Nix watched as the cab pulled over to the curb and parked just down the street from the vamp club. It was about ten-thirty, and the December cold had forced most people inside for the evening.
"Are you sure you want me to let you off here?" The cab driver half turned in his seat and looked back at her. "Pretty young thing like you, you need to be careful out there."
She smiled at him. "Yeah, I know. Don't worry, I think I'll be okay."
"All right." He took the bills she handed him. "It's your skin. I'll get your change."
"Keep it." Nix opened the door and put one foot on the cement. "Oh, hey, do you have a number I can call to get a cab over here?"
"Sure, but if it's much later, not many are gonna come without some kind of guarantee."
"What about you? If you wanna keep yourself free for me, I'll make it worth your while." She handed him another bill. "You'll get another one if you wait for me at that diner three blocks over."
He looked at her like he didn't believe her. "Yeah? For how long?"
She shrugged. "Not sure. Could be twenty minutes, could be an hour, could be a little more."
The driver looked like he wanted to say no, but the fifty in his hand made up his mind. "I'll wait two hours. You don't show, I'm gone."
Nix nodded. "Deal. Have a cup of coffee on me."
"I will. You just make sure you get over there without any holes in that pretty skin o' yours."
She grinned and stepped out of the taxi. The driver pulled away and she turned to look up the street toward the vamp club.
There weren't any lights on, but she hadn't seen any lights the night before either, so she knew that didn't mean much. She could see someone outside the club, though, leaning against the building by the front door.
Taking a deep breath, she started walking, her hands in the pockets of her leather jacket. All her senses were trained on her surroundings.
The person at the door was Maz, and he recognizedher as she was coming down the steps toward the door.
"Yo, Lady, I don't know what you're doin' here tonight, but you gotta be leavin'."
She smiled slowly. "Why? Just came to see if a friend is here."
Maz flipped his cigarette into the corner, which was obviously used all the time as an ash tray. He sniffled a little and wiped his nose. "She's here. But so's Mistress Shelby, and she don't like you."
"Really." Nix's voice was dry. "So I made an impression on her. And I wasn't even trying."
He looked uncomfortable. "Look, it's a big night here. You don't wanna be around, Lady."
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
Maz shrugged. "Sorry. I don't know a name for you, but after what you did last night to Evan --" he shook his head. "You're a lady to me and Lista."
An unexpected chuckle came from Nix. She realized she liked the name. "Better than Mistress, don't you think, Maz?" she asked softly.
He grinned at her, relaxing just a little.
"Trey told me there was something happening tonight. What's up?"
The big man tensed again. "That's what's up." He pointed, and Nix turned to see a large black Mercedes pulling up just down the street. As she watched, Evan got out of the driver's door and jogged around to open the rear passenger side door.
"What's up with that?"
Two girls were getting out of the car, neither of them very steady on their feet.
"Oh, lord. Is that what I think it is, Maz?"
He nodded. "If you's thinkin' we're gonna bleed 'em, you'd be right."
Nix sighed. "I take it there's a ritual tonight."
"What about the possibility of blood diseases?"
Maz shook his head. "Evan works at a blood donor site. He scouts out likely candidates, and makes sure they give blood."
"Which is tested. Good plan." Nix nodded. "Okay, so you guys are having a ritual and I'm not invited." She looked him in the eye. "You think you can keep me out, Maz?"
He looked her up and down, and let a smile cross his face. "No, ma'am."
She grinned, and stepped back into the shadows, knowing Evan would be too involved in getting his charges down the steps to notice her standing in a dark corner.
"Back me up when I need you, Maz. I'll take care of you."
He nodded to her, then looked up at Evan and the girls, who had just gotten to the top of the stairs.
"Maz, would you move your fat ass and help me with them?" Evan sounded a little frustrated.
Maz grabbed the arm of one of the girls and held her upright. They were both giggling, and even from the shadows Nix could see the unfocused look in their eyes.
"Come on, open the door. I'm a little late, and Shelby's going to be pissed as hell."
Keeping one arm around one of their victims, Maz yanked open the door and held it while Evan and his cargo went in. As soon as Evan had disappeared, Nix came forward and took the door, waving Maz through in front of her. He helped the girl into the building, and Nix slipped in right behind him, disappearing once again into the darkness.
Jesse was seated on the floor next to Shelby, who was lounging in a large red velvet chair. "Can she get any more cliche'?" Nix muttered to herself. She winced as she noticed the collar firmly in place on Jesse's neck. Even though she was supposed to be an elder in the group, everyone was ignoring her.
Shelby was dressed in a red leather skirt with a white shirt. Her long legs were covered in a black panty hose that disappeared into a pair of high-heeled red boots. Again, all Nix could do was roll her eyes.
Jesse, however, was dressed in black leather from head to foot, and Nix licked her lips unconsciously as she stared at the dark haired woman.
"Finallly. Where've you been, Ev?"
"Sorry, Mistress. It took a little longer than I expected. My apologies for making you wait."
Shelby gave him what Nix supposed was a sultry smile. To the vampire, the fake vamp just appeared to be smirking.
"Apology accepted. Please, tell me what tasty morsels you've acquired for us this evening."
Evan put a hand on the chin of the girl he was holding onto, and tilted it. "This is Debbie, and that," he pointed to the girl who had now passed out in Maz's arms, "is Katrina."
"Wonderful." Shelby slowly approached Maz."My, she's beautiful, Evan." She tilted the girl's head. "And young. How old are they?"
"Each twenty-two, Mistress."
"Very young. Nicely done, Evan. You have my favor for the evening." She stretched out a hand and he kissed it, nearly dropping the girl in the process. She had also passed out and now the two unconscious women were lifted as a table was carried out and placed in front of Shelby's chair. Jesse had moved backwards so as not to be in the way of the table, but she was still on her knees.
There were, as far as Nix could tell, about ten or eleven people in the room, including the two victims, and not including her. There was Maz and Evan, Shelby and Jesse, and Lista, all of who she had either met or heard the names of. The others she had no names for, but she examined them critically, wondering which ones would be a problem for her, and which wouldn't.
"What do you think, my pet?" Shelby purred as she returned to her chair. Her hand slid along Jesse's cheek then down to her throat, and around to the back of her neck. "Don't you think Evan has brought us some wonderful tidbits tonight?"
Nix saw Jesse's jaw tighten, but the woman nodded. She frowned, wondering if Jesse had really already given up and given everything to Shelby, or if there was still a fighting spirit in her.
"You will share them, Mistress. Won't you?" Nix recognized the speaker as the girl that had been with Evan in the corner the night before.
"Yes, Victoria, I will share." Shelby sat down again, one hand stroking Jesse's hair. "We will all feed to our fill this evening."
Maz and Lista looked at each other, then Maz took a quick look behind him into the dark. He hadn't heard a sound from the intruder and was wondering if she was still around.
Jesse turned toward Shelby. "If you do that, it'll kill them. You can't --"
Nix winced and ground her fists into her thighs as she saw Shelby strike Jesse across her cheek, knocking her down onto all fours.
"You will be silent until your voice is requested."
The noise of the blow, and the strength of Shelby's voice had attracted everyone's attention. A few looked distinctly uncomfortable.
"Mistress, perhaps a mouthful each will suffice. We don't --" Lista stopped as Shelby whipped her head around to look at her.
"You - will - not - defy - me!" Her glare went to each of them in turn. "We are vampires! We are the stalkers in the night, the blood drinkers, the scourge of mankind, and we will feed this evening. We are vampires!"
Nix chuckled, sensing her moment. She stepped forward, laughing out loud. "No, you're not."
The looks on the faces of the vamps were varied. There was relief from Maz and Lista, uncertainty from most of the others, shock from Jesse, and anger from Evan. Shelby's face was a mask of rage.
"You're wannabee's, playing in something you don't understand, and crossing lines you don't want to cross." She saw Jesse sag, and wasn't sure if it was from relief or depression.
Shelby's eyes narrowed to slits and she pointed at Nix. "You! You have no business here. Evan, Maz -- throw her out!"
Maz didn't move, looking uncertainly towards Nix. Evan, though wary, approached her. He must have remembered the night before, though, because he maintained his distance.
"Get the fuck out, bitch."
Nix turned to him and smiled. "Bite me, fucker."
Shelby laughed. "Oh, what an excellent idea." Her hand wound in Jesse's hair and tugged, pulling Jesse to her feet. "On second thought, bring the bitch here, Evan. Dinner can wait while we have a before dinner drink."
Jesse's eyes went wide as she realized her Mistress's intent. Nix understood Shelby's words, and let herself relax. When Evan grabbed hold of her, she didn't resist. After all, she could always break the man's arms later.
Evan led his new captive up to the front of the table. Shelby, her hand in Jesse's hair, pulled the dark woman with her as she approached. She pushed Jesse forward, toward Evan and Nix. Jesse stumbled, catching herself just inches from the blond vampire.
Nix winked at her, but Jesse didn't respond.
"Bite her, Jesse."
The dark eyes widened, and Jesse whipped around to face Shelby.
"You heard me. Bite her. Drink her blood."
Shelby slapped her. "You're a vampire! Drink!"
Nix smiled, gently. "Go ahead, Jesse. Bite me."
Jesse turned back to Nix, staring at her. Their eyes locked onto one another. Nix saw Jesse's throat work several times as she swallowed. She knew the woman was remembering the night they'd met, when Jesse had first tasted Nix's vampire blood.
She also knew that what had followed between them was tainted by that one taste, and Nix couldn't decide if she wanted Jesse to bite her or not.
Shelby lowered her voice to an angry growl. "I said bite her, Slave."
At that, Jesse flinched. Her eyes lowered to the floor and her shoulders slumped. Then, with exaggerated care, she reached up to pull off the collar, dropping it negligently onto the dirt covered boards at her feet. Without another glance at anyone, she headed for the door.
"Jesse!" Shelby's scream was high pitched and betrayed signs of frustration.
Nix smiled humorlessly, glad at least that she'd broken Shelby's spell, but worried about her friend.
She turned slightly to watch Jesse leave, and heard the door slam closed. She was still smiling slightly when Shelby grabbed her chin and yanked her head back around, moving in close to Nix's face.
"You stupid motherfucker. You're trying to get between me and my new slave, but it ain't gonna work."
Nix's smile grew wider. "No? Gee. Looks like it already did."
Shelby laughed. "Oh, no. That was nothing. I'll find the bitch, and I'll have her back on her knees in ten minutes." She put a hand up to Nix's cheek and patted it. "I'll leave you here with my family, so they can feed. But first, before I go, a taste." She nodded to Evan, who slid his arms under Nix's shoulders and brought his hands together behind her neck, in a move that would have immobilized most people. Shelby then twisted Nix's head and pulled her shirt collar back. Glancing up at her, Nix could see that the woman had porcelain fangs, like the ones Jesse had the night they met. Again, she smiled.
"You really don't want to do that, Shelby."
The only answer was another laugh, and then Shelby was leaning forward and driving her fake fangs into Nix's throat.
It took only seconds, and she was dropping to the floor, convulsing, her eyes rolling up into her head.
Evan released Nix and went to her side. "Shelby?" He looked up at Nix. "What the fuck did you do?"
She shrugged. "I didn't do anything. She bit me, remember?" Reaching up she felt the still seeping holes in her neck. "Ouch."
"But -- but, what the hell happened?"
"Don't know. Maybe she's allergic."
Evan stood up again, rage twisting his features. "You bitch!" He swung at her, and Nix blocked his punch and put a hand on his throat. She moved her other hand to his crotch and lifted him, tossing him halfway across the room, where he landed on a wooden chair which broke beneath his weight.
He got to his knees and glared at her, then reached into his back pocket. Nix saw the blade glinting in his hand, and she sighed.
"You really are stupid, aren't you, Evan."
He came at her quickly, and she sidestepped, grabbing his arm and breaking it. Then she kicked him in the chest and knocked him back to the ground. He stayed down, looking up at her through the painful haze.
Nix looked down at Shelby, who had stopped convulsing, but was not yet able to function properly. She pulled the former Mistress up from the floor and pushed her into a chair.
"You," she pointed at the woman in front of her, then turned to point at Evan, "and you are out of here. This club now belongs to me, the vamps here belong to me, and neither of you are welcome." The vampire turned fully toward Evan. "And if I find out that you've kidnapped any other young women, I'll be looking for your head, boy. Don't think I won't."
Evan frowned, but nodded. He was sitting up, but cradling his arm.
Shelby was just looking stunned. Nix turned again and bent down near the fallen Mistress.
"And don't you even think about going near Jesse. She's mine. You touch her again, and you die. Do you understand that?"
After a moment, Shelby nodded.
Nix straighted up. "Good." She waved at Maz. "Get Evan up and out of here. He can take Shelby with him. You're to watch them until his car turns the corner."
Maz nodded and moved forward.
"Oh, and Evan?"
The man twisted his head to look up cautiously.
"You sell drugs to anyone in this room again, and I'll castrate you."
He swallowed and reached down to help Shelby out of her chair. With Maz following them, they went through the door. Nix watched as it closed behind them.
The silence surrounding her was strangely comforting to her. She let it continue until Maz came back into the room.
Nix blew out a breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. "Good." She looked around at the people in the room, gauging their reactions. A couple of them still looked confused, a couple were showing signs of fear, and the two victims were still asleep. Taking another deep breath and letting it out, Nix motioned toward Lista.
"You got any coffee in this place?"
"Good. Go make some. Get a cup for each of them," she waved to the gathered vamps, "and get them sober. Then we'll talk." She motioned to Maz. "Help me get these girls up and sitting. We may have to take them to the hospital; I don't know what kind of drugs Evan gave them."
Everyone looked around at everyone else for a few moments. Only Lista and Maz moved; Lista went to the bar to brew coffee, and Maz stepped up next to Nix who had lifted a wrist of one of the sleeping girls and was checking a pulse.
After a moment, Nix noticed no one else was doing anything.
"What are you all waiting for? Go! Get coffee, get water, get sober. Now!"
Slowly, the group broke up, most of them heading to the bar.
"You're the real thing, aren't you?" Maz's voice was soft so only Nix could hear it.
The vampire turned to him and opened her mouth, letting her fangs extend, and then drawing them back. Maz's eyes went wide, and then he smiled.
Nix shook her head, but smiled back at him.
A part of her was raging, because she wanted so very badly to go after Jesse.
But that would have to wait.
She had work to do here.
End Part Five
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