Disclaimer: This scene takes place in Pool of Crimson and told from Patrick’s point of view. This vignette has not been professionally edited and contains adult language – READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Damsel was packed from wall to wall with people. A huge success, as I knew it would be. Ethan’s businesses just needed updating and some expansion to be successful. I hadn’t even needed the subsidy from Lebensblut Inc. that Ethan had depended upon. They were not so ecstatic about my lack of dependence but that was a problem for later. The colony was making money, we would survive on our own terms. More importantly, without Lebensblut’s input and fiduciary contributions, I could keep them out of my business and away from Dahlia.
She stood at the bar, talking to Miguel. Dahlia was one of the few people, human or otherwise, Miguel would converse with about anything. She was like a beam of light, beckoning my entire colony to her from the darkness.
They still feared the Blushing Death but they knew she was fair. If she showed up on your doorstep, you’d done something to warrant it. With the new rules in place, everyone was happy. With willing donors everywhere, the unsolved murder rate had declined exponentially. The VIP room of Damsel and the other club ICE were explicitly for feeding purposes. I’d opened an additional club across town for the more base appetites, EROS which was not open to the public. The Colony and the Pack were back on solid ground, acting together. Everyone felt safe. Everyone but me.
I’d managed to hide her this time but Dahlia was too well known. Soon, the Lebensblut board would discover her and my connection to her. I couldn’t allow that, not when I still had no idea what she was or how to protect her.
She turned and smiled at me over her shoulder. Her blonde hair covered up most of the right side of her face, shielding that devilish glint in her eye, but I knew it was there. I could feel it tingling along my skin. The empathic bond thrust upon us had given me a few crucial insights to the magnificent woman sauntering toward me. She had a swagger to her step like no one could touch her that drove me insane.
The Blushing Death was iron willed and had an inner strength that amazed me but she was also vulnerable. She didn’t want anyone, not even me to know that. She hid many dark secrets behind that pretty face and bravado. I hadn’t told her but I’d seen the torture she’d endured in the name of mental health. When our magic had bonded in that limo, I’d seen several close calls where her life had been in question, and a lot of lonely nights. I would never tell her. It was her secret to tell.
She scanned the crowd, darting her gaze from face to face as she continued to smile at me. Her mind was like a complex puzzle, always working, twisting and reconfiguring as the pieces changed. Finally, she glanced back at me with those storm-grey eyes and sucked her bottom lip in between her teeth. Hell on Earth, I loved when she did that.
As if in slow motion, she lost the playful glint in her eyes and her head turned toward the DJ booth at the far end of the club. She started moving before I could rewire my brain from sex to violence. Slamming into me, she forced me to the ground, covering me with her body. Stupid human! I was immortal. She wasn’t.
A pop echoed over the crowd and music as a bullet lodged itself several feet above my head, missing her by a hair’s breath. I could smell the silver from where I lay beneath Dahlia on the floor.
The entire club erupted in panic, screaming and shouting. People ran in all directions like lemmings, looking for a way out. I yanked Dahlia from the floor, following the crowd to lose ourselves in the chaos.
Ready to run after the bastard, I grabbed her wrist to stop her. The soft, red glow of her power flared around her, shimmering against her skin. I’d seen it before but couldn’t name it. The rose colored glow illuminated her in the mass of mundane souls differentiating her as special, deadly. Tapping into the link between us, I felt the white-hot heat of her rage spread over my skin. She met my gaze with a malicious glint to her eyes and a violent smile that curved her full, seductive lips into a sneer. The flare of power around her solidified and strengthened, licking at my hand like a wash of sea water, cold and sharp. Beyond that was the calm in the middle of a storm, a fantastic void I’d never experienced before and could not explain. Her eyes were focused, empty, and dead. I’d never felt such . . . peace . . . in my life. My Blushing Death was a killer, plain and simple, and I loved her for it.
Releasing her wrist, I leaned back against the wall. Nova ran from the entry, fighting the crowd as he slid to a stop at Dahlia’s side.
“Get him out of here,” she ordered.
Nova didn’t flinch as he yanked my arm hard and jerked me through the crowd. Dahlia drew the Smith and Wesson Jade had gotten her for Christmas from the holster at her ribs and took off through the screaming crowd. She snatched Jade, who was trying to climb over the bar with Miguel, and took off into the night. She didn’t look back.
Nova pushed me through the door off the side of the coat check, then up the stairs to my office. He didn’t dare contradict Dahlia’s orders. None of them would. I couldn’t help but smile at how she’d wrapped my colony and me around her little finger.
Nova closed the door behind us and locked the door. The commotion had died down as the club cleared. The police would be there soon. Shots had been fired so someone, if not Miguel would have called the 9-1-1.
“Make sure Miguel is ready for the Police,” I instructed Nova. He opened his cell phone and typed out a text without leaving my side. Shoving the phone in his jacket pocket, he stood stark still watching the chaos die down below through the Plexiglas floor. “You can go, Nova. I’m fine.”
“She’ll have my hide,” he said with an apologetic shrug of his shoulders. Dahlia was like the protector Nova never had and he, of all of his colony, needed her. I strode behind my desk and sat down as my stomach twisted and churned. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. Sit and wait to find out that she’d been killed and he’d done nothing to stop it. Every night was like this. Sometimes his colony forgot she was human. I never did.
I sat there long enough for the club to clear out, for the police to come and go. I sat behind my desk long enough for Miguel and the rest to clean up most of the mess.
“She’ll be alright, you know,” Nova said, reassuring me.
“Sometimes she forgets she’s human,” I mumbled, pretending to work as if the entire situation didn’t bother me.
“No, she doesn’t,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, glancing up from the contracts on my desk, suddenly intrigued.
Before he could answer, the door opened and Dean, the pack alpha stepped in. His face was grim and his shoulders stiff with anxiety. The local Pack Gaoh’s expression was blank but his energy filled the room, making the large space feel claustrophobic.
“You alright?” he asked.
“I am. How did you hear?” I asked.
Dean had been keeping his distance from me for a while, since Ethan’s death. He wouldn’t say why, only that it wasn’t a good idea. We conducted business as usual however, but our friendship had been strained over the past few months. It was a curious situation.
“Danny,” he said, almost in a growl.
Ahhh, Danny. The other man in Dahlia’s life. I hated that upstart wolf but he did something I couldn’t. He protected Dahlia in the daylight hours. I would put up with him for now, until I could convince Dahlia to complete the blood ceremony and bond us permanently. Then she wouldn’t need the mongrel.
“How close was it?” Dean asked, sitting down on the couch along the wall.
“Too close,” I said. “The only thing that kept that silver bullet from striking its target was Dahlia.”
“Where is she now,” Dean asked.
“She took out of here like a bat out of hell, chasing after the fucker,” Nova said with a bright, proud smile on his face.
“How you feel ‘bout that?” Dean asked.
“My stomach is in knots waiting to hear something but other than that, I’m fine.”
“But you let her go?”
“Yes,” I growled, not liking the tone in his question.
The phone rang, filling the empty office with its shrill tone. I picked up the receiver, thankful for the distraction. Glancing down at the caller ID, my muscles tightened as Dahlia’s name scrolled across the screen.
“Are you all right?” I asked, unable to hide the concern in my voice.
“I’m fine,” she breathed over the line.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. He’s dead.” Her tone changed. She’d shifted from my Dahlia to the Blushing Death. Just like that, in the time span it took to snap my fingers the soft woman I knew was gone.
“Listen,” she said. “We have a problem. I didn’t get any information out of him other than he wouldn’t be the last.”
I sat silent, digesting the idea that this bullet would not be the last directed at us. Sending one assassin equated to an angry vampire in competition for my territory. An onslaught of assassins was the board putting pressure on me or one of the rival Colonies looking for our complete and utter destruction.
“What’s going on here?” she asked, with agitation making her words sharp.
“I don’t know. I’ll look into this. . .” I wanted to encourage her to come back but as I glanced over at Dean, he shook his head. Interesting. The pack alpha hadn’t been avoiding me, he’d been avoiding her. “Go home and rest. We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Fine,” she snapped like a pouting little girl and I laughed. I knew her adrenaline was up. She wanted to come back and show me just how alive she was, but Dean was waiting with an expression as hard and unmovable as granite.
“I opened my mail after you left and received a very nice letter from the Columbus Catholic Dioceses, thanking me for my generous donation,” I said, lightening the mood. I’d actually opened the letter when I’d awaken early in the afternoon but I couldn’t let her think that I’d been sitting around worrying about her. I couldn’t allow any of them to think that, not even Nova.
“You had a giant pentagram etched in the basement and tried to raise a demon, there was some serious bad mojo to get rid of in that house. Trust me, Father Christopher earned every stinking penny,” she snorted. Something about the way she spoke told him that there was more to her words than she was willing to admit. If I listened close enough, I was very sure I could hear the steady beat of her heart over the line.
“So he did. Perhaps I should send him a thank you note,” I said trying to hide the smile on my face from Dean.
“Perhaps you should.”
I sat for a moment, listening to her breathe. The woman had infiltrated my being so quickly and so easily to the point I wasn’t sure I could survive if anything happened to her. My chest tightened at the thought of losing her because the woman mattered more to me than anything else, the colony, the money, the Board, even my own life.
“Please, be careful,” I said and even I heard the pleading in my tone.
“I will,” she breathed, and then the line was dead. I placed the phone on my desk and sat back in my chair. Dean sat silent, watching me as he always did, taking in more information than his stoic, stern exterior gave away.
“Is she alright?” he asked.
I could swear that I heard a hint of concern in that deep Alpha grumble. “She says she is,” I said.
“You don’t believe her?”
“I do but, after all, she’s only human. I wish she wouldn’t take so many chances,” I said.
“Hmph,” Dean snorted.
“Why are you avoiding her,” I finally asked, curious.
“I’m not avoiding her,” he snapped. His tone and the bite in his words was uncharacteristic. It sent my hackles standing on end, not to mention the lie I smelled on him.
“Even I could smell that lie,” I responded.
“I have my reasons,” Dean growled, crossing his arms over his bulky chest. I knew him well enough to know that, for him, the conversation was over. I changed subject.
“The assassin said there would be others.”
“The Board?” Dean asked, relaxing into the couch.
“I don’t know. Possibly.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I have no plan as of yet,” I said, hesitant to say anything. Dean stood to his full height and strode to the door.
“When you do, the Pack is behind you,” he offered which was more gracious than Dean knew. In most territories, the Colonies and Packs were at war. Dean and I were a rare happenstance that I appreciated, counted on. I couldn’t let whatever it was that riled him about Dahlia ruin that.
“Whatever it is?” I warned. “You can’t avoid Dahlia forever. You’ll have to deal with it.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he growled and left, slamming the door behind him.
“Perfect, just bloody, perfect,” I breathed.