It always fell to Michael to do the driving. None of his brood wanted any part of it. Golden had never learned. Oh, to be fair, Gwen and Livia would take their share, but ONLY if they were asked. So he just drove, while the rest huddled underneath their cloaks. He had to wear a ski mask, thick almost black sunglasses, heavy gloves . . for no part of his skin could be exposed to the sun's rays. The blistering sunburn of his first day as a vampire would never be forgotten.|
Still, it was pleasant to be taking a break from all his preparations for the farm that would make his family self-sufficient and no longer dependent on human 'evildoers'. Suitable land had been bought, and he was in the process of moving a double wide trailer onto it, and building various shelters for the blood-rich cows and cold milk storage. It was a lot of work, and any break in its routine was welcome.
He wasn't sure why his favorite author had picked the local Barnes and Noble in which to hold a book signing. After all, Yuma wasn't the biggest, or even the second biggest town in Arizona. But here she was, and he wasn't going to argue.
Michael wanted to thank the author who had so brightened his years. Twenty six years ago, he came across the first view of bloodsuckers that conceived of them as possibly moral beings. It had given him hope which held him until he met (and made) Gwen, Livia and Golden.
Arriving at the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble and Pier One, he found it crowded beyond belief. Well, it wasn't beyond belief, actually. Naturally the popular writer would draw people from all over southern Arizona and eastern California. He thought arriving two hours early would have been sufficient to get an easy space, but this was not the case.
He had to go across the street to the Mervin's parking lot to rest the car. Then it was the usual over the head with their capes, as they made a rapid dash across the street, past the Toys Are Us, and to the huge crowd waiting. He led the four of them next to the glass windowed wall, where their covered bodies would attract the least attention, as well as be the most shaded.
Fortunately, vampires have good stamina, and their feet would not become very sore, nor would their backs develop an ache. That was not true of those standing around them, and fortunately what little outside seating was being reserved for the eldest of them.
Finally, the big wide doors were opened to the enthusiastic crowds. Michael had already purchased a brand new hard cover version of ''Interview With A Vampire''. He wasn't about to proffer his tattered twenty six year old copy. Gwen had a paperback of Pandora. She'd read library editions of all the rest of Anne Rice's books. Livia and Golden would just offer their greetings.
Livia was amused to wonder if there were any other vampires such as themselves. ''Well, MAYBE at one of the big city signings,'' she decided. The line was directed to queue up in an orderly fashion, and they gracefully proceeded closer to the tables in the back.
Gradually, they became aware of a commotion going on. They cocked their heads out, strained their ears, and their eyes, and had a shocking surprise.
''No, sir, you cannot behave this way. Please move out of the way, so that others may have their books signed without interruption!'' A stern faced man of some authority was addressing a young man roughly his same height. The very thin young man had pale skin, long wavy red hair and a narrow hook nose.
He wasn't paying attention to the man, who acted as Rice's personal agent. He proceeded to sit on top of the table at which Anne and an assistant were seated. 'Mr Manager Man' tried to remove him bodily. 'Hook Nose' wasn't being budged. In fact, he grabbed hold of 'Manager Man' by the collar and lifted him up off his feet. ''Now WHAT did you think you were going to do with me? I'll sit where I please!'' He then flashed a big vampire toothy grin at the red faced flustered man.
'Hook Nose' then faced Anne directly and introduced himself, ''Hi! My name's Sebastian. I believe we haven't met yet!'' He winked at her with intense sparkling green eyes. She looked somewhat startled. ''You move along NOW, Sebastian! We haven't got time for your little games,'' angry Manager Man asserted.
''I don't think YOU'VE got the power to do anything about it! Now maybe one of Rice's vamps could. Which of them might be powerful enough? Hmmm-m-m-m, Lestat would merely APPROVE of me, I'm sure. Now, that 2000 year old Marius, he's SUCH a serious fellow!'' He then addressed Anne face to face, ''But, wait, the SUN is shining outside! Mah-h-h-rius,'' he said it just like that, drawing out Marius' name long, ''Mah-h-h-rius and the REST of them are snug at home in their cosy coffins, knocked out cold, being rather undead and all. I, on the other hand, don't have such severe limitations imposed on me by the sun!'' Sebastian then looked eye to eye into Anne's eyes, flashing another toothy grin. Her eyes grew very wide.
Another fan saw the proceedings and declared loudly, ''I know what this is all about. This is just a publicity stunt for Rice's NEXT BOOK. This chap is going to appear in THAT BOOK!''
Anne stood up for authority and made her voice loud, so the crowds could hear, ''Did you not read the website! There will be NO VAMPIRES in my new writings! Do you hear me, NO VAMPIRES! I do not know who this fellow is!''
An unruly fellow towards the back, who possessed a grating voice said all too clearly, ''I don't believe you!'' This was getting truly exasperating, and Manager Man, who clearly had Anne's best interests at heart, was getting frustrated. It was bad enough to have one unruly vamp, but if the entire crowd went wild, he was unsure of how best to proceed. His eyes went to the most direct exit.
Fortunately, this did not happen. Everyone had to pass their books over Sebastian's supine body, in order for Anne to sign them, but other than that, things were going as smoothly as they possibly could.
Michael felt his blood rage within him. He was seldom aware of the microscopic conscious identities within it, they just quietly did their perservation work, and it was a peaceful co-existance between host and blood beings. Not this morning, however. He felt the rage of each and every one of the tiny beings, incensed that this reckless fool bring such exposure to real vampires.
His face was flushed crimson, and a brief glance revealed the red faces of his family, as well. Finally, it was his turn for signage and he handed the book over. To his surprise, Sebastian grabbed it, placed it on his flat stomach, and faced the author, ''Sign it right here, Annie! You can do that!'' Her mouth dropped open, and she looked horrified. She didn't know what else to do, so she raised her arm up over Sebastian's body, and laid it down on the book and signed. Michael, equally horrified, whispered in her mind, ''We're not all like that, Mrs Rice. Please don't think we're all like that!''
Manager Man hated being helpless, and he demanded of the saucy vamp, ''Don't your people have RULES against this sort of thing?'' Sebastian winked at him, ''What do I care about boring old rules?'' Meanwhile, Michael engaged him with a bit of mind-talk, telling him within his mind, ''I hope the Council Of Elders hang you up to dry!'' while he glared directly into Sebastian's eyes.
Meanwhile, it was Golden's turn, and he gently reached out for Anne's hand and kissed it, ever so delicately. The look of terror in her eyes lessened somewhat, and she smiled, declaring, ''You are a true gentleman!'' Never mind Golden's hand had been sweating profusely and some of his sweat lingered on her hand. She took a look at it, ''Not a hint of blood in the sweat . . .''
Sebastian returned Michael's glare with a broad smile, ''Why, MICHAEL, 'hang me up to DRY?' Not to FRY? I believe you like me after all!'' He then grabbed Michael's hand and tried to kiss it, which Michael would have none of. Having struggled so, Sebastian then had Michael's thin wrist completely surrounded in the grip of his large hand.
Michael struggled against this, but Sebastian's hand only followed his movements. He hated being trapped. ''You don't like my strength, do you, Michael Henrath?'' How Michael hated the intimate mind probing Sebastian had done to grab even his surname. While trapped, Michael put out a psychic call to Lucius, the only elder vampire he knew.
He then observed the situation, and determined what he needed to do to force himself free. Sebastian had his left wrist grasped, so if Michael spun himself around hard counter clockwise, the centrifugal force should allow his hand to force itself outside the hand clamp. Meanwhile, he heard a distinct message from Lucius, ''I'm on my way!''
''One, two, three,'' Michael thought, then he spun around as rapidly as he could. It took inhuman speed, faster than a professional ice skater, but he was free. ''That one's a vampire, TOO!'' an observant woman in the crowd shouted. Now free, Michael faced Sebastian from a distance, and told him in a clear,loud voice, ''One of the Council of Elders is on his way here NOW!'' It was only fair to warn him. He didn't want Sebastian to take any fatal heat for his actions, but the crowds would need their memories of him erased, and only an elder would be strong enough to do that.
Just before the four of them began their exit, Michael affirmed to all in earshot, ''I do not know this man!'' The crowd was really quite amused by the whole spectacle, enjoying it thoroughly. ''Elders, smelders, THEM again! They're ALWAYS on my tail, spoiling my fun!'' Sebastian declared, while pouting. He then addressed Anne directly, smiling at her almost gently, even if a bit lasciviously, and took her hand. He settled in for a long, luxurious, sensuous kiss. That wasn't enough. He finished by allowing his rather long and thick tongue to protrude, whereby he licked her hand in a long, slow stroke, and ended again by gazing into her eyes, even wider than they were before. Her eyes had seen the curious opening at his tongue's tip. Did she have any idea this was his 'breeding tool'? Likely not, and Sebastian continued gazing in Anne's eyes. ''Oh, I really hate to run, things were just getting FUN! But those darned ELDERS are coming. I'll be back, Annie darling, though. I'll be back!'' He then skittered off, practically vanishing before the astonished crowd.
As Michael and clan moved towards the door, and began coverage preparations, they ran into a balding man on the older end of middle aged, who stared at them in disgusted disbelief. He'd only ventured into the bookstore to pick up the latest Harry Potter for his grandson. He uttered, as Michael placed the ski cape over his head, ''ARTISTS, HURUMPH! Crazy, every last one of 'em!'' All four of them smiled. His thoughts didn't bother them a bit.