With Sebastian gone, there wasn’t much left for me to do except go downstairs and face the music. Or, at least, face the inevitably intense awkwardness with Ben. I put up a valiant effort attempting to delay that inevitability, though: I folded and bundled together the clothes I’d decided to steal from Emma. When that didn’t provide a long enough distraction, however, I scowled at myself.
What are you so uptight about? I berated myself. So you’re one of those girls. So you want some hot vampire action. So do, like, ninety percent of American housewives or something. Besides, at least if you let Mr. Spiky rip you out of your clothes right now you won’t be costing Emma another outfit.
Looking at it like that was almost enough to let me get over myself. Except, of course, for the whole Eeep! and Oh god, oh god no no no no… and I am not one of those girls, dammit! and holy shit, he literally wants to eat me! factors. On the plus side, my sadistic side commented, if you let Mr. Spiky rip you out of your clothes right now you won’t have to wonder if Sebas is subtly copping a full-body feel right now.
And that thought made me audibly squeak in distress. Fortunately, I was completely alone so no one heard it except probably Ben, whom I could hear pacing back and forth downstairs. Why the hell did I have to be self-sadistic? I hadn’t even been thinking about Sebas molding his aura to the contours of my body until I’d thought about it, dammit!
I dropped my bundle of Emma’s clothes on the bed and hastily clawed at my beglamoured clothes. One glance down my blouse confirmed it: Not only was Sebastian’s glamour making me look and smell clean, but it was also rendering my original clothes effectively invisible. And not only was I wearing Sebastian’s aura like… well, like a suit, but apparently he’d also thrown in a padded, deep red, silky bra with pale lace trim that felt like a second skin. Seriously, it was probably the most physically comfortable bra I’ve ever been psychologically traumatized by.
I was kind of afraid of what I might find if I checked under my jeans — especially since my jeans were my real clothes, and apparently now I was in a skirt and ready to flash everyone with who knew what if I sat down.
Of course, that made my knees feel a little weak. I made a noise that was somewhere between a whimper and a gag. Then I let my legs give out and collapsed to sitting on the edge of the bed. I kept my knees pressed together as tightly as I could. Exhibitionism was not my thing.
The only reason I didn’t immediately dispel Sebastian’s glamour was that if I was right about it being an extension of him, he’d know that I’d dispelled it almost as soon as I’d gotten it. So he’d know why. And I’d know he knew. And then he’d give me knowing glances all the time, and I’d never be able to look my butler in the eye again. And I probably couldn’t afford to let him win psychological games with me like that or we’d end up in one of those situations where the butler was the one actually in charge — and I wasn’t even a guy, let alone an uke!
Oh god, my brain was going to have a field day with that. I clamped down on it hard — I couldn’t afford to let myself get distracted by the adventures of imaginary Abigail and Sebastian-Seme. Not when I already had Benjamin downstairs just chomping at the bit to be chomping on my neck. I stifled a giggle as my overwhelmed brain descended to the lowest possible psychic denominator: bad mental puns. If Ben was chomping at the bit, was I just chomping to be bit?
“Reid?” I barely managed to ask for him, but he opened the door and came in from the hallway almost immediately.
“Yes, Lady Abigail?” Reid asked.
“I have a question about glamours,” I said. Reid had left the door open, which was at once a relief — because it meant we weren’t shut up alone together — and a source of anxiety because it meant I could see all the fae that were packed into the hallway with Derrick. Ostensibly, I knew they were supposed to be guarding me. Realistically, all I could think was: Oh god, they probably overheard everything I yelled at Ben. My mom’s extensive training in the exercise of ‘what would everyone else think?’ leapt to the fore, kicking off a whole new round of ‘imaginary Ben is a sexy sexy vampire doing bad bad things’ in my imagination.
And holy shit, some of those guys could come up with things that were worse than what I had! What a bunch of perverts! Especially Derrick! I would never…!
…okay, well, maybe. I mean…
“Lady Abigail?” Reid repeated, snapping me out of my fantasies of everyone else’s fantasies.
“Um, right,” I said, valiantly recovering my equilibrium even if I was failing to restrict the blood flow to my cheeks. Emma probably would have loved the thought of everyone thinking about her like that. I, on the other hand, was probably going to have a face that looked like a tomato forever now. “Glamours. Um, when a faerie makes one they’re making it out of their own aura, right? But their aura also makes up their body. So does that make the glamour an ongoing part of themselves, too? Like, does it serve as an extension of their awareness or anything?”
Reid hesitated, weighing his words. “Well,” he finally said, “there are no hard and fast rules with magic. Most glamours that are cast on the spot are formed directly with the caster’s essence, and to that extent they are an extension of the individual who created them. However, they are also subject to the weave and common belief, and all the other things that impact the manifestation of magic. So, while it would be possible for a faerie to extend their awareness through an inanimate form, such a thing would require significantly more effort than creating a chair that, say, acts like a chair instead of acting like a chair and a pair of eyeballs.”
“Oh,” I said. “So, um, like, with the glamour I was wearing last night… or, er, the one I have on now, for instance…”
Reid chuckled. It sounded kind of like someone shaking a bag of rocks. “The clothes you’re wearing now are just clothes,” he said.
He peered closer at me, and I fidgeted self-consciously. Stop it, I told myself. If he’s looking through this illusion, he’s just going to be seeing your real clothes, not you naked.
“Actually, the glamour you’re wearing now is of the other sort,” Reid said.
“Other sort?” I squeaked. As in, the sort that acts like a pair of hands and a pair of eyeballs?
“It was made of a faerie’s essence,” Reid replied, “but that was used largely as a framework and has since been largely withdrawn. It consists mostly, at the moment, of essence drawn in from the weave and…” He frowned. “…and yourself. That shouldn’t be happening, Abigail. Vampires don’t put essence out into the world like living humans do.”
“Oh,” I said in relief. “That. No, it’s okay: Archarel tore up my soul a little so I’m leaking. I guess Sebastian set this one up to catch that excess and put it to use. That’s good, actually. I think I’d feel bad if I was wasting any.”
Reid’s frown withdrew and he afforded me a smile. “Ah,” he agreed. “Yes, that would do it then. As it stands now, I can find the connection to Sir Et…” he cleared his throat and chuckled. “To Sebastian. But it is no more than you would find between any created thing and its maker. If the glamour were to unravel, that connection would snap before it could be seized — it is as close to an independent thing as any glamour can be.”
“Alright,” I said. “That’s good to know.” Sebastian probably meant for it to work that way, I realized. If the connection to him snaps if the glamour is destroyed, then if I drink the glamour in like I did the last one I won’t be able to slurp him up along with it like a spaghetti noodle.
Reid nodded. “Is there anything else?” he asked.
“Um,” I said. “Not at the moment?” Then I backpedaled. “No, wait: Have you setup a schedule of donors out of the people loyal to me? If not, do that. Make sure they’re arranged in batches, so there’s no risk of me destroying anyone. Um, I don’t think I’ll need to feed soon, but shit happens, so maybe. So make sure everyone knows when they’re up, and that whoever is next is always on call, okay? And I’ll probably just call for you, ’cause I don’t know anyone else’s names yet, really. So make sure you know who to bring with and all that stuff. And let Ben know I’ll be down shortly. I just have to straighten Emma’s drawers first.”
“Oh!” I then said, because I didn’t want to just be a demanding bitch, “And did you ever get to find that person you were separated from? I hope that went well for you and stuff.”
Reid smiled happily. Since he was a troll, it was terrifying. “I did, and it did,” he answered me. “She chose to swear her allegiance to the Lady Megan. When I left her she was waiting with the others who have chosen to do the same.”
“That’s good,” I replied. “So you two will get to see more of each other, then. I mean, since she didn’t decide to go away or get locked up until I wasn’t picky about how much I snacked on someone. I mean…” I tried to get my mouth under control, but it was too busy babbling to listen. I started to blush in embarrassment, but not because of sexy fun thoughts. “…not that I thought anyone would go for that. And I don’t really want to get to the point where I’m destroying people willy nilly, anyway. That’s the whole point of cycling donors on call!”
Reid nodded in patient agreement because I was the psycho scary vampire he was oath bound to and he couldn’t just back away or get exasperated and tell me to shut up already: no, he had to put up with my nonsense. Which just made me flush harder and spit out more words. “Well, anyway,” I said, “I’m going to go hang out at Ben’s place. I mean, at the place where Ben is staying. I mean: I’m getting a room at his hotel, I’m not staying in his room with him!” Now I was blushing because of the mortifyingly improper thoughts that were twisting my words around — and the fact that I knew Ben could hear everything I was saying.
“The point is: the place is warded,” I finally managed to blurt out. “And full of vampires and donors and stuff, and I probably won’t need guards so you can go hang out with your lady friend.” Oh god, was she a ‘lady friend’ like that? What if she’s, like, his mother? I wasn’t sure which thought disturbed me more: someone procreating with a troll or someone giving birth to a troll, and where the hell do baby faeries come from, anyway? “Just remember that you’re on call,” I said, vainly trying to corral my thoughts and the conversation simultaneously. “And go spend some more time catching up with her or something. As long as you go before I keep talking at you, I mean.” I pointed at the door. “Seriously, go. I’m babbling and I don’t want to know where baby faeries come from so you can just keep that to yourself. Go!”
I practically chased Reid out of Emma’s bedroom, and hastily shut the door behind him. Then I clapped a hand over my mouth to help with the act of not breathing and tried to scale my heart rate back down to sane, since stopped seemed to be out of the question with my currently bloated aura.
After a couple of seconds I walked over to Emma’s dresser. I grabbed the top drawer: fingertips on the inside, palms on the outside, and slid it shut. Then, without removing my fingers, I leaned into it, hard. Harder than I probably would have if I’d still been alive: I could feel the wooden edges grind against bone and scrape open my skin. After a few more seconds I let out my breath in a rush and let up the pressure.
I fished my fingers out of the drawer. They were already healing: the line the wooden edges of the drawer and dresser had dug across them vanished before my eyes. That was okay, though. The brief pain had served to clear my head. I pushed the rest of the drawers closed gently.
Once the last one was in place, I sat down with my back against the dresser. I tugged my knees against my chest, uncomfortably aware of how exposed I was in this position and a skirt, but unwilling to get back up just yet. “I shouldn’t have done that,” I muttered to myself. Then I let my head thunk back against the dresser and stared at the ceiling. It didn’t matter: I was leaking aura anyway, so if my soul was in a state of ‘use it or lose it,’ why shouldn’t I use some on unnecessary healing of unnecessary injuries?
I closed my eyes. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t let myself cry. Ben was downstairs and he would hear, and he had to think I was a big enough freak already.
I did Megan’s meditation breathing, instead. I tried to pretend it helped. It sort of did.
Then I got up and gathered my clothes from the foot of Emma’s bed.
And then I went downstairs.