My black spike heels sink into the carpet runner as I head down the hall. I stop in front of room seven and open the door, leaning in to check. Smelling nothing more than clean linens, furniture polish, and the lingering human scent of the maids, I move on.
Dria, it’s done. The body is locked up in the small shed in the hot tub grotto. No one else has a key except Jonathan.
Jonathan, our head groundskeeper, is quite a unique man with very tasty blood. We have formed a connection because of it, though nothing like my mate bond with Rafe. My relationship with Jonathan is one of servant and vampire master. I trust him because of this bond and plan to inform him of our little problem in the shed when we speak next.
Good job. Thanks, my love. I’m checking the other rooms on this floor before I greet the new group.
Any clues so far, my little super sleuth? I think I can hear him laughing at me again.
Nothing yet, smart ass, but give me a chance to look. I end our connection and continue down the hall. Boy, he’s efficient. It’s only been a couple of minutes since he left with the body.
Right now, I’m in the north wing of the inn, on the second floor, which contains rooms six through ten. These suites don’t have themes like the ten rooms on the third floor do. The level I like to think of as the “fun” floor. Those larger rooms don’t hold guests for their entire stay; they are reserved for daily use by guests willing to pay an extra fee.
I inspect room eight then move on to the next door, which I unlock and open in a single motion. Nothing appears out of place. I turn to continue when a small noise from behind pulls me around. One of the maids, a young local woman of Inuit Indian heritage, walks toward me.
“Hello, Iona, how are you?” I’ve never been an uppity boss; I know every one of our employees by name.
“Hi, Vivian, I’m good.” She greets me with a warm smile. “Are you doing a last-minute check before the next bunch?”
My real name is Alexandria, but Iona, like everyone else since the day the sign for The V V Inn went up, calls me Vivian. Iona’s worked here about a year and has proven herself to be an incredibly organized woman. She’s one of the few employees not imported from another state or country. Her family resides in the nearby town, Dead Foot, with a population of only a few hundred.
“Yes,” I answer, “but I’m also up here because of an issue in room six. How long have you been on this floor today?”
Iona looks at me with a question in her eyes, probably wondering about what issue I’m referring to, but she answers quickly enough.
“I was up here with a team of three and we all left before noon.”
“Did you see any guests in this wing?”
“No,” she answers.
“What brought you back up here?”
“I’m doing a walk-through to check on the items the MacKellans requested.”
“Ah yes, the six-pack of Perrier and the Moét et Chandon White Star. That would be in the mini-fridge in room seven?” She nods in agreement. “I’ll check for it on my return through the floor.” She hesitates in leaving, like she has something to say.
“Thanks, Iona. We would’ve appeared unprofessional if we’d missed those,” I add, hoping to ease her into telling me what is on her mind.
She blushes from the acknowledgement. Iona’s attractive and the extra flush of color draws my eye to her robust good health. She looks me straight in the eye—a blatant invite in the supernatural community toward a vampire. I draw in my breath, surprised.
Iona knows a little about what goes on here. Most all of my employees do. But they’re not normally involved in the fantasies of the guests so their knowledge is sketchy. The workers do talk though, and many of them have donated blood for our virile customers.
I have a secondary trait that helps me with the clientele. It’s not as strong as my ability to project illusions, but it increases with use. I can read desires through a touch.
My hand makes contact with Iona’s starched uniform shirt and I slip into her mind. Her desires tumble close to the surface, like rainbow-colored snakes. Touching on a sliding thought, I see she hopes to be chosen to donate blood. Iona holds no hint of fear, even though she’s aware most of our guests are bloodsuckers. And she feels a strong family tie to me. In her mind, I’m like a great-aunt, one who holds a position of respect and kindness in her heart.
“Are you sure donating is a step you want to take?” I ask.
“Yes, very much so,” she says with sincerity.
When she stared into my eyes, she had innocently offered herself to me, unaware that I do not normally feed from employees.
“Iona, it would be with the guests, not with me. Is that still acceptable?”
She again holds my gaze a little too long. “Yes.”
“Sometimes it can lead to a more intimate encounter but only if you want it to. I make sure the guests know ahead of time how far you’re willing to take it.”
“I’m ready.” Her voice sounds firm, certain. “My grandmother was Junee.”
Ah, that’s why this strong Inuit woman seems so positive in her choice. Junee worked for us when we first opened our doors twenty years ago. She was an open and loving woman who enjoyed her position here for ten years.
I’ve placed a compulsion on all the workers during their employment—they can share details of sexual acts, but not of the blood donation. When they leave, I take care of the rest of the details during a specialized exit interview.
“Yes, my great aunt spoke of her very well,” I say, keeping to the ruse “my aunt” ran the inn first. The employees tell a tale every fifteen to eighteen years that’s kept us safe. After the original founder retired, then a niece and her husband ran it, and now it’s Rafe and me. I’ve inserted this belief with care into the minds of all who have worked for me while blurring our images a bit in the old employees’ memories so they think they see a family resemblance rather than realizing we’re the same people.
“Very well,” I decide. “You’ll be put on the next list. Please review the guests and tell Tommy your choices this evening. Pick ones you like, and remember, it’s supposed to be fun.” I say the last part with a wicked smile on my face. “Don’t forget to tell him your limits,” I wink.
I have a hunch Iona will choose a female vampire. Those long stares were quite bold and while she caught me off guard, I’m guessing they had true intent behind them. Time will tell.
“Thank you, Vivian. I’ve been dreaming of this moment since the first week I started here.”
Gee, no pressure there. Iona throws me a beaming smile before turning to rush back down the hall. Let’s hope the experience mirrors her dreams. To ensure it, I make a mental note to supervise part of her blood donation.
Continuing my original journey to check the rest of the rooms in this wing, I make a detour on my return to check the items in the mini-fridge. All appears as it should, with the rooms ready and waiting. I leave the wing through the French doors and out to the bookcase-lined loft circling the vaulted lobby.
I descend one side of the winding, dual staircase to the main floor to see Tommy working on the computer. Tommy’s our imported Aussie, who’s lived and worked on the property for five years. He glances up from his usual spot behind the front desk with a big smile on his face. Residing on the resort comes with perks, and Tommy’s ever hopeful he’ll be put on the donor list when he sees me.
“G’day, Vivian, aren’t you looking good today?” His smile turns lecherous while I slowly run my hands over my hips and grin in return.
“When do I not look good, Tommy?” Modesty has never been my forte.
“Too true,” he replies. I drop my hands and he’s back to business in an instant, which is why he’s paid so well. “Isn’t the MacKellan party due in next?”
“Yes,” I answer. “Move them down one to rooms seven, eight and nine now. We had an issue with the rug in room six, which won’t be available until new carpet can be installed.” I project honesty and sincerity and Tommy doesn’t bat an eye.
“You got it, Viv, no worries.” He taps the changes into the keyboard and hands me a new file—which reminds me of some investigating I need to do. Damn that bloody corpse!
“Tommy, have the Salvador and Natsuhara files sent to my suite in an hour, please.”
He taps his fingers a few more times before glancing up.
“Yes, ma'am. Consider it done.”
I keep files on all our guests. The MacKellans are new so their file is thin. Checking it over, I confirm some details in my mind, placing names at the ready to match with faces when they arrive. MacKellan is the family, or seethe, named after the head vamp in the group. Individuals go only by first name unless conducting business outside of the seethe, and they all use the same surname. This convention makes it appear like the group is a big extended family, even though no one is related.
The MacKellan group is a party of five—three vamps, one mate, and a companion. Which is a fairly big vampire party for us. Max we usually see is two. Not many in a seethe choose to vacation with another vamp tagging along. I’m glad to note they will need additional sustenance while staying with us, though. One extra companion for food won’t be enough with two younger vamps in attendance.
Staying up around the clock requires additional feedings for our kind. Even I need a full feeding of a single pint each month with the added strain on my system. Normally, the sips I take from my husband a few times a week would be enough to keep me satisfied, but here in the dark winter wilderness, I need more.
“Let me know if you feel like being a donor this week with our new guests,” I direct Tommy. “You can be at the top of the list if you’d like, I know it’s been a while for you.” He nods while his dimples show in a big smile. “Check them out when they arrive, choose who you’d be comfortable with and let me know.” I pause, thinking, and then add, “Put Iona down second on the list. I spoke to her before and she’s ready. Pass the word around to the others, but be discreet.” Tommy nods again, his sandy blond hair falling over his forehead. “You know my rules. I’d like the list with preferences by eight tomorrow morning.”
You’d think I’d just given him an early Christmas bonus the way his face lights up. “You’re the best, Viv. Have I told you that lately?”
“No need, dearie, Rafe tells me every night.”
My accompanying grin is a wicked one as I turn towards the front doors. Pausing a moment, I consider the week ahead with this unknown group of vampires and the additional problem of the dead John Pierre. I need to make sure I’m at my peak. Turning back to the desk, I address that need.
“One more thing. Call Jonathan and tell him I need to speak with him in my office at nine tonight.”
“Got it,” Tommy replies, reaching for the phone.
I redirect my mind to the work at hand. Needing to get in the right mood to project well when the new visitors arrive, I let my thoughts drift to the previous night with my German husband. His smooth, pale skin glowed in the candlelight set around our room. Rafe wore the tight boxer briefs he knows I love so well. They curve and cup his body and never hide when he becomes interested.
The warmth in my middle starts to move throughout my limbs. A burning desire to pull my dress up around my waist right here in the lobby overcomes me. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but I’d rather not forget myself in such a way more than once a season. My body shudders at the mere thought of doing just that in front of complete strangers.
My treacherous mind thinks back to my husband’s rampant desire last night. I picture the stretchy fabric straining against his arousal while reining in the pull to get down on my knees to reach and peel the fabric away, springing him free. It’s all in my mind and I’d certainly appear odd on my knees to any onlooker in the lobby.
Dria, I enjoyed last night, you minx. You warming up for the guests? I nod my assent. That’s my good girl. Remember the part with me on my knees? I loved how you couldn’t wait and had to press yourself into my tongue so early on… liebling, what you do to me…
This time when I see Rafe in my mind, he’s straining against the front of his slacks instead of his briefs. His hand reaches to readjust…
I slam our mental door shut when my hand reaches to pull up my hem. Whew, close call. After the guests get settled, I am going to have to track him down. I hope he hides. It’s so much fun to hunt him when we’re hot.
I hear a van door slide closed and turn to face the front entrance. The first guest opens the door on a burst of frigid air that pushes the hair from around my face. A man walks through with a confident stride.
Well, well, well, look what we have here. Isn’t he just gorgeous?