The Blackwell estate was far too much house for one vampire. I couldn’t imagine it without Byron and Lysander, which was well enough, since I had no intention of residing there for the foreseeable future. To take care of unpaid bills and cover the cost of my new residence, I rented the estate out on Simbnb to a nice couple of cultists who seemed to truly appreciate proud, ancient vampire heritage (unlike Byron).
My new abode was…modest, truth be told.
However, it afforded me an excellent view of the Blackwell estate, so that I could ensure the new tenants weren’t throwing any wild parties or leaving the windows open and letting the bats in.
If I utilized my sharp vampiric eyesight, it was almost like I hadn’t moved at all.
Unfortunately, that cut both ways, as I was afforded an unwanted view of my new next door neighbors’ house, which was formerly across the street and therefore somehow less offensive.
Regardless, I would make the best of my new situation and living quarters. The receiving area was less spacious and sparsely furnished compared to what I was accustomed to, but it would do.
I was fortunate to have no real use for my own bladder, as the privy on offer was quite dire.
However, the clawfoot tub in the basement would be appreciated for long, cold bubble baths.
The kitchen downstairs was also adequate for my needs, though it felt too large with so many chairs…
I felt it wiser to leave my coffin at home, settling for the one that was already there. Unfortunately, the shoddy old thing gave me splinters the very first night. Perhaps I might find some way to move my much nicer one over…
A fresh start called for a fresh look, and so I dusted off the red version of my favorite dress. (And Byron thought it was ridiculous to buy seven slightly different versions of the same dress! I was fortunate to never have listened to him.) If black weren’t already my color, it would clearly be red. Or perhaps every color is flattering on my figure and with my delicate complexion.
It wasn’t until I opened the ice box and realized that I was completely out of plasma packs that I knew I was in desperate need of a new butler. How could I possibly know where plasma packs came from, as vile as the things were? They had always appeared as if by magic when Byron needed them. I could ask Graham, but I didn’t want to depend on his generosity or assistance so soon after departing Straud Manor.
Well. I would have no choice but to interview new butlers until I found one that suited me. The Lyonses had been…convenient, but their service to the Blackwells was apparently in the past. Unfortunately, the first few applicants were unacceptable. White gloves with stained fingertips, hair that clearly hadn’t been brushed in hours, calling me “Blanca” instead of “Bianca” (and daring to use my given name at all!)…I couldn’t tolerate any of them as a proper replacement for Lysander.
My mood was temporarily buoyed by the arrival of…
I almost hired them at first sight. I couldn’t stop admiring their slightly different yet oh, so similar versions of masculine beauty. Two uniforms. Two chiseled faces, one smooth and one with an acceptable amount of facial hair. Two human brothers warring for my approval, turning against each other in their quests to obtain just one word of favor from their lovely but stern vampire mistress…
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I quickly determined that I could afford only one butler’s salary. Also, their posture was abominable.
My relief during Daya’s interview was almost palpable.
“Please release me from my unending torment, Mistress Blackwell,” Daya said.
“Oh, Daya,” I said, “how desperately I wish I could hire you. You’re the perfect butler.”
I hesitated. “However, after your master so generously hosted both myself and Byron at his uncle’s manor, I couldn’t possibly poach his butler of so many years.”
“So many years of suffering,” Daya said.
“That may be true,” I agreed with no small amount of sympathy, “but he did turn you. It would create quite the scandal if I misstepped so horrendously. But…if I should fail to find a new butler in a reasonable amount of time, I shall consider asking Graham to lend me your services.”
We spent some time after that speaking of Byron and his ridiculous move to the city. At least now I had his address to send care packages to—Byron had neglected to give it to me himself! I brought up a number of concerns, but Daya assured me that it was exceedingly unlikely for Byron to sleepwalk during the day and plummet from the balcony like a fiery comet.
However, I had the strangest sensation that I was being watched. I don’t know who would have any desire to peer into my new home, aside from Graham and all three of the Birdsong brothers. And perhaps one or two of the butlers to whom I so politely offered helpful critiques.
Surely I hadn’t yet exhausted the supply of butlers available to me. Some time after Daya had returned to Graham’s, I took in the cool night air from a rather uncomfortable bench in the front of the house. I was sure to look in the opposite direction of the Birdsong brothers’ house, which is the only reason I was so easily caught off guard a moment later.
“Lady Blackwell?” a cool, deep voice addressed me. A…familiar voice?
“Lysander?” I gasped.
A ghost of a smile—but not Lysander’s smile. As cold as the inside of a coffin. “You speak of my wayward son,” he said quietly. My vision cleared, and I was able to easily discern the differences between father and son; he was noticeably older, with a number of lines etched into his flesh and gray in his hair that Lysander lacked. “I’m disappointed to be so thoroughly forgotten after so short a time, though the fault lies entirely with me.”
My brows knitted in consternation as my heart dropped in disappointment. If only it had been Lysander. “Thaddeus?” I offered tentatively.
He bowed—quite elegantly. Thaddeus Lyons had always been graceful, even when picking up all manner of things I’d dropped on purpose so that I might watch him bend over. “None other, Lady Blackwell. I’m honored to be remembered after such a shameful departure.”
I rose from the bench to get a better look at him. I barely stifled a gasp when he took my hands.
“Your delicate beauty has been remarkably well-preserved in my absence,” he murmured. I stared at him, though an unfamiliar heat rose to my icy cheeks. When I didn’t pull my hands away, he instead lifted them to his lips.
Warm. Yet, I suspected, not as warm as Lysander’s.
“I came as soon as I heard the Lady Blackwell sought a new butler,” he said. “Only a Lyons is fit to serve a Blackwell.”
“Yes,” I said, my voice small as I thought of Lysander. “But L…your son disappeared without a word.”
He nodded gravely at me. “And for that you have my sincerest apologies, Lady Blackwell. Even I am unable to locate my son. I consider it my own failing as a father that he would desert you in a manner so ill-befitting of a Lyons.”
You deserted me as well, I wanted to say. Everyone leaves me.
“I never should’ve left you, Lady Blackwell.” He looked directly in my eyes as he offered me a rose taken from inside his coat. “It was a terrible mistake—one I hope isn’t too late to rectify.”
“You remembered,” I whispered.
“A rose’s beauty pales beside Lady Bianca Blackwell’s,” he said, “and yet she never holds that against the roses.”
I accepted the flower, holding it close to me. He’d even remembered to leave the thorns on, just as I liked.
“I’m so glad you came back,” I said, even though I couldn’t remember having missed him. “Will you serve me again, Thaddeus Lyons?”
Again he bowed. “It would be an honor, Lady Blackwell.”