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Authors: Dicey Grenor

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This time I did
touch his hair, petting him lightly.
Allowed his sweet
vanilla scent to permeate my senses.
He leaned his head on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” I
said. I really was. I’d never disliked the other brides.

“You are the only
one of my brides who came to me, Willow. The only one who sought me out, who I
did not have to seduce, who begged to be
turned.

I tensed, suddenly
unhappy with the direction of this conversation. “That’s because I thought
being a vampire would cure me of narcolepsy.”

“Yes. I know.
Still, you mesmerized me completely. How do you modernists say it? You knocked
my socks off.
Not only beautiful,
but talented, independent, adventurous, strong-willed.
The strong-willed
part is the hardest to deal with, but is nonetheless one of the things I find
attractive about you.”

He grabbed my hand
before I could pull away and looked in my eyes. “I have summoned all my brides
and all the brothers of my lineage to come back to the clan. I need you all
near me so I can protect you. Besides, there is strength in numbers. Everyone
has returned…everyone but you. Come back to me, Willow. I don’t want to get word
of your final death as I have the others. It would hurt too much.”

He kissed my
knuckles one at a time then held onto my hand a minute, admiring the contrast
of our skin complexions, mine caramel brown, his Celtic.
About
as contrasting as zebra stripes.
“I care too much,” he said.

I’d be lying if I
said I wasn’t tempted. He could be so convincing, so persuasive…so sexy. But I
had a “life” here, and I was enjoying it. I enjoyed my independence, my
individuality, my job at Hades. And I think I enjoyed spending time with
Remi
.

“I can’t,” I said,
turning away, too afraid of losing myself in him.

“Just think about
it, Willow.” Then his voice hardened and he squeezed my hand so hard I thought
the bones would crack. “Don’t force me to go there and drag your ass back. I
will if I have to.”

With that he was
gone.

I held my hand
still until the last traces of his mental influence had waned and I could
wiggle my fingers again. Then I sighed and leaned over to cut off the
nightstand lamp. I wondered how long before he made good on his threat.

“Oh, and Willow,”
his voice slammed inside my head, “stay away from that human. He’s nothing but
trouble.”

Now wasn’t he the
pot calling the kettle
black.

 
 
 
 

Chapter 9

 

Thanks to Max’s
thorough workout, I’d spent the rest of the day sleeping and dreaming.
Which would hopefully keep my narcoleptic episodes at bay for a
good twelve hours or more.
That was one thing he was good for.

Unfortunately, my
dream had left me sad, confused, and wary. It wasn’t as vivid as Max’s psychic
visitation because only my subconscious was active, but it still seemed
unnervingly real.

In the dream,
Remi
and I were having a good time laughing and talking
then things worsened to the point of him trying to kill me. He’d learned I was
a vampire and tried to drag me into the sunlight. I fought him, tried reasoning
with him, and finally had to kill him. I’d cried in my dream because I would
miss him.

When I woke up, my
pillow was wet with actual tears. I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t cried like
that since I’d become a vampire. What the fuck was going on?

Max had been
right.
Remi
was trouble—the deep shit kind.

When the phone
rang, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I didn’t get calls.

“Hello?”

“Willow, it’s me.”

I recognized
Franco’s Spanish accent right away. “What’s up, Franco?” I said while smoothing
out the comforter as I made my bed. I’d given him a fake number for my
employment file so Punch must have told him which motel to call, and the front
desk had been accommodating enough to forward the call to my room.

“How’ve you been
today?”

“Okay. No
permanent damage to speak of.”

“Good. I was
worried about you.”

“Well, don’t
worry,” I said as I sat on the bed and braced myself for whatever was next. I
didn’t buy for one minute he’d just called to check on me. “So what else is up?”

“You know I wouldn’t
ask if it wasn’t important, but I need a favor.”

“Okay. I guess I
owe you one.” I hated owing anyone anything for this very reason. You never
knew when they’d want to collect and you couldn’t pick which favor to agree to.

“I need you to
come in tonight.”

“You’re kidding,
right? You know I don’t work on Sundays. It’s the Lord’s—”

He snorted. “The
Sabbath is Saturday, Willow. It’s always been Saturday.”

“I know. I just
grew up with Sunday being—”

“Oh save it. Do
you really think your soul stands a chance? It doesn’t. For the last year I’ve
catered to this redemption dream of yours and keeping the Sabbath blah
blah
blah
, but I need you
tonight.
Valentina
called in.
Cin
called in. Fire’s off just like you and I tried calling her first…couldn’t
reach her. I got celebrity guests coming in. I’m even starting a new girl
tonight so the rest of you can take more time off when you want. But tonight,
Willow, I need—”

“Fine.”

Silence.

“I didn’t expect
you to give in so easily,” he said.

“I owe you, right?”

“Willow, I’m not
blackmailing you. I just need you to come in and put on a great show. If there
was some other reason than you holding on to some human ideal, I could
understand. But c’mon—there’s no hope for creatures like us. We are what we
are.”

“Franco, I don’t
expect you to understand…but you have been there for me when I most needed you.
I will be there for you tonight,” I said then hung up.

Getting dressed
was depressing not just because I was headed to work on Sunday night or because
Franco had scoffed my faith, but because it felt like the beginning of the end.
Breaking rules had a snowball effect. It would be work tonight and what
tomorrow? Would I be using God’s name in vain, having orgies, killing for
sport, worshipping Buddha? Had I been kidding myself all along?

Franco was right.
I had given in easily, almost like I knew this day was coming. Like I knew my
soul was already gone and I had been trying to hold on to its memory. I knew I
couldn’t deny my vampire nature forever. I just hadn’t expected the time to
come so soon.

I sensed Punch’s
presence and felt his eyes on me as soon as I walked in the club’s employee
side door.
Better avoid him as much as possible.

Catching a glimpse
of Onyx onstage in a diaper as I walked over to the music booth, was no better.
After handing my CD to the deejay, I hauled ass to the dressing room.
Didn’t want to see foolish grins on the fat baldies sitting in the
audience.

The smell of
wildflowers hit my nose as soon as I opened the dressing room door. It was an
unusual scent which meant there was someone new inside. The new girl…

“You must be
Sleepy Willow,” she said from the far corner where she sat wearing a white mock
turtleneck knit dress and black tights. She was braless, and as the pink of her
nipples showed, I knew she’d fit in perfectly around here. The real killers
were the five-inch leopard print stiletto come-hither pumps crossed at her
ankles.

“And you are?” I
said, after taking her in from head-to-toe.
Niiiice
.

“Queen Ming.”

“Well, welcome to
Pit of Hades Fetish Club.” I leaned casually against my table and folded my
arms.
“You Japanese?”

“Korean.”

Ah. I was never
good at categorizing people of Asian descent. “Sorry.”

“No problem.” She
uncrossed her long legs and leaned forward. Long lashes, thin lips, black hair
in a bun showing off a delicate neckline…

I cleared my
throat. “So what’s your specialty?
Shoes?”
I joked.

“Yep.
How’d you know?
Shoes, feet…all things
podophilia
.”

“Really?
I was joking. I didn’t know, but those shoes are to die for.”

She smiled. “Spoken
like a necrophilia expert.”

I smiled back.
Liked her already.

Franco stuck his
head in the doorway. “Ming, you’re on in five. Tommy Lee’s out there so pay
extra attention to VIP table #2,” he said. Then he stepped in, kissed my
forehead and walked back out.

Ming grabbed a
crystal bowl of soapy water, some cotton balls and red nail polish. I wished
her luck, and she left, head held high.

It took me less
than ten minutes to get ready and about as long to perform. The room was
packed, energy high, but my set was dull, totally uneventful. I felt uninspired
for some reason.

Surely
hoped that reason had nothing to do with
Remi’s
absence.

Afterward, I
picked random patrons and collected ten vials of blood from each for later
consumption. Recent events had told me I needed to keep a stash in my motel
refrigerator. I could always warm the blood in a cup. No, it wasn’t as good as
feeding straight from a vein, but it was better than teetering on the verge of
starvation again.

On the way back to
the dressing room, I was told Franco wanted to see me ASAP. After hiding the
vial case in my duffle bag, I showered, dressed, and headed to his office. Hair
on the back of my neck stood as I walked in and saw Franco sitting behind his
desk and an unfamiliar man sitting across from him. My instincts screamed
foe
!

“Willow, this is
Agent Monroe.”
Aha!
“He’s here to ask you a few questions. I told him
you were tired after your performance and he should come back if—”

“Ms…?” Monroe cut
off Franco and addressed me.

“Call me Willow.
What can I do for you?” I said callously. His wrinkled cheap suit, unpolished
loafers, and bad dye job told me he was trying to look bigwig and failing
badly. He was a wannabe trying to earn respect, working his way up the ranks,
doing anything to get to the top.

Here to ask me
questions. Not good.

And like a bomb
over Baghdad, he produced pictures from my show the previous night.

“Ms. Willow, I am
Agent Monroe, here on behalf of the Vampire Extermination Team to follow-up on
a suspicion of vampirism. It has been brought to our attention that you
performed a realistic death scene last night. These photos were posted online.”
He spread all four out on Franco’s desk. “Is this you in the photos?”

This was one time
when I wished the myth about vampires not having a reflection was true.

I feigned like I
had to study them closely before answering.
“Uh, yeah.
That’s me. What about it?”

“You don’t have to
answer any questions if you don’t feel up to it, Willow,” Franco said. “Monroe,
these photos were obtained in violation of our club’s policy—”


Agent
Monroe,” he corrected. “If you have qualms with the persons who took the
photos, file a claim. That’s outside my purview.” He smiled cunningly. “What I’m
most interested in is the implication that you are employing a vampire.”

“This is a fetish
club. It’s not against the law for me to pretend to stab myself,” I said.

“It is if you are
a vampire. Are you a vampire, Ms. Willow?” Monroe sneered.

“No. Now, if you
have nothing further, I’m beat and need to—”

“I’d be happy to
schedule a meeting with you at your home. Where is that exactly?” He pulled a
small flip pad and pen from his jacket pocket and waited.

“Why don’t you
just ask your questions now and let’s get this over with.” My address was the
last thing he was getting.

He chuckled. “Sure.
Not a problem. Can you explain how you were able to make these scenes look so
realistic?”

“Makeup.”

“May I see the
makeup you used for your show?”

“You don’t think I’d
be stupid enough to stab myself for real in front of everyone knowing I’d heal
if I was a vampire, now do you?”

“Vamps have such
superiority complexes, such arrogance…you just might. But I’m not here to
speculate, just investigate. And I’ll ask the questions from now on Ms. Willow.”

Franco sighed. “Get
him the makeup so he can get the hell
outta
my
office.”

“You know this is
a bad time to be a vamp-sympathizer. If I were you I’d pick the winning side,”
Monroe taunted Franco.

Glad I’d kept it
just in case, I got the cosmetic caboodle case from my dressing room table and
returned to Monroe’s interrogation.

He ran his hands
along the case and inside, rubbing powder and liquids between his fingers like
he was testing the texture. A handkerchief from his inner jacket pocket was
used to clean his fingers when he was done.

“Hm.
You’ve anticipated this moment and covered your tracks. I’m impressed,” he
said. “You’re not as dumb as I thought.”

I snorted. “Are we
done now?”

“I’d like to see
your dressing room if you don’t mind…maybe even your gym bag.”

Franco stood. “I
think we’re done. That’s an invasion of privacy and goes against our club
policy.”

Monroe stood also.
“You realize immunity is afforded to me during the course of my investigation?
I can search her belongings, her nigger body, your club and every last one of
your nasty-ass customers if I have to. I don’t need a warrant. I don’t need
your consent. All I have to prove is there was probable cause to suspect that
Ms. Willow here is a vampire. That’s vampire due process.” He slammed his hand
on the photos on the desk. “And I think I can prove probable cause. You
wanna
bet my case will hold up over your invasion of
privacy claim?”

BOOK: 1 Dicey Grenor
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