Less than an hour later, Tiffany was leaning on the frame of his open door, waiting for Merle to invite her inside.
Her dangerous eyes provided the false sense of security that they wouldn't wander and stir up trouble.
He had called her for help, but the way her clothes were waiting for her command to slide off, made it clear she had come here to get something from him. Her lazy smile suggested nothing was going to happen fast tonight. She was going to take her time with him, and she didn't care if he found anything she had planned was unpleasant.
Fear and excitement stirred inside him, and in the mix, he forgot to ask how she got past the front desk without being signed in.
"May I come in?"
"Yes," After hearing himself say the word, he remembered vampires were involved and tried to backpedal.
"Too late," she said, stepping
into the room. She closed the door and rested her back against it.
She was a full head shorter than him. Her eyes made sure Merle
noticed them as she sized him up. No one was going to disturb what
she had planned for him, and he wasn't going to escape.
She locked the door without breaking eye contact and said, "Don't worry. I'm not one of them. Just a friend."
She turned off one of the two sets of fluorescent lights for reasons only Merle could guess. She stepped away from the door towards Merle, who took a reflexive step back. She moved towards him again, and this time he deliberately stepped back. She smiled. She had found a game to play.
Tiffany drove him into the middle of the narrow room. She stopped, and he took another step back. She grabbed the front of his shirt with a fist and pulled him forward.
"Stay there," she whispered and then released her grip. She circled him, always half an arm's length away as he stood frozen in the middle of his room.
"Why would you be friends with vampires?"
"Needs," she said while examining him from behind. Then she whispered in his left ear. "They have needs." Her lips moved to his right ear. "And I have needs."
Merle was certain, but his voice was uneven, "This was a mistake."
She made her way around to stand in front of him. Her clothes still waiting for the command to fall. Her eyes delighted in his fear while her voice teased, "I disagree. I think our needs are the same."
"I should check on Amber."
"She has needs. Doesn't she? Just like you, she will need to pay."
A little over an hour ago, he heard her confess to using dark magic. And when he called Tiffany, he had not elaborated on how his evening had gone. How could she have known?
"She paid. Tonight."
"Too bad," Tiffany's concern was out of the moment like she had missed out on an opportunity. She inhaled, placed her right hand on the back of his neck, and rested her forearm on his shoulder.
"What if I told you, you didn't have to pay; that I know a way out?"
Her fingers began to play with his hair. The twirling and twisting prevented him from forming words. His breathing was all off, while hers remained under control. She had everything under control.
She rephrased the question to make it
easier for him to answer. "Are you interested?"
He nodded. Her fingers continued to wander through his hair. For now, they were gentle, but there was violent energy trembling in them. At any moment, she could make a fist with them and enforce her control.
"I used dark magic once. I agreed to pay a terrible price, but then I learned there are people powerful enough to postpone my payment. Some are even willing to delay the transaction indefinitely."
"Vampires." He jerked his head away from her hypnotic fingers, but her wrist still rested on his shoulders. Poised to strike again.
"They need friends too, just like
everyone else. People to help them with their needs."
"What does a vampire need?" hoping she wouldn't say blood. God, he didn't want someone to drain his blood.
"Mostly just running errands during the daytime. Sometimes going out in public, looking for more friends for them."
She stepped back and winked.
She moved his desk chair between him and the door, facing it towards him. Her once lazy smile was now wide awake. She said, "Close your eyes."
He kept them open.
She stepped between the chair and him placing both hands on his shoulders, and held him firmly in place. Then she moved one hand to his waist and walked around the other way, letting her hand drag across him just above his belt. Behind him, she wrapped her other arm over his shoulder, embracing him.
She put her lips to the lobe of his ear.
"Do you want out?"
He nodded. He wanted out of from
underneath his dark magic burden, and he wanted out of this moment.
Tiffany was in total control. The only way out of any of this was if
she let him out.
She said, "You're going to have to speak."
"Yes, I want out."
"Then close your eyes." The pace of her words had slowed while his heart beat faster. "Keep them closed and say the name Mortilus."
He whispered the name.
He repeated it.
"Louder," she commanded.
He spoke loud enough to be heard outside his room.
She rewarded him with a satisfied moan in his ear as she embraced him from behind.
She released her embrace, and he heard her move in front of him. Her shoes clacking on the floor of the double towards the chair.
A man's voice called.
Sitting in the desk chair in front of him was a man in a bright red suit and a black shirt, looking at Merle the way most people look at a plateful of steak.
Tiffany knelt at his side with her head resting against his thigh just above his knee, and he gently stroked her hair. Her eyes were closed, and she wore a satisfied smile. Mortilus was in control now.
Mortilus spoke to her, "You did good, darling."
The pleasure of her smile grew at his praise.
Merle asked, "What now?"
Mortilus smiled wide enough to show his teeth. He slowly dragged his tongue across his inhuman fangs and before snapping his mouth shut.
The room blurred for Merle. He blinked a
few times before steadying himself against his desk. His vision
cleared, but his heart was pounding. Each beat warned the room was
running out of air. It was all in his head. There was plenty of air
for everyone, even if it didn't feel like it.
Tiffany didn't care about anything other than Mortilus stroking her hair. She must be under the vampire's thrall. Her enthusiasm was unnatural.
Mortilus said, "Now, my new friend, you will open your present."
At his feet, wrapped in red paper, was a gift he had not noticed. It was the size of his biology textbook. He knelt and removed the paper to find a black leather-bound case with a silver latch. Mortilus gestured for him to open it as well.
The box was lined with red velvet and contained what Merle could only guess were antique silver surgical instruments.
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"It's to help you with your gift to me."
"Oh God, you want my blood."
"And you want to delay a payment."
Tiffany's eyes remained closed, and her head was still resting against the vampire's thigh. Merle asked her, "Did you have to do this?"She bit her lower lip. Mortilus responded for her as he stroked her hair, "All of my friends have."
"What if I don't?" Merle asked. The price he inevitably owed couldn't be worse than this, could it?
"You invited a vampire into your home. One way or another, I will get what I came for."
His hands shook as he lifted one of the silver instruments. It was not the type of device you wanted to operate with unsteady hands.
Mortilus spoke, "I always find this part unpleasant. What's your phrase? To me, this is like 'watching sausage be made.' I will leave the two of you."
Merle expected him to disappear, but the
vampire walked out the door into the hallway.
The spell over Tiffany lifted the moment they were alone again. She stood up and locked the door, then leaned her back against it like someone was trying to break it down.
From the hallway, Mortilus said,
"Tiffany, I will need the meal delivered as soon as
"Yes, Master," she said, forcing back tears.