The grounds were different, he surveyed them from the sky. Someone preferred pink flowers and shrubbery scaped into animal shapes. He touched down on the front lawn as a flash of lightning lit up the sky. He strode purposely up to the front entrance. Directing a gust of wind, he blew the doors open while keeping his stride. He paused at the number of vampires congregated in the foyer. He counted forty-three. His original brood was only twenty-eight at the time of his departure over ten years ago. A tall blond woman approached him to take his jacket after he removed it. Her face was new, but he recognized her of his bloodline. “What is your name?”
“Cathy Mae. Daughter of Reva.”
“Reva? I am Wilder. I am very pleased to meet you, Cathy Mae.” She bowed and retreated back into the crowd. They were all dressed formally and held champagne glasses of blood. Fresh human blood. He walked up to a young man and took his glass right out of his hands and swallowed it down. Cathy Mae offered him her glass. “Thank you.” He gave her a smile before he walked deeper into the house, following the source of fresh blood wafting in the air.
He paused and turned to a familiar voice. A vampire with long black and gold plaits came forward. Her brown face was filled with trepidation as was most of the kindred around her. “Deborah,” he greeted her with a bright smile. “It has been a long time.”
“Yes, it has. Wilder!” She grabbed her dress, picking the skirt up from the floor, and rushed to get in front of him. “Where- where are you going?”
“The main ballroom. Is there a problem?”
“Wilder, it is Friday the Thirteenth and we are under an amber moon. Is she with you?”
“Do you really believe I’d bring Velvet among us tonight?”
“Since you allowed the Coven to denounce you, I don’t know what you’d do anymore.”
“Then you are not happy to see me come home?”
“Of course, I am happy. But what do you mean by come home?”
“This is my house, Deborah. I left its care to Jerome. He seems to have abandoned it and the brood.” He scanned the interested and curious faces. One bald head frowned openly back at him. Wilder decided to ignore the stranger for the moment. “If anyone is here without consent, get them out of here immediately.”
“Why would we do that?” The stranger spoke. He stepped forward, letting Wilder examine his tall, thick form. Imposing, Wilder thought if he had the stuff to back up his nerve and attitude. Before Wilder gave him his back, he spoke again. “As long as no one is drained, what is the problem? It satisfies the wishes of the local covens.”
“Who are you?” Wilder asked.
“You are not from Fairlight.”
“Then I will excuse you this one time- Carlos. The reason you will do as I say is because I told you. Do you understand that?”
“Wilder, Carlos is-”
“Deborah, don’t explain me to him.” Carlos brushed Deborah to the side, ignoring her eyes that implored him to be silent. “He is no longer your master. He is not anyone’s master. He has no authority concerning vampire activity. The coven stripped him of everything he ever had years ago, especially in Fairlight.”
Wilder glanced at Deborah. She held her head down. “Carlos, are you done?”
“No, Wilder. I am not done.”
“Be silent, Deborah,” he instructed with a tone of command. He took a step, shortening the distance between himself and Wilder. Sneering down into his face, Carlos said, “You were not invited. However, if you have nowhere else to go, you may stay for the evening. But you will keep your mouth shut.”
“Carlos, this is my house. More than half of this brood is of my direct bloodline. Fairlight has been my home for nearly three hundred years. Do you think you are vampire enough to force me away?”
“I am a master vampire. This house and this brood are without a master. I need a brood.”
“Then go create your own. There is no one and nothing for you here.”
“Well, I think the Coven might not agree.” Carlos smiled, showing off his sharp fangs and teeth. “Tell him, Deborah. Speak woman!”
Her head jerked up. “Wilder,” she paused and swallowed. Looking him in the eyes, she finally spoke loud and clear. “Since Jerome is not in residence, the coven ordered us to acquire a new master. I suggested Carlos.”
“Did you now?”
“Yes, she did,” Carlos retorted. “Tonight every vampire and human in this house will drink of my blood and pledge themselves to me. It is a mere formality for it has already been blessed by the Coven of Fairlight. Do you understand what I am telling you, Wilder?”
“I understand you are a fool if you think the Coven controls me.” Wilder spun around meeting every pair of vampire eyes trained on him. “None of my original brood, or Jerome’s line will drink any of your blood. I forbid it.”
“You impotent little runt,” Carlos laughed. His laughter bellowed to the ceiling.
“Carlos,” Deborah started as if to warn him that Wilder was not amused, but his laughter kept booming all over the house.
“Carlos!” Wilder snarled, using the master power of his voice. Carlos sobered up at the force of it. “I won’t take your rudeness or your audacity any longer!” He snatched Carlos by his bald head, pulling it down to his fangs and tore into his throat. Carlos struggled, and pushed Wilder off and against a wall. Blood spurted steadily from his raggedy wound. Wilder stepped back, wiping his mouth with the back of his wrist. Vampire blood, Wilder never liked the bitter taste of it. Unfortunately, he had more work to do. Carlos backed into bodies, stumbling to stay on his feet. Wilder swiped his nails, slicing him open from ear to ear. Carlos turned to flee, Wilder raked him across his back and brought him down to the marbled floor.
“Wilder!” Deborah screamed. Wilder held her eyes as he sat on the big vampire’s back. He grabbed Carlos’ head up and tore it off his shoulders. “Oh my stars!” she wailed then dropped to her knees. “Wilder, what have you done?”
He stood and let the head slip from his hands. “I’ve killed this son of a bitch,” he said. “Now, you all get this straight. I am the only master of this house. If you are mine, you will not serve anyone else. If you don’t share my blood, you may leave in peace. Am I clear?”
“Deborah?” He walked over to her sobbing on the floor and knelt beside her. He took her shaking hands away from her face. “I’m sorry if you loved him.”
“Wilder, you killed another master vampire. The Coven will punish you! They will punish us all!”
“They won’t spend much time looking into this matter.”
“But- but you went against their wishes!”
“Deborah, you must trust me.”
“Wilder, what has come over you? You used to respect the Coven so much.”
“Yes, but that was then,” he replied, taking her hands firmly in his and rose them both to their feet. “And this, ladies and gentlemen, is now.” He viewed the mess he made of Carlos on the shiny and bloody floor. Lord, it had been ages since he let loose like that on another vampire. There was no remorse or fear. It felt wonderful. For the first time in decades, hot and pure excitement ran through his veins. He glanced at Deborah, who lowered her eyes, putting her arms around his neck. The shaking of her body ceased when he hugged her back.
“The rest of you go back to your party.” He waited for the brood to leave before he spoke to her again. “I am sorry if he meant something to you.”
“I know you had to kill him. Besides, my heart is not exactly broken.”
“But there was something between you?”
She got off his neck and sniffed behind her hand. After regaining her composure, she shook back her hair and looked him in the eye. “He chose me to be his mistress. I accepted.”
“I will make this up to you if you allow me the chance.”
“All you have to do is promise to never abandon us again. Forsake the witch who led you astray. I still can’t believe you chose to leave us for Velvet.”
“My dear, I won’t discuss Velvet with anyone. Please, respect that. We have more important matters to concern us now.”
Matters like getting Carlos’ body out of the house and burned to ashes.