Bonded by Elizabeth Jewell

Bonded by Elizabeth Jewell

Bonded

by Elizabeth Jewell

Changeling Press

Ebook ISBN: 04389-01407

[ Vampire Romance, MM ]

Ian has wondered about Gomorrah, the seedy bar/sex club downtown, for years. Now that he’s single again, he decides to check it out. It can’t be that bad, can it? And surely all those rumors about vampires are bunk.

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Chapter One


Rumors had run rampant about the bar on Colfax in downtown Denver for years. Ian had been hearing about it since his senior year of high school, when he came out to his parents and took Roy to the prom. But, two years into college at DU, Roy had decided he really wasn’t gay after all and had married some girl named Jo Ellen so fast Ian had assumed there was a shotgun involved. There wasn’t, of course, but Ian heard later that a Fundamentalist minister and some sort of “reparative therapist,” whatever the fuck that meant, had seen quite a lot of Roy before Roy had decided Ian was no longer his cup of tea.

In any case, Ian was still bitter. Which was at least one reason why he was standing by the front door of Gomorrah, wondering if he really, truly had the balls to go inside what was rumored to be one of the kinkiest sex clubs in the city.

Ian was gay but he wasn’t into cruising, picking up dudes for one-night stands or getting high and fucking anything he could get his hands on. That had always seemed a little perverted to him. He believed in finding that just-right guy and settling down with a couple of dogs and maybe some adopted kids. Or at least he had. Then Roy’s experience had shown him there were a lot of other ways to pervert people. Checking out what Gomorrah had to offer — just once — seemed like not that big a deal.

Which of course was why he’d been standing here for fifteen minutes trying to decide if he was really, truly going to go inside.

Ian was so absorbed in his own thoughts, and his inability to make a decision, that he jumped when the door to the club opened. He recognized the man who emerged as a bouncer who’d been watching him off and on for the last several minutes. When the time had moved from 8:59 to 9:00, he’d gone inside. Now he came down the few steps from the door, shrugging into a black leather jacket and giving Ian another curious look.

“You on your own, kid?”

The guy was barely older than Ian, in his late twenties, maybe, but somehow the “kid” didn’t rankle. Much.

Ian shrugged, thinking it was kind of a creepy question. “I’m allowed to stand here, right?”

The bouncer grinned. In spite of his size — he had a couple of inches on Ian and maybe twenty pounds, all of it muscle — Ian didn’t find him all that menacing when he grinned.

“It’s not illegal, but it’s not the best idea. Not the best idea going in there on your own, either.” He seemed a bit more sober at this last.

“I can take care of myself.” Ian was shooting for self-assured, but it came out closer to petulant.

“Yeah, I bet you can.” Ian wasn’t sure if the other man was mocking him or not. “Tell you what. I could use a drink. I’ll take you in.”

Ian hesitated. The guy seemed genuine enough. On reflection, he wasn’t even all that creepy. He was big, with a shaved head and the edge of some kind of tribal tattoo peeking out from under his collar, but somehow he seemed safe. Maybe Ian was just being naïve and dumb, but he’d gotten this far trusting his instincts. He nodded.

“Cool,” said the bouncer. “I’m Nick.” He held out his hand.

Ian took it. The grip was firm, the hand itself big enough to engulf Ian’s. “Ian.”

Nick nodded. “Okay, one thing before we go in.” His expression had sobered. “Everything you’ve heard about this place, all the stuff you’re sure is pure bullshit? It’s all true.”

On that ominous note, he turned and led the way back up the stairs.

* * *

The place was loud. That was Ian’s immediate first impression. The second thing that hit him was the smell. Booze, sweat, grease — the typical smell of a bar or similar dive, but with a musky scent, like sex, and a sharper overtone that reminded Ian of blood. Shit, it probably was blood, if what Nick had said was true. Because the stuff he’d heard about Gomorrah, the stuff he was sure was bullshit, was that vampires hung out here.

Of course, there was no such thing as vampires — that was fucking stupid. But people who thought they were vampires, who got off on nipping holes in other people’s skin and lapping up blood like it was tequila, that he believed. He was also pretty sure he didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

Nick took Ian by the elbow, leading him through the densely packed crowd. People moved aside for him almost without seeming to be aware they were doing it. Men and women both, Ian noticed, which contradicted at least one thing he’d heard about the place. Obviously it wasn’t exclusively a hangout for gay men.

“You got ID, right?” Nick’s voice barely reached Ian over the roar on the dance floor.

“Yeah,” Ian shouted back. Momentarily distracted by a couple who appeared to be engaged in full-out intercourse right in the middle of the room, he felt Nick’s grip slide off his elbow. Looking up, he quickly located the broad shoulders again and sidestepped other bar patrons to catch up. He glanced back and saw the couple still performing fairly complex sexual gymnastics. He was impressed, to say the least. Then the woman, arching back against her partner in a convulsion of ecstasy, opened her mouth to reveal a pair of sharp, wicked-looking fangs.

Startled, Ian looked away. Surely those were fake. Surely the woman was just some nutcase wearing fake fangs, or even permanent appliances. Ian knew some people did that. Not normal people, but still just people.

They had reached the bar by then; Nick pressed a cold, green bottle of beer into Ian’s hand. “You just watch for a bit,” he said, “and then if you want to go out there, let me know and I’ll take you.”

“I don’t need a babysitter.”

Nick’s not-quite-audible chuckle seemed indulgent, based on the expression on his face. “I’m sure you don’t.” He tipped the beer bottle to his lips, still smiling, and took a swig.

Ian made a face. He was still pretty sure Nick was safe. He was also pretty sure Nick was annoying. He understood the guy was just trying to look out for him, but Ian was twenty-four, not twelve, for God’s sake.

On the other hand, now that he was actually inside the mythically debauched club, he found it less than impressive. It smelled weird, the beer wasn’t that great, the music kind of sucked, and there were so many people jammed into the place it made it hard to breathe even here near the bar. As far as debauchery or other interesting activities that might take his mind off Roy, fucking on the dance floor wasn’t his idea of fun. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but so far he hadn’t found it. Maybe all the good debauchery was happening somewhere else. He was starting to think he didn’t care.

He was starting to care where the bathrooms were, though. Tipping the last of the beer into his mouth, he glanced sidelong at Nick. Ian’s growing lack of interest in his surroundings seemed to be affecting his self-appointed bodyguard, as well. Nick was involved in an animated conversation with a tall, blond bartender, one of the loveliest men Ian had ever seen. Assuming Nick was sufficiently distracted and would remain so for a time, Ian slipped away, looking for the restroom. God knew he didn’t need Nick’s help to go take a piss.

In twenty-four years, Ian hadn’t discovered the meaning of life, but he had figured out that if you were looking for the restrooms in a large public building, you should walk along the periphery. He made his way to the wall behind the bar and began his restroom reconnaissance.

The periphery, as it turned out, was where all the more interesting debauchery was happening. There were nooks and crannies along the walls, some hung with curtains, some not, in which naked bodies writhed and collided. There was any variety of combinations of genders, a little something for every taste. Ian tried to stop himself from staring, not entirely successfully, focusing on his goal.

When he finally found the brightly lit sign pointing the way to his chosen destination, he discovered that one of the nooks expanded into a narrow corridor, lined with doors leading to more private areas for purposes of debauching. The restrooms were conveniently tucked away at the end of this hallway.

It was an interesting gauntlet to walk, that much was certain. Lightweight sliding doors kept most of what was going on hidden from passersby, but the sounds were unmistakable.

Still, enough of the doors were ajar to make it clear to Ian that this was not his thing. Sure, the sight of writhing, naked bodies and the sounds of unbridled passion made the blood rush to his groin, but hell, he was twenty-four. Eating a sandwich made blood rush to his groin. But as much as the idea of anonymous, no-strings-attached sex appealed on some level, what he was seeing here freaked him out as much as it aroused him. He just couldn’t imagine giving up that much control to anyone, much less a complete stranger.

Still, it must have held some appeal, because if he hadn’t been staring so intently, trying to see past the edge of a not-quite ajar door, he would have heard the three people who came suddenly up beside him, two flanking him on either side, one remaining just behind his back. The two grabbing his elbows were both female, but that didn’t stop them from steering him toward the men’s room. Even though that was where he’d been heading in the first place, the situation was rapidly becoming annoying.

“Hey, baby,” said the girl on his left. She was tall and pretty, if about twenty pounds too thin, with long, straight black hair and startlingly blue eyes. Glancing nervously to his right, Ian found what appeared to be her twin, except with green eyes.

“Um… hi?” Ian ventured. He was far too aware of the third presence behind him, keeping him from making any rapid moves to throw off either of the women. Although he couldn’t see the third person, somehow Ian was certain it was a man. “May I help you, ladies?”

“You certainly may,” said Blue Eyes, and when Ian turned to acknowledge what she’d said, she smiled. Her smile was wide and bright, and had fangs in it.

Ian blinked. Surely they were just appliances of some kind — glue-on prosthetics or even permanent caps. But then Blue Eyes licked her lips, and as she did the needle-sharp, kitten-teeth fangs receded into her gums.

Prosthetics couldn’t do that. Caps or veneers couldn’t, either. Cold fear washed through Ian, like ice in every capillary.

Surely not. Surely not real vampires.

A shove in the middle of his back propelled him through the men’s room door. He stumbled, but the women kept him from falling. Inside, a couple of men chatting at the urinals quickly shook off, zipped up, and got the hell out of there. Blue Eyes followed their departure with an appreciative, if feral, hum.

“What… what are you doing?” Ian managed. They steered him against the wall and turned him around, still holding firmly to his arms, and Ian finally saw the last member of the trio.

At first, Ian thought he’d misread the gender of the third party. Understandable, since he hadn’t actually seen the man. But once the first impression of tall, willowy gracefulness and rich, wavy chestnut hair had passed, he registered the prominent curve of Adam’s apple in the throat and a hint of red-brown stubble on the uplifted chin. Brown eyes peered down at him from an angelically face, and the sensual mouth curved into something thinner and more frightening than a smile.

“What do you want?”

The man bent close — he was ridiculously tall — and sniffed the side of Ian’s neck. “We only claim what remains unclaimed.” The voice was as sexually ambiguous as the rest of him — high enough to be a low female alto, low enough to be a high male tenor. The soft waves of his hair brushed Ian’s face.

Ian swallowed. His diaphragm fluttered with fear, making it hard to breathe. “Claimed? By who?”

“By whom,” the man said fussily. He bent again, and this time instead of sniffing he licked a stripe up the side of Ian’s neck. Ian shuddered. The women, insubstantial as they seemed, had grips like iron. Their long fingers seemed to drive between the flesh and bones of his upper arms. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the long fingers had ruptured the connection between biceps and humerus, tearing the meat from his arm.

“You are unclaimed,” the willowy man went on, “by anyone.”

“Fresh meat,” Green Eyes said, and Blue Eyes giggled.

What the fuck, Ian thought, what the actual fuck? Anything more coherent or relevant seemed beyond his mental capacity at the moment. “I’m claimed by me,” he stammered.

The willowy man chuckled. “That doesn’t count. Not here.” And then his smile broadened, and slim, needle-sharp fangs appeared, seeming to grow before Ian’s eyes as extensions of the eyeteeth. And they were sharp, and glinted, and for a moment Ian thought he was going to pass out.

He couldn’t see the door to the restroom from where he stood half-cowering in the circle of — vampires, he had to admit that to himself now — but he heard the door slam open, heard the strong, authoritative voice.

“What the fuck, Trey? What the actual fuck?”

Ian recognized the voice as Nick’s though, in prime bouncer fashion, it was considerably deeper and louder than it had been when they’d been conversing. The fact that he’d echoed Ian’s thoughts of only a few moments ago was small comfort. In fact, it was no comfort at all. It was just weird.

At Nick’s decidedly dramatic entrance, Trey turned from Ian. “Is he yours?” Trey said, his voice gone silky and mocking.

“Yes,” said Nick.

Ian blinked again, wondering what Nick had just committed to. What he’d committed Ian to. A white picket fence, two dogs, and a couple of adopted kids? Who the fuck knew?

At the same time, he wondered when exactly the switch had flipped in his head that made him willing to accept this was really happening, and not some elaborately staged ruse or performance or whacky geek-fueled LARP.

A thin smile curved Trey’s lips. “Fine. Then prove it.”

Nick looked at Ian, and the expression on his face made Ian think that, whatever was about to happen, he wasn’t going to like it.

“I marked him –” Nick started, but Trey interrupted him with a particularly nasty laugh.

“There’s no mark on him. I would have smelled it.”

Ian expected Nick to protest this seemingly ludicrous statement, but instead he looked again at Ian. His expression told Ian they’d been caught out. At what, Ian didn’t know yet.

“We have an agreement.” Nick’s tone was firm, but he spoke a shade too fast, as if he didn’t really expect Trey to believe him. “We haven’t formalized the claim.”

“An informal agreement is not sufficient,” Trey said, “as you well know.”

“Even an informal agreement must be honored here.” Nick’s mouth had gone thin and stubborn.

“And is anyone here to enforce that?” Trey asked quietly, his voice oozing through the small room. Ian shivered at its change in tone. “You, I believe, are off duty.”

Nick’s gaze moved toward the door, eliciting another thin chuckle from Trey.

“Do you really want to try it?” the tall vampire asked. The chuckle slithered again at Nick’s hesitation. “I didn’t think so.”

The two girls, Ian noticed, had slid back toward the door, watching with a seeming trepidation that made Ian even more nervous. Trey glanced at them, gave a slight, reassuring smile and a delicate hand gesture. The girls nodded and left the room. Their absence didn’t make Ian feel any better.

Ian wanted to ask what was going on, but knew if he said the wrong thing something very bad was going to happen. To him. He wasn’t sure he could truly trust Nick, but he sure as shit didn’t trust Trey.

“I can have you blackballed,” Nick said, but even to Ian, who still had no clear idea what was happening, the threat sounded hollow.

Again, Trey laughed. It sounded less human every time he did it, the grin that accompanied it more and more feral.

“You know my standing in this community,” he said thinly. “You know what the repercussions of that would be. Especially as you are currently off duty.”

The slight slump in Nick’s wide shoulders told Ian that the big man had just played his last card. Whatever Nick had been trying to protect Ian from, he couldn’t protect him anymore. He swallowed. So what the hell were they supposed to do now?

“You know,” he ventured, his voice shaking much less than he’d expected, “we’ve forgotten one really vital element in this situation.”

Trey eyed him narrowly, head tilted, the white tips of his fangs showing against the curve of his lower lip. “And what might that be?”

“I really gotta pee.”

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