Zee & Windstar's tombstone

Ah the disclaimer –

This is the part where we warn you were this story may not be suitable for those under 18. Also we tell you there’s blood, violence and sex. I’m not sure whose fault this story is, probably mine. We hope you enjoy our Halloween offering this year. Although I think, yet again, that the word Halloween never appears, we’ll try and work on that for next year. This story is also very loosely, very loosely, a prequel to Chance. It takes place in the same universe as Chance did but centuries in the past.

Thank you to our beta reader Stacy.

Enjoy and remember to send feedback to Zeeamy@gmail.com and Adarkbow@yahoo.com

The Secret History of Vampires

By: Zee and Windstar

She hated the winter, the constant cold that seeped into her bones no matter where she was. When she’d been younger, she’d loved the first snowfall. It transformed the city into a beautiful play land for children. She’d never really understood why her father hadn’t liked that first sign of winter’s coming. Now, now she fully understood that slightly worried look that had always come to her father’s eyes when the snows’ started. The worry that there wouldn’t be enough money to keep the heat on, the all too real fear that they might not make it through the winter.

A bitter wind ruffled the long black great coat that she'd gotten from some army surplus store and the red haired woman shivered, moving faster. It wasn't that far now, just a few more blocks from her job at one of the factories to the room she rented out at the boarding house.


Alexei strode down the street as if she owned it, and she did. Her factories that pumped smog and pollution into the winter gray skies, provided jobs for people, and kept the armies supplied with weapons. The factories kept the already short days shorter with smog blocking the sun but nobody questioned that.

She walked with purpose and people scrambled to get out of her way. Her black polished shoes slamming into the gray slush on the sidewalks. She stood out with her tailored slacks and shirt, the long wool coat and sunglasses all screamed money. There was a problem, she hated problems as a rule, but this was a huge problem the kind of problem she probably couldn't make go away with money, the kind of problem that could cause a witch-hunt.

She crossed a street glaring as a horse drawn carriage nearly failed to stop in time. Her stride didn’t slow she merely turned her head and glared at the horse and the animal began to panic and buck. Alexei finished her way across the street with out any other problems.

Head ducked down, hunched into her coat, trying to hurry through the cold, Katiya's eyes were watering from the cold as she turned the last corner. She was nearly there; so close she wasn't paying attention as she tried to hurry the last of the way. The gas lamps barely lit the area and she navigated the streets by memory alone.

Alexei pushed an old man out of her way and then slammed into something. Surprised she paused and looked down at the woman sprawled in the slush. No wonder humans were where they were in the food chain; they had no sense at all.

With a shriek of surprise, Katiya slammed into something that felt like a rock wall. She bounced backwards, sliding to a stop in the slush, staring up at the slim form she'd bounced off of. "S-sorry!" A gust of wind whipped up the snow and she squinted into the sudden flurry, not able to see who it was she'd hit. "I wasn't looking." She started to get up, grimacing at the wet slush that she was covered in.

In an unconscious gesture the still standing woman ran a hand through her blonde curly hair and sighed. "You might survive longer if you watched where you were going."

"Sorry." Katiya gulped, taking in the exquisite tailoring and obviously cultured Russian voice. She scrambled upright, dripping slush and shivering. "I'll be more careful." She mumbled, feeling her cheeks heating as they always did when she got upset.

Dark eyes behind sunglasses took her in: the second hand clothes, the dark circles under her eyes and the sunken in flesh, and dismissed her. "See that you do." Alexei snapped out, then without bothering to help the young woman in anyway stepped around her, continued down the street, and ducked down some alley.

Shivering from something more than just the cold, Katiya hurried to the simple boarding house and the kind of warm room that waited for her there. It was better than being out in the wind at least.

Alexei continued down the alley like a force of nature, never stopping. At the end of the alley was a hidden door as she reached it she lashed out with her foot smashing through the wards and wood. From her back she produced a gun. A gun filled with bullets melted down from a twice blessed cross.

She could have had anyone of her various thralls or minions do this but no, she had apparently been too hands off lately.

The inside was just as decrepit looking as the outside alleyway the door let in off of. Gas lamps fitfully lit the interior and its occupants. Humans, chained to the walls at regular intervals, some dead, some wishing they were, held where they were to be fed on.

A couple of vampires were still feeding, oblivious to Alexei's entrance or anything other than the warm blood in front of them.

The door to the front of the place was still swinging back and forth, showing the rapid departure of someone who had been in the back with the meat a moment before.

Alexei raised the gun and fired at the vampires within sight. "Who the fuck told you, you could come here?" She growled out not really caring about an answer.

The head of the nearest one exploded outwards, drenching the homeless person he'd been feeding on in gore. The other one made it almost to the door before a bullet caught him in the spine and he dropped, legs twitching as he tried to claw his way to the door. None of the humans made a sound; they'd learned that to attract attention was to die long before now.

"Ahhh!" He screamed face coated with blood. "Who the hell are you?"

"I am the Angel of Death." She said with a sneer striding over to his crumpled form. "I rule here, and you are not my child." She brought up her knee then brought her foot down crushing his skull.

A door slammed shut somewhere further in the un-sanctioned blood bar as someone tried to get out as quickly as possible, which for a vampire could be very quickly indeed.

She turned with a frown and wiped her foot clean of blood and brain. Her body went still as she listened intently. Turning she fired a bullet piercing the wood of a door and killing the person hiding behind it.

A body with a chunk missing from its head slowly slid down and then slumped out of the hiding spot behind the door, blood pooling around it already. A few of the nearest humans tried to get as far away as their chains would let them.

Not hearing anything else and not caring about the ones that had gotten away she walked to the closest human studying her. The heartbeat was slow, death was coming for this one, and in a quick clean move she reached out snapping the woman's neck. Then she moved on to the next one.

In the end six she set free with growled warnings that if she caught word of this in gossip around the town she'd find them and kill them.

She moved around grabbing the gas lamps and ripping them off the wall, she could smell the gas pouring out into the room filling it. Blood houses were natural, vampires needed blood to feed, but too many deaths made humans nervous and scream for police action. Blood houses were run with willing humans who got paid very well. It was a win win for the vampires and humans. But, some vamps needed the thrill of the kill, for the reason that blood alone wasn't enough.

It didn't take long for gas to start filling up the room.  Her dark eyes swept over the room checking for anything she'd missed.  She didn't have any clue who was behind this, but perhaps this would be enough of a warning not to piss in her territory.  She started towards the broken door.  The gas was so thick in the room now it was muffling her senses.

That was a mistake she realized, as a light reflected off a piece of metal from the doorway. She didn't hear the click of the hammer but, she felt the first bullet as it hit her thigh.  She fell, her eyes wide in surprise as her leg gave out under her weight, and the second bullet hit her in the abdomen spinning her slightly to the right.  In shock she watched the blood, bubble and froth from her gut.  How lazy she had become?  To be taken out so easily by an assassin hiding in the shadows.

There was a brief flare as a match was struck against the brick of the doorway.  A highlighted glimpse of dark skin and hair then the shocking revelation she was going to be in a fireball as she concluded what the match was for.  She had been planning the same thing for this place; she just hadn't been planning to be inside when it happened.  With a roar of pain that exposed long white canines in her mouth she forced herself to her legs and ran for the door.

Startled the match was hastily thrown into the gas filled room and the figure in the shadows was gone.

Alexei kept her eyes on the door as she pushed herself, hobbled by her wounded leg.  Almost there as she felt as if all the oxygen was suddenly sucked out of the room and the last thing she remembered was whooshing noise as she was picked up and hurtled through the air.   Her shoulder hit a doorjamb with a loud crunch and she tumbled head over feet into the cobbled ground of the alleyway.

Dazed she looked around not seeing anything. Idly her hand patted at the smoldering remains of her coat while she sat bleeding into the gray slush she had landed in.  A ringing other than the ringing in her ears came to her attention and she recognized the sounds of the fire brigade.  She attempted to stand and gave a scream of agony as her hand braced against the stonewall dug into the stone.

Blood dribbled down her legs, splashing into the gray and dirty snow disappearing into the filth of the alley.  She was loosing too much blood.  Hunger rose up in her and she wasn't certain she would be able to make it home without feeding.


Katiya was shivering violently as she hurried up the stairs to her room. The boarding house was just as dreary inside as it was outside, a place for single women to live that were without means or family to live somewhere else. Most of the other women worked as servants or scullery maids in the finer establishments up town. Katiya’s evening shift at the factory kept her off their schedule and she only knew the other girls by sight.

Sometimes she would nod hello to one as they passed, her arriving, them leaving, but that was it. Other than the curt dealings she had with Madame Oullette, the dower looking old maid who owned the house, she seldom talked to anyone. It seemed to her that she passed through this world like a ghost, mostly unseen and often unwanted by those around her.


She froze in on the steps, swallowing before reluctantly turning to face the owner of that formidable sounding voice. Why couldn’t she have remained a ghost for just a little longer?

“Good evening Madame Ouellette.”

The old matriarch didn’t look happy. She never looked happy as far as Katiya was aware. She’d often wondered if that was due to high tightly Madame Ouellette, who had no first name as far as Katiya knew, had her white hair pulled back into a bun.

“You are late on the boarding fee. Again.”

That was true and Katiya winced.

“I’ll have it to you by the end of the week. I’m earning more now on the night shift.”

Madame Ouellette didn’t seem encouraged by that. “I suggest you have it soon girl, or you will no longer have a room here. I’m doing you a favor by letting you stay here, remember that.”

A favor, at a ridiculously high price for a room with crumbling plaster, but of course Katiya didn’t say that. Instead she ducked her head, nodding. “Yes Madame.”

“Good. Now, you have visitors.”

Katiya’s head shot up at that, blue eyes wide.


“Visitors girl, you have them. The one said he was your brother.”


“Stop babbling girl!” the matron glared at her until Katiya felt her cheeks go red with shame.

“Yes, your brother. I showed him up to your room. Perhaps he could help you cover your rent.”

“Yes Madame.”

“Good. I informed him that all visitors were required to leave before half an hour was up. He said that would be fine. I will be checking.”

With that she turned and left Katiya, frozen, on the stairs, hand gripping the banister so hard her fingers were white. Brother? She had no brother, she had no family, not since the summer when her father…

A vicious shake of the head dislodged that particular bad memory before it could start. A visitor, that couldn’t be good.

She had made it three steps down the stairs when the door at the top opened and a voice straight from her nightmares called out. “Where you going Katiya? Aren’t you coming to see your dear old brother?”

The redhead froze and her shiver wasn’t from the cold this time.

“Katiya…” when she didn’t make any move to come up the stairs. “I’m waiting.”

That did get her to turn and her legs mechanically got her moving up the stairs towards him. Ivan hadn’t changed at all since the summer, his carefully manicured good looks, devastating smile and expensive clothes were all in force as he watched her climb the stairs towards him.

“Good girl, I would have hated to have to come get you.” His fingers clenched around her arm and hauled her towards the room. A shadow inside detached itself from the wall, and Katiya shivered again as she recognized the hulking form that shadow belonged too.

“You remember Boris, don’t you?”

She mumbled something that must have been an affirmative, since he shoved her ahead of him and closed the door behind them. Boris caught her, large thick fingers closing around her arm with the ease of someone who knew he could break her in half if he needed to, without breaking a sweat.

“You don’t come around anymore Katiya, you hurt Boris’s feelings. Ain’t that right Boris?”

Boris grunted, his eyes leering down at her. She knew what he was thinking, the same thing he’d thought every time he’d seen her. It wasn’t hard to guess by the way those eyes traced down her slim form.

“Boris missed your company and so did I.”

“What do you want?” She was proud that it almost came out without a stutter.

“You owe me little Katiya.”

“What?” She blinked, surprised. “I don’t owe you anything!”

“Of course you do.” He smiled. “Your father didn’t finish his last job. That means you owe me what he couldn’t get.”

“But… you were the one who wanted to do that job!”

He shrugged, elegantly as always. “Sins of the father and all that.”

“I don’t do that anymore.” Hadn’t since the disastrous days of the summer.

“Yes I can see your new legal ways are being good to you.” His dark eyes roamed the crumbling plaster walls, sneering at the low class around him. “No matter, you have no choice.”

“I won’t do it.”

“Won’t?” He blinked, and then smiled, carefully trimmed mustache and long black hair framing a face that could go from warm to deadly. “Boris here was hoping you would refuse. Weren’t you Boris?”

Boris grunted shoving Katiya into a wall and pinning her there with his body while his hands clumsily grabbed her.

“No!” She screamed then grunted in surprise as Ivan slapped her, hard.

“Shut up.” He said, almost conversationally. “Now, you are going to get what I want, or your going to be Boris’s play thing. Understand?”

She nodded, shivering as those large fingers fumbled at her.

“Good.” Ivan smiled. “I knew you would see reason. You have until tomorrow.”


He slapped her again. “What did I say about shutting up?”

When she stayed silent this time the dark haired man smiled again. “Good girl. I knew you could learn. Just like your dear old dad. Now, you have until tomorrow night. I would get busy if I were you. Let her go Boris.”

Boris leaned down, his breath stinking of tobacco as he growled. “You’ll be mine soon enough.” Then shoved her away into the wall.

“Bye Katiya, see you soon.” Ivan said, not bothering to shut the door behind him as he and Boris left.

She stayed where she was, crumpled against the wall, staring at the empty door.


Quickly, by human standards, slow by vampire ones Alexei limped out of the alley and down the street. The fire illuminated the sky behind her with flames and smoke. Frustrated, as she seemed to slow down with every step. She knew she needed to get off the street, somewhere safe and hidden, if any of her enemies saw her in such a weakened state it wouldn't end well.

Not far away from the alley way another shape slipped out of the back door of one of the boarding houses. The fire lighting a part of the sky was a pleasant diversion, maybe Katiya thought, the chaos she heard as people headed towards the fire, would help her stay hidden.

Gone was the sensible coat from earlier, instead she was dressed in dark gray and black clothes. The pants she wore, which would have caused a scandal if she were seen in them, were the least of her problems tonight. Red hair was bound up under a dark wool cap.

A couple of blocks later Alexei was weaving on the sidewalk. She wasn't going to make it home. Movement stopped and she looked around blinking. She took in the different buildings and settled on an old abandoned looking factory.

She moved into the building. Its dark windows looked down at her like a soulless corpse. The front door was locked and she moved around to the back.

Looking up she spotted a broken window. With a sigh she reached up and started to climb up the wall sliding through the window with a muffled scream of pain. She crawled forward before giving in to the urge to rest and heal.

On the other side of the same factory Katiya huddled in the deepest shadows she could find by a side door. The lockpicks were hidden in a pocket sowed in her pants. Sliding down a little she started to work on the ancient looking pad lock that was baring her entry.

Quickly she worked her way through the pins smiling in satisfaction as she heard the lock click open. "Thanks dad." she whispered, putting the pin away and pushing the door open.

The place looked empty, which was good as far as Katiya was concerned. Softly she closed the door behind her and flittered from one shadow to another, intent on the rooms upstairs. The managers office would be there she figured and that would be where the safe was.

A group of people ran by outside and the redhead froze, eyes wide, breathing harsh as she waited for them to pass. When it was quiet once again she started up the stairs, easing her weight onto each one, careful not to make any more noise than necessary. Who knew if a night watchman might be sleeping in one of the rooms above?

The door to the office above opened and light from a lantern swept through the room stopping on the crumpled body.

"Private property. Go sleep it off elsewhere." The watchman muttered and with a sadistic grin stepped forward setting the light down and move over to the huddled figure.

"Can't say I didn't give you warning." He mumbled stepping forward and swinging a fist.

Alexei's dark eyes opened in shock and she growled lashing out, instinct taking over she tackled her attacker to the ground a loud crash echoing through the empty building.

Katiya froze, eyes straining against the darkness. She'd heard the crash at the top of the stairs she was on. Rats, maybe it was rats. Any other night and she would have just slipped away, but she didn't have that luxury tonight. Swallowing she slowly continued upwards.

The wounded woman’s senses took in the scent of warm flesh and the sound of a frightened heart beating. Her knees pinned his arms like weights as she sat on his chest. Growling canines were exposed, one hand pushed his head to the side drawing his neck into a line. Gleaming white teeth tore into the flesh rearing back a huge chunk of skin, with it spraying blood that spurted with his beating heart.

She lowered her head again and drank, as she swallowed his blood the madness resided, the beast calmed and then disappeared, leaving her with human logic and a very dead body.

Reminding herself that she didn't have any choice, Katiya crept over the top of the stairs. Now, which one was the manager’s office? She could do this quickly, she told herself over and over. There was a weak light coming from one of the end offices, so Katiya moved away from there, heading to the largest office in the middle. That should be it.

A quick jimmy and the locked door wasn't anymore. With a slow breath she edged inside, eyes lighting as she spotted the tell tale bulk of a large safe in the corner. There it was.

Alexei stood up ripping a portion of the dead mans shirt and wiped her face and hands. She was feeling better, not a hundred percent. "Fuck." She muttered not sure what to do with the body.

Kneeling down by the front of the safe door she stripped off her fingerless gloves and pressed her ear to the door. Listening intently she started to turn the number dial. The sound of a voice, female she thought, from down the hallway made her pause, then try to move faster.

Limping, Alexei made her way to the door. The bullets burned lodged inside her body, annoying her to no end. She lifted her tinted glasses up to rest on top of her head and looked at the body. Well it could be blamed on a wild dog she supposed. But it would be best to weight the body in a sheet or something and dump it in the river.

She opened the door and moved down the hall looking for stuff she could use. As she opened the forth door she was surprised to find a woman crouched next to a large rusted safe.

Shit. Her evening just couldn't go as she had planned.

"Yes." Katiya hissed, feeling the last of the tumblers click into place. Grabbing the lever she pulled down, unlocking the safe and the heavy door swung open. She stood up to look inside when she froze, staring at the shape in the doorway.


Then the shape registered in the dim light coming in through the windows and Katiya frowned. "You aren't the night watchman."

"No I'm certainly not. And you don't look like one either." Alexei responded.

There was, Katiya thought, something wrong about a person having such a melodic voice. She couldn't see the woman's face in the shadows, but if it was even close to the beauty of her voice, it was a crime. "The owner forgot the combination to the safe." She blindly reached behind her into the safe, grabbing a likely feeling velvet bag and palming it.

Alexei had to chuckle, since she had probably been the owner of this shithole several decades ago before she had moved the factories letting the humans take over these slums.

"Did they now?" She stepped into the room.

The sound of that low smoky chuckle was enough to distract Katiya for a fatal moment. She froze as she saw the dark streaks that covered a face that was otherwise perfect. The dim lighting turned golden hair into a pale white, almost as pale as the skin of the woman looking at her. Even the eyes were colorless, gray or pale enough to look gray in that lighting. She looked like one of those beautiful actresses in the black and white movies that played at the corner theaters. Everything was perfect, except for the dark liquid smeared across her mouth like a grotesque parody.

"Y-yesss..." Katiya gulped, eyes wide as she realized what that probably was. "I should be going. My friends are waiting outside. All of them." She babbled.

Alexei cocked her head for a moment. "There's no one here but you, me, and the dead watchman."

"He's dead?" Katiya swallowed, wondering why she hadn't fled yet, or started screaming. Something told her that she wouldn't make it very far if she did. "You umm… have something on your mouth."

The elders had gotten it backwards she thought. They had strove to get them closer to God. In the end they had just made them animals, spun them farther away from the divine. "That would be blood."

"You probably should clean that up before you go outside." Katiya knew she was babbling, but she couldn't think of anything else to do, frozen where she was. "I'll just leave you to your... supper?"

Alexei stepped forward. "I have a need of you I think."

"What?" She pressed herself back against the safe, eyes wide and horrified. "You need a lock picked?" Please, oh please, she prayed, let it be something like that and not a more permanent need.

"A house broken into?" She pressed further back, trying to sink into the wall. "I could work in your factory?"

She was now firmly with in the woman's personal space. Impressed, she never heard the woman's heartbeat pick up. She paused their bodies just touching, her eyebrow arched in question. "What an odd thing to say. Work in my factory?"

"My night job." Katiya smiled hopefully, shivering again as she got a better look at the other woman. Maybe the stories were right, vampires were ungodly beautiful. No regular person could look so perfect even with drying blood smeared across his or her chin. Despite the obvious danger or maybe because of it she wasn't sure which; Katiya could feel herself react to the closeness.

"You know me then? How unfortunate." She reached out grabbing the woman's hands pinning them to the wall. Oh yes the elders had made a race farther from God than man. She could hear the heart pick up its pace. Seduction, arousal was good for that, it made the blood sweeter, and Alexei preferred it that way. Others preferred their blood laced with torment, fear and death.

Inhaling she took in the smell of mortality that clung to all humans, the vibrancy of life that flashed like a shooting star burning out so quickly. She sank into the heated flesh. Once she had been like this, to long ago and that woman was gone, a memory, gone faded in time.

"Wait, we can work out a deal right?" She shivered, fear and arousal mixed in equal parts, and feelings that she'd never thought could be felt at one time. The hands holding her might as well have been iron for all the good her tugging did. Boris might have been three times the size of the woman holding her, but she had no doubt who would win in a fight. "I could help you."

She gasped at the sudden press of flesh on her neck. The vampire’s lips were warmer than she'd expected and then she wasn't thinking about anything as sharp teeth nipped her flesh. The pain was gone almost quicker than she realized it was there to be replaced by a bliss that was all encompassing. Katiya wouldn't have left even if the statuesque blonde had let go of her arms, her mind simply shut down in response to the wonderful feelings. So this is what it's like to die, was her last coherent thought, it's not bad.

Probably because she had one body already to account for Alexei barely drained the woman at all. Stopping she licked the wound slowly until it healed. A thick knot of angry red scar tissue had formed after a moment and she stopped pulling back with a sigh. "Perhaps it’s your lucky day." She said quietly a puzzled look on her face. She really had no need for any more pets, and to bring another one home would only cause strife in her house.

Blue eyes fluttered open, in a haze Katiya stared up at the face hovering over hers. When had she slumped to the ground she wondered, briefly and without much concern. "Who are you?" She tried to ask, but it came out garbled, her tongue feeling too big for her mouth.

Alexei frowned and laid the young woman down. She should just leave her, but then she had done the asinine thing of marking her neck. Now with her hunger truly sated and her wound healed she realized what a mess she had created.

Getting up she moved to the widow, ripped the curtains down, and took them to the other room. For better or worse she thought, as she wrapped the dead man in the heavy curtains the young thing was hers now.

The last few minutes had a dream like quality to them. Something awful had happened she was sure of it, but she didn't seem to feel upset about it. Shaking her head the redhead stood up, gripping onto the edge of a desk as the room spun alarmingly around her. The light-headedness went away after a moment and Katiya stood upright.

"This is crazy." The black velvet bag was still in her hand, she should run for it, right now.

"What's crazy?" Alexei asked as she walked back in the room to check on the young woman.

"I'm going." There, that sounded reasonable enough. The room had stopped doing a dance around her; now it was just doing a little jig.

"Uh huh." The blonde remarked an amused quirk to her lips. Either the woman was in shock about what had just happened or she was very calm.

"Okay, good." Katiya blinked and then cautiously stepped away from the desk glad when the room didn't decide to do anything really odd like moving. "I'll just leave you to your... body." She was slowly backing away from the statuesque woman.

She had thought long and hard these past couple of minutes about what she was going to do with the woman. Despite what she was killing really wasn't her soul purpose for being.

"I hate to break it to you, but you belong to me now." In the blink of an eye she was standing next to Katiya.

That was far too quick a move for someone who had just donated blood and Katiya swayed dangerously. "I don't belong to anybody." Katiya let go of the stone hard arm she'd just grabbed onto to avoid dropping over.

Alexei reached out grabbing her. One hand pulled down the neck of the shirt she wore while the other hand reached out and gently stroked the new scar on the woman's neck. "Ah, this would beg otherwise."

The touch was electrifying and Katiya swooned a bit more, which was a first for her. "You bit me." The image was sharp again in her mind and she glared at the vampire.

"Yes, I'm sorry about that. Lucky for you the guard found me first, or you two might have swapped places. You saved my life tonight, something I'm sure you'll grow to regret if you don't already." She let go but stayed where she was.

“I need to go.” Katiya protested.

"Ah mouse, my sneaky little mouse, do you think I remotely care what you need to do? I think I'm being generous since in reality you just broke into my building and my safe." She chuckled at the confused expression on the young woman's face. "I have always owned the factories. I built them."

"But they've been here forever..." Katiya trailed off swallowing, as how very bad this was started to sink in.

"So my sneaky mouse I have a task for you, if you do it correctly and prove your worth I will let you live. For now I will even let you keep your life outside my world if that is what you want."

The redhead backed away, eyes wide as she tried, desperately to think of a way out of this. "I get to go free if I do your task?" She hoped.

"No, I'm sorry you can't ever be free with my mark upon your neck. But I'm willing to give you a bit of autonomy for now."

This was very bad. "What task?" Maybe she could figure out a way to escape later. Her father had always said she was a clever little girl.

Alexei's eyes grew hard. "Yes or no? Yes you do the task and go about your way until I have need of you again. Or no, and I take you with me to that lovely huge mansion on the mountainside and put a collar on you. Which is it?"

"The one that doesn't involve the collar." That sounded good.

"I knew you were a clever mouse." Thank goodness, Fiona would never let her hear the end of it if she brought home such a young piece of flesh. Then there was Molly and Shiro, she'd have to endure they're petty jealousies if she brought home another human pet.

"It’s a simple task I need you to dispose of the guard’s body. He can never be found and if he is found his killing can never be linked to a vampire.” That word hung on the air, thick and heavy the first uttering of the truth of the matter.

"What?" She jerked. "A dead body?" That wasn't something she'd ever done before. She was pretty sure she wasn't going to be able to lift a dead person let alone dispose of it.

"Are you deaf?" Alexei frowned, maybe she should just kill her, and cull the weak from the herd.

"No." Katiya answered quickly. "I'll do it." She'd find a way, somehow. "Where is it?"

"Down the hall third door on the left." She stepped back and started to turn before turning back. "You saved my life, if you ever need something - other than your freedom from me- I'm sorry that's not something that can change. I will do what I can to grant it." Then she did turn walking out of the room.

"Great." A vampire who owed her a favor. That didn't fill her with good feelings. Now to find out how to get rid of a body. Self-consciously she covered the red mark on her neck, tucked away the bag she'd come for and went to find the dead man.


Dawn was creeping up on the city even if it couldn't be seen with the smoke and smog.  Alexei couldn't have been more relieved as she finally made it home; her face sported various bruises, which were already starting to slowly heal.

The gate sensing her opened and the two large stone gargoyles seemed to follow her with hollow black eyes from where they sat on stone pillars framing the orientate metal gate.  Quietly the gate closed behind her.  She quickly traveled up the cobble stone driveway to the large wooden front doors, these too opened for her.  This time however they opened due to a short squat man with the expression that he had smelled something awful affixed firmly to his features.

"Cutting it close My Lady."  He said in way of greeting.

"Close I had hours yet until I was in any danger."

"Of course."  He closed the door, "Shall I have a bath drawn for you?"

"Yes and send Fiona to my chambers."  She saw it, the briefest chink in his armor exposed as he paused before turning around.

"Yes of course.  I'll see to it right away."

"Oh and have her come up with the medical kit."

"Of course."  This wasn't the first time and probably far from the last time for that.

Alexei made her way slowly up the stairs the bullets inside her refusing to heal up and small bullet hole wounds continued to weep blood.  She stepped around a large Siberian tiger that lounged on the stair landing and then climbed over another who was lounging at the top of the stairs blocking the way.  He merely opened an eye and closed it again.

Her rooms were at the end of the hall, a massive combination of study, bath, and bedroom.  Already she could hear the groaning of the pipes and the sound of water filling up the tub.  A mystery still how he always seemed to know what she needed before she said anything.

With a groan she shrugged out of her coat, there really wasn't much of it left now; with an air of neglect she let it fall to the tiled floor.  Limping she made her way to the bedroom the Italian marble giving way to plush red carpeting.  One handed she undid her belt and the buttons of her slacks letting them fall down her legs and leave marks of her passing on the carpet.  She made it to the bed sinking down into its pleasant plushness as the doors opened.

A short woman with dark wavy red hair came barging in.  "Alexei?  What have you gone and gotten yourself into now."  She muttered.

"Over here."  The blonde waved weakly from the bed.

Fiona was still as beautiful as the first time she'd seen her defiant and soaking wet from the sea wreck she had escaped on the rocky coastline.  A whore, a slave, a woman kidnapped as plunder from the Emerald Isle's to the west by Viking raiders.

But nothing could escape the passage of time, and Fiona's hair was now starting to get laced with gray and more lines now graced her face.

Fiona sucked in a breath and muttered something in her native Gaelic.  "What have you gone and done to yourself now."  She settled on the bed next to Alexei opening up the medical bag.  “I see the bullet hole in your thigh, the bruising on your face, and blood stain on your gut.  Anything else I'm missing?"

The blonde raised her right hand showing the smashed and broken fingers.

"Ah love what am I going to do with you?"  The redhead sighed and brought out some gauze and forceps.

"Love me despite the bastard I am."

Fiona chuckled and dug the forceps into the bloodied muscle of Alexei's thigh and rooted around for the bullet.   "You're alive and that is blessing enough."  She paused sniffing.  "You killed tonight."

"Yes, I did.  I murdered the dead and dying in an unauthorized blood house, I murdered an unfortunate soul who came upon me while I was trying to rest and heal."

The redhead nodded, "It’s been a long time since you were the butcher of Budapest and the Tiger of the Steppes."  She reached over smoothing back unruly curls.  "I still remember you on the shore rising up and striking those raiders down like the God of Death himself.  I remember wanting you to kill me wanting for death to claim me so I would never have to remember what I'd been through.  Instead centuries later I find myself at your side."  As she spoke she unbuttoned the tailored shirt spreading it open revealing a slim muscled torso and small firm breasts.    "So tell me what really happened, I'm betting you didn't kill everyone at that blood bar.  Your years as a blood sucking fiend from hell have made you oddly softhearted towards humans."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Uh huh."  Fiona mumbled while she concentrated on removing the bullet from her Mistress's gut.

Alexei hissed and tore at the bed sheets as the bullet was extracted.

Fiona gently cleaned the wound it was already healing.   "The hand will fix itself soon enough.  Want to tell me who broke it?  Its far more recent than the bullet holes."

"Karl."  She said simply.


"Yes."  Karl was her Lord even though she was probably far older than him.  He wasn't her maker.  No, her maker had come across her in tall grass while hunting for a snack. She had learned who she was by herself, it wasn't until nearly two decades later she'd met another like her.

"He was displeased?"  The pet questioned.

"He disliked my lack of answers as to who would dare bring such a place here.  I don't know yet who is making such waves."

Fiona nodded and started to pull the shirt off her mistress’ body.  Exposing a stylized tattoo of a serpent its tail started at Alexei's right wrist and wound its way up her arm, around her neck and ended at her knuckles.  Fangs dipped down too so when she closed her hand into a fist it looked as if the snake might strike.  A symbol of long life and wisdom her tribe’s shaman had bestowed it on her after a dream.  She was uncertain about the wisdom part but long life seemed accurate.

"Let's get you into the bath."

Alexei sat up and turned her attention to the dress Fiona wore her hand going to what seemed like a thousand small mother of pearl buttons.  "Who ever decided these awful fashions were in style."

"Queen Victoria about a century ago.  I would love it if a new style came into fashion but certain elements in the world seem to be fixated on the industrial revolution and refuse to let science progress any farther or the world for that matter."  Fiona said with disdain knowing how the world of steam and mass production seemed to create a world in which the vampire thrived.  The world no longer got up with the sun and went to bed when it was dark.  Industry allowed for the world to keep moving long after the sun had gone down.  Pollution kept the skies dark blocking out the sun.

"Yes well, some maybe frightened by certain theories coming out of the colleges of Science, and these same frightened vampire lords do their best to see that such voices are silenced."  Alexei agreed then went back to undoing buttons.  "Why don't we go enjoy a nice long hot, wet soak?"  She frowned as her hands were stilled.

"Alexei there's something... well tomorrow..."

The blonde sighed and swallowed past the lump that formed in her throat.  "Does this having something to do with the look Lyov gave me at the door when I mentioned your name?  And why you smell of Warren my head cook?"

"Yes.  Warren and I have been flirting and we've had some innocent lunches.  I would never... you are the Master of the house.  I've been thinking I'd like to have a family."  She held her breath.

"But we're family."

"Alexei, you were what I needed centuries ago.  I thank God you found me and gave me a second chance on life but I'm starting to age your blood can't hold off time for ever."

The vampire swallowed.  "No.  I could.... I would...  for you I would."

She didn't say what it was but they both knew.

"Thank you but you know I've never wanted forever.  I want kids and a family."

"You'll have to stop taking my blood.  You’ll go through withdrawal."

"I know and Warren knows.  He plans to come in the morrow to speak with you about my hand in marriage.  I expect you to be nice."

Alexei snorted.  "I should give him a good thrashing for stealing my best girl."

Fiona snorted and slapped the blonde lightly.  "You'll do no such thing."

"Fine, take my fun away."  She couldn't imagine a life without Fiona in it, without her blood Fiona would start to age like any other human and then in the blink of an eye she'd be gone.

"Come then let us get clean, and spend one last night together."  Fiona said with a wicked grin seeing her mistress's mood turn melancholy, and pulled her from the bed. 

Later they were in bed Fiona's legs draped over Alexei's hips.  Her red hair was unbound and Alexei's gray eyes watched in fascination as Fiona arched back, mouth open gasping for air, as her hair tumbled down her back in the shadowed confines of her bedroom looking like spilled wine down the pale flesh of her back.  Alexei savored the feeling of the swollen, hot wet flesh gripping tightly against her fingers.

As Fiona orgasmed, Alexei rose up leaving one hand still inside the spasming flesh while the other came up wrapping around the woman's back to prevent her from being thrown back.  Her mouth lowered to Fiona's ample breasts, fangs exposed she nipped at the flesh making tiny cuts and quickly licking the blood away.  A ritual they had shared before the British had formed an empire and this would be the last time.  She studied Fiona's face as it melted into ecstasy but instead of pleasure she felt sadness.

As Fiona's orgasm subsided unthinking she reared up trying to bite Alexei's neck to complete the ritual they had shared, until tonight.  Alexei reached up stopping her.  "No more Fiona unless Warren is not what you really want."

This was her test; Fiona felt the need for Alexei's blood rise up. So long she had been a thrall, for a moment she wasn't certain she could resist.  Then after a moment she gained control.  "Thank you."  She breathed, and stroked Alexei's blood warmed face.  

The blonde looked away, "Warren's a lucky man."

Fiona's heart broke a little knowing she was hurting Alexei, they had been with each other for so long and now she was changing that.  She was well aware how lucky she was; many a vampire would not let a thrall go like this.

"You're immortal Alexei; you'll find someone who wants that as well.  Molly or Shiro, you know they want the complete ritual into everlasting life."

Alexei nodded, her two other pets weren't very discrete about their wants.

"I should go."  Fiona said with one last kiss and slid out of the bed.

"I won't throw you and Warren out.  You'll always have a place here."

The redhead smiled.  "I never doubted it. 

With Fiona gone her room seemed massive, huge, and empty.  She could seek the warmth and attention of her other pets but she wasn't in the mood for it.  Getting up she got dressed flexing her hand she was happy to see she was healed, if only on the outside.

She strode out of her rooms ignoring, beautiful Molly who lurked outside hoping to get her attention.  Her long legs carried her down the stairs where she bellowed.  "Get Warren up and his fat ass into the game room."   The game room was an intimidating enough place with the trophies of her fallen enemies, she would see if Warren were man enough to deserve Fiona's love.  Then perhaps she would spend some long hours in her office and factories that should shake things up and relieve her mind of the duty of dwelling on her crappy home life.


It was well past dawn by the time Katiya blearily returned to her room at the boarding house. She’d done what she could to hide the body, finding a sewer entrance that had been big enough to stuff it down. Hopefully it would find its way out to sea with the rest of the cities refuse.

It wasn’t the first dead man she’d ever seen; you couldn’t exist in the world she’d tried to leave without seeing more than you wanted to. Her Da had tried to shield her from the worst of it, but he couldn’t be there all the time.

Sneaking up the back stairs of the house, Katiya slipped into her room, letting out a sigh of relief that no one had seen her. Being seen in her current clothes would have raised questions, even in this place. The room was just as she’d left it, right down to the cracking and peeling plaster on the walls. Right down to the loose board under the bed under which she placed her rolled up clothes and lock picks.

She didn’t so much sleep as much as pass out, on top of the thin quilt that served as her covers. The redhead woke up far later than usual, so late that she had to scramble to get into her dress and down to the factory, wolfing down her food as she did.

The night shift was as dangerous as it always. Being tired working with the huge machines that turned out pots and pans for soldiers was just asking to lose a limb, or something worse. Every couple of weeks someone would lean somewhere they weren’t supposed to, or get careless, then there would be a scream and the next day a new face would be on the factory floor.

There was never any lack of people willing to fill an open spot in the factories that filled this part of the city. The hours passed in a blur of mindless work, spent trying to avoid sinking into a trance that could lead to her being careless.

By the time the end of shift whistle blew, Katiya was rubbing sleepily at her eyes. She still felt exhausted from the night before and her mind shuddered away from the scar on her neck. Shivering against more than the cold she bundled up and waved to the few people she kind of knew in the factory around her before stepping out into the cold.

The crowd of workers from the second shift passed the incoming crowd of third shift workers and Katiya started back towards the boarding house. Maybe she could make it in time for the dinner that Madame Oullette served for her boarders every evening.

"What no hello for your dear brother?" Ivan said from behind Boris's hulking mass.

"I don't have a brother." She didn't count Ivan as being a true brother. "My brother wouldn't hurt his family."

"But a father would?" He said with a snort walking back deeper into the shadows of the alley. Boris following behind, dragging Katiya's slight frame with him.

She followed not given a choice. "Don't you dare talk about Dad." She hissed, angrily.

The whip thin man chuckled. "I think I'm in a position to do what ever I dare." Boris chuckled as well. The larger man’s face had a hungry look to it, as his eyes seemed to undress Katiya.

"Let go of me." She tried to yank her arm free, frustrated when it was as useful a move as it had been against the vampire the night before.

"So do you have it?" Ivan was suddenly all business. He had dangerous wealthy people who were interested in that deed.

"Yes." She mumbled, pulling the velvet pouch from under her shirt where she'd kept it with her all day. "It's just paper." She'd peeked inside, nothing interesting there.

He took the bag and then backhanded her. "Did I tell you to look inside it?"

She tasted blood. "You didn't tell me not too." She touched the side of her face, grimacing.

"Lord bless me. A thief who wants to think." He chuckled, and hit her again. "News flash little Katiya, I paid you to steal not ask what was being stolen."

This time her lip was bleeding and she had to blink to clear her eyes from the hit. The mountain of the man didn't loosen his hold on her. "Dad always said you were destined to be a thug."

"I'm going to be a rich thug. Now if you'll excuse me I have a meeting to get to." He strolled down the alley and out on to the street. Boris however, never let go of Katiya's wrist.

"Hey!" She tugged on the wrist. "I did what you wanted!" Fear coiled ugly in her chest.

With a cruel smile he pushed her into the alley wall. "Ivan said we don't need you anymore. We got what we wanted out of you. Well Ivan did. I want other things." His other hand came up stroking her hair.

Katiya kicked, trying to hit a shin or anything soft enough and painful enough to make Boris loosen his hold on her. "Let go of me!" She tried to squirm loose.

There was no sound at all to warn anybody, the bullet smashed into the brick, whizzing past Boris's fat cauliflower ear.

He blinked and then turned his massive head, looking at the figure in the mouth of the alley. "Fuck off. This doesn't concern you."

The figure stepped deeper into the alley and raised the gun up level with his head. "I think this might concern you. Now let her go."

The redhead tried kicking again; shoving and trying to get free anyway she could, with predictable results. "That's right, let go of me!"

Boris frowned and then let go, he stormed away growling at the woman with the gun as he passed her. "Watch your back, bitch."

The woman was average height was dark skin, dark hair, and liquid brown eyes. Nice, sturdy peasants stock her stepmother use to sneer at her. She holstered the gun inside her coat and made her way to the rather stunned looking woman. "Are you okay?"

"Yes." The redhead answered automatically, blinking at the sudden apparition. "Who are you?" She was meeting all sorts of interesting people these days. The coat alone would have marked the woman as an outsider; no one here wore dark leather like that. The cut of all of the stranger’s clothes was different, strange.

"I am Tereza." Her accent thickening as she said her name, she held out her arm "Perhaps I could help you home. Just to make sure he is gone."

"That would be nice." There was no chance Katiya would pass up the offer of an escort from someone with a gun. "Thank you." She rubbed her wrists, smiling. "For stopping him."

"Unfortunately men like him are common." Daylight bathed them as they exited the shadows of the alleyway. "The sun has such a short life up here so far north I'm not sure how you all stand it?"

"We become ghosts." It was only partly a joke and Katiya kept looking sideways at this stranger, marveling at her strangeness. In many ways the woman was stranger than the vampire had been.

"Well here its either ghosts or cattle." Tereza responded her dark eyes glancing over at the other woman to gauge her reaction.

"Cattle?" Katiya frowned, stopping at the edge of the street as a group of soldiers galloped past on horseback, then continuing on when the way was clear. "I don't know what you mean."

"Well humans have very little roles to fill in a town ruled by vampires." Her hand clamped down on the woman's arm preventing her from pulling away.

"Vampires don't exist." The lie came easily to her lips, as it did to all of those who lived in the lower quarters. Talking about the ones who lived in the night was a sure way to disappear and Katiya had to fight to avoid touching the collar of her dress that covered the mark on her neck.

"Right. So in a town like this you’re a sheep, a ghost, or a dog. Which is it? I saw you leave that empty factory last night, not long after that vampire."

Katiya stared at the woman, yanking her arm free, eyes wide. "What are you?" She whispered, casting a look around to see if anyone was watching them.

"No the question is what are you. My first guess was a dog doing the bidding of its master, I saw you dump that body. But then today when that bullyboy was pissing on you no vamp would let its property be so abused. I was waiting for her to come and save you, but she didn't. So now I'm curious. What are you?"

"A nobody, that's what I am. Leave me alone." She didn't want this. People who got involved in these things ended up dead. "Go away." The redhead turned and started walking again.

"I can help you." She said at the redhead's retreating back.

"No you can't. Leave me alone!"

"Let me before she really sinks her claws into you. She doesn't own you yet, but she will."

Katiya paused, turning to look over her shoulder. "Do you know where you are?" The redhead shook her head. "Go home. This isn't a good place." Certainly the dark skinned woman could see that.

Tereza smiled. "I'll be seeing you." And then disappeared in a herd of people.

"You'll probably be dead." Katiya whispered, continuing to walk as quickly as she could. What did she care, let the stranger get herself killed, it wasn't any of Katiya's business.


The evening after the attack by the man who had called himself her brother and Boris, Katiya was nervous the entire time she walked to her shift at the factory. She worried about someone following her the entire way there, and spent most of the walk looking over her shoulder or peering worriedly into every shadowed alley. There was no sign of anyone who shouldn't have been there though and she hurried through the front doors of the factory to start her work.

Ivan was definitely starting to become more than a simple annoyance. He’d always been there, her father’s prodigal pupil, learning at the master’s feet while she was left to tag along. Then he’d betrayed them and she’d hoped that would be the last time she saw the bastard. Apparently the gods weren’t done laughing at her yet.

She took her place on the line, taking a deep breath and trying to focus on the mindless job in front of her. The machines whirled around her, slamming into the thick tin in front of her, forming it into a pot and then shoving it onwards. Her job was to prevent jams from happening, which they did on occasion, by reaching in between forms and jerking the left over tin aside. It was dangerous, and if she didn’t focus, a great way to lose an arm.

The factory ran morning, noon and night. It roared, huffed and puffed like a dragon whose belly could never be filled.

Alexei walked up the sidewalk, watching the mid-shift drag themselves away from the stone building, and the night shift swarmed around her trying to get in before the last whistle was blown and they were docked pay.

As the workers noticed her a bubble of space formed around her. Nobody wanted to be the center of her attention.

Alexei ignored the stares and the whispers as she made her way into the factory.

"Did you see who came in tonight?"

"No, why?"

"The owner's here!"

"Really? I thought she never came here!"

Katiya listened with interest to the gossip going on around her, and then had to snatch her hand back quicker than normal as the machine stamped down onto the tin in front of her. Her heart beating a bit faster she scolded herself for letting her attention falter.

"Lunch Break!" An eternity later the foreman yelled from the catwalk above. The machines slowed to a stop, the only time they would take until the end of the shift.

Tiredly, Katiya wiped at the thin layer of powdered tin that always seemed to build up after the shift. She trudged with the rest of the workers towards the small break area. She paused, looking up at the manager’s office that overlooked the factory floor. For the first time that she could remember the office was lit.

Alexei stared blankly out from her office windows onto the floor. She watched the workers move like ants away from their machines to the food source.

She was vaguely aware of Sergei coming in and out of her office, his mouth opening then closing puzzled as to what to say, and then he would shake his head and leave.

The redhead stared up at the owner, too stunned to move as she recognized the beautiful pale face looking down at the factory floor.

A flash of red drew her attention. A color out of place, up this far north on the Russian steppes. She thought briefly of Fiona, but this red was more vibrant.

"Who is that?"

"Uh... My Lady? Who?" The short stocky man came over to the window. He shrugged. "A worker."

Down below, Katiya ducked her head and hurried to catch up with the other workers, flushing as she realized she'd been left behind to stare up at the owner.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and in a flash she backhanded him. That was the problem, with vampire children they needed constant reminders they were not a Master.

"When I ask a question, Sergei, I expect an answer."

She could see the brief flicker of disdain in his eyes before he hid it. "We were human once. Have you forgotten the rough and tumble young Cossack who tried to rob me on the road? Never forget what you were, it makes you appreciate what you are, and feel pity for those who are not. They may be food but even the poorest rancher knows to take good care of his cattle and to watch out for a stampede."

She stood. "If you know each and everyone of your workers, Sergei, you can prevent a stampede."

"I can find out her name if you wish." It was clear he wasn't happy about the idea.

"Don't bother. My interest is already waning." She walked to the door and paused. "I can tell I've been lazy in my ruling of this family. That ends as of today. Now get out of my factory!" She shouted as she exited the door.

Downstairs, Katiya sat a little apart from the cluster of other workers, eating the small lunch she'd brought with her. She grinned, thinking again how strange it was that they were eating lunch and it was well past what normal people would have considered dinnertime.

The short shift break was quickly over and they all stood up as the Foreman yelled for them to get back up onto the line. Katiya tarried behind the others, staring up at the office windows above, oddly disappointed when she saw no statuesque blonde looking back down at her.

"Been a long time since she's been here." A voice said.

"What?" Katiya flinched and looked towards the sound of that voice.

"Things are so much better when she is here. She's much nicer than Sergei." Sergei's name was whispered, as if saying his name might make him appear.

Katiya shrugged, stepping aside as a group of workers bustled past returning to their jobs. "My names' Katiya." She introduced herself to the older looking woman who's eyes had always seemed so wise, who she'd seen around just never talked to.

"Shush, Fiana." A tired man said at the gossiping woman.

"It’s nice to meet you Katiya, never mind Abram."

Katiya waited until he'd moved on before smiling at the other woman. "Nice to meet you Fiana." She nodded towards the now empty windows. "Who is she?"

"She? Oh the owner. Her name is Alexei. She's a vampire you know." She said the last part in a conspiratorial whisper. "I worked in the old factories down by the frozen river, I was young then." Gnarled arthritic fingers primped gray curls.

Katiya pretended to act surprised. "Has she always owned the factories?"

"She pretended to be a man then, I was just a child. Then later she came in as a young woman, pretending to be her own daughter. But I knew it was her."

"Hey, you two!" The foreman yelled. "Breaks over!"

"It was good to meet you Fiana." Katiya whispered, hurrying towards her station on the line.

"It was nice meeting you as well." Fiana nodded at the young girl, happy that she had at least pretended to listen to what she had to say instead of laughing out right.

The machine was just starting back up, billowing a cloud of steam as the coal bellow was stoked into the furnaces again. Katiya had to hurry to get back into place, only just reaching her spot when the first sheet of tin slid into place.

Sergei watched the redhead frowning, unconsciously pulling on the floppy thick mustache that fell down on either side of his mouth. He was tired of being just a lackey. Being a vampire was survival of the fittest and every time she hammered him back into place he felt his chances at being Karl's right hand slipping farther and farther away. He should live in that mansion and fuck pretty Molly and that Mongolian girl. He would rule the humans in the city with an iron fist instead of this lessee faire attitude his master had.

Humans should fear them, bow before them. Perhaps it was time he made sure things went his way.

Katiya's mind wouldn't focus on the job at hand. She kept going over the old woman, Fiana's, words. She knew, they all knew, although they didn't talk about it, that vampires existed and walked among them. She'd gotten first hand evidence of that; even now the scar on her neck itched a little. There was no doubt that the woman who'd bitten her was Alexei, she wasn't bound to forget her anytime soon.

The redhead was so focused on her thoughts that she wasn't paying attention on the job. A piece of metal got stuck, like a thousand before it. As always before she reached in to grab it free.

Except this time she miss-timed it, the cloth of her arm got caught in one of the massive springs. Fear gripped her as she realized what had happened and she started to tug against the snag. There wasn't much time, only a few seconds, she wasn't going to make it.

An arm shot out, clothed in a tailored dark shirt, pale slim fingers gripping the turning cogs holding them still. Knuckles turned white in an effort to keep the machine from spinning any more, tearing the young woman's arm from its socket. "If you don't mind getting your arm free. I'd hate to have to shut down to clean up all the blood."

The words were whispered into Katiya's ear.

Eyes wide, Katiya numbly dislodged the cloth of her shirtsleeve and stepped away from the machine. Watching incredulously as Alexei kept the machine from turning. That was stronger than she'd ever imagined someone could be.

With a groan the machine wrenched itself from Alexei's grasp and continued doing what it was supposed to.

Alexei turned looking at the redhead. There was something familiar about her. "Why don't you come with me and sit down for a moment?"

"You..." Katiya blinked in amazement, staring at the blonde. "Thank you." She managed at last as her mind caught up with what had just happened. She nodded mutely, still stunned by how close she had just come to loosing her arm.

She placed a hand at the small of the redheads back and guided her to the stairs to her office. "Fenton, spread this division out and cover for the young lady for the rest of the evening."

Fenton blinked in surprise that the owner even knew his name and then nodded gesturing for a young man barely old enough to shave to take Katiya's place.

"Thank you." Katiya said, again, as they walked up the stairs. She was surprisingly nervous about the idea of being in the same room alone with Alexei.

"No need to thank me. It was purely selfish on my part. I hate losing money and we’d have to stop production to clean up the mess."

She led the young woman to her office, easily smelling the woman’s nervousness. She busied herself by making some tea to help the young woman relax.

“I haven’t seen you around.” Katiya said quietly.

"I've been occupied with my other holdings." She finished with the tea and turned handing the woman a cup. "This will help you relax a bit." She leaned back against her desk. “I am Alexei Petrova, I'm the owner of this fine place of industry as well as a few others."

Katiya used the excuse of taking a sip of tea to think through her answer before she responded. There was no way she was going to use her first name, so far it seemed like she hadn't been recognized. "It's good to meet you." she hesitated, then sighed, certain this wasn't going to last much longer. "Again."

"Again?" Alexei blinked in surprise.

"Again." Katiya smiled, taking a sip of tea. She arched an eyebrow, rather enjoying the surprised look on the other woman's face.

"I won't lie, you seem familiar." This could be bad, surprises in her world normally were.

"I'm covered in white dust, not too surprising you don't recognize me. I guess I thought I'd made more of an impression on you than that." She set aside the teacup and pulled down the high-necked collar she'd been wearing to show the scar. "You made an impression on me."

The vampire smiled. "So I did little mouse. So I did. Seems I have returned the favor."

"That makes us even, right?" Katiya rather didn't think so, but she could try at least. Somewhere during the past few minutes she'd forgotten to be afraid.

Alexei was so startled by the presumptuous question that she burst out laughing. Such a ballsy question that nobody would ever do to her.

"Oh well, it was worth a try." The redhead picked up the teacup and sipped, enjoying the warmth. "I'm glad you're better." She realized she actually meant it. "I mean you look better." She frowned. "Then you did."

The blonde studied the woman for a moment and realized she was sincere. "Thank you. I am better."

She took a moment to take in the revelation. "You had your hair hidden under a cap, there's no way I could forget the color of your hair. So mouse, what am I going to do with you?" She pulled out a chair and sat down.

"Let me go back to work?" Katiya felt the first bit of worry. "I can't get fired." That would be the end of her, she didn't have any money, and she’d be forced to go back to her previous talents.

"Is that what you want?" She asked staring into Mouse's blue eyes.

The redhead stared back, captivated by those gray eyes that pierced her thoughts. She'd dreamed about those eyes the past two nights, between nightmares of Ivan and Boris, with the odd appearance of the dark skinned woman tossed in for spice. She thought of Fiana, old before her time, bent by years tending to the machines, a servant to them. Would it be any different to be a servant to a vampire? "Is there another option?"

"There are always options. I bit you, I marked you, I won't lie there are those who can smell me in that bite and hurt you for it. I cannot take the bite away; what is done cannot be undone. But you are a sneaky mouse and one can always use such a creature."

"It can't be worse than being a pick pocket in the city markets." Thieves were killed for stealing when caught. "Will it be better than being down on the factory floor?"

Alexei smiled, the smile was a mix of evil and seduction, “I think it would be.”

That little smile decided for her. "Deal." She held out her hand. Hopefully this would convince Ivan to leave her alone as well. She wasn’t under any illusions about what would happen if she met the two men again alone.

"Excellent." The blonde stood up, “Finish your tea and we shall go and gather your things." This was going to blow up in her face, but there was something about her mouse here that was intriguing. She showed no fear only the amazing ability to adapt to what was thrown at her.

She turned to her tea set and gathered a small bag of the green tea from China. "So what is your name Mouse? Or shall I just call you mouse?"

"I don't have many things to gather." Her lock picks and maybe one or two sets of clothes. "Mouse is good." Katiya smiled finishing her tea. "But my name is Katiya. What should I call you?"

"Lady, Master, Mistress, when we are with other vampires. Alexei when it is just us or my other pets or servants." She turned back around and handed the small bag of tea to Katiya. "Here you go Katiya, try to have a cup a day. Its good for you."

The idea of a vampire being concerned for her safety was too much and Katiya laughed before she could stop herself. "Sorry. I'm not used to people worrying about my safety." The box was also the first present she'd gotten in a very long time. "Thank you." She'd said that a lot recently.

Her lips curled up as she studied the vampire. "I probably should have asked this before, but what would I be doing for you?" She rather hoped it had something to do with the way Alexei had smiled earlier.

Alexei nodded and looked away uncomfortable, she grabbed her coat and put it on, it was very similar to the one she had destroyed the other night.

"You're mine now. I will care for you and your needs. You have but one task, to serve me. You proved already you can do that." She turned back around holding out her arm.

"Sometimes I will have duties for a sneaky little mouse. Other times I will have other tasks. Come now let us get your things. We have a ritual to complete, the one we started the other night." She reached over and stroked the bite mark on the redhead’s neck.

Katiya hesitated to take a hold of the offered arm, worried about getting some of the tin powder on that immaculate jacket. "What kind of ritual?" She wasn't too thrilled with another day of feeling week and drained, but if that was what it took, so be it. The alternative was the factory floor, or worse.

"I understand it can be very pleasant, if you desire it to be so. But that particular ritual has many forms."

Both eyebrows went up at that. "That sounds interesting." She was well aware that this was a different world she was stepping into. It had to be better than the one she'd spent the last few months in and definitely an improvement over the underground her family had existed in.

As they came down the stairs all eyes were on them. Curiosity, jealousy, and fear; ah humanity at its best Alexei mused.

"They hate me now, don't they?" Katiya whispered, feeling the eyes on her as they walked.

The blonde nodded, "Some are afraid for you, afraid what I will do to you. But yes, from the moment you walk out these doors you are no longer one of them." She paused, her hand resting on the metal door, standing before the door before she pushed it open. "Last chance to say no and keep this life."

She looked around, taking in the roar of the machines, the hiss of steam escaping, the tired drawn out look on all of the workers who serviced the never-ending machinery. "This isn't a life." She'd tried to keep her promise, to lead a normal life, she'd tried hard.

"And serving me may not be one either, but once we walk out these doors there is no saying no."

Katiya smiled. "It's either that or end up working for Ivan." That would be a bad way to go. "I'm with you."

"Now my sneaky Mouse, show me to your place and we will gather your things."

The redhead looked behind her one last time, catching Fiana's eyes. She couldn't be sure but she thought the old woman winked at her, before turning back to her work. "It's not far." She followed alongside the elegant woman, trying not to get too much dust on her clothing.


Alexei had been horrified to see how Katiya had lived. Even growing up on the steppes in a nomadic tribe they hadn't lived like this.

They rode in a carriage back through the town to its outskirts, the houses got larger and farther apart until it was just trees and a large stone structure.

Katiya gave up pretending that she wasn't staring out the window when the houses became larger than anything she'd seen. She was staring open mouth at the private, gated estates that were outside the windows. "Imagine the stuff I could loot from these places." She whispered.

"Yes, imagine. Please try to control yourself." Alexei said amused.

"They're huge. Do you live in something this size?" She tried, and failed, to imagine what that would be like.

The carriage turned and headed up a small hill. "No I live in something bigger." The carriage stopped in front of a stonewall that stretched into the trees around the estate and a metal gate.

"Wow." Katiya's mouth gaped open at the size of the thing that was supposed to be called a house in front of them. It was the size of the factory, maybe bigger. "That's..." She trailed off, lacking the words.

Alexei opened the door and stepped down. She tipped the carriage driver and held out a hand to help Katiya down. "Big?"

"Huge." Katiya stepped out, neck still craned as she peered up at the high arching peaked roofs and multitude of chimney's that lined the roof.

"Hmm. Huge will work. Come on now."

"I hope I'm not going to be scrubbing the floors." That would be a hell of a job.

"No. No scrubbing floors." She led them to the gate the stone gargoyles staring at them from the stone pillars on either side of the gate.

The gate opened after another beat and she led them up the walkway to the house.

"I thought up a new word. Imposing." The gargoyles were nasty looking and even though they were carved from stone, Katiya stayed close to Alexei. The doors at the top of the front steps opened as Alexei approached them, a wizened old hunched over man in a liveried uniform watched them approach, bowing as Alexei topped the stairs.

"Lyov I would like you...” The entrance of two women cut her off; one was tall with long dark hair, blue eyes, and lush curves. The other was smaller with dark hair and Asian features.

"Alexei, darling...” The tall one started in a very British accent, she paused blinking at Katiya. "What the hell is that?"

The woman's voice immediately set Katiya's teeth on edge. "My name's Katiya." She blurted before she thought, which had gotten her in trouble before.

Behind them Lyov grunted and shut the doors, barring them as he did every day before the sun rose.

"Replacing Fiona already?" The woman approached Alexei running her hands over her shoulders and plastered herself to the woman's side. Now with Fiona gone she was supposed to move into the head spot, Alexei wasn't supposed to bring another one home.

The words didn't make much sense to Katiya, but the possessive stance certainly did. She raised an eyebrow at the way the tall one had draped herself across Alexei.

Alexei turned and grabbed Molly by the throat, lifted her, and slammed her into the wall. "You are a pet and you would do well to remember your place." She let go, letting Molly drop to the floor. "Lyov summon Stepan and have her taken below and locked away until she remembers her place."

Katiya watched, stunned at the sudden ferocity. Alexei expression was cold, remote, and haughty.

The wizened old man growled something that was probably a curse and stalked over to one of the nearby open doorways, yelling for Stepan as he was bid to do.

Alexei turned walking away and held out her arms, "Shiro, you look lovely." The Asian woman smiled and launched herself into Alexei's arms. Alexei spun her around and then set her down. "How is that violin piece turning out?"

A gust of wind stirred Katiya's clothes, ruffled her long red hair, and then a man was kneeling in front of Alexei. Long black hair was tied up in a loosely behind his head, and wearing elegant clothing. "You bellowed?" He snickered, grinning up at the Mistress of the house.

She set Shiro down and turned to Stepan. "Ah my lively puck." If she had a favored it would be her roguish Stepan. "Molly is in need of some re-education."

"Reaaally?" He drew out the word, looking over at the sulking woman still curled up on the floor. "How pleasant for me." He stood, sweeping the cloth of his long coat behind him as he did in a move calculated to reveal his stunning physique. "How much re-education would you like her to receive?"

Katiya stepped back away from the appraising look in the vampire, for he had the same ageless beauty that Alexei commanded, had in his hard dark eyes.

"Enough for her to remember her place. I don't like pets who try to do my thinking for me." She stroked his face and kissed his lips briefly. "Take her below, and if she's lucky I won't let the twins loose upon her."

"As you wish." He grabbed the British woman's arm, pulling her up as if she weighed nothing. Then he pulled her into an embrace she did nothing to avoid. Katiya was staring right at them when he blurred, disappearing from view with the same gust of wind that tugged at her clothes. This was definitely a long way from the factory floor.

"Lyov could you..."

"Your bath is drawn and Warren is making some food for the young woman as we speak."

"Right." She said with a chuckle and started up the stairs, and paused, she turned looking at Katiya. "Come on now. You can't go back now."

Swallowing she hurried to keep up, not really wanting to be left alone with the scowling doorkeeper. "I'm not going back." She sounded more nervous than she'd hoped. She smiled hesitantly at the Asian woman who stayed behind, who at least hadn't done anything really strange yet.

Alexei led her up the stairs to her rooms. She shut the doors and then with a sigh took off her coat hanging it up, following it with her shoes.

"They work for you also?" Katiya stood, awkwardly by the door, wondering what was coming next.

"Yes. Stepan is my child, Molly and Shiro are my pets." She rose an eyebrow "Are you going to be a rabbit at the door, or a brave mouse in the room?"

That sounded like a challenge. Katiya raised her head, walking further into the room and looking around curiously. So this is how people who had money lived. "Nice." It was obviously expensive furnishings, but not as glittery as she'd somehow expected.

Alexei sat down in a leather desk chair and gestured to the other one for Katiya to sit in. "Food will be up shortly would you like to take a bath?"

"Yes." She sat down in the offered chair. It would be blissful to remove the dust and grime from the factory. "They're all beautiful. You're servants."

"Well you've seen Lyov, but I suppose he's beautiful to somebody."

Katiya grinned at that, true Lyov wasn’t that nice looking. She hesitated, and then figured she might as well ask. "That man, Stepan, he's a vampire also isn't he?"

"Yes, he is. He was an actor in Moscow handsome and puckish. He reminded me of what life has to offer. So selfishly I decided to keep him with me always."

"Does that make you his mother?" Katiya really wasn't sure what someone would call the person who turned him or her into a vampire. Murderer? Savior?

Alexei tried really hard not to laugh or smile, but the corner of her lips quivered with the effort. "I believe the term is Sire. I sired Stepan."

"Sire." The redhead nodded, she'd remember that. "Are there more, that you've sired I mean? Here?" She thought she should probably be careful not to offend anyone who could move that fast.

"A few." A few who crossed her path had caught her attention by surprising her. She was over 1000 years old, it was a hard thing to do, and when it did happen she tended to keep those around her.

Katiya studied the composed looking woman across from her. "A few." She repeated, wondering what exactly that meant. "Should I avoid them?" She wasn't really clear on what she was supposed to do here.

"There is Stepan, Sergei who you know from the factory. Then there is Matvey, and the twins Niki and Nada. No, they won't hurt you unless I tell them to hurt you."

She remembered the dark haired woman who Stepan had taken away and suppressed a shiver. That didn't seem like much fun, she'd have to make sure she didn't do something requiring disciplining then.

Alexei leaned back in her chair. "You my mouse are here to be my pet. As a human pet in the vampire world you are basically my property. I will care for you and see to your needs and in return you will provide me with blood and ah... other tasks as assigned."

She knew why she had picked her mouse. This young woman like her other children had the ability to surprise her with the way she adapted and dealt with the world. Even knowing what she was Katiya barely seemed to flinch.

Just thinking about what some of those other tasks could be caused Katiya's cheeks to redden. "I already said I agreed." She wasn't going to go back on her word, not now.

"Even the blood thing is still better than the life I was trying to live." She tilted her head up.

Alexei raised an eyebrow. "Do you want me to explain things or not?"

Feeling her cheeks redden even more, Katiya nodded. "Sorry."

Alexei chuckled, "I saw your room. The tent I was born in was bigger and cleaner than that place. Such an impatient mouse."

"Hard to live on the wage that Sergei pays workers." She frowned, a little defensive about that room. It had taken her a lot to get that room.

Alexei stretched her legs out in front of her. "Interesting." She would check the books. "The seductive British woman is Molly, she stalked me from the British Empire here under the impression I would be unable to resist her charms and make her into my image. I admit I was still weak and made her a pet instead of booting her back to Britain. The quiet Mongol girl is Shiro; she had her tongue cut out by her father. In an effort to prevent her from talking about his plans to invade Russia once he had found out she had overheard."

"They're very beautiful." Katiya said, when more didn't seem to be coming. Not as beautiful as the mistress of course, but close. "Mongol?" She frowned, not sure she knew who they were. "Russia was being invaded by Mongols?" When had that happened?

"1240 they sacked Kiev; in 1380 I helped Doniskoi drive them back to Mongolia."

Katiya's mouth opened but no sound came out as she stared at Alexei. After a few seconds she closed her mouth with a snap. "That's hundreds of years ago. I thought you said they weren't vampires?"

"Their not. They're my pets." She said slowly getting to her feet. "Why don't we get you a bath and some food, before we talk any more."

Katiya's stomach rumbled in answer to that and looked ashamed. "That would probably be a good thing." She was under no illusion to the state she was currently in, still clad in her work clothes. The redhead rose to her feet, certain she was leaving some of the dust on the seat behind her.

"Follow me." She led Katiya out of her study across the lush carpeting past her bedroom and to the bath. It was warm with steam coating the air. She was pleased that Lyov had again read her needs before she was aware she had any.

"Oooh, that looks amazing." Katiya tried not to trip in her eagerness to get a look at the steaming bath. She could imagine how nice the hot water would feel.

The tub was more like a sunken pool, rectangle in shape, several people could and had on occasion had a good time in there. "The stairs are here and there are several bottles of smelling things on this lip. Do you need help getting out of your clothes?" It was rare that she was wrong about sexual interest. She'd had thousand years to study it, but she wouldn't force her attention, there were other ways to bond a pet.

The blush was fast and heated as a variety of images flashed their way through Katiya's mind, each progressively more erotic than the previous until she had to forcibly shake her head. "I... I mean…" She blinked, staring at Alexei.

"Shush." She stepped closer into Katiya's personal space. "I won't force sex if that is what you're worried about." Her maker had done that, brutalized her, drained her and left her for dead. She'd seen the ravages of rape and assault on Fiona; it had been years before the woman had come to terms with what had happened.

"That's not what I'm worried about." She tried to will away the blush, which of course didn't help. "I'm just covered in dust. I wouldn't want to get you dirty." How could she explain that she didn't want to get the beautiful woman dirty?

"A little dirt isn't going to hurt me. Besides I pay my servants well to clean up after me." She stepped closer her gray eyes looking down at the red-faced woman. Reaching out she started to undo the buttons. "These fashions just aren't very practical." She muttered.

"Work clothes." Katiya whispered, her breathing fast and shallow. The corset and bone lined fabric was heavy, she always forgot how heavy until it slid off her and she was free again. Her other work clothes, the dark ones, were so much lighter than the ones piled at her feet, and she could run in those. She'd probably kill herself trying to run in her socially acceptable outfit.

Alexei let her hands linger here and there as she undressed her new pet. "Much too thin, no wonder the little bit of blood I took sent you ass over tea kettle." She lowered herself to her knees and took off the woman's shoes and then slowly slipped the stockings down each leg. She smiled up at Katiya "Alright then, into the bath."

The shivering wasn't just due to the cold air, but the hot water was wonderful none-the-less. "I'm not that thin." There were other’s who were thinner, just maybe not by all that much. Her long red hair undone floated in the water next to her as she slid into it, groaning with pleasure as the heat washed over her.

"This is blissful!" She ducked her head, washing the water over her hair.

Alexei stayed on her knees for just a moment her hands clenched into fists, as she battled her darker baser urges and then with a deep breath got to her feet. "I think so. When I have the time to enjoy one."

"You could join me." Blue eyes watched carefully and Katiya hesitated, waving a hand at the water around her. "It's big enough." She wasn't sure if she was overstepping her bounds, offering.

Alexei paused in surprise. So her nervous mouse was actually a brave mouse. "Are you sure?"

Katiya nodded, sliding down a little in the water until her shoulders were submerged.

Alexei watched her as she slid out of her shoes and then her shirt, waiting for a sign that the scared mouse was returning.

As the vampire stripped, the mouse in question, was all eyes, and watching intently. "Beautiful." She whispered, trying to remember to breath. No human could be so beautiful, perfect.

Finally she undid the buttons of her pants and let them pool on the floor. Her skin was pale and unmarked except for the tattoo. "Thank you." She said in response to the complement as she slid into the bath.

Katiya traced the tattoo of the snake with her eyes, fingers twitching as she imagined tracing it with her fingertips. "That is an amazing tattoo." She'd never seen something so artfully done before. The tattoos she'd seen were always crude affairs that were done to denote gang affiliations usually.

It was either stare at the tattoo, or at the perfect skin that covered the rest of the woman's body.

"You don't have to suck up Katiya. I already like you or you wouldn't be here." She said with a chuckle.

"I wasn't sucking up." She blushed though, eyes dropping to those breasts again, before she looked away and decided to work on washing off the grime that covered her.

Alexei chuckled and slid over to the shelf with all the smelly soap things that Fiona had collected for her over the years. "I think you might be a lavender girl." She whispered grabbing a purple bar of soap. "Come here."

"Lavender?" That sounded nice, whatever it was. Katiya went willingly, something she was sure she would do more often as time passed.

Alexei lathered up a cloth and slowly began to wash the young woman in her arms.

The bath and sexual arousal had the blood pumping into the skin just underneath the surface and it was hard to resist taking a taste.

This felt even better than Katiya had thought it would and it didn't take much urging for her to relax into the touches, enjoying the hot water and attention. This was so very nice. "Do you treat all your pets like this? No wonder they stay around so long." She purred, eyes half closed.

"Sometimes. I won't lie there are times when I can be an utter bastard. But the truth of why they stay around so long is in the blood my dear mouse." She kissed a shoulder in front of her, feeling the blood surge underneath and the muscle twitch. Then she kissed up higher.

Automatically Katiya tilted her head sideways, allowing more access to the lips that were pressing against her skin. The water wasn't as hot as her skin suddenly felt. "Blood?" She gasped. Having trouble focusing on anything so simple as words.

"Yes blood." She whispered next to the skin and let her fangs slip out. She teased them against the flesh for a moment cutting up small shallow cuts that she quickly licked clean and sealed. She had fed a lot recently and didn't really need to take a lot.

Distracted by the warm body in her arms the washcloth was forgotten and it slowly sank to the bottom of the tub. Alexei's hands were busy stroking and fondling

Katiya's breasts as her teeth nipped at the woman's neck. She teased the nipples until they were hard like red rubies.

Breathing harsh from her nose she pulled back from the too tempting neck and the pulse that beat there. Pulling one hand away she brought it too her mouth and bit her index finger tearing open the flesh in a deep wound. She brought the bleeding finger to the woman's mouth trailing around her lips painting them with blood before pushing it in past the ring of her lips into her warm moist mouth.

"Shhh." She whispered as she felt the woman go still in surprise. "We are merely finishing what we started the other night."

Alexei let her hand trail down from the breasts over the too prominent ribs, over the flat plane of the stomach to comb lightly through the woman's pubic hair. "A natural redhead I see." She chuckled. Her fingers stroked and teased until she found the hard nub of Katiya's desire and then she focused all her attention there. The woman in her arms relaxed and Alexei could almost hear her eyes flutter shut as she started to suck on the finger in her mouth.

"Anima della mia anima ora siamo limitati insieme." Alexei whispered into the curve of an ear. The ritual was complete.

She continued easing Katiya towards orgasm, she never tried to enter her, they hadn't talked about virginity, and while there was nothing different between the blood of a virgin and a non-virgin despite the Church's fascination on the topic. Alexei was oddly romantic on the issue, preferring such a thing be given away to someone that was truly cared about not to a bloodsucking fiend who was far more interested in your blood.

Katiya's mouth opened and a gasp of pleasure and Alexei took the moment to remove her finger and put her hand to other uses. One hand continued milking the orgasm from Katiya's clit the other moved to her breasts returning attention to their neglected state.

It was a barrage of stimulation. The feel of the fingers moving against her, expertly drawing out the wave of pleasure that was threatening to role through Katiya, the hot water adding slickness to everything, the warm body pressed up against hers. It all was so very good that Katiya didn’t want it to end; she wanted it to keep on going. She barely recognized the copper taste in her mouth or the strange flavor the blood from Alexei’s cut finger had. All that really mattered was the taller woman’s touch and she didn’t care about anything else.

“Please…” She begged, bucking into those fingers, arching her back into the other hand that stroked her breasts, torturing her.

“Please!” Long red hair shielded some of what was happening from view as it pooled around her in the water, but she could see Alexei’s hand buried between her legs, moving in time to her hips.

"Mmmm."  Alexei said in response.  With the little bit of blood in her system she could feel her own body start to respond, her heart pick up, a blush of arousal dust her cheeks.  She increased the pace of her hand buried between Katiya's thighs. 

"Beautiful."  She whispered, watching as the pleasure overwhelmed the young woman in her arms.

"I have you, go ahead let go.  Let go."  She urged.

Katiya arched one last time, mouth open but she made no sound, body spasming as she clutched to Alexei. Blue eyes staring up at the blonde woman's face, until the shudders passed and she ducked her head, leaning against the vampire. She needed a moment, not sure she could stand if she didn't have the support.

Alexei leaned back head resting against the cool marble holding the young woman to her. She never understood why females got so embarrassed after sex; they always needed a moment or two. Men sometimes got that way but often not. She blamed the church and their crusade to take away all joy in sex from women. Nobody cared if a boy was a virgin or not only if a girl was.

She stroked the long red hair with one hand while holding her tight with the other. "Now the ritual is complete you are mine and more or less I'm yours." She murmured.

"More or less?" Katiya let out a shaky breath, trying to regain her senses. That had been faster than she'd expected. "Thank you." She whispered against skin warmed by the hot water around them and her own blood.

"I have 2 other pets, mouse. So, yes more or less. To safely keep a vampire stated it can take up to 5 to 6 pets with new vampires, if that vampire is inclined to keep his pets around." She slowly stood up taking Katiya with her, water sluicing off of both their bodies. With great care she carried the young woman and set her on a marble bench. Reaching over she grabbed a towel woven from Turkish cotton and started drying the redhead off.

Eyes half opened, Katiya enjoyed the pampering, a small smile on her lips as she enjoyed the after effects of a wonderful time in the bath. "I didn't get to show you how thankful I was though." Blue eyes darkened as she enjoyed watching the other woman move without her clothes.

Alexei smiled up at Katiya from where she was drying a foot. "What a remarkable woman I have found with you. Everything changes for you in the blink of an eye, and you just go with it." She stood up throwing the towel in the general direction of a hamper and then grabbed a robe off a hook. "But you probably want to hold that thought. Perhaps maybe after you've eaten."

She was well aware someone had entered her study while they were in the bath, more than likely bringing food for Katiya.

The redhead shrugged, taking the offered robe and slipping it on as she considered the vampires words. True, she knew enough people who would have probably gone insane after the first encounter at the warehouse. "My father always taught me to take whatever opportunity I was given." It was either that or die a slow death in a whorehouse or a fast one in the gutters over a piece of food.

"A wise man." A man who probably wanted to kill her after what she had just done to his daughter.

"He was." Katiya swallowed, avoiding thinking about it as much as possible. She jerked in surprise as she realized they weren't alone anymore.

The tiger was just lounging by the door; it's tail flicking idly back and forth as it lazily stretched, yawning to reveal large impressive looking teeth. "What's that?" Katiya's voice went up as she eyed those teeth. Overlooking the tray of food that had been placed discreetly at the side of the door.

Alexei started drying herself off and still vigorously rubbing her wet hair she led them out back to her study. She paused looking up. "That would be a tiger. A male Siberian tiger, if you want to get specific."

"Tiger." Katiya eyed it, moving very slowly, giving the beast a wide berth as she did. "You keep a tiger?"

"Yes, well tigers. His sister is wandering around somewhere. That is Kirill, and his sister is Kira, they protect me and mine. There are also some wolves who have made a den out on the property somewhere, I've just not felt like evicting them." Naked she walked over and grabbed the food and draped her towel over Kirill's head. Unamused the tiger shook his head until he was able to see again.

She brought the tray over and set it on the desk. "Looks like Warren made venison stew and some sort of peasant bread."

Seeing the still worried look in Katiya's eyes she sighed. "Look you are mine, my scent is probably well marked on you now. He won’t hurt you. I promise."

Katiya could feel her mouth watering at the smell that filled the room. She stepped over a twitching tiger's tail, earning a bored look from the tiger. When she didn't get tackled she walked over to the food, checking to make sure the tiger hadn't moved as she did. "I hope he knows that." The food looked delicious, the rough bread would go well with the stew.

"Can I?" The redhead’s stomach growled in agreement.

"Of course." She pulled out a chair.

The first bite was delicious and Katiya moaned in pleasure. "Warren is the cook?" She had a problem with the W in his name and couldn’t not pronounce it as Alexei did, it came out more like ‘Varren’. "I need to thank you, this is delicious." The second bite didn't disappoint.

"No need to thank me. If you're still hungry when you finish I can have some more brought up. If you'll excuse me I'll go put on some clothes." She wandered slowly to her bedroom Kirill getting up and following her. Absently she rubbed his head.

The image was enough to keep Katiya staring after her long after the blonde was gone from the room. "Holy shit." She blinked, shook her head and started eating again. Any moment now she was going to wake up and be back in that crummy boarding house worrying about Boris finding her in an alley way somewhere.

Alexei pondered what she was going to do with her new pet. She didn't think Katiya would be happy with the spoiled do nothing life that Molly enjoyed. She slipped into a soft cotton sleep shirt that hit her mid thigh and slipped into some sheep skin slippers. She looked over checking the fireplace and found it crackling merrily. Lyov again. She rarely got cold or hot, but Katiya might.

Tonight the young woman would sleep with her; tomorrow they would find her, her own room in the mansion.

She walked around Kirill who had decided to plop down in the middle of her bedroom for a nap. One just didn't move a 400-pound animal.

"The food is delicious." The human called from the other room, happily sitting back from the table with a pleasantly full stomach. Something she hadn’t had in a long time.

"I will let Warren know, he'll be pleased." She said emerging from her room. "Do you want more?"

Katiya licked her lips; eyes drifting to the bare thighs that the shirt that Alexei had put on was showing. "I'm good." She swallowed, feeling her cheeks go red as she remembered the bathtub. Realizing she was staring, the redhead looked down. "I'm sorry."

"I don't mind, it’s actually flattering. So don't be sorry." She sat down across from Katiya. "So, is there anything else you want to know?"

"Flattering?" Katiya laughed. "People must stare at you all the time. Beautiful women always get noticed." She shrugged, considering. "Other than..." She made a vague gesture towards the bathroom and then her neck. "What do you want me to do? I'm going to have to work to do something to earn my place here right?"

Alexei chuckled. "What do you want to do? Providing me with blood is your job, other than that, on occasion I may need things done especially during the daylight hours. Winter time isn't such a problem but in the summer well... it can be difficult for me."

"I guess you don't need a pick pocket or a safe cracker." Katiya frowned down at the empty plate, trying to think of her skills. Most of them seemed fairly trivial compared to what she thought the vampire could do. "I guess I'm not that useful."

Alexei reached out and smoothed the lines that had formed on Katiya's forehead. "Not to worry we will find something for you to do. Things have a way of working out."

The touch relaxed those worry lines and Katiya nodded. She'd figure something out, she'd managed to adapt to everything else so far after all. Now how to figure out a way she could fit into this world and make her own way. She was certain of one thing, whatever happened, she couldn't, go back to where she had been.

"I didn't think you'd be content to be a Molly; and Shiro has her music. You however are a sneaky mouse." She lifted Katiya out of her seat and on to her lap. "So mouse how many languages can you speak?"

"A handful." She admitted. "I can't read them, but I can speak all the dialects of the migrant workers and a few others." They were useful things for a thief to have, and her dad had taught her well.

"That's a start. I can get some one to teach you how to read them. Now, can you handle a weapon? Can you fight?"

"I've used a knife before." A wicked little blade with a sharp edge was a good deterrent for those who thought they could take something that wasn't theirs’.

"Is that it? I'll teach you how to defend yourself." She said smelling the lavender on Katiya's skin. "Yes, a lavender girl." She smiled slightly.

It was nice, Katiya decided as she leaned against Alexei's shoulder her eyes closing, to be full, warm and content. All were feelings she could get used to. "I'd like that." She whispered, trying to hide a yawn.

Alexei smiled into Katiya's red hair. "I would like to teach you. I'm a pretty good wrestler. I can show you throws, grappling and submission holds, but now my sleepy mouse let's get you too bed." She stood up easily carrying Katiya.

"I'm not sleepy." Katiya protested, followed by another yawn. "Well, maybe a little." She didn't want to go to sleep, afraid she'd wake up and it would have been all a dream.

"Wow." Katiya's eyes opened wide, sleep momentarily forgotten as she got a look at the bed. Specifically the size of it: the decadently comfortable looking sheets, and blankets that were drawn over it.

"I know it’s a bit much. But I decided when I reached a certain age that sleeping on the floor was a bit much." She set Katiya down on the end of the bed and pulled the covers down.

The bed did, indeed, feel as soft as it looked. It didn't take much urging to get Katiya to lie down, drawing a groan of pleasure from the tired woman. "Do you need sleep?" She asked suddenly as the thought occurred.

Again Alexei laughed as she got into the bed. "What do you know about vampires?"

The redhead laid her head down on a pillow, sighing with pleasure as she squirmed under the covers and they heated up. "Only what I heard in stories."

"Oh, that’s all crap. So I am an undead blood-sucking fiend from hell that seduces virgins for their virgin blood, defiling their purity. I sleep in a coffin filled with the dirt of my homeland, I have no image in a mirror, and I can't cross running water. Did I miss anything?"

"Garlic." Katiya smiled, sheepishly at the beautiful woman and head of the household. "You're not supposed to like garlic."

She smiled a slow turning up of her lips.

"That one always seemed silly to me though." Katiya confessed. "I couldn't see why a vampire would care what my breath smelled like."

"Well some herbal remedies say that garlic is a blood purifier, cleanses the blood of harmful humors and what not. I believe people think it will make their blood distasteful.”

Her eyebrows scrunching, Katiya looked skeptical. "Wouldn't that make our blood more attractive?"

Alexei rolled over on her side facing Katiya. "It might. Things can make the blood sweeter to us, normally its emotions. Some vampires like to scare their victims, terrify them, they like the taste of fear and death in the blood."

That wasn't something that Katiya had considered before. "What do you like?" She raised an eyebrow.

"I thought it was obvious." She reached out stroking Katiya's neck.

"Oh." She didn't need to look to know that she was turning red again, an unavoidable consequence of her fair skin. "But in the warehouse that night..." Katiya trailed off, not sure how to phrase the question. "You killed that man." she finished lamely. She didn't know how else to ask about that, and she kind of thought it might be relevant to her present situation.

"I never denied that. I killed that man because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, he died because I was dying and needed blood. Some are not as controlled as I am. Some are bigger bastards than me too, but something you must remember is that we are animals at heart, and when we are hurt or lose too much blood, we will do what we need to survive. Don't forget that."

The hard look in Alexei's eyes caused a ripple of Goosebumps to spread up Katiya's back and she nodded quickly. "I won't forget." She promised. The moment passed and she was glad she'd gotten that question out of the way. Sighing with pleasure she slipped deeper under the blankets, her body feeling heavy with sleep.

"Good don't." Alexei leaned over kissing her lightly on the lips. "To answer your original question, yes I need sleep. I'm not an undead corpse."

"Sleep." That sounded like such a good idea. Even though that kiss had sparked memories of the bathtub.


Part 2

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