By the time I wrapped my head around the idea that Dad was serious, it was too late for protests. I couldn’t really marshal any, anyway: so I was scared of travel. So the faerie lands were supposed to be eternally day lit. So what? How did my shit matter at all in comparison to taking care of Emma? To rescuing Megan?
I was also a little stunned that Dad had gone straight from ‘we have a problem’ to ‘let’s take matters into our own hands.’ And that Fumiko wasn’t objecting. But then again: who exactly were we supposed to go to for help? The authorities consisted of Lewellan and his precious Center, and I was already pretty firmly on their hit list. Dad was practical enough not to worry about how things should be and to worry about what actually was. He had been the one to tell me that ‘could have,’ ‘should have,’ and ‘would have’ were the three most worthless phrases in the English language — and that extended not just to what I did, but what I thought others should have or could have done, too.
Fumiko, of course, was probably just badass and independent enough that she wasn’t terribly intimidated by the idea of taking on a faerie king and his court on their home turf. But then again, she had been an amazing friend to me — and I knew that she was even more Megan’s friend than mine. Fumiko probably wasn’t that concerned about Emma. But about Megan? Oh yeah, I didn’t have much trouble seeing Fumiko going all vigilante commando on anyone who did something to Megan. Hell, even I had gone all ‘surprise! I’m not dead, I’m a psycho vampire’ on someone who’d been trying to kill Megan, hadn’t I?
In any event, I found myself nodding in agreement without really thinking about it. “Okay,” I said. It was a good thing I had John’s number in my phone — I really hoped Lewellan hadn’t gotten to him while I’d been ‘sleeping.’
I got out of bed and tried not to gag. There was a faint smell as I threw back the covers… probably too faint for anyone else to pick up on, but my vampire senses were dialed up because I was freaked out about the fact that the day was just gone already. Had I… Fuck me: had I started decomposing while I’d been dead? Oh, god, that was squicky. I needed a shower. And a refrigerated coffin. Badly.
What I got, however, was the rest of the way out of bed. I felt absolutely disgusting, but: priorities. Call John. Find out about Emma.
I found my purse on one of the room’s tables. Fumiko or Dad must’ve put it there. I went and got my phone out. Deep breaths, Abby. After I did this, I could reward myself with a shower. Or, you know, I could do more important stuff than being selfish like that. Maybe when we got to the faerie lands the sun would burn the gross off of me.
I had the phone dial John and waited while it rang. When he answered, I let out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d still been holding. Sometimes not needing to breathe is weird.
“Abigail?” John answered. He sounded worried. That was probably my fault. He could go out during the day, so who knew what all he had heard while I’d been out of it.
“Um, hi,” I said. “Yeah, it’s me.”
“Are you alright?” Was John’s immediate response.
I swallowed. Partially in embarrassment, partially in shame. Why did I always make people worry about me? I did my absolute best not to, honestly, but it kept happening anyway. Emma was the one we all needed to be worried about. Emma and Megan! “I’m fine. I don’t know what you’ve heard, but there’s nothing wrong with me. I’ve even gotten my hunger under control — or, at least, I have a pretty reliable source of high potency blood, anyway. Megan and Emma are in serious trouble, though.”
“I heard,” John said. “About Emma, at least. Linda called and left me a message. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to let you know but I’m still waking up myself.”
“What?” I asked dumbly. I had thought ghouls didn’t go dormant. John had told me that he found the daylight uncomfortable, but that he could go out in it — he’d offered to run errands for me, once.
“I’m still waking… oh, right,” John said. “It’s the storms. Remember how I told you that I had trouble with crossing flowing water? That I’ve never been to the old country to meet the rest of our siblings? Well, it’s been storming all day. I’ve spent most of it dead on the couch, just so I wouldn’t have to, erm, feed again sooner than necessary.”
I blanched. John had to feed on dead human flesh to sate his curse. And the more recently dead, the better. It was a sickening reminder of the kind of existence Emma might end up damned to — if she didn’t just end up dead.
“Anyway,” John interrupted my horror spiral, “Linda and her coven are at the house. They’re pouring enough magic into the atmosphere over there that Emma is almost stable, but according to the message I had it’s still in the air. You know how magic is. They can’t say for sure if Emma’s aura is restoring faster than it’s being consumed, and they won’t be able to until the situation has shifted decisively one way or the other.”
I swallowed, but nodded. “Okay,” I said when I realized that he couldn’t see me. So: no real change from this morning, except that we had a little more time.
“But Abby,” John added, “you’re in trouble. Serious trouble, sis. After the phone call — a couple hours after, so I think the Director was probably hanging around earlier and she didn’t want him to know she had more to say — I got a whole slew of texts from Linda. Hans is under a geas, and this Director guy is out for blood. No pun intended. He has a whole pack of other vampires in town, scions from some of the local families. Apparently the Center has offered control of this city to whichever one can deal with the fae threat, but before they get started on that the Director is going to recruit them to collaborate on getting you under wraps. What did you do to piss him off, Abigail?”
“I’m pretty sure I existed,” I said dryly. Then I realized that Dad and Fumiko probably couldn’t hear John’s side of the conversation. I was the only one with super ears. “I’m putting you on speaker phone,” I said. “I’m with my dad and Fumiko.” After I did that, I set down the phone. Dad and Fumiko came over to better hear.
“Basically, I didn’t bow under Lewellan’s orders,” I said. “Mostly because they were stupid, and he was too stubborn to listen to me. John, Megan can restore Emma’s aura without damaging her soul, which means Megan can wash out the vampire’s curse. Emma doesn’t have to risk turning into one of us — but the Director wouldn’t hear of bringing a fae to help. More than that, he deliberately disregarded things I’d told him and he put me under a geas twice, for no reason that I could tell other than that he thought it would be easier than trying to talk things out with me.”
“I’m sure he,” John started to say — but I interrupted before my ‘big brother’ could come to the Center’s defense.
“No,” I said. “Whatever reason you can come up with for why he did it is bullshit. He fucking put a gun to my soul, John.” Unbidden, an image of Megan weeping while Fumiko and I held her rose up from my memories. Megan was fae. She had to consume people’s emotions, without the benefit of a physical medium to take some of the intimacy from it. Not that blood was any better, but… if a fae could understand what was so wrong about screwing with someone’s soul, then I wasn’t going to let Director fucking Lewellan get away with being held to a lesser standard.
“But it’s more than that,” I added. “Something’s not right, John. Lewellan was friendly enough with Mr. Salvatore that he didn’t have a problem moving in without an invitation. Does that really say ‘unbiased’ to you? He already had a bunch of vampires here to take over the city for him. He never once contacted me to try and talk me through some of the crazy shit I’ve been dealing with, and he went out of his way to misunderstand me so he could accuse me of stuff that would screw me over if I didn’t beg for leniency from the Center. I don’t know shit about the Center’s politics, but someone is playing a game and I refuse to be a goddamn pawn when it means letting people I care about suffer. Maybe I’d toe the line and behave if Emma’s life weren’t at risk and Megan hadn’t been kidnapped by Archarel, but their well-being is more important to me than not stepping on the toes of some undead assholes who’re trying to be clever.”
I breathed out shakily. My dad was staring at me with frank amazement. Fumiko, beside him, was wearing a small smile and had one eyebrow arched. Her expression seemed to say: ‘Well, I knew you weren’t a total loss. It’s about time you started standing up to people.’ I felt myself flush more. It was just because of my bloated aura, I was pretty sure. The only other times I’ve had this much confidence, I’d been so dead I didn’t have the energy to be myself and my vampire side had come out. Right now I was probably channeling determination from what I had left to ‘digest’ of Melvin’s and Pipsqueak’s auras.
“I… wait,” John said. “Megan was kidnapped? When? How?!”
The near panic in his voice made me recoil. “Last night,” I answered. “Katherine got past the wards Melvin had left to keep out fae, and she hexed Fumiko. We’re assuming that she abducted Megan after that, because Megan is gone. Unless someone’s managed to get a hold of her since last night?” I looked at Fumiko, who shook her head.
“I tried calling her a few times,” Fumiko said for John’s benefit. “No answers. And she never left any messages with me, either.”
“That’s not good,” John said, and if I’d only thought he sounded worried before now I knew he was. “That’s very not good. If Archarel manages to recruit her…”
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s why Lewellan should have helped us instead of being a dumbass. But, as Dad is fond of pointing out: since ‘should have’ is a worthless thing to worry about, we’re just going to have to fix things ourselves. Especially since Megan’s our friend, and we can’t leave her in the hands of some psycho warlord, even if Linda doesn’t think Archarel is going to use Megan against this city. And because we need Megan to save Emma.”
“Okay,” John said. “Okay, I’m on your side, sis. Do you have a plan?”
I hesitated. I still wasn’t sure if what we had qualified as a ‘plan,’ but more than that I was extremely anxious now that I’d dragged someone else into whatever it was that we were doing. Even if the rescue and everything didn’t go disastrously, it was a pretty solid bet that anyone who helped out would end up on Director Lewellan’s — if not the entire Center’s — shit list.
“We have a framework,” Dad answered for me. “This is William, by the way, Abigail’s father.” He tacked that on as though he had taken some offense to the fact that John had tried to claim a family relationship with me because of Mr. Salvatore — as though by doing so John had attempted to have his dad usurp my dad’s rightful place. But my dad didn’t let the conversation sit there. “We need your friend Linda’s number. We’re going to have to get a hold of her for the next part, and to get a more up to date report on the condition of Abby’s girlfriend.”
“Alright,” John said. He rattled off a number, and Fumiko repeated it back while scribbling it down. “Where are you at?” John asked once he was sure we had the number we needed. “The storm has mostly died down over here,” he added, “so I can head out toward you while you’re calling Linda.” Then he hesitated.
“Oh, except don’t call her,” John continued a second later. “Text. A vampire can’t listen in on your plans if you’re sending them in text.”