Dark Callings, Book 4.5
Ebook ISBN: 00757-00223
[ Paranormal Romance, MF ]
After spending several months at the mercy of a cadre of vampires who treated him as snack food, Evan now craves the lust-inducing thrill of the bite. He wants nothing more than to be normal again, and will do anything to achieve that goal. Even if it’s the one thing that will drive him and Melinda apart forever.
According to the map, this was the right place. Evan went to his hands and knees to peer through the narrow, ground level window. Inside, the light was dim. He heard grunting from beyond and made a face. Great. They were having sex.
Well, he didn’t care. They were going to see him anyway, and listen to what he had to say. Then he would fix what they’d done to him. Permanently. Regardless of the consequences.
He made his way around the apartment building to the front door and knocked heartily. There was a long moment of silence, then he heard a loud chuffing sound from the other side of the door. A second later, the door flew open and he found himself face to face with a large, angry-looking man wearing… well, nothing but his own hair. Of which there was a great deal.
“What the fuck you want?” the man growled.
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t the right guy, for starters. For enders, he really didn’t look good naked.
Evan gathered himself and gave the man a firm look. “I’m looking for Mr. Mark Riordan, and… Roarke.”
The man absently fondled himself. Evan fought the urge to look down. “Them faggots don’t live here no more. Moved out three months ago. Had to burn the damn furniture, all smelled like jizz.”
“Oh.” Evan considered, wondering what his next step might be. “Do you have any idea where they might have gone?”
“Moved up the hill somewheres.” He closed his eyes for a moment and Evan took a step back, afraid he was about to be ejaculated upon. “Dunno where. Check with the landlord, maybe.” Hairy Guy slammed the door, leaving Evan a bit befuddled on the doorstep.
“Well,” he muttered. “I suppose I will.”
* * *
The landlord proved not to be a great deal of help. Something about confidentiality and stalker laws and why the hell did Evan need the information and if he wasn’t a cop, he wasn’t getting anything. Evan scrubbed the scars on his neck impatiently and nodded as the landlord’s voice grew more and more caustic. Finally, he just said thank you and excused himself.
So… on to the next step. But he wasn’t sure what that was. Loitering in the lobby outside the landlord’s office, he idly picked up a free real estate flyer from the rack. On the front was an ad showcasing a local Realtor. She was a young, pretty woman, apparently mixed-race, with a bright smile. Curious, he paged through the flyer and found three ads for rentals at this apartment complex.
Interesting. Also possibly a dead end. But she was attractive, so as far as he was concerned, Melinda Hutton’s office was his next stop.
* * *
Melinda Hutton straightened the papers on her desk absently, doing a last-minute cleanup before heading home. She glanced over the still-vacant rentals at the complex on Galapago. Every time she looked at those she thought about Mark. He and his friend Roarke had lived there until recently; their search for a place to live had brought Mark back into her life for a short time, until she’d made the final decision to leave him again.
She sighed. It had been hard enough when he’d disappeared, but it had been even harder when she’d found out why. That he’d been bitten by a vampire, and though he wasn’t a vampire himself, he’d been made into something not quite human. He was now in a committed relationship with a vampire who happened to be a man. It boggled her mind. As happy as she’d been to see him again, in a way it had made things harder. “Closure” didn’t really seem like an applicable term in her circumstances.
Pushing the thoughts out of her mind, she turned her attention to the last few papers that still needed to be filed. Most of it was old to-do items that had either become outdated, or had been bumped forward from day to day for far too long. She started sorting them, working out what could be thrown away and what needed to be kept.
The voice startled her, and she jumped a little as she looked up. A man stood in her office doorway, regarding her, his hand still raised, fingers curled, where he’d tapped on the doorjamb. He was tall, with dark hair and blue eyes, twenty-five if he was lucky.
“Yes?” she asked, composing herself.
“I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Damn. He’d noticed. She gave him a warm smile. “It’s okay. I was just tidying up. Can I help you?”
“I was hoping I could take a look at some rental properties.”
“I’m just getting ready to head home, but I could certainly make you an appointment. We could take a look at some places next week.” She gave him a once-over. She’d be the only one left in the office in about fifteen minutes. “Why don’t we go next door for some coffee and I’ll take some notes on what you’re looking for.”
He nodded. “All right. That sounds good.”
Coming to her feet, she gave him another smile and held out her hand. “I’m Melinda. Nice to meet you.”
“Evan.” His hand was warm and solid, his eyes so very blue. “Nice to meet you, too.”
Melinda made a point of making sure Lorie, the receptionist, knew where she was going, before she headed next door with Evan for coffee. She hadn’t gotten any “unsafe” vibes from him, but it never hurt to be cautious.
“So,” she asked him when they’d gotten drinks and taken a seat. “What exactly are you looking for?”
“Nothing too big. A decent neighborhood. Good location, you know.” He handed her a flyer with her picture on the front. “I found this at the complex over on Galapago. Met some guys at a bar who lived there — they said it was nice.”
Melinda glanced at the flyer. She’d had several made up and distributed in various areas where she’d made sales or rent placements. “Did you? I’ve rented several units there — maybe I know them.”
He shrugged, nonchalant. “Don’t remember their names. They were in a downstairs unit, I think. Couple of big guys, dark-haired. I think they were a couple.”
Melinda felt everything inside her go very still. She looked studiously at her coffee for a moment, until she felt like she could speak again. “I think I know who you mean. They liked the complex, as I recall.”
“Yeah, they said they did.” He hesitated, his finger tracing up and down the side of his coffee cup. “Don’t know if they’re still there or not.” His gaze shifted, and he looked directly at her.
“They bought a place up the hill.” The memories were coming back, sharp and painful, but she kept her expression carefully neutral. “Nice fixer-upper with an outbuilding. They seemed pretty happy with it.”
“I see. Good for them.”
He sounded disappointed. Melinda regarded him. He was slim and a bit pale… daylight had just passed when he’d arrived at the office. Her gaze slid down to the open collar of his shirt, and her eyes widened again. Quickly, she controlled her reaction.
He had scars on his neck, thin and silvery, thin crescents along the line of his jugular. There were at least four of them, criss-crossed and overlapping, faint but visible. Slowly, she reached for her purse.
“Anyway, it sounded like it might be a nice place,” Evan droned on, and Melinda’s fingers curled around the little bottle of holy water in her purse. She had a cross in there, too. She’d carried the items ever since her final encounter with Mark. Vampires had come after her because of her connection to him, and she’d never quite gotten over the fear that they might do it again.
“The rent there is reasonable, and it’s in a quiet neighborhood. Low crime rate…” Slowly, she eased the cap off the bottle. “Very convenient to shopping as well as downtown.” The spiel came so easily to her she didn’t even have to think about it as the cap came off in her hand. “Several clubs nearby –” In a rapid, seamless motion, she withdrew the bottle and threw its contents into his face.
He just sat there, staring at her, water dripping down his nose, an expression of complete befuddlement on his face. Then, slowly, he picked up a napkin and wiped the drip of water off his nose. He laid the napkin down just as slowly.
“Holy water?” he asked.
Melinda, eyes wide, forced herself not to look at anyone else in the coffee shop. Fortunately, this time of night wasn’t a very busy time for coffee drinkers. She nodded.
“Well.” His voice had lowered to a hissing whisper. “Since my face hasn’t melted off, you can be pretty sure I’m not a vampire.” He didn’t sound at all pleased.
“No, but it looks like you’ve been pretty cozy with one.” She looked pointedly at his neck. “At least one.”
His face flushed vaguely, from the network of silver scars all the way to his hairline. “Not by choice.”
She softened immediately at his mumble, the shame in his tone. “God…” Instinctively, she reached out to him, laying her hand on his. “What did they do to you?”
“I was drunk one night. Woke up in their headquarters, or whatever it is, in Underground Atlanta. There were a dozen or so of us. We were — snacks.”
Memories rushed back of her own time in vampiric custody. She hadn’t been as brutally mistreated as the other women who’d been taken by the same vamps — they had both died — but she’d only barely made it out alive. “I’m so sorry. It must have been awful.”
Shifting uncomfortably, he looked down at the table. “It… it wasn’t fun.”
“What happened? How did you get away?”
“There were these other vamps. They came in and stirred things up, and Graciela let us go. Graciela — she was the vampire in charge of the place. Old. Incredibly old, and powerful, and God, I can’t believe I can actually talk to you about this.”
Her hand tightened again on his, and she realized she was feeling the same thing. That finally she could speak to someone about what had happened to her, someone who would believe her.
“Would you –” She broke off, then made herself start again. “We both have stories and nobody else to tell them to. Would you like to come back to my place? We could talk.”
Relief flooded his face, and he nodded. “Yes. Yes, I’d like that very much.”