Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One) (5 page)

BOOK: Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One)
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I grimaced at her with an expression
I suspected probably wasn’t pretty. “I know,” I said lifelessly. “I can still taste
it
in the back of my throat.”

I
rubbed her back gently, ashamed of being grateful that it was Liz who was over the toilet and not me.

“I feel like ass,” she moaned. “Maybe a shower will help.”

“Probably,” I said, though I seriously doubted it. Liz was at the hangover point of no return. She was just going to have to wait it out.

“C
ould you help me get into the shower?” she asked feebly. “I feel too weak to stand.”

“Sure.”

I helped her off the floor by lifting under her arms. I sat her on the edge of the tub, handing her a toothbrush and toothpaste at her request. While she shrugged off her robe and brushed her teeth, I started the water. When it was pleasantly warm, I turned to leave.

“All ready,” I said. “Call me if you
start to feel dizzy.”


Where are you going?” she asked in a panicked tone.

“Umm
, back to bed.”

“Oh,” she said, disappointed
. “I thought you’d get in with me. I’m still feeling woozy.”

“You’re such hard
work, Liz,” I muttered facetiously, not actually put out by her demands. She’d do the same for me if I was the one hurling my guts out.

Sighing,
I started to undress.

She tried to conceal her smile
. “I owe you one, Mercy.”

“Yah, yah,” I said. “You owe me more than
one
.”

Liz stepped into the shower first with her back turned to me, and then I followed.

The balminess of the air alleviated my headache almost instantly, but it also had the secondary effect of bringing back my buzz.

Liz handed me a bottle of man
go scented shower gel and a puff. “Could you wash my back, please?” she asked coyly.

“Oh, you’r
e really pushing it.”

She bent
over slightly, resting her forearms on the wall. I went to work behind her, rubbing the sudsy puff in a circular motion up and down her back.

“That feels
incredible
,” she cooed.

She
lifted her arms, and I scrubbed at the pale skin underneath, moving down the back of her ribs. She took a step back, arching her back slightly, indicating that she wanted me to scrub higher. I pulled the suds under her cleavage, coming close to, but still avoiding, the apex of her chest.

“Don’t be shy,” she purred, turning around to face me. She leaned back against the tiled wall, widening her stance to steady herself.
Her dewy folds pulled open, and I caught a quick peek of the rosiness hidden within. She’d shaved her pubic hair in a soft V-shape, which was atypical of her characteristic baldness. The downy pelt contained an auburn hue that complimented the plump pinkness beneath it perfectly.

I
ran the puff across her areolas and something stirred inside her. She let out a suggestive whimper, shifting her body so close to mine that our hips touched. Without a second thought, I dropped the puff and went to work on lathering her with my bare hands.

S
he moaned louder, rubbing her slippery breasts against mine, the warm water cascading down her beautiful figure in a mango-scented stream. She abruptly embraced me. We kissed, then, tasting each other with our tongues, continuing to explore the intimate areas of our bodies.

My foot
slipped on a glob of shower gel, and I threw my arm out to my side to maintain balance. Not in the clearest frame of mind, I put all my weight behind my panicked reach and toppled over when my hand plunged through the flimsy shower curtain. My knees cracked as they made contact against the edge of the tub. Liz fell over, too, landing hard on her tailbone.

The stumble had
hurt something fierce, but it provided a brief moment of clear-headedness.

I blinked up at Liz, bewildered. 

“What in the hell are we doing?” I exhaled.

“I… I
don’t know…” she stammered.

“You fell
pretty hard on your ass,” I said. “Are you hurt?”


No, I’m fine,” she mumbled awkwardly.


Okay. That’s good. I’m, uh, just going to get out.”

“K,” she said.

I grabbed a towel and high-tailed it down the hall to my bedroom. I banged the door closed behind me and leaned back against it, grimacing at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes were as wide as Frisbees, and I was trembling.

Maybe Liz was still drunk
and wouldn’t remember a thing.
Yah, and maybe I’d win the lottery, too.

I dried my skin and sat down o
n the bed, suddenly feeling sleepy. I got under the covers and allowed my eyes to fall closed, not seeing any harm in dozing for a minute or two.

Soon m
y breathing slowed, and I let go of consciousness completely, sinking deeper and deeper into a murky void of dreamless sleep.

 

 

I sat up with a start, c
onfused by the last remnants of sunlight fading through the curtains. I frowned at the alarm clock on my nightstand. It was seven o’clock at night. How had I slept all day?

I groped around in the darkness and
found the lamp, cringing as the room filled with its harsh brightness. My tongue was plastered to the roof of my mouth, and it made a smacking sound as I pulled it loose. I needed water desperately.

I pulled on my robe and headed toward
s the kitchen, nervous about encountering Liz.

Much to my relief, the apartment was quiet
. There was a note on the fridge:

 

Mercy,

You looked so peaceful that I didn’t want to wake you.

I went to stay at David’s. I’ll be home tomorrow afternoon.

Hope you’re feeling better.

-Liz   x

 

Ah, so the name of the game was avoidance. That was more than fine by me. I’d never really been one for confrontation, so if Liz wanted to pretend as if nothing had happened, I was more than happy to play along.

I yanked
open the fridge and pulled out a pitcher. Two full glasses of blissfully cold water later, and my thirst was sufficiently quenched. I returned the pitcher to the fridge, exploring the scant contents inside. As usual, there wasn’t much to eat, unless an expired bottle of ketchup and an unidentifiable piece of shriveled fruit qualified as food.

My stomach growled
, and an invisible light bulb illuminated above my head as I remembered the wad of cash in my handbag;
grocery money.

I trotted back to my bedroom and grabbed
my purse off the floor, dumping its contents on the bed. Elated by all the cash, I fought the overwhelming urge to flop down on the blanket and roll around naked amongst the bills.

There was something small and wh
ite mixed in with all the green. I picked up the crumbled ball and smoothed it out on the nightstand.

Oh,
that.
Michael’s card.

I threw the
card back on the bed. But couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. I turned my back on it, yet I could still feel it taunting me with its promise of fortune and intrigue.

I picked the card up
once again.
Well, it wouldn’t hurt just to call...

Before I could chicken out, I grabbed my cell and punched in the number.

The phone rang just once before a woman answered.

“Hello. You’ve reached
Dignitary. How can I help?” Her voice was soft and girlish but contained a crisp tone of professionalism.


H-Hi,” I stuttered, caught off guard. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to say.

“Hello,” the woman said. She waited for me to speak again.

“Umm, my name is Mercy Montgomery.” I could hear my voice shaking and I was talking just a little too fast. I took a deep breath. “Last night I was… Umm… I met… Michael gave me his card and said that I should call.” God, I sounded like a real imbecile.

“Oh, yes. Hello, Mercy,” the woman
chirped. “Michael mentioned that you might call.”

He did?

“Woul
d you like to come down for a visit?” she asked. “We’d love to show you around the place. Oh, by the way, I’m Marlena. I’m Michael’s wife.”


Hello, Marlena. Umm, sure, that would be great. When would you like to meet?”

“H
ow about in a couple of hours- say around nine?”


Tonight?
” I questioned.

She chuckled. “
Sure, why not? We’re very informal around here. Of course, if you already have plans, we could schedule for another time.”

“No,” I said hastily.
“No, I don’t have any plans. Yes, I can be there at nine.”

“Fantastic.” I could hear the smile in he
r voice.

“Okay.
I guess I’ll see you at nine, then,” I confirmed.

“Don’t you need the address?”

“No,” I assured her. “I’ll just get it off the… Oh. There isn’t an address listed on the card.”

“No, our clients appreciate their privacy. I’ll give you the address now. Let me know when you’re ready.”

I grabbed a pin from my nightstand and
flipped over the card. “Ready.”

S
he gave me the address and we exchanged pleasantries as the conversation came to an end.

“Oh, there’s just one more thing, Mercy
.”

“Yes?”

“Wear something sexy.”

 

FIVE

 

Dignitary was
situated in an outlying suburb of San Francisco in a very exclusive side of town.

The business itself
was located inside of a house, but that didn’t really concern me much. Due to the density and lack of space in the city, many Bay Area companies were run out of residential neighborhoods.

I’d been so worried about being late that I ended up arriving ten minutes early. I parked half a block away and sat in my car, scoping the house while trying not to look like a burglar casing the joint. I primped in the rearview mirror, adding more lipstick and adjusting my breasts in such a way that made my cleavage more buoyant.

I thought I looked okay; not amazing and not horrible, just okay.

As I’d been a broke student for the past four years, and then just broke in general, I didn’t really have a lot of clothes in the “sexy” department. I opted to wear simple black heels (and by “opted,” I mean that it was all that I had), which were the same shoes that I wore to my more “legit” job interviews.

I also donned a slinky
hand-me-down wrap dress that had been given to me by Liz, fretting about whether its light blue color was suitable for an evening get-together. Liz, beanpole that she was, was a couple of sizes smaller than me, so the jersey fabric the dress was made of pulled against my body in a way that I hoped was vaguely sensual. I felt more appropriately outfitted to go to a christening than to meet Michael and Marlena at the mysterious Dignitary to discuss God knows what, but it was the best I could muster on such short notice. I didn’t exactly make it a habit of meeting strangers late at night, so if I wasn’t hot enough, they could just sue me.

E
ven though it may have been foolish of me to meet with Michael and Marlena on my own, I hadn’t thrown caution completely into the wind. I left a note for Liz providing the address of my whereabouts, should I happen to disappear. Liz having the address really wouldn’t matter much if I wound up dead in a ditch somewhere, but the preemptive measure, no matter how useless, gave me some semblance of security.

The
house was painted a soft salmon shade. It looked like it had been taken straight out of the French Quarter in New Orleans and plunked down right in the middle of San Francisco. It was from a more graceful era, a time when one would sit on the porch drinking mint juleps, uttering pleasantries like “goodness gracious” and “I do declare.”

I smoothed down the front of my dress,
suddenly feeling a tad ratty and unbefitting for such an elegant environment.

I raised my hand to knock on the door, but it opened before my knuckles could make contact against the thick wood. A woman wearing a tailored pantsuit the color of cream smiled out at me from inside the house.

She
was an amazon, about the same height as Liz, but built differently. She had one of those rare, almost unachievable body shapes that combined a perfect mixture of feminine curves and taut muscles. Her alabaster skin glowed from within like she’d been using fireflies as vitamins. Her bouncy hair hung loosely around her shoulders and was a shade I’d never seen before, a fiery copper with iridescent gold highlights. Her face was youthful but also shrewd, so it was difficult to guess her age, which I approximated to be around thirty.

To state that the woman
was merely “attractive” would not do her beauty justice. This was the kind of woman who inspired songs and maybe even a few suicides.
I continued staring like a simpleton until her dazzling emerald eyes met mine.

“You must be Mercy,” she said.
It was the same angelic voice from the phone.

I s
wallowed and nodded.

“I’m Marlena,”
she declared. “It’s so nice to see you, Mercy.”

Marlena’s
disposition was welcoming, as if she’d never been more ecstatic to see any other person than myself in her entire life. Her speech was laden with practiced enthusiasm, similar to the voice an A-list actress would use while promoting a movie she obviously thought was crap. Her greeting was intended to make me feel like I was the most important person in the world, but I didn’t take kindly to being bullshitted.

She beamed a
t me again sweetly, beckoning me into her home. Feeling somewhat ashamed for being so bitchy, I reconsidered my snap judgment. Although she unnerved me in a way I couldn’t pinpoint, I figured I was just being paranoid because of my uneasiness and feeling insecure next to her perfection. She may have been a bit on the phony side, but at least she was making an attempt to be friendly, which is more than I can say for a few women that I’ve encountered. Still, I didn’t like that her smile didn’t reach her eyes. However, with the kind of money she had, she’d probably been Botoxed to hell and back.

As
I walked into the house, she put her arm around me in a friendly gesture. Her skin felt icy even through the thick satin fabric of her clothing, adding to my agitation. It took an obscene amount of concentration not to recoil.

Marlena
led me through the cavernous house. She invited me to take a seat once we’d arrived at the entrance of a stylishly decorated office. She took my coat and handbag from me, hanging them on a coatrack by the door. The air inside the office was more like that of a meat locker, yet I noted with pleasure that a fire was blazing inside an old-fashioned hearth. Marlena, commenting on my goose bumps, crossed the room and added another log.

Michael entered
the room just as I was settling back into my seat. I stood and went to him. He hugged me like an old friend, kissing me on both cheeks. His skin was even colder than Marlena’s. I wanted to ask if their heater was broken, or if they were trying to cut costs on their energy bill, but I thought it seemed rude.

“Mercy!” he bellowed. “
I am so pleased that you have decided to give us a chance.” His over-the-top fervor was on par with Marlena’s. But, unlike his wife, he appeared genuine.

“Hello, Michael,” I smiled.
“Nice to see you again.”

He clasped both my hands in his
icy grasp. “Are you hungry? Thirsty? I can have something made for you,” he said, his brows knitting together fretfully. He was a caricature of an anxious grandmother, doting on her grandchildren with forceful offers of sustenance. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he whipped out a plate of freshly baked cookies from a drawer in his desk.

“No, I’m fine. Thank you,” I said
, biting back a smile. I unexpectedly yawned, which was mortifying because Michael noticed. I wasn’t bored. I just wasn’t exactly running on all cylinders because of my lingering hangover.


Are you sleepy?” he asked. “Of course, you were out late last night. I sometimes forget that humans- er, young people like you- do not typically keep the same hours that we do. I will have my assistant make you a cappuccino. You do like coffee?”

“Really, I’m-”

He held hi
s hand up, cutting me off. “It is no trouble.”

“Okay,” I submitted
. There was no point in arguing with the man. “A cappuccino would be great.”

He spoke into an intercom on the wall, asking
a young-sounding voice to make my coffee and bring into the office. I wanted to laugh;
I was lucky if I could get Liz to remember to refill the water jug after she emptied it. Having people at your beck and call around the clock was simply one of the endless benefits of being rich, I imagined.

Michael and
Marlena pulled up chairs across from me, an indication that our meeting was commencing.

“I am sure that you are wondering why we
asked you to come here,” Michael said.

I nodded
. “The thought has crossed my mind, yes.”

“Mercy,” he contin
ued apprehensively, “I am just going to cut to the chase and throw this out there. We- Marlena and I- would like you to work for us.”

“Doing what
exactly?” I asked.

Michael looked beyond uncomfortable
. I seriously hoped that he and his wife weren’t sex freaks who wanted to tie me up in their dungeon and throw canned creamed spinach on my naked body while I called them “master.”

“B
efore we can tell you more,” Marlena said, “I have to ask you to give us your word that you won’t repeat anything that we’re going to discuss with you. I’m not sure how much Michael has told you about Dignitary, but we run our business very cautiously. Our clients are very powerful and they value our discretion. For that reason, I’m afraid that we really do need you to promise us that you’ll keep a tight lip, whether or not you decide to accept our offer.”

Yep. Sex freaks. I totally knew it.

“Of course,” I conceded. “I promise. You have my word.”

They exchanged a look and Mich
ael sighed. “Okay, here goes,” he said. Marlena reached over and squeezed his hand. “Dignitary offers a chaperone service to its clients, both male and female. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, allow me to clarify my use of the word
chaperone
. We are most certainly not operating a brothel or anything even close. We simply offer human companions to our clients.”

I stared
at him, confused. “I’m not quite following you-
human
companions
?” What other kind would there be?

“Okay, l
et me try a different angle,” he said exasperatedly. “You see, Mercy, when I spoke earlier of humans having different hours from
us,
what
I was suggesting was that we, Marlena and I, are different from you.”

“Different,
” I repeated.

“Oh, fo
r Pete’s sake!” Marlena gasped, throwing her hands up. “You’re not making any sense, Michael! Just spit it out!” She turned to me and took my hand in hers, gazing into my eyes. “I am certain that you are going to find this difficult to believe, Mercy, but we run a service for vampires.”

Vampires?

I
snorted, shifting my eyes back and forth between my two hosts, who were clearly not sharing my amusement. They stared back at me earnestly, Michael backing his wife’s claim.

I glanced at my purse
hanging on the coatrack and thought of the pepper spray inside, feeling an acute concern for my safety. These people were clearly out of their minds.

This was much worse than
them merely being ordinary sex freaks. At least I’d been formally educated on how to treat run-of-the-mill dysfunctions. People who believed in wizards, werewolves, and vampires were an entirely different story. They were an extra special kind of crazy I wasn’t equipped to deal with. I thought of the front door, wondering how far I’d get if I made a run for it, or if I could manage not to get lost in the massive house before one of them caught up with me.

Just then
, a boy who looked about twenty walked into the room carrying my cappuccino. Like Marlena, he was inhumanly beautiful. His skin was pale, too, yet his hair and eyes were dark and appeared Mediterranean in origin. Without a word, he set the drink down on the coffee table in front of me and turned to leave the room.

“Wait a moment,
Stephano,” Michael said to the boy.

“Yes?”
he asked serenely.

Michael turned to
face me. “Mercy, I know that you are probably frightened of us right now, and I cannot blame you,” he said. “You surely must be thinking my wife and I are utterly insane. But, please, stay here for a bit longer and hear us out, okay?”

I nodded my head emotionlessly
; like I was going to argue with a nutcase.

Michael turned back to
Stephano and said, “Do you remember that thing you have done for me in the past?”

“Of course,” he said.

“Would you mind doing it again for Mercy?”

Stephano
smiled. “Not at all.”

“Okay, Mercy,” Michael said to me. “Keep your eyes on
Stephano. Are you ready?”

I focused my gaze on the boy
, playing along. I expected him to stand on his toes and pretend to levitate, or bare his teeth and hiss at me over his invisible cape, the embodiment of every vampire cliché known to man. No matter what he did, of course I’d feign being utterly astounded by his great feat. Anything to get the hell out of there.

“Yes,” I muttered. “I’m ready.”

Michael nodded his head once, giving Stephano the go-ahead.

A
nd then Stephano was gone.

“Where did he go?” I whispered.

Michael and Marlena smiled, casually pointing skyward. I glanced up and let out a shriek. Stephano was lounging on the ceiling, his chin resting on his hands in a nonchalant pose.

“Hi, Mercy,” he said.
He looked down at me and winked, wriggling his fingers at me playfully.

“Holy shit!”
I screamed. I jumped up suddenly, knocking my chair over. It hit the coffee table with a
whack,
slopping my cappuccino over its side.

BOOK: Mercy's Debt (Montgomery's Vampires Series Book One)
8.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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