Authors: H.D. March
Kitty nodded. “I know, do you think I’m deaf?” Then yelped at the movement and threw another tablet down her throat.
Within seconds, the door slammed open, and he made his announcement. “Happy Birthday, baby!” The words exploded across the room, resembling the sonic boom of an aircraft.
Jess raised her head, blood shot eyes met his, and she gave a weak smile. “Hi, Dad.”
Please no more yelling, not just yet.
And did a double take. Jess debated reporting him to the RSPCA for cruelty to the squirrel sitting on his head. Was she hallucinating? What the heck was wrong with her parents? Both appeared to be trying to hold back time. “Dad, what the hell has moved into your skull?”
George blinked and dragged in an affronted breath. “It’s my new hair piece; got a problem with it?”
“Well um no, but—” she shuddered and slapped a hand over her mouth. Jess was determined to use a bit of decorum. Yet she felt torn between telling him the truth and offending him or leaving him looking like an idiot.
“It cost a lot of money, and I mean a serious amount.” He passed her to stand in front of the mirror. And carefully adjusted it, his tiny eyes glimmered, a frown scrimped over his forehead. “I bought it off the bidding channel on TV. It’s a much-sought-after toupee.”
“Yeah, I bet, money well spent,” muttered Kitty. Her cheek rested on her hand, her eyes dipped closed.
George nodded with a toss of his head and almost lost his wig. He grabbed it, holding the elusive piece of hair in place. “Had a bad night?”
Jess couldn’t be bothered to explain. She had trouble stringing words together and, as much as she loved her dad, wished he’d piss off.
George studied them; he sucked in his rotund belly, or tried to, then gave a low rasp of air. “Here, it’s a cheque for you to spend on whatever you want.”
Jess hyperventilated; a twirl of excitement churned in her stomach, and she tried to work out what to buy first. She dropped back to reality, her eyes widened. “Fifty quid?”
“I know it’s a lot of money, but try to spend it wisely.” His chubby face folded into a moon based smile.
“I will, Dad,” she said. Heck, no wonder Doreen had left the tight-fisted bastard. Yet she reasoned at least he’d given her something, she’d had nothing off her mother. Although, by now, she should be used to it.
Kitty flicked her a wink. “What’s first on the list?”
“No idea.” Jess didn’t have to guess how far the money would stretch because it wouldn’t even come near to putting a dent in her overdraft.
George bounced on the spot, the balls of his feet slapped on the tiled floor.
It was only then she realized what he wore. A pair of pink lycra shorts and a matching T-shirt. Jess averted her eyes. God, he looked gross. He resembled a marshmallow on a stick.
Jesus, he had no style or fashion sense. Now, if he were gay or female, it might work.
“Dad, we’ve got a busy night ahead, er, how long are you staying?”
Christ, how else could she phrase it, just come straight out and ask him to leave?
“A hot date, yes?” He pinched her cheeks and winked.
Jess didn’t bother to explain, he’d have a fit. She was still his little girl, and by the looks of his idea on money, he thought he still lived in the seventies. When fifty quid meant a lot. “Yep, you could say that.”
“Okay, daughter, I’m on my way.” His cheery laugh rippled over his rotund body. “Don’t forget what I said, spend it wisely.”
“Hmmm sure.” What the hell was he talking about? When was the last time he’d gone shopping? Hell, she could spend that amount in a flicker. “And thanks, Daddy.” Jess knew she wouldn’t get to see it; the bank would swallow the money.
“Anytime, baby.” George adjusted his wig and, planting a sloppy kiss on her, ambled away on slow, lumbering strides. “I’ll see myself out.”
“Do you believe that?” Jess sipped and slurped from the coffee, her gaze focussed on George’s receding back. “Well, guess that about sums it up. My sad, frigging life.” And again inspected the cheque she held. Her dad needed to get into the real world, yet no way would she hurt him. At least he’d come through and given her something.
Not like the bitch of a mother who ignored her. Who used her and continued to as she saw fit.
“Yeah, actually I do, but I love your dad, he reminds me of…” Kitty paused, “I don’t know, I can’t describe him, but he’s sweet.” Another shake of breath broke free. “If he were a puppy, I’d want to adopt him.”
Jess managed to twist her head without her brains slamming into her hangover. “You’re one crazy bitch, you know that?”
“Yep, so pour me another coffee. I want it strong black and looking like treacle.”
Half a dozen cups of seriously bitter coffee later, both began to take on the resemblance of a human.
“Think it’s time you got your ass in gear to leave.” Kitty pointed to the manila envelope and its contents.
Jess nibbled at her nails. “Okay, don’t push me.” Then realized how ungrateful she sounded. Her best friend had just paid out for a weekend of fucking and she was stalling? She needed to get her life sorted. “Sorry, Kit, I’m really grateful for this, and trust me, I will enjoy.”
Kitty gave a glimmer of a sad smile. “I know you will.”
An hour later, Jess sat in the small car, Betsy, her battered little run around. Not new, far from it, the blue mini cooper’s paintwork was pock marked with rust but at least it was serviceable. “Shit, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.”
Kitty leaned forward. Her arms snuck around her neck through the open window. “Enjoy, hun, and take everything your Dom gives you.” She hesitated, her green eyes shimmering. “And say a big hi to that fucking prick LeBron.”
Jess smiled up at her. “Will do, babes, will do.”
The car chugged to life, and with a wave of her hand and a toot of her horn, she drove away towards the club.
Jess’s stomach rumbled, the miles dwindled behind before the clawing hunger pangs hit her. The village of Kelsey, where she lived, was only an hour’s journey to Northlands, her destination. But her stomach called, and she gave a relieved smile, spotting the drive through, a fast food outlet lay ahead.
Cholesterol here I come
Flicking her indicator, the car turned into the driveway.
Jess frowned because the place appeared deserted; unusual, but, hey, it was her gain. She had zero patience and steered towards the first window. Her glance took in the billboard, and the meal of the day. Her stomach gave another lurch. Pulling the handbrake up, she rummaged in her bag, cursing the sheer size, searching for her purse.
Jess decided she needed a tracker on the damn thing, and that she was going to give up on the fashionably large bags. Finally, her fingers gripped it; she wound the window down and, with a sunny smile, gave her order.
“I’ll have—” Her lips froze, her voice broke, and it hitched into a scared whisper. “What the fuck?”
The young girl flopped to the side, her blue and white gingham apron splattered red, whilst across her throat glared a huge gaping hole, and greedily sucking from the gush of blood was a tall man. His grey eyes were trained on her, and in slow motion, she followed his hand that swiped at the blood trickling over his chin.
She shook her head and blinked.
His fangs dripped with a ruby stain and she couldn’t drag her gaze away, instead staring with a morbid fascination. From behind him came a loud cacophony of screams and the crashing of chairs tripping over, which was followed by a deathly hush.
Jess swallowed, this so couldn’t be happening, she wasn’t looking at a vampire drinking the blood of a waitress. Any second someone would cry joke, and she’d order her burger and fries. Laugh about the scare they’d given her and give her a happy meal.
A flicker of movement caused her to check in the rear mirror, two men, their tops splattered red with what she assumed was blood and wished was ketchup, were running towards her. Even from that distance, she could see their faces glowed with a feral intensity. Their rabid heat filtered and ripped over her.
She hit the accelerator; the tyres whirled in a spin of dust, and the car remained still.
The men were close, another second and they would reach her. ‘
She yanked at the handbrake,
, and this time flew from beside the window, the car skidded on a swirl of a scream, the scent of burning rubber infused the air.
The dark haired man with the grey eyes remained, along with the image.
The engine screeched in a loud groan, still in first gear, until she switched up, and swinging out of the fast food outlet Jess hit the main road. Again, she peered into her mirror and spotted a figure running to a sleek black sports job.
Jess pressed her foot flat to the floor; ignoring the twisting road, she raced away from the car intent on following her.
“Oh God, oh please no—” The tears snuffled out, and her hands shook. “They can’t be, vampires don’t exist, you’re hallucinating.” Jess continued to talk to herself.
She flicked another fear-infused glimpse to the mirror, the black car basked in the distance. It resembled a menacing shark that stalked her. Coming closer and closer, gaining on her.
Please God, don’t let me die a virgin.
That was all she could think about.
She’d come so close and couldn’t have it snatched away, not now.
The mini veered crazily around the sharp bends, she didn’t slow her speed, daren’t. Because she knew if that grey-eyed man-come-vampire caught her, she’d be history.
, why did she have to stop there of all places? Couldn’t she have gone for a KFC? Jess cursed loud and long.
Her palms damp with perspiration, the fear trickled out of her pores, and she gripped the wheel, when another hairpin bend appeared. Again, she checked her rear view mirror; the car appeared to be nearing, closing the gap.
The bend too sharp, she raced towards the trees, unable to stop, her eyes closed, and she skidded out of control. The car spun and veered.
Her terrified scream echoed through the air along with the crunch of metal.
Rune sat outside his log cabin, surrounded by the scented pines that covered the mountain. It was a place he liked to relax in, put the world to right, and gather his thoughts. The town of Northlands lay sprawling in the distance. A hint of a frown line creased his forehead, remembering the meeting he’d returned from.
The High Council had called in The National Bureau, the detective agency he had supposedly retired from, or at least he’d tried to. Both himself and Wolfe had attended. As its best undercover agents, he wasn’t surprised. The fact the killings were local evoked his interest; it was an assignment he wouldn’t turn down. Rune worked for the Bureau on a part-time basis, which suited him. He’d attend meetings and undertake two to three missions a year. It was enough to dampen his boredom.
Rune remembered Wolfe’s disbelief when he’d said he wanted to pack it in, to spend more time running Caprice. And how right he’d been, his best friend knew him well.
Wolfe had speared him with a sceptical glimpse of flint. He’d laughed out loud and dismissed his words. “Yea, bet you a ton you’ll be begging for a mission to break up the monotony.”
After exactly six months, Wolfe’s words had come true. Rune had drawn himself out of retirement to take on a few select jobs. Anything to fulfil the need for stimulation, to fuel his adrenalin along with the explosion of anticipation.
He’d agreed to take on the new task with a keen vigour. Yet what did shock him were the amount of attacks taking place. There appeared to be a plague of rogue vampires roaming the U.K. killing at will. However, in the south, close to Northlands, where Caprice sat on the outskirts, there appeared to be a cluster of them, and it was these that concerned him. But hell, they covered their tracks well; not one clue, fuck all, to lead either him or Wolfe to who was organising it. And more so, why, or what, had caused the sudden splurge of local killings? He’d checked out the details and delved back in the archives. The attacks appeared to take place in a specific period of time, almost an anniversary, and he couldn’t work it out.
He pushed his hand through the mane of tawny hair that feathered around his neck and attempted to smother a grin. Wolfe was one pissed bastard.
He’d been taken off the case and put on babysitting duties. To protect the spoilt daughter of a rich politician. He wasn’t amused, and, as usual, had voiced it, vocally.
Even more so because Wolfe lived for the Bureau, no job was too dangerous, the bigger the risk the better he liked it. The closer he danced with death, the higher his thrill.
His friend was seriously pissed that his mate was taking on rogues, whilst he was left to a high-maintenance female.
Rune dropped his thoughts and rose; in the distance, he could make out a small, blue car driving erratically. It looped and raced around the hairpin bends on an obvious suicide mission. He was about to ignore it; Rune had no patience with joy riders, young kids that should know better, that wouldn’t live long enough to learn common sense.
Behind it tore another car; it looked as if it were chasing the small one. At once curious, he admitted it could be nothing, or something, and decided to find out.
He trotted down the mountain, his paws silent on the pine needles that littered the floor. The path meandered on a winding trail down to the valley. His ears pricked, and a scream shivered over him, seconds before an explosion. The screech of metal tore through the air. And Rune leapt forward.
Breaking out from the trees, he saw the car crumpled against a large oak, the bonnet crushed against the bark. Rune paused, changing back, he glanced around, yet there was no sign of the other vehicle. His head cricked to the side and listened to the slow drone of a motor that filtered away.
He yanked at the car door; the body of a woman lying over the steering wheel was the first thing he saw. Rune wondered if she were dead and pulled her back, his hand on her shoulder. His golden eyes deepened, and he touched her throat, a pulse beat in a steady rhythm.