The beach was still populated with drunken fools and other temptingly tasty treats. I was frustrated by the latest vampire news. Apparently now I was going to be the maid of honor for Renee, one of Kenyon's main vampires, when she marries Carlos, a werewolf with a kick ass pack behind him. Carlos was cute, I guess, if you were into dimples and the whole entitlement persona that came with the 'power behind the throne' sort of thing. He was the next in line for his werewolf pack and Kenyon Huston wanted the power. Kenyon's status as a Master vampire with strong territorial control would be enhanced with the addition of the werewolves, at least, so he'd figured.
It didn't matter because it wouldn't bring back Jessie or Buddy. They'd been caught up in the drama somehow, and since they were representing both sides of the upcoming wedding ceremony it wasn't a good thing. Now they were both dead -- final true death. Vampires and werewolves weren't happy with the proposed union but they hadn't yet succeeded in persuading Kenyon to give up the idea of the rather extravagant wedding. I did wonder at the cost and how high the body count would go before Kenyon even thought there was a problem. Knowing him, he'd think it had nothing to do with him and he'd just continue with his plans. He was creating the supernatural equivalent of a royal wedding with the associated pomp and hatred only the truly enviable can inspire.
My cell rang again.
It was again a blocked number but it wasn't like I got crank calls. Still strolling along the Boardwalk looking for a snack I connected the call. My eyes kept scanning for a human to take before the night grew too dark and the walkers more cautious. There was a fine line between dusk and true dark I'd always found. I was far too much of a predator in the dark to go unnoticed by the humans for long.
I asked, "Hello?"
"Nat? You there? Hello, Natasha?" The caller was male but there was static and interference between us and I couldn't hear the voice clearly. The call kept crackling and cutting out sort of pausing which usually meant a bad connection.
Waiting for anything to identify the caller I watched some girls giggle and bop past me with iPod headsets plugged into their ears while on roller skates. They were tired and their knees were quivering. The four girls were passing by me unmolested. Tempting though they were with their sun burnt skin and wobbly legs I knew better than giving into the urge. I wasn't willing to expend the energy to transfix them much less deal with squeals and drama. Teenagers tended to live in drama land. These seventeen and eighteen year olds were no exception.
"Oh, my fucking god ... did you see that jerk? I mean really? Why would we even want to talk to such a loser?" The girl with the highest pitched voice had to stop smack dab next to me to over-emote. She pulled out the white plug to her iPod letting the discordant music float out while she shrieked at her friends.
"Tif, he wasn't that bad. Like, he had beer. So he'd totally like, hook us up," one of the gals replied while wiping the sweat from her brow. If she'd been alone I'd have pounced on her for sure. She had "Victim" written in block type all over her. The music drifting out from her earpiece was more along the lines of what was currently called emo and her voice was weak. She was a classic follower. My fangs wanted to tap that treat in a big way but I resisted.
"Connie -- please! He had crappy tats and was drinking Coors! I didn't think you could even find Coors anymore. That's like what my grandpa swills from his damn recliner in the living room. It totally wasn't like even Bud!" The beer references seemed important to them.
The peacemaker of the group hobbled forward on her skates, "Tiffany --Connie! They aren't even worth our time. We should head back home. Take a shower, and then go to the mall." Her voice was melodic and calm. She was a future wife and mother -- matron of the local arts. She wouldn't be wandering out on the Boardwalk for much longer. She'd be married soon if the small gold band with a diamond chip on her left hand still meant what I thought. Engagement rings weren't about the size of the rock but the flash of promise.
Squeals pierced my ears, as they all seemed to agree. I tuned them out and focused on the call. Their empty-headed by-play had distracted me. My caller had hung up while I'd been distracted and entertained by the girls. Shrugging, I kept my cell in hand and walked in the opposite direction from them.
As I walked further down the Boardwalk a motion caught my eye. More scurrying in the shadows as the citizens of the underbelly edged away from me. And I didn't even have my fangs out! I wondered how bad my vibe was if the druggies and drunks recognized me so easily. The night was getting richer and there were fewer victims easily acquired. I was hungrier than I'd thought if I was giving off that much of a danger vibe.
My cell rang again.
"Yes?" It was still a blocked number.
"Natasha? You okay?" The voice was stronger and tickled at my brain. I still didn't know who it was. It had to be someone I knew closely because he'd called me Nat at first. There were maybe a dozen vampires who called me that.
The light blinked on and I knew.
"Harry? Is that really you?" Relief flooded me. Harry was not of my vampire family but a friend of my Master, Simon. Or something like that. We'd met a half century or so ago. He was the one who'd taught me the lover's lane feeding spots back in the night.
"Who else would it be?" He was laughing at me.
"Dunno, a half dozen old lovers or so." I grinned. He laughed even more and I felt some of the stress drop from my shoulders. Harry could inspire that in me.
"I heard a rumor that you're Renee's new maid of honor." He was hooked into the gossip about Dark Whispers. It didn't surprise me. Kenyon had been stepping on toes lately. With Harry involved I knew they were big toes attached to very nasty people. Something warm curled inside me and settled down. I was happy.
Harry Adkison was one of the most elegant of all FBI agents with the added benefit of being a vampire. He played in between the lines drawn in the shadows and with the blood of the various vampires. He had been around as long as Kenyon -- longer I would wager. I never knew him to run a clan of vampires, but rather was on the edges of others. I was also pretty sure he was far more powerful than most vampire Masters gave him credit for, much to their ever-dying dismay at times.
A chill chased me and I asked him what was worrying at me, "You are okay with the vampire and werewolves making an alliance?"
"What's not to like? After all, we are all just supernatural creatures trying to make our way in this crazy mixed up world, right?" I think he was mocking me. But nicely.
Laughing softly I said, "Where you now?" I really did need to find my snack before hitting the road.
"Driving down to the beach." He obviously was using a good hand free set because I didn't hear road noise. Harry tended to follow the human rules to avoid being noticed. It wouldn't look good for a FBI agent -- or whatever official agency he was currently working with -- to get popped breaking the local laws. At least the laws he liked. I doubted the government encouraged his vampire slayings. But one never knew with the government after all; it was an ever changing world.
"Nice and vague, which beach?" The waves crashed loudly and I heard some kids scream as the whitewater chased their bare toes.
"I am near the roller coaster. Belmont Park, so Mission Beach, why?"
"Head a few miles north and meet me if you can. I'm down on the Boardwalk." I hung up and smiled knowing he'd come. Getting a chance to talk with him before the meeting at Dark Whispers would go far to calm me down.
Now all I needed to decide was if I wanted to sup on someone before or after I met up with Harry. There was something exotic and erotic about hunting together. Vampires were not pack animals like werewolves, but there was a certain camaraderie we got with a good hunting mate. Weres liked to hunt in packs of four or five, while most vampires were solitary or hunted with a fledgling or their Master. Harry was outside the rules and I enjoyed my hunts with him over the years.
A smile pushed at my thoughts and I decided to wait for Harry. If nothing else I'd be in a good mood by the end of the hunt. My pace slowed and I toned back my predatory instincts a bit. The ebb and flow of the Boardwalk continued, the casual slouching parade of misfits, scavengers and tormented humans all pulling at me with their vulnerability and availability. I resisted and let my appetite grow with each passing opportunity to feed. The curl of need grew, and my awareness of each heartbeat and sigh intensified that desire. I could taste the heartbreak, the dreams, and the blood as they strolled past, unbothered by me. A dull thud off the path further behind me alerted me that another predator wasn't resisting and humans were falling victim to their own kind. Survival of the fittest was a constant battle in both the human and non-human world.
A scent floated on the ocean air to me and a flame licked alive inside my body. Harry was coming. I knew he couldn't resist coming to see me away from Kenyon and his vampire drones. A gaggle of twenty-somethings were between us and I felt like fanging them into stupidity just for being in the way. I pulled back to see if he saw me. His pace picked up and I knew he did.
"Natasha, my dear, you are a sight for sore eyes." Harry grinned and met me with outstretched hands. My hands slid into his and he pulled me close. His forehead touched mine and then he kissed both my cheeks in a continental gesture. When his scent washed over me a shiver of delight ran down my spine. Harry was a strong vampire and his presence calmed me.
"So you want to grab a bite to eat with me?" I smiled and winked.
"Naturally, why do you think I was down at Belmont Park? Not much into roller coasters." He flashed his own sexy smile. Harry was out of my league, that was for sure, but I enjoyed basking in his aura. Arms linked, we slowly walked up towards La Jolla. The Boardwalk would run out long before we hit the exclusive pricey community but we were trying to appear harmless and benign.
Harry pulled out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to me. I declined politely, knowing he was fishing. Harry liked to use props when he had time. Nothing major, just human devices that were also useable as weapons. Cigarettes were one of many slight of hand distractions Harry used to keep the focus of the donors somewhere other than memorizing our descriptions. Also a lit cigarette wasn't the nicest things when stuck on soft flesh or in eyes.
A young teenager sidled up to Harry's free side and mumbled, "Hey, I'll take one of those."
His face was weary and his clothes were indicative of street living. Harry handed him a cigarette but he wasn't our prey. He already had been driven to the edge and drinking from him would only further his fall from the human race. I had no taste for such blood and neither did Harry.
Harry did chuckle after the kid fled back to the shadows.
"He tried to lift my wallet."
"So what'd he get instead?"
"A nice new leather wallet with some food coupons."
"Harry, you are softening in your old age."
To be continued ...