Harry Adkison looked nonplussed by my accusing him of being 'soft'. As a supremely high ranking vampire, it was pretty amusing to see him squirm after I got him to tell me that the wallet the little street pickpocket had lifted was filled with food coupons and nothing more. We both had dismissed him as a potential blood quenching opportunity when he came to beg a cigarette from Harry and steal his wallet. We let him flee thinking he was ripping us off. Some times playing nice with our food gave us pleasure. Well that and the kid wasn't going far, so if we decided to open a vein on him later he'd be easily found.
"Natasha, get real! You know perfectly well that I'm not 'soft'. It's just easier to let them take a little something and run than to waste time pulling punches and trying to explain to cops why they have to clean up after me. The FBI really doesn't care for extra paperwork." He grinned as it dawned on him that'd I'd known all of that perfectly well, and had just been ribbing him.
"Yeah, right, a government agency that doesn't thrive on paperwork? I don't think so." I laughed and we turned back around as we reached the north end of the Boardwalk. The folks were beginning to scatter and there were less victims wandering unnoticed, as more of the night stalkers were appearing. Vampires weren't alone in the dark preying on humans.
Time to head to the club was getting closer, so we needed to find someone to fang a pint out of before going to Dark Whispers. Kenyon wasn't good about sharing his supposed kingdom, and the plan he had set in motion to unite the vampires and the werewolves was going badly with the murder of Jessie and Buddy. The meeting set was allegedly to talk about Renee and Carlos' forthcoming wedding. Also to find out what was to be done about the politics of supernaturals on killing sprees. I should say unintended and unwanted killing sprees.
Outside the box thinking wasn't promoted in the vampire world. Hell, thinking was pretty much overrated on the lower levels of vampire hierarchy and unneeded, given that their Masters did their thinking. So for Kenyon's position to be maintained, he'd thought up the latest twist of alliances. Instead of just mooching off other Masters' territory he was making a union with the werewolves. The pack would increase his power by adding some ruthless killers not hindered by vampire rules and bloodlines. It was brilliant and hated. Supernaturals liked to keep things separated along bloodlines. It was worrying my Master, Simon, which was how I ended up down in Southern California watching vampires square off and werewolves howl for death. And the bloodshed wasn't being contained along supernatural lines either -- there were innocent victims being added to the body count.
And some not so innocent, but then that was the way of our world. "Hmmm, these two look pretty tasty," Harry purred into my ear. His heightened attention wasn't noticeable unless you knew Harry. There was a soft vibration of power being held in check by the stronger vampire.
"They do." He was talking about a love struck couple. They had all the earmarks of a honeymooning tourist couple. The white tube socks with black sandals pretty much were a dead giveaway in my little book of helpful hints.
Meandering towards us they weren't looking around, or even aware of anyone but each other. In Podunk that was probably perfectly acceptable evening behavior, but on the West Coast it really wasn't in their best interest. Harry had put away the pack of cigarettes, quickly assessing the couple and knowing that ploy wouldn't be the best one for connecting with them. He rooted around in his pockets and turned to me with another of his characters coming to surface in the blink of an eye. I knew his playbook as well as he knew mine and fell right into the bit.
"Darling, you sure you don't have my cell phone?" He blocked the couple seemingly unintentionally while dramatically resuming the fumbling in his pockets.
"Baby, no. You must have left it back at the hotel." I played my role with big doe eyes and flapping and checking my own pockets. My fingers passed over my own cell phone without a pause. The approaching couple seeing another couple in distress slowed and listened.
"I promised Mother I'd call her now before she falls asleep and make sure dad's operation went off ok. His heart was pretty weak going into the procedure." Harry had the concerned son voice perfect and the slight bit of fear working into the words without being overly corny.
I teared up and said with a slightly tortured voice, "She'll understand."
Harry resumed searching and blocking the now closer pair with a heavy sigh.
"After this past year's medical mishaps I don't know. My mom has looked so drained by life." With that the couple approached us with the male holding out a cell phone while saying, "Sorry to interrupt, but we couldn't help but overhear you lost your cell phone. We have Verizon."
The huge smile on his face validated all that I'd ever thought about clever marketing ploys. I had to love those unlimited cell phone plans since they made folks feel like real heroes. It was such a delight to have it all served straight to our lips courtesy of clever advertising. We loved the irony.
"Rusty, you are so sweet," the wife gushed. The diamond sparkling on her ring finger caught my eye as she'd intended when fawning on her new husband. From his blush and head ducking, I gathered the honeymoon was still running smoothly. Harry and I wouldn't interfere with that glow much.
Harry closed the pace between them and accepted the cell phone with a graceful touch on Rusty's wrist. Harry caught the man's gaze and simply smiled saying, "Thanks, my mom will appreciate your kindness."
"See Darlene, not everyone here is rude!" Rusty smiled past Harry not fully meeting his eyes. I turned to Darlene and said, "Your husband is so nice!"
Darlene looked startled as it dawned on her that I was talking about good old Rusty. I bet she still thought of him as her boyfriend. I pushed some of my vampiric charm into my face and said, "My name is Nancy."
I rarely gave my current given name in case the victims retained something of our encounter.
"I'm Darlene and this is Rusty." His russet colored hair pretty much told us where he'd picked up that folksy nickname. I'd guess he'd been a coppery red head as a child. Rich blood ran through both of them. They were sweet smelling and glowing with love and lightness. I was happy Harry and I had found them.
"I'm Hank, pleased to meet you both! Say, Rusty, how does this phone work? Mine's one of those kind I tap the screen and this stuff confuses me!" Harry had the perplexed tone of an older man confused by modern technology. Given the age differences between Harry and Rusty, the boy readily assumed that their seemingly twenty year difference put Harry behind the technological curve.
Rusty moved closer, pulling away from Darlene while bending his head to see the small screen on the cell phone. I glanced up and down the Boardwalk and saw there was a break in the traffic as night fell. I looked at Darlene's hand and said, "Oh, what a lovely ring!"
She dipped her head to double-check her finger had the new sparkler and associated wedding band and with that both Harry and I spun our magic and pulled them both off to the shadows. My fangs slipped out and I touched her face and pushed her into a slight moonbeam. She was enthralled and whimpered with mindless abandon. I could hear Harry doing the same to old Rusty. Rusty was making a slight grunting noise like he was rutting in the fields with little Darlene. There was a visual I didn't need, not like they didn't already have that freshly bedded scent all over them.
Unspoken, we both gave them pleasure while taking ours. The blood was as intoxicating as I'd thought. I had to resist draining too much. She was sweet in nature, mind and blood. What I'd give to make her a minion went without saying. Harry shuddered as he pulled from Rusty's throat. We pushed the bemused couple together and Harry slipped the cell phone back in the man's pocket. Softly we told them to go back to their hotel and drink lots of water and spend the rest of their trip in bed. That would explain any of the possible bruising from our bites. They had another level of sensuality woven into their play since we fed. But still they had victim written in large print on their foreheads from the blood loss, and as we had weakened them we didn't want to be responsible for their deaths.
We'd seen it happen before with unsuspecting blood donors. Florida had a very wicked rogue set of vampires who preyed only on tourists. Instead of giving them protective suggestions that safeguarded the humans they made their victims beacons for the muggers and murderers that ran the coast. Vampires weren't the cause of death directly but leaving those poor innocents nearly fatally drained, wandering, baked and dazed in the Florida sunlight as good as pushed them off a ledge. The rogues weren't sorry in the least, judging from the vampire grapevine news, but rather arrogant, which made them in turn beacons for some up close and personal attention. The vampire elders sent out some enforcers and there was a struggle of some sort that never made the mainstream media. Of course the elders thought that they'd completely handled the rogues but I had my suspicions they just got a cut of the thefts and didn't allow them to leave as many corpses. Maybe that was just my cynicism.
Flush with blood, we went back south on the Boardwalk towards Pacific Beach. The Boardwalk had taken on an edgier clientele, we noticed, watching various men and women swapping money for drugs. Their slight of hand wasn't nearly as seamless as Harry's and their agitation was a nervous burst of energy and need. Gone were the strolling couples and girls in string bikinis rollerblading while flirting. More and more groups of young men with pants hanging off their asses, and chains to empty wallets, swaggering with their jousting and shoving as they looked for people to harass took over the large beach sidewalk. A half dozen such boys were heading towards us and Harry muttered, "Great, they think we are easy prey."
"Stupidity is the mother of something." I laughed softly. I was tingling deliciously from the feeding, and the buzz from the farm fresh couple was something that didn't just go away. I was nearly giddy with the afterglow.
"You up for seconds?" He said softly as the glint of metal in a few hands caught our eyes. I nodded as I'd noticed that three of the six had pulled out knives. Carefully I kept my fangs inside my lips. Running my tongue softly over their tips a flash of blood lust trembled through me. I was up for seconds and thirds from the look of the thugs heading our way; that wouldn't be a problem.
They had cleared the Boardwalk behind them with their presence like we had after we left the honeymoon couple. The waves crashed loudly and there was a stillness and impending feeling of drama about to unfold. The ebbing ocean water didn't relieve the stress of the moment but rather intensified it with the rocks skipping and slapping each other in the wake along the sand. Looking around slowly, grins plastered over their faces as they saw how isolated we were. The fog was still drifting in, giving them a feeling of superiority. The boys were counting on their youth and numbers to dominate us. That was their first mistake. Their second was knives wouldn't do much more than piss us off. And the third and final was that we weren't what we seemed. Without a word Harry and I walked quickly towards the middle of the group strung out across our path. They all stopped ten or so feet from us. Just out of our reach.
To be continued ...