WARNING: Language, violence, male/male sexual situation
As I prepped my notes for work on Ties of Blood, I noticed that I have a lot of side characters who, for one reason or another, don’t get any “me” time. so, I’ve decided to remedy that in a collection of short stories called…
(You can find Sarah in Shades of Gray. This story takes place sometime before Shades of Gray. I don’t know when. It doesn’t really matter. )
Troy leaned back against the metal building and stared at the sky. Shreds of clouds drifted past the full moon, like tattered silk, and a lone bird called in the distance. The sound was harsh and eerie.
It was lost on Troy.
God, I am so fucking bored. I don’t know why Claudius put me on greeting duty.
But there was only one guest left to arrive and then he was done.
The noise of a motor reached his ears and his shoulders tensed. The sound grew louder and a black car appeared, a cloud of gravel dust trailing behind it. Troy stood and stuffed his hands in his pockets as the vehicle pulled to a stop.
The back passenger door opened and a tall, thin woman climbed out. Her hair was as black as the sky and her expression cold as ice. She sniffed disdainfully and lifted the hem of her scarlet dress, as though the slowly settling dust had contaminated her.
Troy muttered to himself and then moved to meet her. He gave her a once over that left a leering smirk on his lips. Her ass wasn’t bad, but she didn’t have much in the top department. Ah well, not like he was gonna get her, anyway. She was there for the big boys. Claudius didn’t have a chance either, though no one had better tell him that or he’d have one of his fits.
The woman’s cold face got colder. “And you are?”
Troy cleared his throat loudly and made a show of a low, sweeping bow. “My master Claudius bids you welcome, madam. Allow me to escort you, and if there is anything else I can do to make your stay a… pleasurable one…” he trailed off and let the smirk demonstrate his meaning.
“That won’t be necessary,” she snapped. Her words danced with a foreign accent, Italian maybe? He didn’t know, and he didn’t care. Like the rest, she was a self absorbed, bossy bitch.
“However, you can keep Costus entertained.”
Her random statement pulled him back to the conversation. “Costus?”
She motioned to the car, as if that was an answer, and then walked purposefully past him, towards the tin building and a pair of guarded double doors. “I do hope it’s better inside than outside!”
Troy didn’t bother to explain the subterranean den concealed by the small metal structure. Why bother? The bitch would see for herself. Maybe he’d get lucky and she’d get lost in the labyrinth of tunnels before she reached the throne room and the conference.
The guards opened the door and leapt out of the way quickly. Troy watched her disappear inside, then turned back to the car and scratched his bald head. “Who the fuck is Costus?”
The back driver’s side door opened and a sulky teenage boy climbed out. Dark messy hair obscured his eyes and the set of his shoulders said he’d rather be anywhere else. His thoughts were the same.
Just the kind I like.
The boy slouched around the car and threw his bangs from his face with a jerk of his head. Cold, dark eyes gave Troy a once over. “Who are you supposed to be?”
Troy returned the long look; from the kid’s leather footwear, past his pressed pants , sharp blazer, and the open neck of his crisp white shirt. “First tell me who the fuck you are.”
He sniffed disdainfully. “I’m Costus, obviously.”
“And obviously I’m the asshole who’s stuck babysitting you while your momma plays with Claudius.”
The change was instant; the kid went from sulking boredom to raw fury. “She is not my mother, you insolent-”
Troy snorted. “I don’t care who she is. I’m not stuck with her, I’m stuck with you. Let’s go.”
Costus’ anger flickered. “Go where?”
“I’ve been greeting the envoys all night and haven’t had time for more than a snack, so I’m hungry.”
Costus looked ready to argue – and he was. Troy could hear the thoughts bubbling through his brain. He didn’t want to take his car, didn’t want the driver to know where he was going or what he was doing. His sister – That’s who she is, not his mother. I knew they looked alike – wouldn’t like it. She’d told him not to go anywhere and charged the driver with keeping him out of trouble. Then she’d lectured Costus. He was tired of being lectured. He wasn’t a child, and hadn’t been for two hundred years.
Troy’s shrug was fake casualness. “Unless you think your mom would get mad?”
As he expected, that did it. Costus’s face twisted and he snapped, “She is not my mother, and I don’t care if she’s angry!” He turned and jerked the back door open. “Are you coming or not?”
The interior was black leather; the smooth, sensual kind. Troy briefly imagined the kid’s naked skin on it, white against the black. Kid. Though he called him that, he wasn’t. Costus’ thoughts had betrayed his age. Hell, he was older than Troy was by nearly a century. That was the beauty of vampirism. Age was relative; it just depended on how you looked at it, so everyone was only as old as you wanted them to be.
The town was nearby and there wasn’t much to it. It was larger than some of the others, but it was nothing like home. Not that Manhattan had been a great place to live, especially not the part he’d been in. Hell’s Kitchen, they’d called it. The name fit in a way that people who’d never been there couldn’t know. Or at least it used to fit. Last time he’d been there it was full of high rise bullshit and nothing he recognized. Sure, some of the old buildings were there, but they were occupied by suits and yuppies. Oh well, all the old gang was gone too, so it seemed fitting. Not like he needed any of them now, anyway. Truth be told, he didn’t need anyone.
Except for some fun.
The driver glanced back to them. “Where would you like to go, sir?”
Costus looked at Troy from the corner of his eyes, as if seeking the answer.
Oh yeah, this kid’s like putty.
“We’re hungry,” Troy barked. “Take us to a restaurant – a nice restaurant.”
“Erm. A restaurant… sir?”
“Do you always talk back to your superiors?” Troy demanded with authority. “I don’t know what kind of a coven they’re running, but where I’m from, the low men on the totem pole show the proper respect and do what they’re told!” As if to seal it he met Costus’ eyes. “Is this how you let them treat you?”
“No!” the kid cried with moral outrage. He pounded his fist into the seat. “Do as you’re told, Piotr!”
Troy could hear the driver’s worried thoughts; worried about being demoted, worried about being killed. Worried about being kicked out of the coven and left to fend for himself. He was a vampire like them but he was new – really new. Troy saw a flash of thought, a half formed image of a pretty girl with a bloody face whispering, “Do you want to be like me, pretty Piotr?” And then she was gone and Piotr was alone in the rain and he didn’t understand.
Good. He knows what it is to be alone. He fears it. Where there’s fear, there’s control.
Troy smiled, but not kindly. “You better listen up, there, Piotr, or they might have to replace you with someone competent.”
He could feel Piotr’s fear double.
The restaurant was attached to a hotel. It was nice, but it wasn’t the million dollar kind. There weren’t any of those around. Piotr parked the car and nervously hopped out and opened the back door for them. Troy climbed out and straightened his leather jacket. Costus got out behind him, a frown on his face.
He doesn’t understand, but he will.
Troy motioned to the kid and headed for the door. Like an uncertain puppy, Costus followed into the lobby and to the desk where a lady asked for their reservations. He saw it in her mind; there’d been a cancelation. The Whites- whoever the hell they are – weren’t coming. That sounded like the perfect table to him.
He fished around in her head for their full names but could only get one: Ron. That was enough.
“Ron White said he had to cancel his table and he thought maybe we could have it instead.”
She looked doubtful. “You’re friend of Mr. White?”
“Either that or he’s just calling strangers about his reservations.” He gave her a tight, friendly smile. “Ah, come on honey, I bet you don’t get paid enough to do detective work on everyone who comes in here. The bosses probably don’t appreciate the work you already do. No need to make more for yourself on our account.”
He heard her agree silently. They didn’t pay her enough, and the manager forgot her birthday. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she wasn’t sleeping with him. But he still forgot it. The bastard!
“I could speak to the manager and see if he thinks it’s okay?” Troy suggested.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” She motioned to a passing girl. “Show them to table twenty-six.”
They wound their way through restaurant, past clinking glasses and chattering diners. The table was in the center of the room, under a heavy chandelier. The old fashioned version of wealth.
The young lady hurried away and left them with a pair of menus. Costus blinked at his, and then at Troy. “You know these White people?”
“Sure, kid. I know everyone.”
Costus’ forehead seemed to fold in on itself. “I’m not a kid,” he hissed between his teeth.
Troy’s return grim was wolfish. “My mistake.”
When a waiter appeared, Troy ordered for both of them. Once they were alone again, Troy leaned back in his chair and surveyed the room. “What do you prefer? Boys or girls?”
“Girls!” Costus snapped a little too quickly, his cheeks slightly pink.
Bullshit. You’ll settle for anything that comes your way. Boy, girl, what’s it matter to you? Once the fangs are in they all feel the same.
Only they don’t.
Troy ignored Costus’ vehemence. “Take a look around and find one you like.”
The kid gave the room a casual glance; the kind of casual glance where the owner was secretly cataloging everything and everyone. Troy listened to his inner comments; this one was too fat, another too old, another too young. One was too skinny and a fifth was unattractive.
“That one,” he said finally, and nodded towards a girl with black hair and eyes the color of shadows. She reminded Troy of Costus’ sister, only without the attitude.
He didn’t mention the resemblance. “All right. Keep an eye on her.”
Their food came. They pushed it around the plates and Troy even tasted some of it, then spit it back in his napkin. Costus wasn’t as good at the charade. His back was rigid, his shoulder’s stiff, and he looked toward their prey far too often.
He’s gonna spook her.
He needn’t have worried. She was dining with an older lady – an aunt – and when Troy reached for her mind he found it all giggles. She noticed Costus’ attention, and she liked it. She was already planning on how to get rid if her aunt for the evening.
And then, she did.
She and her aunt disappeared towards the lobby and Troy climbed casually to his feet. He snapped his fingers impatiently, “Waiter! Check, please!”, motioned to Costus and then stalked out after them. He made it outside in time to see the pair separate; the older lady hobbled off towards her car and the girl made a show of stopping to dig through her purse for an imaginary “something”, her eyes on the building and her secret heart hoping that the “hot guy with the dark hair” would come out any second.
It evidentially took Costus a couple of minutes to deal with the bill, and when he stormed through the door he looked as angry as anyone who’s ever been left with the check. Troy caught his furious eyes, winked and subtly nodded towards the girl, as if to say, “There she is, tiger.”
He got the hint.
Troy leaned against a planter and smoked a cigarette while Costus stumbled through his opening lines. Her name was Andrea. He was just passing through. She was just recovering from a messy breakup. He was single. It went on through one cigarette and half of another, then Costus invited her to go with them. She giggled and said she shouldn’t.
Then, of course, she agreed.
Troy had already spotted the car in the parking lot and led the way. Andrea asked who he was and Costus explained him away as an uncle. She seemed to find that appealing.
A family girl.
She squealed when she saw Piotr. “Oh my God! You have your own driver!” Troy could hear her thoughts clicking away; visions of dollar signs, luxurious mansions and private jets. She thanked her lucky stars for finding a rich boy. It was every nineteen year old girl’s fantasy.
Nineteen? Huh. She looks twenty.
They climbed in the backseat together, Andrea in the middle. She blushed and giggled and talked. And talked. And talked. “Oh wow, look at the seats! Oh! They’re so smooth. I’ve never been in a car like this. Wow, you must be rich. What do your parents do? My father works for the railroad and my mother’s a teacher. So this is your uncle? What does he do? He looks like a rock star in that leather jacket. Oh my God, is that it? Are you guys rock stars or something?”
Troy tipped her a wink. “Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone, honey. We’re traveling incognito.”
She put her hands to her face and suppressed a squeal. Questions followed; what band were they in? What kind of music did they sing? Had she ever heard of them?
Troy put his finger to his lips, and she fell silent. He leaned close to her ear, as if to whisper a secret. He could smell her hair; honey and peaches. What an interesting combination. Her skin smelled like citrus with a hint of flowery perfume. Under it was the scent of her blood. Warm, salty, thick.
His words were more breath than sound, “If we tell you, we’ll have to kill you.” He laughed softly at his own joke, and she smiled nervously and leaned away. He could hear the alarm bells ringing in her head. Something wasn’t right. She could feel his malintent.
As does most prey, just before the predator strikes.
With lightning precision, he struck. His fangs sliced through the pale skin of her neck, just below her jaw. She shrieked and tried to climb into Costus’ lap, her arms and legs flailing in the confined space. Troy roughly pulled her back and grabbed a fistful of her hair. He jerked her head to one side, to give him better access. More blood.
With the blood came the visions.
She was six. Candles burned on a birthday cake. She cried because another girl was mean to her. She told her she was ugly. Poor little ugly girl in her birthday dress. Mother soothed her. Told her she had guests waiting.
The scene changed.
Snow fell and cocoa steamed. Her best friend lay on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. They watched horror movies. The TV flickered. A Hollywood vampire snarled, blood on his face. Artificial, yet somehow more believable than the real ones.
Believable because they weren’t in the middle of nowhere New York. Real vampires wouldn’t be there. Not really.
Or so she thought.
The visions pounded over him, and he sought the worst ones; the tears, the pain, the agony. Breakups, broken hearts, loneliness, grief. He felt them all, just as she had, one after another breaking over him like waves on the shore. She felt them too, as raw and fresh as if they were new, and she screamed.
He could still hear Costus, like a small beating light at the edge of his peripheral vision. Troy broke away from Andrea’s streaming consciousness to concentrate on him. Costus had fed earlier but the smell, the sight, the screams – his desire was growing, building. His lips pulled back from his teeth. He wanted the heat, the taste, just a drink. Only a drink.
“Come on,” Troy whispered around a mouthful of her throat. “You picked her.”
Troy edged away from her mind and let her come back to the present in time for Costus’ bite. He bit into her naked shoulder, teeth rending flesh in the quest for her blood. She jerked and fought, hitting him with one arm, kicking her legs uselessly against the seats. And her screams – her screams were terrible, terror-filled. The kind of screams a horror movie producer would pay extra for.
The kind of screams Troy loved.
He let her go and leaned back into his corner of the car. He watched as Costus took hold of her writhing, flailing body. He pulled her to him and bit harder, deeper. Her back arched and her breasts strained against her dress. Her blood smeared around Costus’ mouth. He tightened his hold for better access and wrapped his hand around the bite Troy had made. Blood oozed between his fingers; scarlet against the pale of his skin.
She went limp in his arms, but still he drank, oblivious to Troy, or to Piotr who was still driving, mild concern on his face as he glanced into the rearview again and again. Troy could hear his thoughts. His mistress wouldn’t like this. She was going to be mad when she found out. There would be hell to pay.
He has no idea.
“She’s empty,” Troy whispered, his voice husky. Costus’ eyes met his briefly, a flash of incomprehension. He wanted more. It wasn’t about the blood anymore. It was about…
Yes, that’s it. That’s exactly it.
Troy pulled the girl from Costus’ arms and stuffed her into the floorboards. The kid stared at him with wild, half crazed eyes. Troy didn’t wait for them to clear.
He pounced on Costus and knocked him back against the window. Troy grabbed his shirt in both hands and pulled it open. Buttons popped and pinged on the chrome and leather. The skin underneath was smooth and pale. Under the passing streetlights, it gleamed like polished marble.
Troy caught Piotr’s horrified eyes in the rearview and his smile grew into something smug. It was the driver’s job to look after Costus and keep him out of trouble, but there wasn’t a damned thing he could do now.
Troy bit. Costus gave a strangled cry and batted at Troy, aware for only a moment of what was going on. His awareness disappeared as his blood filled Troy’s mouth and their minds touched. Oh yeah, the kid was older than he was. He could see it; see the funny clothes, hear his sister’s urgent voice. Costus was born into darkness first, turned by a friend of his mother’s he called ‘Uncle’. The bloodlust tore through him. In his rage he attacked his sister. She screamed but he was strong now – so strong-
Costus’ scream tore through the car and Piotr slammed the brakes. Troy let the scene go; let it slide away, back into the depths of the kid’s memories, and reached for something else, something better. Costus moaned and his body relaxed. The pleasure built, coursing through both of them. They shifted until they were nearly laying down, Troy on top of him, pressing him down into those smooth leather seats. Costus unconsciously wrapped his arms around him, pulling his attacker closer, tighter. His back arched and his body shuddered.
Yeah. Oh fuck, yeah.
The orgasm ripped through Troy and he let go. The connection snapped and cold air slapped him in the face. The door was open and Piotr leaned in it, screaming. Without a thought, Troy slammed him in the face with his fist. The driver stumbled backwards and Troy slid out of the car in a flash. He grabbed Piotr by the lapels and lifted him, his teeth snapping in the driver’s face. He could take him now – right now – gorge himself like some big, fat spider and leave him lay. He could-
The cry was shaky, but demanding. Troy looked up to see Costus stumble out of the car and lean against it. One hand held his shirt together and the other was out, almost comically, like a traffic cop giving directions. “Leave him!”
Troy dropped Piotr to the ground and stepped over him. “Whatever you say, kid.” He ducked past Costus and slid into the backseat. “We better head back, your sister will want to know where you are.”
He could hear the argument in Costus’ head. Hear him mentally shout, “She’s not the boss of me!”, but he didn’t say it. Instead he fumbled himself into the car and settled into the corner.
Piotr stood and wiped himself off. He opened his mouth, the beginning of a tirade. Troy knew what he was going to say and cut him off. “You’re just a lowly nothing peon. Go ahead, run back to your mistress and tell her what happened. See if Costus goes along with you, because he won’t. He’ll say you’re full of shit and she’ll punish you like a dog for lying. That should be fun to watch.”
Piotr looked to his master, but Costus didn’t meet his eyes. Troy knew he was right, and now Piotr did too.
Without a word, the driver got in and started the car. They pulled back onto the highway and sped through the night towards Claudius’ war den. Troy watched Costus from the corner of his eye. There were wet wipes in a door compartment and he used them to clean himself; his hands, his face, his chest. His fingers trembled as he buttoned his blazer. It wasn’t enough to hide his gaping shirt and the missing buttons. Troy could hear his panicked thoughts as he tried to come up with a lie to explain it. All his attempts were stupid, but Troy didn’t care.
Not my problem.
The car pulled to a stop and Troy hopped out and stretched. He glanced back to the pale faced kid inside. “You coming, prince charming?”
“No. I-I’m going back to our hotel.”
“Suit yourself.” Troy slammed the door and stepped back. He watched as it pulled away, spitting gravel behind it, then faded into the embrace of the night. Costus’ sister would have to find another ride, or else sleep there during the day.
Troy turned for the metal building and thought of Costus and his downcast eyes. It was an expression he’d seen before; half guilt, half bewilderment. Uncertain about what had just happened, and if they’d wanted it or not.
Of course he did. And if he didn’t then he at least deserved it. They all deserved it with their mansions and their money. Hell’s Kitchen might be a swanky address now, but in his memory it wasn’t. The lessons he’d learned on those streets would stick with him for an eternity. You took what you wanted because no one was ever gonna give it to you. Only the strongest survived, and to be the strongest, he’d given up his soul, long before he’d become what he was now.
And in order to live with myself I don’t try to get it back.
After all, what did a vampire need with a soul anyway?
It would just get in the way of the fun.
Velnya is next week and then that’s it – the first collection will be done! Have to do some editing and then I’ll publish it in July I imagine. Whoo-hoo!
- Claudius now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Elsa now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)
- Herrick now on Smashwords! (joleenenaylor.wordpress.com)