The Accidental Vampire
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"There." Elvi sealed the lid on the last pie and stepped back with a relieved sigh. It had been a hectic two days, but they'd done it. One hundred pies. They'd finished more than half of them yesterday before staggering off to their various beds, then Elvi had woken before the others again today and set right back to work, grateful when the men had joined her again as they woke.
Elvi peered over the results with weary satisfaction. At least the visible results, most of the pies were already baked and sitting on shelves in the cupboard room between the garage and kitchen. There were also a dozen down in the cold room, waiting for their turn in the oven, and these last six here in the kitchen that she and the men had just finished with.
All she had to do was bake the eighteen left and box them and they were all set for tomorrow. And she couldn't have done it without the men. Alessandro had tried to rush, messing up more than he'd made at first, and Edward was a very slow, meticulous worker, but Harper had been a dream and Victor had proven to be a skilled pie maker once shown how to do it. So, shortly after Victor had joined their efforts, Elvi had set Alessandro and Edward to peeling apples and cooking the cherries for the fillings, and that had worked well.
"These look done," Victor announced from where he stood bent over, peering into the oven. "Should I take them out and switch them for three more?"
"Yes, please." Elvi picked up two of the pies from the table, smiling when Harper hurried over and picked up a third with his free hand. His other was holding a bag of blood to his mouth. As each man had finished their last pie, they'd moved to the fridge in search of sustenance. All except Victor, who had moved to the oven to inspect the pies presently baking.
Come to think of it, Elvi realized, she'd never seen Victor feed. It made her wonder if he had to feed less because of his age, or if he was just shy about feeding in front of others. She pondered the matter as she waited for Victor to lift out the last of the three pies in the oven. Once he'd removed the last one, Elvi slid in both of the pies she carried, and then turned to take the last one from Harper. When she straightened from placing it on the oven shelf, she closed the door and turned away to find Victor at her side, holding out a bag of blood.
"Thank you." Elvi took it, and then asked, "Aren't you going to have one?"
The sudden silence in the room was startling. All eyes had turned to Victor with an odd, expectant silence, but he merely shrugged and turned away, muttering, "Not right now."
Elvi frowned, noting that the men were all now evading her eyes and concentrating on feeding or throwing out the bag they'd just finished, depending on where they were in the process. Elvi glanced from one man to the other, then to Victor again and commented, "I don't remember you having any when you got up."
Each man had headed to the refrigerator for a bag of blood or two on entering the kitchen, fed, and then disposed of the bags before joining her at the table. All of them except Victor. He'd walked straight to the table without detouring to feed.
"We have refrigerators in our room," he reminded her, and then said, "I'll take these pies down to the cold room."
He collected two of the pies they'd just finished making and headed for the door to the basement. Harper grabbed the last pie, stepped forward to open the door, then followed him down and pulled it closed behind them.
"So, what are we going to do now?" Edward asked ending the silence in the room once the two men were gone. "Bake brownies or some other entertaining pastime?"
Elvi smiled faintly at his sarcasm. The man really needed some social skills. It was no wonder the other men disliked him, but they'd been wrong about his playing nice with her. She was the brunt of his sarcastic comments as often as the others. He really didn't seem to like others much. If he ever wished to get himself a lifemate, he really needed to work on that.
"Actually, I was thinking that I would take you gentlemen out for supper and drinks as a thank-you for all your help with this," Elvi informed him.
"Where?" Edward asked doubtfully.
Elvi shrugged, "Well, we could go to Bella Black's for dinner, or-"
"No, thank you," he said at once.
Elvi bit her lip, wondering if he'd just insulted her restaurant. "Well, as I was going to say before I was so rudely interrupted, or there are a couple other restaurants in town that-"
"Elvi, my dear," Edward interrupted. "I wasn't slagging your restaurant when I said no. I'm sure the food there is wonderful, it certainly smelled delicious while we were there. However, while you may be content to be the local pet, I'd rather not be stared and whispered over all night," the man said dryly, then added, "Eating or drinking anywhere in this town is hardly relaxing."
"'Pet'?" Elvi echoed.
"I'm afraid the Edward he is right," Alessandro said gently. "Is not so comfortable here with everyone doing the staring and whispering. At the play with the Knights, we watch the show, but everyone else, they watch us. Is better we go elsewhere I think."
Elvi let her breath out on a little sigh, dropping her contention with Edward's use of the term pet... for now. She did understand what the men were saying. It had been the same when she'd first returned, but had eased with time. Now that the men were here, it had started all over again.
"Well, we could go into the city," she suggested.
"The city?" Alessandro asked with interest, but Edward said, "Carousing with a bunch of drunken mortals isn't exactly an alternative we'd be interested in."
"Well, I'm afraid there isn't much choice," Elvi said with exasperation. "As far as I know, most people are mortals. You're the first vampires I've met in five years around here."
"That you know of," Edward pointed out. "Unfortunately, lacking in training as you are, I don't think you'd recognize an Immortal unless they bit you... which of course they wouldn't do because they'd know you were an immortal and so your blood would be useless to them."
Elvi scowled with irritation, wondering why he was still here. If he hadn't just spent the last two days helping her make pies, she'd have asked him outright to leave. He really had no chance with her as a lifemate. Even if she weren't already involved with Victor, Edward was just too annoying to suit her.
"Toronto is only two or three hours away," Alessandro piped up. "We could go to the Night Club."
Elvi opened her mouth to ask what the night club was when the door to the garage opened and Mabel led DJ into the house. Forgetting about the night club for the moment, she eyed the pair with surprise. "You're home early."
Mabel shrugged. "I left Pedro in charge. DJ and I wanted some time alone."
"Oh." Elvi was surprised, but supposed she shouldn't have been. While Mabel had intended on taking over all responsibility for the restaurant while Elvi got to know her "dates," she hadn't counted on falling in love with DJ, and that's what she'd done. By her guess, it wouldn't be long before the issue of turning came up and Elvi was hoping she'd agree.
"What are you guys doing? Going out anywhere?"
DJ looked hopeful. It seemed obvious he was hoping for some time alone with Mabel.
"We are thinking to go to the Night Club," Alessandro announced.
"What's the Night Club?" Mabel asked the question their entrance had stopped Elvi from asking, and then shifted out of the way as the door to the basement opened and Victor and Harper rejoined them.
"It is the Night Club," Alessandro said with a shrug. "Is bar, where immortals go at night."
"Of course, it keeps longer hours than mortal bars and clubs, and the beverages are more to our liking," Edward added.
"Hmm." Elvi was curious. The idea of a bar filled with immortals was tantalizing. She might meet other female immortals who could help her with things that a male immortal wouldn't even think of addressing. But her eyes slid to the clock on the stove and she felt disappointment claim her.
"Three hours there, three hours back, and I'd have to shower and change," she shook her head unhappily. "I don't think-"
"We can do it," Harper interrupted firmly. "I'll have my helicopter collect us. We'll be there in a trice. You get ready. I shall arrange everything."
"A helicopter? Really?" Elvi asked with amazement. She'd known from their cars that these men were well off, but a personal helicopter? Holy! The guy must be loaded. Her gaze slid to Victor then and she frowned when she saw that he was looking less than pleased at the idea of the outing.
"Yes, really." Harper gave her a gentle push. "Go on. Get ready."
"But what about the pies?" Elvi said reluctantly.
"I'll bake them for you," Mabel announced, catching Elvi's arm and urging her toward the stairs. "Come on. I'll help you get ready. You can wear that red dress with the slit up the side."
Elvi allowed herself to be hurried upstairs. It bothered her that Victor didn't seem pleased with the idea of the outing, but she was too curious to see this club for immortals to let it stop her. Mabel got out the red dress she'd mentioned while Elvi showered, then helped with her hair and makeup and accessories before helping her dress.
Elvi smiled as she peered down at the deep red cocktail dress with its short skirt and halter top. She'd never expected to get the chance to wear it when she'd bought it. All she ever wore was black at the restaurant and events, but she hadn't been able to help herself when she saw it in the store. Now she was glad she hadn't.
Once finished zipping her up, Mabel stepped back and grinned.
"You are so going to turn on Victor in that," she chuckled and urged her to the door. "Come on. You guys have been working like crazy to get those pies done the last two days, and I know you haven't got a chance to repeat the garage scene with Victor. Have fun tonight. You never have fun anymore, and you deserve it. So promise me you'll try to relax and have fun."
"I promise," Elvi laughed, her anticipation for the night ahead suddenly increasing exponentially. She and Victor hadn't even kissed the last two days since the arrow incident. There simply hadn't been an opportunity with all of the men working on the pies. While Elvi had known that, she'd still felt slightly bereft that he hadn't even tried to sneak a kiss or something here or there. Or slid into her room at night to rouse her with kisses and caresses. Without the real thing, Elvi had found herself suffering-or enjoying, depending on how you looked at it-some pretty erotic dreams. Dreams that had seemed incredibly real and left her waking panting and dripping with sweat among other things.
Not that she was complaining, it was better than the nightmares she normally had about her husband and daughter's death and her own accident in Mexico. Still, the real thing would have been more reassuring. Elvi was starting to doubt his interest in her and knew that was silly. He was the one who had claimed she was his lifemate.
"Ah, bella, you are perfection on the legs," Alessandro proclaimed coming up the hall as Mabel joined her outside her bedroom door.
"Does that mean the rest of me is okay but my legs are ugly?" Elvi asked with amusement.
"No!" Alessandro looked horrified that she might think so. "No, bella. You have the beautiful legs; so slender, so shapely, every man's dream."
"Oh, Alessandro, you're such a flirt." Elvi laughed, shaking her head as she led the way to the stairs.
"This is a bad thing?" Alessandro asked, sounding concerned.
"Not at all," she assured him lightly. "It's just that I suspect you're just as effusive with every woman you meet, and it makes it difficult to take you seriously."
"That is bad," he said on an unhappy sigh. "The Canadians, they are so sensible, much like the British. As are the Americans. You have no soul, no romance in you. Not like we Italians. To us love is everything and beauty is something to be celebrated. Women should be kissed and told they are bella."
"How long have you been in Canada?" Elvi asked with a sudden curiosity.
"Why did you come?"
"Why not?" he asked with a shrug. "We try not to stay too long in the one place. Ten years, maybe. We no age. Stay too long, it brings the questions. So we go. Another place, then another, and maybe twenty... thirty years we go home as a cousin, the son, or someone else. By then, those who knew us they have moved, or aged, or died, or simply do not remember us and we are safe for another ten years before we must move again."
"How awful," Elvi said with real sympathy. "I can't imagine having to live like that."
"Ah, but you don't have to," he pointed out. "You have the good setup here. Your people, they love you, and protect you from needing to do this."
"Yes," Elvi agreed quietly. While her life wasn't perfect, she did have a home she didn't have to leave and didn't have to constantly worry about hiding what she was, which allowed her to enjoy the love and support of her friends and neighbors.
"There you are!" Edward said with annoyance when they came around the corner into the kitchen. "We've been waiting-"
"But you are surely worth every minute of the wait," Harper interrupted gallantly, crossing the room to take her hand and press a kiss to the back of her fingers.
Flushing with embarrassment, Elvi glanced over his bowed head to Victor. He leaned against the low wall, his expression unreadable. She wasn't sure how he felt about Harper's gallant greeting, but he wasn't making an effort to approach her himself.
"Your chariot awaits, my lady." Harper settled her hand on his arm and urged her to the door leading out onto the deck.
Elvi had thought they'd have to drive to the nearest airport where his helicopter would be waiting. She'd thought wrong. With the other men following, Harper escorted her across the deck and down the sidewalk to the driveway, but then continued past the cars parked there.
"What-" Elvi began with confusion, only to pause as she spotted the helicopter in the school yard across the street.
"My pilot is one of the best," Harper informed her with pride. "He can land this contraption anywhere."
"So I see," Elvi said with a laugh as they started across the street.
"Have you ever been in a helicopter before?" he asked, eyes shining. When Elvi shook her head, he grinned. "Then this shall be a treat."
Elvi didn't know about a treat, but it certainly was an experience. One she wasn't entirely sure she enjoyed. It was quick, though, quicker than driving would have been, and it wasn't long before they were setting down on a helipad on the rooftop of a building in downtown Toronto.
"What did you think?" Harper asked expectantly as they rode down to ground level in a rather luxurious elevator.
"I think I need a drink," Elvi said honestly. The men all laughed as if she was joking, but Elvi was pretty sure she'd left her stomach behind in the school yard.
"The Night Club is several blocks from here. Will you be able to manage in those shoes?" Victor asked, speaking for the first time since her arrival in the kitchen.
"I think so," Elvi said, and was sure it was true. Part of her outfit each night at the restaurant included high-heeled black shoes. She was quite used to walking and standing in the items.
Victor nodded, and immediately returned to his previous silence, even stepping back for Harper to escort her as the elevator doors opened. She felt like a football passed off to the other man in a game and couldn't help resenting it. Where had his interest gone? The other night he was claiming she was his lifemate and now he seemed to be staying as far away from her as possible.
Hurt, Elvi felt her lip tremble, then bit it viciously and raised her chin as Harper escorted her out of the building. If he wasn't interested anymore, fine. She had three other suitors to take his place. Her heart cried out that none of those three men were Victor, but Elvi's pride insisted it would have to be enough.
Slipping off her shoes under the table, Elvi peered around the Night Club. She wasn't at all sure what she'd expected, but this wasn't it. With its loud music, flashing lights, and tables crowded around a dance floor, it could have been any mortal nightclub in any city in the world. Not that she'd thought there would be coffins for tables or upside-down crosses on the walls, but really, had she wandered in here by mistake, she was sure there was no way she would know it wasn't a mortal nightclub. "What can I get you folks?"
Elvi glanced to their waitress. Short, blond, and cute, the girl was no more than twenty-two or twenty-three. Obviously a university student earning her way through school-Elvi barely finished the thought when the woman burst out laughing.
"You must be a newbie. Honey, I haven't seen twenty-three for over a century," the waitress said, obviously having read her mind. Softening her words with a smile, she added, "The first drinks are on the house for newbies. And it's a Virgin Mary."
"Virgin Mary?" Elvi asked. She wasn't sure, but suspected it wasn't the drink she thought it would be.
"Blood of virgins," the woman informed her. "Very rare, very expensive, and very delicious."
"Oh. Thank you." Elvi managed a smile. She'd noticed a difference in the taste of blood over the years, some were sweeter, some were more robust, some slightly bitter, some thin and almost watery tasting. But it had never occurred to her that the blood of a virgin would taste different than a non-virgin. It made her wonder what the blood of a virgin would taste like. She'd probably had it at least once in five years, but wouldn't know by the flavor. Elvi supposed she'd find out soon enough, though, then frowned as she noted the way the woman was raising her eyebrows at Victor.
"Well, hello Mr. Argeneau. You're running a little late, aren't you?"
"Am I?" he asked with apparent confusion.
"Well, the rest of the tribe got here an hour ago," the waitress explained.
Elsie saw the panic cross Victor's face, but he asked carefully, "The tribe?"
"Etienne and Rachel, Lissianna and Greg, Thomas, and Lucian, and some girl I've never seen before that they called Leigh." She shrugged and continued, "But if you were expecting to meet up with them, I'm afraid you're too late. They already left."
"What a shame," he murmured, but Elvi got the distinct impression he wasn't sorry to hear this at all.
"So, what would you have to drink?" the waitress asked when he didn't comment further.
"Most of the people she mentioned are relatives of Victor's, his niece and nephews and their mates," Harper murmured as Victor gave his order. "I don't know who this Leigh is, but Lucian is head of the council and Victor's older brother."
"His older brother?" Elvi asked with disbelief, finding it hard to believe there was anyone older than Victor.
"He is one of the oldest," Harper said with a nod. "Lucian and his twin brother Jean Claude were among the very few survivors who fled Atlantis."
"Atlantis. Right," Elvi murmured, recalling their explanation of the nanos and where they originated.
"Would you care to dance while we wait for our drinks?" Harper asked once the waitress had finished taking their orders and left the table.
For some reason, Elvi's gaze shifted to Victor before she answered. His expression was completely indifferent and she was reminded that he had apparently lost interest in her. Forcing a bright smile, she nodded and got to her feet. "I'd like that."
Elvi had always loved to dance, fast dancing, slow dancing; she loved it all and hadn't done it in ages. That and the fact that Victor was completely ignoring her, his attention seeming always to be on another table or just moving around the club, encouraged her to avoid the table and dance most of the night away. As long as she was on the dance floor, she didn't have to feel hurt that he was being so distant with her. And could pretend she didn't notice when he slipped away for half an hour.
Elvi danced with all the men but Victor. Edward was very good at salsa. Alessandro was the best of them at fast dancing. Harper was efficient at them all, but it was Victor she really wanted to dance with and the only one who didn't ask her.
Despite her wounded feelings, Elvi had a good time, but she was also relieved when Harper caught her yawning and decided it was time to go. It was only two A.M, but she'd been up early again that day, rising at ten A.M. to work on the pies.
Aside from that, her feet were aching, her body weary, and she'd definitely had too much to drink. The Virgin Mary had only been the first of many. Every time Elvi had sat down, it seemed one of the men had a new drink for her to try. She'd had High Times, Wino Reds, and various other drinks she later found out were supplied by donors on some high or other.
Personally, Elvi would've preferred to stick to Sweet Tooth's and drinks of that ilk. She didn't care for the woozy feeling the other beverages gave her and was just glad she was dancing the worst of the effects away... or so she'd thought. However, when she stood to leave after finishing her last drink at the end of the night, Elvi found herself a little unsteady on her feet.
The walk back to the helicopter seemed farther than the walk from it had been, but Elvi got there all right and settled between Harper and Victor with a little sigh of relief. It seemed they'd barely taken off when her eyes began to droop from a combination of overfeeding and the substances in the drinks. She soon let her eyes droop closed, and relaxed in her seat.
"She's asleep," Harper murmured when the helicopter landed and Elvi didn't stir from where she'd slumped back against the seat.
"Yes." Victor lifted her into his arms. He knew he shouldn't. He'd determined to try to keep some distance from her while they sorted out who was gunning for him... or her, but while he'd stood aside and let Harper, Edward, and Alessandro hang over her all evening, it had been a sort of hell to do so... made worse by the fact that Elvi hadn't even seemed to care.
He'd originally intended to take her aside and explain what he was doing, but hadn't got the chance before leaving, and then she'd just seemed so okay with it, his wounded pride had refused to allow him to do it, reminding him that while he couldn't read her, neither could the rest of the men. Any of them would suit her as a lifemate and she apparently had her choice. Despite having slept with him, she may not have committed herself. After all, Victor had reminded himself, she'd fled the house after his announcing that she was his lifemate. Perhaps that was her way of telling him something.
Despite all of that, Victor would be damned if he was leaving her to be carried to the house by one of the others. As far as he was concerned he'd shown enough restraint for a lifetime standing idly by while she danced with them when his very blood had cried out with rage at the very idea. As for the drinks they'd talked her into trying, Victor would have liked to wring Edward and Alessandro's necks for suggesting them. And hers for trying them without asking what they were.
Elvi was far too trusting and was just fortunate the four of them were there, acting as a restraint on each other. He wouldn't like to think of her alone with Alessandro insisting she drink this or that and not telling her what the contents were until after she'd imbibed it. The man was a Cassanova, and though he was behaving himself so far, Victor suspected that was only due to the presence of the others.
As for Edward... Victor frowned. He had no idea what the Brit was up to. He wasn't the sort to try to get a lady drunk and take advantage of her, but he'd suggested an intoxicating drink or two that night. Although, that was only at the beginning of the evening and may have been an attempt to make her relax a little and enjoy herself. Elvi had been slightly tense and wound up at first.
They were nearly to the gate leading out of the school yard when the helicopter started its rotor whirling. Pressing Elvi closer to his chest to protect her from the flying debris it kicked up, Victor scowled over his shoulder at the bloody machine. Elvi had been obviously impressed that Harper had his own personal whirlybird. He didn't know why. Hell, he could have a helicopter if he wanted one but he hated the damned things. He flew in them often enough as an enforcer and always felt like his stomach got left behind and took hours to catch up.
"You're back!" DJ came running down the driveway as they started up it, his expression and tone panicked. "Thank God!"
"What is it?" Victor asked, automatically picking up his steps and moving more quickly.
"Mabel," DJ gasped, turning and hurrying back toward the house. "I think something's wrong."
"Mabel?" Elvi asked sleepily as DJ disappeared into the house, not waiting for them or even bothering to explain.
Victor glanced down as he crossed the deck.
Elvi was stirring in his arms, rubbing her hands over her face in an effort to wake up. She glanced around with confusion. "Are we back?"
"Yes," he muttered, stepping through the door Harper held open, and then all hell broke loose. Mabel's shrieks could be heard the moment they were in the house, the sound filled with desperate agony. It turned Elvi into a scalded cat in his arms. The only thing missing was the hissing as she suddenly thrashed around to free herself. Afraid she would hurt herself, Victor set her down, and then gave chase when she raced for the stairs.
"Mabel!" Elvi shouted as the woman's screams clawed down her back, leaving icy trails in their wake. She mounted the stairs at a run, hearing the thunder of the men following her, but uncaring what they did.
She burst into Mabel's bedroom at speed. Spotting the woman thrashing in the bed despite DJs attempts to restrain her, she hurried to the bedside to help.
"What happened?!" Elsie yelled, trying to hold down Mabel's shoulders. She was a thing in motion, head whipping, body convulsing, and Elvi couldn't see her properly to tell where she was hurting. Much to her relief, on hearing her voice Mabel's screams dropped to quiet moans. She continued to thrash, though, and Elvi repeated, "What happened?"
"I was trying to turn her," DJ said anxiously and shook his head. "But something's gone wrong. She's..." He let the words drop away and caught at one of Mabel's hands as she slammed it into the bed headboard.
"Oh, for Christ's sake, DJ!" Victor stomped to the side of the bed with the other men following. "Why the hell didn't you tell me you were going to turn her? I could have helped. There's no need for her to go through this. There are drugs and things we could have done to ease her through it."
"I didn't know!" DJ explained. "It wasn't planned. We were talking and she said she wanted to, and to do it now before she changed her mind. So I... did," he said helplessly. "I've never seen a turning before. I didn't know it would be so... Help her!" he cried as Mabel's shrieks increased in volume again.
Victor shook his head with exasperation, and then took charge, sending Alessandro to find some rope to tie her down, Harper to the nearest twenty-four-hour drug store to make the pharmacist give him the drugs that would help her through it, and sending Edward to fetch more blood.
"How long ago did you give her your blood?" Victor asked as soon as the three men had left to search out what he'd sent them for.
"I..." DJ looked uncertain. "It seems like days. I thought you'd never get back."
"What time?" Victor insisted.
"Maybe an hour after you guys left," DJ said finally.
"How much blood have you given her?" Victor asked.
"I-" He shook his head. "None. She hasn't got fangs yet."
DJ had barely said the words when Mabel proved him wrong. Elvi was kneeling on the top corner of the bed, leaning over Mabel trying to hold her shoulders down. She also had her head turned away, glancing toward the men as Victor asked his questions. She never saw it coming when Mabel suddenly reared up and ripped into her throat with a frenzied snarl. She sure felt it though... and there were definitely fangs there. Elvi managed a strangled scream that got the men's attention. They both immediately moved to help her.