Chapter 8: The Counter Offer
“Damn it!” Matthew shouted as he threw his glass of brandy into the fireplace, the flames glowing brighter for a few seconds before dying down.
“Woah, take it easy there, buddy,” Thomas said from his seat upon the couch.
“That bastard! William has no idea how this stalemate with Adrian is infringing upon my business. First, it was the delay in obtaining the real estate, then the cars, and now I can’t even send my clients into Adrian’s area without someone coming back with a few less fingers. I can’t send my employees to the most high traffic areas for their rides because of this selfish, fucking prick,” Matthew exclaimed as he flopped down on the other couch opposite Thomas.
William stormed into the parlor with James behind him. They both seemed to be in terrible moods as James poured them a brandy. William sat at the card table behind Thomas and Matthew.
“E tu brute?” Matthew said in a snarky tone.
“Adrian is becoming a headache,” William muttered as he rubbed his forehead with his hand.
“Drink this. It’ll make you feel better about yourself when I tell you I told you so,” James remarked, placing the glass down in front of him. William snatched it up and quickly threw it back as he slid the glass back to James for a refill.
“We can’t just sit around and let him hand our asses to us. If we want to stay here, permanently, then we need to make nice with his demands,” James replied.
“And then what? Be his beck and call boys?” William asked, standing from the table.
“Maybe you should let me handle the situation,” Eleanor said, leaning against the doorframe. She walked into the room, her heels clicking on the hardwood floors. “He’s not making it any easier for my business as well. He’s invested in a building a few blocks from mine and setting it up as a direct rival.”
“This guy really hates you people,” Thomas commented. “As much as I don’t care for him, being the bastard he was slaughtering my servants, you might want to consider countering his deal with your own.”
“A counter offer.” William sat back down after grabbing himself another glass of brandy. James sat opposite him. “That may work but it would have to be something lucrative to him.”
“I think I could work something out with him,” Eleanor spoke up. “With the help of Matthew, of course.”
“Why me?” he asked.
“Because, our businesses have a model that mutually benefit each other. Adrian doesn’t need to have our entire family under his thumb, but we can place ourselves on the line as a business agreement with his club. Men want sex and money. He may take it,” she answered.
“It’s worth a shot, William. He was offering full protection from Hunters and provided us with viable hunting grounds,” James commented.
“The Hunters I’m not so worried about but having hunting grounds where I didn’t have to feed off heroin addicts does sound appealing,” William responded.
“God, yes! That would be so much better and do wonders for my complexion,” Victoria said as she entered the room. Eleanor eyed her with a smirk.
“Fine. It seems that the majority rules here. Eleanor, draw up a contract. I’ll be sending you and Matthew to make sure all goes well during this trade of services.” William ended the conversation and excused himself from the group.
“What’s up with him?” Eleanor asked James.
“Adrian is making it difficult to obtain construction deals for new properties. William wants to create a string of condos along the river for people to buy since the market here is in need of some. Hard to do that when Adrian owns the best services around here.” James tapped the ring on his finger against the glass tumbler in his hand.
“How are the stocks?” Victoria asked as she took a seat near Matthew.
“Boring as always, but it brings income to this family,” he replied.
“Matthew, let’s go knock out that contract. The sooner I can feed on someone that tastes of rich wine, the better mood I’ll be in,” Eleanor said as she left the parlor and headed for the kitchen where she had been working on her marketing strategy.
Matthew peeled himself off the couch with an audible groan and followed her to her work station. Victoria leaned back on the arm of the couch while propping her feet up in front of her. She was in a pair of sweatpants and a plain T-shirt, her hair swiped up into a messy bun. The afterglow of the night before still permeated her skin as Thomas eyed her from the other couch.
“So…” he began.
“Nope,” she said. “We’re not going to talk about your brother.”
“Actually, I was going to ask how your antique shop was doing since you created it a while ago,” he smiled.
A slight blush touched her pale cheeks. She had just assumed Henry and his brother were close and shared a few things between them. When she had woke up this morning, Henry had left a note on her pillow saying he would see her tonight after spending time with his sister by the pond. Maybe he was closer with his sister, than his brother, she thought.
“Oh, it’s good. I mean, I’ve sold some pieces here and there but it hasn’t been the profit margin I was hoping for,” she admitted.
“Have you come across anything that could…help us? With this whole being a spirit situation?” Thomas asked leaning off the edge of the couch, his elbows on his knees.
“Why? Do you want to cross over or something?” she asked, intrigued.
“Not exactly. I’ve been researching for years trying to figure out a way we can re-enter our bodies,” he admitted.
She sat up. “You think that’s even possible?”
“Look, I’m not a witch or whatever they call it nowadays. All I know is that my body is sitting in an old mausoleum with the rest of my family still looking the same way it did when we cast that curse. To me, I feel like that’s a sign my soul can be reconnected with my physical form,” he replied.
“So you want to know if I stumble onto some long, lost relic that somehow possesses magical abilities to put your soul back in your body. Got it. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you,” Victoria said as she got up from the couch.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from your kind,” Thomas snarled. “If it doesn’t affect you then it’s not your problem, right?”
“That’s not what I…,” she started to say as Thomas vanished from the room, “meant…”
She sighed heavily as she silently scolded herself for making such a stupid remark. She simply didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up because she knew what that felt like just to have the hope dashes to pieces. In a way, she was trying to protect herself from that fate because she was growing to care for Henry, a feeling foreign to her.
Before she knew it, she was walking towards the kitchen.
“You look a little lost in thought there,” Eleanor said as she walked around the kitchen island away from hovering over Matthew’s work.
Victoria uncorked another bottle of wine before taking out a wine glass from the cabinet and setting it on the table. She leaned against the marble countertop as she poured herself a glass. Taking a sip, she sighed once again as Eleanor approached her with her empty glass waiting for a refill. Victoria obliged.
“That obvious, huh?” she replied with a weak smile. “What about you? You’re having a few more glasses of wine than you’re used to.”
“Considering it takes a significant amount to feel any alcoholic effects, I thought I’d just start early. It helps keep the hunger at bay at least,” Eleanor answered.
“How’s the counter offer coming?” Victoria asked inside her glass as he pressed it to her lips.
“Considering that I’m doing most of the work here, it’s going just fine,” Matthew commented as he continued to type away at the keys.
“You’re such a liar! I already crafted the first half of the contract. He’s such a liar, Vic. Don’t listen to him,” Eleanor teased.
Victoria giggled into her drink at their banter. “So will it be ready to be delivered soon? I’m starting to starve around here. I haven’t had a decent meal in weeks.”
“Soon. I want to get James’s input on it before we go and embarrass ourselves. He was a lawyer in one of our previous lives after all,” Matthew replied as he finished his draft.
“Smart plan,” Victoria remarked.
“I want to hear about this date the other night,” Eleanor said. Victoria smacked her in the arm.
“What date?” Matthew asked as he shut the laptop, intrigued by the turn of the conversation.
Victoria groaned as she went over to the kitchen island, sliding onto a bar stool with her wine glass in hand. Eleanor slid next to her, patiently waiting for more information.
“I kind of went on a date with Henry last night. It was nice. We went for a ride on his family’s horses,” Victoria started.
“Horses? What horses?” Matthew interjected.
“Oh, that’s right, you don’t know about the phantom horses yet. So apparently, our new estate has a stable near the orchard that houses them. They belonged to the Ashford’s when they were alive,” Eleanor replied.
“Yeah, well, I found out that their bodies are still on the grounds,” Victoria said.
“Of course they are. Probably in that cemetery out back fertilizing the ground as we speak,” Matthew said with a laugh.
“No. I mean I found out that their bodies have been preserved by magic. It’s like they’re all having this out of body experience and they just can’t re-enter their physical forms,” Victoria explained.
“Well, that’s interesting. Can we see?” Eleanor asked.
“No, you may not.”
They turned around to see Ebele standing just inside the den walking towards them. Her skirts flowed around her as she made her way to the other side of the island, opposite them. She placed her hands on the table and stared coldly.
“We didn’t mean any disrespect,” Matthew apologized.
“I have worked hard to keep our bodies hidden from prying eyes. I most certainly wouldn’t want a vampire snooping around them,” she declared harshly.
“We might be able to help you,” Victoria stated.
“No, you can’t. I’ve tried for almost 200 years to reconnect our souls and to no avail. What makes you think there’s anything different you can do?” Ebele asked, an eyebrow raised in a questioning look.
They kept their mouths shut, not knowing how to respond. Victoria understood her hesitancy in allowing them to see their bodies. If they had been preserved with magic then they were still full of blood. It was possible that their physical forms could still be destroyed making their efforts to reconnect futile.
Ebele vanished as she walked away.
“Okay…I’m guessing privacy is something we’re not really going to ever have in this house,” Matthew remarked.
“Kind of hard to have privacy when you never know if they’re listening. Did you hear that? Yes, I’m talking to all of you out there hiding under your glamor!” Eleanor shouted into the empty den. “Anyway, what else did you find out on your date?”
“Back to this again, I see,” Victoria sighed.
“You’re the only one here with any sort of romance going on in the future. I need details. I’m dry over here,” Eleanor said.
“You two are way too involved,” Victoria said as she got up with her glass of wine. “If either of you need me, I’ll be in my room ordering those black out curtains I’ve been meaning to buy for the past week.”
Eleanor gasped. “You did, didn’t you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Victoria said with a smile as she spun around. “Hurry up and seal that deal. I’ll be waiting when you two get back.”
“I don’t think I want to know what you two are talking about,” Matthew commented as he stood up with the laptop under his arm. “I’m going to print out this paperwork. Have fun downing your wine.”
Eleanor flipped a bird at him as she chugged the last bit of wine in her glass to stave off the hunger within her. Out of the rest of her family, she had the most trouble controlling it. She prayed that the mysterious and dangerous Adrian would accept their proposal before the bloodlust settled into the estate