Going down was the easy part they should be glad that I didn’t need to go up. When we hit street level they were huffing and puffing. I caught a glimpse of what I thought was Alex at the coffee shop but I didn’t turn around to find out. He’d walked out again and probably for the better, though I would rather have curled up with him and fight over my back than to have him walk away without a word.
Walker and Simon followed me out the door and we headed to the train station. Walker caught up with me and we walked evenly for a little while before he sighed, “Wouldn’t it be faster to get a cab?”
“Really, you want to take the time, flag down a cab, sit in traffic when it’s like two stops away?”
“You didn’t even look at a map,” Simon said.
“I’ve been walking the streets of New York since I was eight. I know most of it by now. I didn’t just patrol our little area like the rest of you, I know all of New York.”
Walker snickered, “I heard you need permission to go into Lower Manhattan.”
“Typically yeah, but that’s a phone call away?”
“Is it some unwritten rule we break?” Simon laughed.
I shook my head, “No it’s because I’m technically considered part of the Lone Wolf Pack here in Manhattan and not one of the Manhattan Pack.”
“How the fuck are you part of some werewolf pack?” Simon asked.
“I was sorted of adopted into the pack by one of my therapists because he wanted to protect me and because it helped with protecting one of his pack members – a human path who was adopted by one of his pack.”
“Your gangly friend is a werewolf?”
I laughed, “Sage is a human path, a technopath, his foster parents are werewolves.”
“Sucks to be him,” Walker said.
“Not really,” I said as we descended into the subway station. The train would be here in five minutes so we had a little time left before we’d be inundated with people all around us.
“So where are we going?” Walker asked.
“Hell’s Kitchen, The Ugly Dog Saloon. Thought you knew that already?”
Simon sighed. “He means the address.”
“I don’t know the address,” I said.
“Then how are we going to get there?” Simon growled at me.
“Cause I know where it is.”
“You know where every bar in town is, or just the supernatural ones?” Walker asked.
“I know where all the gay ones are,” I said flatly.
“We are going to a gay bar?” Simon paled.
I laughed, “No, it’s a supernatural haven. I just didn’t know it was the Last Phoenix’s haven.”
The train arrived and Simon and Walker were relatively quiet. I guessed that they thought they had to avoid notice. We’d taken four seats facing each other and I was left to sit alone, which was fine with me. But at the first stop, a pregnant lady and her toddler got on the train and the seats were all mostly taken. I stood up, “Miss you can sit here. I can stand.”
Walker and Simon growled under their breaths, a stranger was breaching their privacy. It’s not like they had been talking but I was pretty sure they were going to expect to have to deal with the toddler. His mother sat by the window while he swung his legs kicking me accidentally. I grinned down at him and pushed my shin into his foot and he giggled. He kicked again and I followed up the same way. “You funny.” He said to me staring up with a pair of blue eyes. I sighed. I wished I had the right pair staring up at me like that. Well, maybe not like that. I thought to myself. But I could deal with that adoration right now.
“I’m Nox. What’s your name? Wait let me guess, is it Iron Man?”
The boy giggled. “No. That’s not Iron Man. It’s the Hulk?”
I laughed, “Are you sure? He doesn’t look very hulk like.”
“He’s green, Iron man is red.”
I nodded as if that were the only difference, “I always get them so confused.”
The boy giggled and his mother started to shush him, “Leave the nice man alone.”
“He’s alright,” I said. The intercom went off with our stop, “This is my stop anyway.” I ran my fingers through the boy’s hair, “Be good for your momma. She’s got a lot going on right now.”
She looked up at me with a curious frown. I patted my belly and smiled. “Two is a handful.” She smiled, “I’ll manage.”
I nodded, “I’m sure you will.” I said as I followed Simon and Walker off the train.
Simon growled, “Someday someone is going to accuse you of kidnapping or molesting a child.”
“I’d never do such a thing.” I said moving towards the stairs, “If someone mistakes a smile for a lewd expression they are stupid people.
“You flirt with everyone don’t you?” Walker asked.
I shrugged. “Yeah, kids, men, women, dogs, cats, you name it I’m game.” I laughed. I hadn’t been flirting, I’d been entertaining a little boy who might have started a scene when his mother saw him kicking random strangers. I stopped it before it started. I was just being nice. But Venatori weren’t nice, they weren’t anything. They didn’t exist. The woman probably saw two grumpy men sitting across from her who were non-descript. Sage once told me that the Venatori he met were almost not there. The only reason he even noticed them was because I’d said something to them.
We like most supernatural races exuded that look around me vibe. We didn’t hide in veils or walk around in shadows. But our magic was one of indifference. We weren’t there unless we drew attention to ourselves. That was one reason why I and most Venatori didn’t get along. I drew a lot of attention, my hair, the eyeliner. I drew attention on purpose.
Therapy has taught me it was a means of distracting people from what was really wrong with me. Funny thing was I was tired of playing the game. I just wanted to be real.
The air outside was cooler than in the subway station, it was almost chilly in comparison with the sun setting and the wind still blowing through the buildings like a wind tunnel at times. I was grateful for the thick sweatshirt I’d put on, both for its warmth and for the hood I pulled up over my ears and head. It was a good means of hiding the mark on my temple.
“I’ll walk in first so I can get them talking, Simon can do his thing, listen to their thoughts. Walker just look pretty but don’t draw your fucking weapons no matter what happens. I’ll be fine.”
They both looked at me like I was insane. Walker was preening a little at the instructions but they were both wary of what I was up to.
The Ugly Dog Saloon was almost as perfect as its name said. The paint was peeling on the outside. The wooden sign was faded and warped. It added to the charm of the name. But inside was different. It was crowded will medieval memoribliable throughout the centuries. There were swords and men in armor standing by the door to the kitchen, and muskets hanging on the far wall. Probably once used by the proprietor himself. The file had said it was owned by Daryl O’Connor. I assumed he was the short redhead behind the bar. The green overalls he wore gave him the look of a leprechaun and I almost chuckled.
I sat down at the bar and was waiting for Daryl to head my direction when Simon and Walker walked in and took a seat at a table by the door. They looked out of place and everyone except me stared at them trying to figure out what two Venatori were doing in their bar.
There was a total of six patrons, not including us – not many for this hour, but it was Monday so it was only regulars. There was a vampire hiding in the back corner. He was sipping a pint of warmed blood mixed with some vodka. They called it a Bloody Mary. It was ironic and sad at the same time, but it was a simple code so humans didn’t order a vampire only drink. The coffee shop Alex liked to hang out downstairs had several businesses throughout the city as well and they all sold blood in their coffee. It was as simple as flashing your fangs at the barista to add with a little extra froth to your drink or make it red.
At a bar, it was easier since you could easily ask for a card. And all vampires carried around fake IDs, but more importantly, they all had hidden magic to them too. Like our tattoos and the Dragon brands. The vampires had their own calling cards too. Except they were literally calling cards. Unforgeable and attuned to a vampire. It was like the Doctor’s psychic paper. But the vampire was able to change his name and identity on these cards to suit whatever their needs were. Which included showing a dragon he was a vampire so he could order a true Bloody Mary instead of the tomato vodka beverage all humans had come to love.
The fancy paperwork was how vampires lived for centuries without ever having to buy into the system, they could fake it as long as they obeyed the law. But there were vampires like Cari and Ant who worked the system. The dawning of computers saw the intervention of hackers in the systems. Cari hired the first degenerate she found, and in doing so found a lifelong companion. Jack Wynn wasn’t going to leave her side unless he found someone else who would hurt him like she could. He truly was a degenerate and while Ant hated to babysit him and his mother, he agreed Jack was in it for life, much like he and Ryan were. The devotion was absolute and Cari had her computer wiz all tied up for an eternity and she had digital records going back as far as records were transcribed. Her legacy was valid. Her money rightfully earned and Ant’s never to be inherited fortune he held on to like he did his mother’s praise. He hated being tied to her, but he’d never leave her side.
The bartender finally came down to the bar, he was too busy making Walker and Simon their drinks to bother with me. Probably cause he knew who I was.
“You bringing more Feras with you?” He asked in a low growl.
“If they try to hurt anyone I’ll stop them so long as no one tries anything against them while they are here.”
Daryl gave me a long look. “Your word as good as they say it is?”
“Better,” I said.
“If they make trouble I won’t stop them.”
I nodded, “I know. And I’ll do my best to keep everyone from getting hurt.” I promised.
The bartender nodded, “What can I do for you Feras?” His tone was not as hostile as he’d said it before. It wasn’t loving, but it was trust. That was one thing I had learned to do around here in the past five years.
“I’m looking for a dragon. She and her human partner got into a bit of trouble and I need to take her in.”
“You can’t hand her over to The Golden Clan?” He asked.
I glanced back at Simon and Walker, “Does it look like I have a lot of options. It’s best if she comes quietly. Robbing a bank is one thing, if I could I’d let you have her. But she was caught on camera breathing fire. We have to spin a story of some sort.”
“We can do that.” A man down the other end of the bar said. “Naomi didn’t mean to, the man tried to touch her and she jumped.”
“Whatever the case is, she still did it. Those two want to kill her. Me I want to talk. So tell me where she is, let me get out of here ahead of them and talk with her, take her peacefully and she’ll get to live.”
“A little longer.” Another man growled at me.
“A little longer is better than dead now. It can give me time to try to work something out.”
“You ain’t got that power. Anyone you ever take in is dead anyway.”
The vampire across the room laughed, “But how many has he taken in compared to the others?” He was sitting next to me I hadn’t seen him move which meant Walker and Simon were probably about to draw weapons.
The bartender chuckled, “The Venatori don’t take them in, they just kill us for no good reason.”
“Exactly.” The vampire said. He gave me a fangy smile, and I wondered if I knew him from somewhere. He shook his head, “No, but I know you. Chris speaks highly of you.”
“You know Chris?” I asked.
The vampire nodded, “I do. He is part of my kiss.” He leaned in and whispered, “I think he’s a little infatuated with you if you ask me.”
I grinned at him, “What’s not to like.” I teased.
The vampire gave me that look and then sighed with a nodded, “As cocky as he said too.” He turned to the dragons, “But he’s worth his word. He’ll do what he can. I know that much. And wouldn’t it be good to have a favor on your side of the fence?”
“We don’t need his help!” They all exclaimed at the same time.
“Now,” the vampire said. “Tomorrow, your girl might go rogue, or next week you are robbed and in self-defense, you breathe on them. One day you or one you love might need that favor.”
Daryl said. “I’ll call her. But I’m not giving you her address.”
“That’s great.” I smiled, “I didn’t give a name though or a picture.”
The bartender laughed, “We all know who you are talking about. She’s been in hiding since the papers put out her picture.”
I sighed. I hated having to work with the human police to try and straighten things out. I owed more favors there than I actually could ever pay back I think, and mostly to two men, one of which was a werewolf, and Sage’s foster father, the other was a friend of mine’s lover and dom. I don’t think Alex would much appreciate knowing I was still close friends with Jaxen and Blake. Though I hadn’t partaken of any of the same activities since before I graduated from the academy. My submission seemed to be a sticking point for him, though I wasn’t sure if he’d gotten over it, or just wanted to stop fighting. I was pretty sure it was the latter. What I wouldn’t give for his little bit of insight.