Authors: Lynda Hilburn
Until Death Do Us Part
Kismet Knight, Vampire Psychologist
a humorous mini-story
Time: After the events of
The Vampire Shrink
he silence of the empty building hung rich and heavy, pressing against my ears like aural hands. I closed my eyes and breathed for a few seconds, savoring the stillness, allowing my body to relax. Despite the high stress level, I loved my job. I wouldn’t trade it. Being a psychologist was an ideal career for someone who liked to explore shadows and turn over rocks to see what was hidden underneath. Someone fascinated by the unusual, the abnormal. My clientele was unique, to say the least, and the stories I listened to on a daily basis were the stuff of nightmares. Mostly, I rocketed between astonishment and horror
But after a full week of back-to-back clients, I was ready to kick my shoes off and drink a glass – or maybe a bottle – of wine, hopefully, with a certain blond lust object. I smiled as a visual of the gorgeous male in question floated through my imagination.
Fridays were my long day – and night – and by the time I finished updating all my client case notes on my laptop, my brain usually felt like mush, and tonight was no exception. I reread the last entry, progress notes for one of my vampire clients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and shook my head.
Joseph had been afflicted with the mental health challenge long before his recent conversion to the undead. In fact, he’d been so fixated on the idea of having a disease that made him age quickly, that he’d answered an ad on Craigslist, seeking people who wanted to remain young forever. He got his wish, and then some. But he still stares into mirrors constantly, seeking invisible wrinkles and delusional signs of human aging. Nothing has worked yet to convince him he will remain a perfectly preserved twenty-one-year-old forever. Too bad he still faints at the sight of blood. The notion of a long-term client takes on new meaning when treating vampires.
Remind me why I thought adding these . . . individuals . . . to my private practice would be a good idea? Freud must be spinning in his grave. Sometimes I really wonder what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking at all!
Joseph’s case notes completed and saved, I pushed back the chair, and checked the time. Five minutes before Victoria – office manager, resident high priestess and witch – would call to notify me my last clients of the evening were on their way up. Just long enough to stretch and release the faint, underlying tension in my neck and shoulders – an occupational hazard of sitting in rapt hyper-awareness, listening to the weekly installments of personal dramas, traumas and idiosyncrasies.
The full moon shone like a beacon in the clear winter sky, beaming through the wall of windows into my office. Appreciating the light show, I ambled over to enjoy the panoramic view of Denver’s skyline, and beyond that, the majestic Rocky Mountains. Thanks to the celestial brilliance, the scene looked spectacular.
good had come from being invited to leave my previous professional address, although it had taken me a while to reach that lofty conclusion. What therapist in her right mind would relish being unceremoniously booted from her building for such a prejudicial reason? So the walls and carpet got a bit stained? Body fluids happen, right?
My current office was extraordinary; a perfect reflection of the artistic sensibilities of the building’s owner – Devereux, my undead significant other. He’d actually collaborated with a designer to align the colors, textures, and furniture styles for my space as part of his campaign to persuade me to move my private psychotherapy practice here. There was just no arguing with a gorgeous, wealthy, ancient bloodsucker.
Soft, inviting leather couches and chairs filled the large room, providing the perfect ambiance for transformation and the therapeutic spilling of guts. Subtle aromatherapy scents wafted from special canisters secreted in the heating-cooling vents, and soothing music floated through the air from a state-of-the-art sound system.
I definitely must have done something right in a past life.
A friendly voice erupted from my speaker phone. “Kismet? Yvonne, Falcon and their entourage just entered the elevator.”
“They’re your last clients of the night. Shall I stay? Or are you expecting the boss to drop by?”
I chuckled. Victoria, Devereux’s human right hand, was a warm-hearted mother hen. “I’m sure he’ll show up eventually, but it doesn’t really matter. You can go. I’m sure I can handle anything that arises.”
No pun intended.
“All right, then.” I could hear the smile permeating her words. “Have a good evening. Don’t forget the coven’s expecting you to visit tomorrow evening. We’ll be practicing spellcasting. You’ll love it.”
“Oh, goodie.” Another chance to expose my social anxiety in front of a group of women I didn’t know. I still didn’t see how learning to cast circles and do hocus-pocus was going to help fine-tune my own apparent psychic abilities, but Devereux said I should at least give it a shot. And I trusted Victoria. She said the group energy worked as a focus and I didn’t have cause to disbelieve her. She’d certainly been a wonderful friend since I moved into the office building.
“Remember what Nietzsche said, ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’.” She laughed and clicked off.
A high priestess with a twisted sense of humor. What more could an apprentice witch ask for?
I took a deep breath, cloaked myself in my professional aura, and opened the door leading to the waiting room. The ding of the elevator was followed by soft shuffling footsteps along the lushly carpeted hallway.
Walking single file, a woman entered first, followed by three large males. The woman was tall with very long red hair, parted down the middle, a throw-back to the once-popular hippie look of the late 1960s. But I knew her coiffure predated the Woodstock generation by centuries. Large lavender eyes, framed by thick, black lashes, smoldered in her pale face. She wore a purple, floor-length dress cut with a deep “V” neckline, which hugged her lean, well-toned curves, displaying ample cleavage – struggling to break free – and adorned with an antique amethyst necklace.
I sailed my hand through the air, smiling. “Welcome, Yvonne. I invite you to enter my office.” She gave a soft smile, nodded and swept, queen-like, into the room. We both knew the invitation wasn’t necessary, but she and her group adhered to a number of such rituals for their own amusement. I saw no reason to refuse to play along. It was likely she’d picked up the affectations from one movie or another.
She arranged herself in the center of the couch, spread the silky purple fabric out around her – perhaps to keep anyone from sitting close – and folded her white hands.
As if by invisible signal, the tallest male of the three bowed from the waist, flashed a brilliant smile, lifted my hand, and kissed it. Falcon was a natural-born actor, charismatic and physically appealing. He’d elevated flirting and seduction to an art form. His curly dark brown hair scraped the shoulders of his custom-tailored black silk suit, and his copper-colored eyes sparkled with good humor. He was a charming rogue.
A hint of fangs peeked through his spreading smile. “Dr. Knight. It is, as always, a pleasure.”
The two men standing on either side of Falcon assumed their familiar stance: legs just so many inches apart, hands grasped in front, eyes straight ahead. No matter which two of his apparently endless supply of bodyguards Falcon brought, their actions were always the same. They even dressed alike. I’d never asked, but there appeared to be a required uniform, with no individual personalization allowed. Sometimes I wondered if Falcon had a laboratory where he turned out bodyguard clones, but tonight’s versions, a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hugh Jackman, bucked the trend, looking more like he’d hired them from a celebrity look-alike agency. At a flick of Falcon’s fingers, the two pillars of muscle retreated into the waiting room and closed the adjoining door.
Falcon glided fluidly toward the nearest chair and sat.
I sucked in a deep breath to center myself. Intense eyes followed me as I claimed my own chair and collected my notebook and pen. Creating a comfort zone in the strange world I’d become involved with required a steep learning curve. I now knew what was on the other side of the Looking Glass and that knowledge required lots of antacids.
I gazed at each of them and smiled. “So, how has the week gone? Yvonne, why don’t you begin?”
She gave a slow smile, which never reached her eyes. “I practiced what we discussed, Doctor. I gave Falcon the benefit of the doubt about his ludicrous and fantastical explanations of his whereabouts. I know he’s being unfaithful. I don’t understand why you would ask me to disregard my own awareness.” She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “What good is being able to read minds if I don’t use what I discover?”
“Yes,” I said, “under most circumstances that would be true, but you’ve both mentioned previously that your ability to read each others’ minds is limited. Due to the strange side effects of your blood linking ceremony, you’re only able to retrieve partial information from one another. And, since that’s the case, you’re each likely to interpret what you receive according to your own expectations – not unlike the human tendency to project personal fears and patterns onto others.”
Yvonne’s chin jutted into the air and her eyes narrowed. “I see no reason to be insulting, Doctor.” She arched a perfect eyebrow.
“You can’t possibly compare my superior experience with anything about a – a food source. Their minds are less than a century old; they’re – barely formed. What could they possibly know about the art and craft of telepathy?” Her lavender eyes darkened. “How would
Feeling momentarily like an entrée, I shifted forward in my seat and raised a hand, palm out. “Yes, we’ve discussed this before and I understand your position. But my point is that you might be misunderstanding – mis
– whatever you’re picking up from Falcon’s mind. Perhaps you should ask him what you wish to know?”
Yvonne shrugged gracefully. “You expect a man who has spent centuries lying to tell me the truth about anything?”
I turned my attention to the man in question. “Falcon, would you like to respond to Yvonne’s comment?”
He crossed his legs and tapped a finger on the arm of the chair. The corners of his lips quirked up in a mischievous smile. “Doctor, I have explained to my lovely mate thousands of times that I have no need of anyone but her luscious self. I can’t be held responsible for other women throwing themselves at me. I always do my very best to extricate myself without bruising feelings or giving false hope. I am utterly faithful.” He said the last four words with academy-award-winning innocence, using his mesmerizing vampire voice to attempt to sway me to his cause. Luckily, I’d built up my defenses. Having my own psychic abilities had finally begun to pay off.
“Ha!” Yvonne exploded, twisting her body in his direction. Her canines descended slightly, causing certain words to be slurred. “You wouldn’t know faithful if you snagged a fang on it. And stop trying to entrance the therapist! I only agreed to come to therapy if you didn’t try any of your tricks.” She scowled, giving him a steely gaze. “Where were you all day? You weren’t in your coffin when I awoke.”
He uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, staring at Yvonne. “I told you. I had to work late. The production . . .” He turned to me, his voice oozing charm, “We’re doing
Phantom of the Opera
, and I am privileged to have the lead role.” He gave a quick bow of his head then shifted his gaze back to his angry mate. “We rehearsed until dawn, and I retired to one of the theater’s extra coffins. Surely, you’d prefer to have me safely tucked away, rather than melting in the rays of the sun?”
Yvonne suddenly stood and glared at him, fists balled at her sides. “You weren’t at the theater. I teleported there immediately upon awakening and Jacques – who, unlike someone I could mention, would do anything for me – said he’d seen you leave with that long-fanged hussy, Marie, after the rehearsal. Do you deny it?”
Uh oh. The gloves are off, and the blood’s about to hit the fan.
“Yvonne, please.” I moved in front of her, making a valiant attempt to regain control of the session. I almost touched her arm before remembering she’d perceive it as a threatening gesture, which would be very bad since she was already in a dangerous mood. “Please sit. I know talking can be frustrating, but creating good communication is worth whatever discomfort we have to endure. You said you wanted to save your relationship.”
She snarled at Falcon, who slid his gaze to me and winked. Turning her narrowed eyes in my direction, she paused a few heartbeats before reclaiming her seat.
Note to self: Vampires have mood swings. Are there undead hormones? Bloodsucking PMS?
I sank into my chair and released the breath I’d been holding. “Falcon, would you care to respond to Yvonne’s concerns?”
Annoyance and guilt fought for supremacy on his face. He gave me only a couple of seconds to wonder which role he would assume and I wasn’t surprised by his choice. His expression became a mask of wounded indignation. He placed his palm against his unbeating heart. “I am hurt and shocked that you would doubt my word. I did, indeed, spend the day at the theater. Your . . . friend . . . Jacques was either mistaken, or he misled you on purpose.” He pressed his lips tightly together, grasping the arms of the chair so fiercely that he left indentations in the wood. “I know he wants you for himself, the foul, snaggle-fanged troll!”