The Grandmaster's Mansion, Forgotten Hollow, 2028
Paris awoke in the middle of the night from a frightful nightmare.
“That felt too real,” she muttered.
She called Lilith, Hector and Caleb to a meeting in her lounge.
"Uhm, why were you sleeping, Paris?" Lilith asked. "Vampires don't sleep!"
"I felt like it," said Paris. "It makes me feel human."
The vampires took a moment to reminisce about their human lives.
"Besides," said Paris, "why are you all in your pyjamas if you don't sleep?"
"It's movie night," said Lilith.
Paris frowned in confusion, but decided to park the subject.
“I need you to check this location for me, I think it’s where Lauren is,” said Paris.
Hector, Caleb, and Lilith nodded and Paris closed her eyes. The mental images of her dreadful dream about Lauren alone in the Granite Falls forest transferred to the three vampires’ memories.
Caleb and his boyfriend, Hector, bowed their heads in pity.
"We'll find her," Caleb promised, which caused his sister Lilith to internally sigh. Don't make promises you can't guarantee, Caleb! Lauren could be anywhere and all we have to track her with is Paris's nightmare. What a reliable source!
Paris nodded, solemnly. “You may go,” she said. “Let me know if you find her.”
The vampires left the room to find someone they had hoped they would never have to find again. The last time they searched for Lauren was when she was kidnapped by their former boss, Vladislaus Straud. Please be fine Lauren, all three of them pleaded, even though they weren't fooled by Lauren's murderous tendencies. Why do you put Paris through so much misery? was a question Lilith found herself asking often.
Granite Falls, 2028
“Will you hurry up, Henry, it’s time to go home!” cried Victor.
“I’m coming,” grumbled Henry. I don’t want to go home.
The two headed out of the Hellewell cabin and towards one of the Evil Genius cabins.
Everyone was eager to go home, except for Henry and Alex.
“So, let’s be off then,” said Adrian. "Prisoners! It was wise of you to accept Alex's terms. You may 'mingle' with us on the way to the cab... but any 'funny' business...." her eyes lingered on Madelyn and Kristen's frightened faces, "just don't be funny."
She led the group down the lane to where the cab would be waiting for them at the end. Henry and Alex slumped along at the back.
“Uhm, Alex,” said Henry. He paused, suddenly aware he wasn't supposed to talk to Alex while his cousins were present.
“Oh come on, Henry, humour me."
"Shh Alex," said Henry, as his eyes scanned his cousins ahead. They appeared too distracted by their own misery to notice Henry and Alex's conversation. Phew! he thought.
"Oh please let me speak Henry," said Alex. "I'll keep my voice down hmm? It's just, I’m so… bored right now. More over, I’m reluctant to return to my daily duties at home… oh and there’s mama’s ghost, threatening me with discussions about future 'marriage arrangements.’ She only wants to ensure the Evil Geniuses have a royal line. It’s competition obviously, because my cousin is half Renegade and you know how the Evil Geniuses hate the Renegades - particularly after that incident in 1977, when they planted a 'mole' in our... family organisation who murdered the man who headed the family with great-grandmother, Talula."
"Thanks for the history lesson, Alex," chuckled Henry, before becoming serious. "I'm... sorry we couldn't find Lauren..."
Alex laughed. "You're sorry, Henry? She's your aunt. Not mine. I should be sorry for causing her to run off like that, not you. Besides, she probably scurried off home to Paris! They're likely to be planning payback for their dead cousins as we speak."
Henry shuddered. “Why do the Evil Geniuses have so many enemies?”
“Because we’ve made a great many people miserable, Henry,” said Alex.
“I don’t think you’re that bad,” said Henry. The Evil Geniuses in front hunched their shoulders in resentment. Henry winced. I spoke too loudly, didn't I? he thought, glancing at his cousins, who still appeared to be lost in their own worlds of gloom.
Alex flashed Henry a frolicsome smile. "Really Henry?"
"Am I really not that bad?" Alex's voice was low and quiet. Henry's cheeks flushed.
"Er, second thoughts," said Henry, his voice equally low, but soft and enticing, "I'm just remembering that pathetic first kiss back in grade nine, when we first started high school, where you missed my lips."
"Oh come on Henry," Alex murmered, "you have a massive bottom lip, I was only anticipating where I thought it ended."
"You hit my chin - no one has a lower lip that big."
"So? Your point, Henry?"
"Oh, just that you're a pretty bad kisser!"
"I was fourteen! As you are well aware, my kissing abilities have improved!"
"... A little!"
Alex humphed loudly.
The Hellewells glanced behind them.
"You alright Henry?" said Victor, glaring at Alex.
"Yeah," said Henry, feebly. He bowed his head and snatched nervous glances at Alex.
"Minding other people's businesses, Victor?" said Alex with a dark smile.
Victor ignored him."Henry, come and join us," he said.
Henry's face fell.
"Oh no, you can't take my amusement away," said Alex.
Victor glared so hard at Alex, thunder could have struck the king at any moment. "I swear, if you lay a finger on Henry..."
"Oh stop it Victor," said Alex, "Henry and I are just chatting."
"You disgust me!" said Victor and he gave Henry a reassuring nod before turning his attention to the front. He would have liked to have joined Henry at the back, but Anita and Luka had his arms.
"Now where were we?" said Alex, with a smug smile. Henry rolled his eyes.
"Victor always perks you up, doesn't he?" he said.
"Oh yes, Henry, very much. You and Vic are my favourite Sweglords."
"But... I'm your first favourite, right?"
Alex remained playfully silent.
"Okay... if you tell me I'm your favourite Sweglord, you can prove to me you're not a bad kisser tomorrow night... outside your castle walls. Sound good?"
Alex smiled. "Okay, Henry. You're my favouritist person in the whole wide world and my love for you runs as far as the Granite Falls River and is as deep as the Windenburg Sea."
"... Not bad," said Henry. "I'll think about it."
Alex frowned. “You can’t take back what you’ve promised!"
“Yes I can. There’s no rule to say I can’t.”
“I’m king. I make up the rules.”
“Not eighteen yet, though.”
“The power’s not all yours yet.”
Alex pondered over Henry's retort.
“Very true, Henry,” he said. “Very true.”
"Alex!" cried Victor, "I hope you're not intimidating Henry!"
The rest of the Evil Geniuses sniggered.
"It's okay," said Henry, putting on his weak voice. "I won't let him. I don't care what he does to me, I will not betray my family."
Alex waited until Victor focused his gaze on the path ahead. He then leaned into Henry's ear and whispered, "I... meant every word, earlier. My love is as steady as... oh goodness, Henry, I really want to say something about rivers and oceans... and maybe the rocks beneath..."
Henry snorted. "Alex, what's made you so soppy recently?"
"War," said Alex. "You are aware we've started one."
Henry was silent.
The Grandmaster's Mansion, Forgotten Hollow, 2028
Paris jumped at the return of Lilith, Hector and Caleb.
A limp Lauren lay in Caleb’s arms.
“Bring her to my room - quick!”
“Paris,” said Caleb, gravely.
“I said QUICK!” cried Paris.
Lilith nodded to Caleb, who carried Lauren upstairs.
“Paris,” said Lilith “… Laur…”
“I don’t want to hear it, Lilith. If it’s bad, I don’t want to hear it.”
“Okay,” said Lilith.
Paris looked aimlessly around the place, then placed her head in her hand.
“What’s wrong with her?”
Lilith and Caleb were reluctant to speak.
“WHAT’S WRONG WITH HER?”
“She’s dead,” Lilith blurted out.
"I don't know, we just found her... lying... among some shrubs... about twelve miles from the Hellewell's camping grounds..."
"Lilith!" scolded Caleb, before addressing Paris. "We're very sorry for your loss."
"O...." was the only sound Paris was capable of making.