“You bought another one?”
A shameless smile pulled at the Vampire King’s lips, and he made a sweeping gesture to the shiny black automobile parked in front of the Seahaven Opera House. Under the August sun, the sheen to Erik’s new toy gleamed. “‘Another one,’ Katherine? You’re making it sound like an old nag!”
Katherine cast a long-suffering look at Bridget, assuming that her ward would be as tired of Erik’s antics as she was. But the young seer grinned back at her. Apparently not. She smiled fondly at the girl—really a woman full-grown and at the height of her power. When had that happened? Katherine turned her attention back to the Erik’s latest frippery. “You already own the Model A, Erik. Your horseless carriage is frightening all of the real horses whenever you use it.”
Erik held up a hand, stilling her objections. “But that is the point. It’s the Model A—the prototype.”
“To be fair, Katherine, this one is a bit more pleasing to the eye than his last automobile,” Bridget put in, her words wry as she ran a gloved hand over the geometrically defined steel hood. “Perhaps it’ll be a touch less obnoxious.”
Given an inch of support, Erik took a mile. “Precisely! That was 1903—it’s been six years. Consider for a moment how much innovation we’ve had in just two years. Color photographs, the helicopter. That’s something I should invest in, by and by. We’ve traveled by foot, cart, beast, ship, train, now automobile. Why not by air?”
“Oh, lovely.” Jason, the Vampire King’s secretary and ofttimes keeper, leaned against one of the gilded double doors of the Opera House, taking in their conversation and the subject of it. “Bridget, did you get him started again?”
The young woman snorted. “He doesn’t need our help for that.”
“No, I suppose not. He gets carried away with all these newfangled contraptions. I’m still of the opinion that Katherine should take away his camera,” Jason said, and gave his king a bland stare.
The grin he got in return was entirely unfazed. “But Katherine loved our photograph.”
The queen in question arched her brow at him. “As much as you detest having to face the music of your rude creation, Erik…”
“I would take that as a warning. You do get your fair share of exercise in pushing your luck, Erik,” Jason nodded, woefully contrite, to the vampire queen. Erik’s off-the-wall sense of humor more often than not found Jason doing things the king’s secretary knew were beyond the pale.
“That he does.” Bridget mirrored her mentor’s posture and folded her arms but couldn’t keep the smile from tugging at her lips. “That aside, I can think of much better uses of your pricey innovations than antagonizing your queen. Do you intend to drive your Model T, or simply admire it?”
“If you’re going to be sassy—”
“It’s not as if you don’t deserve it, now is it?” Katherine’s own lips were beginning to curve into a smile.
The Viking waved away his queen’s teasing and tapped the hood. “Why don’t you give it a spin, Bridget? Tell me if my investment is worthwhile, hmm?”
She laughed, doubtful. “I am to believe that you intend to share?”
If Erik had ever mastered a mischievous grin, it was at that moment. “No time like the present to ruffle some feathers. Remember the rise you got from the humans with your bicycle?”
The sound that escaped her was far from ladylike. “I stand by the same statement I made two decades ago. Bloomers are an offense to the fabric they are made from.” The redhead pinned her large hat more securely and gathered up the short train of her long, iris-shaped skirts in one hand as she spoke, all while Katherine pinched the bridge of her nose at the prospect of their afternoon.
After a moment Katherine finally just sighed and gave Bridget’s hand a single pat while Erik set about starting his vehicle. “Do be careful with it, Bridget, and don’t let him talk you into a helicopter. He has enough paraphernalia to last him at least another decade,” the vampire queen said, and gave Erik a dry glance.
Bridget’s lips quirked into a smile to rival that of the vampire king’s, and the dread beast came to life with a roar—much to the chagrin of a handful of bays tied to the hitching post across the street. “That would be a pity, wouldn’t it? I will try to keep him reined in, but his hobby seems to be … what was it, ‘getting our goat?’”
“The goat has already been gotten, ladies.” Erik said, grinning wildly. “But seeing as we’re burning daylight, let’s get a move on, shall we? How many humans can we knot the knickers of in one afternoon?”
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