Read The Strange Path Online

Authors: D Jordan Redhawk

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian

The Strange Path (4 page)

BOOK: The Strange Path
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“Pity,” Fiona murmured. “Though that would explain—” She trailed off, looking away.

Whiskey felt a moment of elation as her opponent broke the stare first. Emboldened by the unexpected win, she leaned forward. “Explain what?”

Fiona’s sharp green eyes focused back on Whiskey. “It explains why you’re out in the cold rather than snug in your family’s confines.” She smiled, returning to that faint superior amusement. “Did you even know them at all?”

The words, lightly spoken, brushed painfully against Whiskey’s hidden regrets and nightmares. She brushed Cora’s hand off, not wanting to feel any touch upon her abruptly sensitive skin. Pushing her plate away, she glared at Fiona. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her voice sounded foreign, even to herself.

Fiona’s eyes glittered knowingly. After a moment, she agreed. “As you wish, my little
.” She raised her chin.

Many people used the gesture to indicate stubborn resistance. Whiskey blinked, slouching in her chair. Fiona conceded the point—chin lifted, countenance haughty, baring her throat in capitulation. Whiskey recalled the flash of vision she’d had on the street of Fiona ripping out her throat with sharp teeth.
They really do think they’re vampires. Is that where that gesture comes from?
Fiona’s lips curved into a smirk, and Whiskey schooled her features to indifference.

“Are you finished eating?” Cora spoke softly.

The food, once so delicious, left a nasty aftertaste in Whiskey’s mouth. She pushed her plate away. “I’m done.”

Fiona raised the dregs of her wine to Whiskey in salute before draining the contents. “Time to go, children.” 

Hours later, Whiskey stared at herself in a mirror. A scaled tail circled her right wrist, the dragon it belonged to coiling up her arm, ending at her collarbone and shoulder blade. Mere outlines of black ink at this point with hints of color here and there, its ethereal wings sheltered her, protecting her as it struggled to rise. Antibacterial ointment caused the artwork to shine, making the dragon scales glisten.

“Magnificent,” Fiona murmured.

Whiskey nodded. “Yeah it is.”

Cora smiled. “Red was a much better choice than black.”

Whiskey moved her arm. The dragon writhed along her muscle. Her skin felt lightly bruised from her fingers to her neck. The burning sting had subsided, and the last two hours had been sheer agony. The worst had been those areas closest to the bone. It had been worth the pain. Once the job had been started, she’d insisted they finish as much as possible. She didn’t know how long she’d be hanging with this crowd. It’d suck to have a partially completed tattoo for years on end. This thing cost an outrageous sum; she’d never have the cash to color it in, too. The artist, a petite Asian woman exhibiting dozens of tattoos on her exposed skin, had attempted to halt the process twice, and Fiona had backed Whiskey’s request by offering a substantial tip to complete the outline. She turned to the tattooist. “This is fucking killer! Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’d say it’s some of my best work. Mind if I get some pictures before you go?” 

Whiskey turned back to the mirror in fascination. “Go ahead.”

The tattooist went to the front counter for a camera.

“A definite success.” Fiona smiled at her. “Are you certain about Cora’s suggestion, my little

Whiskey glanced sharply at Fiona’s reflection. Her voice sounded mocking, but her face was serene. “Why not?” She sensed a subtle challenge. “If I’m going to do it, might as well do it all.”

Cora clapped her hands in glee. “I’ll tell her.” She scampered toward the front of the shop to get the tattooist.

Fiona conceded with a sly grin, raising her chin. The action increased her naturally haughty appearance, something that didn’t need work.

“Where’s everybody else?” Whiskey asked. When they’d arrived, Daniel and Alphonse had both decided to add to their collection, getting into a deep discussion with one of the other tattooists.

“They finished early, and got bored. We’ll run into them later.”

Whiskey nodded, and looked out the front windows. A clock by the register showed nearly midnight. The place had quite a few customers at this hour. Friday nights were busy. She returned her attention to the dragon.
No wonder, if this is the usual quality of their work.

Normally she’d be tired at this point, but sleeping through the day, and an endorphin high from the tattoo had boosted her energy levels. She didn’t know how long it would last. It didn’t look like her benefactors were anywhere near crashing, either. Their money made things a lot easier for them, giving them the opportunity to run with impunity, knowing they’d have a safe place to crash in the wee hours. She’d gotten far more than she’d hoped for since meeting them—a shower, sex, new clothes, a full stomach, and now a tattoo worth eight hundred or more. Still, as easy as it would be to remain in their care, she knew things would end badly. They always did. Fiona would get tired of her new toy, and toss Whiskey out eventually, not before softening her up with easy food, sex and money. It might take days or weeks, but it would happen.

After tonight, Whiskey would cut and run.
Take more than you can give.
She’d catch a nap somewhere; maybe head over to Tallulah’s to see if Gin’s party still progressed. She also had to be at the Youth Consortium at eleven in the morning to meet with Father Castillo.

“Piercing your nipples, too?”

Whiskey turned to the artist. “Yeah. What the hell, you know?”

The smaller woman grinned. “All right then. Let’s go into the back room for that.” She led the way toward a curtain.

Swallowing her sudden trepidation, Whiskey followed, Cora and Fiona trailing after.


Chapter Five

“You’ve got to be shitting me.” Whiskey studied the upscale club across the street from the car. The word Malice dripped bloody red across black-colored brick above the door. A spotlight brought out the glossiness of the paint. At nearly one in the morning, people still lined up, waiting for admittance from the two bouncers at the door. The air pulsed with the muffled bass of the music inside. Someone threw open the double doors to leave, and a flow of ambient trance music washed over the street.

Fiona laughed, locking the vehicle doors. “When it comes to raising hell, my friend, I rarely joke. Have you been here before?”

“Hell, no.” She raised her voice to be heard over the crowd. “I’m not twenty-one.”
Not to mention I’m not pretty enough to be let into the hottest club in town.

Cora wrapped herself around Whiskey’s left arm. “I think you’ll like it. It’s not as much fun as Crucible, but—”


Fiona’s sharp voice redirected Whiskey’s attention. She saw Fiona give Cora a glare. For her part, Cora didn’t wilt, but her pale skin flushed as she looked away.

“What were you going to say?”

Cora’s discomfort faded. She smiled at Whiskey. “I was going to say it’s not as much fun, but I like the music better here.”

Whiskey always knew when someone lied to her. She’d expected it sooner or later. Fiona ruled this roost. For whatever reason, be it fear or greed, she engendered loyalty from her people. She’d probably ordered Cora’s intimacy with Whiskey whatever Cora’s enjoyment of the activity. Whiskey ruthlessly quashed a faint sense of regret.
Take more than you give.

“Shall we?” Fiona turned away from her guest, and crossed the street.

Whiskey allowed herself to be pulled along by Cora. She kept a neutral expression on her face as Fiona led them not to the end of the line, but to the door itself.
Shit. How much influence does she have?

Glances smoldered with venom, especially from those who’d waited longest near the door. A handful verbally accosted them as Fiona spoke with one of the bouncers. The big man’s black T-shirt strained across his pectoral muscles. He looked past Fiona to Cora and Whiskey. His eyes flashed golden in the streetlight, startling Whiskey from her feigned nonchalance. He nodded, and spoke with his partner. Another nod, a wave, and the door opened for them.

They mounted the steps, and entered the thundering music. The more vocal members of the crowd swore at them. Whiskey ignored the epithets, staring at the bouncer with the golden eyes. Up close his eyes were dark brown, a few shades lighter than hers.
He has to be wearing contacts, too. Is he part of Fiona’s clique?
She had no more time to dwell on it as the doors closed behind them.

Light and sound. Multicolored flashes overhead illuminated the balcony onto which the entry opened. An industrial-style railing circled this level, an affectation permeating the club’s decor. More brightness assaulted her eyes from somewhere beyond and below. She let Cora guide her as she gained her bearings. Gunmetal steel cabaret tables here held a handful of drinkers. A small bar huddled in the corner to accommodate them. Fiona smiled over her shoulder, and waved at Whiskey to follow. She descended a wide circular staircase.

As Whiskey approached the steps, she saw three cages hanging from the ceiling on a level with the balcony. A couple currently occupied one. A man and woman danced seductively inside, both partially undressed. From the looks of the clothing scattered in the corners of the cage, they’d be completely nude before long. The cage gently swayed with their motions, and Whiskey saw where a catwalk extended out to it. She wondered if they were paid workers for the club, or exhibitionist patrons allowed its use. Looking down, she saw the large dance floor packed with revelers moving to the hypnotic music. Squares of colored floor tiles pulsed in time with the music. Another cage hung against the opposite wall, this one a metal and Plexiglas contraption that housed the club’s DJ. 

Reaching the main floor, Fiona ushered them past a long bar, up some steps and toward the back corner. Whiskey squeezed past people to keep up. She seriously doubted they’d find anywhere to sit at this time of night. Malice was too popular for a table to go empty for any length of time, especially on a Friday night. She wondered if Fiona would resort to bullying her way into taking one over.

Cora was already enjoying herself. She clutched Whiskey’s arm, but moved in time with the music as they walked. She smiled at Whiskey, leaning forward to give her a lingering kiss on the cheek. Whiskey raised an eyebrow, eyes darting around to see if anyone took notice or offense. No one responded, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Another fight after the one last night would wipe her out. She didn’t want to ruin a good thing. Now that she’d been allowed inside Malice without showing identification, maybe she could sneak back in the future, preferably without her current companions.

Fiona pushed aside a curtain made of metal chain, and waved them past. “Sit down, children.”

Whiskey stepped into a semiprivate area. She recognized Manuel and Bronwyn from the night before, lounging together on the booth seat of a single large metal table. Daniel also sat here, raising a beer in welcome. No other tables graced the room, giving the pack a secure, private base from which to party. Cora helped Whiskey into a chair across from the others, immediately taking residence on her lap.

The chain rattled back into place, and Fiona drifted behind Whiskey’s chair, hardly pausing as she trailed her fingernails up Whiskey’s recent tattoo. The tender skin stung. Before Whiskey registered the annoyance, Cora squirmed in her lap, drawing her attention to more pleasing things.

“Where’s Alphonse and Zebediah?” Fiona sat at the head of the table. A waitress appeared out of nowhere with a tray full of drinks.

“Out on the floor,” Manuel drawled. “They’ve found a couple of
for the night.”

The waitress set two shot glasses and a bottle of Chivas Regal Royal in front of Whiskey. Cora wriggled in a pleasing manner, distracting Whiskey further. Her hands caressed and supported Cora’s waist as the woman leaned forward to reach the bottle. Whiskey focused on her hands splayed out upon Cora’s back. The conversation continued as she studied them. Clean healthy skin covered her knuckles where bruises and abrasions had been just this afternoon.
What did Daniel inject me with?

or cows?” Fiona accepted a glass of red wine.

Whiskey’s left hand strayed to her new tattoo. The antibiotic cream had soaked into her flesh, leaving the skin smooth. She felt the slight raised scabbing along the ink. She’d never had a tattoo before, but she’d heard how much it hurt, had seen how long it took to heal with other street kids fortunate to have friends in the business. This looked days old, not an hour. She drew her hand from her forearm to her belly, pressing on the bruises, finding little discomfort.

Bronwyn and Manuel gave each other a knowing glance. “Cows.”  Bronwyn smirked.

“What are

Fiona smiled at Whiskey. “A babe in the woods,” she said to the others, indicating Whiskey. Bronwyn chuckled, and Daniel’s lips quirked in amusement. Manuel showed no emotion at all.

Whiskey’s eyes narrowed at the vague insult. On a hunch, she lowered her chin. “That doesn’t answer the question.” Cora handed her a shot glass of alcohol. Whiskey took it without drinking.

“How to explain
?” Fiona looked inward for a definition. “They are a class of Humans who...serve us.”

“Serve? Like maids or something?”

Bronwyn’s laugh clashed with the music thumping in the main part of the club.

Fiona didn’t hide her amusement as she sipped her wine. “No. Perhaps ‘serve’ was the incorrect word.
offer us the ultimate gift so that we may continue life.” She raised an eyebrow. “You must have been quite young when your parents passed the veil, little
You don’t even know the most basic of words of your native tongue.”

Whiskey blinked. The mention of her parents’ death hurt; it always did, some years more than others. This had been a bad year. She drained her glass without thought. The unfamiliar alcohol burned hot down her throat. She barely controlled the urge to wheeze, and slammed the shot glass onto the table to cover the unexpected physical response. “Native tongue? What are you talking about?” She glared about the table, pleased her voice didn’t sound too rough.

BOOK: The Strange Path
2.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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