The Secret History of Vampires – Part 6

Alexei woke a little before sunrise, as was her habit.  She lay still in the bed letting her mind slowly wake up. The space next to her was cold Katiya was long gone. She would have to order the girl to stay in bed and rest; she hadn't missed the dark circles forming under those blue eyes. They hadn't talked about this meeting she was going to, and she wished she had taken the time to talk about it a little bit. It would have been nice to at least know where she would be, but she would have Vidar with her. 

She got out of bed with a wince, the muscles aching and throbbing around the self-inflicted stab wound. Thoughts heavy and ponderous in her mind as she got dressed in a soft cotton robe, but she felt more centered and less reactionary. It was amazing, she thought, that she hadn't hurt Katiya. She hadn't been taking care of herself and going without blood so soon after being hurt like Karl had hurt her, had been bad thinking.  The longer without blood the more the monster within came out, when fed it was sated and purred sleepily like a kitten inside. She padded silently to the bathroom examining herself critically in the mirror.  Gray eyes stared back at her from the mirror, she looked well, human, and her features were soft and her eyes less feral. 

The tattoo snake was brilliant green against her pale skin as it peeked out from the robe and, her eyes narrowed, as she looked closer before looking down at her chest. Just to the right of her breastbone over her heart was perfect impression of teeth. The bite mark was almost hidden by the tattoo but not quite. For a moment she felt indignant and angry, how dare a little human girl mark her like that, her face shifted becoming dark and threatening before melting back away as she calmed down. 

She reached up and touched the mark, this could insinuate all sorts of things, especially the fact it wasn't healing, and it wasn't healing because she didn't want it too. At least subconsciously she didn't, and she wasn't certain she liked the ramifications of such a thing. She was roughly 1400 years old, give or take, born as the Roman Empire fell. She had fucked all sorts of beautiful women and a few men; had pets more subservient, behaved, and less willful than Katiya could ever hope to be. 

She sighed and rubbed her temples, but Katiya adapted never blinking an eye, and in her need to help and be faithful she willfully strode through the world never taking in the factors of risk and danger.  That self-sacrificing need to help and that independent willful streak made the young woman, more beautiful than any woman Alexei had met, she admitted to herself.  Alexei felt very uncomfortable after the few minutes of self-reflection that she had taken, and moved her mind on to other things.  She would take the day off from hunting she needed to work with Katiya, the girl had been running around ill-prepared and under educated for the world in which she was trafficking about in. 

Feeling better with a plan in mind she went to the doors of her rooms, and called for Lyov. In a second the man was there.

"Yes, Mistress?"

"When the twins awaken send them up, Stepan as well.  I will not be going out this evening."

"Very good, milady.  Anything else?"

Alexei paused, Katiya would surely come back to her rooms, or not. Alexei had dismissed her rather heavily the last time.  "Um yes. Send Katiya up as soon as she's returned."

"Of course."

Then the toad like man was back on his way downstairs.

Alexei sighed and went and got a book from her desk to read to help pass the time until Katiya returned. 

She found her bloodied and damaged coat and tossed it away and then checked her short sword taking the time to clean it.  The markings on the blade gleamed in the soft light, she had no idea what they meant, they were in a language she'd never learned and one now gone from the world. It had been a gift from the demon King Oberon for the killing of the Huntsman. Fiona had once translated it the best she could, 'May your blade always be sharp'. And she'd never had to take a sharpening stone to the metal. 

With that done she again scooped up her book and returned to her bed.


The sun had barely disappeared behind the horizon, leaving a scarlet hued sunset, when Katiya knocked on the door to Alexei's room. Lyov had bluntly informed her that the mistress requested her upstairs, so she'd left Vidar to his own devices and hurried up the stairs.


"Come in." Alexei said looking at the door wondering why Katiya was knocking, she'd never bothered to do it before.

The human woman came in, obviously pleased with herself and happy in general. "You're looking better."

“Sleep will do that.” She waited a moment, and then asked. “So what has you so excited?”

“I had a meeting. If I agree to steal certain items, I will meet the person in charge.”

"What if this person is a vampire or some other unworldly creature?" Alexei asked. Rolling over onto her side, she propped her head up on her hand and watched Katiya climb up onto the bed.

She settled into the spot she'd slept in, enthusiasm dampened a little. "They'll still want me to steal the key and cup that they want. I could find out more if you let me go break into the notary's office later tonight?" She asked, hopefully.

"I'll think about it." She said not promising anything. It was odd to not be frantically moving about, sitting still and waiting for Katiya had been hard. She reached with one hand and pushed a strand of hair back, tucking it behind Katiya's ear.

"So did they give you information on this key and cup they want you to steal?"

Blue eyes focused on that hand and Katiya's cheeks flushed lightly as an errant memory of that hand doing things to her came back. "A key and a cup that's never empty. He couldn't tell me anything else about it."

Alexei's hand froze in surprise for a second. "Interesting, and what about the key, that's kind of vague?"

Shrugging, Katiya shifted closer. "This Mr. Gorskji didn't seem to know much about it, except that the key was needed to get to the cup." She smiled slowly. "He suggested I try to seduce you since you're apparently rumored to be a follower of Sapho."

Alexei laughed. "Really, how interesting. Although, I'm not all that fond of Sapho I find her poetry rather, blah. Of course I find all poetry rather boring. So much for thinking I was discrete in my personal life. Apparently Alexei Petrova is the defiler of virgins, and sullier of all fair dames and damsels." She joked.

"Yes, defiler of virgins who throw themselves at you." Katiya shook her head in mock horror. "What a rough existence."

"It is, but someone has to do it, so I have gladly thrown myself into that cause." She chuckled.

Her face became more serious, "I do have the cup they are talking about and it is impossible to get to without the key. What is even more ironic is that they have the key already, but don't know it."

"What?" Katiya sat up, eyeing Alexei. "When did they get it?"

"The brothers stole it from my office, it’s my signet ring, and it’s also the key." She gave an embarrassed grin. "I thought I was being clever."

"Oh." Katiya blinked, and then slowly smiled. "If it's not the key that they thought they were getting, it might still be at Mr. Gorskji's office. We could try to find it if you wanted to go out tonight?"

"Fine we can go out later. But I'm going with you this time, and if that Hunter shows up, I'm breaking her arms." She said firmly.

Katiya winced; she'd have to make sure they stayed away from the hunter’s lair. "All right. Maybe this time I won't have to dispose of a night watchman’s body?" She dared to tease about the first time she'd met the vampire while breaking and entering.

Alexei rolled her eyes. "You did a good job, besides he was an asshole, attacking me while I was passed out from blood loss."

She sounded rather indignant, about the whole thing, it hadn't been her fault he'd woken the hurt, resting vampire, which needed food badly.

"Yes, I'm sure he regrets it too." It was a struggle to keep her face straight.

"Better him than you." She said and rolled over onto her back stretching.

"True." Katiya watched the stretch with enjoyment. "You remind me of a cat when you do that." A big deadly feline!

Alexei raised an eyebrow in question at that. "Vampire, house cat, vampire, house cat. I'm not certain I see a connection." Actually she saw a lot, but it was rather undignified.

“Aww, did I offend you? I’m sorry.” She didn’t sound sorry the smile didn’t help either. “How about if I said a big cat, like a tiger?” This might explain her tendency to keep two as pets, houseguests, whatever they were.

Alexei smiled at that. "Hmmm, that’s okay then. You know I was once known as the Tiger of the Steppes." That had been a long time indeed; time as a petty warlord marauding the grassy plains.

"Was this before or after you became a vampire?" She knew so little about Alexei's past or even the world she lived in.

"After. I was a very boring human girl. I hunted though, because my father had no sons and I was the oldest of his children other than that I sometimes worked with our healer and helped her."

Alexei rolled over onto her side looking at Katiya. "My people were nomads; we followed the herds from hunting ground to hunting ground. For the most part we were peaceful."

"Was it hard?" Katiya frowned, trying to figure out how to ask her question. "Changing into a vampire?" The stories always seemed to skip over that.

"Yes, but I was dying anyways. I was lying in the tall grasses only aware of my heart beating in my chest trying to frantically pump blood I didn't have. It hurt, and it scared me to feel it stagger and jump growing weaker and weaker. Then there was pain at first that was welcomed because it meant I was alive, but it didn't stop. Every part of you is remade and then spat out new."

"That doesn't sound pleasant." Katiya shivered a little trying to imagine feeling her heart slow and stop. "Do you miss being human?"

"At first I did. My father drove me from the tribe, I attacked and killed a little boy when my hunger over came me. I followed them for years hiding in the dark, leaving them animals I had killed. I missed belonging. Then one day they were gone."

"Gone?" Katiya shifted closer until their legs were barely touching.

"During the day while I slept another tribe came upon them and killed them all." That is when she became the monster or tiger of the steppes she had found that clan and killed them all. Left their heads on spears and other gruesome reminders for others to find.

"I'm sorry. It's never easy losing your family." She inched a little bit closer, laying her head down on the pillow.

"No its not. That's when I stopped wanting to be human. The plains were vast and without the population we have now, yet they murdered a whole clan just for a spot of ground when they could have gone anywhere and found an empty hunting ground."

She growled a bit the old hurt of her last ties to the human world being cut from her still stung.

"I guess vampires have a reason for cruelty we're monsters, but humans are blessed with the free will god gave them to do good or bad and most of the time they choose bad."

The human woman placed a hand on Alexei's chest, wondering at the pain that still lingered so many centuries later. "So time doesn't heal everything. I knew that saying was shit." She smiled wanly. "I've always known that humans could be evil just for the sake of being evil. That's how it's always been."

Alexei just nodded in agreement, she felt Katiya's hand on her skin where her robe had fallen open, acutely. "You should go change. I had Lyov bring you some more... comfortable clothes that you can move around in. Also in black, a color I guess you're fond of."

"Black is good. Helps you hide." Her smile was bitter sweet as she heard her father's voice saying the same thing. "I'll go change. It might be too early to go to the notary’s office though." It was only a little after dark, not the deep of night that would help to guarantee an empty office.

"We're not going there yet." She sat up readjusting her robe.

Black pants and a dark gray close knit sweater were waiting for Katiya, both of which were more form fitting than she was used to. "I don't want to know how Lyov knows my sizes so well." She fluffed out her hair after pulling on the sweater and looked expectantly at the beautiful woman, getting used to the way the sight of her was always stunning. "Are we going somewhere else?"

"Lyov knows your size because Lyov knows everything that goes on in this house." Alexei said standing up and walking over to Katiya, she circled the young woman once, slowly, nodding in approval. "I have been lacking in your education of the world you have entered and that will be rectified today."

"I thought that was what Matvey was doing?" She'd had several sessions with the young man, whom she kept forgetting was a vampire until he said something that brought it sharply back into focus.

"Yes, but knowing him, he's spent most of his time teaching you to read and write putting off your other inquiries because they make him uncomfortable. Besides when is the last time you actually had a lesson with him, he's to busy doing Sergei's job."

It had been a few nights since she'd seen him and Katiya nodded, grimacing. "Reading and writing are not my favorites so far." In fact it was maddeningly slow learning.

Alexei nodded as she scanned her wardrobe. She chose some pants and a shirt and started to get dressed. "And since you've already put yourself in bodily harm with the supernatural world... I've been lax in my duty to properly train you."

"I didn't get in trouble on purpose." Firmly she kept her eyes on Alexei's face. Well, mostly anyway.

"Of course not." Alexei readily agreed as she finished buttoning her shirt.

Katiya's face reddened as she found herself staring at those fingers.

Turning she raised an eyebrow at the young woman. "Do I want to know where you're thoughts are?" She teased.

"I could show you?" Katiya replied, eyebrow rising in challenge even as she felt the blush deepen.

"Show me? By all means, Katiya." Alexei said grinning.

Katiya laughed, shaking her head as Alexei called her bluff. She should have known better. "Later?" She wasn't sure she was up for another session so soon after the afternoon together.

"Mmmm, I'm sure you can talk me into later." Alexei said walking over and slowly kissing the young woman. Yes, she definitely liked how Katiya tasted without the stink of that other woman. Pulling back she said quietly, "Although I should make you sleep."

The redhead swayed a little, eyes taking a moment to refocus after the enjoyable kiss. "Hmm? Why? I feel good." She probably should feel exhausted, but she felt almost energized.

"I'm keeping you up late and you're running around during the day, so I'm not sure when you're sleeping. Are you sleeping at all?"

Katiya blinked. "I passed out when we..." She trailed off, blushing hard again. "Earlier." That was kind of sleeping. "And I slept some the night before. I just don't feel as tired as I did when I worked in the factory."

"Hmmm." Alexei mused looking at Katiya. "You're getting dark circles but it could be my blood starting to effect you."

"I'll sleep after we go to the notary’s office. I promise." Hopefully naked in Alexei's bed, with an equally naked vampire. Katiya's lips curled into a smile at that thought.

"And no rushing off during the day, you'll just stay in bed next to me? Well, I suppose getting food is okay, but you'll rest?"

"As you wish." Katiya tried to look demure and failing.

Alexei snorted in amusement. "Very well." She gave the young woman another quick kiss to her lips before stepping back. "Alright let us teach you how to deal with the monsters in the dark."

"I thought you were against any human killing a vampire?"

Alexei snorted, "Yes, but you're not human, you're my pet. And I view this as you being able to protect me if I'm under attack or something." She said offhand.

That sounded weak to Katiya’s ears, although she didn’t say so.

There was a knock at the door, and Alexei muttered, "Come in." as she slipped her feet into sturdy black boots.

The twins entered and hovered in the den just outside the bedroom door. "Mistress." They ducked their heads, waiting.

Katiya blinked, almost afraid she was seeing double for an instant. This was the first time she'd seen both together, standing still, in the same room. It was... disconcerting to see two so beautiful women standing so perfectly still, waiting for Alexei's command.

"Nada, and Niki. You know Katiya."

The twin's blinked and nodded hesitantly. "Yes, the chaos bringer. We've heard much about her."

Chaos bringer? The redhead looked over at Alexei, wondering if she really was that much trouble to the vampire.

Alexei raised an eyebrow at the statement but let it go. "Yes, anyways. I will not be joining you tonight in hunting. You'll be on you're own, but if you want a third take Stepan."

Nada stepped forward and Alexei mirrored her, stepping forward and she raised a hand stroking Nada's face. "It won't be the same, we've enjoyed the hunt with you Alpha."

Alexei just smiled a quick upturn of her lips. "We'll hunt again, I have a feeling those invaders are just testing us so to speak."

The twin who stayed back nodded. "We will kill any who sniff around our territory tonight."

There was something animalistic in these two, Katiya thought, watching the interaction with keen interest. She shivered a little, imagining both faces filled with the joy of the hunt, running their prey to ground.

"I know you will." Alexei agreed.

Nada tried to press closer to Alexei but the vampire growled and the feral vampire crouched down and then retreated.

"Do as I command. Now go hunt.”

Twin heads nodded and then were gone.

"Do they always move so quickly?" Katiya asked, the second she realized the room was empty once again.

"Yes, they are like children probably, vampires that should not have been made. But there mother made a rather, uh, convincing argument."

There was a story there and Katiya's curiosity flared with desire to hear it, but first she had a more pressing question. "You said you'd been hunting invaders with them. Have there been many?"

"I've found several every night for the last week, but every night there are more to take their place."

Katiya frowned, thinking. "Can these invaders make new vampires so quickly?" She was starting to realize what Alexei meant by her lack of education, she barely knew what she didn't know.

"No, well, you can but those that young are mindless killing machines, I've found. They are so hungry they just attack anyone they can for food, after a week or so with a good sire they can learn to think and react past the hunger."

"I thought you rose from the grave the next night?" She flushed immediately after her outburst. "After you were killed." She finished, figuring she might as well go all the way now.

Alexei frowned, that hadn't occurred to her before. "I guess, I was just special." She started for the door. "Come on let's start your lessons"

Katiya hurried to keep up with her.

"You never told me what the cup was that both Ivan and the brothers were supposed to steal from you?" She asked, wondering where they were going.

Alexei took her down the stairs to the first floor.

"The cup they want is a simple wooden cup. They think it’s the cup Christ used at the last supper. One his disciples hid after his crucifixion, one they in turned tried to use to gain immortality."

"Wait. They think you have the Holy Grail?"

They went across the main floor the other side from the kitchen and down a small stairway. "Yes they think I have a bit of vampire folklore."

"So they think that's where vampires came from? Because someone drank from the cup that held the blood of Christ?" She laughed, a little nervously. When Alexei didn't smile she swallowed. "Is it true?"

Alexei shrugged. "I don't know. But if it is I've held on to it to prevent it from making anymore of the first."

Good, Katiya thought, looking around with interest as they entered a part of the house that was new to her. Good, because she wasn't sure she wanted to believe that the church was right.

The room was a wide circle there were different weapons on a rack most of them wooden.

She recognized some of the swords, but others were completely alien to Katiya.

"Now silly vampire hunters will tell you to use a wooden stake to dispatch you're average vampire, but I disagree." She stated slamming the spear butt down next to her foot.

"If you're a human, weak where a vampire is strong, why the fuck would you want to be that close?"

"Tereza had a gun, it fired silver bolts." Katiya really needed to think through her thoughts before saying them to Alexei she realized, the moment after she'd said the vampire hunter’s name.

Alexei made an unhappy face at the mention of the Hunter.

"Sorry. No more interrupting." Katiya made a shutting up motion.

"Anyways I would recommend the spear it will give you distance and having it blessed and or coated with silver will help if you happen to go up against things other than a vampire."

Katiya bit her lip, not saying anything, but regarding the spear dubiously. It was at least six inches taller than she was and the thick wooden shaft and sharp head looked heavy. How was she going to handle that thing?

"Come on, come here and give it a try." She held it out. Seeing the look on her face. "I think you'll be surprised."

"I'm good at climbing and sneaking, not so much on the heavy lifting though." Katiya stepped forwards dubiously, taking the offered weapon.

"My blood doesn't make weaklings." Alexei said jokingly.

Katiya stood there, holding the weapon at arms length, eyeing it uncertainly. "So you just stick the sharp pointy end into the people who want to hurt you?" That seemed easy enough.

"Yes." Alexei said amused. She walked around Katiya and then once behind her came in close so her body molded against the other woman’s. Gently she started to adjust her grip and stance.

The redhead's throat worked as she swallowed as she adjusted to the press of the body against hers from behind. How was she supposed to concentrate on the lessons? "Like this?" Her voice was lower than usual as she held the spear across her chest, both hands on the shaft.

"Yes. Now I have found that the myth of the heart is true. If you pierce it the vampire will become inert. However if you remove it the vampire will start to heal and probably once it is better be really pissed at you." She demonstrated a clean, quick jab forward, about where someone’s heart would be.

Katiya tried it on her own, the spear was easier to handle than she thought, although she was definitely less smooth about her thrust than Alexei had been. "So leave the spear in the heart?" That didn't seem very practical.

"No. Depending on the vampire’s age it will take him hours if not days to heal and wake up. If you were only armed with a spear I would then pull it out and pierce the vampires’ skull, through the eye is the easiest. No monster, no matter how tough or immortal has a hard time getting back up with their brains scrambled by a sharp stick. If you have a sword, the strength, and the time, I would cut off the head. Killing it. But in a pinch scrambling its brains will keep it down for hours.”

The redhead grimaced, feeling a little sick to her stomach. "Through the eye?" She tried not to picture that. "What about holy water?" That always played a part in the stories and movies.

It was Alexei's turn to grimace remembering the torture at Karl's hand. "Yes, vampires do not like holy water and holy places. You can take sanctuary in a church, temple or mosque of course that leaves you vulnerable to other monsters."

Practicing the smooth thrust again, the redhead did her best to try and emulate the powerful lunge that Alexei had just showed her. "And garlic?" That one had never made very much sense to her.

"No, garlic does nothing." Alexei frowned and took the spear away from Katiya. "Come here, behind me, and feel how I do it. You have good natural balance, but it’s actually your hips that start the momentum not the shoulders."

Licking her lips, Katiya did as bid, sliding her arms around Alexei and swallowing again as she did her level best not to feel up the gorgeous woman. It was hard. "Here?" She laid both hands on the tall woman's hips.

Alexei nodded and demonstrated the move again. "Did you feel it coil there and unwind up through the shoulders?"

"Yessss..." Katiya whispered. How wrong was it, she wondered, to be turned on by that? Clearing her throat she tried that again. "I think I understand. But I can't just walk around all the time with a spear."

Alexei blinked. That hadn’t occurred to her. She had forgotten how much the world had change. “That is unfortunate that society has changed so much humans can no longer carry around weapons that could save them.”

"Yes, how odd we can't carry spears down the street anymore, or wear animal hides." Katiya teased, taking the spear and trying again. This, she could tell, was going to take a lot of practice.

Alexei watched her practice for a little while longer.

The hefty spear slowly started to make her arms burn and finally Katiya set it down, skin flush, breath harder and shaking her head. "Your blood might not make weaklings, but I'm not as strong as you."

Alexei chuckled but tried not to focus on how Katiya smelled, or the sound of her heart beating hard in her chest. She stepped into the center of the ring. "True you are not."

She let Katiya rest for a moment. "I'm going to attack you now, try and stop me."

Blue eyes widened in worry. "How? You vampires can move faster than I can follow?" She took up the spear though, trying to keep it between her and Alexei.

"Good question. Hope you can figure it out." Alexei didn't laugh though, she barred her fangs and rushed Katiya.

"WHAT?" Katiya yelped, leaping back and trying to block the vampire with a thrust of the sharp pointy end.

Alexei growled and swatted the clumsy blow away and had Katiya pinned to the wall her fangs at the woman's throat.

"Right. That didn't work." Katiya grunted, not going anywhere with that iron grip on her arms holding her in place.

Alexei pulled back calming her features. "Actually that wasn't too bad."

"Really? Because from where I just was it seemed like I just became dinner."

"You didn't run away. Staying still would confuse most vampires; once they reveal what they are they expect you to run away in terror. And... you managed to get a blow in." It was actually better than what she was expecting.

"I did?" There hadn't been much time between Alexei's warning and her finding herself pushed up against the wall. "I didn't hurt you did I?"

"No, if I bruised it’s already healed." Katiya smelled really good, so she stepped back. "Let's, uh, try it again. I'll go slower."

“Great, that means I get to be pushed into the wall again, just slower this time.” She held out the spear, steadying herself against the attack to come.

Alexei smiled for a moment at the comment then wiped the smile off her face becoming serious. This was serious, a matter of life and death. She slowed her movements to that of a human.

This was better; Katiya could at least follow Alexei's movements this time. She managed to bring up the spear, hitting Alexei on the side once. That was as good as it got though, with the vampire ducking under her follow up swing and grabbing Katiya.

Alexei merely held Katiya for a moment and then said. "Good." She let go and walked away, without warning she turned and sprang at Katiya with a growl. Katiya's reaction was almost surprising, her unthinking gut response was good, and the vampire caught the spear at her chest. Both hands slapping against the wooden spear tip stopping its movement.

Blue eyes were wide as Katiya stared at Alexei's chest, and the steel tip that was a few inches away from it. "Oh God, I'm sorry. I didn't... I mean..." She stopped, confused by the smile on Alexei's face. "Was that good?"

Alexei laughed. "Yes it was very good. You're much better when you stop thinking and just do."

"Right. No thinking." She was pretty sure she could do that. "Although that's how I get in trouble usually."

"Well, if you're at this point with a vampire attacking you, you're already in trouble." Alexei pointed out letting go of the spear.

"True." She let the point drop. Smiling she batted her eyes "Any more lessons for tonight?"

Alexei's nostrils flared, and wondered what it was about Katiya that made her desire pursuits of the flesh. "I'm sure there are lots of things you need to know about this world you've entered."

Alexei turned her back walking in a random line pretending to think.

"Does that mean you'll be teaching me other things then?" The smile turned wicked.

Alexei missed the evil grin on the human's face, "Of course there’s a lot to be learned I'm sure." She said seriously. "I want you to keep practicing with the spear, I'm sure I have some weapon you can use that would be similar, somewhere."

Katiya sighed. "Not really what I meant. What kind of weapon?"

Now safely on the other side of the room Alexei turned around. "Maybe a cane or I might have some magical weapon that hides itself, of course if it’s in a mood to hide itself I'll never find it then."

"A cane sounds good." The redhead wasn't sure what was going on, but Alexei was behaving oddly for a vampire even. "Are you going to start avoiding me again?" She asked, deciding to go with the bold approach.

Alexei frowned at the question, "I was never avoiding you." She said defensively. "I was busy. And I'm not avoiding you now I just can't think, apparently its worse when you're all sweaty. You're heartbeat increases and so do the level of pheromones you give off."

"That means I smell, right?" Katiya tilted her head to one side, watching Alexei. "So you were just busy, not avoiding me all those days?"

Alexei looked puzzled. "Smell? Yes, but it’s not a bad smell it’s actually a rather nice one." Her head bent down a little bit and she walked in a little half circle. "I might have been slightly avoiding you, more to try and get some focus back."

The human moved closer, slowly. "I was worried you regretted taking me in."

"No, sometimes you're frustrating, but you… you really don't have any guile for a thief, actually you're pretty trusting too. And you generally seem to like me, despite me. I can't change Katiya, I'm a vampire."

"Good thing I already knew that." Katiya moved a little closer. "Besides, I was only really good at sneaking into places. Ivan was the good one at stealing from people." A little closer and she could see the way Alexei's nostrils flared.

Alexei gave a half-hearted chuckle. "I kind hearted thief." She mused, "We should..." She blinked realizing how close Katiya was.

"We should?" Katiya prompted, reaching up to place her hands on both of Alexei's shoulders and look up into her face. "We should what?"

"Practice some more." Originally she meant weapons work but now she wasn't so sure.

"Oh good. I've decided I like practice." Katiya nearly purred. Reaching up she could lace her hands together behind Alexei's head and it put her in good position to brush her lips against the vampire's. "What should we practice?" She whispered, pressing her body closer.

"I was thinking more spear work, but this will do." Alexei said. Hopefully after their pheromones mixed a little they could do more productive things. She returned the kiss, gently, and brought her hands down to rest on Katiya's hips. She was aroused but not in a possessive way or territorial, it just sort of flowed and ebbed through her.

Perhaps sometimes she was more like the human woman she'd once been, than the undying monster she now was. More philosophy to debate with Matvey, if she ever got her city and her home life straightened out.

For now though there were better things to occupy her thoughts, like the warm, beautiful and willing human woman in her arms.


Naked in a nest of their clothes Alexei stared over Katiya's shoulder at the wall of the training room. Her body was curled around Katiya's warmer one, her hand resting over the woman's side her hand splayed out over her belly. "You bit me again." She commented.

"Hmmm?" Katiya made a little mewling sound, burrowing a little deeper in the circle of arms around her. If she concentrated enough she thought she could feel Alexei's breathing, slow and regular against her back.

The bite wasn't quite over her heart; it was up a bit this time closer to the collarbone. Still, to bite unless given leave was something only shared among lovers or taken by masters over slaves in vampire culture. "Nothing." Alexei said kissing the skin of the shoulder blade closest to her lips.

Katiya yawned, feeling content, warm and pleasantly achy in interesting places. This was a very nice way to spend the evening. Which was going to make getting up really hard. "Want to do a little breaking and entering with me?" Surely there was still enough night left.

"We can do that. Lucky for you that whole thing about having to invite a vampire in is a myth. You actually need a complex spell that involves killing a few goats and a chicken."

Shifting so that she could see Alexei's face, Katiya looked dubious. "A chicken?"

"Well you can sacrifice a human then you don't have to go through the trouble of the goats and the chickens, but its up to you, really either way will work." The vampire rolled on her back and stretched and then winced as the bite on her chest pulled. She stared at it and willed it to heal and when it stubbornly did nothing she just sighed. As long as Karl never found out or saw it, everything would be fine.

"Alexei? Could we avoid talking about sacrificing things for now?" There were things that she really didn't want to know, she decided. Sitting up she enjoyed the naked woman stretched out next to her. "Oh. Did I do that?" Gently touching the bite mark.

"Yes." Alexei said catching Katiya's hand before she could touch it. "You like to bite me, I've discovered, you bit me the other day too."

"I'm sorry!" Katiya looked horrified. "I didn't... I mean… I don't really remember doing that." Her face was rapidly going red. "Does it hurt?" It didn't look too deep.

Alexei looked a little insulted. "I'm a vampire, no it doesn't hurt." Finally she relented from her grumpy attitude as she saw how upset Katiya was getting. "Its okay, take a breath."

"I'll get the kit." She started to push up off the floor, remembering the discarded kit she'd been given that was somewhere back in Alexei's room.

"Katiya, its fine." She said reaching out and grabbing on to the other woman preventing her from getting up.

"I didn't mean to hurt you." She relented though, staying draped across Alexei's chest. "I'm guessing I'm probably not supposed to bite the big bad vampire." She said quietly.

"No, pets shouldn't bite their masters its general seen as a bad thing." Alexei said softly, she wasn't upset, well, not anymore.

Katiya was silent for a moment at that, and then sighed. "I really don't try to cause you problems, it just... happens." That was pretty much true.

"I know." The vampire said stroking Katiya's hair. She was quiet for a long while. Finally she said. "I like that you're so passionate when were together. Never think that's a bad thing." She really wasn't certain how to explain certain aspects of vampire culture to the woman.

The redhead mutely nodded, enjoying the feel of those elegant fingers stroking through her hair. "I won't tell." She was pretty sure she was only talking about the biting part.

The human woman tilted her head up so that she could see Alexei's beautiful face. "Are you still interested in a little breaking and entering?"

"That's probably best." She agreed, then softly kissed Katiya. Untangling herself from the redhead she got up. "Yes let’s go break and enter as you put it."

"Yes!" She bounced up onto her feet and started searching for her clothes.


It was well after midnight by the time the two of them made their way towards the relatively non-descript building that housed the notary office of Mr. Gorskji and partners. Katiya was happy to be out in the city wearing something other than a corset, especially the comfortable black pants and shirt she'd found waiting for her.

"Do I get to pick the lock or are you going to do some vampire thing and go through the wall or something?" She asked, only half teasing.

"Go through the wall? Really where do you humans get such ideas?" Alexei said in amusement.

"Probably the same place we picked up that thing about hanging garlic everywhere."

"Sorry to disappoint but I can't walk through walls. I can however rip the lock out of the door if you want?"

"Ummm... won't that tell them we've been here?" She was pretty sure they would notice.

"I was trying to be helpful." Alexei held up her hands and let her do what she thought was best.

Giving the dark shape next to her a wry look, Katiya knelt next to the back door. Her prized lock picks were tucked into her belt and she carefully used them to coax the lock open. It took a few minutes but there was never a doubt in her mind that she wouldn't get the door open.

"See, I'm useful." The human whispered, standing up and swinging open the door with a flourish.

"Yes, I'm well aware of you're uses." The vampire teased as she quietly entered.

It was dark thankfully, which meant Katiya didn't try to cover up the reddening of her cheeks. "Other uses." She mumbled, following along behind with Vidar a step behind her.

"His office is through there." She pointed down the dark corridor, glad to see that her assumption was right, the humans had all gone home for the evening and there was no sign of things that were not quite human.

Alexei walked down the hall examining the walls and then the door. "The door is Hexed wouldn't you say Vidar?"

The white hound padded silently down the hallway and sniffed at the door and then growled.

"What does that mean?" Another thing for me to learn, Katiya thought. Peering curiously at the door and not seeing anything odd.

"Cursed. Surely you've heard the stories coming out of Egypt, the Mummies curse, and all that? Same thing, whoever opens this door is hit with a rather painful hex or curse."

She'd been about to reach for the doorknob, but decided against it. "Can you un-hex it?"

"Yes. Vidar, you want the honors or should I?"

The hound looked up at her as if she were crazy. With a sigh she reached out grasping the door.

There was a spark of green energy it flowed over her hand and disappeared in to the skin. The vampire gagged and doubled over boils burst over her skin her skin writhed and split leaking blood and puss and then it passed as her inhuman immune system purged it from her body.

Katiya stared at her, wide eyed, one hand lifted as if to touch her, but she let that slowly drop when Alexei straightened up. "That's how you un-hex it, by activating it?"

Alexei stood up and reached into her pocket grabbing a white cloth and spat dark blood into it before putting it back in her pocket. "Do I look like a witch to you? Besides its set-up for humans, you would have died."

Katiya stared at her for a moment and decided against asking anything about witches. "Is it safe to go in now?"

"Unless Vidar senses anything, it looks fine to me."

The hound yawned.

Katiya snorted at him and pushed the door open. The office looked the same as it had in the day, maybe a few less papers on the desk, but that was it. Quickly the redhead moved around it, kneeling so that she could start work on the locked drawers.

"I'll take that as the all clear. Is he always this... this... this much fun when you're out."

"He loved it when he got to terrorize Fenix." Katiya grinned in satisfaction as the first lock gave way. Leaving the drawer be she started on the one under it.

Another few moment’s work and the lock softly clicked open. "Let's see what you have been doing Mr. Gorsjki." Taking the papers that were neatly piled inside she offered half the stack to Alexei.

Alexei thumbed through the papers. "Anything interesting in yours?" She asked.

Carefully setting aside every paper she went through, Katiya shook her head. "No these all seem like shipping..." she paused, frowning at one set. "It's pretty late in the year for a shipment of cotton from America." She offered the manifest to Alexei. "Good way to smuggle something into the city though."

"America? We don't allow any goods from America it’s forbidden in Vampire controlled cities." She reached out picking up the papers.

"A full load of cotton was offloaded from that ship two weeks ago." Katiya kept sorting through the papers, looking for anything else of interest.

"So that was about the same time those brothers stole from me." Her own fault really for letting the weight of the years get to her, making her lazy.

"It fits." Setting down the pile of papers, the redhead shook her head. "That's it, the rest are even longer ago."

"I'll take a look at those later. Is there an address where the cotton was delivered?"

"Hmm. No, not an address. Just a note here scribbled on the edge of the paper. Does 1st C mean anything to you?"

Alexei smiled at the irony. "It’s a cemetery."

"First Cemetery?" Katiya felt a little chill go up her back. "That's next to the pauper’s grave yard." Not far from the grand cathedral, in it's shadow almost.

"You know it occurs to me Mr. Morozov has not returned with information on my long lost bastard brother who is in possession of my old factories on the docks. Perhaps we should go visit him and see why he's failed to follow up?"

Katiya blinked. She'd honestly forgotten about him in everything that had happened. "Now?"

"You have something better to do? Besides I thought you liked running around at night, getting into trouble."

"I do, but I thought you were against that sort of thing." Returning all of the papers other than the one that Alexei still had, she carefully relocked both of the desk drawers.

"Yes, that's why we’re not going to get into trouble." She said opening the door. Vidar's growl let her know that something was wrong. Turning she looked out into the hallway there was a vague human shape cloaked in the darkness and the smell of dirt was overwhelming.

"Damn it." Alexei muttered, apparently the hex wasn't the only protection they used.

"What's wrong?" Katiya peered around her. It took longer for her human vision to make out the shape. "What is that?" The smell made her almost gag as it wafted in through the open door.

It moved down the hallway towards them strong and sturdy it never made a sound.

"A protector of some kind." Alexei said and then she was moving quickly, she lashed out with a punch only to have her hand absorbed by the creature trapped inside its chest. It felt like she had dug into sand or dirt. Growling she tried to pull her hand out.

The creature had only two eyes carved like slits on its otherwise empty face. Soundlessly it lifted a hand and pummeled into Alexei's back.

The vampire groaned feeling like a mountain had come down on top of her.

"Stop just growling at it and do something Vidar!" Katiya scrambled through the office, trying to find something that would be useful. She rather doubted that the pistol she came up with was going to do anything but irritate it. Better than nothing though and she aimed down the hallway, hoping she wasn't about to hit Alexei and pulled the trigger.

Alexei jumped. "What the hell was that?"

"Sorry!" Katiya yelled, looking for something else to use.

Alexei kept trying to pull backwards out of the creature's grip not getting very far at all before she was hit again. She cried out pretty certain one of her ribs just cracked.

Vidar continued to growl, his hair standing on end, legs stiff, as the thing continued to try to engulf Alexei into itself.

"Katiya come here!" Alexei shouted, she wasn't positive but she thought she saw something on its forehead.

"I didn't find anything else!" The human jumped over Vidar, pistol still in hand. "Want me to shoot it?" She was pretty sure she could do better this time.

"NO! No shooting." Alexei shouted.

"Is there a word on the things forehead?"

"Word?" She had to try and squirm past Alexei to peer closer; it was hard in the dark hallway to see anything. Ever so slowly Alexei's arms were being engulfed into the thing's chest. "I think so."

"Can you climb up my back and erase the first letter of that word?"

As she moved to climb up onto Alexei, she was sure she heard a canine equivalent of a snicker from Vidar. "I can't reach." She struggled to lean over Alexei's head, arm outreached to the thing's head. "You have to lean closer!"

Alexei took a breath holding it and leaned in closer to the creature. She lifted up a hand catching a descending blow grunting to absorb the pressure.

There was a scary moment when Katiya nearly fell over into the thing, but she managed to stick her finger into that first letter and wipe it away.

As if it were a puppet, the thing collapsed in on itself, turning into a pile of moldy leaves, dirt and a mess of centipedes and cockroaches that scurried off into the dark hallway. Katiya was left clutching Alexei's back, trying to wipe away the muck on her hand.

Alexei groaned and rolled over. "Vidar why didn't you smell that thing?"

The hound just sat looking at them, managing to look superior.

"Thanks Vidar." Katiya untangled herself from Alexei, looking at her worriedly. "Are you all right?"

Alexei pushed herself off the floor and vigorously wiped her face and brushed hands through her curls to get all the dirt and general crap out. "Bah. Pputtht." She spat.

The redhead bit her lip, doing her level best to avoid grinning at the normally perfectly kept vampire covered in dirt and grime. "You missed some." So she was only human.

Alexei paused and looked at Katiya balefully through thick blonde lashes. "Thank you."

"I am to please." She turned a laugh into a cough. "Did you still want to go visit Mr. Morozov?"

"Yes, but you can go back to the manor if you like." Alexei offered. She had a good idea she wasn't going to like what she found at his house, the man was never late to report back and now he was really late, her visit to Karl had been to much of a distraction, to much time lost getting her mind back on track.

"I'll come with you." She wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to trail along behind Alexei. "What about that though?" The human gestured to the pile of dirt and leaves on the ground. It was going to be hard to cover up the missing guardian.

Vidar's voice came from behind them. "I really am amazed sometimes that you made it as long as you have, Alexei. They're going to know that someone was here you broke the Hex and you destroyed their Golem. Which, I might add was probably activated after the hex went off."

Alexei made a face in annoyance. "I guess we leave it then." She said stiffly.

"They won't know who it was at least." She'd have to figure out if they could blame it on someone else.

Vidar just huffed and shifted back into his animal form.

Alexei sighed "You could have spoken up sooner." She snapped at the hound.

"I think he's enjoying being mysterious." Katiya whispered, as they headed out the door.

"He enjoys being a pain in my ass." She grumbled exiting the business.


"That's a bad sign." Katiya whispered from her spot slightly behind and to the right of Alexei. In front of them was the back door to an impressive looking manor that the blonde woman had said was Mr. Morozov's. It wasn't quite as grand as Alexei's manor, but it was definitely impressive. The human had enjoyed his money and power that was clear. Unfortunately for him, his back door was open, swinging slightly in the light evening wind. Far in the distance a winter storm was building, the air smelled of the coming snow.

"No lights on either." She whispered again, wondering if she should have just gone back to the manor.

"Katiya, maybe you and Vidar should wait out here." She said quietly. Already she could smell blood, its tangy iron scent thick and choking on the stale puffs of air that came from the house.

Mr. Morozov was married, and being a very traditional sort of man his wife ruled the house when she wasn't popping out another baby.

"Is it that bad?" Katiya asked just as quietly, staring at the darkness inside the doorway and shivering.

Vidar just looked at Katiya, waiting to follow whatever it was she wanted to do.

"Probably. He had a wife and 5 kids...” She trailed off. "Probably."

"I..." Katiya hesitated and shook her head. "I'm staying here." There was something bad inside that house that she had no desire to see.

Alexei nodded, surprised for a moment, but happy Katiya had decided to stay outside.

She pushed open the door, entering the house. It was cold, when she took a deep breath and breathed out the air turned white, no human would live in here.

She stepped through the house listening. In the kitchen dishes were rinsed and stacked waiting to be put away, odd because she couldn't see that being okay with Mr. Morozov. The wife was dead half way up the stairs her skirt pushed up over her face making her an object and not a human being. There was no blood and she softly walked up the stairs and pulled the long cloth down covering her as best she could, so in death she could have what little dignity she could. Her face was revealed, a pretty woman, with wholesome features, and a neck broken. The bruise were large, a big man with big hands had done this.

Alexei continued up the stairs happy that it was cold and the flies weren't swarming, each bedroom was splashed in red no gentle goodnight had been given to the spawn of Mr. Morozov.

In the cold she couldn't tell how long they had been dead the blood was now ice, glittering darkly off of the sheets and rugs. The master bedroom was empty and she made her way back down the stairs, finally finding her lawyer in the den. His body had been cut in a series of shallow painful cuts, torture.

Had he been first? She hoped so, but more than likely he had been made to listen to the horrors unleashed on his family before those hands had twisted his own neck around so he now saw where he had once been, instead of where he was going.

Outside the back door Katiya wrapped her arms around her chest, the shivering having nothing to do with the cold air. "They're all dead aren't they Vidar?" She asked the white hound sitting next to her.

The hound whined and nudged her hand with his head. They were, he could smell death, it clung to the house, and not a peaceful death, no this was violence horrible things had been done.

After a while Alexei's pale form appeared in the doorway. She didn't say anything just stepped out stopping next to Katiya.

The human scratched the hound’s head lightly, giving him a tightlipped grimace of a grin in thanks for the diversion. Alexei's sudden appearance nearly startled her out of her skin; it was eerie how quietly the vampire moved. "Did you find him?" She asked quietly.

Alexei nodded. "I did. He's dead and his office ransacked. On his calendar he had a meeting with an Ivan Dreier three days ago."

The other woman didn't ask what condition she'd found Mr. Morozov in, she couldn't think past the roaring in her ears. "Ivan." She swallowed, leaning sideways against Alexei's solid strength. "Boris must have been here too then." He would have enjoyed something like that; she could see the large man taking pleasure in killing an entire family.

"I see that name is familiar." Alexei easily supported Katiya, lifting her up she held her. "I think I remember you mentioning an Ivan, he's the one that made you steal the deed from me."

The redhead nodded, pressing her face against Alexei's chest. "He has a partner, Boris, the muscle for Ivan. He's huge."

Alexei started walking, putting as much distance between them and the house. "He was there too then." Yes a big man to leave those marks.

Katiya was glad to get away from that house become tomb, forcing herself to think. "If it was Ivan then he's doing more than just stealing for whoever wants your things."

"So he's not normally a serial killer?"

She shivered again and looked over her shoulder at the empty house. "He's killed before." She was proud that her voice didn't crack. "But no, normally he's a thief. He's a good one, my father trained him." The last was reluctantly admitted.

"Then you'll know how he thinks, operates and even his weakness. He's only a man after all." Alexei said reassuringly.

"A bad one." Katiya whispered.

A man with a trained psychopath following at his heels, like a dog. One who probably knew the secrets to killing vampires, because she was positive this Ivan and Boris were human agents of her invaders.

"Good thing I'm even more evil." She said with a smile. "Now hold on. Its going to start snowing I can feel the weather shift, and I don't want to be caught in it. I'm going to run us home."

The redhead nodded again, relaxing into Alexei's arms and closing her eyes. She'd known, deep down, that Ivan had been deeper involved in this then she'd admitted to herself. She just didn't want to deal with him or Boris they scared her. "I know where they go to drink." A part of the city she'd avoided at all costs.

Alexei started sprinting becoming a blur a human would catch out of the corner of their eye only to turn and find it gone.

"You are not to go there or meet with them in any way." Alexei shouted fiercely, as the Mr. Morozov's broken wife burst into her mind.

Katiya said nothing, holding on tightly as the outside world blurred past at speeds that were faster than anything she'd experienced before.


Katiya trailed along behind Alexei as they walked through the manor. It wasn't long now before sunrise and she found herself yawning hugely and thoroughly un-ladylike. She'd already promised to rest during the daylight thankfully. "Fenix didn't deliver your things back here yet has he?"

"Hmmm... No, at least I don't think so I'll check with Lyov later." Alexei said starting up the stairs.

"He's probably dead then." The other woman knew she was tired when she didn't even ogle Alexei's rear. "Someone probably got Ivan to tie up loose ends for them."

"Seems like it. Killing off human agents isn't that unheard of. Poor Mr. Morozov, his family didn't deserve that. A message to me that I'm not as in control of my city and my human agents as I think." She opened the door to her rooms and entered.

"What time do you meet with Mr. Gorsjki?"

"I don't know. He was going to contact his employers to see about me meeting them. I assume he will send a message through Tereza." That meant she'd have to go visit the vampire hunter later, before sunset maybe.

Alexei made a face but didn't say anything.

Stopping just inside the door, Katiya hesitated as she realized she'd just assumed she was going to rest with Alexei. "I still haven't found my own room."

"That's okay you can sleep here. Unless..." It occurred to her, that Katiya had been spending her time with Shiro. "You’d like to sleep with Shiro."

"Shiro?" Katiya looked confused. "Did you want me to go check on her?" Hopefully Fiona had made sure the quiet woman was all right.

"Only if you want too. I noticed Vidar outside Shiro's door I assumed that you were sleeping there."

"A few times. I think she was scared of the dark, or being alone." It probably was a combination of both.

"Time will heal her. I should check on her but..." She let it go; Shiro didn't trust her any more. "In or out, Mouse?”

"In." Was the instant answer and she closed the door behind her, hiding another yawn behind her hand. "Sleep time?" Gone was her energy from earlier, now she felt slow and heavy.

"Do you need me to have food sent up?" Alexei asked as she guided Katiya to the bed. She lifted the gray sweater over the young woman's head and undid the ties of the pants before making her sit on the edge of the bed.

Then she knelt down and unlaced the boots and tugged them off before removing the pants.

"No." She mumbled through another yawn. In truth she probably would fall asleep in mid bite. It was oddly comforting letting the vampire undress her like this. Lifting up her hips she let her pants slide off. "I'll eat later when it's daylight."

"Okay." Alexei got up and pulled out a soft sleep shirt from her dresser. "Hands up." And slowly pulled it down over the slim woman's body. Done she started undressing herself. "So tomorrow I think we will go out to dinner and see a play. Is that the proper thing to do now a day when young couples are courting?"

Alexei Petrova had never dated really, Alexander Petrov had, pretending to be a man came with a lot of complications, if one didn't date allsorts of rumors sprung up, and to be seen as a lover of other men was far worse for business to be seen now as a woman who loved other women. The world was a strange place.

"Courting?" Katiya suddenly didn't feel quite so tired, especially when she realized she could enjoy watching Alexei undress. "You want to court me?"

Alexei blinked. "Isn't that what the man wanted? For you to seduce me and steal the cup?" Maybe she hadn't understood. "I thought if you were seen in public with me showing interest that would make them agree to your demands because you were 'in' so to speak."

She turned pants in hand, shirt unbuttoned. "Did I misunderstand?"

"Oh. Yes." Katiya winced. Of course that was the reason that Alexei wanted to go out in public with her. "No, not at all."

"Good. Or do you think that will work with them?" She turned back around she dropped the pants in a basket and slipped off her shirt.

Katiya stared, swallowing dryly. "Huh?" She managed, licking her lips. "Oh. Umm, yes it should work. Mr. Gorsjki suggested it after all. If I'm seen with you it will definitely prove that I can deliver the cup to them."

"Ah good. It’s settled then." She slipped on her own sleep shirt, grabbing the book she had been reading earlier, she turned towards the bed and paused for a moment it was odd to have someone there when she wasn't going to have sex or food from them.

She cleared her throat. "Come on then, before you fall over asleep." She pulled the covers down.

This was going to be interesting. The human slipped under the covers, wondering how she'd gone from sleepy to wanting to touch Alexei's body. Thankfully she was tired enough that she was going to probably fall asleep immediately. "Is this all right?"

"It’s new but I'm sure it will be fine." Alexei said getting into the bed. A small grin tugged at her lips, as she smelled Katiya's arousal, perhaps not so new.

"I'll try not to steal the blankets." Sleeping alongside someone was a new experience. That the somebody was a vampire was just another new thing.

"It’s okay, in a few hours I'll be dead to the world and won't even notice." She settled down opening her book and started to read.

Katiya curled up on her side; settling in and feeling her eyes start to close. "Do vampires dream?"

"Sometimes. When I was a younger vampire I did, but now I think my mind enjoys the solitude from the weight of memories."

"Mmm." Katiya mumbled, eyes closing and followed by a soft sigh as she finally gave into sleep.

Alexei set her book down and turned watching Katiya sleep. Leaning over almost hesitantly she kissed the woman's red lips softly. "May your dreams be pleasant."


It was late in the afternoon when the redhead made her way down the stairs and towards the kitchen. The demands of her body for the use of the bathroom and food, in that order, had finally roused her out of the bed she'd shared with Alexei. First she'd stopped by Shiro's room, but the Asian woman hadn't been there, so she'd continued on to the kitchen. The grumblings of her stomach accompanied her and she sniffed appreciatively at the smells in the air.

"My god, whatever that is, it smells delicious." Her stomach growled in agreement.

Warren looked up from the pot he was stirring with a beaming smile. "Ah lass, just what a cook loves to hear." His hair was unruly sticking up as if he'd been in a rush to get ready. "I'm making my lentil stew, got some fresh bread baking. Fiona's out in the green house tending the plants."

"Mmmm fresh bread." She nearly drooled at the thought, trying not to blush as her stomach growled again. "Is there anything that I could eat now to tame the beast?"

Warren scratched his chin for a moment and then his eyes lit up, he turned rummaging around and then tossed a crisp apple to Katiya. “Alexei got a barrel in, from where I don't ask, just happy we got em."

The redhead was too busy taking a bite to answer, but she nodded. "I'll let you be." she managed when she'd chewed and swallowed. "I wanted to say hi to Fiona."

"Okay then. Food will be ready shortly." He said turning back to his pots.

The damp heat of the green house was nice and Katiya closed the door quickly behind her to keep out the cold. "Good afternoon Fiona." The fading light was pleasant to enjoy.

Fiona looked up with a smile. "Afternoon Katiya. Quite the snow storm going on it’s been like this since the wee hours of the morning, but you can't tell at all being inside here." There were mounds of white pressed up against the outside of the glass.

The glass was cold against the other woman's finger tips as she peered at the snowstorm raging outside. "Alexei wanted to go to the opera; I wonder if this means we won't be going?"

"Really the opera?" Fiona said surprised. "She hates the opera."

"She does?" Katiya turned in surprise to look at Fiona, and then shook her head. "She's just going so that the people who stole from her can see that I'm with her and let me get closer to them." She'd accepted that.

"Sounds complicated." Fiona said kneeling back down to tend to the soil of some of the herb plants. "I think it would be more tolerable for her just to take you out to dinner and wine and dine you than to do something she hates. She likes music though, and sporting events she goes down to the docks and bets on the wharf rats who fight."

"What else does she enjoy?" Katiya perched on the edge of a stone bench, watching. Eager to hear whatever she could about Alexei.

"She likes to hunt, not so much the kill, but I've seen her take great pleasure in hunting someone. She likes horses, people pay a lot of money to let them breed with her horses." Fiona said looking up with a wicked smile. "In bed she likes it if you're rough and she likes it if you're on top to be pressed down between your body and the mattress."

Katiya flushed a little. "I figured that one out." She studied her fingers, to avoid seeing that wicked smile. "Has she ever loved someone?"

The smile flickered and disappeared. "Not that I know of. She might have loved me, but I couldn't return it so it withered and died into a deep affection."

"Oh." Katiya nodded, she thought as much. "I should leave you to your gardening."

"You don't have too, but it’s not terribly exciting I know." Fiona said digging into the soil again.

"If it doesn't bother you, I don't mind watching." It was peaceful here. "Have you seen Shiro? I looked in her bedroom but she wasn't there."

"We had dinner last night. She's depressed because of the damage to her wrists she can't hold a bow or do finger work correctly with the violin. I'm not sure where she'd be."

"Will she heal?"

Fiona thought about it. "Maybe, if she'd let Alexei help her but she freaks out anytime the Mistress goes near her with her fangs bared. I understand I do, but if she won't except help then no it’s unlikely."

"Maybe I can try and talk to her." She didn't sound too hopeful of that though, if Fiona couldn't and she'd known Shiro for much longer than Katiya had. "What does one wear for an Opera?"

Fiona looked up a smudge of dirt on her cheek. "Oh dear. You're going to need clothes. Alexei didn't mention a thing to us. Go grab a light snack, I'm sure you'll be eating very well tonight and I'll go speak with Lyov."


Alexei was frowning as she exited her rooms. Katiya had not been there when she had woke up and had continued to stay gone until Alexei had finally gotten dressed in what she assumed people wore to boring displays of cultural superiority. "Fiona, where is Katiya?" She bellowed.

"I'm over here." Katiya stepped out of a room further down the hallway draped in the dress that Fiona had found for her. The older woman stood behind her, looking justifiably happy with the results of her and Lyov's efforts.

Alexei paused as if rooted to the ground, her mouth opened and then closed, surprised.

Fiona hid her grin. "You surprised her, she loves being surprised." Fiona whispered to the young woman. "Now remember what Lyov and I told you but just relax and have fun."

"Right. Relax. Have fun." Katiya nodded, trying not to reach up and touch the hair that had been styled upon her head. The emerald green dress was silky against her skin and she felt incredibly self-conscious about the skin she was showing.

"Thank you Fiona." She gave the other redhead a hug.

"No problem." The woman said a little teary eyed but did her best to hide it, Alexei wasn't hers any more. She had given it up; she knew it had been her choice. But still to see that look given to someone other than her it was hard to let go.

Releasing her, Katiya turned and smiled at the vampire still standing stock still in her doorway. "Is it all right?" She smoothed her hands down the front of the dress. The neckline was something she'd thought wouldn't be out of place on streetwalkers, but both Fiona and Lyov had assured her it was high fashion.

Alexei blinked and let out a ragged breath. "You're beautiful."

Katiya needed no help from the light makeup to tinge her cheeks red. "You look very handsome." She stepped closer, placing a hand on the fitted dinner jacket that Alexei was wearing.

Alexei's gray eyes took in Katiya so enraptured that she didn't even notice Fiona leave them. "The green it does amazing things to your eyes." She said softly.

Katiya smiled up at the blonde woman, fingering the lapel of the dinner jacket. "I like this on you. It makes you look very..." She trailed off not sure how to explain it.

"Very... silly, noble, pompous, aristocratic..." Alexei fished as she gently took the hand on the lapel of her jacket and brought it to her lips. She brushed her lips softly over the skin of the knuckles.

"Noble fits." The human licked her lips, shifting a little as she felt that kiss radiate from her knuckles, up her arm, and down her body. "Are you sure we need to go to the opera?"

Alexei raised an eyebrow, but grinned against the skin still at her lips. "Hmmm, it would be a waste of that green dress on you if we didn't."

"Fiona did go to a lot of trouble." Remembering the other woman, Katiya looked for her. "Did she leave already?" She'd meant to thank Fiona for all the help in getting dressed.

Alexei's eyes flicked up to where Fiona had been standing. "Yes I guess she's left." Odd she hadn't heard her leave.

"Then I will thank her later." Slipping her arm under Alexei's she smiled. "Shall we?"

"The carriage awaits." Alexei murmured leading her downstairs.

Lyov cleared his throat getting Alexei's attention. "The Lady's coat." He said drolly.

"Ah... right." The vampire said almost sheepishly, taking the coat she held it open for Katiya to slip into.

Since it was bitter cold outside and snowing, Katiya thought she probably should have realized it wouldn't have been a good idea to go out without a coat. Instead she'd been about to blindly follow Alexei wherever the vampire led. "Thank you Lyov." She said, sliding into the thick fur lined coat that he'd gotten for her from wherever it was he got such things.

Alexei tucked Katiya's arm into the crook of hers, and Lyov opened the door for them. The carriage was waiting two sturdy brown, shaggy horses stood to take them where they wanted to go.


The restaurant was extravagant in its understated elegance. A place that Katiya had never expected to actually step foot in, let alone eat in as a guest. The food was exquisite, although she found herself privately thinking that she preferred Warren's. Again she found herself raising her eyes to find Alexei's smoldering look on her and decided to talk about something, anything, to avoid burning up. "Can you even eat real food?"

Alexei just grinned and lifted her wine glass sipping its contents. "No, not really. Blood I absorb and it never has to be... ah... expelled. Food I can fake as long as it’s liquid, but it wakes up parts of my internal organs that aren't normally used and it’s painful to get rid of. Probably not that best dinner conversation to have."

The soup she was lazily eating wasn't really tomato bisque, but she knew the owner and most of the staff was a family of half-breed demons, minor things who only wanted a place in the world, so she had allowed them one.

Katiya agreed, probably not the best dinner conversation. "They didn’t have a reservation for you but they made sure they had a table ready for you. Do they know who you are?" It had been amazing to see the maître stumble over himself to find them a prize table.

"Yes, they're a family. They came here running away from something and were trying to find a place in the world. I gave them this, well, not this exactly. I gave them the building and some funds. They made this with hard work. So yes, I always get a table if I want one. Not even the mayor can say that." She said with a grin.

"A fact that I'm sure he hates." Katiya licked her lips, setting down her fork and sighing with pleasure. "This is where you take all your servants?"

Alexei set down the soupspoon. "No. And you're not a servant you’re a pet." Which Alexei was beginning to wonder if that was even true. "But I don't bring anyone here except for maybe the mayor and the occasion Czar or royal family member."

She didn’t know why it should, but Katiya stared in surprise at Alexei. "You know the royal family?"

"Mmmm, not the current ones I don't think. But many play in vampire politics as puppets because they have power and want to keep their toys past death. Many a vampire has dangled that in front of royalty to gain inroads into the human power structure."

She picked up her spoon stirring the red liquid in the bowl in front of her. They were in a private corner giving them space yet they could be seen. Many eyes glanced their way and she hoped this would not backfire and hurt Katiya.

A server seemingly magically appeared to sweep away Katiya's plate and replaced it with a small salad, which would be her last course. "So it's true then, the rumors about the politicians and vampires?" She'd suspected it of course.

"Of course, vampires like power, and control. Plus I think of any of the demons out there they are closely tied to humanity, shapeshifters maybe being second. To keep the human race in the dark they infected those in control, if humans realized what kind of sheep they are they could turn the tables quickly."

It was on the tip of Katiya's tongue to say 'like Tereza?' but she managed to avoid saying anything so silly. "Are there a lot of different demons?" That was a disquieting thought.

"I don't really know how many demons there are." Alexei said. "I've met quite a few. Some look human and blend in others don't look like anything you can comprehend."

The finished salad plate was whisked away just as efficiently as her previous plate and replaced with her main course, the night’s special. Katiya stared down at the strange looking contraption on her plate, trying to figure out how to eat it. "So that's a delicacy?" She didn't sound so sure about it.

"Yes, not a traditional Russian dish, unless you're by the docks or a seafaring people. It’s called a crab."

She tried to hide her smile at Katiya's puzzled look. “It’s the rage I guess in France and that normally trickles over to us here." Crabs were ugly looking things, and she had no idea how they tasted.

The waiter discreetly left a silver torture looking instrument to crack the shell with and withdrew. Frowning in concentration, Katiya started to try and disassemble it.

It was thankfully, unlike a lobster not staring at them with beady little eyes. It was on a bed of rice and potatoes in a sauce of onion, tomatoes, garlic and butter. Some sort of new recipe that was all the fashion somewhere Alexei was sure. The top shell had been removed exposing the meat. "You take the little tiny fork, which looks useless..." She said picking it up.

"Spear the meat, and dip it in the butter...” she did so. "And then eat." She brought the small chunk of dripping meat to Katiya's lips.

Automatically Katiya opened her mouth, lips curling in a smile as Alexei fed her. The meat was like nothing else she'd eaten before, melting in her mouth with the butter. "Hmmm..." She purred, closing her eyes and savoring the taste. "It's good."

At Katiya's expression she was tempted to try, but knew she would just end up regretting it. "I'll have to take you're word on that."

Opening her eyes, the redhead looked past Alexei, catching another pair of eyes looking their way. "Alexei, why does everyone keep watching you? Every time I look someone's looking this way." With a wicked grin she speared another piece and made a show of slowly eating it.

Alexei shrugged. "Could be any numerous reasons. I'm rich, I own most of the city, I'm with a very attractive woman and I'm a woman myself, or they're waiting to see if I debauch you on the table."

She went back to her blood soup, for the first time regretting she couldn't eat food if Katiya’s face was any indication she was missing out.

"Mmmm." Making a show of enjoying it, Katiya licked her lips, watching her dining companion. "And are you?" A mischievous look in her eyes.

"A woman. Most certainly." She said jokingly.

Katiya laughed. "No debauching then?"

Alexei's smile became mischievous and her eyes hooded as she stared at Katiya. "Maybe later. I might have to entertain myself somehow at the opera."

"I still don't know what an Opera is like. I hope I'm not going to embarrass you there." There was less meat in the shell than she would have guessed based on the size of the thing.

Alexei just made a dismissive noise. "You can't embarass me, well you can try but I have a private box for some reason. I think Fiona's idea so I could wine and dine important people who use to visit me.”

"A private box?" Katiya eyed her a little confused. "Why would you need a box for this?"

"I don't know. It shows off status and wealth, says to everybody else that I'm more important than they are."

"A box does that?" Katiya looked a little more confused, trying to picture a box that would do that. Maybe they covered it in something precious, like gold. "And you hold this box?"

Alexei's lips started to twitch and finally she couldn't hold it in any longer and she started laughing.

"No, no, no. Not a box, box. A private box is more like a private seating area."

"Oh! That makes a lot more sense." Katiya grinned. "I was picturing them handing you this gold leaf box that you'd carry around all night as your private box."

Alexei started laughing again.

"Hilarious. My own little tiny private box."

"Well... it could happen." Katiya's laughed, realizing how silly it sounded. More than a few eyes swung there way at Alexei's laughter.

"Desert Madame?" The waiter asked, almost seeming to appear next to Katiya as she set aside the plate of crab.

"No, no thank you." She smiled up at him. "We have a private box to go see." He didn't even pretend to understand, but he didn't have to as he cleared the dishes and swept away.

Looking at Katiya Alexei asked. "Finished then?"

"Yes, I want to see this private box of yours." She looked coyly over at the blonde.

Alexei smiled again at the joke and got up retrieving Katiya's coat she held it open for the other woman.

Aware of all the eyes watching them, Katiya slipped her arms into the coat, very aware of the taller body next to hers. "Thank you."

"My pleasure." Alexei purred out into Katiya's ear holding out an arm. "Let's go explore my private box." It was hard but she kept a straight face.

Katiya's face heated, but she managed not to laugh as she left, well aware of the jealous and intense looks that followed them.


Alexei and Katiya entered the house; sexual energy seemed to crackle between them.  The vampire was grinning at the subtle teasing Katiya loved to do on her account.

"Mistress." Lyov’s bleak tone broke through gathering her attention. She gave the man her full attention; he was distressed his normally stoic demeanor shattered.

"What is wrong?" She asked her hands dropping from Katiya's body. When he didn't answer quickly enough, she yelled.  "What has happened?"

"Its Shiro, she's... well there's been an accident. Fiona and Vidar are with her now.  Gregori and Warren went into the city to find you." He sputtered.

"Where is she?" Alexei asked dread pooling into her stomach, choking her veins in ice.

"In the music room."

Alexei turned and ran to the music room, it was on the first floor, thankfully not far away.  She smelled the blood, knew it was Shiro's from years of tasting it on her tongue. There were frantic whispered words, three bodies on the floor stained in red and pale flesh.

Shiro was cradled in Fiona's lap as Vidar now a man clothed in simple woolen trousers, tried to staunch the flow of blood that now no longer gushed from her wrists but oozed out from the frantic vicious cuts on to the floor.

She scrambled to the woman's side, falling to her knees, her black slacks soaking up the blood.  "Shiro?  Shiro."  She cried out.

Fiona and Vidar looked up at her surprised, Shiro's eyes opened and she smiled at the vampire. She lifted up a hand but the wrist hung loosely no longer controlled by the nerves and tendons that had been severed.  The woman frowned and tried to speak. 

"We found her too late." Vidar said frantically trying to grab back the hand Shiro was moving so he could again cover the wounds. 

"Will she be okay?" Alexei asked looking frantically from Fiona to Vidar.  At their grim expressions she knew the outcome wasn't what she wanted. Looking around she found the letter opener that Shiro had used and scrambled to it. Picking it up she scrambled back, she rolled up her shirtsleeve she lifted up the blunt edge to the soft underside of her arm and pressed down.

Shiro began to cry and try to get away. She didn't want Alexei's blood to heal her, she just wanted to go, the music was overwhelming her without an outlet to release it and now it could escape back into the universe. To die would release her from the music and from being the plaything of vampires. She didn't blame Alexei she had been a good Master, treated her far better than her family had but that was a long time ago. She has seen what Karl had done to Alexei, seen her struggle to help her and come to late to stop the brutalization of her body. That had shattered her faith in Alexei and that could never be healed.  She kicked out desperately with her legs catching everyone by surprise.

The vampire grunted as Shiro kicked her away the letter opener gouging into her skin and then slide away as she hit the tile floor.  From the floor she looked over in shock at Shiro. 

Shiro looked at Alexei and smiled happy to be moving on, she could feel the music swell inside her at each struggling beat of her heart. She mouthed to Alexei. "I forgive you." 

Then weakly her head rested against Fiona's legs, her eyes closing, she was too tired to keep them open. 

So tired.

Part 7

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