“How long are we waiting?” I was exhausted. Londe was dozing on four feet. Grif’s eyes were focused on the windows of the place with a singular intensity.
She looked at the sky, the moon partially obscured by clouds. The stars, the ones not blocked by the new gas lights on the corners of the streets, blinked in the inky blackness of the near midnight sky. “It might be safe now.”
We’d watched the carriage roll out of the gates a good candle hour before, though it felt like longer. “Just what were we waiting for?”
“She’ll be feeding by now, too busy to notice anyone breaching her wards.”
That woke Londe. “There are wards? Are you trying to get us killed?”
“Red diamonds are not an easy prize. You asked for my help, and I am giving it, but do you want them or not?”
I sighed. “We need them. It’s not about want.” I placed a hand on Londe’s neck, calming him. “It’s a risk I will have to take.” So I just had to shift— “Wait. Did you say she? The vampire is female?”
“Damn it.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. I hated rearranging my body into a female’s form. And wearing their clothes? Miserable! “I don’t even have a dress.”
“Stop whining.” Grif pulled a dress out of the pack on her back. “I came prepared. Now get going with the magic and the shift and all that.” She waved a wing.
“It is not that easy.”
“Stop whining,” she cawed. “Just do it.”
“Fine.” Words could not describe how grumpy I was, but that one popped out with all the attitude I could muster. I flushed, embarrassed.
Londe shifted and I went around him to get some privacy. I took off my pack and hung it on the strap on the pack he’d let me attach to his withers. I took a few deep breaths and then focused. Shifting small muscles and fat cells under my skin, altering my skin color, eye shape and color, the outline of my lips, nose, and ears, those were easy. But shrinking down the mass of my body and rearranging my limbs to new sizes, enlarging my breasts, widening my hips while narrowing my waist by altering my ribs and bones…
The sounds were disturbing, and the pain of it left me panting and holding on to Londe as I fought the whimpering. This was not a natural form to me, and the more I deviated, the worse it was. By the time I was done, my clothes didn’t fit right, and I definitely wanted to do nothing more than find a bed.
That’s what I got for assuming the fancy person we’d be stealing from was a man; I should have known the owner of red diamonds would be a woman. I could have shifted a few days ago and gotten used to this form. I groaned as I stretched an arm over Londe’s back. “Give me the dress,” I said in a deep voice. Damn it, I’d forgotten my voice box.
Always the details tripping me up. I squeaked and squawked a few words out until Grif told me my voice was good as I redressed in a velvet number cut low enough to nearly show my navel. It was a good thing I’d made my breasts perky.
“What is this?” I said, waving a hand at the outfit.
“She’s out hunting. Human males are easy to lure with a promise of flesh,” Grif said. Her own form was shapely enough and she used it often, so I guessed she knew what she was talking about.
“The vampire left in a carriage. Why would I just stroll back in without it?” I asked.
“Make something up! Do I have to do all the thinking for you?” Grif asked.
“You are the thief,” Londe said haughtily.
“Just say they will be following and you wish to go rest. Act like you are stuffed and slightly drunk, like you just feasted and want nothing more than to rest. The gems are supposed to be kept in a locked case in her chambers.”
“Fine.” I took a deep breath, instantly regretting it when the edge of a pink nipple popped from the dress.
“Or do that.” Grif laughed. “It will definitely distract the staff.”
“Shut up!” I hissed. I stuffed the offending breast back into the dress and then took off at a stroll. I kept my back straight, shoulders tucked so my breasts lead the way, with my hips swaying as I tried to remember how I’d learned to move the last time I’d taken on a woman’s role in disguise.
At least Grif thought to provide flat-soled shoes, not the atrocious buttoned up boots I’d worn before. Though the heels did make for lovely weapons when someone needed to be stabbed in the throat.
Donning an air of superiority all vampires held, and acting as if I owned the place, I entered the man gate. A guard snapped to attention as soon as he caught sight of my face.
“My lady.” He saluted.
I inclined my head but kept going. A mere guard wouldn’t rate my attention. Going up the wide, flat stairs to the front door, I paused. Someone opened them from inside; they must have someone watching, even if I wasn’t expected back so soon.
Sweeping inside, I settled my skirts as I made it through the narrow door. Hmm, defensive purposes? Most mansions this size would have huge doors.
“Madam, you have returned already?”
“Hmm, yes. Quite done for the night, thank you.” Her purring alto really was soothing and enticing. The humans in the hall both smiled beatifically as I thanked them. “I will retire now.” I swayed, acting drunk as Grif suggested.
“Let me escort you upstairs, madam,” the butler or house manager, whoever he was, said. He held out one arm rigidly.
Lovely. Straight to the prize!
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