Family Secrets IV
By H.M. Garber
“Viktor, I don’t want to go out with Lida and her scary sister. I just want Robyn here. With us.” Brent said sitting on the edge of the dark red velvet couch. He didn’t talk much to Viktor the past week and Viktor left him to think it out. The Zarka family habits and insanity were a lot to take in and Brent just found out his ex-nurse was involved with them.
“Brent, there is much you do not understand. Lena will not be coming with us. It will be just us, Lida and Robyn. We have time before we must meet them. Let me explain more about the Zarkas.” Viktor said, sitting next to Brent.
“I would rather find out about you and Lida. Did you really date that monster?” Brent asked. He toyed with a loose seam on the couch and looked around the room. He noticed how the opulent baroque furniture contrasted with the stark modern fare.
“She was not a monster when I dated her. She was human. I fell in love so fast.” Viktor’s voice trailed off.
“Were you human too?”
“No. My Uncle Misha turned me. We lived in Dubrovnik. When Misha accepted employment from the Johnathan Zarka we moved to Prague. The Zarka family was in power for as long as I could remember. It was quite a prestigious position for Uncle Misha.” Viktor said.
“I have an uncle?” Brent asked.
“Uncle Misha is gone now.” Viktor answered flatly.
“So Lida was still human?” Brent prompted.
“She was a student at university. Back then it was unheard of for a woman to do anything except marry and have babies. Johnathon held different plans for his daughters. He knew they would be around longer than just one human life time. He wanted to give Lida and Lena as many advantages as possible. Or maybe it was Isabel? Maybe she insisted.” Viktor seemed to be talking to himself.
“Who is Isabel?”
“Isabel is Johnathon’s wife. She married and stayed with him for centuries. She is still his wife. He never strayed or even looked at another woman. The entire family is frightening but it remains to be seen who is the biggest monster.” Viktor focused on Brent and looked worried.
“So you met Lida at university?” Brent brought the subject back to Lida. If Robyn was mixed up with these monsters, he would need any information he could to get her away from them.
“No, I met her at a family function. Uncle Misha travelled to the Zarka mansion to meet the family and get his orders from Johnathan. Uncle Misha was an enforcer like I am. It’s in our blood. After a few years of training you will be strong enough to become an enforcer in your own right.” Viktor looked pleased by this.
“I will be like you?” Brent lost track of everything else he wanted to know. Viktor was his savior. He constantly helped Brent. Even after he turned Brent and extended his life Viktor was there. He helped him, watched out for him, and keept his safe. Brent never thought the day would come when he would be able to take care of himself.
“Yes, Brent. Just like me. Then you can find a childe of your own to bring into this life.” Viktor said.
“I want it to be Robyn.” He said.
“Robyn is Lida’s ghoul. Let me explain the rules of turning someone and ghouls. When Lida made Robyn her ghoul she is signaling every other Vampyr to back off and leave Robyn alone. That Robyn is hers to do whatever she wants with. No one can hurt her, but no one else can embrace her unless Lida formally announces that Robyn is no longer her ghoul.”
“Does that happen a lot? Does a Vampire just let a ghoul go?” Brent asked, a glimmer of hope tinging his voice.
“No. Especially with the Zarkas. They usually feed from their ghouls and twist their minds until they are ready to be embraced and feed off the flesh of another.” Viktor didn’t pull punches. He needed Brent to understand how dire Robyn’s situation was.
“Lida is feeding off Robyn like Lena was feeding off that other woman?” Brent asked but it sounded like a statement.
“I don’t think so Brent. Let me explain.” Viktor put his hand up to stop any questions Brent would have.
“I met Lida at a family function. We discovered that we were more than just suited for each other. We felt that we were soul mates. Uncle Misha broke one of the Zarka family rules. I won’t go into details, only to say that it resulted in Lida becoming embraced and I assumed Uncle Misha’s place as enforcer.”
“Will you tell me later what happened?” Brent asked.
“Yes. But for this story all you need to know was that when I found out what happened to Lida I broke it off with her. I couldn’t imagine being with the monster she became.” Viktor said.
“Why didn’t you just leave? You had eternity and the entire world at your disposal.” Brent said.
“I couldn’t. Not until Johnathon appointed another Enforcer. Then I found out about you and asked for permission to embrace you.” Viktor said.
“So you have always followed the rules. Are the Zarkas worried you will break a rule like Uncle Misha did?”
“No. I witnessed Uncle Misha’s final death for breaking one of their rules. They know I won’t make the same mistake. Especially not now that I have you. I need to stay and teach you about your new life.” Viktor said.
“OK. Why won’t Lida feed from Robyn?” Brent said.
“Lida wants to start our relationship up again. She knows I won’t if she hurts Robyn. No, she will just keep her around and wear me down until I get back together with her.” Viktor said.
“So I will just have to live with not knowing if Lida is hurting Robyn or not? This is not temporary?” Brent asked.
“Brent, I’m sorry. I know you love this girl, but I can’t be with Lida knowing what she is. The Lida I loved died when she became embraced. Lida can’t help what she is. It’s just in the Zarka blood line that they must feed on flesh.”
Brent didn’t know what to think. There was so much history and experiences Viktor went through even before Brent was born. He fell in love and lost Lida a long time ago, but when Viktor told the story it seemed like it happened yesterday. Viktor still mourned Lida even though she still existed. Brent wondered if the same thing would happen with his and Robyn’s love.
“I’ll still be able to see Robyn?” Brent asked. He knew they were going out with the girls, but the more Robyn was in that house the higher the chance she would be hurt or embraced. Brent needed to be sure she remained human. Well, as human as a ghoul got.
“As much as I can.” Viktor answered quietly.
“It’s killing you. Seeing Lida and knowing you can’t be with her.” Brent said.
“I love you like a son, Brent. We will see this situation to the end.” Viktor said.
* * *
Brent turned away from the icebox for the fifth time when he heard a knock at their door. Finally the girls arrived and Brent could get a proper meal.
When he opened the door he noticed that Lida and Robyn dressed similar to each other. Both wore black, cut with red and purple accents. Robyn’s clothes were better quality and more expensive than anything else she ever wore. Brent wondered if that meant anything besides the fact that she was Lida’s ghoul. Maybe Lida decided that her property should not wear rags. More likely Lida and Robyn went shopping together and bought matching outfits. Just another girls night out.
“Please enter and be welcome.” Brent uttered the rehearsed words but was distracted by how luminous Robyn looked. She glowed with health and vitality. Brent listened close and heard her heartbeat. He let go the breath he was holding and smiled at her.
Brent looked to Lida first, wordlessly asking permission. Lida nodded and Brent embraced Robyn.
“I missed you.” Robyn whispered in his ear.
Brent just kissed her ear in answer.
The situation between Viktor and Lida was tense but cordial. Viktor nodded at Lida and she smiled in return. Nothing physical occurred between them, but Lida’s attitude seemed lighter.
“I think we should go. You guys are probably starving.” Lida spoke to both of them but didn’t take her eyes off Viktor. Brent couldn’t decide if it was the look of a woman in love or wanting her next meal. Maybe it was a mixture of both.
“Have you fed, Lida?” Viktor asked politely.
“I ate at home.” Lida answered shortly.
“I’m famished.” Brent announced to no one, but started walking toward the door. He knew he couldn’t break the tension, but wanted to get some blood into Viktor. A full stomach would help any situation, regardless of what the stomach was full of.
Viktor gestured the younger people to proceed him while he locked up and set the alarm. He waited until everyone was outside before punching in the secret code. Both Viktor and Brent knew that the alarm would not stop a determined vampire, but at least it would discourage all human trespassers.
Brent didn’t know all the security measures Viktor placed around the flat, but he knew some must be vampire deterrents. He just stayed away from the areas that Viktor told him about.
* * *
Club Raven was not far from Viktor and Brent’s warehouse. The place was packed with writing bodies. Brent and Viktor usually hunted at house parties, but tonight they were out with the girls and didn’t want to give away where they went to feed.
“Viktor, why don’t you feed first while I stay with the kids? You look hungry.” Lida said.
Viktor looked worried for a second, but walked away. ‘I will stay in contact this way.’ Viktor spoke in Brent’s mind and Brent immediately felt better. He knew Lida would not do anything to him or Robyn as long as there was a chance of her and Viktor getting back together. The person he was really concerned for was Robyn.
Viktor whispered something in the ear of the first person he encountered. He took the small redhead into a corner and kissed her neck. Her friends just watched amused as she went with the stranger.
“Brent.” Lida ordered his attention back to her. “Is Viktor involved with anyone?”
The question was full of subtext, but Brent knew how to answer. Viktor told him to answer the face value and always speak the truth. The Zarka family didn’t have the ability to detect lies as far as Viktor knew. They learned every day and the penalty for lying to a Zarka was final death.
“No. He only feeds from women and his only friendship is with me.” Brent said.
Lida just smiled.
“Can I talk to Robyn? In that corner?” Brent gestured to a small alcove off the dance floor.
“Of course. You two haven’t reunited properly yet. I’ll wait here.” Lida said.
Brent led Robyn to the table that sat in the back of the small space. He wondered why it suddenly became empty but not too hard. He didn’t want to know why it cleared out so fast, he only wanted to speak to Robyn.
“Robyn.” Brent hugged her again. “Are you OK?”
“The house is creepy, but you were there. I wouldn’t expect vampires to live in a bright, cheery cottage with lots of flowers.” Robyn answered.
“You, Robyn. Are you OK?” Brent asked again.
“I’m not abused. Lida only feeds from criminals or Lena’s ghoul.” Robyn finally answered.
“Good. Viktor and I are trying to figure out a way for you to come live with us, but it’s tricky. Lida is part of a powerful family.” Brent said. He didn’t know how much Robyn knew about the Zarkas. She must have guessed by the house they lived in and the quality of clothes she and Lida wore.
“I really want that. I know about Lida’s family. I’m supposed to ask you to help her. To convince Viktor to take her back.”
“Viktor is only here tonight for me. Because I love you. He would have nothing to do with Lida otherwise.” Brent answered. He knew that he might get Viktor or even Robyn into trouble if he squashed any hope Lida harbored for a relationship with Viktor, but Brent also knew that lying was not the way to go.
“Once I saw what Lena does and Lida explained that they all have to eat flesh, I knew the Viktor would not take her back.” Robyn said. “But she still wanted me to ask.”
“What will she do if I don’t say yes?” Brent asked.
“I don’t know. You could say yes. Viktor will still make up his own mind.” Robyn said.
“OK. I’ll mention it to Viktor and tell him what she asked me to do.” Brent knew deception of this kind would backfire on him. He would just tell Viktor everything and let him decide what to do.
“Maybe if you help her she will come by more and I can see you more.” Robyn said.
“And then we can figure out a way that you can live with us.” Brent finished for her. He never thought he would ever see Robyn again. Now she was here and the rapport they shared when he was sick remained intact. The only difference was he was meeting her as an equal. Not as someone that depended upon her for everything. Brent knew Robyn would disagree. She would say she always considered him an equal. In his mind he wasn’t equal until he could walk and take care of himself.
“Viktor is back with Lida. I guess I should go feed, then we can leave and talk more without the earsplitting music.” Brent said.
“OK. I’ll wait here.” Robyn said.
“No Robyn. I know Lida is scary. At least she scares me, but Viktor is there and I would feel better if you were with him while I feed.”
“I want to get to know the man who saved your life, anyway.” Robyn said and followed Brent back to the bar.
When she was safe and Viktor’s hand rested on her shoulder, Brent felt free to feed. He made his way back to the dance floor and danced straight to the center of the crowd. One thing he discovered since his embrace and regaining his ability to walk again was that he loved dancing. Someday he would dance with Robyn to the music they both enjoyed.
The young boys and girls welcomed him and danced with him. He easily fell in sync with their rhythm. He still only fed from boys and luckily there was no shortage of them. He picked a tall, muscular blond and started dancing closer to him. The blond looked him over and smiled, dancing closer and rubbing himself against Brent.
Suddenly the blond was jostled away and Brent’s cinnamon boy took his place. “I have found you again.” The boy said in Chezh.
Delighted, Brent turned the boy around and ground against his backside. Cinnamon boy responded by pressing back. Brent mouthed the boy’s neck, knowing he didn’t need to fantasize about Robyn now. She was here and the quicker he fed the sooner he would be back with her.
Brent sunk his teeth into the boy’s vein and sucked, feeling the sweet full blood burst into his mouth. He took four swallows then stopped. He turned to leave, but he boy grabbed his arm. He dragged him close and humped against him until he came.
Brent pushed him away and slipped back into the crowd making his way back to Robyn. He checked himself to be sure he didn’t have anything from the boy on his clothes. How romantic would it be to greet Robyn covered with semen?
Punk and Goth kids pushed past him to get to the bar. Once he reached Robyn, Brent recognized Cinnamon boy following him as he spotted Brent again. The boy came over and kissed Brent right on the mouth.
“I’ve missed you, baby. I knew you would return. Dance with me some more. Make me come again, lover.” He demanded as he pressed his pelvis against Brent’s side. He spoke in Czech, and Brent’s mind translated. Although Robyn didn’t understand what he said there was no mistaking that kiss or the way the boy ground against his thigh.
“You left me for this slut? You bastard!” Robyn shouted furiously.
Brent, dazed from her blow, stared dumbly. Viktor grabbed Robyn’s shoulder and slammed her against the wall.
“How dare you strike him, woman! He left for your safety.”
“I don’t want safe, Brent. I want you.” Robyn twisted in Viktor’s grip. “I didn’t believe Agnes when she said you died. I know I saw him bite you. I knew you still existed and vampires were real. I don’t care what you are I just can’t live without you. I love you.” Tears trailed black lines through her mascara down her face. Viktor released her and looked to Brent for direction.
Her words ringing clear in his mind, Brent shook off the skinny boy and grabbed Robyn. He mashed his lips to Robyn’s. The kiss was more bruising and painful then tender or romantic. Robyn smelled of clove and cinnamon, spicy and earthy. For the first time, he felt her hand on his chest.
“I missed you. I love you, too.” He breathed into her ear, uncertain if she could hear him over the pounding beat. She clung to his shoulders, looking surprised at how he towered over her. He ran a hand through her hair and stroked her face.
Someone shoved hard against Brent’s back, and he flinched, turning behind him. It was one of Roland’s flock, already stepping away. Roland appeared on the other side of Robyn and grabbed her, leaping into the crowd with her. People began to scatter as he pushed through them.
I can’t touch the Baby, but I can munch on this tasty morsel! Spiky-Roland’s voice echoed in Brent’s head. Brent watched as Viktor slammed two red-eyed Vampyrs together and shot off after Roland. Brent couldn’t follow where they went. He saw his cinnamon boy twisting as two other vampires hauled him out through a side door. He felt Robyn’s terror from the back of the club. There was no choice, no decision. Compelled, he pushed through the crowd after Robyn.
As Brent shoved the metal fire door aside, he watched Viktor throw Roland off Robyn’s limp body.
“He was feeding from her. She is almost completely drained.” Viktor’s words didn’t register as Brent sprinted towards the alley. Viktor stood over both of them, ignoring Roland as he ran off.
Brent moved the hair off her pale face.
“She will die, Brent. You must let her go. We will make Roland pay for this.”
Brent couldn’t stop whispering her name over and over again. He heard her heart beating in her chest, as faint as NIN’s Survivalism pounding through the wall of the club. He knelt next to her. She looked asleep cradled in Viktor’s arms.
“Do not make me regret this choice.” Viktor quickly bit his own wrist and dripped the blood into her open mouth. Her back arched like from an electric shock. Her feet kicked on the dirty, squalid ground. Brent prayed to whatever god listened to vampire prayers that she not die here, in this city, now.
With a snarl, Robyn reanimated and lunged at Brent’s neck. He twisted, and her new fangs dug into his shoulder. He looked down at her, sucking his flesh, in a parody of their earlier embrace. She looked up at him; her eyes opened and showed her feral vampiric hunger.
Roland pocketed the money Lida handed him and fled. Lida’s family struck fear much more than any other Vampyr in the city. She smiled and looked on from a shadowy alley as Viktor and Brent poached her ghoul.