Kota and Miles stepped back at the same time and the vampire shook his hand while Kota fumbled with the doorknob. He opened the door only for Miles to shut it before he could escape.
“Stick around, won’t you?” he said and shook the hand not holding the door closed again. “Geez, I didn’t expect it to be hot like that.”
“That thing on your face, it felt like it was on fire,” Miles said. He blew on his hand and shrugged. “Stop pulling on the handle like that, you’ll break the door before you get it open.”
Kota released the door handle and stepped away from the door. His eyes flickered toward the window.
“Really? We’re on the second floor, man.”
“How did you know about this?” Kota asked, pointing at his mark. “And about…”
“The turning into a wolf thing? Easy, I saw you.” In response to Kota’s surprise, he shrugged and said, “I was in the deep woods today, doing what little traveling I can during the day when a wolf runs by with three men on its tail. I followed, just to see what would happen, but the others gave up before the big reveal. What did you do to them?”
Kota hesitated and then explained about his little field trip to the farm. Miles listened, the corner of his mouth twitching into a smile when he heard about the cow and then again with the shotgun.
“So, does your girlfriend know about the wolf?” Miles asked once Kota finished.
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Kota said.
“Oh, that’s good. You’re not really her type, you know.”
Kota decided not to ask. “I arrived around a week ago, looking for Master Sollis. Erin offered me a job here when that didn’t work out.”
“Thank you for not answering my question there.” Miles leaned against the door and crossed his arms. “Will you at least tell me why you were looking for Sollis?”
Kota considered it for a moment and then said, “A witch told me the innkeeper held the key to breaking my curse.”
“Not up on current events though, was she? And the curse?”
Miles drummed on the wood behind him with his fingers while he waited, and continued to do so even when it became apparent Kota wasn’t going to answer.
“What do you want?” Kota asked quietly.
“Me? Oh, I’m just curious.” Miles marked the disbelief on Kota’s face and said, “I’m just here to inspect the inn, remember? I don’t have any active assignments aside from that.”
The vampire stepped away from the door and opened it.
“Go on, then, if you have nothing else to say.”
Kota hesitated and then walked out of the room. He did catch one passing remark from Miles before the door closed:
“Of course, if I find out that you have stepped out of line, in any way, then that will change.”
The threat didn’t bother Kota much. Miles would be hard-pressed to beat Erin to the punch if that happened.
Downstairs in her own room, Erin checked her door and window again to make sure that both were still locked. She knew the law, but there were stories, about vampires who couldn’t taken the ban anymore, who just snapped…
Erin shuddered and pulled her blanket up and over her head. Of course, they were just stories. She kept telling herself that until she finally drifted off to sleep, and then again every time one of the small night sounds woke her up.
She ended up oversleeping, and when she finally dragged herself out to the front desk Kota looked up from his game of cards and said, “Wow, you look awful.”
“Thanks a lot,” Erin muttered. “Where’s everybody else?”
“The sellers are doing the last of their business today. I think they’re planning on leaving tonight or tomorrow morning, since the others have been packing up all day. Your vampire’s still up in his room,” Kota said. He flipped over a card and carefully laid it on a stack of others. “Guess he didn’t feel like breakfast.”
“Are you going to be like this the whole time he’s here?” Erin asked, in between muffling yawns.
Erin sighed and looked around the room, her gaze eventually stopping on the fireplace.
“I think I know what you can do today.”
Kota soon found himself standing in front of the fireplace, armed with a broom, a trash can, and a bundle of handkerchiefs. Erin stood by, or at least stood on the stairs and looked down over the banister at him.
“Are you sure about this?” Kota asked.
“Yeah, everyone else is gone, so this is the best time to do it,” Erin replied. “Just get whatever is living in there out, okay?”
“And what are you going to be doing?”
“She’ll be showing me around the inn, of course.”
Erin and Kota turned to look at Miles, who stood a few steps above Erin on the stairs with a fresh, crisp attitude.
“Well, the parts of it that are on the inside, of course,” Miles said. “Why don’t we start at the top and work our way down?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess that will work,” Erin said before she realized what he meant. The attic, the one place in the inn she and Kota hadn’t ventured into yet.
Kota watched them go up the stairs and turned back to the task at hand. He cautiously stuck the broom in, stick first, and froze when he heard a hiss.
Up the stairs and around the bend in the hall to the smaller staircase that led up into the attic, Erin tried to hint to Miles that she had no idea what was up there without using those exact words while she found the key to the door and unlocked it.
The door opened with an ominous creak and a wave of warm air came down, bringing with it a strange smell of neglect, dust, and a vague hint of lemons.
Behind her, Miles said, “Well, this looks promising.”