Authors: Michele Hauf
* * *
Johnny opened the front door to head out for the night and in stumbled a man dressed in black. His spiky short hair skimmed Johnny’s face as he mis-stepped and tumbled into his arms.
“Dad? What the hell?” It was almost as if he was drunk, but Vail never imbibed in intoxicated mortals. Avoiding addictive substances had become his religion.
“Son. Good ole son.” Vail slapped Johnny’s shoulder a few times. Finding his feet and a comically wobbly stance, he meandered to the big leather couch patched with duct tape on both arms. With a ceremonious leap and twist of his hips, he landed sprawled horizontally, with his arm sliding across the couch back. “Mind if I crash here tonight?”
His dad never showed up like this. He never got wasted. He never—was he sparkling?
Johnny rushed to the couch, stumbling on his crestfallen heart in the process. His dad’s hands, beringed in silver and carbonite, glinted with fine dust. “Faery dust?”
Johnny stepped back. “Shit.” He paced before the couch. “No, no, no, this is some kind of joke, right? You’ve been clean for decades. I’ve never even known a time… Dad?”
“Just a taste,” Vail said. His eyelids shuttered and he dropped his head onto the couch arm. A big smile curling his mouth, he looked a man in extreme bliss.
His father had kicked the faery dust habit before Johnny had been born. His parents had been honest with him as he’d grown up, telling him about the dangers of faery dust—because Vail had lived through it. One taste of faery dust and the vampire was addicted. And once an addict, always an addict. Vail had gotten clean with the help of Lyric, but now he avoided FaeryTown as if it were a werewolf convention held on the night of a full moon.
“I don’t understand.” Johnny knelt
on the floor before the couch.
He’d always looked up to his father. A rebel amongst the Parisian vampires who possessed a swaggering style, a sexy penchant for black and retro rock n’ roll, and who treated his wife as if she were a queen. Vail and Lyric had proven an openly amorous couple, which is why Johnny had grown up so comfortable with sharing affection and not always expecting every touch to be reciprocated with sex. He respected women because of his parents’ example. As well, he’d become interested in music and singing thanks to his father’s obsession with all sorts of music.
Johnny stood and raked his fingers over his scalp. “I don’t know what to do about this.”
He’d intended to go to Club l’Enfer tonight to look for Kambriel. But he couldn’t leave his dad lying here strung out on dust.
Vail opened his eyes and grinned the Cheshire’s smile. “You were heading out?”
“Not anymore. What am I supposed to do with you?”
“Go. Go.” Vail shooed him with a gesture.
“I’m not leaving you alone, Dad. Why the hell did you do this?”
Vail crossed his arms and his ankles. Lost in the exquisite muddle of dust, he gave Johnny that smug smirk he often employed when he felt he was in the right. “Wanted to dance with the devil.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s a song, Johnny. I think. I’m—hell, you can’t tell your mother about this. It was a mistake. I’ll… I won’t do it again. Promise.”
“Dad, one thing you’ve taught me about faery dust is that you don’t have control over it. I have to stay here with you.”
Vail clasped Johnny’s hand. “I don’t want to do this to you. I shouldn’t have come here.”
Johnny bent to press his forehead to his father’s chest. “It was a mistake. Right?”
His father closed his eyes. Who knew the reasons an addict could conjure? And could they ever be truthful?
“You’ll get through this. I’ll turn on the shower. I think I remember mom telling me water flushes the dust from your system.”
“Rain,” Vail muttered. “Only rain water.”
Johnny glanced out the window. A clear, cloudless night.
“And time,” the vampire on the couch added with a chuckle. He airplaned his spaded fingers in the air above him. “Let me soar, Johnny. You can lock me in and I’ll be a good boy by morning.”
He could lock him in. The apartment was outfitted with a system that controlled the steel screens that descended over the windows, and could be locked from without. Something Vail had installed when he’d once lived here.
Johnny shook his head. “You rest, Dad. I’ll keep an eye on you. Will Mom worry you’re gone all night?”
Vail giggled and zoomed one hand in for a landing at the back of the couch.
“Yeah, she will,” Johnny decided. “I’ll give her a call. Tell her we’re going out clubbing.”
Scrubbing his hands back through his hair, Johnny paced into the bedroom where he could dial up his mom and risk her not hearing his dad’s antics in the background.
This was not the way he’d intended the night to go—babysitting his stoned dad. No way in hell could he leave Vail’s side. The girl could wait.
* * *
Kam sat at the end of the bed in her dressing room, back straight and eyes focused on the distant door. It wasn’t as though she’d expected him to show again tonight.
She couldn’t lie to herself. Yes, she had expected him.
Her shoulders slumped. A sigh hurt deep in her soul.
Must have scared him off. And he hadn’t even met her boyfriend. Guess Johnny Santiago wasn’t the man she’d thought him to be.
The following night, the Dark’s Mistress worked the crowd expertly, slinking along the edge of the stage, a goblet of blood in hand that she’d drink from and then spew over the audience below. The vampires went mad for it. The few mortals acted as though they’d been blessed by something holy as the hot, red droplets rained upon them.
The scent of blood in the air was strong. But it was lifeless blood. Ugly and metallic. Johnny preferred it warm in the body. Alive. The fantasy of lapping up Kambriel’s blood had kept him up last night with dreams. A good thing too, because such dreams had been much preferred to sitting in a chair watching his father crash-land from a faery dust high.
Vail had been good this morning. Mostly. It had been sprinkling outside, so the vampire had insisted on leaving quickly. Johnny had watched from the window. His father had walked outside to strip off his shirt and spread his arms to embrace the warm spring rain.
And yet, even as Vail had sworn he wouldn’t go near FaeryTown again, Johnny couldn’t help but worry. Should he tell his mother? Was it even his problem? His dad was a big boy. He could take care of himself. And really, Johnny had his own life, his own problems and issues. Looking after an addict father was not his scene.
Johnny pounded his forehead against a black steel support beam up in the balcony that overlooked the stage. Hell, of course, he cared. And the anxiety of not knowing what to do about Vail was tearing him up. He needed this distraction tonight. Just for a while. Then he’d call mom and check in with her, slyly ask about Vail.
Right. That could work.
Peering around the beam, Johnny focused on the singer below calling the masses to worship with arms spread wide and head tilted back as she sustained a long and gorgeous note. The sexual energy in the club was thick as blood. Dancers gyrated against one another, their bodies speaking without words. Hands sought curves and skin and moist, dark places. Lips brushed and crushed and bruised.
He and Kam’s kiss in the garden had been nothing compared to what Johnny dreamed of doing with her in the privacy of a bedroom. And he needn’t words, either. Sinking his fangs deep into her body, he would drink her essence. Learn her. Damn the worshippers, the hangers-on. The fang junkies. The mysterious
. He would win her, body and blood.
Pushing past a group of black-leather-clad dancers, he shuffled down the stairs and shoved to the edge of the dance floor. He wasn’t much for dancing. Music was for banging his head, racing his heartbeats. Thumping the universe.
Johnny smirked. Had he charmed Kam the other night? She’d started off as closed, sitting on the park bench, her arms wrapped about her legs. As they’d talked, she had turned toward him, opening to allow their conversation. She had asked him for the kiss. And what a kiss.
The band tore into the final, encore song.
Kam screamed out the anthem he’d sung along to last night. Pumping the air with a fist, Johnny sang along as he headed toward the backstage area. In order to pass into the dark hallway that led to Kam’s dressing room, he had to swerve around the big bruiser who was arguing with an even bigger bruiser, the club’s bouncer. Apparently the guy wanted backstage access to see Kambriel, and to prove his urgency, he growled, revealing thick canines.
“Werewolf,” Johnny muttered under his breath. He had nothing against the dogs; he just tried to walk a wide circle around them. They touched volatile at the drop of a bone.
He clamped a hand on the back of the werewolf’s shoulder. “Hey, don’t give the guy a hard time. He’s doing his job.”
The wolf growled at him. “Back off!”
"Yeah? I don’t think she wants to see you. Wolves aren’t exactly her type.”
“And how do you know her?” The wolf turned and eyed him cruelly. He was a big one. Thick curly black hair dusted about pale eyes and a tense jaw. A gray tee shirt stretched over his biceps; muscles Johnny suspected could deliver a murderous punch.
“She’s with me,” he offered, not backing down from the obvious threat.
If the wolf so much as flinched into a fist, Johnny would slice open the vein bulging on his neck so fast he’d wish he’d stayed at the kennel with the other dogs tonight.
The wolf clutched Johnny’s leather jacket lapels and slammed him against the wall. “Who the hell are you?”
“Take it outside,” the bouncer ordered. “The wolf leaves one way or another. We don’t cater to your breed here. You can go back, Johnny.”
Heh. So she must have given his name to the bouncer. Nice.
“I’m not going anywhere until I talk to Kambriel.”
Johnny winced at the squeeze the wolf held on his shoulder. He was this close to whipping out the fangs. Last thing a wolf wanted was a vampire bite that would then develop into a nasty thirst for blood. Wolves didn’t do the bite.
Idiots didn’t know what they were missing.
Johnny calmly met the big guy’s gaze. Best way to befriend a dog? Look at them on their level and don’t show any fear. “She’s taken. By me, Johnny Santiago. Now back off.”
“Santiago?” The werewolf considered his name. Probably heard about him singing. Or not. Bitter/Sweet hadn’t headlined any large clubs. Yet. “How long have you known her? Does she love you?”
Johnny quirked a brow. The rival got right to the point. “None of your business.”
The wolf slammed him hard against the steel wall. Just as Johnny’s fangs descended, the man said, “She’s my sister!”
“Seriously?” He retracted his fangs. The threat felt wrong with this stunning new information.
Johnny noted the bouncer talked into a headset, eyeing the wolf cautiously. Her brother was a werewolf? “I happen to know the lady is a vamp,” he offered. “I doub
t very much—“
“Our mother is a werewolf and our father a vampire,” the wolf quickly explained. “Now if you know her, then you get me back to see her. She’s been missing for half a year.”
The wolf took his hands off Johnny and nodded. His jaw tightened as he looked aside. Those impossible muscles flexed with nervous apprehension.
He was telling the truth. And he was hurting. Johnny could feel his anxiety waver off him like steam from a shower.
“She took off for Paris last year to find herself,” the werewolf explained. “Haven’t heard from her since. Until I happened to walk into this club and saw her on-stage singin
g. Kam has never sung before.”
“Just started,” Johnny said. “Amazes the hell out of me, too.” He offered his hand to shake. “Honestly, I’ve only known her a short while, but I can probably get you backstage. Her brother,” he said to the bouncer. “I’m sure she’ll want to see him.”
The bouncer nodded and stepped back against the wall.
Thanks, man.” The wolf shoved a firm clasp into Johnny’s hand. “I’m Malakai Saint-Pierre. Older brother by a minute.”
“Twins, eh? I don’t see the resemblance.”
“Yeah, Kambriel got the beauty, that’s for sure. Enough small talk. Take me to her.”
Halfway down the dark hallway, which seemed much longer than it had been last time he’d been here, Johnny broke the strange silence. “So if you haven’t heard from your sister since she left there could be a reason for that. Maybe I shouldn’t bring you in to see her. I should go ahead. Ask her if it’s kosher.”
“Listen, man, her whole family is worried about her. I need to know she’s all right. I’ll step back if that’s what she wants. Has she been singing long?”
“I’ve been coming to the club a few months and she’s been a headliner. The Dark’s Mistress. What a kicker. She’s…sweet, your sister. But I think she’s trying to be something she’s not.”