This short story is about Sarah, housekeeper to Dawn, and she appears in Dawn’s Keeper, the third Enforcers and Coterie novel.
Sarah’s heart pounded, a frightened rabbit determined to escape its prison, and she swallowed the mounting panic. Why had she agreed to this?
Okay, it wasn’t too bad. She hadn’t accepted any job offer just yet. This was the preliminary interview, one to decide if they were a good fit as employee and employer. No need to hyperventilate. She could walk right out if she felt uncomfortable, right? What if she couldn’t? Vampires could control humans, take over their minds and do whatever they wanted.
Breathe, Sarah, just breathe. Turn around, walk away, and forget the advert.
Except she couldn’t.
She needed this job or she’d be on the street. That asshole had taken everything from her. He’d black-balled her from working in Toronto – an impressive feat considering the sheer amount of businesses in the massive city. Turned their friends against her and made her into a social pariah. No family alive to turn to. She either got this job as a housekeeper to a vampire or accepted the fact that she’d live on the streets.
Calming her wild nerves, she marched to the front door and knocked, proud of her steady hand. No one glancing at her would know how much this frightened her.
“One moment please.” A woman’s voice sounded from inside, pleasant with a hint of devilishness. Locks clicked, more than this side held. Another door opened and closed, one she couldn’t see. “Come in.”
Sarah glanced around, wondering again if she could go through with this when a cold wind ripped through her light jacket. The asshole had even taken her clothes, donated everything. She had what she wore and nothing else. Accepting her lack of choices, Sarah turned the knob.
The door swung shut behind her, cutting off her safety net of sunlight. Out there, the vampire couldn’t get to her. In here, she was a morsel to snack on.
“Make up your mind, dear girl. Either enter or leave, but please put me out of my misery and make a decision.” Faint laughter underscored the words, as if the vampire viewed life and others as a cosmic joke.
Sarah stepped through the second doorway and closed it behind her. A smart security setup – two doors with only one open at any given time. A brilliant way of keeping sunlight away from the vulnerable creature inside.
In the hallway, she stepped forward then paused. Where was her potential employer?
Light rustling to her left had Sarah whirling at the noise and her heart picked up speed again.
A tiny woman, under five feet tall, smiled at her. With fangs. The vampire turned on her heel, long black hair settling around her like an elegant cloak and she glided to a room on the left. Sarah followed, cursing her ex with every step.
They entered the living room and her breath caught in her throat, although for once not from fear. Awe rolled through her at the impressive display of artefacts; wall hangings, weapons, ancient pieces of everyday life, and so much more.
“Sit, please. Can I get you something to drink? Water, coffee, tea? I’m assuming blood is off the menu for you.” Again with the faint laughter. Did she take anything seriously?
“No thanks, I’m good.” Sarah shook her head and cleared her throat. “I’m here about the housekeeping position you put in the newspaper.”
“Ah yes, I thought so. You seem too skittish for a donor. They usually fawn over me and bare their necks as soon as we make eye contact.” The vampire chuckled and sank into one of the chairs, legs dangling from the edge. She gestured towards the couch opposite. “Sit. We’ll get to know each other. I’m Dawn Bahur and you are?”
“Sarah.” She looped a strand of hair behind her ear, cringing inwardly at giving her full name. “Sarah Valencia.”
Dawn smiled, her pointed canines hidden. “Nice to meet you, Sarah. So why do you want to be my housekeeper? Is it because I’m gorgeous?”
She blinked at her for a moment, confused at the odd turn to the conversation. “Well, um, I need a job and you’re hiring.”
A delighted laugh tinkled in the air and Dawn clapped her hands together. “You are simply adorable when you blush like that. But you seem like an intelligent woman, so why housekeeping? Don’t tell me you believe the stuffy nonsense that a woman is only good as a homemaker.”
A fierce light entered Dawn’s golden eyes, and Sarah shrank back from her. Was she at the mercy of a madwoman? So far the vampire’s emotions seemed mercurial at best.
“No, of course not. I was a financial advisor until recently. I was let go for embezzlement, except I’ve never stolen a cent in my life,” she said, bitterness seeping through her words.
Dawn dropped her feet to the floor and rested her elbows on her knees, her features expressionless. “I can’t employ an honest person. It would ruin my reputation. Are you sure you’ve never stolen anything? Not even a pen from a bank? Maybe you have a potty mouth or like being spanked?”
Sarah’s mouth dropped open and her back straightened as if she’d been goosed. “I beg your pardon!”
“Oh dear, you are a bit stuffy, aren’t you?” Dawn sighed, leaning back in her chair. “I’ve lived a long damn life, and one thing I can tell you is that you can’t take it seriously. Who cares what others think? Have fun, do what you want, and screw everyone else, especially if he’s hot or good with his tongue.”
A devilish twinkle shone in Dawn’s eyes.
“You’re testing me,” Sarah said. “You enjoy shocking people, don’t you?”
Her experience had been with staid academics who hid their true desires behind a self-righteous mask, like her ex. He pretended to want a normal life and when the truth came out, he punished her for his shortcomings.
“Who hurt you, pet? Why do you have so much pain in your eyes?” The tiny vampire glided over and sat next to her on the couch. Dawn patted her hand. “Tell me so I can hurt them back.”
“What? Why would you do that? You don’t know me. My pain means nothing to you.”
“Au contraire, my little pet. I’ve decided to keep you, which means I don’t want you sad. Sadness bothers me. So tell me, what happened?”
Sarah chewed on the corner of her lip, debating the wisdom of spilling her sordid tale. One glance at Dawn’s calm features clinched it.
“My ex is Amado Valencia. Have you heard of him?”
A disbelieving laugh answered her question. “Of course I’ve heard of him. He’s a multi-millionaire, one of the richest men in Canada. Ooh, you said ex? Ex what, boyfriend or husband?”
“Husband. We signed a pre-nup, so I get nothing, but…” Sarah shook her head, still in shock over his behaviour. How had she lived with him for five years and missed his near-obsessive need for perfection in the eyes of others?
“But what? Did he have something to do with your embezzlement charges?”
Sarah blinked at the astute vampire. “Yes, he did. He set me up. Amado bribed several people in my office to swear I’d stolen money. And then, in a gesture of kindness, he stepped in so they wouldn’t press charges. No other company will hire me because they don’t want to anger him.”
“Why? This seems like a huge undertaking to discredit you. Why go through all this?”
“He was being blackmailed because of his activities.”
“Oh come on, don’t keep me in suspense. Tell me! What nefarious deeds did Amado commit?” Dawn rested her elbows on her knees, eyes wide.
“He liked to indulge in…orgies. With both women and men,” she whispered, positive her words would shock the vampire.
Instead Dawn giggled and tapped a hand on Sarah’s knee.
“There’s nothing wrong with a good orgy. I’ve indulged in one or two over the centuries.” Another giggle slipped out. “Well, maybe more than two, but no more than five, I think.”
Sarah gaped at her for a moment. Everyone had muttered in disgust behind Sarah’s back, pointing fingers at her like she’d dabbled with a demon. Amado had told everyone she’d been the one at the orgies, not him. That she’d broken their wedding vows. When in truth, she’d gone because he’d asked her to.
He’d claimed to all their friends and anyone else who’d listen that his picture had been taken leaving there because he was bringing home his wayward wife. He himself would never stoop to such debase behaviour. Amado had stomped on their marriage to save his own pride, and wrecked her name in the process.
“No one will talk to me now. They think I’m a harlot and a gold-digger.” Sarah blew out a disgusted breath. “Except I don’t even have a cent to my name. He took it all and tossed me on the street.”
“Well, pet, now you have a job and a place to stay. I like having my housekeeper at my beck and call, so you need to live in-house.” Dawn’s cheeky grin took the sting out of her words, although she had a feeling they weren’t far from the truth.
Sarah settled into her new role without a hitch. She enjoyed her new employer’s twisted and sometimes perverted sense of humour, even when her cheeks burned bright red from the outrageous comments.
Dawn’s amused voice drifted from the open door leading to the basement. “Pet, come down here. I have a surprise for you.”
With a rueful chuckle, Sarah headed down the stairs. Dawn’s ‘surprise’ could be anything from removing a dead mouse from a trap to exotic dancing lessons. Her eyebrows scrunched together. Did Dawn have a stripper pole in the basement?
“Where are you?” she said, not bothering to raise her voice. Vampire hearing sometimes made things awkward – a radio had become part of her nightly routine – but at least she didn’t need to yell.
“First door on the right.” A muffled sound accompanied Dawn’s words and apprehension tightened her stomach. That noise contained furiousness and a hint of familiarity. Why did she recognize it?
Pace quickening, she rounded the corner, entered the room, and stopped dead. Her hand flew to her mouth and she squeaked out, “What have you done?”
Tied to a chair with a gag stuffed into his mouth sat her sleazebag ex-husband. His emerald green eyes bulged out of his head and his jaw grinded against the cloth as he vainly tried to dislodge it. Once, in another life, she’d loved the colour of his eyes. Now all she saw in them was his hypocrisy and self-importance.
“I’d forgotten how handsome your ex is. I haven’t spent much time around him.” Dawn circled Amado, trailing her fingers along shoulders. “Perhaps I should keep him for a snack.”
He jerked away from Dawn, although he couldn’t move far. The zip ties on his wrists and ankles made sure of that. Fear tinged his hateful glare and his stifled ranting turned insistent.
“You can’t keep him down here. Someone will miss him,” Sarah chided her employer, like she would a child who’d grabbed another’s toy.
“No one saw me take him.” Dawn stopped behind Amado, an unholy glee lighting up her golden eyes. “But you’re right. No sense in taking chances. I’ll drain him dry and drop him in the middle of the lake. It’s several hundred meters deep. No one would find him.”
Sarah pursed her lips, tapping her finger against her mouth, appearing to mull it over. While she’d love to pay the slimy bastard back, her conscience wouldn’t allow it.
“But he’d still be missing. And I’d be their first suspect.”
Dawn placed her lips next to Amado’s ear, her canine scrapping against the lobe. “Fine, how about I take control of his mind and have him jump from his condo balcony? He has the penthouse, right? He’ll make a wonderful splatter on the sidewalk.”
Amado, sweat dripping along his temples, whipped his head back and forth, loud gibberish spewing from behind the gag. Sarah covered her mouth, trying desperately to contain her giggles. For so long she’d placed Amado on a pedestal, believed him larger than life, and had given him far too much control over her thoughts and actions.
Her eyes widened at this realization. Amado was part of her past now. His actions, no matter how much they had hurt, wouldn’t shape her future. She was free of him. Her heart, while bruised, wasn’t broken.
“Dawn, thank you,” she said with a grateful smile. “You can let him go. He means nothing to me.”
Her employer nodded, understanding softening her features. “I’ll wipe his memories. He won’t bother you again. You’re my pet and I look after my own.”
If you enjoyed reading about Sarah and Dawn, then check out Dawn’s Keeper. Sarah doesn’t have a big part in the book, but Dawn does.