“And you are?” I added, not liking the way her eyes looked me up and down with contempt.
“I,” she whispered, through her smile, “am Miss Stake.”
I stared stupidly. “Miss Stake? Are you kidding me?”
She scowled now. “No. Stake is a common link to vampires, one of which you can clearly see that I am, and a mistake is what many humans have thought it to be when they are unfortunate enough to make my acquaintance. Therefore, I rather cleverly, if I do not say so myself, created my new Immortal name from that.”
“So, is it Jessica Stake? Or, I don‘t know, Rare Stake?”
She waved a hand airily, not even smirking at my obvious joke. “First names are always overrated.”
“Okay. So, why are you here?” I thought it best to ask like that than say, ‘Why were you curled up in the corner like a depressed homeless person?’
“Waiting for you.”
Her paper-white lips curled in a scary-looking smile. She waved one of her small pale hands and the silvery doorway back into the shop turned opaque. I suddenly realised that if the Eternals had wanted me to die of my own accord, then coming here was maybe not the best thing to have done, even if I wanted to find Meena and Willow.
“Ah,” I said delicately, taking a step back which the girl didn’t miss. She seemed to be enjoying herself hugely. I looked down and saw that under her long Victorian black lace dress she was wearing a pair of very high polished black shoes. I couldn’t help myself from snorting.
“Oh, please. How old are you?”
This seemed to offend her, as her nostrils flared.
“I’m older than you, mortal wretch. I have lived as one of the Damned for over a century.”
“One of the Damned? Does that ever actually work for you? And here’s a newsflash, you may have been a vampire for a hundred years, but you still look about eight."
She snarled, and I took another hasty step of retreat. I had been using Phoenix’s tactics of bluff and aggravation to distract her from her purpose, which was obviously to detain me. The sharp movement made me jerk my neck, tugging at the newly created wound, and I winced. She saw it, and her eyes fixed on the bloodstained gauze.
"So. One of us got to you. I am sure they will want to hear about this. And for your information, human girl, I was Changed when I was a maiden of twelve years under her Majesty Victoria’s rule.”
“Doesn’t change anything. It’s you, a twelve-year-old girl, against me, and I hate to say this, but I’m bigger than you.”
“You’re forgetting that I am a vampire,” she hissed, to show her fangs, which were now indeed fangs, sliding from her gums and over her lips. “You, my dear, are nothing near. I have strength and speed and power on my side. You, meanwhile, have height. Let’s see how much that works to your advantage.”
The last word was a snarl, and then she had launched herself on me and we were grappling. I was trying to keep her face away, shoving roughly with one of my hands fisted in her black mane of hair, whilst also trying to shield myself from her hands, the fingernails of which had elongated into curled claws that looked deadly. I did not want to test how effective they would be against my skin.
She slashed, laughing manically, while I dodged and tried to run. Panic was flaring inside my chest. She was right - what weapon did I have, an infected fledgling, against a fully transformed vampire, no matter the difference in heights or ages?