Caught Off-Guard

With a final heave, Prioress Angelina Martinez stuffed the brittle evergreen branches behind the snow-covered trees hemming the Abbey property line. Just beyond her, a twig snapped. Straightening, she glanced into the trees and jumped. A tall, white woman in a black coat emerged from the shadows, grinning until her elongated eyeteeth flashed in the weak light.

“Hello, Angelina,” she whispered.

“Bonnie Deeawater.” The Prioress let a tiny, nervous laugh slip out from between lips. “You’re a long way from Montana.”

Bonnie came out from behind the trees and, without thinking, the Prioress stepped in her way, blocking her from the Abbey. Bonnie paused, considering her, and then brightened her grin. “We need to talk expansion,” she said, her voice smooth as liquid chocolate. She nodded to the building. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

The Prioress’s cheeks grew cold. She did her best to fold her hands, to relax, and not let the surprise show on her face. Behind her, the girlish shouts of her novitiates drifted over. She could picture them sweeping pine needles from the floor, and laying fresh sheets for the aspirants’ visit in an hours’ time, their white and brown cheeks pink with expectation.

Let’s keep it that way.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand,” she said, keeping her voice light. “Expansion was never part of the agreement. Besides, this isn’t the time or place to discuss—”

“Five families have already come forward with interest,” Bonnie said, stepping closer. Musky perfume wafted off her jacket, heady and tantalizing. The Prioress tried to focus on Bonnie’s eyes, but the woman’s smile caught her breath in her throat. “They like what we’re doing, and asked for a place of their own. You’ll need to expand our protections to accommodate them.”

Stunned, the Prioress stared at the vampire, shaking from head to toe. “No,” she said. Perfume forgotten, she jabbed her finger towards the woods. “That wasn’t what we agreed on. You have your village. Nancy Flores has hers. Now, get out,” she said, taking Bonnie’s arm and marching them deep into the copse.

Halfway in, Bonnie grabbed her arm and whirled her around. Gasping, the Prioress fumbled for purchase on the wet ground, alternately grabbing and pushing at Bonnie’s hand.

Stop.”

The word thrummed through her. Within seconds, a warm, liquid feeling broke over the top of her head and covered her legs. The world grew a shimmering, pleasant haze, but her legs didn’t move.

“Where—is—Nancy?” she asked between gritted teeth. “We started this agreement with her. Why isn’t she here?”

Bonnie swayed into her line of sight, a heavy expression on her face. “She couldn’t come, so she sent me. And since your boss started this agreement, we thought it’d only be fair to warn you. Five new vampire villages are coming up. If all goes well, they should be done by August.”

The Prioress almost choked. Trying to keep her breathing even, she reached down, and gave her leg a tug. Her knee refused to bend. “Alright,” she said, too frightened to keep the fear out of her voice, “you delivered your news. Now leave.”

Bonnie pouted, and the Prioress’s traitorous heart fell at the sight. “Oh, but darling, I came all this way,” the vampire said, running a finger down the Prioress’s cheek. “I’m ready for a snack.”

Across the yard, the girls shouted to each other. Bonnie turned at the sound, and despair rose in the Prioress’s chest.

There’s only one way out of this.

“Help!” she said, making Bonnie jump. It caught her off-guard enough that the Prioress’s knees bent again. “Sisters! He—”

Silence.” Bonnie’s voice rumbled, her expression frozen. Like two pieces of fabric being sewn together, the Prioress’s lips pursed. She could only hope her fear didn’t show in her eyes.

“Reverend Mother?” one of the girls called, almost close enough to touch.

Bonnie jumped, distracted again, and spun towards the sound. The Prioress’s lips unglued themselves, her knees creaking. Heaving a breath, she grabbed Bonnie and pulled her close, their lips inches apart. Bonnie gaped, and the rest of the hazy feeling melted away, fast as it came.

“Get out,” the Prioress whispered, shoving the vampire off.

Bonnie tripped backwards, and then shoved her hands in her pockets, studying the Prioress. “I’ll save you a room when they’re done,” she said, eyes twinkling, and then disappeared into the trees.

Copyright © 2018 C.L. Mannarino All rights reserved.



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