The kitchen is beautiful in the morning, the sun slanting through the window making the table and cupboards glow softly gold, the motes of dust almost sparkling. Damon still believes he’s the best-looking thing in the room.
So of course Stefan has to ruin the lovely stillness, crashing in through the door (Doorjambs, little brother, thinks Damon in mild annoyance) and all but yelling,
‘de la Cruz is coming over for dinner!’
Awesome. A raised eyebrow, a lazy grin, and Damon asks innocently, ‘Should I prepare a tour of the hunting ground, then?’
‘No!’ Stefan glowers. ‘Firstly, you know he’s not into that anymore, and secondly, he’s bringing a guest.’
‘Ooh. I’ve really missed Drusilla.’
‘No, not her.’ From the bite in his brother’s voice, Damon can tell Dru is a really touchy topic. He’s never seen why. She was a very nice girl. Very creative, and flexible, too. ‘He said she was a human. So put the blood-bags in the freezer and start getting the hapunan ready.’
Damon grimaces – ‘Aww, me?’ But they both know he’s the better cook, he always was; and secretly he’s more than a little pleased to have an excuse for comfort food.
‘Thanks, kuya.’ Stefan almost smiles. ‘Oh, and? de la Cruz said no sinigang na baboy or longganisa. His friend doesn’t eat those.’
One of those people, thinks Damon to himself, and he lets his lip curl. Ethnic food is, for that kind of houseguest, at once both exotic and repulsive. He’s had to pass for Spanish for so long that it always gives him satisfaction to take a blonde-haired blue-eyed oh-so-Anglo girl home. The sweet revenge makes him burn far hotter than the blood-scent.
‘No problem, bro,’ he drawls, just to make Stefan wince, and mentally makes a note to totally break out the patis.
* * *
The doorbell rings at six o’clock, when it’s early enough to still be light out. But then day’s never bothered Angel de la Cruz. He’s almost a legend. Almost.
They’ve heard stories about what he’s done, and about what he’s done now. Respect’s mixed with suspicion of someone whose allegiance is no longer certain.
Damon waits in the dining room, at the head of the table. It is his prerogative, as the elder Salvatore.
‘Kuya Angel!’ he hears Stefan exclaim from the hall. ‘We have not had the pleasure of seeing you for so long. Kumusta po kayo? I’m fine, I’m fine. Damon’s missed your company, too – please, come in!’
It makes Damon shake his head – there are times when Stefan’s so over-eager, so happy to please, like a doleful lost puppy with mange.
Then a woman’s voice cuts through the air, and Damon pricks up his ears at the sound. A Californian accent, not quite white… interesting.
‘It’s nice to meet you, Mr Salvatore,’ she’s saying, a bit stiffly – as if she’s holding an emotion back? Damon frowns, readjusts his senses, inhales the smell of her blood. She must know what they are – would de la Cruz have told her? Honesty is such a drawback in one’s compatriots. But she doesn’t seem afraid, no.
It’s almost like mirth.
Almost, almost like Katherine. Too sympathetic to be Dru, and too confident for Katherine.
Damon is intrigued.
Trust de la Cruz to find a partner so out of the ordinary as this.
Stefan bustles down the hall, moving much too loudly for someone who’s supposed to be adept at sneaking up on others. ‘This way!’ he announces, probably to give Damon some advance warning.
Punyeta. He needs to quit the paranoia.
* * *
There have been many vampires in this land, under many names. Some were born on American soil, like Parrish, du Lac, and Hale. Some came over from the Old Continent, under names from old empires: Murray herself, solidly English; those who passed for English, like York; and those who didn’t. Damon Salvatore knows most of them, whether from hunts or feuds.
What he also knows that it’s quite likely for Angel de la Cruz to be only the second other Pinoy vamp in town, and that’s counting his own brother.
So de la Cruz comes walking in his door, rough-hewn and burly and as cool as the day he was turned – of course it’s only polite for Damon to rise and greet him. He’s the master of this house, the host; it behooves him to be hospitable.
His eyes slide right off de la Cruz, all the same, onto the woman companion.
‘Magandang dabi,’ says de la Cruz, right on cue. ‘Liza, these are the Salvatore brothers. Damon, my girlfriend, Elizabeth Shahidi.’
And her blood is singing, singing out to him, singing an aubade, a lusty trill of danger.
Elizabeth smiles in that charming way he thinks he could get used to. ‘Hello,’ she says wickedly, extending her hand.
He doesn’t dare to take it.
‘You fucker,’ he tells de la Cruz, admiration in his voice. (And even Stefan is hesitating in the background now.) ‘You complete and utter fucker, you made us invite the Slayer in!’
‘Aren’t reunions great.’ de la Cruz shrugs magnificently, and Damon can only nod in agreement before ushering them toward the stew and pancit and fish on the table.
* * *
They toast each other in the garden sometime close to midnight, when the mosquitoes hum and Stefan is calling up a nice cooling fog and the stars twinkle overhead. Between the four of them they got a plastic folding bench set up, and some Styrofoam cups. There’s a bottle of cheap wine for the brothers, and Coke for de la Cruz and Shahidi.
‘To homelands,’ says de la Cruz loudly, raising his cup, earning him a rebuke from the only one among them born in this country.
‘No, no,’ Shahidi corrects. She fixes her eyes on Damon, laughs lightly, and declares, ‘To hunting.’
Damon shivers deliciously.