Season Content Notes: abduction, blood
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.
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 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.”
“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.
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.
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?”
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.”