Celia, then flicks his eyes to a nearby hallway.

Celia: Oh. She excuses herself.

GM: “Oh, y’all want to wash up? Bathroom’s thataways, Randy,” Diana points out.

Somewhat superfluously. There’s only one hallway. The house isn’t big.

Celia: The walls are probably thin, too.

Support: “Thanks,” he says, and heads that way. Hoping she follows.

Celia: She does! She doesn’t even giggle to give herself away.

Maybe a little giggle.

Support: He waits to wash his hands and let the sink slightly drown out his words as he whispers to her, “If I told you there was something in that girl you drank, would you be, um, calm about it?”

Celia: Celia locks the door behind them. She stares at him. Her eyes are a little bigger than usual. Maybe she’s just widening them at him.

“Randy,” she whispers back, “you could just put something in me, you know. We don’t have to pretend this is about her.”

“But are you saying,” she says after a second, “that you drugged me?”

Support: “Maybe. Accidentally. Which, I uh, I realize might have been avoided by not finding the highest girl I could find so I wasn’t late.”

Celia: She should maybe be angry about this. But, honestly, everything feels pretty swell right now. Her Beast is snoozing, drunk on that sweet girl it had gorged itself on earlier.

“She was so cute,” Celia tells him instead. “You’re cute, too. Did you not bring me in here to fuck? Because, like, I might not be wearing panties right now.”

Her skirt is kind of short, too.

Support: Maybe the right thing to do here is to just—

No. Probably not.

“We might be able to do more than that, if we, um, got out of here,” he says. “For longer, even. More vigorously. Since you’re distracted, I mean.”

Celia: “Yeah, but.” Her eyes are a little wider than normal. “But listen. Last time I left one of Mom’s dinners she was kidnapped and raped, and that’s awkward. So if you didn’t bring me in here to bang—like if you’re just being a tease right now—then we just gotta… gotta play it cool.”

She makes a motion with her hand. One of those ’let’s be chill’ motions.

Support: “…hard to argue with that,” Randy says, because it is.

“Okay, well, if you just… can try to avoid saying anything you would be mad at me for saying, this might not be so bad. I can get us out, if I have to. Just… chill, right?”

Celia: Chill. She can be chill. She nods, showing him how chill she can be. So chill. So chill, leaning against the sink. So chill when she touches his chest, the fabric of his shirt, the scruff of a fresh beard on his face.

Then she’s in his arms. Or he’s in hers. It doesn’t matter, really, because her hands are on him and she’s leaning in, cheek pressed against his chest. She rubs her face against him, like a cat marking its human. She can hear his heart thud. There’s no hint of fang, just a small purr. It’s an entirely human sound. Everything is alive for her. Electric.

Her touch doesn’t last long. A few seconds.

“Chill,” she repeats in a whisper. Then she’s gone, back out the door and down the hall to find her breather family.

They can all be human together tonight.

Support: “O… okay,” he whispers.

Then he has to make sure his erection isn’t visible.

Then he follows her.

GM: Dinner is chicken pot pie. It’s baked in a large dish with flaky golden crust and little slits for steam to rise out from. There are also sides of roasted green beans with a contrasting chewier texture and sweet-tasting fruit salad: strawberries, bananas, oranges, grapes, bluberries, and kiwis, with a dressing of vanilla, honey, and poppy seeds.

“Y’all washed up? Oh, good,” Celia’s mom smiles, then folds her hands in prayer. She’s joined by Emily and Lucy. Robby sort of awkwardly just holds his hands together on the table.

“Bless us, Oh Lord, and these Thy gifts we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord.”

There are several “amens.” Robby just nods and doesn’t close his eyes when the others do.

Support: Randy joins. He’s not a barbarian.

Celia: Celia pays lip service to the God that her mother worships. It’s no different than what she does with the Sanctified, really.

But she grins at Robby when everyone else has their eyes closed.

GM: Robby smiles back and looks a little relieved. Celia’s mom starts carving up the pie. It’s got chicken, carrots, peas, celery, yellow onion, and a creamy white milk sauce with garlic and thyme.

“I’m so glad we still get to have moments like these,” she says as she serves. “Between med school for Emily and runnin’ a business for Celia, getting everyone’s schedules to work out is like herding cats.”

“Herding cats?” asks Lucy.

Celia: “Pussy cats,” Celia says, popping the P.

GM: “That means something really hard, sweetie. Pussy cats are pussy cats. You can’t make ‘em do anything they don’t feel like.”

Celia: “You know what else is hard?” Celia asks the table at large.

GM: “What’s that?” asks Robby.

Support: “Mmm,” Randy says as he swallows a mouthful of cream-and-bread smothered chicken. “Probably getting cats to walk away from a dinner like this. Everything’s delicious, ma’am.”

Don’t say what you’re about to say don’t say it…

Celia: Celia points her empty fork at Randy.


Support: He lets out an audibly relieved sigh.

GM: “Why thank you, Randy, I’m so glad you like it,” Celia’s mom beams. “Lucy helped! She made the pastry dough, all by herself.”

“Huh?” Lucy asks at the ‘hard’ question.

Celia: “Pastry dough,” Celia says to her. “Real hard. Good job, champ. All that kneading.”

“Speaking of kneading. Robby, are you coming in for a massage sometime soon? All that… athletic action with the swords and all?”

GM: “Oh. Yeah. I did lotsa kneading!” Lucy makes the attendant hand gestures.

Celia: Celia makes her own hand gestures.

Support: “You should,” Randy says, blitzing over the innuendo. “She’s great at what she does, Celia.”

GM: “Yes, you definitely should!” Celia’s mom echoes. “I go in at least every week, and they are just some of the most relaxing hours you will ever spend, anywhere. Celia will turn you into jello in her hands.”

“Emi’s mentioned,” says Robby. “I have been in, a few times. Celia wasn’t there. It definitely felt great. I’d thought spas were just for women.”

Support: “Me too, but then you try it.”

Celia: “Misconception,” Celia tells him.

Hadn’t Gui said that too, years ago? She’s sure he did. That’s how it had taken off among the Kindred.

Support: “Like daiquiris. Or… something else women do that men can also enjoy. Fruit salad, maybe. Could you pass the fruit?”

GM: “Help yourself!” Celia’s mom declares as she passes over the dish.

“We should set you up with a session with Celia,” says Emily. “She doesn’t do the same massage work as a massage therapist, but honestly, she’s better at it than any of the other girls.”

Celia: “Emily’s is more medical based,” Celia agrees. “Mine is more focused on… relaxing. Feeling good. Unwinding. That kind of thing.”

GM: “Sign me up then. The massage I had was already great,” says Robby in between a forkful of pie. “It’d feel just heavenly, I bet, after a really long sparring session.”

Celia: Sparring.

Celia giggles.

GM: Everyone is tucking in to the food by now, except for her. Pushing it around on her plate.

“I say something funny?” asks Robby, a little puzzled.

Celia: “Just thinking about you dancing around with a big sword in your hand.”

GM: “Yeah, that’s HEMA,” says Emily. “Basically a bunch of D&D nerds who actually know how to fight.”

Celia: “Do you two roleplay?” Celia asks Em, looking between the pair of them.

Support: Randy coughs. “Like, Dungeons & Dragons.”

GM: “I’ve run a few World of Shadow games for her,” says Robby.

“Yeah, I liked that more than D&D,” says Emily.

Celia: “World of Shadow?”

GM: “Oh, I thought D&D was satanic?” Diana asks, covering Lucy’s ears.

Celia: “No, Mom, Satan is satanic. No one has thought that since the ’80s. Did you let her read that book about the wizard kid yet?”

GM: “Oh, I thought that it was. That’s a relief,” her mom says, uncovering Lucy’s ears.

Robby looks about to start strenuously disagreeing, but holds off when Celia seems to clear the matter up.

“Sorry, Wizard kid?” Diana then asks. “Oh, you mean that series. I don’t know, I’ve heard some concerning things about it. I figure better safe than sorry, when there’s so many other books. Like Narnia. Lucy loves Narnia, don’t you, Lucy-Goose?”

Lucy nods. “Yeah! The girl’s named after me.”

Celia: “Didn’t that author, like, sell out his comrades in the First World War or something? And then start banging his friend’s mom?”

GM: Diana covers Lucy’s ears again with an admonishing look.

Emily coughs.

Celia: “Are you two…?” Celia gestures between Emily and her mom.

GM: Diana looks confused.

Emily doesn’t. She gives Celia a ‘hey adult humor around the kid?’ look.

Support: “I liked the movies,” Randy says lamely. “With the, uh. Lion.”

GM: “Aslan! Mommy, stop covering my ears!” says Lucy.

Support: “Aslan, that’s right.”

He kisses Celia on the cheek suddenly.

Celia: Celia is momentarily stunned into silence.

GM: Lucy giggles.

“Yeah, he’s basically Lion Jesus,” says Emily. She looks at Celia as she eats.

Celia’s mom smiles at the apparent affection between the lovebirds.

Celia: Celia gestures toward Robby.

“You were saying earlier?”

GM: “Well, World of Shadow is sort of like D&D,” says Robby. “Except the setting is more horror and urban fantasy than high fantasy.”

“Yeah, it was interesting,” says Emily. “Darker stuff more reflective of real world issues. Less escapist.”

Support: Man. That sounds so, so boring. Nerds.

He’s lucky the strangest thing about him is his vampire girlfriend.

Celia: “Like what? Politics? Ghosts?”

GM: “Yeah, that sort of stuff,” says Robby. “Classic horror monsters. You know, vampires, werewolves, wizards, demons.”

Diana looks alarmed at ‘demons.’

“You’re sure that’s not satanic?” she asks. “I heard some really concerning things about that company, what was it, Black Dog, back in the day.”

“Yes, Mom, we are sure,” says Emily.

Support: “I mean, demons are in the Bible,” Randy says, maybe less helpfully than he thinks.

GM: Diana has covered Lucy’s ears again.

The six-year-old looks a little annoyed.

Celia: “So are wizards. Jesus walked on water, that’s kind of wizardy.”

“Didn’t he turn blood into wine, too? You think Jesus was a vampire?” She’s looking between Diana and Robby.

GM: “Ah, maybe we can save this subject for after dinner, y’all,” Celia’s mom says.

Celia: “Didn’t people eat his flesh? So like a cannibal, too.”

GM: “Okay, let’s definitely, please!” says Diana.

Support: Randy laughs and kisses her cheek again. Chill, his eyes say.

Celia: Cannibals, Celia mouths at Robby.

GM: Robby looks sympathetic, but nods at Lucy.

“So, Randy, what’s going on in your life?” asks Emily. Clearly changing the subject.

Support: He’s all too happy to talk about the current circuit of races he’s leading in. A lot of it is specific car talk, though, which he looks to Robby (as the other man at the table) to help explain.

He does make sound effects for Lucy, though.

“It’s a good season, when I’m not spending time with Cici,” he laughs, touching Celia’s arm lightly.

Celia: Celia smiles back at him. She rubs his hand where it touches her arm. She hadn’t known much about cars and racing when they’d gotten together, but apparently there’s more to it than the movies or NASCAR make it out to be.

“He just got a new sponsorship with one of those energy drink companies.”

It’s a little more legit than running around Europe with guns taped to the front of his car or drifting around back roads in Tokyo with kilos of coke in the trunk.

Though there’s some of that, too.

Support: If Tokyo was Tremè and Europe was the Quarter.

And the coke was actually a biker’s old lady, for a variety of awkward reasons.

“Yeah, energy drinks,” he agrees. “Stuff’s called Blue Milk. I think it’s a Star Trek thing?”

GM: “Star Wars,” corrects Robby. “That’s what Luke drinks in the first movie. Blue milk.”

“Well congratulations to you, Randy,” smiles Diana. The smile looks somewhat blank at Robby’s ‘blue milk’ explanation. “I’m sure that must be very good for raising your profile.”

“Yeah, congrats,” Emily echoes.

“That’s weird an energy drink can call their product blue milk,” says Robby thoughtfully. “The term’s copyrighted.”

Support: Randy shrugs, happy to hide the lie behind all-too-real ignorance.

Celia: Celia leans in close to her boyfriend, whispering the word ‘nerd’ into the shell of his ear.

Support: “I’m not so attached to the product, but its nice to be noticed by a company lime that. Reputation and brand is kind of everything, in my circles.”

GM: “What are you whispering about!” ‘asks’ Lucy.

Celia: “Secret adult things,” Celia tells her.

GM: “What secret things?”

Support: “Very secret,” Randy agrees. “But if you want us to include you,” he leans down and whispers into her ear, “There’s chicken pot pie on your nose.”

Celia: Celia nods her agreement.

GM: Lucy touches her napkin to her nose.

Support: “All better!”

GM: Lucy looks at her napkin confusedly.

“But where’s the chicken…?”

Celia: “Randy probably ate it. He’s a growing boy.”

Celia dumps her plate onto his, at that.

GM: “On my nose…?”

Celia: “He’s very quick.”

Support: “Oh,” he says glancing down at the sudden abundance of food. “Maybe not that quick, but I’ll do my best.”

Celia: “Everyone in the racing industry knows him as Speedy Gonzales.”

Support: “Also copyrighted, sadly.”

Celia: “Randy, don’t make me take you outside.”

GM: Lucy touches her nose again.

“There wasn’t any chicken on your nose, sweetie. They’re pullin’ your leg,” Diana explains. “And oh please, you two, there’s plenty still left to go around! You’ve barely touched your plate, Celia.”

Celia: “Dieting,” Celia tells her mother. “Randy is going to pop the question soon, I can feel it. Have to fit into a wedding dress.”

She looks pointedly at Robby as she says this.

GM: Diana’s look at her daughter’s boyfriend is positively glowing.

Robby just gives a sort of awkward smile.

“She normally put this much pressure on you?” Emily asks Randy.

“Would you like me to make you something lighter, sweetie, like a salad?” Celia’s mom asks her.

Celia: “It’s okay, Momma,” Celia tells her. “I had a protein shake earlier.”

GM: “You sure you wouldn’t like some apple slices to munch on, at least? They’re one of the lowest-calorie foods out there, and I feel bad with you just sittin’ there not touching anything while we all eat.”

Celia: “I’m saving my calories for later,” Celia tells her. She winks at Randy.


That’s what she’s implying.

To him, at least. The rest of them probably think dessert.

GM: “Hey,” says Emily, “I think there’s a jar of that fat-free, sugar-free hot fudge spread in the kitchen somewhere. You want to help me find it, Celia?”

Diana thinks. “I honestly don’t think we have any of that, sweetie.”

“I’m pretty sure we do,” says Emily. “I just can’t remember where it is.”

Celia: “Sure,” Celia says, rising from her chair.

GM: “Oh, let me!” her mom starts.

Emily not-so-subtly puts her hands on Diana’s shoulders to sit her back down.

“Mom, you cooked all of this. Enjoy it. We’ll be right back.”

“I helped!” says Lucy.

Celia: “You sure did, Goose.” Celia retreats to the kitchen.

GM: Emily follows her. She gets very close to Celia and inspects her eyes.

Celia: Celia tugs her even closer.

“Hi,” she murmurs against her neck. “You’re very cute.”

GM: Emily disentangles herself. “Your pupils aren’t dilated, but you’re on something. What is it?”

Celia: “Emmy,” Celia whispers, loudly, “I think he gave me something. It’s been a while since we’ve banged. Am I being weird?”

GM: “Yeah. You’ve been totally inappropriate this entire dinner. You’ve flirted with everyone who isn’t a six-year-old.”

Celia: “Oh.”

She studies the ground.


“Are you mad at me?”

GM: “I’m mad at your boyfriend. He seriously fucking gave you something?”

Celia: “I don’t know. He brought the shake to me.”

“Em, Emmy. Listen, though.”

GM: “When was this?”

Celia: Celia pulls her close again.

“You’re still very cute.”

GM: Emily disentangles herself again. “When did he give you that shake?”

Celia: “Uhhhhh….”

“But listen, Em. Do you remember that friend I had? Also named Em? Doesn’t he kinda look like him sometimes? Like when you’re on his lap.”

GM: "Sure, I guess. Did you have the shake a few hours ago, maybe? Or was it before lunch?

Celia: “Emily.” Celia’s lower lip quivers. “Emily. They killed him. He died. And every time I look at Randy I think about him. And it hurts.”

GM: Emily frowns. “They killed him? What are you talking about?”

Celia: “I’m talking about Em.”

GM: “Wha—who killed Em, Celia? How did that happen?”

Celia: “The state! My dad! I don’t know, whoever signed the execution orders. So Randy is all, ‘why do you care about this guy so much,’ and how am I supposed to tell him when no one knows, Emi?”

GM: “Wait, Em was executed? What the fuck?”

She hugs Celia. “Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

Celia: “I didn’t even get to know him.”

Celia clings to Emily. Rubs her back. She feels really good. Being wrapped up in her arms is like wearing her favorite sweater. Are breathers always this warm?

“They stole him, Emi.”

GM: “He seemed like a good dude,” says Emily.

She leaves the ‘why did they execute him’ unspoken.

Celia: “I can’t talk to anyone about it. Everything hurts. Everyone I love dies.”

Stephen’s public death had been an ordeal, too.

GM: Emily squeezes her. “We’re still kicking. Me, Mom, Lucy. We all love you so much, Celia.”

Celia: “But you’re all going to die at some point.”

GM: “Sure. So will you. Everyone dies.”

Celia: Celia doesn’t tell her what she’s thinking. That she already did. Years ago.

GM: “Chances are Lucy will outlive you, though.”

“We love you,” she repeats with another squeeze. “And it makes me mad as fucking hell that your boyfriend might be a scumbag rapist who’s drugged you.”

“So, here’s what I want us to do.”

Celia: “He didn’t rape me, he turned me down in the bathroom.”

GM: “Wait, what?”

Celia: “What.”

GM: “What do you mean, he turned you down in the… oh, Jesus.”

Celia: Celia giggles.

GM: “Jesus,” Emily repeats.

“Did he just forget about this family dinner or what, and figure he’d have you all to himself?”

Celia: “Are you gonna take me upstairs?” Celia trails a hand through Em’s hair.

GM: “There isn’t an upstairs, hon. There’s just one story.”

Celia: “Why doesn’t she have an upstairs? That’s so typical. Ruining my pickup lines.”

“Tell her,” Celia whispers, “tell her she’s fired.”

GM: “Yeah, you’re definitely on something. So, here’s what I want us to do. I want you to spend the night and sleep it off. I think you’re on ecstasy, from how you’re acting, but that’s often slipped in with other drugs. You might also be on rohypnol or who knows what, so it’s not safe for you to be alone where you might pass out.”

“And definitely not safe for you to go home with your possibly rapist boyfriend.”

Celia: “He’s not a rapist!” Celia repeats.

GM: “Possibly rapist. I also want you to pee into a cup so we can test a urine sample for whatever you’re on.”

Celia: “I didn’t know you were into that kind of thing.”

“Should we get in the shower first?”

GM: “A solo shower might not be a bad idea. Clear your head a bit.”

Celia: “Naked?” Celia wiggles her brows.

“Me and you? Yeah?”

GM: “Solo means just you, babe. I’ll wait outside the door in case you’re on roofies that make you pass out.”

Celia: “Mmmm, can’t. Got a thing to do later.”

“But if you were joining me I’d make time, babe.”

GM: “Celia, the only thing you need to do right now is go to bed. It is not safe for you to be on your own right now. We don’t know what other drugs you might be on, or even for 100% whether this is ecstasy.”

Celia: “Randy!” Celia calls, loudly. “Can you come in here?”

GM: “Randy’s going to say whether he gave you the drugs or not. And whether he gave you anything or not, you’re still high as a kite. You’re gonna sleep it off around people who love you and won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

Celia: “Yeah, but, I have a meeting. So I can’t.”

“Also, if you’re not gonna let me get in your pants then I’m not really interested.”

GM: “Uh huh. Who’s the meeting with?”

Celia: “Ramon.” Celia rolls the R for a much longer time than is necessary.

GM: Emily snaps her fingers. “Oh, Ramon, right.”

Celia: “You’re really pretty when you’re mad.”

GM: Emily pulls out her phone, taps the screen, holds it to her ear.

“Hey, Ramon. This is Emily. Look, Celia’s feeling pretty sick right now. She can’t make…”

Celia: Celia snatches the phone away.

“Don’t listen she’s been roofied byeeeee.”

GM: Emily snatches the phone back. “She can’t make the meeting. What? You understand? Oh, thanks so much, Ramon. You’re the best.”

She hangs up.

“Okay, Ramon said the meeting’s off. You can sleep it off.”

Celia: “You don’t even know who Ramon is!”

GM: “I wouldn’t have his number on my phone if I didn’t know, now would I?”

Celia: “You know who we should call?”


“Tell him I got knocked up again. By a black guy. No, wait, by you. Tell him you’re a black man. Transitioning. And then we can go upstairs and do it.”

GM: “Yeah, let’s file that under ‘go bungee jumping without a bungee cord’ as far as good ideas. Hey, Mom!” she calls.

“Mom, we need to talk with you!”

Celia: Celia claps a hand over Emily’s mouth.

“Mom, she’s kidding.”

GM: Emily pulls the hand away as Diana arrives.

Celia: “Emily said she’s pregnant.”

GM: “I’m not pregnant,” Emily cuts off as Diana’s eyes widen. “Celia is on drugs that I think her boyfriend might have given her.”

Celia: “I’m not on drugs, I told you, it’s Klonopin because my friend died, Jesus Emily.”

GM: Diana looks mortified and swoops in to hold her daughter.

“Oh my lord! Sweetie, how are you feeling!?”

Celia: “I have to go, Mom, Emily is—” oh.

GM: “She’s on ecstasy, I think,” says Emily. “Maybe roofies if he gave her something else. She said she’d not had sex with him in a while.”

“Should we take her to the hospital?” Diana asks.

Emily shakes her head. “Good idea in principle, not so much in practice. We can have her sl…”

Celia: “Fucking. Stop.” Celia yanks herself away from them.

“I was drinking. Okay? I drank before I came over here because I had a terrible fucking day, I keep thinking he’s going to propose to me and he doesn’t, my friend died, my ex died, like why am I not allowed to have a goddamned fucking Tequila Sunrise without everyone getting their fucking panties in a bunch?”

“I’m leaving. Goodnight.”

GM: “Oh. I guess that explains the normal pupils,” says Emily.

Celia: Celia doesn’t say anything. She stalks off to find Randy.

GM: Emily lays a hand on her arm. “Celia, wait.”

Celia: “No. I’m not staying.”

GM: “Okay, you can go! I just-”

Celia’s mom abruptly hugs her tight. She doesn’t say anything. Just holds her close and strokes her hair.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m so sorry those awful things all happened.”

Celia: “I have to go.” Celia wriggles free from her mom’s grip.

GM: “Celia, wait!” her mom calls.

Celia: “What, Mom?”

GM: Her mom wraps a hand around her shoulder. “We just want to be there for you. We love you. Let me make up your bed. Put you to sleep. Cook you breakfast in the morning.”

“I can talk to Randy. Ask how serious he is,” says Emily. “We can… wait to talk about the drinking. Right now we just wanna help you out. If Randy is part of why you’re drinking, then maybe a night apart is something you could use.”

Celia: “Oh my God.” Celia crosses her arms. “Look. It’s not a big thing. I am having an off night. I love you guys, but staying here is not conducive to me fixing my stuff. I’m sorry I ruined dinner. I’ll make it up to you guys. But I have to go.”

GM: “You didn’t ruin dinner, sweetie,” her mom says, “you just-”

“Can’t be around Lucy when you’re drunk,” Emily says, as much to their mom with a more critical look before turning back to Celia. “Look, you’re in a bad place right now. Okay. Let us help you fix that.”

Celia: Celia makes a noise that might be a snort and might be a huff.

“How dare I have one off night, you’re right, you didn’t drink yourself into a stupor in undergrad ever.” Remember that night, Emily, when Celia showed up to help you and let her mom get kidnapped, raped, and tortured because you were having an off night?

Oh, that’s right, Celia isn’t so much of a cunt that she throws it in her friend’s face.

“I love you. Goodnight.”

She doesn’t wait for them to respond. She turns and walks away, grabbing Randy on her way to the door.

Support: Randy, meanwhile, has been having a great time. The food’s great, Lucy’s pretty cute when she isn’t having her ears covered every five seconds, and he understands like half of what Robby’s talking about even if it’s pretty dull. All in all, best family dinner he’s had in a long time.

He’s so preoccupied explaining to an insistent Lucy what a V8 is that he doesn’t immediately come when Celia calls him, and it’s a few moments later when she’s suddenly dragging him out the door.

“Oh—nice seeing y’all have a good night—!”

As the door shuts behind them, he wipes some chicken pot pie off his nose (oh how the turntables) and says, “That wasn’t too bad,” with entirely too much earnestness.

GM: He didn’t even get dessert.

Celia’s mom calls after her. There’s a final, “I’ll see you later at the spa, sweetie, sometime soon! We love you!” before she’s gone.

Celia: He’s in trouble.

He’s in so much trouble.

She doesn’t tell him he’s in trouble because whatever drug he gave her is still in her system, and it’s very slowly working its way out, and there’s some tiny part of her that is still giddy. That part of her has the Beast locked up tight in a little cage inside her chest. It’s more like a kitten right now. One of those kittens in a teacup with a flower on its head. It’ll still bite a hand that tries to touch it, but ignore it long enough and it might ignore you, too.

“So much for chill.”

It is, hopefully, her final giggle of the night.

Celia III, Chapter I
Obedience Lessons

“That’s what you’re here for. To be used as I see fit.”
Celia Flores

Friday evening, 4 March 2016

GM: Flawless.

Seven years and five ‘best __’ awards later, Celia’s dream on 838 Royal Street is alive and thriving, even if the dreamer herself hasn’t been for equally long. She’s getting the treatment room ready for her 8 PM client as the intercom crackles to life.

“Your mom’s here,” announces Natalie. “She’s also, um, brought Lucy. Is that okay for her to do?”

Celia: No, Celia thinks but doesn’t say. She lets loose a long suffering sigh at her mother’s antics. She’d told her. Multiple times, she had told her: no kids. The response had always been the same: no childcare, don’t want to leave her, she’ll sleep in the corner, she’s so quiet. It had gotten to the point that Celia no longer books her mother at a time when anyone else will be at the spa. Not that anyone else works this late anyway; they take the occasional client past 8pm, but mostly it’s just Celia by herself.

She plasters on a smile as she hits the intercom. People can hear your smile.

“I’m always happy to see my baby,” she says into it. “But generally no, Natalie. I’ll be right out, set them up in TR.”

She finishes the last of the prep, products right where she needs them, and leaves the door open behind her. This late, the spa is winding down. Landen should be finishing with their last client any minute now, and Piper is probably already at the bar.

The walk to the Tranquility Room is brief. She passes through the rows of gauzy curtains to find her mother.

GM: Diana has more wrinkles than she did seven years ago, but for the most part, the 42-year-old wears her age well. Very well, and largely because of Flawless. Celia may have wondered more than once what her mom would look like by now without seven years of regular treatment sessions. She’s dressed in the spa’s complimentary fluffy robe and slippers as she sips iced tea with Flawless’ less-than-welcome client.

Lucy Flores is a six-year-old girl who shares the rest of her family’s fair skin and several of her relatives’ brownish-blonde hair. She clearly didn’t get that from Celia, though she usually wears it in an unrulier fashion than Diana, so it’s perhaps plausible that could’ve come from her ‘biological mother.’ She’s a bit thin for her age, and missing a recently lost baby tooth, but the worst that seemed to come from Diana’s fretting over an older pregnancy was bad eyesight that takes a fairly thick prescription to correct. She’s dressed in a child-sized bathrobe that Flawless doesn’t have. Celia’s mom must have brought it from home so she could “share in the spa experience.”

“Hi, sweetie! It’s so good to see you!” Celia’s mom exclaims, rising from the couch to hug her daughter.

Celia: Despite the unwelcome guest, Celia doesn’t need to fake the smile that she sends her mom’s way. There’s something about seeing the woman that reminds her of what it’s like to be… well, not alive, but certainly more humane than she is now. She crosses the room to hug her mother. It’s no more brief than normal. It had taken time for her to quell the thing inside of her to a manageable level, and when she had started the business every client looked like a snack. Now, though, she is more level-headed.

Or at least that’s what she tells herself.

“Hi, Momma. And hello to you too, little lady.” Celia releases her mother and squats down low to look at her ‘daughter,’ now at eye level. She opens her arms for a hug. “I see you’ve found a robe. Shall I ask Landen to paint your toes before they go?”

GM: Lucy looks a little sleepy at 8 PM, but when their mom pats her head she hops off the couch and returns the hug.

“Yes please!”

Celia: Celia scoops the little girl into her arms and spins her around.

“How about a bright, neon pink, hm?”

GM: Lucy giggles and holds out her arms like an airplane.

“Yes please! And blue!”

“It looks like we’ve got a buddin’ cosmetologist on our hands,” Celia’s mom smiles at the pair as she strokes Lucy’s hair.

“And I’m so glad Landen’s still here, I brought cookies! More for him, since he’s doin’ the little lady’s toes. I always feel like we owe y’all somethin’ extra, on account of us both showing up, and at such a late hour. You’re sure you don’t have any day appointments available, soon?”

“Them,” says Lucy.

Celia: Celia starts to correct her mother but Lucy beats her to it. She beams at the child and finally sets her back down on the floor.

“I’ll let them know. They’ll appreciate the cookies, I’m sure.”

GM: Their mom laughs. “Oh, that’s right. I’m sorry, that whole pronouns thing is still so hard for me to wrap my head around. The cookies are in the locker, anyway, they’re white chocolate chip and peanut butter. You want any right now, sweetie, or after we’re done?”

She then adds holds up a hand to her mouth and adds conspiratorially, “Or maybe now and after we’re done?”

Celia: “After we’re done, Momma. Thanks. Why don’t you head into the room and I’ll take Miss Lucy here to get her toes done?” Celia holds her hand out for the girl to take.

GM: “Okay, I’ll get myself settled in. I can’t wait to see how your toes look,” their mom smiles, patting Lucy’s hair again.

Celia’s ‘daughter’ takes her hand.

Celia: Celia waves at her mom over her shoulder and leads the girl from the room to find Landen.

“Pink and blue?” she asks her daughter. “Little rhinestones, too? Make your toes sparkle.”

GM: Lucy nods her head. “Yeah! And can I get my fingers too?”

Celia: “Mmm, we’ll see how much time they have this evening, yeah? But if they can swing it, I don’t see why not. You’ll be the envy of all the girls in your class.”

GM: Lucy smiles. “Mommy also says that I’m the envy. She said I was really good at ballet today.”

She started lessons just this year. Diana had been beyond thrilled.

Celia: “You know who was really good at ballet? Momma. When she was younger, she was a vision. I remember going to her recitals. Did you know,” she says to Lucy as they traverse the spa floor, “that I majored in dance at Tulane?” Not that she had finished, but the child doesn’t know.

She finds Landen and waves at them from afar, gesturing toward her daughter. A lift of her brows tells them what they need to know: yes, she’s paying, yes, it’s extra, yes, she’ll tip.

GM: “Mommy is good at ballet! I see her dance, and she says you’re really good too!” Lucy says as they find the cosmetologist.

Landen is slight and wiry. Their jaw is a little more square than most women, but it’s completed by a pointed chin that takes the harshness from their face, with lips that lack a prominent cupid’s bow but are nonetheless full. Their hair is bottle blonde—platinum, really—but they touch up their hair enough that their roots never show. They’re dressed for the Louisiana March weather in their usual skinny jeans and t-shirt—it’s already warm enough to only wear coats at night again, and for most other people to ditch the beanie.

Landen meets their boss’ eyes for a knowing second, then stoops down to smile at Lucy at eye level. “Well hey there, little princess! Do you want me to do your toes again?”

“Yes please, blue and pink!” Lucy nods.

“Blue and pink, nice choice. Both genders!”

Lucy looks back up at Celia. “I have a question.”

Celia: “I have an answer.”

GM: “Why doesn’t Mommy have any ballet trophies?”

“She said I’d have tons.”

Celia: “Well…” Celia says slowly, “when Momma and Dad split up, she moved into a very small place. And she didn’t have room for all of her trophies, unfortunately, and they were disposed of. I think, sometimes, she’s still sad about it.” Celia crouches once more in front of Lucy. “But we don’t ask her about that because it was a very difficult time in her life. It makes her sad. And we don’t want her to be sad. So I’m glad you asked me, Lucy-Goose.”

GM: “Oh,” says Lucy.

That seems to hang in the air for a moment.

“I could make her trophies,” she says. “In art class. So she doesn’t have to be sad about it.”

Celia: “I think she might like that. You know what else she likes? When you ask her for tips on form and posture.” Celia taps a finger against the girl’s nose. “Now, you go with Landen and let them paint your toesies and nails, and I’m gonna go see to her, and we’ll meet up when you’re done, hm?”

“I heard,” Celia stage whispers, “that there might be cookies in it for everyone.”

GM: “Oh my!” exclaims Landen. “We better get started right away, Lucy-Goose, so we can be sure we’ll get lots of cookies!”

Lucy nods emphatically. “Okay!”

“And I’ll ask Mommy, Mommy.”

Landen quirks a momentary brow at that, then seems to mentally shrug it off.

Celia: Celia shrugs at them. Kids, right?

She leaves them to it. She waves her fingers over her shoulder as she retreats back into the proper spa area to find her mother who should, hopefully, be laid out on the table Celia had pointed out earlier.

GM: Celia’s mom is no stranger to the spa routine. She’s laid out and waiting.

“Sorry to bring her over like this, I just feel bad asking Emily to do much childcare right now, with how soon she’s graduating.”

“And of course, you know her, she’ll do it anyway even if you don’t ask her to.”

Celia: Celia closes the door behind her once she enters the room, and uses the provided sink to wash her hands before she gets started. She seats herself on the small wheeled stool at the head of the table and lays one hand over her mother’s forehead, the other against her chest.

“I know, Momma. Take a deep breath for me. And exhale. And another… and exhale.”

Her voice is low, soothing. It matches the music in the room, some ambient sound that is soft strings, piano, and breezy woodwinds with a BPM of 66. She lets her touch connect to her mother, listens for the beat of her heart. It’s a steady thrum beneath her fingertips.

She starts at the scalp, using fingers and nails to gently scrape and rub her crown and temples. From there she moves to the face, fingers gliding effortlessly without oil, and then she’s on to a series of neck stretches. One side, then the other, turning her head into the table and applying a light pressure to get in deep.

“Let your body be heavy,” Celia tells her when she feels resistance, when Diana tries to move her neck before Celia can. “Let me do the movement for you.”

There’s a point the body gets to before it breaks. They study it in school, range of motion, and there’s a soft tell and a hard tell. Celia has become familiar with them both. Her hands are light, deft, smoothing and stroking up her mother’s neck, then stripping the SCM with her thumb. She does one side and then the other, mindful of the way it feels; it’s not painful, but when someone carries a lot of tension or is constantly under stress, this is one of the areas where it accumulates. Do both at the same time and it’s reminiscent of being choked.

From the neck her hands move downward, fingers digging into the scalene, the traps, then over to the deltoids. She does one arm and then the other, kneading and pulling and stretching. From the arms she moves to the leg. This is where the real work happens, because Celia knows the old injury that has plagued her mother for years.

She starts at the feet. There’s a thicker cream she uses on the soles of the feet, one that doesn’t hinder her glide or the way her knuckles dig into the soft, fleshy pads of the soles. There’s a spot on the heel that helps relieve the pain all the way up to her hip. Years later and Celia is still caught, sometimes, by the sight of the three toes that had been cut off. She pays special attention to them, pressing her thumbs into the meat of the tiny muscles, before her hands travel upward.

Shin, calf, thigh. And that’s the real problem, she knows, the leg that was almost taken off by her ex-husband. Even now, years later, she can still hear her mother screaming. The scar tissue is ugly. She pauses, her mother’s body draped carefully to only reveal the leg she is working on, and Celia finally voices the thought that has been bouncing around the back of her mind since she first learned to do this.

“Momma.” She keeps her voice low. “Have you thought about what I said, the scar treatment?”

GM: Celia’s mother breathes deeply at her request. Celia remembers well what it’s been like to work on her mom over the past seven years. There was lots of stress, at first. Lots of tension in the muscles, in the aftermath of what Emily called “your second divorce,” the house hunting, the bankruptcy, the custody arrangements, the still-fresh terror of her former husband. Celia remembers that dark thought she’d had to “massage her wrong” and induce a miscarriage. Get rid of the rape baby.

But she took her own advice. To simply relax and let someone else “move” for her. And in time, so did her mother. The lawsuit paid out, and quite handsomely, on top of her ex’s child support. Diana Flores hasn’t had to worry about money in some time. She reconnected with her children (most of them), even if she couldn’t take them away from her husband, or do much for their hurts besides offer what balms she could.

And of course, there was Lucy’s birth. The sole child he never got to. That he has never even met.

The story is all there in the muscles.

In time, as life calmed, and as Celia grew experienced in her craft, her mother became like putty under her hands. Most of the time, these days, she doesn’t even ask for specific treatments when she books appointments. She trusts Celia to just “do your thing, sweetie.”

The story is all there in the muscles.

They feel tenser today.

“I have, a bit,” her mom says slowly. “I know I keep sayin’ that.”

“Emily brings it up too.”

Celia: There’s a certain skill that people hone when they do this type of body work. It isn’t quite the sense of touch, and it isn’t quite intuition, but it’s something that straddles both of those lines. Celia has spent the better part of the past seven years flexing and honing that muscle and now, as her hands move along her mother’s body, her gut tells her that something is wrong.

She continues to knead the quads beneath her, rolling out the IT band with her hands. One hand is anchored at her mother’s hip to keep it steady, the other glides along the band. The movement is slow. Contemplative.

“Somethin’ bothering you, Momma?”

GM: “It’s… your brother, sweetie,” her mom sighs. “Logan.”

“I told you about those fights he’s been getting into.”

Celia: “Mhm,” Celia says, prompting her to continue. She can’t help but stare at the scar tissue beneath her hands. It’s visible to her even in the dim light of the room.

GM: Celia’s mother stares up at the ceiling.

“He… hit his girlfriend. In a fight they had.”

Celia: She stops moving.


GM: “He told me he said sorry, immediately,” her mom adds.

“Believe me, sweetie, it’s really torn him up.”

Celia: She’ll kill him.

How dare he.

How dare he.

“He…” She can’t get words out. She breaks the physical connection with her mother, hands curling into fists.

GM: “He’s very, very sorry,” her mom adds. “He’s cried about it, sweetie. He says he doesn’t know what came over him. He wishes he could take it back.”

Celia: A second later they’re back at it. Kneading. Gliding.

“Uh huh.”

She doesn’t sound convinced.

“You know what happens when you throw a plate on the ground and tell it you’re sorry?”

“It’s still broken.”

GM: “Well, yes,” her mother grants. “She’s stopped talking to him.”

Celia: “Good.”

GM: “They were such a cute couple together.”

Celia: “And yet he hit her. So what does that matter? You and Maxen were a handsome couple.”

The blow is low, she knows it before she says it.

GM: Celia’s mother stops talking.

Then she says what she says in response to any blow loved ones land on her.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. You’re right.”

Celia: God damnit.

“What did you tell him?” she asks after a moment.

GM: “I told him he should… give her space, to deal with things. Confess what he did, at church. And maybe see a therapist.”

Celia: “How did he take that?”

GM: “But your dad’s always told him shrinks are for women and… men who aren’t real men.”

Celia: “Of course he has.”

There’s a pause. Then, “Do you want me to talk to him?”

GM: “I think it could only help,” her mom considers. “He’s always looked up to you, for goin’ your own way.” She pauses. “But please be gentle with him, sweetie. Please don’t be angry. He isn’t your dad. He doesn’t want to turn into your dad.”

Celia: “I know,” Celia tells her. It’s the only thing that’s keeping her from fantasizing about ripping his throat out. He doesn’t want to be that person.

And she’ll do her damndest to make sure he doesn’t become it.

GM: “Lucy’s doing very well in ballet,” her mom adds, more brightly.

“I wish there were more openings in your schedule, to see her practice. She’s beyond adorable in her tutu. She wants to wear it to every class, not just plain ol’ leotards.”

Celia: “I wish so too, Momma. I’d love to see her dance.” That’s the truth, too. “She said she’s going to ask you for a few pointers, so heads up on that.” Celia can’t help but smile.

GM: “Oh really? Thanks for the heads up, I’ll actually have to think on what to tell her,” her mom smiles back. “I mean, she already knows how to engage her stomach muscles and align her spine, knows the English definitions of all her French terms, knows her knees and toes are supposed to point sideways and her feet are supposed to point every time they leave floor… she can’t physically do all those things all the time, yet, but there’s not much either of us can do about that except wait. She’s very talented.”

“I want her to do whatever makes her happy, of course. You and Isabel and Sophia all did ballet and went on to do other things, and I was fine with that. But I admit I’d love to be a pro ballerina’s mom.”

Celia: “How is Sophia, by the way? And Emily? I know she’s busy with school, and I’ve been wrapped up with, well…” she trails off. The vague gesture is there in her voice. She does not mention Isabel.

“Did you want to try that scar cream, by the way? Before I flip you?”

GM: “Oh, ah, do whatever you think is best, sweetie. You know I trust you. I’m play-doh in your hands.”

“Sophia sounded a little… subdued, last we talked. She has for a while. I think she’s really looking forward to graduating. But also maybe afraid to come home.”

Her mom smiles. “But I’m so proud of Emily. She’s going to be a doctor soon. Dr. Rosure. Isn’t that just like a gumdrop on your tongue to say?”

“She keeps telling me she’s not going to be a ‘real’ doctor for another four years. Residency and all that. But still. Dr. Rosure.”

Celia: “Did Sophia mention looking for something else? Somewhere else? One sec, Momma, let me grab what I need.” Celia finishes the muscles she’s working on, sliding her hands down her mother’s body until she reaches her feet. From there she disconnects, stepping away from the table to the cabinet to find what she needs.

She’s back a moment later, syringe in hand. She checks to see if her mom’s eyes are closed, and if not then she lets the woman see it.

“Numbing solution,” she tells her. “Going to put it here, at the thigh.” Celia bends low. The needle presses against her mother’s leg. Two of them, actually.

GM: “That must be some cream,” her mom says with a faint chuckle. Her eyes are closed. There’s a slight wince, but soon her leg relaxes as she loses feeling.

“She hasn’t, to be honest. You know your dad’s always told her that a woman’s degree isn’t… worth a whole lot. I think she’s depressed over her GPA, too. I’ve thought about trying to help her find a job, but I don’t know how much that might upset him.”

“I think he expects her to move back in. Until she finds a husband. I think he expected her to do that at Liberty. Only, she hasn’t yet.”

Celia: “They can’t even fraternize at Liberty,” Celia mutters.

GM: “I sure am glad you didn’t go there,” her mom nods. “Tulane was a very valuable experience for you, I think.”

Celia: She takes advantage of her mother’s distraction, though, and pumps a small amount of cream into her hands. It smells different. Eucalyptus, maybe, or spearmint. Her hands move across her mother’s leg. It’s similar to the deep tissue kneading she’d done earlier, though she focuses only on the outside of the scar tissue for now, flattening and smoothing it until it dissolves into her skin.

She’s quiet, thinking about her mother’s words while she works.

Tulane was a very valuable experience for you.

It was, wasn’t it? She’d learned about trust and betrayal. Loyalty and friendship. Love… and loss.

As soon as the thought enters her mind she cannot control the rush of… everything. The spiraling of her brain. The trip down her memory’s path.

She can barely think his name, but in the dim light of the massage room his face swims in front of her.


GM: “All that before how we got to see each other again, too,” Celia’s mom continues from the table.

She pauses for a moment, as if reliving some of the same memories as her daughter.

“And… Stephen. He was just… such a nice boy.”

Celia: “He was,” Celia agrees.

She’s focused on what she’s doing, though, rather than her mother’s words. She doesn’t want to think about Stephen or what he’s turned into; she doesn’t want to remember how it felt to have his fists hit her face, break her bones, shatter her… heart. Cold and dead though it is, he’d still managed to rip it out and stomp all over it the night he told her he could forgive her and then walked back on his words.

Celia stares down at the scar tissue. This, at least, is something that she can fix. Surface flaws. Not what’s really wrong, and not what’s inside, but the package will be nice. The anesthetic should have set in by now; she focuses on her work rather than her memories, beginning with the edges of the tissue.

“Randy is nice,” Celia offers. “He wants to come by sometime again. He likes your cooking. Has Emily spoken to you about her boyfriend at all? I keep wondering when he’s going to pop the question.”

GM: “Oh, you tell him he’s more than welcome! I’m always happy to cook for you both,” her mom beams.

Celia: “I’ll let him know.”

GM: Diana chuckles. “And you believe me, I definitely think I’ve established my mom credentials askin’ her when Robby’s gonna ask. She keeps saying she’s not even thinking about that until after med school, but you know, life never gets less hectic. We’re always busier than months in mittens.”

“I want him to propose already. I’d love for them to give me some grandbabies!”

Celia: Months in mittens?

Celia doesn’t ask.

“Don’t tell her, but I’m already half planning it.”

GM: Celia’s mom beams again.

“Well why don’t you just bring in me, and we can move half to full.”

Celia: “She’ll be in for a real treat when he finally proposes when we whip out these wedding books and it’s already taken care of.”

GM: “Exactly! Weddings are just such a hassle to plan, I honestly can’t think of a better wedding gift than to hear ‘this has all been taken care of, you just show up and say your vows.’”

Celia: “Think she’d accept if I just pay for it in lieu of a traditional gift?”

GM: Celia’s mom is always very relaxed on the table, after seven years of regular appointments, but her leg must be pretty numb by now.

Celia: Celia starts the real work, then.

The manipulation of the scar tissue.

The stretching and pulling of healthy skin to cover what’s dead.

GM: “Oh yes, I think she would. Med school does keep her so busy, and her residency isn’t goin’ to let up. Time is just the gift to give her.”

“Though I’d give her an actual present too. Nothin’ too big or expensive, just a little personal keepsake to go with the others she’ll get.”

“Cash is the gift you can never go wrong with, but it can’t go right like a really thoughtful, well-chosen gift either.”

Celia: Her mother’s flesh is like clay in her hands. She manipulates it as she needs to, smoothing out what needs to be smoothed. She’s careful not to fix the whole thing at once; she’s gotten good about knowing how much to do in one sitting. Keeps people coming back, for one. And keeps it believable.

“I’ll call her. See how things are going. It’s been too long.” It hasn’t, really, but Emily is still Celia’s best friend, despite the differences in their mortality.

“Leg okay?” she checks.

GM: “Why don’t we have her and Robby over for dinner, too, if you’d like some quality time? Talkin’ over the phone is just no substitute.”

Celia’s mom doesn’t move or flinch under the anesthetic. That’s one blessing she enjoys as one of the kine. Reshaping someone’s flesh, Celia knows intimately well, is far from painless.

But has that not always been the price for beauty? The corset constricts. The high heel blisters. The wax… Celia has seen how people react to that. And the ballerina, of course, puts their body through hell in so many ways.

Beauty takes effort. Beauty takes pain.

But at least sometimes, there is a pill for that. Or shot.

Celia runs her fingers along her mother’s leg and watches the skin flow like mud in its path. She’s careful to keep the alterations small, for now. Believable. A touch here, a touch there. Stretching the nearby, hale skin over the scar tissue. It’s like using the smudge tool in Photoshop.

Yet beauty takes pain and effort for all involved. Celia can feel the eternal thirst, always there, burning away behind her throat as the Beast growls in her ear. It must fed. It must always be fed.

Celia: “All set,” Celia announces at the end of it, in a voice that is decidedly chipper. She has been dead long enough to know when she needs to feed, and she will not stretch herself thin while her mother and daughter are on the premises. Perhaps Landen… no, she can always return to Savoy’s holdings if she’s really in need, one of the dolls there will quench her burning desire.

“I’ll step out and let you get changed. Meet you outside, Momma.”

Celia heads to the door.

GM: Her mom hesitates for a moment, then looks down at her leg. “Oh my goodness. Oh my… Celia, I can see a difference already…”

Celia: “Just wait, Momma,” Celia says once she reaches the door, “wait until we’re done. It’ll be as if it never happened.”

GM: Celia’s mom meets her back outside the door changed into Flawless’ fluffy white robe and slippers. She took a little while.

“I was just looking my leg over, sweetie,” she says slowly. “You… know I don’t really like to look at it. I’m amazed there’s a difference already. Just amazed.”

“You’re so talented. You really are, you just have such a gift.”

Her mom sniffles and hugs her. Celia can hear the thump-thumping of the woman’s heart, pressed so closely against her own. She can smell the luscious coppery tang of the blood coursing under her mother’s skin.

Celia: Celia is not feeding on her mom. She’s not. She just isn’t. That’s not happening. Not with Lucy here. Not with Landen here.

Not in general.

She gently disentangles herself from her mother, then makes a show of checking the time.

“Oh! My next client is here. I’m sorry, Momma, I have to get going, that scar tissue work took longer than I thought. We’ll talk soon, okay? Landen can take care of you and Lucy at the front desk. Love you. Bye!”

She waves as she retreats, ducking into the room Jade uses. She locks the door behind her.

GM: “O-okay, sweetie! I love you too, I’ll call about dinner!” her mom calls after her, sounding a little taken aback by the abrupt departure.

But it beats feeding on the woman.

Friday evening, 4 March 2016

Celia: Alone inside the room, Celia breathes easier. She will wait until her mother and daughter have gone, until Landen has closed up shop, before she emerges once more. There is blood to be had inside these walls that she keeps on hand for emergencies. Perhaps a taste will do her good. Clear her head for the rest of the evening.

She finds a bag of it and retreats further into the suite, where even her Beast cannot escape. It is cold. Sterile. There is nothing in here with which she can amuse herself, and the thing curled inside of her will not like it when it awakens. Jade doesn’t care. She shuts the door on them both and opens the bag with her teeth.

That, too, is cold. Vile. But she has work yet to be done, and her face must change before she can do it, and she will not risk a frenzy when it is so easily prevented. She drinks. It slides down her throat like liquid garbage. She gags and sputters and hates it, but she forces it down.

GM: Alana had suggested keeping a microwave in the room, when she’d heard how bad the cold stuff tasted. Replacing ones destroyed by frenzies would just be “cost of doing business.”

Celia: Jade is working on a different sort of solution to the bagged blood problem. She’s just still collecting materials. This is the reminder that she needs to get her ass in gear about it.

She needs bodies. Lots and lots of bodies.

Doesn’t she have a friend who produces bodies?

GM: Most of her ‘friends’ these night produce bodies, if she’s to be frank about it.

Though some more frequently than others.

Celia: Once her hunger is firmly under control she peruses her contacts on her phone, looking for the name of someone more likely to have a body they need disposed of.

GM: It doesn’t take much imagination there.

Reynaldo Gui and his associates would produce bodies even if he wasn’t a vampire.

Celia: She gives her favorite Ventrue cowboy a call.

GM: He picks up after several rings.

“Why hello, Miss Kalani.”

Celia: “Ah, Mister Gui, how’s my favorite handsome friend doing this evening?”

GM: “I’m still handsome. You’re still beautiful?”

Celia: “Nothing short of flawless, darling. A little birdie told me you might have something messy for me.”

GM: “I did have a breakout on my face, if I’m being honest. I was going to take care of it at home.”

“I wouldn’t want to show the world I’m anything besides handsome.”

Celia: “No one who knows you would think such a thing. But I have all the salves and creams that you need down here to make it vanish as if it never was. Why don’t you stop by and let me take a look?”

GM: A little while later, Gui is there in the Kindred suite of rooms along with a thuggish-looking ghoul. The latter opens a body bag with the corpse of a middle-aged African-American man who has a bloody hole in the back of his head. His eyes gaze blankly upwards.

He’s still got a set of glasses on.

Celia: Celia took the time to do her face before Gui stopped by. Jade is the one waiting for them. She has the ghoul put the body on the table and peers down at the man. She spends a minute unfastening his clothes to take a look at the skin. Middle-aged but black don’t crack.

“What’d he do?”

GM: Gui just offers a humoring smile.

“Do you want me asking what you want a corpse for?”

Celia: “Mmm, idle chit chat, can’t blame a Kindred for asking.” She looks away from the corpse, back at Gui.

“You do look ravishing this evening. When do I get to get my hands on you, hmm?”

Despite the years of flirting, Jade has not yet made a move on the Ventrue. She’d been scooped up by Nico and his krewe before the cowboy could get a firm hold on her, though since his banishment and her breakup with Roderick she hasn’t seen much of a reason to stay away. The mobster has been more and more appealing as the nights pass, no matter what her one-time lover had told her.

GM: The Ventrue wiseguy is dressed in a dark jacket and slacks, though without a tie and with the top buttons left undone, like usual. Unlike at church, he’s got the wide-brimmed cowboy hat on.

“I look ravishing every evening, but then so do you.”

He smirks and traces a hand along Jade’s cheek.

“Maybe next evening, lush. Tonight’s business. Never pays to mix that with pleasure.”

Celia: Jade heaves a long-suffering sigh, playful in nature. She looks up at him from beneath her lashes, lips pulled into a pout.

“I hate that you’re right. Next evening, then.”

It’s a reminder that they’re called stiffs for a reason. No one in her clan would mind mixing business with pleasure.

She offers to walk them out.

GM: “Being right as often as me is a terrible curse, but I live with it,” Gui answers.

She sees the pair out with some more light flirting.

The glasses-wearing man’s corpse lies motionless on her table.

Celia: Roderick had told her enough during their time together that she has a hunch these glasses have some sort of special prescription. They’ll get her in trouble if she isn’t careful with them. Have the cops show up at her door demanding answers.

Then again, this hardly looks like the type of man who can afford her services.

She gets to work, though. His clothes are stripped from his body and tossed aside. Anything without blood will be given to Alana to dispose of. She’s pretty sure the ghoul just launders them and delivers them in a big pile to the local thrift store. ‘Why would the cops check a thrift store?’ she is fond of saying.

It gets a little more messy when she has to dissemble the body. First she drains him. Cuts his neck, lifts one side of the table with the hydraulic press, lets the blood drain into the pan set beneath the table just for this purpose. Without the blood the body is lighter. She’d read somewhere that blood is about seven percent of the weight of the body. Decent-sized guy like this, probably about a gallon and a half.

She shaves his head of what little is left. Not long enough to use for extensions, no good for her there. But the skin, though, she needs that scalp skin.

She starts cutting after that. She’d watched a video once on how to skin a deer a long time ago. Working with humans is similar, though she doesn’t just take the skin. She cuts down to the bone at each of his joints with a knife as sharp as a scalpel. It almost is a scalpel, just larger. She’d gotten it for dermaplaning before she’d realized the blade was too big to effectively use on the face.

Waste not and all that.

Once the cuts are made she peels it back. It’s tough going. Maybe she should have someone teach her that flex thing. Maybe Donovan. Or Gui, if she’s going to bang him anyway. She can’t wait to sink her teeth into that cutie. Regardless, it’s tough going, and she spends the better part of an hour peeling the skin, fat, and muscle from the bones. She doesn’t get it all. There’s a layer of periosteum around the bones that she can cut free. More to work with later. It might not be what she’s looking for, but she’ll give it a go. Trial and error, so to speak.

The internal organs are dumped onto the floor. There’s nothing ceremonial about it. She’ll go through them later to find the connective tissue she needs, the collagen she can use for injections. Likewise the skeleton itself is dumped onto the floor. She’ll practice her bone work on it, maybe. Or grind it up into bone meal for someone’s garden. She mentally adds “buy spice or coffee grinder” to her list of things to do. She’d heard good things about Preethi.

Once everything is out she’s looking down at what is, essentially, a deflated human. Just a sack of beautiful dark skin.

GM: Jade knows her mom enjoys a spot of gardening.

Celia: Perfect. She’ll tell her mom to make it a big garden. Maybe a rooftop garden. Lots of bone meal for Momma.

She hums while she works.

GM: The skin is less than beautiful, if she’s to be quite honest. The subject is older, overweight, and doesn’t look as if he led the healthiest lifestyle. But she can fix that too.

She can fix anything to do with skin.

Celia: She starts to do so. It’ll take a while, and she’ll be hungry afterward, but she’s got a whole bucket of blood under the table she can use if she needs to.

She starts with the scalp. After shaving it is smooth and hairless, easy to work with. She leaves it mostly as is, though she pinches closed the eye holes, flattens the nose back into the face, smooths out the lips so they don’t take up half the face.

It’s like a black bag, almost. One of those boho bags girls throw over their shoulders with only the one opening, the kind that everything gets lost inside of so you’re standing there at the store while the girl in question fishes through her bag and tries to find her credit card for whatever inane purchase it is she’s trying to make, and the cashier just smiles and nods when she says “just a moment,” and then she looks back at you and apologizes and you just smile and nod, too, because really what else can you do?

She never understood how girls could stand it, really.

The gaping wound at the back of the head takes longer. It’s a series of pulling at the skin until it stretches far enough to cover the hole, then severing the ears completely to re-attach them at the back of the head to thicken and reinforce the skin back there. Leaks are bad for business.

She finds the pan of blood and pours it into the open neck hole until it’s almost full, then pinches it shut.

Flesh bag.

GM: Some clicking footsteps from outside precede a knock against the door. It’s probably Alana, unless Randy has started crossdressing.

Support: As if.

Celia: “’Lana?” she calls out. She looks down at herself, at the body on the table. Good thing there’s another door between here and the outside door. She’s a little messy, though. Not her usual immaculate self. She’ll have to start keeping clothes in here instead of her office upstairs. Or a rubber apron, like they use for the Vichy showers.

She closes the door to the wet room behind her.

Celia: Ah, yes, the robes! Of course there are robes waiting for her next client. There always are. She can wear one of those if she has to.

GM: It’s Alana. Jade’s first ghoul is a vision of beauty and the epitome of the word Flawless, from her long flowing hair to her toned, lithe body. Every inch of her is sculpted perfection—sculpted by Jade. Her cheekbones are high and reflect the light with the highlighter she’s wearing tonight. Delicate freckles dot her nose. Her eyes are large, black pools that people frequently fall into, and her lips are full with a prominent cupid’s bow. Her face is made up in the full glam that Jade has permanently sculpted onto it. ‘Permanent makeup’ has nothing next to what Flawless offers. Her hair tonight is a tan blonde that nicely complements her caramel skin, and has ever since Jade made it that color. She’s dressed in a low-cut, loose silky blouse, black leggings, and strappy heels.

She’s definitely one of the Toreador’s better works.

“Oh, mistress, you’re messy. Do you want me to clean you up?” the ghoul immediately volunteers.

Celia: “Alana,” Jade greets the ghoul. She abandons the idea of a robe. No need to do more laundry than she has to. Or rather, that Alana has to. She’s seen her in worse states.

“No, not right now. I’m still working on a project and bound to just get messy again. What is it?”

GM: “It was Mélissaire, mistress. She said that Lord Savoy wanted to see you three days from now, at the Evergreen. You had an opening in your schedule then, so I told her you could make it.”

Celia: “Ah. Yes. Thank you.” There’s a pause. Jade considers her, though her mind is already atop the Evergreen’s roof, wondering at her grandsire’s summon. “My mother wants dinner at some point with Randy and I.”

GM: “I can call them to set that up if you don’t want to be bothered, mistress.”

Celia: “Call him. I’ll let you know. Stay here a moment.”

Jade disappears into the treatment room. She’s back a moment later with the flesh bag. It looks less like a human face than it had prior.

“What do you think of this?”

GM: “It looks like a bag,” Alana says thoughtfully. She reaches out to touch it.

“So… smooth.” She sniffs. “Is that juice in it?”

Celia: “Yes.” Juice is just another word for blood, after all. “I’m working on a new line. You’re not any good at fashion design, are you?”

GM: “People could be good at anything for you, mistress,” the ghoul beams.

Celia: That doesn’t quite answer her question. She appreciates the sentiment, though. She reaches out to touch Alana’s cheek, running the tips of her fingers across the smooth skin. She really did a phenomenal job on this one.

“Draw something up for me, ’Lana. Something fierce. Neutral colors.”

GM: Alana’s smile only further brightens at her mistress’s touch.

“Right away, mistress. And can I say you look Flawless tonight. Like every night.”

Celia: There’s a good girl. Jade’s answering smile is positively radiant. She leans in to press a chaste kiss against the ghoul’s lips.

“You as well, darling. Bring those by when you’re done. I’ll be here for a while yet. Let me know about dinner.”

There’s a pause.

“I might implement your microwave idea after all. Oh, and find a grinder for me, will you? Something large.”

“And a pig,” she adds. “Live.”

“And maybe cold storage. See what you can work out, if there’s room in this suite for it. Not in the frenzy room, I’ve heard those giant refrigerators are expensive and I’m not interested in replacing them every single time a Brujah forgets to feed before he comes in. The space under the table isn’t large enough for the projects I have in mind. Though I suppose, really, it’s not the best thing to keep them on hand that long. Maybe a secret room? Not my haven… Alana, look for empty real estate nearby. See when the lease is up for the business next door. Or find building plans for underground. I know we don’t quite have sewers, but I’ll figure something out. Literal hole in the ground. Ha.”

“Actually,” she continues, nodding, “that might be brilliant. The drain already leads down. I’m sure we can find someone to rig it to get off the city’s system, catch the chunks, filter the blood. Entrance through the table itself? Ooh. Is that too cliché, ‘Lana? Secret entrances? You’d tell me if I were being a stereotype, wouldn’t you?”

GM: Alana glows under her domitor’s kiss.

“Yes, mistress,” to the dinner.

“Yes, mistress,” to the grinder.

“Yes, mistress,” to the live pig.

“Yes, mistress,” to the cold storage space options.

“I think it’s genius, mistress,” she beams at the secret entrance idea. “Of course I’d tell you. Who actually expects to look for something like that in real life?”

“Nobody does, that’s who. It’s just like vampires.”

“The fiction makes it an even better secret.”

Celia: “You really are my favorite, you know. Don’t tell Randy, the poor boy’s head would explode.” Jade pats her cheek in genuine affection. “Put an extra hundred in Landen’s tip jar for me, just pull it from the register. There’s a dear. I’ll be working a while yet. Then a scrub. You’ll scrub me down, won’t you ’Lana? Maybe a trade of services.”

There’s a suggestion there, a promise of massage or blood or sex. Nothing she needs to do to keep the ghoul in line, but she does so love to spoil this exquisite creature.

“Run along now, while I finish my work.”

GM: Jade did make her so exquisitely spoilable, after all. The aging, single, homely-faced, and almost 300-pound woman who laid down on that table never got back off it.

“Threaten to turn her back, if she gets out of line,” like Veronica had once suggested, isn’t a stick she’s had to use. At least yet.

Jade is also pretty sure Alana would consider scrubbing her down to be a service in of itself, if the ghoul’s desirous look is any indication, but there’s only another smiled, “Yes, mistress,” to all three orders before Alana bows her head and withdraws, quietly closing the door behind her.

Celia: She hadn’t had to threaten either of her ghouls with sticks, thus far, when the carrots she dangled before them had been reason enough not to give her any trouble. It’s there, though, in the back of her mind.

She once more locks the door behind the ghoul and heads back into the treatment room to continue her work, flesh bag in hand. She eyes it for a moment, considering, and finally lifts it to her mouth to pierce it with her fangs. She needs to get an idea of how it compares to biting into a real person.

GM: It’s distinct.

It’s not like biting a real vessel is. Having an actual person underneath you, a happy little toy making happy noises in response to your touch. The feeling of holding their life in their hands, sampling their unique flavor and resonance as they experience it, knowing they are giving of themselves to sustain you.

But it’s leagues better than plastic, or a ceramic cup. The texture of the smooth skin, the sensation of her fangs piercing flesh as she steadily sucks, is something she should be well-pleased to have replicated.

It’s the difference between an expensive vibrator with a good porn vid next to her fingers and a blank wall. It’s not the real thing, but it’s better.

The cold stuff is still liquid slop that makes her want to gag, though.

Celia: She doesn’t stop, once she starts. Even though it’s cold, old blood. Even though it’s vile. It’s blood. And she’s hungry, so hungry, and she knows she’s going to feed from Alana later, and she doesn’t want to risk tearing the poor girl’s throat out. So she feeds. It’s better than the plastic. Her Beast doesn’t even try to stir. It’s like a snoozing cat inside her chest: it swipes a lazy paw at her and goes right back to curling contentedly in the center of her.

She drains the bag, licks her lips clean. The head can be reused, that’s a perk. Maybe she can make designer bags. Emergency only kind of things. There are those gloves that keep their own heat; can she develop something like that?

Oooh, or make bags out of the heads of enemies. Trophies to keep around. Imagine taking down a rival or an old flame or just someone who annoyed you and getting to keep them as a juice pouch forever.


Who would she keep? Maxen, of course. Her lips curl into a sneer at the thought of the bald man. He deserves worse. She’ll turn him into a coat. A pair of boots. She’ll cut off his cock and make it into a headband. Gift it to Isabel so she always remembers Daddy’s love. Maybe she’ll just stuff the man and give the whole thing to her lost sister.

There’s a thought.

This body, though, has work to be done yet. She gets back to it.

Saturday evening, 5 March 2016

GM: The next night, Alana has procured a grinder and live pig for her domitor. Both are delivered into the Kindred rooms without questions.

Celia: Good ghoul.

Jade makes sure that she has the required time in her schedule to work with both. She had found a cooler in the meantime for the body parts, and she has Alana lead the pig into the treatment room with a little leash (“how thoughtful, Lana”) that she ties to the table. When it squeals in alarm at Jade’s approach she bites her wrist and dribbles her vitae into its open mouth.

“Settle, pig. Can’t have you making a mess. You don’t want to know what happened to the last guy who made a mess in here,” she tells it.

GM: The animal squeals in terror like only a pig can. Alana keeps the leash tied pretty short, because the animal pulls like mad to get away. Jade can draw in the kine like lemmings to their doom, but not all the skincare and beauty products in the world can hide what she is from creatures that do not ignore their own nagging instincts. Their own inner Beasts.

But then she feeds it her blood, and it starts contently gorging itself on the gory human remains.

Alana also has some basic information on the adjacent spaces to 855 Royal Street, just to mull over next to the literally under the table idea. Jade already knows the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is a tourist attraction and the Myth Gallery is an art gallery. She’d be unsurprised if her grandsire had his fingers in both. Royal Street makes them close neighbors to the Evergreen.

Celia: It’s really amazing what a little bit of blood can do. She strokes the pig’s back as it feeds on the entrails, pleased. She’ll need to find a home for it; she has no intention of keeping the beast here. Maybe another addition? Hm. She’ll ask Savoy if it’s possible to borrow a tiny amount of space from either one of the adjacent businesses. She’s seeing him the night after tomorrow, anyway. Maybe upstairs? She can hardly have the pig brought in and out, that’s bound to draw attention. Maybe she’ll mold it into one of those teacup pigs.

“I think I’m going to call him Sparky.”

“Anything underneath here?” she asks, meaning the business at large.

GM: “Just the usual sewage lines, mistress, as far as I can tell,” answers Alana. “We could hire a contractor to do the work you’re looking for. Didn’t you say there was a Nosferatu one who lives in the Quarter?”

“I think Sparky’s a wonderful name,” she smiles as she strokes the hungrily munching pig.

Celia: “Call him,” Jade agrees. “Bring him in for an estimate. Tonight, if he’s free.” The sewer rats are always free. She sets to grinding bone while Alana works and the pig eats. It’ll be another busy night.

GM: Alana always hates to disappoint her domitor. The Nosferatu isn’t free, tonight, she reports several hours later. He’ll be free in four nights.

“I bet he doesn’t have anything going on, and is just telling you that to feel important,” Alana huffs. “Because his ghoul said he could see you tonight… if you came down to the sewers.”

Celia: “How can I show him what I need done and get an estimate if I’m in the sewers?” Jade sighs, a habit she has taken to to show her annoyance despite the fact she doesn’t need to breathe, shaking her head at the girl. “You’re probably right, though. I just wanted a number to give Lord Savoy, though of course he probably wants something more eclectic than petty cash. No sense going all the way down there for nothing, darling. Tell him four nights is good.”

“Don’t mention the pretending to be busy thing. Let the rat keep his pride.”

GM: “That’s exactly what I told him,” Alana agrees. “He just said his boss would get it done. Somehow. I think they just want to see a Toreador in the sewers.”

Celia: “They think I can’t slum it? Ha. I could slum it. A little bit of filth doesn’t bother me. Do they know what I do?” She gestures toward the pig, the grinding bones, the body she had torn apart with her hands. Do they even know how hard it is to get blood out of the nail beds? How it stains the cuticles? But of course they don’t, no one does. That’s the point.

GM: “They don’t, ma’am. They don’t know anything except ugliness and filth!” Alana readily agrees.

Celia: “I’ve changed my mind. I’ll go. You stay here, pet, I don’t need them getting any ideas about what they’d like to stick you with.” Jade touches a hand to her ghoul’s cheek. “Call Randy for me though, tell him to wear boots. And nothing he’ll miss.” Where’d her wetsuit get to.

Jade leaves Alana with instructions to finish feeding the pig and grinding the bones. She tells her to get a shower ready for later this evening as well. Scented products.

Anything to get rid of the putrid stench she’s sure she’ll bring back with her.

Saturday night, 5 March 2016, PM

Celia: Jade takes the time to make herself presentable for the Nosferatu and their games. It’s a different sort of getting ready than she’s used to; rather than glam up she glams down. It won’t do to be caught in anything less than the best, even if she’ll be stomping through sewer water and other garbage besides. There’s probably some sort of etiquette around not wearing rain boots into the sewer—Mélissaire would know—but Jade doesn’t own rain boots anyway. She opts for leather pants instead. They’re an older pair, probably something she already wore once that she doesn’t plan on using again. She pairs it with black jump boots (she says she’d gotten them from an Army boy she fooled around with for a while, and they’re the kind of boot that shit just slides right off), and a dark shirt.

She passes time flirting with Alana until Randy arrives.

GM: “You look badass, ma’am,” Alana purrs as she slides onto Jade’s lap.

“So strong. So tough. So fierce.”

“I’m just your cute little toy.”

Celia: “Telling me I can’t handle the sewers,” Jade mutters. Her hands busy themselves on Alana, a distraction from the upcoming trip. She nips at the girl’s neck, though she doesn’t bite. “You are a very cute toy. You know what I’m going to do with you later, little toy?”

GM: Alana starts to make ‘happy noises’ as Jade fondles her breasts. Quiet at first, little inhalations of breath with just a note of trembling. She rubs her shapely rear (that Jade so carefully shaped into what it is) against Jade’s lap in a steadily clockwise motion. She smiles wickedly at the sensation of the leather against her skin.

“Whatever… you want… to me…” she whispers, nuzzling the vampire’s neck. “I’m such a… happy toy…”

Celia: That’s what she likes to hear. She nods encouragingly at the little toy on her lap. She’s never as rough with her as Veronica had been; her touches are gentle instead of cruel. It keeps them happy.

Her hands move down the girl’s stomach to her thighs, sliding up along her bare skin to dip two fingers inside.

“Look how wet you are, little toy. Do you want me to take care of that for you?”

GM: “Yes… mistress…” she whimpers, louder now. “Yes… please… but I have… ohhh… something… for you… first…”

Celia: She doesn’t stop. She likes the way the girl shivers on her lap. Her thumb flicks across Alana’s clit, once, twice, then traces slow circles around it.


GM: Alana closes her eyes and makes happy noises, steadily breathing in and out as color rises to her cheeks.

“Yes…” she finally whimpers. “When you… called me pet… it made me think…”

She slides off Jade’s lap and bends low to the floor, giving the Toreador a very clear view of her ass before she pulls something out from underneath the seat. This seems as if it was planned in advance.

She holds up a thick black leather collar with attachments for a leash. It has a heart-shaped tag she’s written ‘Property of Jade’ on in neat cursive. There’s also an attached bell, like a kitten’s.

“Do you want to put it on me, mistress?” she smiles. “I’d love for everyone to know I belong to you.”

She demurely bows her head low and raises the collar in her palms, like an offering.

“And I know how much you want a dog… so you could give me walks, on a lead… and I could eat from a bowl at your feet…”

“And you could fuck me right now,” she purrs, “really doggy-style…”

Celia: Jade’s smile could light up an entire city block. She takes the leather collar from Alana and touches her chin to lift her head so she can fasten it around the girl’s neck. It’s a beautiful, beautiful sight, and she flicks her finger across the bell to make it chime.

“Oh, ’Lana,” Jade breathes, “you certainly know how to keep me happy.”

She drops to her knees and puts a hand on Alana’s back to bend her back over. She doesn’t have time to craft herself a cock, much to her chagrin, but she has the next best thing: fist and fingers. She slides in two, then three, and with her other hand reaches around to the front to pinch her nipples before finding her clit once more.

“You are such a good girl, Alana, such a good girl.”

She leans down to bite right into the cheek of the ghoul’s shapely ass.

GM: Alana’s smile is equally radiant as she basks under Jade’s praise. She shudders as her domitor fastens the collar shut and runs a long-nailed hand against it, as if unaware of what the large, thick, and snug thing would feel like with its home around her neck.

Then she offers a leash in her other hand. So Jade can jerk on it and hold her taut while they fuck.

Her ‘happy noises’ have a yipping, almost dog-like quality as they start, then become delirious under the ecstasy of the vampire’s kiss.

Support: Randy pokes his head in through the door. “Hey, sorry I’m late, Ruby was making some noise—oh. Sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry or leave the room, however, absorbed in the sight before him.

Ruby is his car, too, which is probably even more embarrassing.

Celia: Jade’s eyes flick toward the door to meet Randy’s.

She doesn’t stop what she’s doing.

Support: He’s wearing his driver’s outfit that he’s so proud of. She picked it out for him. It makes him look like a chauffeur.

“Uh,” he says. “Is her mouth… open?”

There’s either a racetrack in his pocket or he’s happy to see them.

Celia: She crooks a finger at him.

GM: Alana’s eyes are half-glazed over with the ecstasy of the kiss as she moans with pleasure, but she still offers Randy a smug smirk as he comes in.

Even naked and fucked doggy-style with a collar and leash, yipping like an actual dog, she looks like she’s gloating.

The mistress loves her.

Support: He stares at her, jealousy and lust warring on his face.

Then Jade invites him over.

He grins at her.

“Is that a yes? Because she isn’t opening her mouth.”

Celia: Jade lifts her mouth from those two pinpricks long enough to admonish her pet for not making Randy feel more at home. She pulls her hand free and swats the girl for good measure, flat-palmed against her ass. Once, twice, three times. Stinging blows, but nothing extreme.

“Open up, Alana.”

Support: Randy’s making eye contact with the other ghoul as he, ah, prepares.

He’s happy with this compromise. Alana won’t be able to brag, this way.

GM: Alana’s eyes clear as the ecstasy of her mistress’ kiss so abruptly ends. She yelps at the spanks, then looks up at Randy.

The smug look dies.

Her cheeks angrily redden.

But she knows better than to protest. She opens her mouth.

Celia: “Good girl, Alana, you are such a good girl,” Jade croons at her. “You are the best little toy pet, yes you are.” Exactly like she’d speak to a dog. The fingers slide back inside. She returns to feeding.

Support: Randy isn’t a sadist. He doesn’t enjoy seeing other people in pain, per se. He’s not a monster. But her not wanting it does make it better for him. He joins with a smirk, stroking the ghoul caught between them’s chin and hair, knowing he’s ruining her experience.

Sometimes, it’s good to be the driver.

GM: Alana loudly moans as Jade’s fingers re-enter her while the vampire’s kiss resumes. When Randy does, she obediently sucks. Quietly at first, but since her mouth is full, she can’t make very audible happy noises in response to Jade anymore.

After a little while, she starts making choked coughing sounds, as though in pain. Randy’s hurting her.

Support: Randy stops and pulls out. She’s annoying, but it’s what he’d want her to do.


GM: Alana immediately turns around and nuzzles her face against Jade’s hands, seeking reassurance as she softly cries. He’s hurt her.

Celia: Jade pulls the girl into her embrace. She checks the collar to make sure it isn’t too tight, makes sure there are no ligature marks around her neck, murmurs soft nothings in the ghoul’s ear as she cries.

“Oh, pet, did he hurt you?” Her eyes find Randy. She points at the door. “Outside,” she says tersely, “I’ll deal with you in a moment.”

GM: Alana just sniffles and nods. She buries her face against Jade’s chest.

Support: He walks out, head cast downward. He’s also looking at the ground.

Celia: “Oh, ‘Lana. You know you’re my favorite little toy, don’t you?” Her fingers pinch. “But that doesn’t mean you get to lie to me. If I want you to suck off Randy while I fuck you, you do it.” She nips at her again, kissing a teasing line down her neck. “I had such plans for you later, such good plans, but if you can’t submit to my other toy how do you think I can take you out on walks and show you off, ’Lana?”

There’s nothing but cool disappointment in her voice.

Her ghoul let her down.

She ruined a special moment for Jade.

GM: Alana immediately comports her face at her domitor’s displeasure.

“I’m sorry, mistress. I’ll submit to him. I had other ideas, that we could do. All sorts of ideas.”

Her tone isn’t quite suggestive, yet, but clearly seeking to mend the damage.

Celia: “Tell me what you did wrong, Alana. I need to know that you understand why you will be punished for this.”

GM: Alana demurely lowers her gaze. She truly does look submissive, naked except for the collar and lead.

“I lied to you and disobeyed you, mistress. Sucking off Randy wasn’t important. Obeying you was important. If I can’t obey you, and do whatever you want, you can’t show me off. You won’t want to show me off.”

“And that makes you less happy, mistress. That’s inexcusable.”

“All I want is to make you happy. I know I’m not always good enough to do that, or good enough for you. I’m not Flawless, like you are. But I want to be. There’s nothing I want more in the world than to make you happy.”

She prostrates herself on her hands and knees, lowering her face against the floor.

“I know that you know best, mistress. I know that you’ll do whatever is best, even if it hurts. I trust you. I love you.”

“I’m sorry I let you down. Help me never let you down again.”

Celia: “You know that if he joined us now I’d have made it up to you later. I had such plans for later, Alana, when we would finally have a moment alone, when I could take my time with you. And now what? Nothing. Now you don’t get that sweet release, and now I have to punish my little toy. Do you think I enjoy punishing you, Alana? Am I a harsh mistress?”

She rises. She keeps her booted foot on the leash, preventing Alana from lifting her head.

“Randy,” she calls out. “Come in here.”

Support: He comes back in. His white gloves are crossed and folded in front of his crotch.

He looks genuinely remorseful.

Celia: “Alana has an apology for you.”

GM: Alana’s face looks crushed at Jade’s words. There doesn’t sound anything faked in her tears this time before Randy comes in.

She steadies her voice and speaks up from the floor. She doesn’t try to raise her head.

“I wasn’t hurt. I’m sorry for lying to get you in trouble, and for disobeying mistress.”

Support: “Um,” Randy says. “Cool. That’s okay.”

He’s pretty sure he’s still somehow the ass in this.

Celia: “You have two choices here, Alana. You can let Randy finish what he started and fuck you, or I’m going to take that collar off of you and you won’t get it back.”

GM: Alana blinks for a moment.

But it’s only to process the cruel, cruel, question, not make the decision.

That doesn’t take any time.

“I choose for him to fuck me, mistress. I want to be your pet.”

Her voice breaks. She still doesn’t try to look up from the floor.

“Please. Please have him fuck me. I want to be your pet.”

Celia: “You heard her, Randy. Fuck her.”

Support: He’s surprised.

And also a little weirded out. It was kinky before. Now it’s…

Is rapey the right word? He doesn’t think of himself as a rapist.

And besides.

It’s not like he can say no.

GM: Alana doesn’t move. If Jade wants her to move, she’ll get off.

Support: She’s already naked. He takes off his pants in a few, short movements. He doesn’t take off his boxers, though. Just takes out his cock.

He doesn’t fuck her face because looking at her would be awkward. There’s no triumph for him in this, even if there’s shame for her.

Celia: “Finish inside of her, Randy.”

Support: He does throw in a few spanks, though.

Because what, he’s not allowed to have fun?

Celia: Jade keeps her foot on the leash. She watches.

Support: He obeys. In a small, pathetic way, he’s grateful she’s there to tell him what to do.

GM: Alana yelps as appropriate. She moves around a bit, to tug at the leash and give a show. There’s less enthusiasm than with Jade, but she doesn’t just lie there like a wooden board.

Celia: “Such a good girl,” Jade says, approving. “Such a good pet to take it like your mistress wants.”

GM: At her domitor’s encouragement, Alana smiles, desperately, through her tears. She moves around more. She makes moaning happy noises. She tugs at the leash, harder, and licks Jade’s boots.

She still cries a bit, though.

Support: Randy isn’t crying. But it takes him an awkward amount of time to finish, and he has a feeling he’s going to want to take it easy for, like, a few weeks.

But he finishes.

Like a good dog she’s played red rocket with.

Celia: Jade waits until he’s done. Until his body gives that telltale shudder and he makes the face that guys make where they’re trying to hold it in but they’re secretly enjoying themselves and then afterward they wonder what the fuck it was they were just watching. She waits until he pulls out and his cum drips from Alana’s body. She doesn’t dismiss him.

Finally, she lets go of the leash. She lowers herself to her knees to look at the girl and puts her finger beneath her chin to lift her face. She rubs a thumb across her face to dry her tears.

“You are such a good girl, Alana. I am so proud of you for making this special for me. I am so happy you’re mine. I love you.” She pulls her into her arms, presses a kiss against her lips. There’s nothing chaste about it. She presses Alana back until she’s laying down, trails a line of kisses down her body. She settles between her legs and licks her until she cums, too, and the taste of her two ghouls is on her tongue.

She bites her wrist. Holds it over her toy’s mouth.

“Drink, pet. Drink and know how much I love you.”

Support: Randy puts his pants on.

Clears his throat.

Celia: Jade ignores him. Her eyes are on Alana. Her attention is on Alana.

GM: Alana looks beside herself with relief at her domitor’s praise. She cries some more into Jade’s arms, but they’re happy tears. She kisses the Toreador hungrily, desperately back, and shakes her head as Jade eats her out to make the bell go ding-a-ling-a-ling. She makes happy noises, too, alternating between moans and yips, interspersed with cries of how she is Jade’s toy, Jade’s pet, and thanking her. Thanking her for all sorta of things, no doubt, but she’s too short on breath to go into specifics.

The coup de grace, though, is the slit wrist. Alana falls on it like a newborn, closed-eyed puppy after its mother’s milk. She closes her eyes too and sucks, in timeless, total bliss, until her domitor finally withdraws that life-giving font. There’s that momentary flash of disappointment, like always, when the feeding has to end.

Alana closes her eyes and nuzzles her face against Jade’s lap.

“Thank you, mistress,” she whispers. “Thank you, thank you, for everything. I love you so much. I have so many ideas, for how I can be such a good pet to you…”

Celia: Jade lets it go on for a time. Lets Randy linger, awkwardly, while Jade comforts Alana, while she feeds her, while she soothes her hurts with whispers and kisses and gentle touches.

Finally, she lets go of the girl.

“Prepare a shower for the two of us when we return. Get yourself cleaned up. Be a good girl and you can join us.”

She leaves Alana with a final kiss, snapping her fingers at Randy so he can fall in line behind her.

GM: Alana’s face falls again as she looks up at the clock.

“Oh… I’m sorry, mistress, I’m so sorry, but… we’re past the time their ghoul said he could meet you, to escort you to the sewers.”

“You and Randy can still see him tomorrow,” she adds. “After the dinner with your family, the night before you see Lord Savoy. You can also see him after Lord Savoy. I’m sure he has even fewer better things to do than Ramon.”

Celia: Jade pauses at the door as Alana speaks.

“Then clean yourself up. Randy and I are going to have a word.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” Alana nods. She rises to her feet, leash still dangling from neck, gathers up her clothes, then bows and withdraws.

Support: “So,” Randy says after a moment. “What the fuck?”

Celia: Jade gives him a look.

“Take me home, Randy. We’ll chat.”

Saturday night, 5 March 2016, PM

Support: He keeps his mouth shut until he’s behind Ruby’s wheel and they’re zipping at unsafe speeds through the Quarter.

“What the fuck?” he repeats.

Celia: She’s silent. She doesn’t engage.

She lets it linger.


No radio.

Just the sound of the car, the night, the wind.

Support: He snorts. “Okay, take that tone.”

Celia: “Stop.”

Support: “I wanted to, back there.”

Celia: “Stop the car, Randy.”

Support: He stops the car.

Celia: She moves. She’s not as quick as others like her. She doesn’t have that supernatural speed. But anger moves her, and just like that she’s on his lap with her thighs spread across him and the steering wheel at her back. It’s late enough that no one is around to see when her lips part and she bares her fangs at him, hissing. Her eyes flash.

It’s an echo of their first time together, only now he knows what she is. Her hand is at his throat.

“Don’t. You. Question. Me.”

Support: He clams up. A small noise wells up from the back of his throat.

“I’m. I’m just. Saying. S-sorry. Babe.”

Celia: “You think I was too hard on her.” Her lips curl back into a sneer. “You resent me for using you, perhaps. That’s what you’re here for, Randy. To be used as I see fit.”

Support: “I—I love you. I know what I am. Just your driver. I mean, I did it. I’d do it again. I love you, doll.”

Celia: “So does she. Do you think that’ll prevent me from ripping out your tongue if you annoy me?”

She doesn’t wait for a response. She doesn’t need to; he’s seen her do it.

“You do not lie to me. Ever. Understand that. She lied to me. She was punished accordingly.”

Support: “I can’t lie! I’m a shitty liar! You know that, Jade. Babe.”

Celia: “Do you think,” she hisses, “that I enjoy punishing my toys? That I enjoy breaking you? Have I not been more than fair? Letting you race. Leaving your mother alone. Letting you touch me.”

Support: His expression goes flat at the mention of his mother.

“The answer you’re looking for is yes,” he says finally. “But I don’t wanna lie to you. You just asked me not to, right? I get that you can do whatever you want to me. But… I’ve met your mom. Your family. You’re good people. I don’t get why you have to do shit like punish us. If you don’t want to. Because you’re such a sweet person, babe. That’s all. I just want you to be happy, Jade. That’s all. And I know you don’t enjoy hurting her. Is all. Is that… okay?”

It’s there in his eyes.

The worry.

The tortured, abused love.

Just like in Em’s.

Celia: She is very still for a very long time.

Finally, she says, “She lied to me to get you into trouble. If I cannot trust my ghouls, then I cannot trust anyone. Now she knows to never do it again. Now you know that if you lie to me you’ll face worse, as you’ve been warned. You enjoy a very, very lofty position at my side. Don’t fuck it up, Randy.”

Support: “I don’t want… I won’t lie to you, babe. Ever. I promise. I’d sell Ruby for parts first.”

“You can trust me.”

GM: Alana said the same thing. Or would’ve.

You can’t ever completely trust what comes out of a ghoul’s mouth, Savoy had chuckled.

Oh yes, they’ll do anything for you.

Any sacrifice.

Any stupid thing.

They’ll lie and cheat and do desperate, stupid, things, to feel close to you.

“That’s always the challenge of having more than one,” the French Quarter lord had remarked. “They get jealous. So you’ve got to discipline them, my dear. A firm hand to keep those tugging hearts in line…”

Celia: The fangs disappear, but not before they slice into her own lip. She’s purring instead when she leans in. When she finds his lips with hers. Gives him what he wants, the blood, like she’d given Alana.

She’s not a monster. She recognizes what she did to Randy. What she made him do. They’d both been punished this evening, though the boy had done nothing but possess a hardened cock.

She really does love them, she tells herself.

Support: Randy tells himself, too.

She loves him.

And he likes it.