The night was cool, but not really cold, and it felt good to be out in clean air rather than the smoky bar.
Nix had said it was just three short blocks to the restaurant, so I was surprised when she stepped into the street to hail a cab.
"Why don't we walk?"
She cocked her head. "I don't know if I'd trust it. It's not that safe an area. Anything happens to you and Jesse will have my head."
I shrugged. "I'm not a black belt or anything, but I've been taking self defense classes and can normally hold my own in a street fight."
"One on one or against a group?"
"Well, one on one. But, I'm with a very strong vampire. I feel safe."
Nix laughed at that and stepped back onto the sidewalk. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I could use the walk; it'll clear the alcohol from my head."
She nodded, and motioned down the street. "Then off we go. But," Nix took my arm and held it for a moment, "if anything happens, you do exactly what I say. Understood?"
"Sure. I'll just hide behind your coat tails." Feeling brave, I winked at her.
"You do that."
We walked in silence for a few minutes. I concentrated on not looking at her, knowing if I watched her too much I'd do something stupid like trip over a fire hydrant.
"So, Trey. Why would Jesse insist that I not give you any of my blood -- even if you begged?"
I turned so fast I nearly ran into a sign post. "She what?"
Nix laughed. "She told me you might ask and I better not even consider it." One eyebrow rose into her hair line. "You gonna ask?"
"No." I started walking again, muttering. "Damn you, Jesse."
"Oh, don't be upset with her, I think she was just looking out for you. I told her I thought you were cute."
"Cute? I am not cute."
She laughed again. "Sure you are. I told Jace I thought you were and she agreed."
Frowning, I shook my head. "We argue about that all the time. She says I'm cute and I tell her she's wrong."
"And who wins the arguments?"
I blushed. "Well, we never actually finish the argument -- though I guess you could kind of say she wins."
My face got even redder and I shrugged. "She, um, she kisses me senseless, then she asks me if she was right. I have to agree cause I don't remember what we were arguing about."
Nix busted out laughing so hard she needed to stop and lean against a building for a minute.
"Oh, damn," she said, wiping her eyes. "What I wouldn't give to see one of those arguments."
"Yeah, well, hang around for a while. It'll happen. Kruise thinks it's hilarious."
She slipped an arm around me. "How long you two been together?"
"Four months, 17 days."
"But who's counting?"
"I am. Last week it became the longest relationship she's ever been in. Five months will be my longest."
"Think you'll make it?"
Nix pulled me over into a half hug. "You'll make it. She really loves you."
I smiled. "I know."
The restaurant was actually a bar, one that you had to go underground to get to. Nix led me down a flight of stairs and through an old door with the name "ShadowBox" written on it in fading letters.
It was dark, but quiet. The front part of the bar had several tables, maybe half as many as the Janx, spread throughout the room. In the back was a partially hidden doorway, with a curtain of beads hanging down. There was almost no light coming from that room, though the music was loud, with a sensuous undertone. I recognized the singer as Tori Amos, and the song as "Cruel."
"Nix, this isn't a restaurant. It's a bar."
"Bar, restaurant -- same thing. This place serves food, so it qualifies as a restaurant in my mind." She dropped into a chair at a table against the wall and pushed out one for me. "Sit. Want coffee, beer, or something stronger?"
"Coffee, I think. Had enough beer at the Janx."
"What do they have?"
"The messiest and best nachos you've ever had."
I laughed. "In that case, make it a beer. Coffee and nachos don't do it for me."
"Bet I know what would." She winked, then waved at a waitress who had just come out from behind the bar. "Hey, Olivia, how are you?"
"I'm good, Nix, you?" Olivia leaned over and kissed Nix's cheek. She was showing a great deal of cleavage, and I had to raise an eyebrow as to how she managed to lean over without --
"Um, how about Rolling Rock instead? I drink Guinness with Jace, but it's a little heavy for more than about two."
Nix nodded and looked back up at Olivia. "I'll have some sweet wine, and we need a plate of nachos."
Olivia nodded and winked at Nix. Turning around, she walked back to the bar, her hips swishing back and forth with every step. Nix raised an eyebrow, then grinned at me.
"Guess you could say I'm a regular here."
"Right. Kind of got that impression."
I leaned back against the wall and looked around, my eyes drawn to the dark space at the back of the room.
"So, who's the butch in your relationship, you or Jace?"
Startled, I looked at Nix. "What brought that up?"
She shrugged. "No reason. Just something wandering through my mind."
"Okay. Well, neither of us are really femme, you know."
"Right, but neither of you are hard core butch, either."
"No. I tend to be butch more, at least socially. She tends to take over in bed."
"Butch in the streets, femme in the sheets?"
I cocked my head. "Not always. The nights when I take control -- well, we have a lot of fun then too."
"I believe it." She gave me this knowing grin, then looked up as Olivia brought our drinks. They chatted for a few minutes, and I let the conversation play over me without really listening.
Instead, my attention went back to the darkness and music coming from the back. The song had changed, several times, but it was always a slow, driving, sexy beat, one that reached out and grabbed your heart and forced it into rhythm. The kind of music you had sex to.
"You like the music?"
I looked back at Nix. "Yeah. It's . . . "
"Arousing." She nodded. "I know. It's supposed to be."
Olivia returned and set a huge plate of cheese covered nachos on the table, along with side dishes of sour cream and salsa.
Nix shook her head. "Never liked guac. You can get some if you want, though."
"Nope. I'm just used to having to scrape it off nachos cause Jace loves it."
She laughed softly and raised a chip to her mouth.
Nix was right, the nachos were very messy, and I enjoyed them immensely. Part of it was just that they were fantastic, with three kinds of cheese, and lots of everything that make nachos great. But part of it was also just watching Nix as she snaked her tongue out to lick her lips. Or suck salsa off her finger. Or lean back in her seat and tilt her head back to eat a nacho with cheese hanging off of it. Every movement was like part of a sensual dance, and I watched her, occasionally remembering to eat myself.
Several times my eyes were drawn to the back room, where people would come or go, sometimes heading out the front door, sometimes heading up the back staircase.
"What's upstairs?" I motioned toward the back of the bar. "I've watched some people head up there. Is it another part of the club?"
"Oh. No, that's -- well, it's part, but different. Same building. Has its own entrance as well as that one. There are apartments up there. Some are long term rentals, and others are -- short term."
I looked at her. "Short term?"
She nodded, smiling.
"You brought me to a brothel?"
She had been in the act of taking a drink, and that made her laugh, nearly losing the mouthful she'd just gotten. Swallowing, she wiped her mouth and laughed again.
"Would you stop doing that? No, wait, it was Jace that nearly made me choke last time." Taking another sip, she put her glass down on the table and looked up at me. "And no. It's not a brothel. At least, not where people pay to have sex."
"No? Then what are the short term rooms for?"
Nix looked slightly uncomfortable. "Well . . . they're for vampires, who -- got lucky. Or human patrons who did."
She sighed. "Fine. I'll try to explain. This is a place where most of the vampires in the city like to hang out. The mortals who know of this place are like a sub-subculture that's part of the leather scene. They like the stimulation of being bitten, and they show up looking for it. The vampires who frequent this place are very dominant and they like being in charge. They take the humans upstairs and they have sex, and the bite takes place. Or they bite them in the back room, and take them upstairs to recover. The human subs are fodder for sex and feeding -- and both cultures thrive on it."
I considered this, playing with one of the last nachos on the plate. After a few moments of silence, I let it fall and picked up my beer. "So, why did you bring me here?"
Nix shrugged. "Don't know. Just wanted to. You -- you seemed different from the others. Jesse is . . . very dark and very sexual, and she's open about it. Kruise is less so, but still rather sensual in her appearance. Jace is no innocent, even though she puts on a good act. But you . . ." She finished her drink. "You I couldn't figure out. You're no innocent either, but there's something about you that intrigued me. At first I thought it was your curiosity. I like that in a woman. But, it's not that simple. You're -- different. Quiet, and yet, not. Your mind is always working. And I'm betting it tends to get you into bad situations, doesn't it?"
She smiled. "Yeah. I had that feeling when Jesse told me to stay away from you. She's protective of you for some reason."
"She's been a good friend."
"I don't doubt that."
The song at the back of the club changed, and I glanced toward the bead covered doorway to see two women coming out of the room. One was dressed all in leather, the other in denim pants and a leather vest. The first was holding onto the second, who looked like she was about to fall over. They stumbled to a table, and the leather woman let her companion fall into a chair there. Then she was off to the bar, an air of smugness following her.
Nix followed my eyes and sighed softly. "Damn, I hate that woman."
She motioned to the woman at the bar. "Her. Rita. She's a vampire. And not one I have a lot of respect for. I keep my distance."
"See the woman at the table?"
"Human. Servant. Rita there has been feeding her blood. From what I hear she gets a couple drops every couple days." She shook her head. "More than a taste or two and a craving develops for it. The human can't break free. It becomes more a slave/master relationship, and not a negotiated one. The human will do anything to get her fix."
I frowned. "That's allowed?"
Nix looked down at the table. "It's discouraged, but not actively so. Think of it this way -- it's a protection mechanism. The slave that will protect their master at all costs. Do errands, be available for blood when the vampire wants -- it's enticing for some vampires."
"Have you done that before?"
Guilt crossed her face. "A couple of times. A long time ago. Today --" She shook her head. "No fucking way. Besides, it's much more fun to play with people who are in complete control of themselves and their faculties."
I put my elbow on the table and rested my chin on my hand, staring at her in curiosity. "If that's true, then why did you take Jesse home after you let her taste your blood?"
Her head whipped up. "I did not LET Jesse taste my blood. It was an accident, and if I have anything to say about it, it will never happen again."
"Oh, please, with your reflexes you could have stopped her and all you said was Jesse no? I'm not buying it."
Nix glared at me for several long seconds, her mouth partly open. Then her jaw snapped shut and she looked away.
"Damn you, Trey."
I stayed silent.
"I don't know. I didn't really want her to, but -- maybe in a way you're right. I could have stopped her. Maybe I was just so turned on I wanted to be certain she'd come home with me. And she was so arrogant. I wanted her so bad."
There was something in her voice that rang a bell in my mind. "You still want her, don't you?"
For a moment she didn't move, then she nodded. "Yeah. But the more I think about it, the more I don't want her like she was that night. She was so aggressive in the bar, and after -- well, later, she just wasn't. Anything I told her to do, she did. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong, she's an incredible lover. But . . . " She shrugged. "I think I want the aggressive Jesse." Another sigh. "And I may have fucked it up. She's scared of me. I could tell that this evening."
I shook my head. "She's not scared of you. She's scared of herself."
"What do you mean?"
"She's scared of her reaction to you. What you made her feel. She remembers that passivity, something she hasn't experienced since giving up bottoming three years ago. From what Kruise has told me, it's something she fought to get over. She hates being out of control. And with you, she's afraid she'll offer it up willingly -- and that scares the hell out of her."
Nix played with her empty wine glass. "I would never ask that of her."
"It's still her fear."
We were quiet for a few moments. Olivia came and cleared the dishes away, and I watched as Rita took her slave up the back stairs. Another couple of people came out of the back room, but this time they were both standing straight. They saw me watching them and one of them winked.
I blushed and ducked my head, embarrassed that I'd been seen. Nix noticed and raised an eyebrow at me.
"What?" I shook my head, but she turned around and grinned. "Ahha. Got caught, huh?"
The heat on my face intensified, and I concentrated on my beer.
"Yo, Tess. Come on over."
Giving an internal groan, I kept my head down as the two women came up to our table.
"Hey, Phoenix. You look good, my friend."
As Nix hugged her, I got a better look at the two women. The one hugging Nix was thin, about Jesse's height, and wore black jeans and a blue silk shirt. Her eyes were a greenish blue and her hair was a red gold. From the smoothness of her face, and the flashing light in her eyes, I guessed that she was a vampire. Her companion was shorter, but still taller than me, with black hair and brown eyes. She wasn't thin, but not plump either, and I saw a fading mark on her throat that made me think of the two punctures Jesse had shown me earlier. Other scars crisscrossed her body, disappearing under the dark green tank top that was tucked into faded blue jeans.
Nix turned to the other woman and hugged her as well. "How are you, Cam? This old pirate treating you well?"
Cam smiled and nodded. "Absolutely. Doesn't she always?"
"She better." Nix winked at her, then turned towards me. "Tess, Cam, this is Trey. She's a new friend of mine. Trey, this is Cam and Tess, a couple of very old friends."
I shook hands with both of them, feeling the strength in both of their grips. I wondered if my first assessment of Cam was wrong, and maybe she was a vampire rather than human.
Nix noticed my empty glass and grabbed it. "I'll get a refill for us. You two want anything?"
Cam stood. "I'll go with you. Tess is still particular about how they make her martinis."
"Ick. Still can't see how you can drink those things, Tess."
"And I don't know how you can throw back a whiskey like you do. You explain yours and I'll explain mine." Tess winked at her friend, who clapped a hand to her shoulder.
"Oh, by the way. Trey is a writer, so she'll probably ask you lots of questions. Don't kill her, it's mere curiosity. Indulge her." A wink at me, and Nix left with Cam.
Tess eyed me curiously. "A writer, huh?"
"I'm not a reporter. Don't freak."
She laughed. "Oh, if you were a reporter, Nix would have already dumped you by now. And she'd never have brought you here. She's much too cautious for that."
I laughed with her.
"So, what are you curious about?"
"Um . . ." I glanced up at Cam who seemed to be instructing the bartender on something. "Well, I guess at the moment I'm a little curious about Cam. At first I thought she was a human, but -- now I'm not so sure, and I'm curious."
The smile left Tess's face and for a moment I thought I was in trouble. Then she took a deep breath and leaned back in her chair.
"Cam is -- unique. You're right, she's not human. But, she's not vampire either."
I frowned, then nodded slowly in understanding. "Nosferatu?"
"Right. Well, kind of. Most nosferatu are men. For some reason, most of the women who are brought to the edge of the change, die. Their systems just can't handle it. We think it's because the blood of a nosferatu isn't strong enough. And there are no vampires who will actually take anyone to that point. We'll kill them first."
"Why?" I was thinking about Rita and her slave.
"Cause it's cruel. Most of the time, it drives them insane. Nosferatu don't live long, because they can't think. They can't reason things out. They attack rather than seduce, they kill instead of only taking what they need. There is no emotion in them, only hunger. So, it's just cruel. You've killed all the things that made them human, at that point you might as well just kill them."
"But -- Cam --"
"Is different." She shrugged. "It happened a long time ago. Nix and I were hanging around together a lot. I'm tall enough and have smaller breasts, so I can pass for a man, and we played at being a couple for a time. This was way back, a couple hundred years ago."
I nodded. "Go on."
"Well, I met this woman. Human, gorgeous, just beautiful. And we kind of -- well, we started seeing each other. At first she was kind of worried, cause she thought I was with Nix. But I got hurt one time, and ended up at her place with a couple of musket balls in me. Not enough to kill me, but I hadn't been feeding, so I was pretty close to useless. I asked her to get Nix, cause I knew only Nix would be able to help me. So, she got Nix, and Nix gave me blood, and dug the balls out of me. But, to do that, she had to expose that I was a woman. And Cam --" She shrugged. "Cam was surprised, but not shocked. The shock came when Nix quietly told her that we were both vampires and that if I was gonna get better, I needed human blood. I tried to protest, cause I was afraid of Cam's reaction. She left the room at a run, and Nix said she was sorry, but it was better to know if she was going to freak. She was right, but I was still pretty mad."
Tess stopped her story as a large martini glass was put in front of her. She smiled up at Cam, who bent and kissed her, then straightened. She winked at me and headed back for the bar.
"Where was I?" Tess took a long drink of her martini. "Oh, that's perfect." She nodded, then looked up at me. "What was I saying?"
"Nix was right to tell Cam, but you were --"
"Right, I was still pissed. Right. "Another sip, and then she took a deep breath. "So, anyway, we were packing up, intending to be out of there pretty damn quick. Instead, Cam comes back into the room and says okay, I'll do it. And -- she let me bite her."
"Right there? Just like that?"
"Yep. Broke down and told me she loved me, but that she'd understand if I wanted Nix, and she just wanted me to get well."
"Yeah." There was a fond smile on her face, and her eyes had a faraway look, like she was back there. "Well, anyway, Nix convinced her that she and I were just friends, and I admitted I loved Cam. Nix moved into the back bedroom, and I was with Cam. I was still pretending to be a man, and we put out the story that Nix and I were actually cousins who had pretended to be married to keep her ex-husband from finding her. It was a strange time, so no one really challenged it. The three of us were happy. Cam and I were in love, and we even got married. The license said I was a man, but hell, it was the best we could do. Everything was great."
She sighed, and her hands formed fists on the table. "One night -- Cam was coming home from something, I don't know what. But it was starting to get dark, and I was a little worried, so Nix and I went to meet her. When we found her --" Tess swallowed several times. "She'd been attacked by two Nosferatu. They'd drained her almost to the point of death, then started forcing their blood into her. Nix and I killed them, but -- there was no way to save Cam, unless we --"
Nix and Cam arrived back at the table at that point, and Nix put another drink in front of her friend, while Cam slipped into her lap. Tess wrapped her arms around Cam and Nix picked up the story.
"We couldn't let Cam die. We just couldn't. We knew that women rarely survived the change, and no one had survived with their minds intact. But we had to try. So, we tried to find a system, a way that would make it easier. First we drained her again, to get rid of the tainted blood. Then we started alternating between giving her our blood, and taking some from her. One of us was always talking to her, trying to keep her awake, keep her grounded, keep her from getting too lost in what was happening. It took us a long time . . ."
"But it worked?"
Cam looked up and smiled at me. "I'm still here, aren't I? And -- I'm not exactly the most sane person in the world, but I know who I am, I have my memories, and I love Tess. So -- yeah, I guess it worked."
I nodded. "That's very cool."
"You're a writer and the best you can come up with is, 'that's very cool'?"
"Oh, sorry. All right, that story was lacking in true plot development, and needed work on the characterization. However, its ending, though shocking, was wholly satisfying, thereby giving the reader a sense of comfort and finality."
The three of them just stared at me, then broke out laughing.
We chatted for a while, or rather they did. My attention kept being pulled into the back room, over and over again. I couldn't help but want to know what went on in there.
Cam stood up and held out her hand to me.
She nodded towards the back. "There. Let me satisfy your curiosity."
I looked up at Nix, who had a half smile on her face. Her eyes met mine, and she grinned. "Go on. You know you want to."
She was right, but I wasn't quite sure I should.
"It's okay, Trey. I'll join you in a few minutes."
For some reason that made me feel better, and I stood up and took the offered hand.
Cam led me to the beaded curtain, then looked back at me. "Sure you want to do this?"
Her eyes were soft, but the smile she wore had turned seductive. I remembered Nix's voice telling me about what happened in this room.
"They take the humans upstairs and they have sex, and the bite takes place. Or they bite them in the back room, and take them upstairs to recover. The human subs are fodder for sex and feeding -- and both cultures thrive on it."
A jolt of fear ran down my back, and I almost said no.
Then Jesse's face came to mind, and how she had looked as she described the bite. There had been a glow in her eyes, and awe in her voice.
I wanted to know that feeling.
The fear must have shown on my face, though, because Cam stepped closer and kissed me.
"If you decide you want to stop, or leave, just say vampire. Once you say that, I'll get you out of the room. Okay?"
I nodded. She pulled the curtain strands apart, letting me precede her in.
The first thing I noticed was the heavy scent of incense, the kind that fills your nose, your mouth, and your lungs, and makes you dizzy. I couldn't place the scent, but it was pleasant and after about the third or fourth breath, my head felt lighter and my ears were buzzing.
The music was louder than I expected, and the base kept my heart pounding in rhythm. It was very sensuous and I was suddenly hyper aware of Cam at my back.
My eyes began to adjust to the darkness and I could make out other bodies in the room, more than I had originally thought. They were just silhouettes, and most of the time I couldn't tell what they were doing, though once or twice it was obvious that a couple was locked in an embrace.
Cam stepped up behind me, her body solid against mine, her hands on my hips. Slowly, she began to dance, guiding my hips to follow hers. The high tone of Tori Amos collected what was left of my conscious mind, locking it safely behind the words of the song, and I let Cam lead me where she wanted, her hands leaving my hips and sliding down over the front of my thighs, then back up and across my belly.
I leaned back against her, my head falling to her shoulder. She chuckled softly, the sound soft in my ear, tickling my senses.
"You like that, Trey?"
I nodded, not willing to trust my voice.
Slowly, Cam guided me away from the center of the room. As we moved, I felt hands brushing against me, occasionally touching my stomach, or my breasts, some fleeting, others lingering. Once, when someone actually moved in front of me and reached towards me, I heard a growl from Cam. The figure hesitated, then moved away again.
I closed my eyes, trying to think through the haze in my mind. Cam's hands were making that difficult, as she moved them across my ribs, and down my sides, skimming my breasts, and sliding them inside my waistband for just a moment before pulling them out and letting them glide over my jeans down to the juncture of my legs, and back up again. All the while, she held her hips tight against me, moving them slowly, staying in rhythm with the pounding that had now filled my veins.
When she licked my neck I felt a tremor go through me, and knew I was already very wet.
That frightened me for a moment and I tried to move away slightly. Her hands cupped my breasts and pulled me back. I groaned as her fingers pinched my nipples through my shirt.
Another shadow moved in front of me, and hands reached up to my face, pulling my head forward into a solid kiss. Another pinch from Cam, and my hips went forward. I groaned as they met resistance in the form of a thigh that slipped between my legs and pressed into me, joining the rhythm that drove all thought from my mind.
The lips under mine pulled away and moved to the ear opposite from the one Cam was softly breathing in.
"Is this what you wanted, Trey?" I heard Nix's voice, but couldn't reply as her now constant and solid thrusts against my center made me throw my head back against Cam. My hands reached out for something to hold. Cam wrapped her fingers around my wrists, pulling my arms back and down. This left the way open for Nix to open my shirt, slipping the buttons through their holes, and run her fingers across the nipples that ached from Cam's attentions.
The sensations were incredibly powerful, and I wanted them to continue, but my mind brought up a picture of Jace and I tried once again to pull away.
"Nix, don't, I --"
"Sh, Trey. Relax."
"But -- Jace --"
Her soft lips kissed mine once more and then she moved them back to my ear. "Jace knows. It's all right, Trey."
Jace's words came back, telling me she knew what would happen, telling me to have fun. With a deep breath and a sigh I leaned back once more and let the sensations overwhelm me.
I don't know how long it lasted, how long I stayed in that cocoon of pleasure, breathing the intoxicating incense and letting the two of them manipulate my body. The desire spiraled up, and they dragged me along unrelentingly till I was gasping for breath and almost crying with wanting.
The spasms started in my stomach, and I felt Cam's hands tighten on my wrists as I began to shake. Nix's arms slid down and held my hips firmly against her thigh. As the orgasm started in earnest, I took a deep breath, letting the drugged air fill my lungs. Just as I thought it couldn't get any better, I felt Cam's mouth descend to my throat and her fangs pierced the skin just as Nix did the same to my left breast.
Pleasure filled me, hitting me so strong I nearly passed out. I felt my knees give, driving me down harder onto Nix's thigh. My two captors held me tight, not letting me fall, keeping me from escaping the flames that spread up my body, increasing as the two of them fed. The last wave was so strong it felt like they would draw my soul out of my body, and I closed my eyes, feeling tears running down my cheeks.
As their fangs withdrew, their grip tightened and I felt myself being tilted, and then I was cradled in strong arms and lifted up. The curtains parted, letting in a shaft of light that stung my eyes even through my closed lids.
I was lowered onto a soft, flat surface, and heard voices around me. Someone kissed my forehead, and a glass was put to my lips. Cool white wine eased my parched throat and washed away the taste of the incense. Nix told me to rest; she'd wake me soon to take me back to the Janx.
A shot of worry tried to go through me as I realized I'd have to tell
Jace what happened. But the peaceful lassitude in my limbs finally soaked
all the way into my mind and the darkness reached up to claim me.
End Part 3.