Last Lady of Lună (S1, E6)

Season Content Notes: abduction, blood, sexual content

Nastasia

The first thing my mother had done after the destruction of our clan was to empty as many financial accounts as she could access. It wasn’t nearly all the clan had, but it was enough for her to take me, Ozanna, and Emil, and disappear into human society, with new identities. She then did her best to blend in with the human world.

Like so many up-and-coming yuppies, ‘Sandra Marques’ bought and remodelled a large home in an expensive neighborhood, moved in with her daughter and retired parents, joined the PTA, and in a few years was just one of the community. Her ‘cancer’ diagnosis when I was in highschool saddened her neighbors and brought in an outpouring of support for our small family. When she died, after a long and difficult battle, she left me her home, a secure place in a community suspicious of outsiders, and the perfect camoflauge.

At 18, with Ozanna and Emil’s full support, I set about destroying my reputation. I had lost my mother, had full responsibility for somehow saving our lost clan, was all but alone in the world — Ozanna said that if I hadn’t buckled under the stress she would have been worried. She was right, and if they hadn’t helped me find a ‘permitted’ outlet, Lună only knows what I would have done. Emil said that if I was going to be foolish, I should at least be smart about it.

So as soon as I was legally an adult, I tore up my college acceptance letters, dropped out of high school (and, at my “grandparents’ ” insistence quietly got my GED several towns over). I cancelled the neighborhood Christmas party Mama had hosted every year (which made sure that all the neighborhood knew what I was doing), and set about blowing ‘all’ the money Mama had left me on cars, clothes, and clubbing. I came home drunk a few times, Ozanna insisted on keeping up my combat lessons and if you think a hangover is bad, try fighting with one. But enough drinks spilled on my clothes that the neighbors who paid attention still smelled alcohol on me from time to time.

Honestly, after a year of being the bad girl, I’d run through the worst of my anger and petulance, and was bored of the clubbing every night. But I loved the clothes and cars, and by then my reputation was so destroyed in town that I could sign up for a few evening and night courses at a nearby community college, and as long as I was getting in way too late, the neighbors just assumed I was still partying it up.

In the mean time, Ozanna and Emil poured their woes into a few sympathetic ears. They tried to so hard, they really did. How sad their Sandra would be to see what I was turning into. They prayed every day that I would come to my senses. What would happen to us when my trust fund ran out… At least, the neighbors comiserated, I never got into drugs.

It was a different, brighter camoflague from Mama’s, but built on the foundation she had created. And the whole reason for it was in the back of the plain white cargo van I was parking next to my vintage Mustang.

Because with the reputation I had, it was just possible that I could move in five hot strangers — one of them old enough to be my father — and still ‘blend in’ as the town’s resident bad girl.

As soon as I started looking for the remnants of my clan, the clock would start ticking. Sooner of later, the enemies my mother had hid us from would find me. My mother’s ‘purloined letter’ method had kept us safe so far. I just hoped it would hold out long enough for my new sotii to figure out how to keep all of us alive.

With a nervous smile, I put the van in park and looked back over my shoulder to see Karen blinking awake. “Welcome home.”

Marcus

No one said a word on the drive from Nastasia’s hideaway to her home. If Karen had been awake, she would have been asking a million questions about Nastasia’s knives. But she wasn’t awake.

Karen wasn’t awake.

Marcus’ brain kept hiccupping on that. Karen wasn’t awake. Nastasia had told her to sleep, and she just… slept.

Nastasia had apparently done that to all five of them and knocked them out hard enough that she’d been able to get them out of the bar, into a vehicle, out of the vehicle, and tied up to a bunch of lawn chairs without waking any of them up.

This vampire shit was real. Really real. And he’d just thrown himself straight into it.

His conscious tried to say that he’d just thrown his team straight into it, but Marcus knew damn well he had an over developed sense of responsibility and the rest of the team were fucking adults capable of making their own (bad) decisions.

But who ever was responsible, they were here.

Literally as well as figuratively, as Nastasia turned the van into a driveway and pulled into a large two car garage.

Karen was waking up and Marcus caught her eye. “Okay?” he mouthed.

She grinned sleepily. “I need to see the sharps.”

Marcus chucjked. She was fine. He also figured she’d forget about the sharps in 3… 2… 1…

Nastasia parked the car. “Welcome home,” she said.

And Marcus watched Karen’s face blank out as she switched gears like a the pro she was.

Marcus felt it as well. As soon as they stepped out of the van, they were in business. His pants squished uncomfortably as he stood and signaled for Benj to get the door. He was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one and that would a subject for epic teasing within the team later.

Now? They done their job covered in mud, blood, piss, and sometimes shit before. After all that, semen was barely an annoyance.

Benj popped the door and hopped out, on point until they’d cleared the residence. “Room’s clear,” he said. From the little Nastasia had said, her enemies hadn’t found her yet, but they weren’t taking any chances. Marcus and Leyla followed Benj, then Karen, with Victor standing up on the tailgate to scope the room. Not that he had a scope.

Marcus opened Nastasia’s door, reflexively using his body to block anyone around them from getting a clear view of her.

“Alright, ma’am. You wanted bodyguards, you got us. One of us, usually Leyla or Karen, are with you at all times, starting now. We need a tour of the premises, then we’ll set up a temporary watch and who ever isn’t on duty will crash for the night. Tomorrow we’ll need to retrieve our equipment, review and reinforce the defenses here, and discuss your schedule.”

For the first time since waking up in that basement, Marcus was in control. His team operated around him like the well oiled machine they were. It wouldn’t last. He expected Nastasia would prove an expert at throwing him off balance. But he’d take what he could get.

“Alright,” she said, slipping out of the van to stand in front of him.

He’d seen her before, of course. Seen her when she cam back in for their ‘negotiation’. Seen her before she took his blood. But this time he really looked at her.

Early on, she’d said the Benj wouldn’t be interested in her if he could see her, and Marcus could see why. She wasn’t what he’d call pretty. Her face too round, her nose to large. She’s plucked and shaped her eyebrows, but it just made her eyes seem naked. It was a face face. But her hair was a silk curtain draping over her, all the way down to her hips. Large hips. And her voice… “Alright, Marcus. We have some equipment for you, and we’ll get whatever you need.”

The Last Lady of Lună (S1, E5)

Season Content Notes: abduction, blood, sexual content

Nastasia

Marcus’ blood was sweet and rich and hit my system like the Ozanna’s 30-year-old Scotch — but better. It sang through me, and I could feel my body awaken, my cells changing.

Have you ever been dehydrated? Really dehydrated? That moment when you first drink water, and it feels like your whole body opens up? It was like that, but a thousand times better.

I released him and gave him a drop of my blood. Enough to seel the bond, no more.

Marcus was the team leader, and so would be my first. But he came to me reluctantly, and I would take — or give — no more than I must until I knew he wanted as much as I did. I tried not to notice the effect my blood had on him. He had not offered that part of himself.

Karen had been first to offer her blood, and it was her I turned to next. She held up her arm to me, and rather than bend, I knelt down next to her. “Shouldn’t I be the one kneeling, sexy lady?” she asked, and I was still drunk on Marcus, so I giggled and told her, “We can take turns. Do you prefer to lick or suck?”

Benj groaned, and Leyla muttered something under her breath, but Karen grinned and said, “I knew I like you. Please tell me you have K-bar.”

“Only a few, but you can get me the whole catalog.

“Good.”

She said the pledge, and I drank her down, letting her pull me into the deep dark until I could look up and see moonlight dancing high above me.

I surfaced slowly, letting her moonlight wrap around me, and let go to offer her the same drop I had given Marcus, but she said, “Let me show you how I suck.” And I laughed and bit my arm again and let her take what she wanted. Her mouth on me was nothing I’d ever felt, and my core tightened as my other hand gripped her hair, holding her head to me, demanding more. She gave it, pulling me deep into her until she let go with a cry, and shudders swept through her body.

When she finished, I stood up on shaky feet and moved to Benj.

He blushed and wouldn’t look at me but held out his arm and muttered the pledge. I cradled his arm and spoke quietly so no one else would hear, “I’ll go easy. I know it’s your first time.”

That made him laugh, and he relaxed enough to look at me.

“They were right — vampires are wicked,” he said.

“Only to my friends.”

His blood was warm and as salt-sweet as his scent promised. It filled me with heat and made me feel like I could fly away.

Like Marcus, he took only a drop, but he opened his mouth and swirled his tongue around my finger before he leaned back with a groan and gripped the arms of his chair.

I gave him space, moving to Leyla.

Leyla had cut the back of her hand, and she offered it to me like I was a man she expected to kiss it. She said the pledge, and I kissed her hand, then ran my tongue across the already clotting cut. Her fleeting taste teased me, but I didn’t push for more. It was enough.

I released her hand, and she cupped my head, pulling me towards her. I let her guide me, still high, and floaty, and needy, and wanting more from this beautiful woman who teased and tempted me. She pressed her lips to mine, and I returned the kiss, opening my lips when her tongue teased at me, pulling her into me in a different way. Her tongue teased mine, then pulled back, and her teeth sank into my lip. Blood filled my mouth, and her tongue was back, caressing me, tasting my blood on my lips as I tasted my blood on her. My breath came hard and fast as we slowly separated, and I saw her eyes, as wide as my own, still locked on my mouth.

A line of blood trailed down my face as I turned to Victor. The silent watcher in the corner: his own blood trailing down his cheek from the cut he had made there.

That blood drew me like a lodestone now, the only blood in the room I hadn’t tasted. Hadn’t made mine.

I stopped just out of reach and waited. He watched me, eyes blown wide and breathing hard. I don’t know how long we would have stood there, but after a few moments, Benj said, “Victor, you have to use your outside voice this time.”

We both laughed then, and he offered me his hand. I took it, and he pledge himself to me, the words husky and confident. His blood was thick as cream when I licked it from his face, but he wouldn’t lick my face. He waited for me to catch up the blood from my chin with my fingers and offer it to him before he took it with careful swipes of his tongue. Before he had it all, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he leaned back against the wall, hips pumping. I allowed myself one moment to press myself against him, to feel his length and the promise of it.

Then I stepped back, pushing aside my own arousal, my own need. My mother warned me that the taking of sotii could turn into an orgy. But they had not agreed to that. Not yet.

Maybe never.

Karen

Karen wasn’t completely oblivious to social stuff. People thought she was, and they were mostly right. It came in handy sometimes.

Yes, she was obsessed with sharps — why wasn’t everyone? — and yes, she could be a bull in a china shop. But she also did read romance novels, and she spent a lot of her time watching people, trying to understand them.

All the biting and blood stuff had been ridiculously sexy. Way beyond anything that made sense. She was pretty sure she’d seen Marcus’ O-face. Don’t ask how she knew what Marcus’ O-face looked like. If he hadn’t wanted her picking his lock, he shouldn’t have taken her knives.

And she had seen the lost expression on Nastasia’s face. Like with the sexy blood magic letting them go, she hadn’t been sure what to do.

Karen had to do something to pull Dracu-lady from the sad ‘I’m not getting sex’ thoughts she was pretty sure Nastasia was having. Luckily, she knew exactly what to do — be herself.

“So. Knives?”

Yeah, Marcus glared at her, and Benj groaned (not the sexy kind). But Nastasia had looked at her and smiled. So that was okay. (Karen realized her thoughts were a bit weird. Almost manic? That was okay too. Sexy vampire magic stuff had been happening. Vampire blood tasted like chocolate.)

“Sure, Karen,” Nastasia said. “Let’s get you all cleaned up, and I’ll take you home to see my knives.”

It didn’t take them long to get cleaned up, and the van was in the garage just as Nastasia had promised. Cargo van, but that was okay. They all piled in, and Nastasia took the wheel.

The moon was high in the sky, so it really was late. At least by human standards. Karen started putting together a timeline for the night and smacked herself in the head.

“Hey, vamp-lady? You never did tell us how you managed to drug us.”

Nastasia caught Karen’s eyes in the mirror and grinned. “I never said I drugged you. Sleep, Karen.”

Karen was about to say that there was no way she was falling asleep when the world started going dark.

Vampire mind powers. Awesome.

The Last Lady of Lună (S1 E3)

Season Content Notes: abduction, blood

Karen

The moment the door closed behind Nastasia, Karen started slicing herself loose. It took her a minute — the knife was shit, but the ropes weren’t.

Around her, the rest of the team was talking, but she barely noticed. Knives always focused her. Knives and timelines.

Right now, her timeline was about 10 minutes to get everyone loose. Ten minutes was longer than she liked, but they’d agreed to keep the blindfolds on, and that would slow her down.

The rope parted under her knife, fiber by fiber. With a last tug, the rope holding her upper body to the chair dropped away. She bent over to work on the ties around her ankles. Wrenched her right shoulder a bit, but that was okay.

It was damn good, actually.

This Nastasia was an amateur. But she’d done a better job tying them up than most professionals. And that was after taking them down without anyone noticing.

Karen liked that. She liked testing herself, pushing her limits. She really liked the rare person who could push her past her limits and put her in her place.

She didn’t know about this vampire business. Didn’t seem possible. But if they did stick around… well, that might be fun.

Her ankles went faster, better leverage. Then she was out of the chair and working on the last rope that still held her right wrist in place. Damn good ties.

Victor was to her right. She felt around for his wrist a moment, then started cutting him loose.

“Karen!”

Marcus’ voice reached through her focus. Without her earpiece, she’d tuned them out so hard she hadn’t heard them calling her.

“Sorry, Marcus. I need my comms.”

“I know, Karen, but try to stick with us. You still have the blindfold on?”

“Affirmative.” Victor’s hand was loose. He tapped her arm and, reluctantly, she gave him the knife. She didn’t like giving anyone her knives, but it wasn’t her knife. Not really. “I’m back.”

Benj would take longer to cut everyone loose, but they had time.

“Alright. We’re going to sit tight a bit and get everyone free. Then we’ll assess. Keep the blinds on for now. We can manage well enough for a bit, and we don’t want to back Nastasia into a corner if we can avoid it.”

They all agreed, and Karen felt her way back to the chair she had been in.

“So, Leyla,” she said as she sat down. “Vampires?”

***

Victor

Victor had his blindfold off the moment Nastasia closed the door behind her. He hadn’t been going to screw the deal for his team, but he was a marksman, damnit. He needed to see.

By the time Karen had him loose, he had a good sense of the room they were in. It was a half-finished basement. One doorway, but a couple of small windows near the ceiling, dark outside. Not big enough for most people to fit through, but someone with bad intentions could chuck a grenade in. Victor would be damned if the lights in the ceiling weren’t fluorescents, but they didn’t make that buzzing noise everyone hates so much. Maybe a new kind of LED? The chairs they were tied to were the cushioned metal things rich people used around a pool. The table was old battered wood. More battered now that Karen had carved it up a bit.

He listened to the discussion with half an ear.

“It was that job in Germany I never talk about,” Leyla was saying, “The job went weird, and I ended up with a couple of vampires, of all things, helping me cover the principal. They didn’t say much, but I picked up a few things. They called themselves Clan Tunet. Good folks in a fight; they said if I ever made it back Germany to look them up.”

“So, you think she’s the real deal?” Marcus asked.

“Easy enough for her to prove it,” Benj put in. “You like it rough, boss?”

Victor yanked a bit harder than he needed to on the ropes holding Benj. “The lady’s a lady.”

Benj laughed. “The lady got to you too, huh? Come on, Vic, tell me you wouldn’t mind hearing what that voice sounds like when she’s writhing in bed.”

“Enough,” Marcus said.

Victor moved on from Benj to get Leyla loose.

“Save your sex fantasies until we get out of here, Benj,” Marcus continued.

“Are we getting out of here?” Karen asked.

No one said anything for a moment.

“Assess first,” Leyla said. “Status?”

“Good,” Victor replied.

“Sore, but okay.”

“No injuries.”

“Give me my knife back.”

“Ready to rumble.”

“Sitrep,” that was Marcus.

“Everyone’s loose. No known hostiles,” Victor said. “We’ve got one exit and a couple of threat points visible.”

Marcus’ head swiveled like a gun coming to bear. Victor could feel his glare through the blindfold Marcus wore. Since Marcus couldn’t see him anyway, Victor let himself smile.

“You took the blindfold off. What the hell, Victor?”

Victor took a deep breath.

“I’m staying.” That lady was in trouble, and he’d never been able to refuse a woman in need. It had gotten him in trouble more than once, but that was okay.

The vampire thing, though. That was what had really tipped the scales.

“Fuck.”

The last rope fell off Leyla, and Victor passed the knife back to Karen. Rather than sitting down again, he moved to the corner of the room furthest from the door. From there, he had a good view of the table, the door, and the windows. Not that it did him much good without a gun, but at least he wouldn’t be taken by surprise.

“Oh, come on, does anyone really want to leave?” Leyla looked at all of them. “I know we feel like we should. We’ve got lives, right? And a contract. But do we want to?”

The little minx had balls, setting out to seduce Marcus like that.

Karen flipped the knife, and it whirled, flashing in the air, to land with a solid ‘thunk’ back in her palm. Victor looked away and thought of cold showers. He’d had a lot of practice at it. You don’t tell your teammate that the way she handles sharps gets you all hot and bothered. “I want to get her better knives. The balance on this…” she shook her head.

Benj sighed and leaned back in the chair, slumping a bit. The damn joker was about to get real.

“Marcus, I know you’ll die before you take a desk job. But that’s just it — You. Will. Die. Yeah, I have the hots for that lady and don’t try to tell me you don’t. But we all know upstairs wanted you to retire from the field three years ago.

“If Ms Nastasia really has some kind of vampire fountain of youth — I want that for you. You looked out for me from the moment I joined the team.

“My turn now.”

And that was why Victor liked having Benj on the team.

***

Nastasia

I hadn’t expected them to be there when I returned, but I could hear their voices through the door. They weren’t loud. Tense, but not arguing or angry. Someone laughed. It was deep and rough and went right through me. I wanted to hear that laugh again. I wanted to make them laugh.

I didn’t even know who it was.

As soon as I pushed open the door open, the talk quieted. Four of the team had stayed where I’d left them — but they were all loose, and none were wearing blindfolds. And one of the chairs was empty.

Victor was missing.

I stepped back, but Marcus held up a hand. “You wanted to negotiate a contract? This is how we do it.”

I nearly snarled.

I looked around the room — Victor was in the corner, watching. All of them met my eyes and smiled or nodded.

I should have been ecstatic — they were staying. I had them.

But I wanted sotii, not… employees.

Instead, I took a deep breath, strode to the table, and sat down.

They didn’t understand, but that was alright. We would have years to work everything out.

“I don’t, actually. Want to negotiate a contract. I want you to accept a position in my clan.” I leaned back in my chair and tried to remember everything my mother taught me about negotiating. Most important right now: understand what the other folks want and what you are willing to sacrifice. “But if you want a contract, I can work with that.”

Marcus nodded. “Leyla has apparently worked with… ah… vampires before.”

I stiffened and turned to Leyla. “Who?” I cut off whatever Marcus was about to say.

Leyla smiled, her eyes soft. “I should have thought, you have enemies. Of course, you’d worry. It was in Germany, Clan Tunet, I think. The celebrity I was guarding had some connection with their clan. I still have a phone number, but it was purely professional. I haven’t spoken with anyone since.”

Tunet. “I don’t know Tunet.” I shook my head. Ozanna might know something. “My clan’s enemies were all on this continent.”

Leyla’s smile brightened, and my heart flip-flopped. “See, we’re all good.”

Marcus cleared his throat. “Like I said, Leyla has had contact before, but the rest of us haven’t. Before we get into actual negotiations, I’d like to ah… that is…”

I giggled. I’d been expecting the question. Hadn’t expected to be so amused by serious, sober Marcus tripping over his tongue. “You want proof that I’m not crazy, right?”

“Yes.”

With a thought — well, actually with a flexing of some special muscles — my canines extended. Marcus tensed, and Benj swore. Karen stopped tossing the knife for a moment. If Victor reacted, I didn’t notice.

I didn’t say anything — talking with teeth so long you can’t close your lips is awkward at best. I just gave them all a few moments to get a good look, then bit the meat of my forearm. It was awkward. In Hollywood, they show vampires biting down near the wrist, which, yeah, veins. But also tendons and bones. Trust me, you’re less likely to really hurt someone biting closer to the middle. But it’s not an easy spot to reach on yourself.

I let go immediately — drinking my own blood wouldn’t do anything for me, and I had a point to make. My blood dripped onto the table.

Raising my eyebrows, I looked at Marcus. Who was too busy staring at the blood to notice.

Hollywood also says that we have something in our saliva to make wounds stop bleeding. Sounds nice, right? Wrong. If our saliva stopped bleeding, we’d never get any blood. Our saliva actually does the opposite — as long as my mouth is on a wound, it won’t stop.

Or so I’ve been told. I wasn’t old enough when the dads’ died to see them with mom, and Ozanna fed Elin in private.

What we do have is some fast healing. So my bite scabs over pretty quickly.

“No, I am not crazy.”

The Last Lady of Lună (S1, E2)

Season Content Notes: abduction, blood

Nastasia

“I am a vampire.

“And I can make you — or keep you — young.”

The room was silent. So silent, I could hear their heartbeats. I looked around the table, and my heart clenched. Their faces, even hidden by blindfolds, were familiar to me.

Karen’s heart-shaped face was pine dark, and I was probably lucky I couldn’t see her eyes just now. They glinted like sunlight through the pine boughs and were just as entrancing.

Victor was lanky and thin, his nose as sharp as a falcon’s beak. Fitting since he was the sharpshooter of the team. Noses shouldn’t be sexy.

Marcus, skin as dark as my hair and lean, with that incongruous blond hair cut so short it looked like feathers. Would it feel like feathers too?

Leyla’s face was round as Lună and tanned like a surfer, her black curls tamed into tight braids.

Benj was pale with dark brown hair and eyes, much like my own people. But it was his mouth I loved: a sensual bow always quirked with humor. Almost always. I’d managed to wipe the humor away.

I felt like I already knew them, and Luna’s approval sang in my blood. But they weren’t mine yet, and they might never be.

“You’re right, Nastasia, that is a… very interesting benefits package,” Marcus said, his light tenor calm and just the slightest bit patronizing. “But we’re happy with our current employer.”

I slumped. I couldn’t help it. “You don’t believe me. You think I’m crazy.”

“No one said that, Nastasia–”

Snorting, I pushed my chair back and stood up. “I don’t like being patronized. I like being treated like a fool even less.”

“I think we’ve been real patient, Nastasia.” Marcus wasn’t sounding so calm anymore, and I knew I was losing them. Maybe had already lost them. “But we want to go home now.”

My breath caught, but I’d known it was coming.

If they had given me a time I could have shown them proof, convinced them to hear me out… but sotii could not be forced. If I didn’t release them, they would be prisoners. Not sotii, and never mine.

I took the knife off my belt and placed it in front of Victor. “It shouldn’t take you long to get yourselves loose. I’ll be gone before you do. There’s a rental van in the garage with your things in it.”

I turned for the door. I had been so sure these were the ones, but there would be others. I still had time…

“Why are you looking to hire security?”

Leyla’s voice was light and sweet, and I could have drowned in it.

“Like I said, I have enemies. And I am alone.”

“I thought all vampires had clans for protection.”

This time it was my own heartbeat I heard hammering in my ears. Leyla knew about my people?

***

Leyla

Leyla hadn’t really expected this Nastasia to let them go. Not until she heard the grief in the woman’s voice and her footsteps — no longer silent — heading away from the table. But it seemed this was the real deal. Giggle and all.

She should have let the vamp keep walking, but she told herself she was curious. And how often do you get offered a chance at immortality?

Marcus was to her right, so it was probably his hand that gripped her shoulder so tightly. It was definitely him quietly demanding “What the hell are you doing?”

“Getting some tea. Come on, Nastasia, Marcus may be in a hurry to get home, but it’s been too long since I had some real girl talk.

“Karen’s awesome, but she doesn’t gossip, you know?”

“I…” the vamp’s voice wavered, then firmed up, “My clan was bound to Luna, but our enemies tore us apart when I was a child.”

To most people, that would be the cue to change the subject. People getting torn apart — literally or figuratively — wasn’t really girl talk. Unless you were the mean girls.

Leyla wasn’t a mean girl. When she tore you to pieces, it wasn’t with words, and it was for a better reason than shits and giggles. Around her, the rest of the team shifted in their chairs. If they had comms on, they’d have been bombarding her with questions. But they knew better than to interrupt when she was getting tea.

“That sucks. When you were a kid? How did you survive?”

“My Mama got me out. She and Ozanna and Emil raised me, kept me safe. But Mama died last year.”

This called for a physical gesture. Offer a hug, lean closer, something. But Leyla couldn’t do any of that. Couldn’t even offer a hand to hold with the vamp who-knew-how-far across the room. So she tried to put it all into her voice. “Wow. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you,” Nastasia’s voice was closer. “We knew. Her sotii died in the fighting, and without them… she died a little every day.”

“Her sotii? I don’t know that word. They defended her?”

“Yes,” the word wasn’t more than a whisper. Very close, then. Leyla tapped twice on the table, letting the team know they could join the convo.

“Is that what you were looking for from us, Ma’am?” Benj asked. His drawl was deeper than usual. Leyla thought he did that on purpose when they seduced someone together, his drawl playing off her fry. “You need… what was it, sotey of your own?”

“Yes.” Her chair scraped on the floor again. It hurt Leyla’s ears but she’d learned to work through that kind of annoyance long ago. “I’m coming into my powers but still weak. Without sotii I am… honestly, I’m walking around with a target on my back.”

Marcus squeezed Leyla’s shoulder again, a warning that he’d have words for her later. But Leyla didn’t care because he was willing to work with her now.

“I still don’t understand why us,” he said. “No, I’m even more confused why us. Wouldn’t you want vampires for that?”

Nastasia giggled again, and Leyla shivered. She would never admit it, but if she hadn’t heard the vamp giggle earlier, Leyla would have let her walk away. But she had needed to hear it again.

Now that she had, she was pretty sure she was hooked. Addicted to vamp giggles, sight unseen. Yeah, she was in trouble.

***

Nastasia

That Leyla had taken me by surprise was understatement of the year. That was okay, though; it gave me another chance.

“Sotii are always human. That’s… Mama’s sotii came from human families who had been part of our clan for centuries.”

“You can’t do that.” Leyla’s voice was warm and understanding, and I leaned into it. I was telling them too much, far too much for humans who weren’t bound to a clan. But I didn’t care.

“No. Even if I could find anyone… I can’t take a normal human as sot. I’d just be putting that target on their back too. Oh, people in the clan were trained to fight. But martial arts or self-defense or even time in the military isn’t really…” I swallowed.

“No need to explain, ma’am. We have a bit of a… specialized skill set.”

“Mama never recovered after they died. I want to know that anyone who becomes mine will survive.”

No one said anything for a moment, then Karen barked a laugh. “That is some tea. So we’d be what… bodyguards?”

“Bodyguards, advisors… ah… food?” I couldn’t help wincing a little at some of their expressions. “It’s… it’s another way sotii protect us. I’ve never fed — that’s why my powers are weak. When I take sotii, I’ll never feed on anyone else. Who else can I trust like that?”

Victor was spinning the knife on the table. Karen cocked her head, following the sound of it. Like a snake, her free hand shot out and grabbed the knife. She weighed it in her hand a moment, then started carving the table.

“This is a shit knife.”

I shrugged, knowing she couldn’t see it, not knowing what it meant. “I only have a few good knives. I wasn’t going to leave one of them behind.”

Karen raised the knife to her cheek — as if she was going to shave with it. “We’ll have to get you more.”

My breath caught again, hope this time. Marcus sighed.

“Nastasia, would you step out of the room and let us talk? I promise we’ll be here when you come back.”

“Of course!” I jumped to my feet, knocking the chair over. Smooth, real smooth. At least they couldn’t see my blush. Shaking my head, I righted the chair and walked away. But I stopped in the doorway.

“I’ll be back in an hour. It’s alright if you aren’t here.”

The Last Lady of Lună (S1, E1)

I was a child when enemies destroyed our clan. My mother escaped and tried to raise me in secret, but without my fathers’ blood, she aged and died. Now I am the last head of the Lună vampire clan. My enemies think I am dead, my clan is scattered to the winds, and I am just coming into my powers. I will claim my birthright, rebuild my clan, and destroy our enemies. I’m just going to need a bit of help.

Luckily I know where to find it. A hot team of human mercenaries specializing in security is looking for their next job. They’re exactly what I need. Now I just need to convince them to believe me, keep my secrets, and rain hell on my enemies.

And if Lună is still watching out for me, maybe I’ll finally get laid.


Season Content Notes: abduction, blood

Nastasia

I squatted next to my mother’s grave and watched Lună play hide and seek with the clouds. My skin tingled with the power of her light.

“I think I’ve found them,” I told Mama. “I’ve been stalking them online a while, but I wasn’t sure. I finally got to see them in person. And I felt it. Lună likes them. I think.”

Lună’s light caressed my face, and I heard the memory of laughter. I was still learning to hear Lună’s voice, too young to hear clearly, and with Mama gone, there was no one to teach me. But with her face unveiled, it was easier to recognize her amusement. She liked how excited I was.

“Emil and Ozanna like them, too. Ozanna won’t admit it, though. She says I picked them because of how hot they are.” I ran my hand over the freshly cut grass that grew from Mama’s body. It had been a trick to get her buried here, in a Jewish graveyard. But my people and the Jews both understood the importance of going back to the earth. Mama was the grass now, which would also return to the earth to grow again and again.

And because Mama was the grass, Mama heard me. Even if she couldn’t answer.

“They are hot. All different kinds of hot.” I’d found a picture of them after a job gone wrong. They probably would have preferred not to get into a running firefight. But I’d fallen asleep that night dreaming of ripped clothes, skin gleaming with sweat and smeared with dirt and blood, and eyes shining with victory. The woman they’d been guarding had been leaning on Marcus, a bit bloody and exhausted herself, but still on her feet. “They kick ass, and they’re hot, and Lună likes them. Sound like my kind of sotii, right?

“I just hope they’re kind too.”

I stood up and shook out my legs. They’d been going numb.

“I’ll be, ah… meeting them tomorrow. You wouldn’t approve how, but my dads’ all knew you were a vampire. These people don’t. So don’t start lecturing.” Mama didn’t, of course. I smiled sadly. “I’ll be back in a week to tell you how it goes.”

***

Marcus

Marcus Lear woke up slowly and immediately knew that something was wrong. After over 20 years in the security business, long trained habit had him snapping awake. Or should have. The dark didn’t bother him at first — he always kept his room dark. But he was sitting up, and when he tried to stretch, only his left arm would move.

That finally woke him up.

He was sitting up, alright: tied to a chair (except his left arm was free) and blindfolded. Around him, he heard some rustling, a quiet grunt, a scraping sound like a chair moving on a hard floor, tile or concrete. Other people with him, also tied up. Those quiet sounds echoed a bit; otherwise, it was silent. No noise of other people, no cars driving by. Where the hell were they? A basement somewhere?

“Don’t.” The deep, sultry voice with the faintest hint of an accent rang out of the darkness. It ran straight down Marcus’ spine to his groin; for a dizzying moment, he wondered if he was dreaming. BDSM fantasies weren’t usually his thing. But for that voice, he’d be happy to make an exception. “Don’t take off the blindfold. It’s for your sake as much as mine.”

And that was the bucket of cold water. The threat was politely phrased, but it was a threat.

A chair scraped again, out and in. In front of him, this time. Someone else, probably the woman behind the voice, had joined them. He hadn’t heard her footsteps at all. She might have been barefoot or wearing soft-soled shoes…

“Alright, Ms…”

“Nastasia.”

“Ms. Nastasia, I assume you brought us here for a reason. How about you tell us what you want from us?” Whoever ‘us’ was. Marcus hoped the rest of his team wasn’t there, but he wouldn’t have bet on it.

They’d been together, celebrating the end of a successful job with a night out. He remembered Karen whipping them all at the bar trivia game — again — and then nothing else. Drugged, probably.

“Marcus — is it okay if I call you Marcus? I hope we’ll get to know each other very well.” Her emphasis on that ‘very’ hit him with another zing of arousal.

“Fuck!” The word slipped out before he could stop himself and the woman giggled. To his left, he heard someone else swear under their breath. Sounded like Leyla. She’d had a weird kink for giggles as long as he’d known her, so he wasn’t the only one in danger of tripping over his own balls.

“Sure,” he said, trying to sound relaxed, “we can keep it informal.”

“Thank you.” She paused. “Before we begin, I promise I didn’t leave all of you with an arm free by accident. I’m not that much of a fool. I…” she stumbled a moment, “that is…” Marcus realized the confident, sexy vixen he’d been picturing wasn’t that confident, after all. He heard her take a deep breath. “It is an old custom that I doubt will mean much to you. But as a good faith offering, there is food and water. Nothing poisoned or… unsafe.”

“Thank you, Nastasia,” Marcus replied.

“Appreciate it.” Leyla, definitely to his left.

“Ma’am.” Benj, also left but a bit further than Leyla.

“Thanks.” Victor sounded curtly from Marcus’ right.

No one else spoke. Karen either wasn’t there or hadn’t realized that the others had been using the chance to say something as a way to give a subtle roll call. With that woman, it could be… A clatter from the right, sounding closer than Victor.

“Bread and salt,” Karen said. “Hospitality oath. Old, old stuff. Middle ages.”

Marcus rolled his eyes. No one could see it, so he might as well indulge. That was so… Karen.

At least he knew where everyone was — seated around a table with their disturbingly sexy captor. He needed to stop thinking of her as sexy and get his head in the game.

“You do know it!” Their captor sounded delighted. “I mean it. Don’t force my hand, and I promise you’re safe here.”

“Force your hand such as, for instance, get a look at your face so we can identify you later,” Benj said. “That’s fine, ma’am. Long as you keep talking, I’m happy to sit here with my eyes closed for a while. Just a while, mind you.”

Marcus would have kicked Benj if he could. Flirting with the woman who kidnapped you and politely threatened to kill you was not a healthy negotiating tactic.

But Nastasia laughed a little sadly. “I think you’ll be happier with your fantasies.”

“Don’t worry,” Victor said. “Benj will always prefer a badass woman who can take us all down than a pretty face.”

Marcus hadn’t expected the marksman to speak up at all. He was the epitome of ‘walk softly and carry a big stick.’ That voice was getting to all of them. Karen might be keeping her head, but Marcus wouldn’t bet on it.

“I cheated.” Nastasia replied to Victor, “But I wouldn’t mind trying some hand-to-hand later if you stick around.”

“That implies we have a choice.” Marcus tried to steer the conversation back to getting them the hell out of there. “So let’s get back to why you took us in the first place.”

“Of course.” A pause. “I supposed you could say that I want to offer you a job. A permanent position.”

Marcus was surprised by how unsurprised he was. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d been putting clues together, and apparently, two plus two did make five.

“And I assume there’s a reason you couldn’t go through headquarters?”

“A few. As you might guess, the biggest one is just… privacy. I know your company is used to handling a lot of secrets. But I’m… my secrets aren’t ordinary ones.”

“Secret is one thing,” Marcus said, “Illegal is another.”

“No! No, I’m not… what a drug lord or something? I’m… an heiress, I guess you’d say? With a lot of enemies and only a few people, I can trust.

“Also, I’m not looking to hire Hartford Security. I’m looking to hire you. You’d need to resign from your contracts — I would cover any early-out fees.

“And like I said, this is a permanent position. It took me a while to find the right team — people with no relationships who might be willing to disappear from their old lives, some of the best in your field, and… um… sorry Marcus, but one thing I looked for was ‘close to retirement.’ ”

Marcus froze.

“We don’t say the r-word,” Benj said in a whisper that could have carried across a football field.

It took Marcus a moment to get his jaw to unclench. “Even assuming I was ‘close to retirement,’ why would that be something you wanted?” Marcus kicked himself even as he asked the question. That was a negotiating question when he could have just said ‘no’ and seen if she was serious about not trying to hold onto them. Before he could take it back, she was talking.

“This is the part I could never figure out how to do…” she murmured.

“The position comes with a… unique benefits package? I thought someone… ah… ‘close to retirement’ might be easier to convince to take a chance.”

His cock had its own ideas on what that ‘unique benefits package’ might be, but Marcus made himself focus. “We’re all ears.”

A deep breath and then, in a voice that managed to be firm but also frightened.

“I don’t expect you — any of you — to believe me. But I am a vampire.

“And I can make you — or keep you — young.”


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