The meeting of the council was in the same place as last time, but this time Kruise and I agreed to remain at the cafe across the street. Kelsey met us there and bought Kruise and I a couple of sandwiches and drinks before taking off with Nix and Dayle.
"So, are you writing?"
"Sure. Just finished a story for a magazine." I sipped my ice tea. "Rather ironic, really. The magazine's on the West Coast."
"Tell me again why you don't want to live in California?"
I glared at her. "I like snow, and I don't like my earth moving."
"Right." Kruise nodded. "I forgot, you hate sun."
"I do not."
"Do too. You're a night owl."
I shrugged. "That's true. But it's not that I hate the sun. I just . . . like the moon better."
She shook her head. "No wonder you get along with the vampires so well."
I gazed at her pointedly. "Look who's talking."
"So, things are good between you and Dayle?"
She nodded. "Really good. I'm --" She stopped and tipped her head slightly. "Surprised. It's been much easier than I thought. We -- complement each other in a lot of ways."
Kruise took a bite of her sandwich, and thought about it while she chewed. "Well, you know how I love cooking anything that isn't breakfast, and I'm terrible at baking, right?"
I nodded. Kruise's attempts at baking were legendary. We had even played catch one time with a biscuit she cooked. It had been as hard as rock and lasted until Jess threw it into a snow bank.
"Well, Dayle likes cooking breakfast, and she's a great baker. She also does windows -- which I won't do."
"Okay, so you can divide duties without a problem. What about personalities? I know you tend to need some alone time."
"And she gives it to me. She needs it as well, so we plan certain days as together times, but also make sure there's apart time as well. Other than work, I mean."
"Good. That's good." I nodded again. "And what about her feeding?"
Kruise glanced down. "We're -- talking about it." She put her arms on the table. "She told me that the normal way they feed is at orgasm. Did Nix do that to you?"
"Yeah. Her and Cam."
"And what was Jace's opinion of that?"
I shrugged. "She said she didn't mind. Nix told her what she was planning, and Jace gave her permission, so I don't think it bothered her."
Kruise frowned. "I don't think I could handle that. I mean, you and Jace had a much more open relationship than I could ever have."
"If that's true, how are you going to take the sexual nature of Dayle feeding?" I ate the last bite of my sandwich as she thought about it. "You can't keep feeding her yourself, Kruise."
"I know." The frown deepened. "We're still talking about it."
She glared at me.
Our friends came back from the meeting with frowns on their faces. Nix pulled out the chair next to me and dropped into it with a sigh.
Dayle snorted. "Stupid idiots. Star went around killing people for so long and no one wanted to do anything. Now there's this other person, possibly a vampire, that's attacking but not killing, and the council wants them dead."
"Not killing?" Kruise raised an eyebrow. "If they're not killing, what are they doing?"
"Feeding." Nix nipped a french fry off my plate. "They're attacking, biting, feeding, and then leaving. So far they haven't killed anyone, though a couple people have lost a lot of blood."
"Is it a Nosferatu?"
Dayle looked at me thoughtfully. "I suppose it could be. The description is pretty androgynous. Not too tall, with short hair, and a thin body."
"Somehow, I don't think it is." Nix swiped another fry. "From what I read of the reports, the person's not really strong. I know Nosferatu aren't as strong as vampires, but they're quite a bit stronger than humans."
"Most of them," Dayle agreed, "but if he'd been a younger man, perhaps a teenager, then the description fits."
Nix nodded. "Could be."
I slapped her hand as she reached toward my last fry. "So, what does the council want to do?"
"And what did they need you for?" Kruise slid her plate toward Dayle so she could finish the fries.
Dayle winked at her and picked one from the plate. "They wanted to know if we had any ideas on who it could be. If we knew of any other vampires that might be as crazy as Star."
"Why are they so worried if no one's died?" I shrugged. "Sounds like some human idiot playing games."
"I would agree," Nix said, "except for one thing."
"What's that?" Kruise asked.
Nix sighed lightly. "Vampires can pick out other vampires easily. It's just something we can do. There's like, I don't know, this kind of aura thing that we can see."
Kruise and I nodded.
"Well, one attack occurred fairly close to a vampire hang out, and one of our people who saw the attacker fleeing, said it definitely had the aura of a vampire."
I frowned. "But, doesn't that mean it can't be a Nosferatu?"
She shook her head. "No. The aura is the same but, the mind is different."
"Yeah," Dayle snorted again. "Like, we have one and they don't."
We chuckled at that.
" Anyway," Nix continued, "there's no way a Nosferatu could plan something like this, and once they begin feeding, they don't stop till the person's dead."
"Right. So, what's the plan?"
I nodded at Kruise's question. "Yeah. What do they want you guys to do?"
"Like I said, they wanted our opinion on who it might be."
"And what did you tell them, Dayle?"
She shook her head. "Not a clue."
Nix shrugged. "I can't think of anyone stupid enough to do that -- except Star, and not only is she dead, but she rarely left a person alive. Oh, yeah," she turned toward me, "the reason they're so concerned is because it hit the papers. Seems the attacker jumped the son of a prominent businessman as the kid left a bar. The cops found him huddled near the alley way, whining and crying about how some bitch jumped out and bit him."
I raised an eyebrow. "Um, you're not talking about the attack on Clint Stutzman, are you?" All three of them looked at me. "Sorry. I was a senior when he was a sophomore, in Massachusetts." I shrugged. "He always was a whiny little shit."
Dayle nodded. "That's him. He said it was a woman, with short hair. Said her eyes turned red and her fingernails grew long." A roll of her eyes let us know what she thought of that description.
"Who knows, that might be what he saw," I said. "Last I heard he'd gotten tossed from school cause he got caught distributing acid. Daddy's money got him out of a police rap, but couldn't keep him in college."
"You think he was high and made the whole thing up?" Dayle's other eyebrow joined its twin above her bangs.
"No, but I wouldn't bet against him being drunk or high when it happened. Who knows what really took place, or who or what he really saw?"
Nix nodded. "Could be. But it got to the papers that he was attacked by someone acting like a vampire. That's enough to get the council stirred up."
"But they just wanted to get your opinion? That's it?"
Dayle slipped an arm around Kruise and sighed. "'Fraid not, love. They want us to help them track down the culprit. They're convinced it is a vampire, and they think our experience with Star will give us a head start in finding her."
Kruise glared and smacked her glass down on the table. "That's not fair. You did your part with Star. This isn't any of your business." She poked Dayle in the chest with her finger. "Besides, you just moved here. You don't know who lives here or who doesn't. How can they ask you to take part in this?"
"Because," Nix replied softly, "we're vampires. By vampire law, anything that threatens vampires in general is our concern. They have the right to request our help."
"But you've already helped them. You got rid of Star for them. You don't owe them anything else." Kruise was looking very upset and I wondered what was going on.
Dayle reached over and took her hand. "Babe, relax. I'm not leaving you, I'm not going to get hurt. Everything will be okay." She kissed Kruise's hand. "Trust me. Okay?"
Still frowning, Kruise nodded. Dayle pulled her into a hug, and she stayed there, resting against the vampire's body.
I was still wondering how Kruise was going to handle Dayle's need to feed.
Dayle and Kruise decided to join us when Nix and I went to look for Jesse. It wasn't early enough for her to be at home, so we headed to the place most of the vamp family hung out at.
The place was a dive, really. It was an old basement bar in a really seedy part of Brooklyn. After losing its liquor license six months ago the owner had basically closed the place and ignored it. One of the family members knew the owner and got permission to use it as a hangout. The windows were all boarded up and the light above the stairs had been smashed to pieces. It was private, though, and that's what the gang wanted. In some ways it reminded me of the Shadow Box.
Dayle and Kruise waited outside. Nix followed me as I opened the door and entered the dark bar.
Even in the dim light I could tell that Jess wasn't there. The few times I'd been to the club I'd been with Jesse, and there'd been an energy that had come from the woman I was with. Tonight, it just wasn't there, and I shook my head at Kruise, who nodded and sighed.
Maz was there, talking with Lista. I could see Evan in a corner with Victoria. The two of them seemed to be very involved in each other and I turned away from the sight with a wince. Lista laughed as she saw my reaction.
"Hey, Little T. Whatcha doin' here tonight?"
"Looking for Tristesse. You seen her tonight?"
Nix stepped up beside me, her eyebrow raised at Jess's nickname.
Maz grinned. "Not for a few hours."
Lista let her eyes wander over Nix, and her grin widened. "Who's the chick, Little T?"
"Um, this is . . ." I stopped when Nix put a hand on my arm.
"I'm a friend. So, you don't know where Tristesse is?"
Maz chuckled. Lista let her eyes continue to roam over Nix. "We didn't say that, chick. Just --" The smile faded on her face a little as Evan moved up behind us.
I felt him there and groaned, knowing what was coming. Jesse had made it clear to him that I was off limits, but no one had made that claim as far as Nix.
His hand dropped casually onto her shoulder, and I winced. When it continued down her back and slid around toward her stomach, I swallowed. There was going to be trouble, and I just wanted to get out of there.
Nix looked down at the hand, then up at the grinning man beside her.
"Hey, chickie, why don't y--"
His words cut off as Nix's hand shot out and grabbed his throat. She lifted slightly, just enough to pull him to his toes, and used her other hand to grab his hand and twist. Everyone froze, including Evan, who was just trying to breathe through the death grip on this throat.
Nix turned back to Lista. "You were telling me where Tristesse is?"
Lista nodded, her eyes wide. "She's at home. She told everyone she'd be home tonight."
The vampire nodded and looked again at Evan. "The last man that touched me without my permission lost his hand and his dick. You want to lose something?"
Carefully, Evan shook his head.
"Good. Get lost." She pushed him, and he hit the floor several feet away. His coughs and gasps followed us as we left the club.
Kruise and Dayle looked up as Nix slammed the door shut behind us.
"No luck?" Kruise asked softly.
Nix walked past and headed for Dayle's Cruiser. "She's home."
I shrugged. "Lista says she's at home. Didn't say anything else."
Dayle nodded toward Nix, who continue toward the car. "Is she okay?"
"Not a clue." I watched as Nix yanked on the door handle, then began to slowly kick the car door. "Somehow I don't think so."
With a curse, Dayle sped off, running toward Nix, who was still trying to kick the car to pieces.
"What the hell happened, Trey? I didn't think you were in there that long."
I told her. She winced and shook her head. "Why would Jesse be at home tonight?"
"Not a clue, unless --" my voice cut off as the thought became clear in my head.
Kruise finished the idea for me. "Unless she's not alone."
We looked at each other, a little frightened.
Dayle called from the car. She had managed to get Nix into the back seat, but as we approached I could still see waves of anger and frustration coming from the smaller vampire. Of course, Dayle was looking a little steamed as well.
I hoped Jesse just didn't feel
good tonight. I really did.
Nix had calmed down considerably by the time we got to Jesse's place. She even unclenched her fists and apologized to me. Then she apologized to Dayle for the dent in the door of Dayle's new PT Cruiser.
Dayle just looked at her through the rear-view mirror.
With a light shrug, Nix turned away. She rubbed her fingers over the cuts she'd made in her own palm and sighed.
"What was that you called Jesse in there? Tristesse?"
"Yeah." I shifted a little. "It's her vampire name. Shelby gave it to her."
"Oh, really. And what's Shelby's nickname?"
I thought about it. "I don't think she has one. She's just Mistress."
"Uh-huh." She turned back towards the window, and I winced at the expression on her face.
We pulled up at the curb, and Dayle used the trick of putting a ticket in place under the windshield wiper. Kruise glared at her, but she shrugged.
"Not like we're going to be long. Just getting Nix and Jess back together, and then leaving."
I closed my eyes and said a prayer to whoever that it would be that simple.
Jesse's apartment was on the third floor. The elevator ride up was quiet, with Nix chewing on her nails and me trying not to chew on mine.
When we got to the door, we all kind of stared at each other, wondering who would knock. Finally Kruise rapped on the door with her knuckles.
There wasn't any noise inside, so Kruise knocked again.
After a third knock we could hear some movement, and Jesse's voice telling us to go away. At that, Nix looked irritated and slammed her hand into the door several times.
Moments later, the door flew open and Jesse stood there in a robe.
She stared at Nix for several moments, a look of shock on her face.
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
Nix shrugged. "Wanted to see you. Can we come in?" She put her hand on Jess's chest and pushed her backwards into the apartment, following her in. "Thanks."
Kruise and I looked at each other, our eyes wide. No one touched Jess like that.
At least not when she was sober.
We closed the door behind us, and watched as Nix looked around the apartment. Jess watched her, still gaping slightly.
"You're not welcome here, Nix. Get out."
Nix turned back toward Jesse. "Trey and Kruise thought maybe we should talk."
I took a step back at the angry look Jesse threw my way.
"We don't need to talk. You said everything loud and clear when you left."
The vampire chuckled. "I couldn't have been very clear, cause I wasn't really understanding it myself."
"Yeah, well, I did. It was goodbye. Which is what I'm saying now."
Nix nodded. "Maybe it would be better if we talked when you weren't so high."
Kruise and I traded glances again. It was usually pretty hard for someone to tell that Jess was high, unless she'd been using a lot and was slurring her words or stumbling. All that signaled her drug use tonight was a bright spot of color in her cheeks and a glassy look to her eyes.
"High or not, I know I don't want to see you. Leave now, and don't come back." She glared at the rest of us. "Take the rest of your circus mates with you."
"Jesse, I --"
"Fuck you, Kruise. Get out."
"Yeah, fuck you, Kruise."
The extra voice was coming from the doorway to the bedroom, and as I looked past Jess, I saw Shelby standing there. She had her arms folded over her breasts, but she wasn't wearing anything but a strap on. She looked completely at ease, leaning against the wall next to the door.
I could feel the temperature in the apartment drop a good ten degrees.
"Nice to see you, Little T."
"Um. Hi. Shelby."
"No, no, it's not Shelby tonight. It's Mistress." She sauntered toward us, the strap on swinging obscenely back and forth with each step. "And Tristesse has work to do tonight. Right, slave?"
I winced as her fingernails squeezed Jesse's nipple through the robe.
"Yes, Mistress." Kruise's mouth dropped open, as did mine. Jesse's jaw was very tight, but she'd actually said the words.
"Get rid of them. Then come back to the bedroom." Shelby glanced at all of us, as if dismissing us, and headed back to the bedroom, swinging her hips as she walked.
There was silence in the living room for several long seconds. It felt like hours since we'd gotten there.
Nix moved suddenly towards Jesse, grabbing her robe at the shoulders and ripping it down the back. Jesse whirled towards her in anger -- and the rest of us could see the angry red lash marks that criss-crossed her back.
Kruise moaned. "Aw, Jesse."
"Shut up, Kruise." Jesse glared at Nix and pointed at the door. Her voice was low and filled with fury. "Get the fuck out, or I swear I'll stake you, Nix."
Phoenix stood there, the torn piece of material still clutched in her hands. She looked down at it, then back up at Jesse. Her eyes were cold.
"You like this, Jesse? You like letting her get you high? Letting her stripe your flesh, beat you, chain you?" Her teeth were clenched. "You like letting her rape you?"
"It's not so very different from what you did, Nix."
I think our collective gasp was so strong, all the air was sucked out of the room for a moment. I know it took me several seconds to be able to breathe again.
Nix dropped the bundle in her hands and walked to the door. She opened it, went through, and slammed it behind her.
Jesse was staring down at the material, her shoulders sagging.
"Jesse, why?" Kruise stepped up next to her. "You said you'd never bottom again."
A harsh laugh was torn from Jesse. "Kruise, that's all I am. Don't you get that yet?" She bent and picked up the cloth Nix had dropped. "That's all I'll ever be."
Kruise pulled her around and stepped up close, right in her face. "That's not true. Don't you ever say that again, you hear me?" Her voice almost broke, but she swallowed and continued in a whisper. "Don't you know you're my hero?"
For a moment, I thought she'd gotten through. Jesse smiled slightly, and reached up to caress Kruise's face. She even leaned forward and kissed her.
"Go home, Kruise. I'm not your hero." Jess put a hand on one of Kruise's shoulders and pushed her away. "Go home with Dayle, and enjoy your nice, semi-normal life." She tossed the cloth to the couch, then took off the rest of her ruined robe. "Take Trey with you, watch over her, and keep her out of trouble." The robe was layed over the living room chair. "Leave me alone."
With that, she turned and walked toward the bedroom, stopping once to remind us to lock the door on our way out. Then the bedroom door closed behind her.
We left the apartment in silence.
End Part Two
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