The Accidental Vampire
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"I guess this means the first arrow wasn't an accident, and answers the question of who the target is," DJ murmured as he watched Victor pop another bag of blood to Elvi's teeth.
Victor grunted. In truth, he'd rather have been the target himself than see Elvi like this. He'd been frantic when he realized she'd been shot. Standing with her clasped against his chest, he'd crossed the sunroom, glancing out at the dark yard beyond as he passed the window. He hadn't seen anyone below, but the shooter could have been hiding in the shadows.
Leaving the hunt for her shooter for later, Victor had carried Elvi into her room to tend her, grateful that DJ and Mabel had chosen that moment to return home and that the younger immortal had come in search of him.
DJ had taken one look at Elvi on the bed with the arrow in her back, and promptly yelled for Mabel to bring blood up at once. He'd then slipped into Elvi's bathroom for some towels, and settled on the opposite side of the bed, offering support and encouragement as Victor began the incredibly delicate task of removing the arrow without causing further damage.
Mabel had arrived with blood just as Victor finished pulling the arrow. Much to his relief, Mabel hadn't gone into hysterics. She'd been upset and demanded to know what had happened, but hadn't gone about shrieking or fainting or anything of that ilk. Modern women, it seemed, were a sturdy bunch.
"Her wound is healing," Victor muttered as he switched blood bags. He'd already given her four bags and her wound was obviously closing. At least it certainly looked smaller to him, still she wasn't showing any sign of waking yet, but there would no doubt be internal damage to be repaired as well.
"The men are wondering what's going on," Mabel announced, returning from another blood run. "My bringing up all this blood has tipped them to the fact that something is going on."
"What did you tell them?" Victor asked, taking the blood from her and setting it on the side of the bed.
"Nothing, I just waved away their questions, and came back up here."
"They'll follow her up then," DJ said with a frown.
"They already have," Edward announced from the now crowded doorway.
Elvi heard the murmur of voices and wondered fuzzily who was standing outside her coffin talking. It was only when she opened her eyes that she recalled she no longer slept in a coffin. She was on her stomach in her bed, and her room was full of people. Victor, Mabel, DJ, Harper, Alessandro, and Edward were all there from the voices she could hear.
"Who would want to hurt Elvi?" Harper was asking with dismay.
"I don't know, but I intend to find out," Victor said grimly.
Elvi frowned, trying to understand what they were talking about. Hurt her? Had someone hurt her? She'd barely asked herself the question when she spotted the bloody arrow on the side of the bed and recalled sitting on Victor's lap in the sunroom and a sharp pain in the back.
So that had been the source of the pain. She stared at the bloody arrow and recalled the one that had narrowly missed them at the furniture store. Elvi had been sure then that it was an accident and, if not, then it had been meant for Victor. She'd lived in Port Henry her entire life. No one here would harm her, she'd thought. And still thought that.
Elvi briefly struggled with what had happened, trying to make sense of it, and then stiffened as an idea struck her. She turned cautiously onto her back, relieved when there was no pain. It seemed she was healed.
"We must find who did this," Alessandro said furiously. "They can not hurt the Elvi. She is good woman, so bella, so sweet."
"Yes, and we will have to guard her until we do," Harper murmured.
"Then you'll be guarding the wrong person," Elvi announced, drawing their attention as she managed to sit up. While there was no pain, she was feeling a bit weak and suspected she needed more blood to replace that used up in the healing.
"Elvi." Victor hurried to the bed, concern on his face. "You shouldn't be moving around yet."
"I'm fine," she assured him, but was frowning at the weakness hampering her and asked, "Is there more blood?"
"I'll go get more," Mabel assured her and rushed from the room as the men moved to surround the bed.
"How are you feeling?" Harper asked, his face lined with concern.
"Fine," she repeated, then admitted, "A little weak maybe, but fine."
"What did you mean we'd be protecting the wrong person if we guarded you?" Edward asked curiously.
"I wasn't the target," Elvi announced.
"Elvi," Victor said, shaking his head. "You were shot in the back. You had to be the target."
"I don't think I was," she argued pleasantly.
"Well, I doubt I was. They'd hardly shoot through you to get to me."
"No, but-" Elvi fell silent and smiled at Mabel as she rushed in with four more bags of blood. Murmuring a "thank you," she accepted the bag Mabel held out and slapped it to her teeth, giving herself the time to try to find a way to explain what she was thinking. By the second bag, she'd decided that showing would be more effective than trying to explain and slid her feet off the bed to stand up.
"What are you doing?" Victor asked, sounding alarmed. "You shouldn't be up yet. Allow your body time to-"
"I feel fine," Elvi said with exasperation as she took the second empty bag away. "I'm not suffering any pain, and most of the weakness is gone thanks to the blood."
"Yes, but a little rest wouldn't go amiss," Harper said, cutting off whatever Victor had opened his mouth to say. Judging from his expression, it hadn't been as diplomatic as Harper's words and she suspected he'd done the man a favor by cutting him off.
"Probably," Elvi said agreeably as she accepted a third bag from Mabel, then added firmly, "and I will after I make one trip downstairs."
There was rumbling all around at this announcement, but Elvi ignored the men and leaned to whisper in Mabel's ear. When she'd straightened and her friend nodded, Elvi turned to the men.
"Come with me and I'll prove I wasn't the target," she said, then slapped the latest bag to her teeth and headed for the door.
The men followed, protesting the whole way, but Elvi ignored them, merely glancing back to see that DJ wasn't one of them following. She smiled around the bag in her mouth when Mabel caught the man's arm and urged him the other way, toward the door to the sunroom.
"Elvi, this is ridiculous," Victor said impatiently as he followed her downstairs and into the kitchen. "You should be resting and recuperating, not-You aren't going outside!" He exclaimed, catching her arm to draw her to a halt when he realized she was heading for the door.
"It's perfectly safe... for me. Maybe you should wait here, though," she suggested with sudden concern, but really wanted him to see this too. Her gaze slid to the others. "Do you think you could position yourselves around Victor in case the archer is still here? I don't think he'll shoot if he can't get a clear shot."
"Don't be ridiculous," Victor snapped when the men voiced their agreement. "I'm not the target-Wait for me," he snapped when she turned to head out of the house.
Much to her annoyance, the men decided it was better safe than sorry and surrounded both she and Victor the moment they were outside. Shaking her head, Elvi merely directed them off the deck and to the back of her property. Once there the whole group turned to peer up through the sunroom windows.
"What do you see?" she asked.
"Is that the DJ in the sunroom?" Alessandro asked with surprise, obviously not having noticed he hadn't come out with them.
"Yes," Elvi said, noting that only his upper body was visible from this angle, then repeated, "What do you see?"
There was a moment of silence as the men cast perplexed looks her way, then Harper said, "DJ sitting in the sunroom."
"No, you don't," Elvi argued.
"Si, we do," Alessandro assured her.
"No. You see the silhouette of DJ sitting in the sunroom," she pointed out. "The light is behind the chair and prevents you from distinguishing features."
"True," Edward acknowledged. "But-"
"Okay!" Elvi called out to the house and the dark shape of DJ began to shift, mutating and then separating into a seated DJ and a standing woman as Mabel repositioned herself beside the chair.
"What just happened?" Alessandro asked with confusion. "Is that the Mabel?"
"Yes," Elvi said. "She was sitting on DJ's lap, just as I was sitting on Victor's when I was hit by the arrow."
"They wouldn't have seen you," Harper said with realization. "Just his silhouette."
Elvi turned to Victor. "They were aiming for you. I just got in the way."
When he didn't argue, but stood frowning at the couple in the sunroom, she added, "I'll call Teddy about this in the morning and see what he can do. In the meantime, it might be better if you stay in the house... and away from windows."
Elvi found herself harassed back into bed after this little exercise. She didn't argue. The little jaunt had exhausted her. She obviously wasn't fully recovered yet. Leaving Mabel and the men to debate what they should do about the unknown assailant who seemed to be after Victor, Elvi trudged upstairs to her bed and fell asleep almost at once.
Of course, going to sleep so early had her waking early and Elvi opened her eyes to a treat she hadn't enjoyed for a long time; sunlight was backlighting the dark red blinds of her room, not getting in, but lightening them to a rose color. Smiling at the sight, she glanced toward the digital clock and caught her breath. It wasn't even noon yet. She could go out and work in the garden.
Pushing the sheets aside, Elvi hopped out of bed and rushed into the bathroom. She was in and out of the shower and dressed in record time, and then flew from her room.
"Good morning," Mabel greeted her with surprise as she came around the corner into the kitchen-dining area. "You're up early."
"So are you." Elvi smiled at the woman. Mabel had started out working the day shift in the restaurant, but had found herself staying up later and later to keep Elvi company through the long lonely hours of the night when nothing in their small town was open. The woman had eventually adjusted to a later shift as well.
"'DJ and I went to bed right after you," she murmured. The blush that rose up to cover her cheeks seemed to suggest they hadn't spent the entire time sleeping.
Turning her face away to hide a grin, Elvi moved to the refrigerator and retrieved a bag of blood. She had the first bag while standing there with the fridge door open, then grabbed a second bag and slapped it to her teeth, closed the door and walked over to deposit the empty bag in the garbage can. Elvi then walked over to peer out the window while she waited for the second bag to disappear.
A little sigh slid around the bag in her mouth as she peered out at the sunlit yard. Maple trees, spruce trees and lilac trees lined the sides and back, interspersed with irises, rose bushes, climbing clematis and various other flowers. A birdbath sat near the back right corner by a white bower and as Elvi pulled the now empty bag from her teeth, she chuckled at the sight of two birds splashing and flapping around in it.
"Maybe you shouldn't be so close to the window," Mabel said with concern.
"Victor said I could go out in sunlight," Elvi reminded her as she threw out the second bag.
"Yes, but it will weaken you," Mabel told her. "You want to avoid it as much as possible."
Elvi snorted at the suggestion. Far from wanting to avoid it, she wanted to run out there and roll around naked in it. God, she'd missed the sun.
"Mabel's right," DJ announced coming into the kitchen from the foyer. "The more exposure you get, the more blood you will need."
"But I want to go outside in the garden," Elvi said and frowned at the childlike whine in her own voice. She turned to peer out at the yard, feeling like a penniless child staring through the window of a sweetshop, mouth watering over the sight of all those lovely treats, but knowing she couldn't have them.
"You can go out, but you need to be careful," DJ said soothingly. "You'll have to wear long sleeves and a hat and gloves, and stay in the shade as much as possible. And you'll have to double up on blood."
Elvi frowned guiltily. She survived on blood the townspeople donated and didn't want to burden them any more than she had, but she so wanted to go out in the garden.
"Go on," DJ said quietly. "Go put on a long-sleeved shirt and find a hat with a big brim. And switch those capri pants for long-legged slacks."
Elvi didn't have to be told twice, turning on her heel; she jogged back upstairs to change. She would restrict her forays into daylight, but she was definitely going out today.
By the time she was finished changing, Elvi's room looked like a small tornado had hit it. She'd tossed her clothes off, throwing them willy-nilly and leaving them where they landed, hopping back to the door as she was still pulling on a pair of dark slacks. Elvi did up the buttons of her blouse in the hall on the way to the stairs and arrived downstairs lacking only a hat and gloves.
Fortunately, Mabel had those for her. She also had sunscreen, and under DJ's instruction, slathered it on so thick that it was a series of white streaks on her skin.
Elvi suffered all this uncomplaining, knowing the pair were just trying to look after her, but the moment they decided they'd done the best they could to protect her and stepped out of the way, Elvi was off like a racehorse leaving it's stall. Charging forward, she slammed through the kitchen door and out onto the back deck, only to pause there and stand frozen, shaking with excitement and a little fear under the midday sun.
She didn't burst into flames which was a relief, and while the sun felt lovely warm on her skin, it wasn't burning hot or anything. It felt quite lovely. Elvi let loose a little sigh of mingled relief and pleasure, then walked to the edge of the deck, and paused again, her gaze moving over her garden, taking in everything.
Before the turn, Elvi had spent hours everyday in her garden; weeding, planting, pruning, watering. She used to keep feeders with seed for birds and used to leave out peanuts for the squirrels, chipmunks, and blue jays, and bread for the finches. Every day she spent some time just relaxing and watching the animals come for their fare. That all ended when she was turned.
The bird feeders now sat empty and neglected, most of them in poor repair. The birdbath had water in it, but only because it had rained last night. It was in desperate need of cleaning. As for the garden itself, it had grown wild over the last five years. One day wasn't going to be enough to repair the damage time had done. Two weeks of working from dawn to dusk wouldn't have been enough time, and Elvi felt her shoulders slump with disappointment.
By moonlight, the garden hadn't looked nearly this bad. It seemed obvious that she was going to need help with this project. She'd have to hire landscapers or something to do most of it, Elvi realized. She'd look into that next week, once the men were gone, but for now she could at least do some of it herself and see what was left of the garden she'd tended so lovingly before the turn.
It took a moment for her to realize where the voice came from. She actually glanced back toward the house before thinking to glance toward her neighbor's backyard. There was a privacy fence between her property and Mike and Karen Knight's, but the deck was raised a good two and a half feet, allowing her a view into their backyard. Elvi used to stop and talk to them over the fence before the turn, but between not thinking she could go out during the day and her evenings being taken up with the restaurant, she hadn't had a chat over the fence since the turn.
A smile curved her lips when she spotted Karen standing beside a basket of laundry on the other side of the fence. The woman was gaping at her.
"Surprise, huh?" Elvi asked wryly. Of course, as far as everyone knew, she couldn't go out in daylight. There would be a lot of surprised people in the near future. Karen wasn't a gossip, so the news of her being out in daylight wouldn't go far until someone else saw her.
Closing her mouth, Karen abandoned her laundry and approached the fence. "What are you doing out during the day? Should you be? And are you all right? You look awfully pale."
"I'm fine. The white is just suntan lotion," Elvi assured her with a laugh. "And, yes, I can be out here as long as I'm careful. Isn't it wonderful?"
"That's marvelous," Karen grinned, but there was still worry on her face and Elvi knew everyone would worry at first. They were used to her hiding from sunlight, it would take time for them to adjust.
"Is Owen working today?" Elvi asked to distract the woman from her concern. Summer would soon be over and school starting again. She knew Owen would be going back for one more year to pick up some extra credits, but in the meantime he had a couple of part-time jobs in the summer. However, rather than distract the woman from her worry, the question backfired, making the concern deepen.
"No." Karen glanced toward the house with a small frown. "He doesn't work until later in the day. He's still sleeping right now."
"Still?" Elvi asked with surprise. It was nearing noon.
"Yes, it's all he seems to do lately," Karen murmured with a troubled expression, then forced a little laugh and said, "Teenagers!"
"Yes." Elvi smiled faintly. Even Casey had gone through a period where she slept a lot.
"Well." Karen managed a more natural smile. "Does this mean we can expect you at the fair earlier in the day than you usually come?"
"The fair?" Elvi asked blankly.
"For the Abused Kid's Shelter," Karen reminded her and laughed teasingly. "All those men in the house didn't make you forget, did they? I hope not. Your booth makes loads of money."
Elvi's mind slowly recalled what she was talking about. The end-of-summer fair. It started Thursday and ran through to Sunday. Elvi usually had a biting booth and also baked-
"And your pies, of course. They always sell like hot-cakes," Karen added. She made a face. "I wish I could make crust as flaky as yours. You know Mike will insist I buy at least six and freeze four for later."
"Pies!" Elvi finished her thought aloud in a panicked voice, then catching Karen's surprised face, explained, "I forgot all about it. Oh, damn! I have to go!"
Whirling on her heel, Elvi raced for the house.
It was late when Victor woke up. He'd spent the better part of the night and morning watching over Elvi while she slept. The men seemed just as convinced as Elvi that no one would try to harm her and he must be the target. Edward had even gone so far as to suggest that perhaps he shouldn't spend time around her since it seemed to be putting her in harm's way. The hell of it was, Edward was right. If he was the target, then her being too close to him had got her hurt last night.
Sighing, he rolled on his back and stared at the ceiling. He'd been leaning heavily toward Edward being behind the attacks directly after Elvi was hurt. The fact that the immortal had been missing from the parking lot in front of the furniture store when the first arrow had been launched, not to mention that the men had been home last night when the second arrow was shot had made him briefly suspect him, but after thinking about it last night, it just didn't make sense.
Any immortal would know an arrow wouldn't kill another immortal, even if lodged in the heart. So long as the arrow was removed, the nanos would heal the wound, set the heart pumping again and the immortal would be fine... unless their head was cut off or something while they were down.
No, the use of the arrow suggested a mortal to him. It was basically a wooden stake with flights and a metal tip and mortals might think it would work if shot through the heart. As far as Victor knew, he hadn't pissed off any mortals lately in Port Henry. He'd only been here a matter of days.
Besides, what if the archer had seen Elvi move onto his lap and saw their silhouettes merge into one? The arrow had hit soon enough after they'd started to kiss for that to be more than possible. Which meant they were back to his not knowing who the target was and fretting over Elvi, which was why he'd stood guard over her while she slept, watching over her until he heard stirring from Mabel's room and had realized he was dozing off in the chair he'd placed next to her bed.
Sure she was safe with Mabel and DJ up and about, Victor finally took himself off to feed and then to bed. He'd briefly considered sleeping in her room, but hadn't wanted to do so without getting her permission first and hadn't been willing to wake her to get it. But now he wished he had. It would have been nice to wake with her lying beside him, to be able to roll over and slip his arms around her, pull her close and press his nose to her neck and inhale the scent of her. Their coming together had been explosive and he'd had trouble keeping it out of his thoughts ever since... until he'd seen the arrow protruding from her back. That had been a bucket of ice water on such thoughts, leaving him sick with concern and fury, a fury he hadn't been able to vent, but had been forced to push down and ignore.
Now he felt it tugging at his emotions again and resolutely got out of bed. Anger wouldn't help them in this matter. It would simply cloud his judgment and possibly slow his reactions. He needed a clear head to handle the situation and keep Elvi safe. Unfortunately, he already knew that a clear head would be hard to maintain around Elvi. She was his lifemate. Whether the other men could read her or not, in his mind she had made her choice by making love with him. She was his. His mind had already accepted that and was running on overdrive, putting thoughts and ideas and plans for the future in his head. A future they wouldn't have if she got killed.
It seemed to him that the best way to deal with the matter was to try to keep his distance as Edward had suggested. Keeping an eye on her, but not staying close enough to put her in harms way, and giving himself some distance in the hopes that his brain would be able to function seemed the best way to proceed. He wasn't happy with this bit of logic. His whole being was crying out to be close to her, but he was going to have to ignore that to keep her safe.
It was going to be a struggle.
After showering and dressing, Victor made his way to Elvi's room, fully expecting her to be lying peacefully in bed, getting the sleep he felt sure her body needed. Instead, he found himself staring at an empty, unmade bed and a floor with clothes lying strewn about.
Pulling the door closed with a snap, Victor turned and hurried downstairs, rushing into the kitchen only to jerk to a halt in amazement.
Elvi was alive and well and presently covered with a fine dusting of flour as she worked frantically at something on the dining room table. So were Edward, Alessandro, and Harper.
"Is this better, Elvi?" Alessandro held up what appeared to be a pie of some sort.
"Much, Alessandro." Elvi beamed at the man. "Definitely a seller. Put it over with the others to be filled."
"My crust keeps breaking," Edward growled impatiently, dipping his fingers in a bowl of some liquid and then rubbing them over a crack that had appeared in the crust he was working with.
"You're doing fine," Elvi assured him. "They always crack."
Edward muttered something under his breath, but repaired the crack and carefully lifted the shell into a foil pie plate, releasing a small breath of relief when he managed to do so without the shell falling apart in his hands.
"Well done," Elvi encouraged, patting his arm briefly before her gaze slipped to Harper's efforts. The German didn't appear to be having any trouble at all with his own pie. If anything, he was wielding the rolling pin and handling the crust with the finesse of a professional. And Victor wasn't the only one to notice.
"'You're very good at this, Harper," Elvi said curiously. "I take it you've done this before?"
"Hmm. I was the personal chef for emperor-elect Maximilian I when I was younger," Harper informed her.
"Emperor-elect Maximilian I?" Elvi asked uncertainly.
"The easiest way to explain it is to say he was like a king to the eastern Franks," the man explained with a shrug.
Victor didn't think Elvi was too sure she understood, but rather than ask for a history lesson, she nodded and turned her attention back to her own pie, deftly lifting the crust into an aluminum pie plate.
"Does someone want to tell me why the four of you are playing Betty Crocker?" Victor asked finally. His gaze then slid to the counter where some twenty pie crusts sat waiting to be filled and he added, "And who the hell are all these pies for?"
Elvi raised her head and offered a surprised smile. "Oh, good morning, Victor."
Spotting the smudge of flour on her cheek and nose, Victor found himself smiling back. She was so adorable.
"The pies are for the end of summer fair," she explained, answering the last question first. "The proceeds will go to help the Abused Kid's Shelter. I'm afraid I'd quite forgotten all about it what with your arrival and everything. Fortunately, the men were kind enough to offer their help."
"Harper volunteered us," Edward corrected with a grimace.
"It's only fair. We are here for free, eating the food and consuming the blood. Is little enough to make some pies," Alessandro said with a shrug.
Edward muttered something under his breath, but the fact that he was there helping suggested he agreed. He wasn't someone who did things he didn't want to, so it seemed obvious he was willing to help. Victor supposed the grumbling was purely to ensure his machismo wasn't affected by participating in this womanly chore.
He watched them work for another moment, then heaved a sigh and moved toward the table. "So, what can I do to help?"