Authors: Kristen Strassel
Because the Night
Copyright © 2013 Kristen Strassel
All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to
Cover Image Copyright © 2013 “coka” from BigStock
Published 2013 by Foreword Literary.
ISBN: (Insert ISBN for ebook)
What People are Saying About “Because the Night”
“Because the Night is a consummate fantasy—vampire rock stars, goth tutus and the bright lights of Vegas. Throw in a killer love triangle and you’ve got an addiction as intense as Bloodlust. A must read!“—
Mina Vaughn, author of
How to Discipline Your Vampire
“Sneak into the sweat-soaked, bass-pounding passion haze of a rock concert and find all the trouble you wish you’d gotten into at eighteen. In BECAUSE THE NIGHT, imperfect choices lead to decadent disasters and satisfying scandals. These vampires will show you there’s more than one way to gamble in Vegas.”—
Julie Hutchings, author of
For my mom, Jeanne Strassel. I always thought I’d have a chance to tell you about this.
Everywhere I looked, Tristan’s eyes smoldered back at me as we walked along the Las Vegas Strip. Billboards, giant lighted signs, taxi toppers, and the T shirts of the hopeful girls who made their way to Sin City Vampire Club to see him play in Immortal Dilemma. They all hoped to get a little closer to him, to fulfill their fantasies.
Seeing him like this gave me a false sense of connection. It made it too easy to forget he walked out of my life to become the rock star. Tonight, I set out find out why.
I knew I was in over my head as soon as I walked into the Alta Vista hotel with my cousin Keisha. Everything looked so much bigger than on TV. The sleek silver and purple lobby buzzed with anticipation. Groups of girls, decked out in their best gothic regalia clogged the walkways, giggling and screaming. Inside me everything jumped and tingled. Probably just like those girls.
The walkways snaked endlessly, dotted with martini bars and Immortal Dilemma slot machines. The cacophony of the casino rang in my brain as I did my best to focus on the signs leading me to the Sin City Vampire Club. To Tristan.
“You must be so excited, Callie!” Keisha squeezed my hand.
“I’m nervous.” Excited, nauseated—you name it, I felt it.
“I don’t know. I just don’t want to be disappointed.”
To calm myself down, I eyed the merchandise area while we waited in the long line for tickets. This was my first time at such a big concert, and I had no idea what to expect. Everyone who emerged from the thick cluster had a bag full of goodies.
The crowd inside the theater roared. What was I missing?
Finally the line moved and I smiled at the harried looking woman behind the counter. “Two tickets, please.”
“Sorry Miss, this is the pickup window for online orders only. Tonight’s show is sold out. The weekend shows sell out weeks in advance. Would you like to make a purchase for a future show?” She asked. No emotion in her voice, just a robotic message.
“Uh, no thanks.” Strike one. Now what?
Keisha gave me an “I told you so” look. Everyone else in the room seemed to be having the time of their life. Everyone but me.
“Ladies!” A man called out. I turned toward him, raising an eyebrow.
“Do you need tickets?” he asked hopefully. He was a skinny black guy with a baseball cap and an oversized plaid jacket. He looked as out of place as we did here.
I brightened. “We do.”
“Can’t you do better than that? The show’s about to start.” Keisha could never resist negotiating.
He checked the time on his cell phone. “Alright. Sixty each. They’re usually a hundred, but you ladies are cute and the show is going to start soon. I’ve got to get rid of these things.”
“We’ll take them.” I pulled three twenties from my wallet.
He pocketed the money and handed over the tickets. “Here you go. Where you ladies from?”
Keisha’s eyes widened but she didn’t correct me.
“Don’t you know what kind of show this is?” He gave me a once over. I didn’t look like the rest of the girls here in my eyelet tank top and tie dyed skirt. “You know you have to be twenty one to get in, right?” This was the first time I had a chance to try out the license someone had left behind at my mother’s restaurant. It looked just enough like me that it could work.
“Thanks. We’ve got it all under control.” I assured him—and myself—as we walked away.
“Nice work!” Keisha high fived me.
My hands trembled as I examined the ticket in my hand. I walked straight into some lady and muttered an apology. I couldn’t believe I was here. Actually going to see Tristan.
I’d just traded some strange man in the hallway sixty dollars for a piece of paper promising admission. He could have totally ripped us off. But the bigger fear was just up ahead. Tristan.
I smiled meekly at the usher when it was our turn to enter. I didn’t know what to do. He glanced at my ID, ripped my ticket along the perforation, and motioned towards my purse so he could check inside it.
We were in.
A group of girls next to us jumped up and down and squealed. I was doing the same thing on the inside.
The grand lobby looked like a modernized Victorian theater. A giant chandelier twinkling in silver and glass glory hung above a grand staircase that led to the upper level. My feet sank into a plush rug with a zebra print. Red velvet Victorian couches and chairs were flanked with excited fans. Ornate silver metalwork hung on the dark wood walls, alternating with large gruesome paintings of sacrificial rituals and death. There were built in curios that housed skulls and jars full of scary looking things suspended in goo. My head swiveled taking it all in. Vendors pitched more Immortal Dilemma merchandise along the perimeters of the room as well as artists who could create custom fangs or bloody neck bite marks. And all around us, the tinny sound of haunting music from an antique Victrola piped in over the PA system.
We had stepped in to an alternate universe.
“Let’s get drinks.” Keisha headed straight for one of the carts selling Bloody Marys.
“I’m going to wait.” I didn’t want to miss a thing. Besides, Bloody Marys were nasty.
We headed up the stairs to our balcony seats. An off white and faded red striped curtain and matching valance with gold fringe hid the stage.
I finally exhaled when I sat down, not even realizing I’d been holding my breath. My hands twisted in my lap and I scanned the theater as the rest of the crowd moved slowly to their seats. I wrung my hands nervously in my lap, unsure of what to do. I looked around at the rest of the crowd finding their seats. The girls inside the theater were even more dressed up than the fans that held court in the common areas of the hotel, complete with velvet and lace jackets, gauzy tutu skirts, and fancy hats. Some wore fangs, probably custom made in the lobby, others had their faces painted like skeletons and still others had fake blood dripping from their mouths.
Keisha struck up a conversation with the girls next to us, a chubby, dark-haired girl in ill fitting clothes and too much makeup, and her perfectly put together red-headed friend. “Have you ladies been to the show before?”
“We come all the time.” The redhead gushed. “This is your first time?”
Keisha nodded, pushing a strand of dark hair from her eyes. “It is.”
“It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen. The TV show does it no justice. It’s like pure sex.” The redhead practically licked her lips.
My mouth dropped at her description. I knew fans considered their attraction to the band to be a supernatural connection they referred to as Bloodlust, but I never believed it. They liked the music, the guys were hot. They could hide behind all the supernatural hocus pocus they wanted to try to justify their obsession, but they couldn’t feel what I felt. After all, Tristan was the first guy I ever kissed.
A ballerina came on to the stage with no fanfare. The curtain didn’t rise and the lights didn’t dim.
She began to move, light and delicate, she could have been dancing on a cloud. The severe bun she wore had been powdered to look ghastly, and her ribs seemed to poke through the plain white leotard she wore. A single spotlight followed her every movement, and then the screens on either side of the stage flickered to life, projecting her image. Lilting music began to play and a hush fell over the crowd.
As she spun around in circles on point, trapeze artists swung across the stage above her, flipping around in mid air. Two other performers peddled on tricycles with giant front wheels. The music became more and more frenzied and the spotlights pulsed and strobed on each performer as they swung around.
I didn’t notice the man step from the shadows behind the ballerina until the music came to a stop. The other performers disappeared. With one arm clamped around her waist, he pulled her head back to the side, exposing her neck to the spotlight. He paused and grinned, I could barely see more of him than his teeth, as if he pondered his next move. She held still and graceful, even under siege. Then, in a move almost too fast for the human eye to process, he pressed his mouth to her neck until her body went limp and fell to the ground.
The house lights went down and the crowd went wild. My hands were still clutched together in my lap, heart pounding like crazy. Immortal Dilemma played vampires on their TV show, but I knew it was an act, just like that performance. Vampires weren’t real.
The girls around me rose to their feet, screaming and crying. Some jumped up and down. The emotion in the room pulsed and throbbed like the strobe lights overhead, making my head spin. Beside me Keisha was already on her feet, and with my knees trembling, I stood as the curtain fell.
The lights shined just on the drummer, who seemed to be the only member of the band on the stage. His sticks flew against the skin of the drums, the thuds and riffs ripping through the silence like fireworks. As his solo drew to a close, giant flash pans of fire shot up in time with each strike. The heat exploded through the theater, warming me even all the way up in the balcony.
And with the last pound of the drums, the rest of the band rose up through the floor on giant pedestals.
The whole place shook with the screams of the crowd.
Tristan commanded on the left side of the stage, in a direct line with my seat. His dark hair was long, flowing free, and his face was painted in some sort of elaborate skeleton design that was almost pretty. Under his guitar, he wore a red fuzzy coat, open, with no shirt underneath and black shiny pants that looked like they had been poured around the shape of his body. Standing on the pedestal, he played his guitar with his head tipped back and his eyes closed, swaying to the beat, as if he was trying to sense his way through the music. He was eerily peaceful, somehow still beautiful, drenched in red light.
The pedestals lowered to stage level, and Tristan sprang onto the stage. He roamed back and forth along the crowd, whipping his hair around, teasing the audience members in the front rows by leaning over them with his guitar but staying just out of reach. Anytime he threw guitar picks to the crowd, a heap of humanity fought for the small piece of plastic he had held.
He smiled wide, showing those horrible, horrible fangs. I hated that part of his costume. They made him look like a monster. His eyes scanned the audience, seeming to look directly into mine. My stomach clenched. Even way back in the balcony, I felt as if he played just for me.
I forced myself to tear my eyes away from Tristan. I didn’t know where to look, so much else was going on. The singer strutted about the perimeters of the stage, his spiky hair sticking out above large goggles that looked like something an old fashioned pilot would wear. He wore a black tail coat and bow tie with no shirt underneath, pants similar to Tristan’s, and cowboy boots. At times he made his way back to the burlesque dancers on the riser, singing to them and running his fingers down their bare arms. Some of the dancers were dripping blood from their necks. They shimmied and gyrated in front of a large video screen playing old horror movies. Across the stage, the bass player’s bald head, and the rest of his skin, was painted silver. He looked and moved like a robot. The stage was lit heavily from below, casting strange shadows across the band’s faces, making everyone look sinister. The drummer, who played inside a cage, looked practically naked.
The music screamed around us, throbbing and weaving through the theater. All the songs all sounded the same to me. I was probably the only one who didn’t know the music. As much as I tried to like them, Immortal Dilemma just wasn’t my type of music. Too heavy for me. I was there for Tristan. When the singer stopped and hoisted his microphone stand over the audience, the crowd screamed out the words without his aid. Every few songs the singer would speak to the crowd, but between the high pitched shrieks of the crowd and the distortion of the microphone, I couldn’t understand a word he said. The smell of sweat and vanilla hung in the hot air. Smoke burned my eyes, but they never left Tristan as he prowled the stage and grinned at the crowd. He was mesmerizing, with those dark, dark eyes, and the straight, dark hair that grazed his shoulders, tricking down to his bare chest. Seeing him made me need more. I needed to come back to see another show. I needed to connect with Tristan himself. I ached to be closer to him than back of some concert hall.
The crowd stilled as the music stopped and the rest of the band left the stage. A single, red spotlight framed Tristan as he began his guitar solo. He shed his jacket and an audible gasp escaped from the audience. His left arm was decorated in a sleeve of brightly colored tattoos, all woven together to tell a story I was too far away to understand. The well defined muscles on his chest rippled down to his stomach. I wanted to trace my finger along their outline. He held his guitar carefully, plucking and pushing on the strings to make it tell a sad, urgent song. Again he tipped his head back and closed his eyes while he played, exposing the line of his long neck.
A hush fell over the crowd when his solo came to its finish. He put his mouth up the microphone and paused. The whole room hung breathless on his next words. .
“I’ve longed to see you again.”
I understood it as clear as day, even with the echo effect that was placed on his voice so
again … again … again …
rolled through the theater like a wave. The crowd swooned. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like he’d spoken just to me. Impossible. There was no way he could know I was here. My imagination had to be playing tricks on me.
Keisha grabbed my arm and squeezed it, hard enough to leave marks. She heard it too.
The rest of the band came back out for a few more songs and an encore. Still distracted by what Tristan said, I stood there, shaken, as the band took its final bow and left the stage.
A red velvet curtain came together obscuring the stage from site as the house lights rose. The foggy brightness stung my eyes and the music piped over the PA sounded muffled like my ears were stuffed full of cotton. I stood in front of my seat, still, with my arms wrapped around my middle, my gaze still on the stage. I didn’t know what to do with myself.