Andy parked his car a discreet distance from the cabin near the bridge and took a few seconds to study the surroundings. It didn’t look like much of an ambush to him, but then ambushes weren’t really meant to be obvious. On the other hand, given the apparent lack of mental fortitude Tristan’s lackeys displayed, if it were meant as an ambush he’d probably know by now.
Of course, none of that had anything to do with explaining why he’d come out here in the first place. He didn’t like to think of himself as being dangerously compulsive, but willingly walking into a vampire lair without any sort of plan or reason went against everything he thought he was. It was reckless, the sort of thing someone with a death-wish would do, so why was he still walking up the pathway to the front door?
He stopped, struggling against whatever it was that had taken control of his motor functions. If Payne had somehow figured out how to control people’s minds…
The door to the tiny cabin swung open, spilling an oddly dirty light onto the pathway in front of him.
“Glad you were finally able to join us; I’d almost written you off.”
“Got to say, it seems my curiosity’s gotten the better of me tonight.”
“Come on in. I had the boys pick up some food on the way over. You like Chinese, right?”
“Yeah, sure. As long as you mean ‘food’ and not ‘people.’ As in, to eat.”
“Of course it’s Chinese food. What do you think we are, barbaric?”
“No, I can’t see you doing anything even remotely uncouth.”
Andy shifted uncomfortably as Tristan stared out at him from the doorway. After what felt like an enormous amount of time, but couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, he smiled widely and stepped to the side, gesturing for him to enter.
“Do come in, Andrew.”
Andy’s feet surprised him by moving his body forward and into the dank, mildew-infested cabin where he found the group of vamps watching him intently. Deanna stared at him doe-eyed from the furthest corner of the room.
“Paul, give our guest some food.”
“Sure thing. You think he likes lo mein or fried rice better?”
“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
“Just give me the fried rice,” Andy snapped. He snatched the box from the young man’s hands, sat down on the cleanest looking part of the couch he could find and absent mindedly took a few bites of the salty rice and chicken mix. The other vampires passed the rest of the food amongst themselves, occasionally snickering and watching him a bit too closely. After a few minutes, Tristan leaned forward.
“How do you like your maggots, Stone?”
“Is that what you kids are calling it these days?”
“Maggots, Andrew. You’re eating maggots.”
“This is your plan to get at me? Taunting me with ridiculous fabrications about the food your gang provided? I expected more from you, Payne. A lot more.”
“I’m only teasing; there’s no need to get so upset. Here… why don’t we call a truce with some wine?”
“You honestly think I’m going to drink anything you offer me?”
“Why are you so convinced I’m out to get you? What do you think this is, poison? Blood?”
“Neither would really surprise me.”
“Come on, Stone; if I wanted you dead, I certainly wouldn’t be so subtle about it.”
Though he could hardly believe it, Andy found himself actually wanting to show the idiot that he wasn’t afraid of him by drinking his stupid wine. The other three vampires were hovering around, suppressing their laughter, while Deanna stood a little further away. Her earlier blank expression had been replaced with moderate concern, which did little to convince him one way or another of their intentions.
Tristan offered him the ornate bottle with a smile that could charm the pants off just about any female – and quite a few males, no doubt – but only sent a chill straight through Andy.
“Join us, Stone. Be one of us.”
“Don’t do it, Andy!” Deanna exclaimed, suddenly rushing forward. “He wants to turn you into a vampire!”
“Oh for god’s sake, that’s not even how it works. Give me the damned wine.”
He took a mouthful of the red liquid, which struck him as tasting somewhere between cranberry juice and fruit punch with a slight hint of copper and a mild alcoholic burn, and swallowed quickly. The room erupted in shouting and cheering, while Andy waited for convulsions to start. When nothing happened after a few seconds, he let out a relieved laugh.
“Interesting Kool Aid.”
“That was hardly Kool Aid. Drink up; you’re one of us now.”
“I certainly don’t feel dead. Sorry to disappoint, but—“
The room was suddenly tilting, and it seemed to Andy that the lights had been turned up considerably. Somewhere, someone had turned on music he didn’t recognize, and Tristan’s gang of vampires had started dancing to it. His head was spinning, and though he was more confused than afraid, he knew he wanted more of the wine he’d been offered.
After taking another drink of the sickly-sweet substance, time seemed to compress, and everything became a slow-motion blur. The last thing he remembered seeing was Tristan sitting perfectly still, smiling, and he felt eternity pulse within his veins.