What Passes For Wholesome

Part 4 of Night's Longing

Four people dead in one night. One person missing, along with her clothes and valuables, making her the obvious suspect.

That would be the national news story if this were most other cities, but if there’s anyone that even the cops here fear, it’s Clan Sarthe. They’ll be reminded to look the other way again. The cleaners will do their work, some families will file their missing person reports, and nobody will have any answers.

Liz speculates that they’ll go with drugs as the official explanation this time. Bunch of meth-addicted girls who disappeared after a particularly indulgent binge, it happens all the time, right? The only thing to do is to increase government funding for the war on drugs once again. The cops get more funds, and the clan takes its cut from the cops. Everyone’s happy.

There won’t even be a warrant for my arrest.

Still, this is an indulgence we can’t repeat, as she reminds me. Three vampires going on a reckless binge like this? It’s too much work to be dealing with on a regular basis. Time to lay low for a bit.

The way she says three vampires makes my heart flutter. The way she praises how skillfully I killed my roommate, the way she showers me with kisses and compliments, and the way she holds me close and strokes my hair and calls me “sister” ease my doubts. Of course she’ll take care of me just like she takes care of Vicky, and even if I’m left without an income or home of my own, I can live with the two of them.

Their home is a cozy apartment through the tunnels under the warehouse district, exactly where that cell of vampire hunters planned to strike. The older, wealthier, more powerful vampires live much deeper underground, while those of similar social standing as my sisters live up here, closer to the surface. If my blood family’s plan had been allowed to proceed, my found family would be dead. I shudder at the thought.

Fortunately, I am welcomed here, since it’s not unusual to have a live-in human bloodbag, apparently. Liz’s property: that’s what I’ll have to be as far as the others in the clan are concerned. After all, I can’t quite pass as undead the way attention from hot vampires can make me blush so easily. Still, Liz promises me, to her and Vicky I’m absolutely one of them.

They haven’t shown anyone the proof of how I’ve killed for Clan Sarthe. It remains safest, Liz says, to avoid suspicion at all rather than try to broadcast proof of my loyalty and invite the possibility that it won’t be enough for influential naysayers. We’ll show off the evidence of my heroism only when we must.

Of course, while we’re laying low, I am also their bloodbag. It’s so much easier for my family to deal with their cravings as long as I’m there, happy to get passed back and forth between my sisters, a shared resource to be drained of blood until I black out multiple times daily.

I don’t know how many days I pass in this interminable, delirious haze, often waking up only long enough to have something shoved in my mouth—either for the sake of calories or for someone else’s orgasm—to then feel the sting of my sisters’ fangs and drift out of consciousness again, sometimes waking up sandwiched between two naked bodies fast asleep during the day. I know that I’m being used, but isn’t it so much less degrading than working food service for minimum wage and sending every penny I earn to my landlord? I feel happier than I can remember since that very first time I loved someone and felt loved in return.

Once Liz decides it’s safe to go hunting again, our first night out together as sisters is like a dream come true. They teach me the rules of the hunt: how to identify when you’re stepping on another vampire’s toes, how often we can feed and stay within the quota—Vicky’s hot tip is that tourists are basically freebies—and the best neighborhoods to stalk.

“And don’t forget to have some pride, Hanna,” she tells me during one coaching session. “Yeah, you can pick off as many homeless people as you like without the city giving a shit, but that’s beneath us. You’ve gotta find someone who’s well fed and lives a leisurely lifestyle. That’s the good stuff.”

The cannibalism thing gets easier every time, but even Liz agrees we should indulge in it far less frequently than ordinary feeding. Partially draining some lonely drunk after midnight and leaving them to wake up dazed in an alleyway? Basically harmless. Slicing someone to pieces and leaving a partially dismembered body? That does draw significantly more attention, and eventually the clan will come down on us. Still, even without getting my own dinner out of it, just going out with my sisters and sharing a night of hunting humans with them is more than I ever thought I’d get to experience. It’s beautiful.

I almost feel ashamed about how I rob some of these people when Vicks and Lizzy aren’t looking. Best to do so with the rare few I’m allowed to kill and eat, rather than the ones we expect to wake up with a nasty hangover the next day. The dead ones won’t miss their wallet, cash, jewelry, cards, and ID, so I can use them to make a few purchases just for myself.

By now I’ve got a modest amount of money stashed away that Liz doesn’t know about and over a year prepaid on the storage unit where I keep my vampire hunting gear. Yes, Liz told me to pawn it all since it’d be bad to get caught with any of it in my possession, but my personal collection includes powerful amulets and even such treasures as the family sword—swiped from my father’s corpse—which is itself a weapon as much of steel and silver as ancient theurgy. It seems like a poor decision to let tools like those drift around the open market where they might pose a risk to innocent vampires.

I feel a little bad about keeping these secrets. It’s not that I don’t trust Liz… or Vicky for that matter. It’s just that my sisters have made it clear that they’d prefer me not having too much independence.

When I talk about getting a job, Liz finds countless reasons why I shouldn’t. It’s true that I’d hate it, that the bus routes are terrible around here, and that I no longer have to worry about bills. Also she’s willing to spoil me with clothes and nice food and other gifts just like she does my other sister. Worse, if I made friends outside the clan, I might start developing sympathies for humans, and it’s far better to avoid that sort of complication, isn’t it?

She’s doing a fine job isolating me from having any support network or resources outside our family. I remember a conversation with my old roommate Madison who told me behavior like this is a huge red flag that someone intentionally doing these things is an abuser, which makes me uncertain enough to inspire a conversation with Liz.

“Of course I’m isolating you, babe.” She pulls me into her cool embrace. “I don’t want you to get any second thoughts about joining our family, wondering if you should try to rejoin the world of the living. You know that’s a temptation that most newly turned vampires get, right? It’s important to learn that for all the pleasures that being a creature of the night entails, you are trapped in this world now as permanently as the rest of us.”

She knows how to put it in terms that make this feel right, doesn’t she? She’s really treating me like a newly turned vampire. “But…” there’s still that nagging uncertainty. “What if I got a clan job like you so I could have a little more money of my own?”

“Ah, but then you’d be less dependent on me, and you must know how good it feels to keep you in the position you’re in now. Like this…”

Liz pushes me to my knees, and without a word I know what she wants from me. I lift her skirt and put my well-trained mouth to work.

“See, babe? I don’t even have to worry that you might say no. You and I both know you only have a place to live because you won me over by being such a good girl who knows how to make me very happy.” She exhales with a satisfied shudder as my tongue effectively demonstrates her point. “You’re all taken care of thanks to my good graces, and it’s so, so smart of you to continue listening to everything I tell you to do.”

Maybe I shouldn’t find that as cozy an arrangement as I do. Maybe it shouldn’t make me desperately happy to let her indulge her lust for control. Liz is just so obscenely attractive when she’s possessive and even a little bit cruel. Besides, is it even really abuse if my sister is totally up front about her intentions like this? Well then, maybe a woman as hot as her deserves a pass on being an abuser. Maybe I don’t have a way to escape. That’s okay. I don’t want to. And if I’m in danger from her, well, maybe I’m at my most comfortable when that’s the case.

Vicks doesn’t get off on the whole control thing so much. I think she just likes having a pretty, free-use girl in arm’s reach who also happens to laugh at her goofy sense of humor. She’s incredibly casual about treating me as her personal plaything, grabbing at me without warning and demanding sex or blood or someone to talk to or whatever strikes her fancy in the moment.

One night I wake up and discover she tossed all my old clothes away, replacing them with an array of exclusively slutty outfits for her own amusement. Heated voices from the other room make it clear that I was not the only one who was not consulted about this decision. I pick out a loose crop-top that hangs off one shoulder and a pair of mini shorts that emphasize the goods far more than they conceal. Honestly, I’m kind of impressed by how well they fit. Vicky’s been putting her thorough study of my body to good use, I’d say.

“How the hell are we supposed to take her out of the apartment when she doesn’t own anything that hides her obvious hunter tattoos, Victoria?” The sharp sound of a slap carries into the bedroom.

“C’mon, Lizzy. I know you can hit harder than that. Please? It might knock some ideas loose if you do.”

An even louder crack reverberates through the apartment as I enter the room and find Vicks on the ground, straddled by a furious Liz with a hand on her neck.

The thing is, I’m a simple girl. You can’t force me to dress in an incredibly revealing outfit and then put on a show like this without my gay ass getting turned on by it.

“Aw, you two getting started without me?” I can’t resist teasing, leaning against the doorway in a deliberately seductive pose that shows off my top’s plunging neckline and my bare legs. I know I look great in this fit.

The distraction works wonders, and I enjoy watching Liz’s eyebrows shoot upward in a way that flatters me very much as she stares in my direction. “Oh,” is all she manages to say at first. Then, “Can I change my mind on this being entirely a bad idea?”

“Damn. I knew those shorts would nicely show off how thick her thighs are.” Vicks bites her lips in a way that flashes one of her very sexy fangs, her signature move. “It’s good to be a genius.”

“Almost as good as defusing an argument by being hot and slutty in front of my sisters,” I reply, opening the bedroom doorway in a wordless invitation.

That’s the start to a particularly fun evening for sure, and although we do eventually have to get me some less revealing outfits, I promise Vicky I won’t wear them more than necessary as long as she reciprocates the favor. It takes no pushing at all to get her to agree—one fun thing about Vicks is that she enjoys being objectified at least as much as she enjoys objectifying me.

Now that I’m actually conscious most of the time, I’m excited to learn more about the day-to-day reality of vampire life. It’s not all stalking the night, drinking blood and having erotically charged encounters with sexy women who don’t (usually) know what they’re getting into. Vicky is as unemployed as I am, but Liz has career ambitions, working her way up the clan hierarchy from the bottom. There’s a lot of political maneuvering involved, it seems, with vampires no stranger to cutthroat tactics, and Clan Intelligence seems to reward underhanded tactics more than most divisions.

“Good evening, Elizabeth. Taking your dog on a walk?”

“Ylio. What do you want?” Liz’s voice is chilly as she addresses the tall, vulpine creature accosting us on our way to meet up with Vicks at the Carmine. I recognize the name from the many times she cursed it within earshot. This is her main rival, a vicious thing gunning for the same promotion that would grant Liz access to much more of the secrets our externally embedded clan members feed to us.

“I heard you and that vapid waste you call a sister acquired a bloodbag for yourselves.” They look me up and down as though appraising me for defects. “How on earth did a pair of low-class children like yourselves manage that, I wonder? What did you buy it with?”

Liz strokes my head in a way that uncomfortably reinforces the impression that I am nothing more than her pet. “Have you considered that I’m simply that charming? Developing a personality might do wonders for you as well, if you could manage it.”

The other vampire snorts derisively. “As though a poor, fat cow like you has anything to offer besides a pair of oversized tits.”

“And where’s yours then, since you have so much more than I for luring a human into your service?” My sister bares her fangs. “Ah, right. I remember. Your last was over a decade ago, and you lost it almost immediately afterward.”

“It wasn’t my first and won’t be my last. Unlike yours, a fluke, I’m sure, and I will be surprised if little Victoria doesn’t impulsively ruin it sooner than later.”

Despite myself, I grin. Ylio has no idea.

They catch me and quirk an eyebrow. “Ah, I see. You’ve found the type of pathetic, lust-fueled meat that would be perfectly happy to die from a vampire’s kiss. All too many of those in this era, aren’t there? Our propaganda works wonders.” They lean down to eye level with me and flash a smile of their own that they must imagine to be charismatic. “But easy come, easy go with this type, hmm? All it needs is an invitation from someone older, richer, and more powerful. Perhaps with a little… extra… push…

That look in their eyes, a flash of red… Oh, they’re using vampiric hypnosis on me.

I lower my eyelids and part my lips. “Wow, it’s true…” I say as though entranced. Hypnosis is not a gift all vampires have, but it is a gift all vampire hunters are trained to resist. “You really have no personality to speak of.”

With a surprised guffaw, Liz pats my head in praise. “Damn, I guess us low-class children have you beat, Ylio.”

The other vampire glares, straightening to their full height. “Watch yourself, child. There are many ways to lose a pet.” With a prim turn on their heel, they depart.

“It’s a status thing to have a personal bloodbag, isn’t it?” I don’t wait for Liz’s confirmation. “That one is definitely going to try to kill me.”

“Then I’ll have to keep you close, my dear.” My sister’s words are meant to be comforting, but I hear a certain amount of worry in her voice.

Ylio’s threatened by my presence. Just by having me around, my keeper’s reputation is improved. She’s elevated herself a notch in the hierarchy, and that’s the sort of respect that might clinch the promotion she’s after. Still, it’s clear that one is underestimating me. They don’t know that I’m much more than just a bloodbag to my sisters.

Liz pulls me along. “Let’s head on up to the Carmine, babe. I need to dance some of this anger out.”

I’m not much of a dancer, so I leave Vicks and Lizzy to enjoy each other’s company on the dance floor while I grab a drink at the bar. “Hey, Jax. Rum and coke?”

The bartender gives me a quick wave of acknowledgment as she slaps a spout into a new bottle of well whiskey. With quick, confident motions, it takes her no time at all to work her way through all the drinks in the queue and get to mine. Not for the first time, I wonder just how long she’s been tending bar. Jax definitely mentioned Al Capone at some point, but that also might have been a joke.

Before long, she sets my glass down with a wink. “Here you go, Hanna. Victim-coded, just how you like it.”

I take a sip, and sure enough it’s double strong. “Appreciate it! On Vicky’s tab, yeah?”

“I know the score. You have fun, kid.”

It’s nice to have a night where I’m not on the hook for either hunting dinner or being dinner for my sisters. Tonight, we’re just here to chill, and even Ylio wouldn’t dare try something here.

I scan the club. We’re well-stocked with humans tonight, but they don’t have anything I want right now. They barely register at all as people to me these days. I palm a silver coin—a small trinket, easy to conceal, easy to explain away—while I meander through the crowd. With a little bit of silver, close enough proximity, and the right skills, it’s simple enough to pick the vampires out even when I don’t know them all yet.

A tingle, a subtle warmth… no, this one is putting the moves on her own prey. That one looks too intoxicated to be interested in me. Another one just isn’t my type. Oh, here we go.

The tall dapper woman wearing an expensive looking suit and looking woefully out of place here in the club makes my breath quicken. One hand runs through her short-cropped strawberry blonde hair while the other holds a seemingly untouched glass of liquor. She carries herself with an untouchable confidence that borders on swagger, and the crowd practically parts for her wherever she moves.

Yeah, Vicks and Lizzy will absolutely understand why I need to flirt with this woman.

“Hey there,” I smile up at the hot butch. “I just wanted to say that you’re super hot. If I thought I had a chance with you, would you call me vein?” I tilt my head to expose my neck and waggle my eyebrows.

The woman blinks several times in rapid succession. “Was that meant to be one of those ‘pick-up lines?’ Does this usually work for you?”

“I, uh… yeah. Kinda?” I laugh self-consciously, feeling my face turn red. “Most vampires I meet seem to like the puns.”

“You know what I am, and you choose to pursue me?” She tilts her head in a gesture of curiosity. “Odd.”

Wow, she has that Old Vampire accent that’s so hard to place, the one that feels like a blend of every country and every age the speaker has ever lived in. It’s light, just gilding the edges of her words, but if you’ve heard older vampires speak, it’s easy to listen for.

“That’s me. I’m a bit odd, but I’d really like to get to know you.”

“Hmm. No thank you.” The look of pity she gives me breaks my heart. “If it helps, I am sorry. I am just not here in pursuit of carnal pleasures. Good night.” With that final word, the hot vampire turns away and leaves me alone.

I’m crushed.

Vicks and Lizzy, done with their dancing for the moment, have grabbed a table, and I rejoin them. Someone’s hand on my back attempts to soothe me, but I am inconsolable. “I fumbled the hot butch,” I moan into my hands.

“You fumbled the hot butch,” Liz agrees.

“Shit, is that her?” Vicky whistles softly under her breath. “I can’t blame you. I think I’d devolve into wolf whistles and howling if I tried to chat her up.”

“You said she’s probably really old?”

“Yeah.” I don’t try to hide the longing from my voice. “She’s got the same kind of accent as old Eberhard.”

“No kidding?” Vicky makes the soft whistle sound again. “That’d put her at 300 years old or something.”

“Closer to 400.” Liz shakes her head. “Assuming Hanna’s right, but she is pretty good at this sort of thing.”

“Why do the old ones have to be so stodgy about casual fucking?” Vicky’s lamentations start to sound as mournful as mine. “The four of us could have a hell of a night together.”

“Maybe I could try again.” I’m in denial. I know it. “Someone that old probably lost friends to vampire hunters over the years. I could impress her by showing her some of the photos we took of my—ah, those dead Boltmans.”

Vicky perks up at that. “It was pretty badass. They would have wrecked our shit.”

“Thinking they needed to save the world from a secret plot to bring about Dracula’s return,” I add. “Ha. I almost wish they were right.”

Liz grabs me by the chin and forces me to face her, wearing a serious expression. “You be careful about saying something like that.”


That is a highly political topic. Believe it or not, vampires do not broadly agree on whether we would be better off if we were united under him again.”

I give a tiny, earnest nod. My sister fixes my gaze with her own until she looks satisfied that I understand the gravity of what she’s told me.

A familiar voice interrupts us. “Do you ladies mind if I join you?”

It’s her, and she doesn’t wait for a response before smoothly gliding into a seat at our table.

“I could not help but overhear some fascinating snippets of conversation.” The handsome butch I fumbled earlier leans toward us. “You are all quite awful at secrecy while intoxicated, it would seem.”

“H-hi…” I sound pathetic. My crush is obvious.

“Hey, what’s up?” Despite what Vicky said earlier, she’s doing a much better job than I at keeping her composure, even if she’s not at her most eloquent right now, offering no better than that line and a flirty nod at our new companion.

Liz, as usual, is the best of us. “Please forgive the two of them. My name is Elizabeth. This is Hanna and Victoria.”

“Carmen. It’s a pleasure.” The elder vampire’s speech is formal, but her demeanor is so much less stiff than earlier. She’s putting on the charm, I realize, and that’s making it much harder to keep myself from blushing harder than ever. “And I would love to hear more about the woman who killed multiple members of the Boltman Clan.” She lowers her voice conspiratorially. “As well as anything she has heard about the Cult of Dracula.”