Monday, April 20, 2015
Now this was just not right. Cordelia had honed her vampire’s nose over the centuries. She knew living from dead, human from otherwise. Some blood really did taste better than others. And some beings should not be here in her club. Shapeshifters, for instance.
She’d expected the leaders of Talbot’s Peak would want to meet with her. A new player in the game always warrants attention. However, she’d also expected the courtesy of an invitation. A covert infiltration? That was simply rude.
Or it could be a rival business owner, scoping out her operation. Cordelia saw no conflict in her opening a nightclub/restaurant here beside the interstate exit. The Caverns complex was miles away from Talbot’s Peak, and geared for the exit’s transient human market, not shifters. Humans rarely ventured as far as the Peak anyway, and there were certainly enough of them to go around. There should be no attrition in the Peak’s customer base.
Truth be told, Cordelia preferred no shifters patronize her businesses. She couldn’t stand the taste of animal blood.
“All right, dahling,” she murmured to herself, “let’s see who you are.”
She followed her nose across the packed floor of the club. The multitude of people dancing, laughing and drinking warmed what used to be her heart. The Caverns’ opening week had been a definite success. If she could keep this up, she’d be reaping huge profits, and fresh human blood, for many years to come.
First, however, she’d best deal with the pesky shapeshifter.
She found him at the bar, a lean-bodied cowboy with a narrow face and big ears. The ears sparked a sense of familiarity. His odor, more defined now that she was closer, hinted at a similar kinship.
Cordelia frowned. That wasn’t possible. He was a shifter. And alive.
Just then he turned, as if he’d sensed her presence. He flashed a smile at her, full of gleaming white teeth. Her eyes instinctively focused on his teeth. You could tell a lot about a person by their teeth. His canines were long, more slender than a wolf’s, and very pointy.
The kinship in his scent finally registered, as did the clue provided by his ears. Well now, Cordelia thought. This could prove most interesting indeed.
She joined him at the bar. “Good evening.” Oh dear God. “Good evening” in a Hungarian accent. What could be more clichéd?
“Howdy,” he responded. His own voice also held the trace of an accent, from a lot farther south of the border than Montana. “You the owner of this fine establishment?”
“You have me at a disadvantage, dahling.”
“Perdon. I am Sandoval.” He executed a minor bow. How Old-Worldlian. Cordelia was touched. “I work on the Flying F, for Brandon Fledermaus. It’s a cattle ranch near Talbot’s Peak.”
“I’ve heard of it,” Cordelia said. “I did my homework before I moved in. Owned and run by bat shifters, correct?” She let her gaze rest significantly on his prominent ears.
He laughed with good humor. “Intelligent and beautiful. You’re going to succeed in the Peak.”
“I’m not looking to succeed in the Peak. Just here, in human territory.” She gauged the man’s eyes, his tone, his scent and body language, with the advantage of three hundred years’ worth of experience. “If this conversation is headed where I think it is, we should find somewhere more private.”
Every seat in the bar was filled, so she took Sandoval to her office. “Now,” she said, with the door closed and at her back, “you tell me what a shapeshifter is doing in a human establishment, seeking out a vampire.”
“A female vampire,” he specified, with a twinkle in his dark, inviting eyes. “You already know I’m a bat. Have you determined the kind yet?”
Cordelia tasted his scent. Aha, so that was the kinship. “A vampire is not a vampire bat, and vice versa.”
“How well I know it,” he said on a sigh. “But I’d hoped … The Flying F is mostly fruit bats, from Fledermaus on down. There are only a few of my kind at the ranch, and all are male. We have some true vampires in Talbot’s Peak, but the only female has been claimed by a rat with a cleaver. My brothers and I, we have difficulty finding women who share our … tastes.” Cordelia nodded in complete understanding. “So, when rumors of a female vampire arise, we investigate. Where there’s one, there may be others. You run in flocks as we do, yes?”
“Others, maybe, or so I’ve heard. I prefer to be queen of my kingdom. A solitary queen.” She showed her fangs.
Sandoval bowed again. “I didn’t come to threaten you, or to compete for food. We only require a few sips every few days, and we prefer to feed from beasts. Senor Fledermaus has been generous with his cattle. I came to offer something else. You see … ” He showed off his own fangs in a disarming smile. “I know the true curse of the vampire. Specifically, the male vampire.”
Cordelia grimaced. “Yes, there is that. For a man, being undead means the parts don’t always work. So what can you offer me, Sandoval?”
His smile widened. “A night of enjoyment and no strings. With all working parts.”
The vampiress considered. She hadn’t had a break since she bought the property. Building the Caverns had taken all her time. This offer certainly came housed in a pretty package. And solitude grew tiresome after many decades, as did celibacy.
Cordelia smiled fully. Sandoval gazed at her fangs as a human man would at her bustline. Yes, this could prove most beneficial all around. What better way to establish friendly relations with the local shifter population?
“I’ll need one thing more. Not that, dahling,” she amended when he tugged down the collar of his shirt. “Introductions. Your Mr. Fledermaus will do for a start. I’m sure he can set me up with the Mayor, and your business council, if you have one here, and anyone else I need to meet with.” Enough with the waiting already. Sometimes the woman had to make the first move. Such as now. She extended her hand to Sandoval. “But that’s for later. Come with me.”
# # # Employees tending to cleanup in the early morning hours paused in their sweeping and wiping to listen. From the depths of the complex, in the still-closed-off sections, came what sounded like high-pitched squeaks, and cries of, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” However, these workers were locals, and had known all their lives that the Talbot’s Peak area was a strange place. The monster elephant that burst out of the earth months ago had pretty much underscored that. They shrugged and went back to their cleaning.