BEFORE I CAN ISSUE a snarky reply to my sister’s comment, someone cuts off the jukebox in the middle of a song. It’s a crime to cut a good tune short. The Bar is as quiet as a library, except for the multitude of whispered “what the fuck’s”. It prompts me to leave my seat in a hurry to investigate and hopefully zero in on the asshole responsible for interrupting the flow of revenue to our establishment.
In the middle of the dance floor stand ten men in perfectly tailored suits. I can smell vampire in the air. Wolves and vampires don’t congregate very often or very well. The wolves don’t care to get along with other species and need to be contained more than any other type of customer. It’s why Thursdays are for wolves, and Friday through Sunday is for the witches, demons, vamps, and other shifters.
“I’m looking for Zvi Jayden,” says a man in an Irish lilt, but I can’t gauge which man spoke.
I march up to a beast of a man, one of the largest I’ve ever seen, with long, dark brown, sun-streaked hair, and honey brown eyes. He’s pretty. He smells old, but not quite ancient. That means he’s strong, and he’d be a great sparring partner. I always have some pent up aggression in need of alleviation. I detect a rare, ancient bloodsucker somewhere in the vicinity, and said vampire would be an even better man to fight. The older the bloodsucker, the stronger they are.
“I’m Zvi,” I say with as much attitude as I can muster in a half-drunk state. “Who’s asking?”
The beast takes a step to his left, and then the ancient vampire steps forward. He stands at about 6’0 with a strong body, short, brown hair, and fair skin. Large, unique, light blue eyes stare back at me. His face is perfect and a work of art that mocks even the most magnificent works crafted by celebrated and gifted artists. His oval-shaped face holds prominent brows, full lips with a small cupid’s bow, a perfect nose, and a strong, angular jaw. The bone structure and chiseled features of his high cheekbones are sharper than the sharpest blade. Half-closed, clear, marbled, light blue orbs are deep-set with thick, long, upper lashes that appear to have been painted with a fine line of liquid liner and a heavy dusting of lower lashes. I’ve never seen a man I would qualify as a ten, but I’d give this one an eleven.
“Forgive my intrusion,” he politely says. “I’m Killian Kavanagh. Is there somewhere private we may speak?” If I didn’t know better, I’d swear the vampire has dazzled me with his vamp superpowers. I know who Killian Kavanagh is, although I’ve never met him. Meeting him seems to suddenly make me stupid. I’m blaming the bourbon for my unusual behavior.
Fortunately, Moe elbows me in the ribs and rattles my words loose. “Everybody get out! Settle your tabs! See you next Thursday! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
Don’t drink and drive, or I’ll kick your ass. Remember to remove your beer goggles before making any decisions you’ll regret in the morning. Have a nice night!”
At once, the patrons grumble but jump into action and head for the bar to settle their checks. I continue to stand in the middle of the dance floor with the vampires, staring at Killian Kavanagh like he’s a goddamn unicorn. Moe nudges my ribs once more.
“Right. You can follow me,” I tell him as I rub a hand over my ribs.
I head back to my reserved table in the corner of the bar. The overhead lights flash on and nearly blind me, so I yell at the bartenders to cut them off. Half of these people fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, and I don’t need their homeliness to be illuminated.
Deputy Connor is still seated at my two-top table. I slide into my seat and let the vampires find their own chairs. I’m hospitable like that.
Mr. Kavanagh sits at the four-top beside me and looks the deputy over before asking, “And you are?”
I almost chuckle at his rudeness. I might like this guy, but not likely since I only like Moe and that’s pretty much it.
Deputy Connor is a werewolf, and I know he can smell an ancient vampire as well as I can. “Mr. Kavanagh, I’m Deputy Hendri Connor, Black Star.”
The vampire seems unimpressed by Connor. “Deputy, please call me Minister. I believe we may share a common interest this evening. I’m here regarding Karl Ekman.”
The Deputy looks as confused as a fart in a fan factory. “We just identified him thirty minutes ago. How do you know about him?”
Kavanagh appears bored. “Your office identified him because of me. The reward money also came from me and my associates. I have many resources at my disposal. Atlanta is my home, and I stay informed of supernatural fugitives, especially when they bring unwanted attention to my species or yours. I assume we’re both here to procure Miss Jayden’s bounty hunting skills?”
Did I mention how creeped out I am by fanger killers? I’m equally disturbed that this hoity-toity vampire knows of me. I don’t exactly advertise my services.
The wolf crosses his arms over his broad chest. “And you’re telling me your interests are purely about public safety?”
Kavanagh looks down his nose at him. “There exists a legion of vampires with interests in public safety and keeping our existence a secret, as is the purpose of your Black Star Division.”
“Le Ambrogio?” Hendri asks.
“He’s a top-level, delta five bloodsucker, or whatever they call him,” I confirm.
Kavanagh speaks with an air of insolence and self-importance. “I’m a founding member of Le Ambrogio.”
Isn’t he special?
It isn’t like we can Google the super secret vampire society and read the history section on its founding and purpose. It’s a global vampire government, and they don’t like their kind causing trouble. I’ve had contact with members of their society, but never someone of apparent importance.
“That’s just spiffy,” I tell the highfalutin Killian Kavanagh. “Mind if we get on with this? You two already ruined bike night, butchered AC/DC, and took away revenue from our bar.”
The beast from earlier finally speaks. “What’s bike night?”
Moe jumps in. “A bunch of loud, like-minded people who enjoy riding equally loud motorcycles congregate to show off said motorcycles and measure their dicks and pipes while listening to rock music.”
“I resent that,” I protest.
I roll my eyes. “Can someone give me a lead on Ekman before he kills again?”
The beast hands Kavanagh a thick folder, who then hands it to me. “You’ll find updated photographs, contact information, and his history. He was a quiet, law-abiding citizen until a few hours ago. Something doesn’t add up,” Killian advises.
People come to me for help taking down hard to catch supernatural criminals, and I’m good at what I do. The Black Star Division isn’t the only organization that seeks my skills. Moe is my partner-in-crime. It’s her magic that allows me to fly in the sky, swim in the waters, and change on land undetected by technology or people. Magic chose her at birth and the force is strong. She can manipulate or draw power from any element of this earth, including blood, which happens to be a rare gift. Most witches can’t manipulate blood. She might be able to use the victim’s blood and trace it back to the killer. If the vamp ingested even a drop, she’ll be able to find him.
“I need the deceased’s personal effects,” I tell them.
The wolf lifts a brow. “It’s at the coroner’s office.”
“I need it here.”
“I can’t take unprocessed evidence from the coroner and bring it to you.”
“Then I can’t fucking help you. Have a nice night.” I leave my seat and head for the bar, leaving eleven men looking after me in bewilderment. Bless their hearts.
“She’s serious?” Hendri asks.
Moe nods. “She means what she says.”
She follows me to the bar and begins to clean behind it with the other bartenders. I make work of wiping and bussing nearby tables. Kavanagh approaches me alone while the other men remain in their seats. “Deputy Connor will bring the items you requested within the hour.”
“The quicker the better. I’d like to find him before he goes underground at dawn.” We still have about eight hours to find him since it grows dark earlier this time of year.
Hendri walks by us in a huff, no doubt pissed off that he was strong-armed by a vamp to bring the evidence to The Bar.
“Did you hear that, wolf?” Kavanagh asks.
Hendri turns around with a pissed off glare aimed at Killian. “I have excellent hearing, fanger. ”
And with that he leaves, and the Minister saddles up to the bar in front of my sister.
“Can I pour you or your friends something to drink, Mr. Kavanagh?” Moe asks as I watch the encounter closely, ensuring he doesn’t get too close to Moe.
“Would you by chance have a Midleton?”
Of course, he’d drink expensive Irish whiskey.
“And for your friends?”
He smiles one of the sexiest smiles I’ve ever seen. If Moe didn’t look so terrified of him, she’d call dibs on him too. “They needn’t a thing.”
She pours the man his whiskey and places it on the dark, wooden bar. I duck in the back with an arm full of dirty glasses, but my hearing is as precise and sensitive as Kavanagh’s.
“She’s not quite vampire,” he says, and I can hear the swirl of liquid against his glass.
“What do you mean?” That’s Moe. She’s ride or die. She’s the only person who knows what I am, but she’ll take that to her grave.
“She has vampire in her and something I’ve not smelled in many years… I can’t quite put my finger on it. Does she require blood?”
“She’s not a vampire,” Moe argues.
The thought of drinking blood temporarily grosses me out, but his line of questioning intrigues me since neither of us know our parents.
“Vampires can’t breed”, she reminds him.
“On a rare, blue moon, an ancient can father a child.”
“Do you mean a seasonal blue moon?” she asks.
I can change at will, but I’m forced into transformation on a blue moon. Is there any truth to what he’s saying?
“I’ve never heard of a vampire fathering a child.”
I can hear the smile in his voice. “I said it was rare.”
“You did. How often have you seen this occur?”
He’s frustrating me.
“How rare is rare?” she asks.
He chuckles lightly. “Once in a blue moon.”
“You play your cards close to the chest,” she says.
“A man of few words?”
“I speak when necessary. The world is too full of misunderstandings as it is.”
“Ancient and enigmatic. Most of the vampires who come in here won’t shut up.”
“If it is to be known about you or your sister, I know it. Else, I would’ve never walked in here. I don’t believe in being unprepared when interrupting multiple packs of wolves.”
He’s unnerving me with his observations and knowledge. I like it low key. I don’t want people, especially powerful vampires, in my business.
Moe turns the jukebox back on to drown out the silence and lift my spirits. I continue to clean the tables until they’re all clear and the chairs are turned upside down on top of them. Killian Kavanagh sits at the bar alone slowly sipping his drink, while his acquaintances remain eerily quiet and still across the room at a table. I don’t like them lurking.
Forty minutes after his departure, Deputy Hendri Connor returns with several clear plastic bags sealed with red tape. He throws them on the bar carelessly. I see he has the same attitude problem he did when he left. For about thirty seconds, I wonder if I should rectify it for him.
Each night, we walk our employees to their cars to ensure they’re safe. Kavanagh insists on accompanying us as we walk them out.
Once the two women drive off, he turns to Moe. “Do you use your magic out in the open?”
“Moe doesn’t get involved in this shit,” I answer for my sister.
“You both live above the bar, yes?” he asks.
“You know entirely too much about us, and I’m warning you, it’s pissing me off,” I caution.
“Le Ambrogio maintains a file on all known supernatural beings. Please do not be alarmed as our purpose is only to preserve order.”
“The stories I’ve heard about your organization don’t exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy, Captain.”
“I can say the same for you,” he counters.
“Best you stick to managing vampires, fanger.”
He ignores my comment. “I will accompany you upstairs while my associates entertain the deputy.”
“Nope.” I pop my “p”. “I don’t work with anybody. You can keep your ancient ass in the bar, and if you have an inkling that you might come up those stairs, I’d warn you against it. You don’t strike me as a man who would walk into a bar known to be full of werewolves without knowing a thing or two about me and Moe. I’m going to assure you that everything you heard about me is true. So help me if one hair on my sister’s head is harmed, I’m going to kill your bloodsucking ass.”
He grins at me. “I understand.”
Moe releases a sigh of relief. She’s probably thinking I was considering roasting him in fire, and she’d be right.
I grab the evidence bags where Hendri left them on the bar, and we march upstairs to Moe’s second story apartment. My sister stops a few steps up and casts a spell to seal the door. Most witches used latin in their spells, but she uses Gaelic to be sure others can’t unravel her magic. It isn’t widely spoken, especially in America.
“Séala ó gach duine eile!”
We enter her apartment with the evidence, and I get to work on rolling up an area rug from the living area to uncover the casting circle. Moe collects the quartz crystals she needs for a spell. Next, I light candles around the circle as she sits cross-legged in the middle with the evidence bags. The victim’s shirt is drenched in blood, but the pants have very little. She pulls the jeans from the bag.
Her eyes lift to mine with surprise inside them. “I feel another witch’s magic pull at me. The magic is weak because it’s been hours since the magic touched the item, but I can tell it’s a woman who’s practicing dark magic. Am I looking for the witch or for Ekman?”
“Why would a vampire transfer dark magic to a victim?” I ask.
She allows a crystal to drop from a necklace over the clothing, and then she chants to draw the magic from the fabric. “Ceangailte agus Ceangailteach. Ceangailte Ceangailte. Féach an Radharc. Éist an Fuaim. Cad a cailleadh. Faightear anois. Ceangailte agus Ceangailteach. Ceangailte Ceangailte. Solas an méid a cailleadh.” The candle flames grow taller and brighter as her magic surrounds the clothing. Black smoke begins to rise from the jeans and quickly fills the room until we’re choking on the magical fumes.
“Holy shit! It’s a compelling spell!” She shouts excitedly between fits of coughing.
I motion for her to follow me as I gasp for air and quickly head for the front door of the apartment.
“I thought only vampires could compel,” I say.
Moe’s eyes widen in fear. “This isn’t good. A witch shouldn’t have access to this much power. I have no idea how one woman can contain so much darkness inside her. It’ll drive her absolutely mad.” “So you’re saying Ekman was compelled to kill?”
She nods. “Likely. I can’t think of any other reason that spell would be attached to a vampire.”
“Fuck. There’s a witch compelling a quiet, law-abiding vamp to kill?”
“Yep,” she answers.
I put my hands on my hips and try to sort through the new details, but I still don’t have enough information. “How long before this witch goes bonkers and compels every vampire in Atlanta to slaughter half the city?”
She shrugs her shoulders. “It depends on how long she’s been practicing on this level with this type of magic. Most witches will go crazy within three or four months of crossing over to the dark side.”
“Find the vampire. We need to get him off the street before the sun rises. Then we can concentrate on the witch when the vamps go underground.” I chance a look back inside to find smokey clouds swirling around. “I’m going back in to open your windows.”
I don’t wait for a reply as I zip through the apartment with a speed vampires would envy. Once the windows are open, I turn on a few fans to push the cloud outside into the early morning air. When the room is aired enough that I can see my sister, we go back inside. She returns to the casting circle, and begins to chant again. Dark red droplets of blood rise from the pants and dance in the air in front of Moe. And then the tiny drops merge together and move through the room and out the window with lightning speed.
“It’s done. You’ll find a blue glowing light attached to the vampire. Grab your go bag. I’ll meet you on the roof.”
I climb the stairs to my third floor apartment and find my go bag in the bottom of my closet. Then I climb the stairs again, this time past the third floor to the roof. Before I can open the door, I hear Kavanagh’s Irish accent. ”Nice touch with the door. What is she?”
“My sister,” Moe answers, a smile in her voice “How did you get up here?
“Where is she?” he asks, ignoring her question. He’s throwing a kink into our ritual, and I have to think fast on my feet. I need her to cloak me before I walk onto the roof.
“Ní féidir léi a fheiceáil. Ní féidir í a mheas. Ní féidir éisteacht léi. Ní féidir é a smelt, ag aon duine a lorg. Cloaked mar go bhfuil sí, i bhfeidhm mo thoil. Tá sí cosanta ó litriú, droch-mhianta, agus dochar. Ní thagann aon olc níos gaire ná teacht a lámh. Níl aon fhéachaint léi ach iad siúd a bhaineann le gach solas a fheiceáil. Agus mar a labhair mé, mar sin beidh sé anois,” Moe chants.
“You realize I’m Irish and two millennia old. I speak Gaelic,” he says.
“How nice for you.”
Moe sends me a quick text, unaware that I can hear their conversation.
Moe: Kavanagh is on the roof, but you’re already cloaked and protected against magic.
Zvi: I had a feeling he’d be a thorn in my side. I got something for his nosey ass.
Moe: Do not blow your cover, or I will lock you in a magical bubble again until you’ve learned your lesson.
Zvi: I hate when you do that. Have I mentioned that you’re an asshole?
Moe: It’s easier than convincing you to go to anger management.
Kavanagh speaks with an air of certainty, “So, you’ve cloaked her and protected her from evil and magic. What will she do now?”
“You speak Gaelic,” she counters with a smart-ass tone.
“Earlier you heard that I am a founding member of Le Ambrogio?”
“I believe I did.”
“You two have been on my radar for about ten years. I make it my business to know which creatures reside in the capital of my territory. I will find out what she is, and you two can be helpful or we can do things the hard way.”
“Zvi only does things the hard way. Best to learn that lesson early on.”
“I’m an ancient vampire tasked with the supernatural ongoings of the country. I’d be wary of frustrating me.”
“Well, touch you. Aren’t you important?”
“Very,” he replies.
Narcissistic much? Vampires are the ultimate a-holes. They think they’re glamorous and at the top of the food chain, but no one ever is. There’s always something larger, better, or faster.
A werewolf’s bite is toxic to a vampire, a vampire’s bite can rip the throat out of pretty much anything, a demon’s bite is venomous to any creature, and if a witch is strong enough, she can wreak havoc on all of them with magic.
This particular vampire is pissing me off.
My sister sends another text.
Moe: I take back what I said about the magical bubble. Somebody needs to knock His Highness down a notch or two.
Zvi: Consider it done. Coming up to the roof now.
While not another soul can see, hear, feel, or detect me, Moe can. We’ve been bound to each other since we were twelve. If she feels pain, I can sense it. If she’s in trouble, I know it, and I can always see her no matter who used magic on her. I can always find her in this dark world.
I emerge from the stairs with a black backpack on my shoulders. I walk straight up to an unknowing Kavanagh and throw a punch to his jaw that knocks him back about ten feet. He lands on his ass and looks a little dazed for a moment before he grins.
“Hello, Zvi. You throw one hell of a punch, Macushla.”
He jumps to his feet and looks around attempting to ascertain my location, but he won’t find me.
“If he wouldn’t figure me out, I’d fly him to the Atlantic and drop him in it,” I tell Moe.
“Please don’t,” she pleads.
“Oh please do.” Kavanagh laughs in utter delight. “Whatever she has planned for me, I’m sure I’d rather enjoy it.”
“Are you insane?“ Moe asks the vampire.
“Rather fascinated,” he answers.
Great. He’s enchanted with me. He won’t be the first or last man to be so, but I don’t think a meddling, rich, ancient, vampire king is going to scare away as easily as the rest. I have a feeling he’ll be a problem for quite some time. I’m already regretting that he walked into our bar tonight.
“I’m changing,” I warn.
I strip out of my clothing, and pack it in my bag. I concentrate on the constant burning in my gut, and slow my breath. Claws grow from the tips of my fingers and the skin on my underbelly changes to an iridescent color. My bones break, but I don’t make a sound. My muscles contract and then expand, ripping and bulging at my flesh until I’ve morphed forty feet into the air. The rest of my skin changes into dark purple, bony scutes that protect me. I flap my wings in the air and feel the warm breeze against my scales. My wings are colored lilac and fade into a Caribbean blue.
I purr, enjoying the feel of being in my supernatural form. I’m happiest when I shift, something I don’t often find in my human form. I look over to find the vampire watching Moe as she looks at me with her neck craned back.
“She’s a dragon,” Killian guesses. His eyes are open wide in absolute joy. The confidence in his voice almost stops my heart, then my purring ends.
“Shit,” Moe curses.
I lean forward and pick up the backpack with my giant left hand, and then I pick Killian up with my right.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” my sister chants. “Don’t kill him!”
Even as a dragon, she can read my facial expressions, and the one I’m wearing right now is fifty kinds of pissed off. I flap my wings until I gain enough speed and air to lift from the top of our building. I fly into the night with the vampire king dangling precariously in the sky.
Award-winning author Sasha Marshall, a concert photographer, toured with legendary bands such as The Allman Brothers Band. A self-proclaimed free spirit, she’s most often found outdoors, or painting a canvas, capturing a photograph, people watching, reading a book, or writing a new book. Sasha makes her home in the beautiful state of Georgia and loves to hear from readers.