Claire stared at herself long and hard in the mirror. She had been able to make her facial expression unreadable, but there was no denying the red hot fury bubbling up inside her. She knew there were certain advantages to being valuable to Morganville, and that being Amelie's expendable pet had saved her and her friend's asses countless times, but as always Claire was never allowed a break. It irked her to no end. She was supposed to be curled up to Shane on the couch in one of his hoodies and a pair of sweats whilst he blew up zombies, chowing down on chilli, yet one call from the ice queen herself flushed those plans right down the toilet.
A light tap on the bathroom door snapped her out of her thoughts. "Hey CB, are you ready yet? I know your hate for Queen Bitch is undying right now, but at least let me see my handiwork." Eve's voice called put. Claire cracked a small smile and gave one last pitying look at her reflection, flicking the lock and emerging from the bathroom.
Eve stood in all her Goth glory, looking as dead as ever with her rice-powder make-up and carefully outlined raccoon eyes. Today she had a Corpse Bride thing going on with a custom ripped black velvet dress, equally ripped tights, clumpy biker boots with chains galore and back combed hair that could give Bill Kaulitz a run for his money. When Eve caught sight of Claire, her jaw went slack and her lush ruby red lips formed an 'o' of shock. Claire nervously gripped the soft fabric of the evening gown she was wearing, unable to stop the blush from spilling over her cheeks. Even if it was from just one person, Claire was never really one to bask in attention.
"...Do I look okay?" She asked nervously, nibbling on her bottom lip, awaiting her best friend's verdict.
"Claire Bear, you look beautiful." Eve breathed clapping her hands together, looking exceedingly proud of her work. Claire even thought she saw tears glistening in the corners of her eyes. "You'll knock 'em all dead, just you wait. Even though they're all technically dead."
Claire laughed and felt a little better. Eve had that effect on people. "Thanks for letting me borrow your dress. I wish it was for a better occasion though." She sighed.
"What does Amelie even want? This is so sudden. Usually she'd give you a month's advance, or something." Eve leaned against the wall and frowned, slight lines creasing her forehead.
"I don't know..." Claire trailed off, picking at her newly painted nails. "Whatever it is, I have a feeling I won't like it. You have no idea how much I wish you guys were going with me, and I'm surprised Amelie hasn't forced Michael to go, too."
Both Eve and Claire knew it was more than a little odd that Michael wasn't called upon as well. Instead, he was still out giving guitar lessons to whoever wanted them. And as for Shane, he was busy sulking in the living room. He was of course, less than pleased about Claire's unexpected orders. She still wasn't sure if it was a good idea to try and talk to him or not before someone was sent to pick her up.
"I wouldn't worry about that for long. Once he knows you're gone, he'll crash that party and make sure you don't stay for dinner." Eve joked lightly, but they both knew it was a possibility in Morganville. "Just in case it does happen, you have all of us on speed dial. And to keep me sane, put this in your leg band." Eve handed Claire a customised silver-coated stake.
Claire nodded and lifted up her floor length dress to her thigh, slipping the stake securely in the flowery, white lace band around her leg. She straightened up and made for the stairs, tucking behind her ear a loose strand of dark hair that had escaped the intricate hair-do sitting perfectly on top of her head.
"I guess I'll go speak to Shane now. Wish me luck." She said and descended down the stairs. Claire stood in the doorway of the living room and sighed at the sight of her boyfriend sprawled out on the couch, looking miserable. Upstairs, she could hear the clunking of Eve's shoes followed by the blast of heavy metal. Some things never changed.
She took a few careful steps towards him and touched his arm lightly. His dark eyes glanced up to her and when they did, she received the exact same reaction from Shane that she did from Eve. He sat up abruptly and pulled himself off the couch, reaching out to touch Claire's cheek gently. The touch was so light that she wasn't even sure it happened. The only thing that assured her it did was the slightly giddy feeling she got when he was around her.
"I wish I could say this under better circumstances but damn girl, you clean up good." Shane said, flashing a crooked smile that made Claire weak in the knees.
"Thanks. I wish you could come with me, Shane. At least you'd make things a little more interesting." She smiled slightly. Her heart skipped a beat when he wrapped his arms around her and gave a low chuckle, pulling her close to his chest.
"Yeah, I know. Keep your chin up, it's only one night. Soon you'll be back here and we can finally be alone together." Claire brushed the messy bangs from his dark eyes as he pressed his forehead to hers, wearing a sly smirk. She lightly smacked his arm, laughing a little. That was when he closed the last few inches of space between them and kissed her long and hard. He tasted of coffee and the usual barbecue, but it soon faded to nothing until it was just pure Shane. The thing she loved the most.
The doorbell rang and she reluctantly pulled away.
"That's probably for me." Claire stated and stepped away, entwining her hand with Shane's.
"I'll walk you to the door. I bet anything that it's Count Crackula waiting for you."
It turned out Shane was right. As soon as Claire opened the door, she was greeted by Myrnin's foolish grin and extravagant bow. She glanced at Shane to see his mouth set into a thin line. Her vampire boss wasn't exactly one of his favourite people. For once, Myrnin looked relatively normal in terms of clothing. Dressed in a jet black tux complete with a white button-up -or button down?- shirt and a black bow-tie, she would even go as far to say he looked handsome. Well, more so than normal, because it was natural for vampires to be abnormally beautiful.
"Um, hello, Myrnin." Claire said awkwardly.
"Good evening, fy annwyl. Under Amelie's orders, I've been sent to collect you, as I'm sure you're aware." The vampire stood up straight and completely ignored Shane, his muddy brown eyes sweeping down Claire's body. Shane tightened his grip on her hand and Myrnin grinned, allowing his dimples to show. Claire found it oddly charming, but she immediately dismissed the thought. "And may I just say, you look absolutely ravishing, my dear."
He's doing that to piss Shane off, Claire thought.
"Stop looking at my girl as if she's a piece of meat, leech." Shane's tone was dark and menacing but Myrnin took no notice.
"Shane, relax. He's just trying to get under your skin." Claire patted his arm lightly.
"Claire is correct. I was simply jesting, boy."
"Oh believe me, the thought never fails to cross my mind." Myrnin said dryly.
Claire rolled her eyes. "All right, well, you two kids can stay here and argue but I'm leaving." She went to side-step Myrnin and get out of the house, but Shane pulled her back and kissed her right in front of her boss, more than likely trying to prove a point. It annoyed Claire, and judging by the incoherent muttering of Myrnin, it annoyed him too. She pulled away from her boyfriend and glared at him, sending an obvious we're-talking-about-this-later-you-ass message.
"If you're quite finished." Myrnin spoke bitterly.
"Yeah, he's done. C'mon, let's get this over with." Claire stepped out of the house and ignored the arm Myrnin held out for her, marching towards his car. She was filled with dread at the thought of Myrnin driving them both and hesitated when she reached out for the door. Myrnin was there in a split second, opening it for her and bowing slightly, his dark curls falling across his eyes slightly.
"Please tell me anybody except you is driving." Claire sighed.
"Don't be foolish, little bird, of course I'm driving. Now do hurry up and get in."
"Fine." Claire said sulkily.
They just barely managed to make it to the Founder's Square in one piece. Granted Myrnin ruined one stop sign, five letterboxes, two lawns and nearly killed an old lady, he was making significant progress. Claire was digging her nails into the dashboard and holding her breath so her heart didn't fall out of her mouth the whole time, and when they finally stopped she could relax. Myrnin helped her out of the car and dismissed the fact that he was missing both side-view mirrors and a headlight.
The vampire lead her into the building where Amelie usually resided, dragging her through various corridors until they opened the door into a massive ballroom. Claire just about managed to prevent her jaw from going slack. The room was bigger than the entire Glass House, and it was absolutely filled with vampires. The room itself was gorgeous. The floor was made of white marble, almost matching Myrnin's skin. Tall, elegant pillars held up the high ceiling, which had a single, large chandelier hanging from it. The light from dainty, stylish lamps hanging on the walls bounced onto the flawless crystals decorating the chandelier, creating an iridescent effect. Claire saw the ice queen herself standing by the long table of...vampire suited beverages next to Oliver and a bunch of other important-looking vampires she had never seen before.
Chill, Claire, she told herself, they're only drinking cranberry juice. Don't worry.
"Amelie wishes to speak with you, Claire. I advise you stay by my side for the night. I cannot help but notice how hungry a few of our dear guests appear." Myrnin rested his hand on the small of her back, keeping his voice low whilst glancing around the room. Even through the fabric of her dress, Claire could feel the coolness of Myrnin's touch. She nodded and swallowed, trying to calm down her thumping heart. She knew every vampire in the room could hear it clear as day.
"Thanks for the heads up." She replied sourly. A small, amused smile formed on Myrnin's face, but it soon disappeared as he led Claire to Amelie, who looked more cold and effortlessly beautiful than ever. The Founder had abandoned her usual business-like suits for a backless crimson gown that enhanced her voluptuous curves and eventually fanned out to conceal her feet. Her icy blonde hair was no longer piled on top of her head, but was instead tumbling down her shoulders in glorious silky waves. Her cool gaze was now fixed on Claire, who was now stood before the queen. Claire was intimidated by Amelie's stare and flawless perfection, but didn't let it show. Myrnin bowed to Amelie, who nodded slightly to him.
"Good evening, Claire. I trust Myrnin was not too reckless in regards to his driving." Claire resisted the urge to snort. "My apologies for thrusting this upon you so suddenly, but I thought it necessary to introduce you to a few old friends of Morganville." Amelie spoke with crisp formality, as always, and her accent was tinged with a French resonance.
"Right, of course. Thanks, I guess." Claire fumbled nervously. The vampires she'd never seen before shared unimpressed glances with each other, causing Claire's cheeks to turn a slight pink.
"I had imagined Amelie's pet to be more sophisticated. I will be sure not to set my hopes so high again." One of the vampires spoke. His words had a European tang which Claire couldn't identify for the life of her, and they stung too, even though he was sort of right.
"Hush, Angelo. Known for a sharp tongue you may be, but that can be easily changed." Amelie said sharply, but there was a hint of amusement in her cold blue eyes. Angelo simply nodded, a small smirk appearing on his face. He was rather good looking, a little older than Myrnin physically, with sly hooded grey eyes and neck-length charcoal coloured hair.
"My sincerest of apologies, Founder."
Amelie ignored him and gestured to the next vampire, another male, with sharp ocean blue eyes and wavy, tousled, burgundy coloured hair. He looked to be in his mid-to-late thirties with broad shoulders and a lean build. "Felix De Vile has more significant amount of manners than Angelo. He is far more tolerable I can assure you, Claire."
As if to prove it, Felix stepped forward and bowed, taking Claire's hand delicately in his own and pressing his lips to her knuckles, meeting her shocked gaze and winking slightly. "I have not been in the company of such beauty since I met Amelie, my dear. You look simply stunning." He stepped back and Claire blushed furiously, dropping her hand back to her side.
"Thank you, um, Felix." She stuttered slightly, causing him to laugh. Claire glanced at Myrnin, who was looking increasingly uncomfortable.
"Lastly, I introduce you to Nicholai of Ardatov." Amelie brought the last man forward, who looked physically younger than the other two. His innocent, wide eyes were the colour of smoke and his hair was short and messy, not quite black but instead the darkest possible shade of brown. He was noticeably tall and wiry, with long awkward limbs. Skinny as he may be, Claire could tell he had a good amount of muscle.
"I bid you good evening, Miss. Claire." Nicholai greeted, giving a short, polite bow. His accent was so strong, Claire nearly took a step back. Undeniably Russian.
"Nice to meet you." Claire nodded, avoiding Angelo's sly smile.
Myrnin was fidgeting. He looked increasingly uneasy and he was frowning slightly at the three vampires. Claire swallowed. He looked desperate to drag her away. "Rhediad, fy nghariad. Peidiwch â gadael iddynt ddal i chi..." He muttered to himself. Claire made a mental note to herself to learn Welsh when she had the time.
"If I may be so bold as to ask Miss. Danvers for a dance?" Angelo met Claire's gaze with intensity, a charming grin causing him to appear even more attractive. Claire's eyes widened.
"Well, I uh-"
"Apologies, dear friend, but I do believe Claire promised her first dance of the night to me. Afterwards, perhaps." Myrnin cut in and turned to Claire, bowing so low that his mop of tousled hair almost touched the floor, holding out his hand to her with a lavish wave. Angelo gave a curt nod and stepped back whilst Claire continued to look bewildered.
"Go, child. Do not keep Myrnin waiting." Amelie dismissed.
Claire bit her lip and nodded, gingerly taking Myrnin's hand. In one blinding motion he whisked her away from Amelie and the three other vampires, stopping when they were amongst all the other dancing couples. Myrnin placed his hand on the small of Claire's back once again and clasped his other with Claire's free one, leaving her to place her right hand on his shoulder. They were in the classic waltz position.
"Myrnin, I can't dance. I have two left feet." Claire protested as he began to step with her in time to the fancy classical music. Of course it seemed only natural that this would be Amelie's taste.
"I will lead you, aderyn bach. I myself used to be a terrible dancer. Luckily I have found time to improve over the centuries." He smiled coyly and looked into Claire's eyes, a drop of warmth evident in them. She gasped in surprise when he dipped her, pulling her back up before spinning her around a few times.
"Dancing isn't one of my priorities. Besides, I don't exactly think I have centuries for improvement." Claire breathed, her heart rate picking up considerably. No doubt Myrnin could hear it. He spun her carefully once again, turning her so that her back was pressed against his chest and his two arms were locked in her own. She swallowed nervously, mentally scolding herself. She knew what was coming next, for Myrnin had brought it up many times. So many times, in fact, that she was beginning to consider it.
"I could give you that, though, fy annwyl." Myrnin murmured quietly into her ear. Her heart was thudding so hard against her chest that even she could hear it. The vampires in the room must be having a field day. Myrnin reached up to her neck and gently brushed her hair out of the way, causing her breath to hitch in her throat. His voice, it was his hunters voice. The one she should fear. But she had heard it so many times that it simply sedated her, lulled her into a false sense of security. "Say the words and I will do as you wish." He purred, pressing his cool lips to where her blood flowed the strongest.
"In a room filled with vampires? Sign my death warrant and make it official, why don't you." Claire laughed coldy, pulling away from his embrace and snapping out of her reverie. Myrnin looked slightly hurt, but soon covered it up with an expressionless mask. She was angry and couldn't believe she allowed herself to fall for that. How dare he play with her feelings. She knew he had the power to do so, but he rarely chose to use it, especially to his own advantage. "You're unbelievable, Myrnin. You take my trust for granted. I realise I've forgiven you for too much, and it stops here. After tonight, I never want to see your face again. I quit working for you and I quit being your friend." Claire put as much venom into her words as she could manage. Myrnin opened his mouth to speak, but she blanked him and turned away, marching in the opposite direction. In all honesty she just wanted to turn right back around, hug him and take it all back. But she couldn't. Not if she wanted Myrnin to know where she stood in regards to their relationship. She wasn't even sure what it was any more. It was certainly past the employer-employee stage.
In fact, Claire decided she was heading home. Back to Shane, the boy who loved her. Back to Eve and Michael, the friends who cared for her. She had technically done what Amelie asked of her, now there was no need for her to stay. Unless of course she was scheduled to stay for dinner, in which case she wanted to avoid for obvious reasons.
She wasn't stopped when she exited through the posh doors of the building and into the night. It was a little risky, but hey, she wasn't going out completely defenceless. She had the silver stake Eve gave to her right before she left. The heels she was wearing made an unnerving clacking sound as the hit the pavement, causing her to feel slightly on edge. No doubt any vampire within a hundred metre radius could hear her. It was like hanging a glow-in-the-dark 'Fast Food' sign above her head. So she bent over and took them off, holding a pair of shoes in one hand and a silver coated stake in the other. What a sight.
Whilst she was walking, she had the feeling that she was being followed. Most people in normal places would shrug it off and say it was paranoia, but in Morganville the chances of your hunch being accurate is one-hundred percent. Claire quickened her pace, shooting anxious glances over her shoulder every now and then. The wind picked up a little, which didn't help at all seeing as she was clad in a wispy formal gown. She'd call Shane to pick her up, but she didn't have a phone. Stupid because Eve reminded her right before she left to take her phone. She would also whip up a portal, but unsurprisingly they were down at the moment. Myrnin said it was her fault, but she knew he'd been tampering with them. He'd said he was unhappy with the strength of the frequencies, even though they were perfectly fine. Claire concluded it was all down to his damned overly-sensitive vampire hearing.
An unnaturally strong gust of wind brushed past Claire, causing her to turn around at lightening speed with her stake at the ready. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't even a little disappointed when she was met with nothing but the empty streets behind her.
My God, she thought, Shane is rubbing off on me.
Claire turned around again and a dark figure stood in front of her. She went to scream but the sound died in her throat when the man dived forward and clamped an icy hand over her mouth. She threw down her shoes and wrapped both hands around the stake, preparing to plunge it into the stranger's chest. Vampire or not, that would do some serious damage either way. Claire pressed the tip to the man's chest, just about to add more pressure when a familiar pair of muddy brown eyes met hers.
"I know you are angry with me at the moment Claire, but to act upon it deeply wounds me." Myrnin said and let go of her. Claire couldn't believe what she was hearing. Surely he was joking? He was the town jester, of course.
"You're kidding, right? Myrnin, you're the one who was following me, for God's sake." Claire pressed her lips into a thin line and rubbed her forehead in frustration. "And why are you even following me in the first place? Maybe you didn't hear me five minutes ago, but I thought I said I never wanted to see you again." Claire said coolly, trying with all her might to emulate Amelie's icy, intimidating stare.
"Correct me if I am mistaken, but I do believe you said you never wanted to see me again after tonight. Your failure to specify has therefore placed us in this rather unpleasant predicament. And in answer to why I'm following you, Amelie's orders. I told her of the machine's lack of response and she commanded me to return to the lab with you so we could fix it." Myrnin replied, clasping his hands behind his back.
"Of course she did." Claire said flatly.
Claire was just about ready to collapse. She had managed to fix the machines and frequency problems, but her and Myrnin were still not on the friendliest of terms. He wouldn't apologise and it was starting to bug Claire to the point of no return. She was sitting at one of the lab tables, brushing up on her alchemy symbols using a collection of ancient, dusty books which she laid out in front of her. Myrnin, meanwhile, sat in his armchair sulking and reading a thick book with a title in a different language. Welsh, she assumed. All the names he called her in his native tongue suddenly popped into Claire's head, and she wondered what they meant. She didn't know how to spell them, so Google translate was an obvious no, but she could recall how to pronounce them, for she'd heard him say them often. She supposed she could ask them.
He glanced up from his book, peering over the edge of his reading glasses. Claire wished she hadn't bothered, because he looked unbelievably annoyed at being interrupted. "What is it, Claire?" He replied sharply.
"What does...fy nghariad mean?" She attempted. Claire was pretty damn pleased with her pronunciation. It turned out to be sort of convincing. She was half-expecting Myrnin to start laughing at her awful Welsh speaking, but instead his irritated expression softened a considerable amount, almost as if he appreciated her efforts.
"I think perhaps it's best if you don't know for now, fy annwyl." Myrnin cracked a small secretive smile that encouraged his adorable dimples to show. She very nearly forgave him because of that one smile. "But I do value your interest." His answer frightened Claire slightly. Was he cussing her out in a different language? No, that couldn't be it. He used an entirely different tone of voice. Softer, she supposed.
"How about that one? Fy annwyl?" Claire made a slip-up which caused Myrnin to laugh. She probably sounded like an absolute idiot to him. The thought made her blush in embarrassment.
"My dear. It means my dear." Myrnin answered. Claire felt oddly touched by that. Wasn't that a sign of affection, calling someone dear? She knew she was privileged to be considered a friend by Myrnin because he rarely showed a significant amount of interest in humans. To him, they were just walking blood bags. "And I do suppose I owe you an apology, Claire. My behaviour was unacceptable tonight and I think it necessary to make it sincere."
Myrnin was gone in a blur. In a split second, he was god knows where. Claire couldn't help but marvel at the speed of vampires. It was like nothing she'd ever witnessed before in her life. It fascinated her and she wanted to know exactly how it worked. She was even willing to plan a full-scale analysis on it. In one abrupt motion, Claire was snapped from the thoughts by Myrnin materialising right in front of her, bowing right to the floor in his lavish manner and holding out a single red rose. She plucked it from his fingertips and admired it for a few seconds, smiling slightly. It was oddly romantic to her, and she wished Shane would do that. But he wasn't really that sort of guy.
Myrnin straightened up and took her free hand, making her cheeks heat up. "Claire, I do hope you can accept my apology. I was a fool to act as I did and I promise to never hurt you in such a way again. Unlike many humans, your opinions and feelings matter greatly to me. You must understand that even though I am a cured man, I still cannot quite regain all of my sanity, as I'm sure you're aware. I value your assistance and existence, even though I sometimes fail to make it clear. All I ask is that you can forgive me once again. To prove my sincerity, you may ask anything of me. I give you my word that I will comply." He finished, dipping his head to press his lips to her knuckles. Claire bit her lip, knowing she'd forgiven him not even two words into his speech.
"All right, I forgive you. I want you to tell me what fy nghariad means." She swallowed. Myrnin didn't look up from her hand. Claire knew the cogs were whirring in his head and he was contemplating whether to tell her or not. Myrnin was never a man to go back on his word, so she knew he had no other choice but to do as she wished.
She hesitated for a split second before answering. Did she truly want to know? "Yes." Claire replied to both herself and Myrnin. She was a scientist; a person who craved knowledge. Claire was taken by surprise when Myrnin suddenly hauled her up with ease, holding her against him with a gentleness she'd never really seen before. He backed her up against the lab table she had been previously sitting at and looked into her eyes. She started right back into his muddy brown ones which held centuries of pain and sorrow, and it almost brought a tear to her eye when she saw the small sparks of hope ignited in them. Her heart rate picked up her hands began to get clammy. She was panting already, swallowing and breathing in quick rapid succession.
"Promise me you won't run..." Myrnin's lips brushed her ear ever so gently.
Uh oh. Shit. This was what her boss usually said before he attempted to suck her dry. Claire groaned inwardly, wishing Myrnin could at least let her know when he was hungry. She knew it was completely useless to try and escape. To Myrnin, the pleasure of the kill was in the chase, no matter how much he complained about fast food. But of course Claire was armed. Her stake still remained fastened against her leg under her dress, the cool feel of it reassuring her that maybe today she might not die. The only problem was getting it without her boss noticing. He ghosted his lips all the way down from her jaw until he was tracing her jugular. She knew his fangs were down when she felt them press two small dimples into her skin. She had to stop him. He would regret killing her, Claire was positive. She carefully brought her hands to his face and tried to ease the tension in his jaw by creating soothing motions with her thumbs against his icy skin. When she was certain he was relaxed enough, she raised him to eye level. His once brown eyes were now clouded over by a threatening shade of crimson and his fangs were still down, pressing on his lower lip.
"Myrnin, trust me, you don't want to do this." Claire said firmly, knowing that pleading would get her nowhere.
"Don't I?" Myrnin muttered, dropping his head to her neck once again. The panic was starting to bubble up inside Claire furiously and she needed to think fast. Grabbing his face in her hands once again, she brought him up and crushed her lips to his. Myrnin was clearly shocked at her actions, but didn't reject them. She saw the crimson in his eyes slowly begin to ebb away to nothing until it was just his natural brown. She wanted desperately to stop because she had a boyfriend at home, but the cool sensation of Myrnin's lips against hers made her feel light-headed and dizzy, forgetful of the world around her. Her hands ran up Myrnin's chest and tangled themselves in his dark curls, pulling him closer to her so that no space remained.
This was wrong. This was wrong on so many levels. Claire knew that their strictly employer-employee relationship was completely shattered beyond recognition. Her groans of anticipation and excitement clearly proved that as Myrnin lifted her up and onto the desk, using her shocked gasp to take advantage and deepen the kiss. Did this even qualify as a kiss any more? Maybe a range of multiple kisses. The crazy vampire swiped the alchemy books off the table in one swift motion and laid Claire down, climbing on top of her and leaving feather-light kisses across her jaw. Claire's chest was heaving as she gasped for air, sliding her hands between Myrnin's shoulder blades and gripping the soft fabric of his shirt, which was fully unbuttoned. How she managed to do that, she had no idea. That was when Myrnin stopped at her ear, pressing his lips lightly to it.
"Fy nghariad. My love."