My body obeys without question and I am sitting next to Seo on the couch in Ms Pink’s office. I wonder what she has to say to me. Maybe she’ll explain what just happened. But instead, she reaches to her side and fiddles with something I can’t see. A wince. A grunt. And she’s holding a strange little contraption I’ve never seen before.
“It’s a vanguard bullet.”
I stare at it. Flat. Slim. Tiny. It looks as cool as a Lamborghini on the road with its matt-silver exterior and about as harmless as one of those thumb drives so little that you’d lose without realizing. That’s a bullet?
“It has little teeth around its head that will sink into your flesh if it enters your body. This bullet is deadly. The metal alloy it is made of is lethal to a lesser vampire. And will wound more powerful vampires, greatly reducing their abilities.”
“But you’re…you’re totally fine.”
“Ms Pink’s clothes provide extra protection against these bullets. We’d known the vanguards to get to you but this is sooner than expected.”
I shudder at the memory of the black furry thing on the floor. “What’s a vanguard?”
“You saw what it is.”
“Yes, but what exactly is it?”
“It’s a ferocious monster. A monster hound. It’s a bad sign, seeing one.”
“Why is it a bad sign?”
“Vanguards are trackers. They hunt the target down. If you see a vanguard coming for you, it means its owner is coming next. And very soon.”
“Enough chat. Let’s go.”
I turn away from Seo. In front of us stands Ms Pink, free of blood and fur. She looks as good as before the appearance of the vanguard and I come to realize that the lifting sensation in my chest is the feeling of relief. Immense relief. Weird as it may sound, I’m more than happy to see Ms Pink in the pink of health. The last thing I want is to see Ms Pink bleeding or hurt.
“Move it, stupid human. Slow even in emergencies.”
Seo pulls me up to my feet and pushes me to Ms Pink. “She may be in shock,” she says.
Am I? Is this what shock feels like? But Seo’s explanation seems to appease Ms Pink a little and she strides to the shutter of the car lift. It opens as Ms Pink draws near to it and she steps in.
Turning to look at me, she says, “Get in the car, now.”
Once we’re in, the shutter closes and I ready myself for a quick trip down but it goes up instead. Where are we going? Up to…the sky? Can Ms Pink fly or something?
My questions are answered when we reach the top. It’s not a long ride up the lift either. Turns out, there’s a helipad at the top of the stiletto heel tower and Ms Pink has a helicopter. It shouldn’t be a surprise, considering how much money the company makes even as we stand here in the gusty wind.
“You can fly a helicopter?” I ask Ms Pink as she near-tosses me up onto the seat.
I’m not really expecting a reply so I’m pleasantly surprised when Ms Pink says, “I bought my first helicopter back in 1942 and learnt how to fly it.”
1942…she’s definitely a vampire. But is she really 270 years old? It’s so confusing when she looks like she’s in her twenties.
Ms Pink gets on the helicopter and looks over at me. “Strap on the safety belt.”
I fumble with the straps and buckle as I try to do so. And that’s the limit of Ms Pink’s patience, evident in the way she makes an impatient noise and leans over to take over the job for me. Credit to her, I’m strapped in safe within a second and Ms Pink switches her attention over to the countless dials and switches on the panels of her helicopter. Soon, we are lifting into the sky above and the view is fantastic.
“It’s a great view, isn’t it.”
I nod absently, too taken with the vantage view over the skyscrapers of the city of Shaw to look away. “It’s amazing.” Another question pops into my head. “Why isn’t Seo coming with us?”
“Someone has to clear the mess. We’re not living in a movie world where things magically get cleaned up.”
“Wouldn’t it be dangerous for her to stay there by herself?”
“She can take care of herself.”
Our conversation ends there and I look out the window the rest of the way. Minutes later, we’re out of the city and the landscape of skyscrapers is replaced with a spectacularly dense cluster of trees. A thicket. With a clearing. And…a roof? I can make out a gabled roof as we approach the clearing. As we descend, I get a better view of the building. It’s three storeys high, with surprisingly dull, boring walls and windows.
“Is this your house?”
Ms Pink’s tone is uncourteous when she answers, “It’s my castle.”
Castle? This…it doesn’t look like a castle at all? And there isn’t a trace of pink on the outside?
“Stupid human. Not all castles are like the ones in Disney movies.”
“I didn’t…” Thinking the better of it, I don’t complete my sentence. Ms Pink is way ahead of me; she’s not going to appreciate an explanation for my reaction. “Why didn’t you blindfold me this time?”
Ms Pink smirks and I know I’ve made a mistake in asking that question. “You enjoy being blindfolded, don’t you.”
“No, no, no. I just—no, I don’t. Please don’t blindfold me again.”
What else can I do besides obey.
The interior of the castle that looks exactly like a depressed house on the outside is a whole new world. Just beyond the front door is a universe of pink, pink and more pink. Oh God. My headache is returning already. Deep, dark pink and black floral prints line the walls and a great, big chandelier hangs down from the ceiling in the middle of the hall. It looks more like a castle on the inside and I am reminded of High Society’s interior. Maybe Ms Pink has something to do with it. She does own the room in that place, doesn’t she.
Ms Pink leads me down the hallway to a room. Now this room, I remember. It’s the first room she brought me to, not the one she tickled me to death in. Safe to say, I much prefer this room to the other.
“Take a shower and wait in here. You stink.”
“I don’t—” A glare of her pink eyes shuts me up and I scurry to obey her orders.
A warm bath in a very pink bathtub later, I’m comfortably cocooned in a fluffy, pink bathrobe. I really wish she had given me some time to pick up my own clothes from my apartment but I know it’s too much to ask after what happened at the office. The bed invites me to lie on it. It’s an invitation I’m happy to accept. Ah, this is good. The bath smells of vanilla and the bathrobe smells of home. This is the life…only…I am in danger of being killed by a vanguard…or its owner…
My thoughts drift far and wide and I’m not sure when I fall asleep but I am beyond sure about the presence hovering over me as consciousness returns. I open my eyes. Pink eyes are staring back at me. Oh my God.
“Ms Pink,” I gasp.
“Are you ready to be claimed?”
My throat develops a lump. “Uh…is this the only option I have?”
“The other option is to die.”
“Well,” I bark a short, awkward laugh, “I guess I’m ready to be claimed then.”
“Once I claim you, you will belong to me. No one can kill you or even hurt you or they’ll have to answer to the federation. Once I claim you, they’ll have to deal with me first.”
“Why?” I whisper. “Why do you want to bring trouble to yourself? I’m just a stupid human.”
“You don’t need to know why. You just have to be willing.”
The pink in her eyes is mesmerizing. “I’m willing.”
“Open your mouth.”
“Just open it.”
I’m attacked by a sudden rush of indecision as I open my mouth but the unexpected warmth of her mouth enveloping mine blows all second thoughts out the window. Oh my freaking God. Ms Pink’s lips. Oh my God. Is this a kiss? Am I to be claimed by a kiss? If this is how it’s done, I wouldn’t mind being claimed every night. Oh God. Her lips are really sucking the life out of—OWW! Sharp! Very sharp! Oww! It hurts and my instincts have me pushing her away with all my might. But she doesn’t budge. Not even an inch. She releases my upper lip and takes my lower lip into her mouth, sucking on it as I struggle. What is she—oh. Oooh…I get it now. She’s taking my blood. But isn’t my blood poison to her? Is she going to die?
My bottom lip is released as my thoughts fly wild and I cover my lips with my hands as the awkward feeling of shyness overcomes me. I lie still and blink as she closes her eyes and licks her lips. She trembles, winces, groans and collapses on me. Her hair lands all over my face and I have to sweep them out of my eyes. What just happened?
“Ms Pink? Are you alright?”
Another groan answers me.
Her arms creep around my body and I freeze. What’s happening now? “It hurts…” she breathes, her lips barely moving by my ear.
“What hurts? Is it my blood?”
Her head moves slightly. I take it as a yes. And a heap of anxiety surges from the well of my heart. “You won’t die, will you? Please don’t die.”
“Stupid human.” Her chest heaves. “I won’t die.” Another heave. “I’m the Princess of the Pink.”