“I really did love you, Celia. And look what you did to us.”
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Roderick carries Celia outside. There’s nothing affectionate or protective in his touch, not like the last times he carried her. She is simply a burden to be carried because she cannot walk on her own.
Cars are parked outside of Flawless. Gamberro, Melton, and the redhead occupy them, along with some breathers, perhaps ghouls. None of them look like nice people. Roderick opens one of the doors, dumps Celia onto the seat without ceremony, then gets in on the driver’s side. The cars take off.
Roderick hasn’t bothered to fasten a seatbelt. It’s when they round a turn that Celia’s limp body slumps off the seat and lands face-down on the floor. Carpet presses against her face. Roderick does not seem particularly concerned.
Celia: It’s a lovely carpet.
GM: He doesn’t talk, either. The car drives for a while. Eventually it comes to a stop. Roderick gets out. One of the breathers opens the car door and hauls out Celia. They’re in a suburban neighborhood. Everyone has pulled on masks.
“Carry her,” says Roderick. “I want her to see all of this.”
The man wordlessly carries Celia. The group approaches a house. It’s a nice house with a smart doorbell. There’s two children-sized pairs of green and pink rubber boots sitting outside.
Roderick sneers at the doorbell and pulls it off. One of the masked men takes it off his hands.
Roderick stares at the home’s dog door. The redhead looks at it too. Celia can’t see the transformation happen out of the corner of her eye, but where the woman once stood there is suddenly a black-scaled snake with a forked tongue. It slithers through the pet door.
A moment later, the front door clicks open, the redhead standing on the other side. Everyone files in.
It’s a nice house. Affluent. Big TV in the living room. Nice counters in the kitchen. Everything clean and well-maintained, but for a few stray children’s toys. No one turns on the lights. The group files upstairs, to the master bedroom.
A man and woman lie sleeping in the bed. The man looks in maybe his 40s. Dark-haired, once muscular, though his hair is starting to recede and he’s developing a bit of a beer gut. His blonde-haired wife looks a few years younger. She’s thinner, though starting to show wrinkles. She looks like she goes to spas a lot. She has that look. A woman seeking to slow time’s march at any cost, and even succeeding, but unable to forever.
Roderick seizes the man by his throat, hefts him out of the bed like he weighs nothing, and slams him back-first into the wall. He gasps and gurgles to wakefulness. His eyes bulge at the dark figures as he pulls at Roderick’s fingers. The Brujah’s voice has never sounded so cold.
“Name your sins.”
“You’re dead… whn… they… f… you’re… dead…” the man gasps out past the hand around his throat.
Roderick turns and shoots the man’s wife with a handgun, who’s already stirring to wakefulness. The noise isn’t as loud as past gunshots Celia’s heard. Silence? The woman’s scream is cut off, too, as Gamberro clamps a hand around her mouth. The scent of blood fills the air as she writhes and struggles. The man tries to scream too and struggles harder.
“Name your sins and I’ll let her live,” says Roderick.
“I’ve… killed!” gasps the man. Tears bead from his eyes. “Killed… people… stolen… please, don’t kill h…”
“You’ve killed and stolen. That’s all you can think of?”
The man wheezes and strains against Roderick’s grip. He’s turning blue in the face.
“You,” he says to the wife. “Nod or shake your head. Are you guilty of sins?”
The sobbing, bleeding woman frantically nods her head past Gamberro’s hand.
“Are you going to Hell for them? Think carefully. Your life may depend on your answer.”
The woman pauses for a second, then shakily nods her head again. Tears flow from her eyes.
Roderick shoots her in the head. The corpse rocks backwards. Blood, gore, and bone shards decorate Gamberro’s shirt. He laughs.
The man screams, or tries to, as Roderick’s hand crushes in his windpipe. The Brujah throws him to the ground, then shoots him in the head too. More blood, brains, and skull shards decorate the floor.
“Grab as many valuables as you can carry,” orders Roderick. “Jewelry, wallets, electronics, clothes, liquor, prescription drugs. Better if this looks like a robbery.”
“Better if it is a robbery,” agrees Gamberro.
“T-Bang, Manilla Ice, manejan esa mierda. Manejaremos los cuerpos.”
(“T-Bang, Manila Ice, you handle that shit. We’ll handle the bodies.”)
Two men agree in Spanish and head off.
“You’re coming along splendidly,” purrs Melton, stroking Roderick’s arm.
“We feel a bit like extras, don’t we?” smiles the redhead.
“Blood’s cooling,” says Gamberro.
The four vampires sink their fangs into the bodies and drink.
Celia: The fifth vampire stares unblinking at the carnage, not a flicker of emotion crossing her frozen face.
GM: The other four drink deeply, then toss the spent vessels aside. Roderick pulls up Celia’s staked corpse and wraps an arm around its shoulder.
“Kalani’s my lover,” he declares.
“She plays haughty and hard to get in Elysium, but you should see what a pathetically sniveling and eager to please little bitch she is behind closed doors. She was begging me on her hands and knees not to dump her after I found out she’d been fucking other licks.”
He smiles and tussles her hair.
“Don’t worry, Jade. I’m not dumping you.”
“You did beg me so pathetically.”
The other three snicker and lick their bloody lips.
“By my count she’s fucked two of you,” says Roderick. “Quite the slut, isn’t she?”
“Not that she is good for anything else.”
He gives her breasts an emphatic squeeze.
“No hard feelings over that?” smiles Melton. “We didn’t know she was yours.”
“No hard feelings,” Roderick declares amiably. “I’m less than confident you’d respect another lick’s property, but you didn’t know she was mine.”
“She, on the other hand, certainly knew she was mine.”
“You want to punish her?” smiles the redhead.
“You read my mind,” smiles Roderick. “This will be more satisfying if she’s un-staked, but I don’t want her turning into a bird and flying off.”
“Gamberro, do you have a saw handy?”
“Sure do,” says the other vampire as he produces one. Laughter dances in his eyes.
Roderick smiles, accepts it, and then methodically saws off Jade’s right arm. The pain is excruciating, like it was with Camilla, but Roderick’s brutal strength finishes the job relatively quickly as the steel chews through bone and muscle and sinew. Blood gets everywhere. Celia loses herself to her Beast, but all it can do is howl in impotent rage. Roderick yanks out the stake once she’s calm.
“There you are, Jade. Welcome to the party.”
Celia: It’s a familiar scene. An angry, vindictive man taking out his rage on a smaller, unarmed woman. There’s even a saw. Witnesses. Children in the home.
But none of them come to save her. There’s no daughter holding a gun, telling him to get away. No sire to pick her up and tell her it’ll all be okay in the morning when he tucks her in and soothes her fear.
Just her. Her lover. His new friends. Their eager, cruel faces. Watching. Mocking. A few minutes with her staked and he’s undone the image she’d worked so hard to cultivate, turned her into a useless whore on the ground with a piece of wood in her chest.
The fury burns hot.
Four on one are terrible odds.
She forces control. Forces down the rage so that when she’s unstaked she doesn’t lunge at them. Her arm throbs, phantom pain dancing all the way down to her fingers.
She smiles up at him. Apprehensive. Maybe a little eager. Isn’t that what he’d said?
A slow death. Veronica had said it’s the best kind.
“Thanks, babe. What name are you going by with your new friends?”
GM: Dracon laughs, then smashes his fist into Jade’s face. There’s a hideous crunch of bone as the force of the blow sends her crashing to the ground.
The other three howl with laughter.
Celia: She stays down.
GM: “She’s very jealous,” says Dracon. “And pathetically insecure. Who wants to fuck me while she watches?”
Melton and the redhead don’t answer. They just smile and pull off their clothes.
Celia: There’s a spot inside of her she can go where nothing hurts. She tunnels deep.
Someone else’s eyes watch the three fuck.
GM: Roderick fucks the two with gusto. He goes down on Melton first. He sinks his fangs into her pussy, mimicking Stephen’s and Celia’s first time. When the somewhat pretentious but good-hearted aspiring lawyer took her out on a date, to make her first time special, then used his tongue first to ease her in. He was so gentle. So considerate. Celia remembers Emily telling her in a not-so-long ago car that he was “just the best”. Or was that her?
Celia: Who cares. Stephen is dead.
Celia is dead.
They’re all dead.
None of it fucking matters anymore.
It’s like that beautiful vision she was so worried about that she made happen.
Maybe Celia’s even turned on watching him fuck Melton. Maybe she thinks it could be a great orgy. Maybe her fangs get long in her mouth because damn, that’s all she’s good for is fucking.
Maybe Gamberro wants to bang while the others do.
Fuck, maybe the snake wants to crawl inside her cunt and really give it to her. She’s seen videos like that before.
GM: Dracon kicks Jade in the face as he makes the Setite hiss and writhe with pleasure. The redhead buries her face in his asscrack. Gamberro sinks his own fangs into the redhead. He hits her, too, but she laughs and kicks him back, and they snarl and bite and rake each other with fang and nail as equals. Not whatever Jade now is.
Celia: Would it be weird if she fucked herself with her own arm?
That’s nice. She rises, picking up her arm.
GM: Roderick seizes Jade by her hair and painfully yanks her to the ground.
“Were you going somewhere, you stupid whore?”
Celia: Melton and the redhead must not be particularly good at sex if he’s still got half of his attention on her.
But it’s rude to gloat.
The thought is as fleeting as the hold Someone Else has on her. She’d thought she could burrow inside. Crack a joke about finding a vibrator or a pillow to hump.
He wants her to hurt.
That’s what this is. Revenge for everything she’d ever done to him. Revenge for everyone she’d cheated on him with. He’s doing it to her the exact same way she’d done it to him, and the memory of her pain at dinner thinking about Stephen and Emily dating is nothing compared to watching what’s going on in front of her right now. He’d replaced her with another night doctor, another Mafia contact, another… whatever Melton is. Sex fiend.
He doesn’t need her. That’s what he’s showing her, that he doesn’t need her. That everything she’d planned for them—helping him infiltrate the mafia with Carolla gone, being his exclusive night doctor and running experiments on the side, being a team… it’s all out of reach. He’d fallen in with the Setites. Found a way to dig the knife deeper and deeper and deeper into her. Humiliated her in front of potential friends with his words.
And now this.
She’d thought that he might have them rape her. The ghouls. She’d been afraid of that, being violated again after she told him how many times it had been done to her. Having the control taken from her. Thought he might have the others do it too when they were done, really show her that she’s nothing.
This is… this is worse. Like looking in a mirror, watching herself cheat on him over and over and over again, telling herself it’s an addiction, that she needs it, that it’s okay, that it doesn’t really matter.
She’s gotten so good at lying that she fooled even herself.
He’d set it up perfectly, hadn’t he. The murders. The saw. The sex. Taking out her friends. Not letting her get Dani’s sire. Showing her that… that she’s like he said.
A stupid whore.
He hates the crying woman act, but this time it isn’t an act. This time, when her heart breaks, she doesn’t desperately try to push it back together.
She doesn’t want to be this person anymore.
She’d tried to deny it. That she had anything to do with it. That it was her fault he’d turned out this way.
But it is, isn’t it. She’d lied to him the whole time. Cheated on him the whole time. Manipulated him over and over and over again. There was always a justification for it. Always a reason. Pleasing her sire. Pleasing Savoy. Addiction. Curses. Spying. Enjoyment. Fear. Power.
Whatever the case was, she’d been the catalyst. She’d ruined him. Savoy may have set up Dani, but Celia was the one who ruined that plan and made him double down. She seduced Carolla because she was so eager to prove herself to him after she’d failed with Dani, had told him how much it would bother him for Carolla to be Coco’s childe, and she’d… she’d given him the blood sample so that his pet warlock could do the spell on Carolla, thinking she’d done something good for Roderick. That she was helping him find the truth.
Maybe he wouldn’t have spiraled so hard if she’d been open with him. Honest with him. Given him Dani from the start. Not killed those hunters, because there’s no doubt that’s her fault too. She’d told him the other hunters had raped her. Had that been on his mind? Had that made him lose it?
She’s wanted to blame everyone from Paul to her sire to Coco to Savoy for this, but in the end the fault is hers.
She fucked up.
She hurt him.
And now he’s hurting her in the exact same way.
It doesn’t matter that she’d been lied to, too. It doesn’t matter that she’d been just as manipulated. She could have let the cycle end with her and she hadn’t. She never treated him like an equal. Just someone to protect. Someone she knew better than. Like a child. Or a playtoy.
Never a partner.
Never with as much care and consideration as he used to show her.
Never with love.
She’d treated him like every other lick she knows that she’d used and been used by in return in the never-ending, fucked up society that has become her world, jostling for imaginary positions at court, walking the edge of a blade to avoid saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong thing, laughing at the wrong thing. And for what? How much of it matters? They don’t do anything meaningful with their powers. They don’t make the world a better place. They cling to centuries-old dogma about “punishing sinners” or collect wealth or throw lavish balls, and she’d been caught in its midst, ensnared like the rest of the bright-eyed neonates who suddenly learn they’re immortal and powerful and beautiful forever.
And still at the bottom of a hierarchy that they’re going to have to claw and backstab their way up.
She’d hurt him. Betrayed him.
No. She doesn’t want to be this person anymore. She doesn’t want to be this person anymore at all.
Isn’t that a quote someone famous once said? Something about the most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.
She’d been waiting for her sire to give her the answers. Why her. Why Embrace her. Why choose her. Why do this to her.
But it isn’t up to him. It isn’t up to Savoy. It isn’t up to Roderick or Vidal or Maldonato or the Baron, no more than it’s up to a human parent to tell their children why them. She’s accepted the place they have given her as if that’s the only way it can be and it’s not. She’s not a round peg in a round hole, not another cog in the machine. She’s a person. And she has more to her unlife than what they offer with all of their attached strings.
She’d played the game. She’d won, she’d lost, she’d laughed, she’d cried. And now she’s done. This, here and now, the proverbial straw.
It’s all a lie. Smoke and mirrors meant to hide the hand holding the knife, an illusionary feast to cover the rotting meat and fruit at the table. She’d let them pull the wool over her eyes and thanked them for the pleasure.
“I see,” he’d said to her nights ago.
No. She sees.
GM: Does that fact bring him pleasure?
All he had to do for it was lose everything.
The four vampires fuck. Celia listens to the sounds. Smells the flow of blood. Feels the writhing bodies atop her, feels the feet and fists driving into her naked flesh as they call her degrading names. “Stupid” comes up a lot. So does “bitch”. That’s what she is, their bitch. She is kept on the ground, beneath them, as they enjoy their sanguine orgy atop her body. It’s not that imaginative, not really, next to the sexual torments that Paul and other licks could devise. Roderick never was a deviant like Veronica. Maybe he will be in time.
But this isn’t about raping and tormenting her, is it? He could turn her over to the ghouls for that. He could beat her for that, torture her dead flesh for that. No, this is about cheating on her. About turning the tables. About showing her how it feels to have a partner who betrays you, who pleasures and receives pleasure from others when that is exactly the thing you don’t want them to do. This is about showing he’ll not only fuck other licks, he can go to them to meet his needs too, for everything from sex to the Mafia to changing his face to to whatever poisoned counsel the Setites whisper in his ears. It’s about showing how he’s replaced he. This is about taking everything they were to each other and throwing it back in her face, like the foot he stomped all over a once-treasured necklace.
It’s about showing she means nothing to him.
It’s not so long ago things were different. Not even during their mortal lifetimes. She can remember even before that one Elysium, where he showered her with compliments and adulation. How he carried her throughout the room. Carried her to her car. Declared he’d wash her shoes after they got back from Elysium, because her perfect little feet should never have to touch the ground, and she should have others do her walking for her. Was it that time or another that he called her a sun?
“You make everything around you better. You know that? Everything you touch comes out with a coat of gold. The makeup is part of it. Making people look like their best selves. But that’s only part of what you do.”
“The way you gave Emily a family. The way you turned your mom’s life around. The way you brought, bring, so much happiness into mine. You’re like a fire. A sun. The closer someone gets to you, the more the more warmth and joy you bring into their life.”
“I love you, Celia. I love you so much.”
“I don’t know how I was able to spend so much of my Requiem without you, or how I could’ve been so stupid as to throw you away, but I’m not ever going to make that mistake again.”
She knew it wasn’t true even then.
Monday night, 21 March 2016, AM
GM: Celia’s not sure how long the orgy atop her body goes on for, but eventually, Dracon stakes her again. The four vampires dress themselves. Dracon spits on her face. Gamberro asks if he wants to get started really punishing her. Dracon merely says, “In good time. We’ve spent enough time here.” The others agree. They’ve left enough traces of themselves here. They gorily saw apart the dead couple’s corpses and stick the limbs in trash bags. They pick up the spent bullet casings. They sweep brain matter and chunks of head into the bags too. Melton runs her palms over the floor, the bed, the other bloodstained items. Beneath her touch, the spilled blood vanishes. The ghouls report they’ve robbed the house and taken everything of value. Dracon takes the bags of body parts with a simple,
“I have something special planned for these.”
Dracon collects the dead couple’s phones last (“The doorbell was hooked up to at least one of these”), then everyone troops back to their cars. Dracon throws Celia over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He unceremoniously dumps her in the car’s trunk with the bags of body parts, then closes it. Muffled voices sound from outside. Celia stares at the glow-in-the-dark escape hatch for how many times in the past few nights?
GM: Eventually, the car starts. Dracon drives. Celia is jostled around in the trunk. The part-filled trash bag rolls over her. She smells the blood beneath the plastic pressing into her face. A while passes. Finally, the car parks. The trunk opens. Roderick hefts Celia’s staked body over his shoulder again, closes the trunk, walks up to the entrance to Jade’s suite, and lets himself in with the keys. He closes the door behind him.
“Sloppy of me, to leave things unfinished here,” he says.
“But you’ve always brought out the worst in me.”
Celia: How powerful he must feel with his staked vampire.
GM: He carries Celia’s staked body through the wardrobe and into Flawless proper. He lets himself into Celia’s office if the door is unlocked, and breaks it open if it’s not. He dumps Celia on the floor, pulls out his phone, and taps into it. There’s a whir from the printer as it spits out papers covered with writing. Dracon waits until it’s done and sets them on the desk, then yanks out the stake in Celia’s chest.
He hands her a pen.
Celia: Whoever the body belongs to glances at the pages.
GM: They’re a transfer of ownership for Flawless LLC from Celia to Michael.
“Refuse and I’ll keep you staked until you sign.”
“You will be allowed to manage it for me so long as you are well-behaved.”
Dracon taps into his phone again. More documents print out. It takes a little while. He wordlessly slides them over when they’re done printing. There are a lot of them. They transfer ownership of the rest of Celia’s assets to Michael. Everything from the money in her bank accounts to her house to her car to her clothes.
“You will be permitted to make use of these things and to make withdrawals from the accounts while you are well-behaved.”
Dracon gives her shoulder a squeeze.
“I’ll take care of you, Celia. Even after everything you’ve done to me. But we need to do things differently from now on.”
Celia: Silently, she stares at the papers in front of her.
He hadn’t gotten it all. He’d thought he had, sure, but she has enough identities that a lot of her assets, including an entire haven and multiple bank accounts, hasn’t been touched. None of her investments, which she’s spread out over various aliases, or even the property she has in other parts of the city. Not her other business. Nothing to do with Legal Wings, which she doesn’t own but still has a hand in even with Randy’s disappearance.
But it’s… a lot. Everything in Celia’s name. Her first business. Her first lab. Her flagship. Everything she’s worked on for years to build into the success that it is.
It’s only when he touches her that her lower lip begins to tremble. She reaches out a hand, as if to touch his fingers on her shoulder, but falters before she makes contact.
“Why,” she whispers. “Why will you take care of me after what I’ve done? Why will you… why are you staying?” He’s already shown her he replaced her.
GM: “Because you’re a wretched, pitiable, broken, disgusting, insane, stupid, shallow, selfish creature that no one could ever love,” says Roderick, gently rubbing her shoulder.
“Not if they realized what a terrible person you actually are. Not if they saw the festering hideousness underneath the superficially pretty exterior. You’re the ugliest person I’ve ever known. You’d make other people ugly, too. Destroy their lives and drag them down with you in all your awfulness and hideousness when they got close to you.”
“We can think of this as a guardianship. Me keeping the rest of the world safe from people you’d hurt.”
“An open-air, one-woman prison with you as the inmate and me as the warden.”
“Or perhaps mental institution given your insanity.”
Celia: Celia drops her hand.
“What are you going to do with me? With Celia. With Jade.”
GM: “I will consult mental health professionals. I haven’t yet had time.”
“Celia or Jade, both are scum.”
“I don’t think I’ll fuck you anymore, either. Though if you’re well-behaved I’ll let you watch me and my new lovers.”
“I’m not even sure how to begin punishing you for all of the horrible things you’ve done. New lovers addresses the cheating, or at least starts to. But how do I address something like you blood bonding my sister or deceiving me about my brother?”
He shakes his head.
“I really did love you, Celia. And look what you did to us.”
Celia: Celia stares down at the papers in front of her. Her vision blurs pink and then red when the tears threaten to come, though she blinks them away before they can leak down her cheeks to join the rest of the blood on her face.
It’s been a messy night. But it’s not over yet.
She pulls the mask around her a little tighter.
“I know,” she whispers. “I know you loved me. I know I did this to us. I ruined it. Everything. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I thought tonight would… I thought I could fix it, that I was doing the right thing. I never should have lied to you about any of it. I just… I just wanted us to be together, to not have to hide it, to be happy…”
She trails off, lifting her gaze to his. She touches a hand to her collarbone, just below the tips of his fingers.
It’s gentle, the touch on his mind. The way she twists emotions to her whim, turning people into puppets, making them want to do things they might not ordinarily. Like trust her, the beautiful girl with the sharp smile. Or think she’s given in, that she just wants to be their friend again.
And that’s what this is, isn’t it? Celia submitting, signing over her spa, her assets, her very self. She’d told him the truth about everything earlier and he has eternity to get back at her now that she’s accepted her place.
There’s no need for the stick anymore, not when carrot will suffice. He’s beaten her. He can afford to be gentle. He’d done it earlier, hadn’t he? Friday, when he cut the knot and told her she was stupid, then offered her a hug. It’s the combination of hurt and comfort that breaks people oh-so-quickly.
And oh, how she bends. How she’s submitted to him, so quickly, so quietly. All he’d had to do was show her how much it really hurt to be replaced. All he’d had to do was take off her arm so she couldn’t run, so she had to face what she’d done. What she’d done to him. What she’d turned him into.
“Thank you,” she continues in a quiet voice. “Thank you for… for taking care of everything. Even me. Even after what I did. I’m so, so tired of getting it wrong.”
It doesn’t have to hurt anymore. She gives in. She submits. He wins, like she said. He’d punished her thoroughly tonight; he can be gentle now, gentle so she doesn’t bolt, gentle so she doesn’t try to stir up more trouble for him. It’ll be smooth sailing.
She’s so eager to please.
He’ll never see the knife coming. Not when he thinks he has her beaten. And how couldn’t he? She’s got one arm. He’s got a stake. She’s alone. She’s never been much of a fighter, anyway. He had always thoroughly kicked her ass whenever they sparred. Rotten luck for her that they’d ended up fucking more than fighting. She’s not even trying to pull that “crying woman” act he hates so much.
It leaks out of her while she talks, the very image of the submissive, beaten, broken enemy. The enemy that has finally spilled everything, given him every card in her deck, and has finally given up. She sees he’s right. She sees he’s been right this whole time.
“I don’t want to be this way anymore. I think… I think this is the right way to move forward, so you can make sure I don’t hurt anyone else. I want to be Celia again. Just Celia.”
She pulls her hand away from her throat to reach for a drawer in her desk. It’s nothing but an illusion that she creates around the thing she’s actually reaching for, the lotus blossom in its bowl of water, hidden from the sun just like Dahlia Rose had said to do to witness it bloom.
“Sometimes darkness brings out the best in us,” she’d said.
“I made something. A few years ago. I wanted to give it to you then, but… after we broke up I just… it brought me comfort on the worst nights.”
Celia’s fingers close around the blossom. Only it’s not a blossom anymore. It’s a doll, and it looks just like the boy he used to be.
“I used to talk to him. It. I just… I don’t think it’s good for me to have anymore, not after everything I’ve done to you.”
She holds out the doll for him to take.
GM: Roderick sneers, takes the doll, and twists its head off.
Then a sluggish look overtakes his face.
He topples over backwards, hitting the floor with a thud.
The crumpled petals of the lotus blossom flutter to the ground next to him. Celia smiles at the sight. She’d never told him why the flowers affect him like that. Even after she’d “come clean,” she’d still held on to so many secrets…
Like the fact that she is Lotus, and her breaking his heart as many times as she has manifested in a sort of supernatural slumber. His body’s defense to all the lies she’d told him, maybe. Shutting down rather than listening to more. Not letting his heart break again. It makes sense that it would be a flower. For Flores, the destroyer.
Celia moves from her seat, placing the lotus blossom against him to ensure he stays asleep.
Then she shoves the stake into his chest.
GM: It slides in with a wet slurp. The sharpened wood pierces through bone like a knife through butter, or at least flesh.
His eyes snap open, though.
Dracon’s are the same brown as Roderick’s. It’s a common enough eye color. Changing eyes is a bitch of a job.
Those brown eyes once looked at her with such tenderness. Even into undeath. All those nights they woke up together in the same bed. All those nights and days he held her close. She felt safe in his arms. She felt pleasure in his arms. She knew happiness in his arms. She remembers how tender his eyes looked when they promised they would always be there for one another, that first night back together.
“I want to tell you something. If things ever get bad here. Even if you hate me. If you need out of the city, if you need to hide, if… anything. Come to me. I’ll get you out. I’ll keep you safe.”
“And you know the same’s true for me. If things ever get really bad, if you’re ever hurt or in trouble, if you ever need anything… you can come to me. I’ll fight for you. Hide you. Help you. Whatever you need, I’ll make it happen. Whatever you’re in trouble from, whatever fights we’ve had… if you need me, I will be there for you. Okay?”
Celia looks into his brown eyes again now.
All she sees is hate.
Burning, furious hate.
How did it come to this?
Celia: Somewhere in her gut, a knife twists.
She would have. She would have helped him if he’d asked, if he’d needed her. Even now, maybe, even now if he were to… to apologize for what he’d done and said to her, to let her explain why she’d lied, to listen to her and believe her and trust her again.
They could have been happy. That’s really all she wants. Happiness.
Coco told her once that love between licks is the exception, not the rule. That it’s rare and it’s valuable and it’s hard and it usually ends messily, and what are you going to do when you can’t just move out of the city to avoid your ex and start over somewhere else?
For years Celia had thought that Roderick was the exception. That their love—such as it is—would be the shining example for other Kindred to follow. That it’s possible to love because they do. That even though they had both hurt each other they would be able to make themselves stronger for it, pull through on the other side, forgive even the worst of their sins made in ignorance or fear or anger.
She knows now that she and Roderick are not the exception to the rule, because Roderick has nothing to do with her rule. She is the exception. She, Celia, Jade, Lotus—whatever name people want to call her by, she is the exception to the rule that says vampires cannot love, that their hearts are as dead as the rest of them. Hers beats inside her chest night in and night out, and with every beat she knows that it is not dead. Romance is not dead. Love is not dead. A chemical reaction in the brain, but so is anger, isn’t it? And if she can be angry, if she can be sad, if she can still feel—and she does feel, she feels very strongly—then so too she can feel love, and it does not need to be Roderick on the other side of it.
She loved him. Maybe she will always love the boy he used to be. But she loves and has loved others as well.
She loves her family. Her mother, timid little mouse that she was, now a hellion to be reckoned with. She loves how fiercely her mother loves her daughters, even the adopted one. She loves Emily, for all that they don’t see eye-to-eye, for all their petty squabbles. She loves Lucy, innocent that she is. She loves her imagination, her larger-than-life attitude, her goodness.
She loved Randy, though she’d never told him. She didn’t love him like a woman loves a man but more like a cousin loves a cousin. Or a child loves a misshapen, mildly retarded pet.
She loves Alana. Loves her devotion, her affection, her willingness to please. She loves Reggie. Loves his strength, how worried he gets about her, the fact that he isn’t afraid to take what he wants, that he’s just as sexually dysfunctional as she is.
She loves her sire.
She has never told him. She will never tell him. But she loves him more than she can possibly put into words. She loves him like the moon loves the sun, for without the sun there is no light from the moon, and without him there is no her. He is everything. Her entire world. If she is the moon then he is the sun, the planet she orbits, the very universe in which she resides. She cares for him more deeply than she will ever admit to him, to herself, to anyone. She loves him to the last; she would forgive him anything if only he favored her with a smile, if only he touched her hand, if only he pressed his lips against hers. She has always been his. Even when he drops her. Even when he shatters her. She does not need a collar to pledge herself to him. She knows that he will burn her, that his frosty exterior will burn so coldly that it will hurt, and she loves him anyway. Not because she has to. Because she chooses to.
Celia is not the rule. She is the exception, in and of herself. Her love is a shining example of what could be, if only they would let it.
But not for Roderick. Not anymore.
“Hello, darling. Glad you’ve rejoined me. We’ve got plenty to discuss.”
Jade smiles down at him. She straddles his hips with her bare legs and pats his chest.
“First, though, a toast to our new future, hm?”
She sinks her teeth into his neck. She drinks. Deeply.
GM: Jade drinks.
She drinks so deeply.
So very, very deeply.
Dracon’s blood doesn’t taste like Roderick’s did. Similar, yes. That unmistakable Brujah fire. She knows the way it burns her up and makes her feel so alive. She remembers so well how Roderick’s tasted. There was a lightness to it. Crystal clear and hopeful and bright-eyed. The taste made her think of Boy Scouts, amusingly, and baseball games and Atticus Finch, who Roderick admitted was something of a stereotype for lawyers to admire, but damn it all, there was so much about the man to admire.
The taste of his blood even made her feel a bit smarter, too. Or at least silenced the bald man’s voice.
Dracon’s blood is like all that through a darkened mirror.
It burns her, still. Painfully. Searingly. She can taste the raging heat of his fury, but there is no righteous behind it. Just hate. Black and bitter with the taste of betrayal, of love poisoned into hate. It’s an altogether darker vintage. A stronger vintage.
No. She didn’t notice it, at the initial taste, but the sharp tang of righteousness is still there. She doesn’t think think that taste is ever going to leave his blood, the conviction that he right and just and all he does is for the good of the world. In fact, the taste is stronger than ever.
He thinks he’s better than her, too. She can taste it. Intellectually. Physically. Morally. Oh, how his blood wells with the taste of his pride and self-superiority, and his disdain and contempt for all that she is. It’s not the same flavor of pride that was in Caroline’s vitae—pride in birthright, pride in deathright, an entitled sort of pride. This is Brujah pride. A pride earned through his own actions and choices, a pride that swells nightly. There’s less humility in his blood than there used to be. That only makes sense after he’s started calling her stupid out loud.
And oh yes. Even staked by her trickery, even helpless and at her mercy, he still thinks he is the smarter one. The better one. And he will never trust her again. Not after this. Not in anything, not as far as he can throw her. All words to issue from her tongue are lies and pollution upon his ears. She offends him. He hates her. He hates her like he has never hated.
This is what poisoned love tastes like.
Celia: Poisoned love. Lies and corruption and sin. At her. Always at her.
Not his sire, who Embraced the Mafia thug and lied to him about it.
Not Savoy, who (obviously) had Dani Embraced to be a pathetic thin-blood, then pulled all the strings to put her and Carolla together in the same place, who’d bugged his phone so Carolla could find him, who made sure that Jade would be there to turn the tables.
That entire meeting with the four of them? Phone bugged. Tracker implanted. Both of them made to forget.
Preston’s claim that the party would make a good place to test Carolla’s blood once Celia offered to bring him? Just a diversion. Smoke, mirror, sleight of hand, a glib tongue by a grandsire who always knows the right thing to say.
She’d lied to him to keep him out of it. She’d lied to him to help preserve what innocence he had. She’d told him all of the ugly truths he wanted, and this is what she gets for it?
For all that giant brain of his, he certainly has no idea how the game is played.
And this! This feeding, this is nothing compared to the heady rush of Carolla’s essence. This is an echo of what it should be, like being bent over and fucked and the cock inside doesn’t even have the decency to hit the G-spot.
She could keep going. She should keep going. Take him into her. Absorb him. He’ll be safe inside of her. And he’ll be hers.
Jade pulls back before she can. Her grandsire wants him. Her grandsire wants him and she had broken him in order to turn him over to the snake. She had given up love. True, honest, real love. She’d given it up, given up everything, and she isn’t about to fuck it up now.
She wipes at her mouth.
“Do you know,” Jade asks conversationally, “that the online degree you mocked me for, that you accused me of half-assing my way through, taught me quite a bit about the body? It was a medical degree. Not that you asked. You were very busy telling me how useless it is.”
She smiles again. With one arm she reaches behind his neck, fingers gently pressing against the base of the occiput, then the cervical vertebra. She counts her way down.
“Physical therapy, actually. Kind of a combination of that and occupational therapy. How we move, how it all works together, how to make it better. I wanted to help people, you see. Probably because of what happened to my mother, really. And I have. Plenty of people. Everyone thinks I’m playing makeup but no, there’s been a lot going on here besides that. I never bothered to tell you about all my workman’s comp cases, all the very injured people I see. And how it’s given me such great insight to the body. In fact…” Something sharp presses against the back of his neck. It digs into his flesh, severing through cartilage, ligaments, and nerves.
“Cervical vertebra,” she says. “Funny thing about spinal injuries. They’re oh-so-very complicated. And us, well, we just heal it with a thought, don’t we? Nothing a bit of blood won’t make better.” She giggles. “But when you’ve got an actual doctor doing it? Oh, honey. It’s very, very permanent.”
“C1 through C4 cause full paralysis, did you know that? Get hit the wrong way, don’t wear your seatbelt once, and boom! You’re in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. Tragic. Truly.”
“And here’s where it gets better. Spinal cord injuries, you know, they’re either complete or incomplete. Complete means there’s no motor or sensory function. But incomplete?”
She lets him see it when she bares her teeth at him, lets him see the madness and hatred burning in her eyes just as strong as what burns in his.
“You can still feel everything.”
GM: Dracon does not answer her words.
He cannot answer them.
But he can feel.
Oh, yes. He feels the steel slice into his flesh, when his pale flesh is already a mask of ravenous hunger. The Brujah clan’s legendary Beast bursts its chains, and howls and rampages and gnashes its teeth, all from behind a prison of wood.
All that stares out from her ex-lover’s eyes is the Beast.
Celia: “Oh, bother. Now I’ll need to say it all again. You really are the worst.”
Jade huffs at him, then pats his cheek. She lets the monster rage. Lets the Beast have its way with the boy while she reaches for the computer on her desk, jiggling the mouse to wake it up. She checks the security cameras around Flawless, looking for any stray ghouls or cars.
GM: She sees none, beyond Dracon’s own car.
Typing her password is inconvenient with one hand.
Celia: Everything is inconvenient with one hand. She’s been considering cutting off Rod’s to show him how inconvenient it really is.
Jade types another password into the computer and does a quick search for what she needs. Then she lifts the landline from its cradle and presses it to her ear, dialing a number.
GM: Who is Roderick?
He died with the one beautiful truth left unuttered.
Celia: Dracon is a pretentious name. She refuses to use it.
GM: “Yo,” answers the voice from the phone.
Celia: “Hello, darling. Sorry about the mixup earlier. If I promise to make it worth your while can you swing by? I need a tiny bit of assistance and I’m a little short-handed.”
Short-handed. Get it?
She gets it.
She winks at the Brujah whose name she can’t be bothered to use, lost to the Beast though he is.
GM: Maybe he gets it.
“You changed your damn mind more times than my dad changes girls,” the Caitiff grouses. “This’d better be worth it.”
Celia: Jade giggles at the line.
“Bring a friend or two, you know I like a party. See you soon.”
He hangs up.
Celia: Jade dials a second number, this time to the ghoul who’s been waiting oh-so-faithfully for her to swing by for sex.
GM: It’s answered on the first ring.
“Are you coming by?” Alana asks breathlessly.
Celia: “I’m inviting you to come by,” Jade says to her. “Meet me at work. I have something fun planned.”
GM: “Yes, m-sure thing,” answers Alana. “What should I wear?”
Celia: “Something comfortable. It won’t be on for long.”
GM: There’s a delighted giggle.
“Okay. I’ll be right over. First thing. I love you.”
Celia: “Love you too, baby.”
Jade ends the call.
She leaves the Brujah on the floor and opens another cabinet drawer on her desk, pulling out the same bag of sex toys she’d used the night she’d turned herself into… hm, she needs a name for her masculine form. Celio?
No. Root name is Caelum. She’d looked it up back in high school when the girls kept giggling about Celia being a “fake version” of Cécilia.
They’re two distinct names.
Caelum, then. It’s just as ridiculous as Dracon.
Regardless of the name, the bag has plenty of fun things waiting for her, but she’s got eyes on the black leather hood. It’s difficult work yanking it down someone’s face with one hand, but once it’s on the Brujah is effectively blinded and his hearing is muffled at best.
GM: There’s little he can say or do, beyond stew in his hate.
Celia: The last thing he sees is her smiling face.
She’s just getting started.