Owls & Ashes

13 Hours of Night: A Vampire Story Soundtrack

YouTube Playlist

1. Depeche Mode – Waiting for Night (Nahweed Mix)
2. Massive Attack – Angel
3. Cruxshadows – Deception
4. Puscifer – Rev 22:20
5. NIN – Came Back Haunted
6. Chester Bennington – System
7. Placebo – Running Up That Hill
8. V.A.S.T. – Pretty When You Cry
9. Skillet – Monster
10. Evanescence – Made of Stone
11. Covenant – Bullets
12. The Cure – Apart (Renholder Remix)
13. Stabbing Westward – Waking Up Beside You

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Going Out for a Drink
After a violent incident, Jan learns to feed properly

“I dunno about this.” Jan frowned as he flexed his burnt fingers, sheathed under the elbow-length black leather glove. “I feel like Ian Curtis beat up Michael Jackson and stole his wardrobe.” The reflection in the rear-view was blurry once again. Earlier he’d managed to pull it into focus for awhile, long enough to don the black trousers, shirt, vest and boots, and properly knot the red tie, the look Violet called ‘High Goth’.

“So, wear both of them instead?” Violet glanced at him from the driver’s seat as she steered them off of the highway and onto Harrison.

“Hmf. Maybe.” He made a frustrated growl again, slowly working his fingers and trying to ignore the hot ache. Under the clothing, his flesh was a dry, blackened lakebed of cracked skin and seared muscle from shoulder to fingertips. “It’s been a weird fucking night already. All that shit that happened in the morgue. The… bodies. And me… and you and Mila… and the fire… and this hurts like hell. And I’m… so… damn…”

Violet nodded, eyes unblinking as she took the turn past 11th, parking near the Eagle. “Hungry. I know. Me too,” she whispered.

Their eyes met for a moment, and that weird territorial feeling briefly stirred, bonds tugging at each other before settling. Jan busied himself pulling on the other glove, buttoning down the sleeve once more, but glanced up at her once in awhile. “I still say we could just… I dunno… find a farm.”

Violet’s doll-like features twisted in a moue of distaste, and she shook her head. “Ugh, no way. Besides… you said it yourself: You need to learn to do this too. Maybe it’ll be easier to control yourself in a public place.”

Jan winced involuntarily. “Yeah.”

“So… how do you want to do this?” Violet asked.

He rubbed his gloved hands together in thought, then looked up at her. “Hm. We … go in separately. Maybe dance for awhile… go from there… leave together?”

Violet nodded. “Sounds good,” she said. “And… what about a signal? How will I know if something’s gone wrong?”

Jan gave a wry snicker. “You’ll probably hear screaming, and see people running. One of them might be me.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Inside DNA Lounge, Deathguild was in full swing. The usual wall-shaking bass of industrial pounded Jan’s ears, and he clenched his teeth against the sound, already feeling just a little more agitated. He and Violet glanced at each other now and then across the room, until the DJ played something more appropriate for couples.

They came together on the main floor, eyes locked as they danced, keeping close and moving in unison through the steps, spinning, dipping, arms winding around each other. Even in the dimness of the club, he could still see others watching here and there, fully visible even in the dark to his and her eyes. As the song drew to a close, he swung Violet out by one arm, lunged, turned, spun her back in and dipped her low, tilting her nearly horizontal, before setting her down again. Both of them drew back a step from each other, before he bowed, giving a tiny crooked smile.

As Violet turned to reply to someone near her, Jan heard a voice behind him. “Nice dancing. You guys are awesome!”

He swung around, taking in the sight of a girl who had been observing: lacy skirt, choppy dark hair, plain-faced, blue-green eyes. Immediately that part of him came awake, and the urge to just grab her tugged at him. No, dammit, not yet, he thought. Instead, he smiled briefly, eyes just slightly narrowed.

“Thanks. What about you… do you dance?”

“Well, kinda, but not like that…”

“I could give you a really brief lesson, if you want?” He struggled to say as calmly as possible.

“Um, I dunno, it looks hard,” the girl said.

He shook his head, forcing himself to stay in place. Don’t blow it, don’t get too close, don’t creep, he reminded himself. Eye contact. Interest. Engagement.

“It’s not too hard once you know how. Trust me,” Jan told her. He blinked, as inspiration struck him. “Tell you what: I need to get a… drink, after this. But if you want, I can teach you a basic step or two, and if you don’t approve, I’ll buy you a drink too if you like, and then I’ll let you be.”

She mulled it over, then shrugged. “I guess? Sure.”

He flashed a sudden grin, then nodded. Patience. C’mon… On cue, the intro for the next track kicked into another one he could dance to. “Here, take my hands, like this…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jan pretended to take another sip of his gin and tonic, nodding as he listened to the girl, Ashley, talk over their drinks. On the other side of the room, he could see Violet deep in conversation with another girl she had acquainted herself with, and they were moving off into another area of the club.

“So, you two know each other?” she asked, following his gaze.

“Yeah… we’ve taken the same dance classes together, known each other awhile,” he said, somehow managing to keep his voice even. “First time she’s been here, though.”

“Oh, yeah? What about you?”

“I…” He paused. “I actually haven’t come here in a couple of years. Feels a lot longer.”

Ashley smiled and nodded. “Right? Me too, I haven’t come here in like, months. Feels like a lifetime!”

He involuntarily snorted a soft laugh. “Hah. Yeah, I know what you mean.”

As she kept talking in between sips of her drink, he watched her, reminding himself to blink and nod once in awhile. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, he reminded himself once more. And still, that impatient feeling was rising. That part of him, this aching, angry, hungry part was stirring in him, and up close, he swore he could hear her heartbeat, even over the heavy bass throbbing from the speakers below the balcony where they stood.

Just grab her, he thought. No. Don’t do that. Just… wait…

And as she kept on talking about her classes, her job, and her friends, he nodded, replied, still pushing at the feeling as it pushed back harder. Jan just wanted to let it slip, to take hold of her, shove her into the corner past the coat-check, crank her head back and sink his teeth in and tear and that desire was getting harder and harder to hold by the minute. That wanting was its path out, the wish to just abandon thought to sensation… to possess, to fuck, to eat…

No, dammit, I’m in control, fucker. But it was still threatening to break free, and getting worse by the moment. Maybe… just a little… no more…

His eyes locked on Ashley’s, and she paused, smiling up at him, and something in that part of him, something made of lust and hunger and impatience lunged out, seizing upon her.

The girl took a breath, blushing slightly, and even in the dark, to his eyes, he could almost see her skin glow ruby with the warmth that coursed through her suddenly. “Sorry…” she ahem’ed. “Think I’m a little lightweight these days.”

He nodded, still keeping his eyes locked to hers. Whatever had happened wasn’t like Violet’s weird charm, or that terror she’d pushed out onto him that first night, or that raw mindless rage they’d all felt. It was… something in that part of him, filtered through hunger, desire, and it had latched onto her briefly. How, though…

Fuck it. Just go for it.

“You, uh… want to sit down?” He kept his voice level as he leaned in, offering his hand. “Promise I won’t bite. Well, not much.”

Oh my fucking God that sounds so stupid…

And yet, unbelievably, the words seemed to hit her just the right way. She bit her lip, smiling a little more, her gaze fixed to his as well. “Yyyeah. Think I’d better.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the dark corners behind the upstairs dance floor, Ashley sat close to him, and Jan leaned closer, almost hesitant, but she didn’t draw away as he moved slowly to kiss her. Her hair smelled like some sort of tropical shampoo, but her clothes were laced with old smoke. She tasted like stale cloves, and vodka cranberry, a little heavy on the vodka; she was responding even faster than he thought she might. He almost broke the kiss, but stayed close until she came up for air instead.

As he watched her, he thought briefly of Violet, mingled envy and a little guilt rising, then subsiding as that hunger kept stirring, stronger, the longer he stayed this close.

Ashley looked up at him, eyebrows raised, and he moved in again, pushing back that urge to let go, and kissed her again, still tamping down that awkward thought of how did I do this, the sense of just a little wrong, the feeling of this is just too weird. And yet, he slowly tilted his head with hers, and carefully put his lips to her neck. This close he could hear her pulse pounding faster, and feel the rush in her carotid under his mouth.

Before he could stop himself, he slowly bit down, and she winced, then moaned, and relaxed against him, hips tilting a little, thigh sliding under his hand. Heat flooded his mouth, sweet, metallic, traced with a little bitterness, brief embarrassment, shades of triumph, tiny feelings of fear. Her heartrate was cranking up, and she was going languid in his arms.

He opened one eye a hair, peering up, and seeing Violet across the room, quietly watching him. Ashley’s heart was pounding heavier, working as he took from her, and just for a moment, the urge to keep going pushed at him, to take more, more, MORE

Jan pushed it down with an effort, feeling it settle back, a little easier to negotiate since it had some of what it wanted. NO… you’ve done enough already. He drew back, kissing at the girl’s throat, feeling the tiny marks close over beneath the tip of his tongue. Too fucking weird.

And yet, he hadn’t harmed her… well, not much. Ashley looked a little pale, and opened her eyes, her gaze a little poleaxed as she looked up at him. “What, uh…?”

“I, ah…” Jan looked up at Violet, and saw an empty seat where she had been. “I just realized, I … I have to go… but…”

Just fucking go for it, jackass.

Jan took a breath, even as he realized he didn’t need to, before saying, “…May I have your number?”

She looked a little disappointed, but she gave a tiny smile. “Yeah… here…” they quickly exchanged numbers, tapping out on smartphone screens.

“I’ll, uh… I’ll be around. I’ll… give you a call later. Promise.”

“Okay…” She sat back, taking deep breaths and shaking her head a little as if to clear it.

“You have a safe night… get one of your friends to drive you when they get here, if you need?”

“Yyyeah…”

He nodded a few times, then turned and headed to look for Violet. As he reached the bottom of the stairs by the main deck, she spoke up from behind him. “How’d it go?”

Jan shook his head. No aching pit in his stomach. Just soft heat rushing through him from feeding. But still that feeling of oddness just wouldn’t go away. “Went… okay. How about you?”

“Good… I’m okay, actually. What happened up there?”

Jan thought about her watching him briefly, thought about the girl. “She’s… alright. I didn’t… well. She gave me her number. I just… can we get out of here?”

Violet shrugged, and took his hand.

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My Theme Song

I have a whole playlist for my character in my head, but this one seems the most apropos at the moment, given how the story is unfolding . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcWDZPxpZ-w

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Wedding planning with Kate
Background

Violet and Kate are sitting around the living room mostly relaxed with laptops and notepads at the ready.

“So Kate, I wanted to say thank you so much for helping me with the wedding planning! I could not do it without you.”

“Well, we’re still friends and I figure you guys kinda need me even more than before now right?”

Violet laughs “Pretty much. So, I’ve got some ideas for how we can still make this work”…

She starts outlining changes to the existing plans to make things a bit more after dark friendly- She and Jan will rent a hotel just a few miles from the venue and only arrive just as the sun is going down.

“We can still do getting ready pictures at the hotel, and if you and Judith and Grace can do the set up we’ll just show up in time for the ceremony. There are no candles allowed at the venue, it’s a non religious ceremony and that’s not a problem in any case. I’m not sure how we’ll get the license, but we’ve got a while to get that part figured out.”

“I can still do dress appointments in Santa Rosa as long as we schedule them for early evening. Since I’m not working anymore, this is actually much easier!”

Kate looks at her a bit dubiously, but starts nodding along. “We can do all that. And I’ll still do the flowers, and we should make sure to send out invitations early. I can’t believe that you guys are still going through with it all, but I’ll help as much as I can. Are you telling anybody else about erm, your condition?”

“No. Absolutely not- and you can’t ever tell anybody either OK? Our existence depends on it and I’m not even joking a little about that.”

Violet pulls back a little, resettles the smile on her face and changes the subject not terribly subtly. “So, how about this new guy huh? You both seem pretty damn smitten!”

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On the Hunt (for a Job)

Mila wakes up as the sun slips below the horizon. Does a bit of an internal check . . . am I healed? Do I hurt? How hungry am I? The need is like a “fire danger today” sign set on “Moderate.” Can’t go too long without feeding, but it’s not urgent yet. That’s good. Using the White Horse as her personal snack bar looks like it might end up getting . . . complicated. Too bad. And that girl is pretty cute . . . and tasted so sweet, and . . . no. Shakes herself. That’s only going to lead to trouble. And not necessarily the fun kind.

Heads upstairs, “Honey?” Joe wanders in, looking a little dazed, as he had since this whole adventure began. “You doing okay?”.

“Yeah . . .” he trails off. “Fine. I guess. You know, all things considered.” He gives a sort of rueful laugh. He has a point. All things considered. Hell of a lot of things to consider, really. Or one big one.

“So, anyway,” she says, starting in mid-thought, as usual. “I think this whole faking my death scam might actually work. I mean, from what Jason said, it seems doable, and I think he’d help us out. But he’s . . . got some other stuff going on.”

“He always does,” Joe replies, shaking his head. “That guy who hired him to prove he’d found an alien skull? And the Jack the Ripper lady?”

“Yeah . . . kinda like that. Maybe. Consulting for some new bunch of weirdos anyway. So I don’t want to bug him too much about this scheme right yet. Which means I kinda need to make some money in the meantime. I mean, I totally appreciate that you’ve been going to work this whole time even with everything that’s going on, but we do need to be a two-income family.”

“Okay . . . but you can’t go back to work, right? No graveyard shift at Weldon Owen?”

“I wish. Nah, I was thinking about going back into the Industry.” You can hear the capital letter, the way she pronounces it. “Makes sense, right? Work at night, make big money, no taxes . . . that would be cool with you, yeah?”

“So, dancing?”

“Actually, I was thinking about the whole escort thing. Check it out—with my new weird-ass powers, I think I can totally fake the whole thing.”

“Um . . . you mean like ‘faking it’ faking it? I’m sure all the girls do, but what does that have to do with . . .?”

“No, I mean the whole thing, ya know. I’m thinking that I can totally just feed off them, make them think something much less . . . untoward . . . happened, take the money and run. Even if they suspect something weird did go on, what are they going to do? Call the cops?”

’You’ve got an interesting idea of ‘untoward,’ my bunny. But sure, makes sense. Hey, it’s all bodily fluids, right? Um . . ." He gets a sort of odd expression on his face. Wary, nervous. Uncertain. Almost . . . angry? Joe doesn’t get angry very easily. What the hell?

“What’s going on? You look . . . weird.”

“You said you’d feed off of them. Um . . . you’re not going to let them feed from you, right?” His voices wavers a bit as he says this. He sounds . . . jealous?

“Ew, no, why would I? That’s kind of gross, my friend.”

“Okay.” Relief washes over his face, his body relaxes. “Just wondering. I mean, hell, we’re all new to this thing. Just . . . yeah. Just wondering. No big deal.”

Mila shakes her head. Whatever. No time to figure this one out. He probably just needs some rest.

“I’m going to ping a couple of folks who are still in the biz, get some recommendations for agencies. If I go out while you’re sleeping, I’ll leave a note, kay?”

“Sure, I guess. Um . . . good luck, I guess?”

• • •

An hour or so of messaging with a few Facebook friends, and she has a short list of high-end agencies, and a quick refresher on the basic rules. The agency does the bookings and takes the client’s credit card number, texts the escort the relevant details. The agency takes 20% off the top, deposits the rest in the escort’s account. Tips are negotiated privately and the escort keeps 100% of that. Any upsell needs to be reported back to the agency and charged to the card. Suuuuuuure.

“I mean really,” Mila’s friend Kitty says, and she can see the eyeroll even over IM. “Guy decides to upgrade from front-door to backdoor action mid-date, you’re really gonna ask them to run his card again? Or just take the extra $300 and add it to your tip? I don’t have to tell you that, right?”

“Ha, yeah, good point. I don’t really see dropping everything to send that text!” Privately, Mila thanks whatever unholy deity might be appropriate that she’s not going to have to follow through on anything of that nature. To coin a phrase, ew.

• • •

Okay, she tells herself, we’re ready to go. Probably. It’s . . . weird to do that standard last-minute mirror check and see a blur. Having to concentrate this hard to put lipstick on. It’s like trying to do your hair and makeup drunk or high on pills or something. I guess it gets easier with practice, she thinks. Hope so anyway. Never was one of those women who can just slap on their makeup without a mirror.

Hair brushed back in artfully mussed waves, black eyeliner, blood-red lipstick. A tight black sheath dress, sheer black stockings, high-heeled black boots. Not too high, not slutty. Just . . . authoritative. And expensive-looking. A look that says high-end cocktail party, a look that can walk easily into any hotel in the world and broadcast, “I belong here.”

She pulls into a parking garage a block from the Union Square offices of VIP Escorts (“Elegant accompaniment for the discerning gentleman. Outcall to all downtown hotels.”)

“All right,” she says, out loud, her voice a little less steady than she expected in the empty lot. “Here goes nothing.”

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Groundwork

“Kayleigh? I need a favor…”

Thus begins my conversation with my favorite photographer. I think I’m going to start needing money soon, and that means some kind of work. I’m not totally sold on the idea of trying to build up pro-domme work, but I have to admit it has some advantages.

Jan has already given me the careful go ahead, so I begin making plans to put together a website, listings and other such banal tasks.

“I need another name.. Mistress Vampira? No, too cheesy. Vampirella? Same problem. Mistress Aliisza? Hmm, well I guess I could do worse.”

Kayleigh is busy as always, but agrees to squeeze me in before the weekend as long as I come to her in Sac. Since she lives in a dungeon space, we agree that it will be perfect for getting all the shots I need to draw in clients.

I bring Jan up to speed, and we agree to drive out as soon as possible after we wake up the next day. I’m going to need to be as… well… lifelike as possible, and that means I need to feed tonight and make sure I’ll show up on film.

“Where should we go tonight? I feel weird trying to feed at BaGG, and we should really find somewhere a little closer to home.”

Jan shrugs, but agrees that if I’m still not willing to go suck on cows we’ll need a closer food source.

“How about Forbidden Island? It’s close, it’s got a back room and a fairly heavy clientele,” I offer, remembering the tiki bar in Alameda.

“I guess we can try it. Want to ride over?”

We grab our gear and ride out into the night and there is just so much to take in. I’ve always loved being out late, but now without the cold bothering me the feel of rushing through the quiet neighborhoods of Alameda is that much more exciting. I can feel Jan’s every movement and we lean and swoop together better than before.

It’s almost a shame to pull over and get off the bike outside the bar but well, needs must, and I need to feed. Before we walk in I concentrate to bring a little color to my cheeks and mentally make the shift to appear approachable. I can see Jan gathering himself as well, and I give him a kiss before we go in separately. We agreed before we left home that if it came up, I could feed from a guy tonight—as long as he was just dinner.

It’s not crowded, but there is a hum of activity and conversation, and plenty of people milling around. I saunter towards the bar and order a Coke just for appearances. Soon enough, a fresh-faced guy comes over and tries to start a conversation. It’s been so long since I wanted to attract anyone that I have to choke off my usual ‘fuck off’ retort and instead flash him a big smile and a dose of charm. He’s a techie for a small company, I tell him I’m in finance. He’s just coming off a long relationship, I make appropriately consoling sounds and draw him deeper in. I let him suggest a table in the back and as we walk back I glace at Jan to make sure he knows where I’m going. He’s already sitting with a girl on the couches in the back, and we make eye contact with a bit of heat before going back to our… interests.

It’s darker out back, but there are still people talking and laughing in groups and we weave between them to a darker corner that I’ve scoped out. Jake seems like a… fairly normal fellow, and is acting just a little stunned by the amount of charm I’ve been sending his way. I’m getting the feeling that should the need arise, I could bend him to my will. We talk a little more and I let him move closer, put an arm around my shoulders ‘since it’s cold’, and when he leans in to kiss me, I duck my head toward his neck and I can smell his blood right there, tempting me and I bite him as gently as I can and begin to feed. He jumps at first, but then relaxes as the sharpness is replaced by… well whatever it feels like, he seems to like it.

It’s hard to stop, but soon enough I pull back after licking the wound to seal it. I give him a kiss on the cheek and while he’s still looking a bit dazed I pull away and tell him I had a lovely time talking to him but I need to be heading home. He asks for my number, and I give him my backup email instead, but promise to be in touch. Putting just a little force behind my voice I ‘suggest’ that he should go home and rest. He nods, grabs his jacket and stands up—wobbling a little but recovering quickly. I give him a hug and tell him to have a good night and email me sometime. He leaves without a fuss, which I’m thankful for, so I go back inside to check in on Jan. He seems to be having similar success so I go sit at the other side of the bar and pretend to nurse my Coke while I wait for him to finish. Seeing him embracing the other girl pushes a thread of jealousy and possessiveness through me, but I fight it down and remind myself that she’s just food, and in just a few hours we’ll be back in our room away from all these people.

I pass the next half-hour in a blur of faces at the bar and people flowing around me. When Jan walks past me and out the door I feel his pull and have to stop from following to obviously. We meet outside at the bike, embrace fiercely and with just a bit of snarl, I can smell the girl on his clothes, and keeping the lid on my temper takes just a bit of effort. As soon as we get inside I drag him into the shower so we can wash away the scents of our conquests and then feed the bond between us.

Later, I pack my most Mistress-type clothes in anticipation of the shoot the next night, and then fall into unconsciousness wrapped up with Jan.

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Job Interview with a Vampire

VIP Escorts is located in one of those nondescript buildings that circle Union Square—just far enough out of the truly posh zone for affordable rent, but close enough to bask in the reflected glow of the Prada suits and $700 Marc Jacobs handbags. Mila’s visited this sort of building before for spa treatments, hair color, and the like. True to form, the Sutter Street address has a respectable facade and an upscale shoe store on the ground floor, but the elevator has seen better days, the security guard merely waves her through with a baleful eyeroll, and floors 2 through 7 seem to be wholly occupied by slightly rundown hair salons, Korean waxing emporia, low-key laser hair removalists, and the like.

“Well, I guess this place is one-stop shopping for the employees of VIP,” she thinks. And then with an amused start realizes that she’s never going to need any of these services again. “Glad I had those laser treatments before this shit happened,” she thinks, and then shakes her head at her own vanity. “I’m in the midst of a terrifying new world that I barely understand, threatened by monsters and undead bureaucrats . . . and I’m just happy I don’t need to get waxed for all eternity? Way to focus on the big picture, lady.”

The tasteful brass plate outside office 834 reads “VIP Agency.” She hesitates a moment, consciously works to activate her new powers of persuasion and influence, and opens the door. It’s well past standard business hours, to say the least, but three pretty girls with headsets are taking calls, tapping away at laptops. Only one seems to be spacing out, idly surfing Pinterest. The other two look to be negotiating with whomever’s on the other end of the line.

“I’m here for Cassandra?”

“Oh, new girl,” the redhead says, tearing herself away from the kittens pictures flooding her screen. Her voice is neither challenging nor friendly, simply making a statement of fact. “Just a sec.” She taps a button on her phone, says “Cass? Your 10:30 is here.” Waits a moment, then hits the disconnect. “Go on in,” she says, gesturing to a door behind her.

Mila take a moment to check in on her powers. Not for the first time in the past few days, she feels like a kid who’s just been handed the keys to a Ferrari. Excited by the awesome power at her fingertips, but with no real idea how to use it or to be sure she doesn’t cause massive carnage. Oh well, she thinks, for the second time tonight, here goes nothing.

Cassandra is an attractive woman in her mid 40s with dark hair tied back severely in a bun, makeup straight from a Nordstrom’s “office to evening” palette, white blouse, black pencil skirt, stockings, heels. “Give her a pair of horn-rim glasses and she could star in a ‘naughty governess’ scene,” Mila thinks. Huh. Maybe she does, actually. Seems entirely likely. And totally irrelevant. Focus!

Cassandra look her up and down, nods her head, gives a smile that’s probably meant to be welcoming. “Please, take a seat.” She looks down at an iPad on her desk. “So, Kitten gave you my contact? Sounds good, remind me, what’s your experience in the industry?”

“Well, I danced for years at Mitchells and a few others clubs, did the full Champagne Room VIP show circuit. I’ve got a lot of friends in the biz, I know what it entails. I know how to charm a guy out of his cash, and while I’ve never done sex for money, I’ve been told I’m pretty damn good at it when I’m doing it for free.”

Cassandra does her the courtesy of smiling at this half-joke. “Anything off the table? Girl-girl, dom-sub, GFE, travel, coke date, backdoor?”

Wow, thinks Mila. This lady gets down to business quickly! “I can’t really travel—family stuff, you know. I can do dom or sub—dom’s not really my jam, but I have enough experience to fake it for a client. I can do an overnight GFE but gotta be home before sunrise. Boring responsibilities and all. Hope that’s okay? Otherwise, it’s all good. I have friends I could probably bring along on a girl-girl if that’s cool. Nice to work with people you know, right?”

Cassandra nods. “You know travel and GFE’s where the big money is, right?”

“Yeah, I know. Kind of a bummer, but I gotta be responsible with my daytime stuff.”

“Alright, cool, just wanted to be sure you knew you’re leaving money on the table. Anyway, this all looks good. You cool for a call tonight? We just booked one that looks like an easy tryout. If you want, you can give me your bank details and I can set oyu up in the system on a trial basis. Work for you?”

Okay, Mila thinks. This is it. Can I really do this? Hell, Sascha’s probably out there bare-knuckles brawling with a Hell’s Angel or something, and I don’t even want to think what Jan might be up to. I think I can make nice to some businessman.

“Sure, sounds good! Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“Well, Kitten’s a really good worker, and if you’re her friend, I think I can trust you. And you’ve got . . . something. I mean, yeah, you’re pretty, we’re all pretty, you know? But you’ve got this vibe that really does . . . uh . . . does it” She looks a little . . . flustered. And she looks like a woman who is almost never flustered. Composes herself. “Anyway, I’ll text you the details. He’s staying at the Mark Hopkins, business traveler. Straight-up half-and-half, no add-ons. If you can upsell, there’s a bonus for you. Knock ’em dead.”

“Heh. Well, maybe half dead,” Mila tries to joke. It doesn’t really come out right, Cassandra shoots her a look. Then fakes a little laugh. “Yeah, right. Okay, thanks for coming in.”

That was stupid, Mila thinks as she walks out the door. Let’s not joke about killing the clients.

It’s just a few blocks to the hotel. She finds a cafe, fakes sipping a cup of tea until her phone buzzes. Client’s ready, says the message from Cass. He’ll be sitting at the bar in the Top of the Mark lounge.

Stepping out of the elevator into the glittering bar, she fits right in. Whew. Made the right call with the cocktail dress. She scans the crowd. Businessman, affluent, probably looking for her. Ah, there we go. Nice suit, grey hair, looks like George Clooney and Anderson Cooper merged and went into banking. Hey, not my type but if that is him, not bad. Glad I didn’t get some 90-year-old creeper for my first call, even if I don’t actually plan to fuck him.

Make some flirty eye contact across the room. “Okay, girl,” she thinks. “Turn the seduction up to 11. Walk like you own the place. And once again, one more goddman time, here goes nothing.”

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Wild Nights

Black asphalt and white striping unwinds ahead of the motorcycle as Jan and Violet streak along 80-North to Sacramento, winding through sparse late-evening traffic. Now and then, he grips the throttle and twists, gunning the engine and dashing between slower neighboring vehicles. The thrill of passing them is mingled with a faint snarl of territoriality, a hint of caution despite the lack of sweaty palms or tense pit-of-the-stomach feelings, and a desire for abandon—to just give in to further speed, damn all consequences.

Jan and Violet are armored in leather, kevlar, armored padding and plastics and their own hardened flesh; even if they were to fall they’d still fare better than the average living person in the same condition. After seeing his own flesh renew, awakening to see it having knit itself together over-day, physical harm seems less and less frightening to Jan by each night… so long as he can feed that hunger, that part of him Matthias called the Beast.

It gives and it takes, Jan thinks as he swoops between two SUVs, Violet leaning with him in sync. I hope there’s some balance in there.

What’s happened to him has left him with more ferocity, sharpness, and tenacity, and yet, it threatens to break free at a moment’s notice. So far the only one to keep him most easily in line is Violet. After all these nights so far, once the hunting is out of the way, turning to feed each other has left something of her wound around within him, and vice-versa. And even then—amidst clawing, snarling, biting at each other in the dark, silently roaring at each other—the urge to take even more has circled at the edge of his consciousness… or the urge to be taken.

It’s hard to tell which is the stronger impulse, or even which is which at times.

All this blurs through his mind in the time it takes for him to twist the throttle again and dart around a minivan, now pulling ahead of the scattered herd of commuters.

Ahead the open highway beckons, and he grins widely behind a darkened visor and leans further forward. Behind him he can feel Violet gripping tightly at him, laughing out loud, sharing in his exultation as they streak down the highway.

Live fast. Die Young. Be wild.

Three for three.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

This part of him wants out. The ride to Sacramento, to take Violet to her photoshoot, only seems to have whetted its appetite instead of sating it. It paces back and forth in Jan, eager for more, urging him onward.

A few early shots of the two of them in fancy dress together, posing coldly for the camera, turning to stare intently at each other, feeling their bond rise between them as they do, simultaneously challenging and submitting. Kaylee grins eagerly at the two of them as she takes shot after shot, while unbeknownst, Jan and Violet work to still that part of themselves that shies away from being seen, captured, recorded, reflected.

Photoshoots won’t work if the pictures don’t come out clearly, now.

“Okay, let’s get ready for your big glamor shots, Violet!” Kaylee cheers her on, spurred by the newly-sharpened poise between the couple. Jan turns, grinning briefly through tightly clenched teeth, then slips to one side, changing into his more casual clothing—boots, jeans, t-shirt—passing on the leather jacket and riding gear for now.

“I know you’ll be here awhile, love,” he says to Violet, turning back to kiss her. She responds with equal fervor, the two gripping tightly at one another for a moment. “I’m going out for a bit. Promise I’ll be back.”

He and Violet glance over at Kaylee, before Jan leans to whisper in Violet’s ear, only half-joking, “And no eating the photographer.”

Violet gives him a mock-serious half-reproachful glare for a moment, then nods, giving him a tiny smile. “Don’t be gone too long.”

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

Outside the warehouse space, Jan walks away from streetlights, from people, into night. Despite the darkness, he can see as if in full day. Not as if it were lit that brightly… but everything is apparent and clear, tinted silver. He looks up at the waning half-moon, and in the dark the Beast inside him stirs once more. Free, unburdened, alone, the only companion is the thing within him that is at once part and parcel, and something all its own.

And it wants out. Now.

Jan closes his eyes, thinking back several nights, to the coroner’s lab, to the fight, to the changes in his body. Remembering the curious sensation of his flesh suddenly shifting, finding himself on all fours, clawed, fanged, black-pelted, somewhere between canine and feline. What else can I do…

Jan’s eyes open and he gazes skyward, unconsciously beginning to flex his hands. If he still needed to breathe, he’d be taking those involuntary excited gasps, but instead he just waits, thinking. Somewhere in the dark, an owl keens, and he lets out an unexpected soft laugh. The Beast waiting inside him joins its voice to the laugh, and he feels it steal into the open just a little. Alright… just a little for you…

He can feel his body shifting, stretching, changing, the blood in him catching a cold fire and stirring within, and he takes off at a run across open ground, then leaps…

In this one long moment in mid-air, he feels gravity begin to take hold, and pushes down, fighting against its pull. The frustration at falling lashes through him, the Beast snarls at the restraint of the Earth. He drops lower for a moment, fights it, the Beast’s presence coursing through him, then feels himself moving…

Up.

Exultation. Triumph. Territoriality.

…For I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth—and fuck right the hell off, gravity…

Black-winged and taloned, Jan feels the ground fall away beneath him. He beats his wings ungainly, then more instinctively, and climbs higher. One final triumphant laugh bursts from him before fading into a rasping, shrieking call.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

Clad in the flesh of something between bat and raven and owl, Jan hurtles skyward over fields and homes. Below, the sound of animals grazing on an open pasture yard reach him, and he folds wings, plummeting with sudden swiftness.

Jan swoops low, watching one of the cattle moving away from the rest, and lands atop it, feeling this mountain of muscle and bone and hide startle briefly beneath him before he battens onto it, sinking teeth into flesh.

The animal relaxes under his bite as he hangs onto it, feeling the heat of its blood in his mouth, somehow thinner and less satisfying than Ashley or any other (to say nothing of Violet), and yet still filling his senses. Traces of dull emotions flicker through his mind: contentment, hunger, dim surprise. He has to take more and more to push back the hunger that surges in him, the Beast wanting every single drop it can wrest from this creature’s life.

He breaks free, letting the cattle slump to its knees, weakened by the feeding, but not dead, yet. Still hungry. More. Urged on by the Beast’s hunger and desire for mayhem, he takes wing across the field, latching onto another of the herd briefly, tasting the same mix of dim sensations and simple emotions. Like fast-food fare compared to the buffet of human life, or the sumptuous sybaritism of Violet’s own blood.

That desire for more courses through him, his uneasy bargain with the Beast strained as it pushes back at his control, leaping from animal to animal in a desperate desire to consume, to be full, to own and take and feed and control and destroy. The winged creature that is Jan opens its mouth and lets out another rasping cry, and the herd, already an uneasy collection of individuals, bolts as one, hooves thudding on ground and multiple voices lowing in dim fear and worry as the cattle stampede from one side of the field to the other, driven, harried by his presence, the Beast, a wordless voice urging yes, more, feed, take, kill . . .

Sudden light blinks on at the far side of the field, and a voice calls, “Who the hell’s out there?!” Jan freezes, hunkering low on the ground, wings mantled, and from his throat the Beast hisses an angry sound at the intrusion.

No. Let him be. Jan and this part of him struggle for dominance, and somewhere in the night he can hear the hunting call of another owl as it descends on its tiny prey.

With a furious snarl the Beast retreats once more. It hates to be enclosed, caged, leashed, controlled—and this interruption will be paid back in kind, Jan knows it. Not right now. With a snap of leathery, feathery wings, he launches himself skyward, leaving behind the farmer and cattle.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

Back at the warehouse loft, Violet pauses, after a long series of shots and poses taken outside in the cold light of sodium streetlamps, feeling Jan draw nearer. A soft rustling sound as of clothing being adjusted—or leather—and he turns the corner and comes into view.

“Heyyy, prodigal returns!” Kaylee calls, giving him a one-handed wave as she holds up her camera. Jan nods, raising a hand in return, before moving to embrace Violet, kissing her briefly. She can taste the traces of blood on his teeth, and for a moment his nails dig into her sides as if testing her skin, before he withdraws.

“Photos going well?”

“Yeah, we’re almost done.” She gives him a curious look. “You okay? Something wrong?”

He shakes his head once, sharply. “I’m fine,” he says, although the few words hardly cover the matter. “I’ll explain later . . .”

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Wild Nights (Part 2)
Into the Dark, from Violet's Perspective . . .

After Jan leaves the photo-shoot, I change into my ‘mistress’ clothes and we start shooting again. I don’t know how much my ‘pull’ will translate into film, but I have to make these the best I can. Along with my leather corset, skirt, stockings and platform boots I concentrate on that part of me that can attract and dominate.

“Kayleigh, I’m going to try something for this next set—let me know if it’s too much OK?”

She nods, and I focus… drawing myself up, projecting that I want to be seen, projecting out an aura of power and command as best I can. I see Kayleigh blink hard a few times and then focus on the task at hand.

She shoots me from below, elongating my short frame as much as possible. Props of canes and floggers and chains complete the look as we get as many fetishes covered as we can. Stern disciplinarian with glasses for a Librarian look. My patented Execu-Bitch with promises of pain and command. 50’s housewife with a strap-on. Shots of my tiny feet, with and without the 6" heels. I try to keep varying the feel of the pictures and as we end with a set where all I’m projecting is “Desire Me” I feel Jan approaching. My focus falters and my senses sharpen on his approach. He seems . . . a little rough around the edges and I can sense his excitement—and that he’s well fed. The blood-tinged kiss just confirms it but the blood tastes different and less than I’m used to.

“Photos going well?” He asks.

“Yeah, we’re almost done.” I give him a curious look. “You okay? Something wrong?”

He shakes his head once, sharply. “I’m fine,” he says, "I’ll explain later . . .”

Since he seems elated rather than injured, I let it pass. I thank Kayleigh for her time and pay, then change back into the riding gear we came in. Holding focus for photo-shoots used to leave me hungry when I was just human, and as we go back to the bike I realize the same is true now.

“I’m hungry.”

“How bad?”

“You smell delicious, and I know you’ve already fed tonight. I don’t want to take too much from you, so I should probably take care of this now before you become any more tempting.”

I see a flash of desire in his eyes, a smirk of challenge and then I’m on him, fangs just not quite piercing his flesh. His nails, suddenly sharper and more present dig slightly into my hips and I reluctantly back off.

“Let’s find you a bar, and save the fun for later, eh?” His nails dig harder for a moment and then let me go.

It’s amazing that even as an undead, things like Yelp are incredibly helpful. A few moments of searching later and we’re off towards a bar that’s rated as ‘delightfully seedy’ and ‘busy as hell’.

I’m a little concerned about feeding outside of our usual area, but when we arrive at the bar I don’t get the feeling any other Kindred are nearby.

“So, same idea as before?”

I ask before we enter separately, me radiating charm and trying to find a nice healthy body for the night. The layout is not quite as friendly as Forbidden Island, but it’s late enough that the crowd is loud, happy and just a little bit drunk, and thankfully I notice some booths just a little out of the way that already have couples canoodling.

Remembering the cautionary tales Sasha and Allie have related about the transitive properties of drug and booze laced blood I don’t want to repeat those mistakes. The first guy to approach me is swaying visibly and far too drunk for my tastes.

“Hey therrre sexy—anybody ever tell you ya look just like a doll? Wanna be my dolly?”

He slurs and tries to wrap his arm around my waist. Without thinking, I’m just not there when his hand should have hit my hip. He stumbles a little, and then looks up at me standing across from him, not smiling anymore. I remember how I scared Jan on that first night and feel no mercy towards the man in front of me. I smile, and he smiles back for a second before I let the humanity drop from my eyes and the smile becomes a lovely rictus grin and I whisper, “Go Away, and leave me alone or I’ll haunt your dreams.” His eyes get large and I just keep staring at him letting him see the part of me made of nightmares and demons. “Go away NOW,” I whisper sharply at him with another push, and he just whimpers and starts pushing his way through the crowd in a hurry to leave.

Quickly, I try to pull the shine of humanity back on, and scan the room for a less drunk and more . . . amicable target. Ah, there we go: I see a girl across the room with clear eyes, pretty hair and no company. She looks a bit bored and as I get closer I try to see if that glass in front of her is just soda. Good—no smell of alcohol on her or in the drink so I lean in, push out a healthy dose of charm and introduce myself.

She seems a bit startled to be approached, but warms up as I make small talk and draw her in.

“So where’s your date?” I ask.

“Well, I came with my friends but I’m the DD and they’re all dancing up a storm in the back with some skeezy guys.”

“Aww, that’s no fun. It’s OK, I’m DD myself tonight. Maybe we can just hang out and enjoy the knowledge that we’re not going to have hangovers tomorrow eh?”

She laughs and seems just a bit charmed by me. My control is just a bit faulty, and as hungry as I am I can’t help staring just a little at the pulse in her neck. I waiver for a moment and the hunger takes over just long enough for me to whisper, “Let me kiss you,” with enough power behind it that I see her eyes glaze and she gives the tiniest of nods before I lean in, kiss her lips and then catch her lip with my teeth and drink. She whimpers, and then it turns into a tiny moan as the blood flows to me. All to soon I realize I need to stop and pull back before I hurt her. I want more—I need more to be sated but with some effort I close the small wound, give her another kiss and pull back.

She just stares at me, dazed until I offer her her drink and she seems to come back to herself a little.

I make some excuses about the time and give her a kiss on the cheek as I draw away from the table. I catch Jan’s eye as I cross the dance floor. He’s leaning next to the jukebox, just surveying the crowd. I leave, he follows a moment later.

“Feel better?” He quirks a smile at me as we suit up for the ride home.

“Somewhat, but lets get home quickly. I’m still hungry for you. And I want to know what you were up to while I was smiling for the camera.”

He starts laughing, and the smirk becomes a full on grin.

“I fucking flew tonight. I think I’m really starting to like this.”

I stare at him, more than a little surprised as we click down visors and he revs the bike to take us home.

Some of his mortal caution seems to have left him and we speed home faster than we’ve ever gone before—pavement and other vehicles just blurring past as if no more than a dream.

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Dancing with the Devil

Sascha turns and whirls on the dance floor in front of the orchestra, keeping his steps timed perfectly to the ever-increasing tempo of the musicians as the song segues from stately waltz to energetic swing to furious high-speed marching improv.

Within him, the Beast roils in fury, lashing and snapping at its bonds. How fucking dare you, you little bastard, it would say if it had a voice. The Beast wants out. It wants to tear Barton a new ass and feed it to him. Covered in mud, chocolate, whipped cream, cherries, and plant debris, Sascha’s suit for the evening is ruined, the crowd eyes him silently as he pulls Mila with him into the dance, and the Beast rages inside the Man, wanting to repay in kind the humiliation heaped upon it.

Yet, Sascha resists. His concentration sinks entirely into the dance, the performance, pushing out, letting his Majesty show that despite the distractions, the challenges, the pressure, he is grace, he is ice, he is steel and charm and silk and he is un-fucking-touch-able.

Barton flings out a white-gloved hand, slashing in the direction of the orchestra, and the musicians all come to an abrupt halt, the hall echoing with the last notes. Instead of stumbling to an ungainly stop along with the music, Sascha times it perfectly, whirling Mila around him, dipping her, and standing perfectly upright in the space of a breath—if any here drew breath, that is.

He turns to survey the crowd watching him—the Prince, his court, the various attendants of the evening’s Elysium—and the Beast backs down, snarling in the darkness behind his eyes. It will wait. It will repay, if it can.

In response, Barton watches him with cold disdain, and the Beast within him pushes out, testing Sascha’s limits. Then it abruptly recoils at the strength it finds there, and with a whirl of his garments, the Sister turns away. With one soft snort of icy, infuriated derision, the Harpy marches crisply away, his sycophants in tow.

The crowd gives polite applause, gradually building into genuine appreciation as the undercurrents of the drama stir them. Sascha gives a slight bow, and even O’Neill gives a grudging, appreciative nod.

“You lookin’ for a job, yeh?” He says to Sascha. “Well, you’ve got one. Show up tomorrow night, and don’t be late. We’ll see what we can make of ya.”

Sascha grins, teeth clenched a little tighter than normal as the Beast shows its teeth around the edges. The audience gradually drifts away from the drama, and the night’s Elysium, with its strains of the Danse Macabre, returns to its normal movements.

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