I shoved Bonbon into the furthest back unoccupied booth I could see and then yanked the curtain shut behind us. She cried out as the force of being thrown made her phase through part of the table — but the back wall was solid enough that she just collided and stopped. I’d let go of her, but my geas was firmly in place and I wasn’t concerned that she would escape.
I didn’t so much slide into the seat beside Bonbon as I stepped onto it, falling into a crouch as I did so I could keep facing her. Well, looming over her more than facing, really. She was sprawled out beneath me, her tear-streaked face upturned and her arms curled defensively in front of her.
It was a very different experience from when I’d been in one of these booths last, with Emma. For one thing, I wasn’t remotely frightened by or uncertain of what to do with Bonbon. For another: Emma had been shy — almost timid. Bonbon was terrified. I could see the despair in her eyes. She recognized the futility of trying to fend me off, but couldn’t help laying there with her hands in front of her as though she could do anything to prolong her existence.
If Emma’s uncertainty had been enough to make me play the aggressor when I’d been alive then Bonbon’s terror — combined with the fact that I could so clearly see how meaningless my living fears and anxieties were — was driving my predatory nature wild. I was going to have to make Emma frightened for her life sometime. Or, more likely, Emma’s replacement. In retrospect trying to fight Director Lewellan and all of his allies, as well as Archarel and all of his, just for some witch who wasn’t even strong enough for me to drain more than once in a day just didn’t make sound sense.
Emma was expendable, and if I ever wanted a cute, terrified, tasty young woman to replace her then all I had to do was head to the college campus, check the sororities for which one had wards, and then grab someone from the next open invitation party. I’d fantasized about being abducted often enough that I was confident I could pull one off. Especially since I had supernatural powers. Hell, all I had to do would be to bite someone, and they’d come with me willingly.
Of course, that would ruin the whole ‘I like my prey terrified’ thing I had going on, so fuck that. Why employ subtle persuasion when brute force would be so much more satisfying?
Bonbon couldn’t have known why I hadn’t taken a bite out of her yet, but I still almost laughed in her face when she broke me out of my mental circles for the future by reminding me that she was right there in front of me now. Talk about a survival mistake.
“Please,” Bonbon said. “I’m sorry! I didn’t want that vampire to take you. I tried to stop him. I was trying to help! I… I don’t want to die,” she sobbed.
I gave Bonbon a disbelieving look. Before long it turned into a hungry look. I tilted my head to peer past her trembling fists and at her neck. I was almost affronted that she was trying to talk her way out of this after stealing my aura in the first place. And using such a weak excuse, too! Bonbon’s jugular pulsed slightly with the blood pumping through it. It was just an illusion, I knew, but it was a very realistic one.
“If you didn’t mean me malice when I was alive,” I asked, “then why did you accept my offer? I agreed to be taken by whomever destroyed Salvatore, and I’ve been using the countervailing debt to find those who failed me.”
Bonbon stared at me. I could see the glimmer of hope in her eyes: I was talking to her, not ripping out her throat. I looked forward to transforming it back into fear. If she could see my thoughts now, she would probably be even more terrified than before: I was wondering, since her body — including her clothes — were just a phantasm, what would happen if I tore them off of her? Melvin’s sword had been able to exist independently of him, but I’d never tried to break it. If a faerie’s phantasmal existence was a manifestation of their aura, then physically damaging it would probably be just as agonizing as breaking a geas.
It might be fun to find out.
Plus, Bonbon was kind of cute, and the whole ‘terrified damsel expecting to be eaten by a monster’ thing she had going on seemed really appealing to me now that I was the monster instead of the terrified damsel. I could sink my fangs into her throat and drink my fill while tearing open her shirt and abusing her body — I could enjoy every predatory aspect of myself and every available aspect of Bonbon’s existence. Right up until I ended it.
“I had to take it,” Bonbon gasped desperately. “If I hadn’t accepted your deal and the vampire had been driven off, then they would have had the sole claim to you. You would have been taken to Archarel’s kingdom and tortured for… There’s no time there. You would have been in fear and agony until the day they got bored and one of them traded you to another kingdom for a new toy. But if I had a claim, too, I could at least keep them from taking you out of this world!”
My eyes narrowed. True or not, I didn’t care: my hunger had overcome my curiosity and proclivity toward wool gathering. I wanted blood and it was time for Bonbon to die. If I thought of it later I could try the clothing thing on Melvin or Megan.
Emma might be expendable, but Megan and I shared a soul. If Lewellan could track me using a bit of my old blood then I hated to think what Archarel could do if he knew he had the woman whose soul kept my own affixed to my body. That was an unacceptable risk. Megan was mine.
But first? Dinner.
I lunged forward, fangs bared. I couldn’t move at super-speeds because of being too close to Bonbon, but I could move fast and there wasn’t exactly room in the booth seat for her to struggle… Not that her shadowed pseudo-invisible phantasm form had the mass to struggle. Not effectively, anyway.
Bonbon shrieked. She flailed at me, and I was caught completely off guard by how effective it actually was.
Bonbon didn’t need room to struggle. One of her arms phased through the edge of the table just before her entire body snapped from shadow-substance to physical reality. Her suddenly entirely-visible and far too real-seeming fist smacked into the side of my head with enough force to throw off my lunge and plow me into the booth’s backrest. At the same time she kicked with her now-solid legs, hard.
I felt one of my lower ribs crack. The unexpected force heaved me up and back from her. Bonbon immediately went back into her shadowy, semi-insubstantial state and threw herself sideways before I could grab her again. She let out a pained gasp as she phased through the table and caught herself against the back of the booth seat on the other side.
Then Bonbon bolted for the opening of the booth — only to come up short before she could hit the curtain. She cried out in pain that trailed off in a sob as my geas rent more slashes through her shadow form. Trembling, sobbing, she collapsed against the curtain. It held up her nonexistent weight as though it were a wall.
I twisted around on the seat and clucked my tongue at her. “Tsk tsk, Bonbon,” I said. I brushed my fingers over where she’d punched me. The pain let me know I had fractured cheekbones as well as a fractured rib, but neither of those injuries were anywhere near enough to put me down. “No escaping, remember?”
Bonbon sobbed and turned to face me. She sank down along the curtain and the bleeding rents in her body closed up. This time I was less fascinated. I scowled. That was my essence she was wasting.
Then, abruptly, the privacy curtain was torn open.
A very angry-looking Fumiko stood on the other side. She was oblivious to the quivering pile at her feet that was Bonbon. Instead, Fumiko’s attention locked on me. “Abigail,” she snapped, “What the fuck?”
I shifted my gaze to meet hers. “I could ask the same thing,” I said. “I told Mark to let you know I had everything under control. You really should listen when I tell you to keep the fuck out of my way, Fumiko.”
Bonbon slunk behind Fumiko. It seemed like Fumiko couldn’t see her shadow form, but really that was to be expected I supposed. I’d only been able to spot it by using the leyline between us; that had to have been what let me see through the invisibility that accompanied its other immaterial properties. It also seemed like Bonbon couldn’t go further because of my geas, so I wasn’t terribly vexed that she was trying to hide behind Fumiko for now.
Fumiko scoffed. “Yeah. Well, with a warning like that how could I not interfere? I know you. The only times you ‘have things under control’ are when your vampire side is in control, and…” Her eyes narrowed as she took in my appearance and stance. “The faerie drained you, didn’t she?” Fumiko’s hands curled into fists. “Goddamnit, Abigail, I should kick your ass.”
I recoiled and blinked. Then it clicked, and I smiled. I’d already drained Fumiko. Not entirely, but enough that she wasn’t operating in her usual state of mind: whatever her greatest fear was, it was absent. And apparently that fear had been whatever it was that caused her to keep her true, aggressive nature in check.
It was interesting, because I knew that Fumiko wasn’t a viable meal since I’d already depleted her aura. And at the same time, I also recognized myself in the strange scenario taking place within her: when my aura was intact I was a wuss, too. We were, in a way, kindred spirits like that.
On the other hand, I was a fucking vampire and Fumiko was in my way and I could damn well take her.
“Leave now, Fumiko,” I ordered her. “You’re useful to me, but not so useful that I won’t break you if you keep standing between me and my Bonbon.”
“Bonbon?” Fumiko asked. “Is that like one of those stupid names Jack makes up for people who haven’t given him theirs yet?” Her eyes widened. “Is the faerie still here?”
To her credit, Fumiko didn’t try to look around for Bonbon. If she had, I probably would’ve used the opportunity to jump her. As it was, I decided to take her understanding as an opportunity to make her understand, one predator to another, that I would end her if she didn’t get the fuck out of my way right now.
“Yes,” I answered. “Cowering behind you. So move, or I will kill you to get what she stole from me.”
“Son of a…” Fumiko started to mutter. Then she abruptly stopped, and said loudly: “Faerie, you’re a fucking moron. Holding onto that aura isn’t worth it, so push it back. Abby is a crabby bitch when she’s hungry.”
I lunged at Fumiko, but Bonbon was already responding to her exasperated instructions. The leyline between myself and Bonbon shifted again, and my aura rushed back in a burst. I tried to recoil, horrified that I had been about to seize Fumiko and snap her neck — but I had too much forward momentum and I was caught up in the sudden vertigo of my emotions trying to resettle my aura. The horror came in waves that washed over and around the urge to just kill Fumiko and eat my damn Bonbon already, but then the waves stilled and my vampire side was submerged once more.
It took only an instant, and as Fumiko had said when Megan had pushed energy into me, the power exchange wasn’t even. I couldn’t quantify it, but my aura was far thinner than it had been before I’d sat at the bar, and that began to thin even more as my healing kicked back in.
Then the instant passed and Fumiko expertly slid aside, avoiding my lunge and catching me, then twisting around to drag me out of the booth. Before I could react she had me on the ground and pinned. “Give me one good reason that I shouldn’t just break your neck before you start running around making trouble for everyone,” Fumiko demanded.
“The faerie listened to you,” I answered swiftly. “I’m in control now.”
Fumiko hesitated, and then eased back, letting me up.
“In that case,” she said, “we should get out of here before the cops show up. That means you, too, faerie. I have questions for you and you owe me.”
I gawked at Fumiko “The cops?” I asked — and then I realized that the club’s patrons were gawking at us. Gawking, and clearly keeping their distance.
Fumiko shrugged. “I may have had to break Bob a little,” she said as she turned. A still-invisible and insubstantial Bonbon practically clung to her side, keeping Fumiko between us. “And a couple other guys who thought being big was all that mattered,” Fumiko added. Then she glanced over her shoulder. “Well? Let’s go already.” Fumiko stalked toward the club’s entrance. Bonbon continued to cling to her.
And I scrambled to my feet and followed.