Authors: C.L. Quinn
Table of Contents
By C.L. Quinn
Published March 15, 2013
Blak Kat Publishing
The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes,
And the moon and the stars
Were the gift you gave
To the dark and the endless skies.
He was holding her closely, touching her exactly the way she liked…the way he had done for centuries. He knew her so well, as she did him. Slowly, he moved down and began an exploration with his talented tongue. She moaned and he looked up at her with a grin before he returned to his task. Except she couldn’t quite remember his face anymore. Well, not the details.
She awoke from the dream, as usual, sweating and panting. It had been just a little over a year…and he was already fading.
Eillia rolled over and let herself grieve, for just a moment, as she had done every day for the first six months after she’d arrived here. Then, only a few times each week for the past six. Less so as time went by. He’d been her constant companion for much of her very long life…and he was disappearing from her like smoke in wind. It was the only way she could ever heal and move on with her life, she knew that. The loss would always hurt, but not like these past months where it tore her heart each time she thought about him. Someday she would be well enough to go home. And that’s what pissed her off most. How could it be okay to
be okay when he was gone forever?
The tile was bitingly cold on her feet as she swung her legs off the huge downy mattress and walked naked to the lavatory. The small bathroom was basic, bare essentials, barely running water…and
had to be brought in. The sink was old and stained with rust, the tub barely big enough for even her small body. A splintered mirror hung over the sink, the metallic reflective surface fogged. It barely revealed her face, slimmer than usual, exotic features from her Asian mother no less lovely.
The tiny room was one twentieth the size of the luxurious bathroom she was accustomed to. She brushed her teeth quickly, then shuddered a little as she went back into the bedroom to slip on her boots and a fur parka for a trip to the outhouse. It was harsh living. It was what she needed. A harsh life in a beautiful unforgivingly hard land. For now, it was home.
It took a lot to manage a life in northern Alaska. Here above the Arctic Circle, where they rarely saw daylight for about sixty days out of the year, residents had to get accustomed to long periods of cold and darkness.
That worked out well for Eillia. Sunlight burned her skin. Even though she was not an average vampire, her body could not tolerate ultraviolet. So two months of polar night was welcome after a summer of the midnight sun.
This was her second winter here, following the miserable days when the sun did not drop below the horizon line, and trapped her inside her dismal cabin for months. She’d emerged in late August to the shortened night, fed, stocked up, and returned to her cabin until late September, when she’d decided it was time to stop living in isolation…and go back out to face life without Hamid. He had died so suddenly.
So shockingly, because it was just so fucking hard to kill a vampire. And they had been so well prepared for the fight, considering there were three extremely powerful first blood vampires against a group of humans. It couldn’t happen. It
happen. It should
have happened. But it had. Hamid had been beheaded. Even a vampire didn’t survive that.
So here she was at the top of the world, in a small town called Wilkes-Barre just south of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the country. Alone, and trying to heal after losing the love of her life.
Breakfast, the meal she ate when she woke at night after sleeping away the daylight, consisted of a large hunk of lightly cooked Caribou, a common meat in this area. She didn’t really care for it, too gamey, but it met her needs. She’d have more choices tonight at work in town where she cooked at a little restaurant.
Eillia really loved her little job at the Blue Star. She thought back to when she’d taken the position as night chef at the only restaurant in the tiny town.
It had been late September on a relatively warm night for that time of year. She hadn’t had a good blood meal in several weeks. Vampires needed blood for nutrition, and although they also ate the same food humans did, blood was necessary for health. So she had decided to make a run into town, compel a nice local for a quick blood meal, and then try the restaurant she’d passed a few times. She had been very, very hungry from allowing herself to get too close to starvation through her own neglect these past months.
That night, taking a seat in the back of the small restaurant, she’d tried caribou meat for the first time. It wasn’t bad, but she thought it could have used a little more spice. A
more spice, in fact. It made her think about her own excellent chef at her villa in France; Marcus, who had cooked for her and Hamid, and her entire entourage, for over a hundred years. The man was an
when it came to culinary preparations. He routinely fed at least ten vampires, and various assorted humans, each night. And never left one of them unsatisfied. She’d chewed some of the essentially flavorless tough meat and thought how desperately they could use Marcus. Picking up the dark colored bread, she realized it was a coarse rye, and about as flavorless as the meat. And it was charred along the edges. Blue Star, eh? More like the Black Star.
Still, it was calories, and she’d put off this trip to town so long, she had been desperate for them. Any way she could get them. Vampires used outrageous amounts of calories to fuel metabolisms that burned much faster than humans. In those first months, in her dark despair, she hadn’t cared about her health or energy level. Now, months later, still dealing with her devastating loss, she’d crawled out of her self-exile and found herself ravenous. Which is why she’d vampire-speeded here for a blood meat for nutrition, and then calories, and lots of them. Anything, really, although vampires appreciated
food more than anyone. They actually had very discriminating palettes. And were accustomed to the best.
But here, in this small town of extremes, she would take what she could get. So she’d eaten every scrap of food the sweet young waitress had brought her. The young woman with such a lovely smile had introduced herself as Starla. So far, Eillia hadn’t had to compel her, or anyone, but she would before she left as she didn’t have any money to pay for her mediocre meal. Never a problem for a skilled vampire. They rarely paid for anything anyway. It was just easier. Safer.
But that night, she’d found herself charmed by Starla’s quick wit and sense of humor. Eillia had hung around, and when later that night she’d mentioned to Starla that the food was a little lackluster, Starla had pulled her into the kitchen and told her to give it a try. The owner, Hugo, who did most of the cooking at the Blue Star, was pushed aside. Starla told him she wanted to see what Eillia could do. Eillia had been surprised, but from months of pain and boredom, she suddenly thought she liked the challenge. So she’d slipped the stained white apron over her head, which could easily have wrapped around her twice, and looked at his limited options. Ah, cinnamon, honey, cayenne…that was a start. So she began to play with the ingredients and different meats. In a short time, she was whipping out unusual flavors, which, for the hell of it, Hugo brought out to his customers to try. They’d loved her experiments so much, at the end of the night, Hugo turned to her and asked her how long she was staying in town. She shook her head.
“I honestly have no idea. Why?”
“I’ve been considering staying open much later for the truckers, hunters, and fishermen that come through town pretty late. I’d like to hire you to cook. Interested?”
Eillia had been shocked. A job? Her? She’d never held one. Never needed to. She’d started to shake her head, and then stopped. Why not? She wasn’t ready to go home and resume her life without Hamid. But she was completely bored here. This job might be the perfect thing for her while she healed and considered how to live without the man who had loved her for so long. Yes, a mundane, normal task, like one of the many humans who toiled because they had to. It was perfect. This was exactly what she needed.
“I think I am. I need the distraction and I would like to see if I could do this. So, yes, I would like to take the job.”
“This’ll be kind of an experiment on the late hours. I can’t pay a lot.”
“I don’t care about the wage. I just need something to do, and this seems like a good choice. I will not disappoint you.”
Hugo smiled. “Okay, gorgeous woman willing to work for me…for cheap. It’s a good night. When would you want to start?”
“Tomorrow night, if that’s good for you.”
He had nodded. “Yeah. Works for me. Now I just need to arrange for a server.”
Starla had put her hand up like a kid in school. “I’d like to do it, Hughie. Drury’s doing real well now, and this time of year, you don’t need both of us. So, I’m okay with pulling the late shift with…”
She looked at the beautiful exotic woman in front of her. Eillia realized she was asking her for her name.
“Oh, uh…Lia. Lia Smith.” Lame, but she wasn’t used to having to set an alias. However, wiping everyone’s memory of her each night would be just too exhausting. She kind of liked the idea of recreating herself for this new life. She liked the idea of becoming simple, uncomplicated nighttime cook Lia Smith.
“Alright, then. You two ladies start tomorrow night when I finish the day shift. About ten, okay?”
Starla already had the place opened up the first night Eillia came to work. They took a little time to get used to each other, and then took care of the first diners. Eillia found she loved the simple task of cooking food. And she found she was good at it.
Welcoming their guests well past midnight, Starla took their orders and handed them to Eillia to put her own spin on the dishes…and surprised herself at how well some of her improvised menu tasted.
“Boy, Lia, these guys are going to be back every night if you keep cooking like this. Where did you learn this?”
“I’m just winging it. Really. I admit I’ve been exposed to excellent food for…well, a lot of years. I guess some of it rubbed off.”
“Yeah, well, I’m glad you wandered in.”
Eillia remembered her first impressions of Starla. She thought she had the most lovely smile. And her aura was gentle and warm. Eillia’s ability to see a person’s aura told her Starla was one of the kindest of souls. It softened her pain, just a little, to befriend someone so worthy. Perhaps the universe really
have a plan for everyone. Perhaps things
happen for a reason. And maybe that was why she had been drawn here to this frozen wasteland above the Arctic Circle. It was a place completely alien to her life, a place she could heal without Hamid’s memory smacking her in the face everywhere she went.
That she was finally beginning to rest now, that she was hungry enough, and interested enough, to seek blood and food again, meant she was beginning to heal.
After that night, Eillia came to the small diner to work five nights a week. She’d found an ancient Ford truck, compelled it from the old man who no longer drove it, and used it for local transportation. She could vampire speed to work, but she was still somewhat weakened from the months she had denied herself any nutrition or blood. It was the first thing she’d looked forward to in a very long time.
That had been three months ago. Now, the lovely quiet chef for the night shift at the Blue Star had a reputation in the area. There were quite a few patrons who waited until late to get dinner just so they would have their food prepared by Eillia instead of Hugo. Business for the late shift had been expected to be light, but it usually wasn’t. Starla was thrilled because it turned out she really liked the night shift and loved working with the unusual woman who had become her friend. And although Lia was still quite a mystery, they had gotten close. Starla had told Lia about her dreams of getting out of this icehouse where she had been born and raised.