“You shouldn’t be down here,” Edith’s voice called from my left.
I turned to face her. “I was just checking on my brother.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. I was hoping we could speak more. It appears we both require little sleep.”
“What about?” I probed.
“We like to get to know our participants.”
I could tell by the ghost of a smile on her lips she didn’t want to just get to know me. She wanted to keep an eye on me. I hadn’t betrayed my orders to her and Danny was loyal enough to the Hunter Academy to keep his mouth shut. Maybe I could use her to get the information I’d coming looking for.
“If you answer some of my questions.”
“I would be happy to. Perhaps the library would be a more comfortable place for a chat than a hallway?” she suggested.
“Lead the way.”
I followed her down the winding staircase and through a short corridor on the left into a large library. They filled the shelves with fewer books than I expected for a group who had been alive for centuries. Some shelves held no books, only trinkets of eras gone by. No pictures lined the walls which sent up red flags in my mind. They were doing everything they could to hide the truth of their existence from the poor suckers asleep two floors up.
“You said earlier you’ve been doing this thing for five years. Are you aware of the rumors about people going missing from the conventions every year?”
I observed her expression. For a split second her eyes widened at my question. Then her face returned to a calm mask. “I hadn’t heard, no. That’s troubling.”
“Some people say it is people that end up here for your little weekend role play. You sure you know nothing about that?”
“All of our participants leave at the end of the weekend. Do you think we keep them here against their will?”
“I don’t know. But, playing at being vampires seems like a good excuse to add to the ranks.”
“If we were real vampires, perhaps.”
She would not let the pretense slip unless I forced her. “Have you ever heard the name Heartsong?”
“Why?” Her voice shook.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. Tell me about him.”
“I never said…” she trailed off, giving me the opening I needed. Time to get up close and personal.
I closed the gap between us, pulling a short blade from beneath my shirt. She took a step back, bumping into a chair and I had her cornered. My blade came up just below her nose. If she’d been human, her shallow breathing would have fogged the blade. It reflected her face.
“I know what you are. Vampire,” I whispered, my lips centimeters from the cool flesh of her cheek.
She hissed at me like I’d seen in my head, her elongated incisors bared at me. She didn’t attack or try to bite me. Instead, tears fell, leaving damp tracks on her skin. Not the reaction I’d hoped for at all. Anxious energy coursed through my body, begging release. Edith pushed me away with just enough force to make me stumble.
“This is not what you think,” she said and wiped at her eyes.
“So those are fakes, then?” I gestured to her teeth.
“They are real. And you are a very astute man. This weekend is about filling our ranks but we would never harm our guests.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“That is your right but I would hope you are also a reasonable man willing to hear me out.” She pointed to my knife. “I would feel much safer if you laid down your weapon and emptied your pockets.”
“Not gonna happen.”