Chapter 13 : Betrayer’s Moon
Carlotta peered through the gap in the curtains out into the still street beyond. A gentle, misty rain had been falling all day, swaddling the world in muffled silence. Every now and then a car would pierce the gloom, its headlights reflecting off the tarmac and its wheels making a swishing hiss as it passed. Then all would be still again.
She squinted harder into the shadows, scouring the view for anything out of place, anything that felt wrong but so far the soggy suburban scene looked completely peaceful and mundane. She heard someone open the door to the living room behind her and the sound of footsteps approaching. Then Cassandra’s gentle voice interrupted her vigil.
“Moonrise is coming, Car. It’s time for us to go downstairs.”
With a silent nod and one last, searching look out into the darkness, she let the curtain fall closed and turned to her sister.
“Let’s go then.”
Gathering Dracula up from the couch, she followed Cassandra from the living room and out into the hall. At the bottom of the stairs, Morgana was deep in conversation with Huginn and Muninn. Both looked up into her face earnestly as she gave them last minute instructions in her native Brythonic. Carlotta got the broad impression she was reminding them of the various wards, charms, and other safeguards she’d placed around the property and how best to utilise them if the house came under attack. Eventually, Morgana scooped Hunnin up into a purring cuddle then, returning him to the stairs, kissed Muninn’s feathery head, joining Cassandra and Carlotta at the doorway to the basement stairs.
“Where are the other two?”
Cassandra gestured downstairs, “They’re already down there.”
Morgana nodded and, with a last look back at her familiars, she began to descend the staircase. Dracula still in her arms, Carlotta followed with Cassandra bringing up the rear.
The sound of the door clicking shut and the multiple heavy bolts being locked echoed down into the basement below ominously. But as she stepped into the normally utilitarian space, Carlotta was surprised to find that it was lit with a warm glow from multi-coloured fairy lights that were strung up along the walls and ceiling.
Mindy’s voice rang out when she heard them arrive, “Hey girls! Welcome to our undead sleepover!!”
Carlotta couldn’t help but chuckle when she took in the cosy nest of pillows and sleeping bags laid out on the basement floor as if it was a fourteen year old’s birthday party. Placing Drac on the floor she watched with amusement as he trotted to the bed and began to roll happily amongst the pillows and bedding, his legs waggling comically in the air.
Nisha watched him with a grin, “Well someone likes our set up at least. Just because we’re going to be dead for several hours doesn’t mean we can’t be comfy, right?”
Carlotta shrugged, “I guess not!”
Mindy piped up, “I did have the laser and glitterball set up but boring old Nisha-pants put her foot down.”
Cassandra began shooing Carlotta and Morgana further into the space, towards the bedding, “Unless you girls want to drop where you stand I’d recommend we all get comfy because the moon will be up any minute now. And Mindy, turn off the lights, the last thing we need is to die in an electrical fire.”
With a rustle of sleeping bags and the shuffle of pillows they all lay down. Dracula snuggled himself into the crook of Carlotta’s shoulder, his snuffling breaths loud in her ear. For a heartbeat they all lay there in the pregnant silence, waiting. Then, just as Carlotta was beginning to get impatient, there was…
Carlotta’s hand flew reflexively to her chest as if she might find a stake through her heart but, of course, she didn’t. She checked her watch, it was early morning. They had been out for hours.
Around her the others were also stirring in a rustle of blankets. Suddenly, the room was filled with a swirl of colours as Mindy switched the fairy lights back on.
“We didn’t die!” She crowed triumphantly then frowned, “Well, I mean, die any more than we are already dead anyway. Not dead dead. You know what I mean.”
Carlotta sat up and ran a hand through her hair, “Yup, looks like the memory spell worked! Thank fuck for that!”
Cassandra rose and headed up the steps to the basement door then put her ear against it and listened intently. After a moment she eased back the bolts carefully then opened the door a crack and peered out. A loud meow could be heard from outside and then a paw slipped through the gap, urging Cassandra to open the door further. When she complied, Huginn darted through impatiently and ran down the steps into Morgana’s waiting arms below.
As she gathered him up, kissing his furry head, Huginn let out a long series of complex meows.
“So none of the charms were tripped? That’s good!” nodded Morgana.“But no chances to cast spells of your own? I know that’s boring but probably for the best.” Morgana turned to the others. “All clear, ladies!”
Heading to the kitchen, the women settled themselves into chairs around the battered old table as Nisha heated up mugs of blood in the microwave.
“We still don’t know exactly what effect the memory spell has had on Alina.” Morgana spoke sombrely, meeting her sisters’ eyes intently, “Yes, we seem to have averted whatever plans she had for us last night but that doesn’t mean we can completely relax. We still need to be very careful.”
This last was directed with particular emphasis at Mindy who nodded seriously, “I know and, guys, I really am sorry. I know I was stupid and I almost got us all killed. Thank you all so much for saving my stupid butt.”
Nisha deposited the steaming mugs on the table then stroked Mindy’s hair affectionately, “It’s alright, Min. That’s what family is for, right?”
Taking a sip of her blood, Cassandra spoke with a wry smile, “We all did stupid things when we were newly turned, Min. To a degree, it’s normal to be reckless. But many also die in their first few years because of it, that’s why it’s best to be part of a nest where you can be guided by those who have lived longer.”
Mindy nodded agreeably and took a sip of her blood. There was companionable silence for a moment then Mindy’s face lit up suddenly.
“Hey, now we can go to the foam party tonight at The Dusty Trail!”
Nisha’s response was enthusiastic but the older three were less convinced. Cassandra immediately began shaking her head and muttering something about further research, Morgana opted for a flat ‘absolutely not’, and Carlotta grimaced though didn’t appear to have an excuse pre-prepared.
Mindy looked at the three of them with aghast disbelief, “Are you telling me that after everything we’ve been through recently the three of you aren’t prepared to celebrate just a teensy bit?? C’mon! You can’t be serious! Besides, Alina will probably be there so it’s a good chance to see what’s what, right?”
Nisha nodded vigorously in what she hoped looked like mature agreement, “She’s right, it’s a great chance to observe Alina in the wild, as it were. Make sure she doesn’t recognise Mindy or the rest of us.”
With a sidelong look of defeat at Morgana and Carlotta, Cassandra sighed heavily, “What does one wear to a…’foam party’ then?”
Mindy clapped her hands with a squeal, “Don’t worry about that! We’re all going to look fabulous!!”
The music was pumping at The Dusty Trail by the time they arrived although so far the space was sans foam. Mindy danced them through the crowd towards the bar, dragging Nisha behind her by the hand and waving enthusiastically at several regulars as she passed. Carlotta, Morgana and Cassandra trailed behind in their wake.
Despite Mindy’s cheery familiarity, Carlotta felt several pairs of eyes lingering on them all. It reminded her of the first time she had seen Marina, the way the crowd of courtiers had been almost physically drawn towards her. When they reached the bar, Mindy immediately started chatting excitedly with a random punter who was looking at her in a way that suggested she didn’t know who the beautiful stranger was and couldn’t believe her luck that she was speaking to her.
Leaning on the bar, Carlotta ordered a round of drinks from an unfamiliar bartender. Just when she was beginning to wonder if Alex was still planning to come, she felt hands on her hips and a voice spoke in her ear.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come!”
Turning, Carlotta found her face only inches away from Alex’s. Feeling suddenly flustered, she tried desperately to ignore Mindy and Nisha who were standing nearby, grinning, and giving her enthusiastic thumbs up signals. Even Morgana gave her an encouraging wink.
Alex was looking incredible in a pair of tight, black skinny jeans and a dark tank with a red lace bra showing underneath. Her hair was a tumble of messy curls and her dark eyes were accentuated by smokey eye liner.
“Hi! Yeah of course I came, wouldn’t miss it! Do you want a drink?”
Slipping in beside her, Alex hoisted herself over the bar and shouted her drink order down to the bartender who gave her a wave of acknowledgement.
Returning to her feet she grinned at Carlotta with a wink, “A certain amount of bad behaviour is tolerated in employees and I’m not ashamed to take full advantage of that.”
Carlotta chuckled, “So I see!”
With their hands full of cocktails, the two worked their way back to the others who had managed to secure a standing table.
Alex gave them all a wide grin, “Hey there girls! Look at you all out on the town together! You all look amazing!”
Carlotta felt Alex place an arm loosely around her waist and saw Mindy give Nisha a less-than-subtle nudge of excitement. Carlotta shot Mindy a pointed look then raised her glass in a toast.
“To making it through the week!”
As their glasses clinked, she suddenly noticed a familiar face moving through the packed crowd in their direction. Catching her sisters’ eyes she nodded slightly towards Alina who was moving steadily closer although didn’t appear to have noticed them yet.
There was a lull in conversation as they all took sips of their drinks, their eyes locked on the approaching vampire slayer over the rims of their glasses. Carlotta gently reached back and removed Alex’s arm, taking her hand instead, in case she had to pull her suddenly out of harm’s way. Oblivious to the potential danger, Alex squeezed her hand happily.
Alina moved through the crowd, craning her neck as she looked for someone or something. As her gaze swept past the group of vampires she suddenly did a double take, as if she’d spotted a friend in the crowd. Her eyes returned to the group and alighted on Mindy and a small frown creased her brow. She blinked as if in confusion a couple of times. Carlotta tensed. Just when she felt certain Alina had recognised Mindy and everything was about to completely kick off, the other woman’s frown cleared and she resumed her journey through the jostling crowd.
Cassandra let out a snort of relief and downed her drink in one gulp, “Thank fuck for that.”
Alex looked at her askance, “What did I miss?”
Carlotta realised their hands were still interlaced and felt an unexpected warm glow rise to her cheeks, “Oh nothing, just one of Mindy’s many jilted lovers. We thought there might be drama but seems she’s going to take the high road.”
Alex nodded with understanding, “Ah. Yes, I see. Our Mindy does tend to leave a few broken hearts in her wake. I should know, I’m the one they all cry to over their drinks.”
She arched an eyebrow at Mindy who giggled unrepentantly, “But I tip well right, Alex?”
Alex rolled her eyes, “You do. As you bloody should for such a troublemaker.”
Mindy smiled and gazed wistfully into the crowd after Alina, “She really is just so hot though….”
Carlotta, Cassandra, Morgana and Nisha all spoke loudly at one, “NO, MINDY!”
Mindy held her hands up in surrender, “OK, OK I’m just saying!”
Nisha grabbed her roughly by the arm, “C’mon you, let’s go dance before you do something stupid. Again.”
Alex chuckled as Nisha dragged Mindy to the dance floor then she turned to Carlotta, “How about it? You want to dance?”
Carlotta looked into her eyes and smiled, “Yeah, yeah I’d love that.”
Giving Morgana and Cassandra a wave, she let Alex lead her by the hand towards the dancefloor which was packed with women. As they approached, foam began to pour down on the heaving crowd. Alex turned into Carlotta’s arms, her laughing face turned upwards as the foam tumbled through the air around them. The bass pounded as they caught the pillowy clouds.
Alex grabbed Carlotta’s hand again and began to tug her further into the crowd towards the DJ but something made Carlotta suddenly freeze in place. For one moment as her eyes had swept over the seething scrum of dancers and through the haze of falling foam she had thought she’d seen someone hauntingly familiar on the far side of the dancefloor.
Frantically her eyes scanned the crowd, squinting through the foam and the lasers. She felt Alex turn in confusion and her arms slip around her waist in concern at her sudden stillness and focus.
“What’s wrong?” She shouted over the thumping music.
Carlotta continued to search the crowd in vain, “I thought…I thought I saw someone but…it’s not possible.”
Alex was still gazing at her with a worried frown so Carlotta tore her eyes away from the crowd and forced an easy grin on her face.
“Sorry, I thought I spotted someone I knew but it can’t have been her. Let’s dance!”
Letting herself be led again deeper into the crowd, she looked around one more time but then shook her head at her own foolishness. For a heartbeat she was sure she saw Marina watching her from the shadows. But it was only wishful thinking and a trick of the light. Marina was dead and gone. Although she would never truly stop grieving, she had accepted that fact a long time ago.
Looking to her right, she saw Nisha spinning a giggling Mindy in the foam. To her left, she was surprised and delighted to see Cassandra and Morgana laughing and dancing in a circle of admirers. Pulling Alex closer, she reached up and ran her hands through the lasers as they swept through the crowd.
For now, they were safe. For now, she could let herself enjoy this moment of celebration with her sisters.
(…of Season 1. But don’t worry, the Fang Fatales will return!)
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