The city was still bright with street lights even though it was closer to midnight than not. The Night Life building was a bright beacon in the ever-changing skyline of New York. Every light was on it was busier now than it was during the day. The lobby was a mall full of all types shopping. I felt vampire energy but there was also dragon and therian energies all around me. And there were even humans shopping in the Macy’s and stopping at the coffee shop with the bright red plus sign as a logo. Sinful Delight was big around the City and was growing popularity around the world thanks to a great marketing team.
I headed for the stairs to run up and visit a friend. Though this wasn’t a pleasure call. We had business to attend to. A vampire was running around killing kids and leaving the bodies for their parents to find the next morning. Dealing with dead bodies was painful to begin with, but when you were dealing with grieving parents my heart ached. I had to bring someone in to pay for the crime.
I pushed the doors open and I stepped through a ward set by Il Cane to prevent random people from entering. It didn’t prevent me any longer, but it once had. My relationship with her son had its perks. I didn’t need to call out to see if anyone was around. A blond stuck his head out of the door with a bright smile that reached his green eyes. He looked no more than sixteen but he was over eight hundred years old. “Hey Nox!”
“Hey Ry. Ant ready?”
“He’s finishing up. You can hang here, he’ll be by when he’s done.” Ryan Elliot was Il Cane’s Chevalier – one of many – but the only one who was bound in life and death. Kill one and you killed the other. But you be just as hard-pressed to kill Ryan as to kill his master. She trained him, and eight hundred years was a long time to pick up a lot of tricks on surviving.
Ryan lead me into a small apartment that served as a waiting room. I went straight for the coffee machine and made myself a cup of hot black coffee. “Your bosses pushing for a kill.”
“No more so than usual. But this is five kids dead, Ry.”
He sighed. “I know. Cari warned him.”
“What she say?”
Ryan’s smile said more than what he did, “Not much. It was mostly in Italian.”
“Which you completely understand,” I noted sipping on my coffee.
“It doesn’t translate well. Something about losing your head in the most uncomfortable way possible.” Ryan smirked, “As if there was a comfortable way to do that.”
“With Cari, I think there might be.” I joked.
Ryan’s smile grew wider as he nodded knowingly. “She leaves it to you. You have given us enough time to deal with the situation. And if the Venatori get involved maybe it’ll send a message.”
“What message is that Ry?” I sighed, “That the Venatori have no problem taking a life?”
Ryan’s smile never faded. “No.” But he said nothing more as Ant stepped through the door with a damp towel in his hand. He smelled of fresh blood and sex and I tried not to judge. A vampire had to eat after all. His partners were willing and able but most importantly willing.
Ant sighed, “I should have eaten sooner I apologize.”
I shrugged. “You have to eat.”
He grinned. “If I’d known you were coming sooner…” He let the sentence trail off into what could have been as he sat down next to me. For being completely straight he did enjoy flirting with me. Ant’s hand fell against the back of my neck as he put his arm over the back of the couch to rest comfortably. I tried not to nestle into the comfort he was offering. I was working.
Ryan stood up and took my nearly empty coffee cup from my fingers, “Let me refill that. Afterward, it might be necessary to have a spar or a run. Though I think the comforts of the fist might work better. A bad day?”
I shook my head, “No worse than any other – except this case.”
Ant sighed. “Mother says Frankie lies. She would have killed him herself but she has no proof.”
“Why does she need proof?”
“Same as you. The Council requires that there was wrongdoing but Frankie has not been caught in the act. Only what you smelt on him and in the room.”
“The Venatori don’t care.” Ryan added, “You could just kill him, and no one would say anything.”
I growled, “And if he’s not the one!”
“We all know he is.”
“And if he isn’t?”
Ant sighed. “Then it was murder.”
Ryan added, “But the Venatori would be happy and off your back. And the Vampires won’t retaliate.”
“And there would still be dead kids.”
Ryan sighed, “You can’t save everyone. Frankie is hiding something.”
I shrugged, “And until we figure that out, he lives and I cover up the deaths of drained children because some sick vampire is draining them and leaving them in creative positions suggesting the things they did with them afterward.” My heart was racing. My fists were driving the black painted nails into my palm.
Ant squeezed the back of my neck and I released the tension. Fuck! I groaned as I stood up and started pacing.
“Mother says we can find him with the rest of his kiss down on 8th.”
I didn’t say it was time to go, but Ant stepped in next to me as I headed out of the door. “Good luck!” Ryan called out after us. His voice was tinged with sadness as he didn’t get to come. His job was to protect Il Cane. He stayed at her side, but sometimes he came with us. But not tonight and I didn’t ask what the difference was. Not that anyone would tell me – it was vampire business, not mine. The pain of not belonging ached in my body.
Ant sighed, “Ryan’s right after this we need to get some of those bad vibes out of your head. A good beating should do it.”
I laughed, “From someone else that could be taken in a very different light.”
Ant rolled his eyes, “Only with your old circle. No one here would think of touching you.”
I pouted. Ant shoved me across the stairwell with a laugh. “You know what I mean.”
I grinned at him. “I do.” The banter helped lighten the mood as we descended from the top of the Night Life building and on to the street to find the child-murdering vampire that was plaguing the City night after night. I let my anger fester inside of me even as Ant tried to calm me. But his empathy wasn’t as strong as his mother’s or father’s, he was a warrior not a nurturer though I loved how our friendship had grown.