Maeve ambled downstairs and told her mum that she wanted to go for another walk. Mrs Petch had no objection: in fact, she strongly believed that you shouldn't be cooped up indoors when the weather was pleasant as it was now. Maeve assured her mother that she wouldn't be alone and that she'd be back for five o'clock.
Perry and she left the house and walked, on Perry's instructions, to the local train station. There they caught a train heading towards London, Perry being surprisingly generous by paying for Maeve's ticket as well as his. They alighted at the next stop and Perry led them across a large grassy field to a tall brick mansion with gorgeous green lawns and a river winding in front of it, that they traversed by means of a bridge made of wood and iron.
"Perry, you're having a laugh, right?" Maeve asked uncertainly as Perry calmly led her up to the front door. "You don't really live here."
He chuckled. "Well, I rarely stay here but it's been my home since I was a child."
"But... but that means you must be really rich."
"Oh no, Maeve. What will your friends think of you dating a rich guy?"
The question was asked teasingly but Maeve frowned and murmured "I don't know."
She was startled when Perry knocked on the door. Though she knew he had every right to, she couldn't help but feel this house was too grand a place for them to enter and she half expected to be shooed away by some condescending butler.
But no, the employee who opened the door - a young woman dressed in the clothes of a Victorian maid, white cap and all, with shy brown eyes and black hair tied neatly into a bun - did a curtsey at the sight of Perry, murmuring "Welcome home, Master Perry," in a soft Irish accent.
Perry broke out into a wide grin.
"Are you still here, Sabrina? The house must be in order if so."
Sabrina blushed. "Why, thank you, sir. I do try."
Perry stepped inside and looked around. Maeve entered behind him and Sabrina closed the door.
"It's not changed much," Perry said, Maeve thought, a little grimly.
They were in a hallway with a chessboard floor tile pattern and walls decorated by green wallpaper. Before them was a grand staircase, travelling to the right then disappearing behind a wall as it climbed upwards.
Directly opposite them was a large portrait of a grand-looking man dressed in a black suit, no tie, whose head and shoulders were outlined against a navy blue background. He had well-groomed hair the colour of Perry's and blue eyes that seemed disconcertingly to be watching you.
Sabrina was watching Maeve and Perry as well, taking a great interest in Maeve.
"Sabrina, could you fetch my brother for me?" Perry asked.
"Yes, sir." She curtseyed before hurrying upstairs.
"Was she staring at me?" Maeve asked quietly.
"Well," Perry replied, "humans are usually hypnotised before they enter a vampire's house."
Maeve surprised herself by considering this logical and remaining calm about it. Perhaps it was because she was actually in a vampire's house. She realised that generations of vampires must have resided here and in doing so she recognised their attitudes and possible reasons for their behaviour.
"I just thought..." Maeve began, but trailed off because she didn't want to offend Perry with an obscene suggestion.
Perry chuckled quietly. "You just thought that because she's pretty and because I recognise her, I've... treated her in the past."
Maeve flushed. "Yes."
"Well, you're right. She started working here when she was 16 and I was 17, and I have countless memories of secretly kissing her behind bushes, in secret passageways..."
"Secret passageways?" Maeve interrupted.
Perry grinned. "Yeah. Perhaps I'll show you some time. Though they're rather narrow and very dark."
"No thank you," Maeve said curtly.
"Well, anyway, I enjoyed her for about a year before I met a prettier Scottish girl on a holiday in Edinburgh."
"Oh, you sicken me," Maeve muttered. But then she paused. Had she really heard him say what she thought she'd heard him say? "Wait, did you just say your relationship lasted a year?"
"Oh yeah; we had to be really careful and it took a long time for kisses to turn into something more."
"Yuck - Perry, I don't want to know these things."
"You were hoping I could love you after all. You're the one who's disgusting. Anyway, our parents wanted my brother and me to keep a low profile until I was eighteen and Sabrina was both pretty and convenient."
"You're a monster, you know that?"
"I do. Ah look, here's my brother."
Indeed, descending the staircase, his footsteps muffled by a thick jade carpet, was a guy of about Maeve's age with tousled blond hair and blue-grey eyes. He wore a silk, navy-coloured dressing gown, implying that he had just been woken up.
"Ah, Perry!" he called jovially. "It's nice to see you!"
Having stepped off the last stair, he approached Maeve and Perry.
‘Be polite,' Perry whispered in Maeve's mind, almost causing her to jump. ‘Remember your place.'
"Afternoon, Leo," Perry replied, equally cheerful.
Maeve lowered her eyes as Leo turned to look at her.
"And who's this?" he murmured, looking at her admiringly.
"Her name's Maeve," Perry said.
"Hi there, Maeve," Leo said softly, making Maeve's spine tingle in a frightening way.
"Afternoon," she whispered.
"You can look at me, you know."
Slowly, Maeve's gaze rose to his. It was intent and disconcerting in its look of a feeling Maeve didn't care to name.
"May I drink from you, Maeve?" Leo asked.
Though his words were posed as a question, Maeve sensed she didn't really have a choice. Why wasn't Perry intervening? She glanced at him and saw that he was watching, on his face a look of amusement.
Oh. So that explained the mysterious smile before their departure.
Not wanting Perry to enjoy her discomfort, she smiled at Leo and said "Of course."
Leo's smile grew. "Excellent. Let's find somewhere more comfortable."
Perry laughed in Maeve's mind as Leo led them to a living room and gestured for her to sit upon a dark green velvet couch.
‘Ha, you think that's any less amusing? He won't even turn off your pain sensors.'
‘Well, can you?' Maeve asked with her thoughts, becoming worried.
‘If it gets too much,' Perry replied casually.
Maeve sat on the sofa and Leo sat beside her.
"Elle est tellement belle," he told Perry, which Maeve understood to mean ‘She is really beautiful' in French.
"Merci," Maeve mumbled.
Perry shot her a warning glance and shook his head.
‘Speak only when spoken to.'
Leo regarded her curiously.
"De ... rien," he said slowly.
Maeve looked away, terrified.
But next thing she knew, Leo had moved her face towards his and was kissing her passionately. She tried to resist, simultaneously wondering if she'd done the right thing but for the wrong effect, but Leo held the back of her head and pushed it towards him.
His tongue slipped into her mouth and it had the same effect as when Perry had bitten her neck. She stopped squirming and sat perfectly still as Leo leant back.
Perry's brother was frowning.
"Have you not enjoyed her fully?" he asked Perry.
Perry shook his head.
"So ... she's totally free of your power?"
Perry, looking tense, replied "I control her when necessary."
Leo barked a short laugh.
"You're going soft, mate."
Perry relaxed. "Maybe."
"Do you want to sit somewhere else while I feed?"
Perry scowled. "Do you want me to feed off you?"
Leo stiffened. "Fine, you're not soft. I just thought we shared the ‘If she's there, treat her' philosophy."
"We do. But I've set myself a challenge to change Maeve's character so she yields to me naturally."
And with that, Leo sank his fangs into Maeve's neck, causing her to gasp in pain.
And so it was for the next few minutes that Maeve found herself in discomfort that combined an ache in her neck with the unnaturalness of feeling a guy's mouth against her skin, moving in what couldn't be a kiss because he was lapping up her blood like a cat laps up water from a bowl. During it, the small part of Maeve's mind not under Leo's control was trying to ask Perry to make it stop.
But Perry was either not paying attention or ignoring her. He seemed to like seeing Maeve drunk from.
‘Why do you enjoy this?' she asked, and this time he answered.
‘It's funny,' he thought. ‘You try so hard to resist me that it's slightly satisfying to watch you have to suffer at someone else's hand. Also, you technically accepted this and my brother is thirsty so I've no reason to interfere. Perhaps this will give you incentive to be a better person for me.'
‘So you're trying to teach me a lesson?'
‘I'm always trying.'
‘Then why did you stop me being your slave?'
‘Slavery's too far. I just want to soften the stone your views are set into. Enjoy my cockiness, give me some of what I want, compliment me on my superiority...'
‘Never!' she thought viciously.
‘Then enjoy the pain.'
Thankfully, after this comment, the blood-drinking only lasted another minute.
Leo withdrew and Maeve was in control again.
She swallowed hard and tried not to cry.
Leo proceeded to pretend that Maeve wasn't in the room.
"So how's life, Perry?" he asked.
Perry shrugged. "Fairly good. I enjoyed Chloe this morning."
"Wow. You've been friends since she was my age. What made today so special?"
"I don't know, really. Her desire was just really tangible." Perry sounded careful and Maeve saw that he was hiding something in the sort of guarded expression in his eyes.
Leo grinned. "I know that look, Perry. It was you who was desirous, wasn't it?"
"Well, ... yeah."
Perry sat down upon an armchair. Leo casually pushed Maeve onto a pile of rugs in front of the sofa.
"Hey!" she said in indignation, sitting up.
Perry laughed. Leo smiled.
"Is she really angry at me?" the latter brother asked the former.
Perry glanced towards Maeve.
"Are you?" His smile told her there would be consequences - that he personally would find hilarious - if she was.
Maeve clenched her jaw.
"No," she said.
Perry's smile widened and he looked at Leo again.
"Of course she is."
Leo chuckled. "Oh really?"
Maeve didn't know how it happened but one second she was sitting cross-legged on the floor and the next she was lying flat on her stomach. Lee stroked her back with his foot.
"You're a human," he told her calmly. "I'm a vampire. You're inferior to me. Now you start working on that temper of yours or..." Leo paused to think. "Or you'll be staying the night."
"Oh, no, Leo," Perry said unexpectedly. "That's not quite possible. See, I'd really like to finish with her before anyone else has her."
"Oh, sure, bro," Leo replied. "I'll just tie her to a chair and make her want me. That's not so bad, is it?"
"Oh, no." Perry sounded cheerful as if he hadn't wanted to interfere with Maeve's punishment in the first place.
She desperately began playing classical music in her head.
"I'm calm," she said, panicked.
Leo resumed the conversation from before, though continued to massage Maeve's back with his toes.
"So, ... you were very desirous. Who did you want?"
"The girl under your feet," Perry answered casually.
Leo's feet stopped and moved off Maeve's back. She took this opportunity to put her arms under her chin for comfort.
"Sorry, mate," Leo said.
"Don't be. It's not like you captured her heart or anything."
"I know. But no one likes to see their girl being treated a certain way by another guy."
Perry shrugged. I guess.
Maeve was tempted to insult Perry but she kept her mouth shut, fearing what would happen to her if she didn't.
"Talking of girls, Sabrina still likes you. She can't stop thinking about you. And I tried to treat her one day but she's loyal to you, mate. I get the impression she'll never let another guy touch her again."
Perry was frowning as he said "Do you think she's in love with me?"
"Now how would a vampire like me know what love is?" Leo asked, grinning.
"That's true. Indeed I wouldn't know it if it stared me in the face."
Leo laughed. "I've missed you, Perry. Which is silly because I have six girls in the house, all under my power - this is excluding Sabrina, of course."
Perry sounded strongly amused. "Six?"
"Yeah. A tiger, a dragon, two witches and two humans. One of them even used to like girls."
Perry chuckled. "That's hilarious."
Maeve's fists clenched as she found herself wanting to punch the both of them.
"It is," Leo agreed. "It's also rather fun."
"I bet. Can I meet the tiger? I've always wanted to stroke one's fur."
So had Maeve. But this sounded terribly wrong.
"Sure," Leo said. "I'll call her down."
He stood and walked out into the hallway.
"Thalia," he shouted, before returning to the room.
Maeve waited with nervous apprehension, wondering if she was about to witness something similar to an event in her own future.
Ten minutes later, a girl with hair that had alternating stripes of black and pumpkin orange and eyes that were chestnut brown appeared. She wore a silk pink dressing gown and her expression, radiating servitude, was distinctly disquieting.
"Yes, master?" she asked.