THE KEYS, CALDWELL, NEW YORK
There was a place in Axe’s life for masks. Whether they were literal and hid your face, or figurative to protect your soul, he was supremely comfortable with camouflage. Knowledge, after all, was power only if it gave you insight into your enemy. If insight was applied to you?
He’d rather have a knife to his throat.
And everyone was his enemy.
Standing in a crowd of over a hundred sexually aroused humans, he was ready to feed his dark side—you know, toss some fresh meat over the chain-link fence of his sex drive and stand back as the meal was consumed, the gnawing hunger briefly satisfied.
It never lasted. But that was why he’d joined this club.
The Keys was a private, members-only gig, and there were only two rules. No minors. Always with consent.
After those conditions were satisfied? You could scratch the itch of whatever sin you wanted: glory holes, gang bangs, girls on girls on guys. There were rooms for fetishes, and pits for fucking, and every tie-up, chain-down, in-the-air you could ask for.
Especially here in the Cathedral.
Of all the spaces in the sprawling, multi-block compound, this was largest and the loftiest. Filled with swirls of white smoke, pierced by purple and blue lasers, empty of furniture and fixtures except for the altar, only the hardest of the hardcore were allowed in here.
And masks were always worn, even on nights when the rest of the club didn’t require it.
Through the eye holes of his fitted skull plate, Axe looked up, way up, to the altar.
It was like a scene out of The Silence of the Lambs, a human body suspended high above the floor, arms outstretched, head tilting to the side, swaths of fabric fanning out like wings all around the torso. The Hannibal-arisons ended there, though. Not a man, a woman. Not clothed, but naked. Not real blood on the flesh, but a viscous wash that fell like rain from the ceiling, hitting her breasts, dripping over her stomach, licking down her thighs so that she glistened under the remote lights.
Not dead, but very much alive.
“Do you want that?” he was asked from behind.
Axe smiled and didn’t bother hiding his fangs.
None of them knew that he was an actual vampire. And not as in a neo-Victorian Dracula-wannabe with cosmetically altered canines, high-heeled boots, and a fake black rinse through his already dark hair.
As in the real deal. Different DNA. Different traditions and language. Different biological imperative that, yes, involved drinking blood from a vampire of the opposite sex.
Different sex drive.
“Yeah, I’ll take her first,” he said.
As the staff member whistled loudly and put his hand up to summon the rolling scaffolding, a rush tripped and fell over the crowd, excitement building for the first show. And for a split second, Axe considered materializing up there just to freak them all out, just because he could, just because he liked creating chaos.
Instead, he scaled the front of the metal framework with the ease of a spider over its web.
When he was up at the woman’s level, her body responded in a starving arch, her head falling back, her mouth opening, her eyes begging him. She wasn’t drugged. She was achingly aware, the scent of her sex flaring, her flesh calling out for release.
She’d wanted him. Out of the many below, she’d wanted him specifically.
“Take me,” she said. “Take—”
He reached out his gloved hand and closed her mouth with his fingertips. Bending over her, he bared his canines and went for her throat. But he didn’t bite her. He ran the tip of one fang up her jugular.
With a jerk against the chains she had volunteered for, she or-gasmed for him right then and there, the alchemy of the public display, the danger he represented, the kind of sex she needed, coalescing into a release that flushed her face and made her moan as she thrashed.
Down below, the pleasure she felt rippled through the teeming bodies.
And he was aroused, yes. But not like they were. Not like she was.
Never as any of them.
However, the screaming voice in his head that told him he was a piece of shit was dimmed down by the sex. The fire of his rage against himself was doused by the distraction. The packed house of recriminations under his real skull were, momentarily, displaced.
So yes, this worked for everyone.
Reaching up to his own throat, he released the cord of his cloak and dropped the heavy weight from his shoulders. He had black leathers on and nothing else but his tattoos and piercings.
Axe’s hands went to her body and traveled, with his mouth, everywhere.
And the storm he was deliberately creating raked over the decimated landscape of his soul, obscuring the ragged, desolated mess he was.
She was getting what she required, and so was he.
Good thing. He needed to be at the Black Dagger Brotherhood training center in about an hour, in some kind of shape to continue his education. Being a soldier in the fight against the Lessening Society? Walking the line between life and death?
Now that was finally going to get him what he was after.
Inner peace through acts of war: Because he had to believe if you were facing off with the undead, surely you were too busy trying to stay alive to worry about anything else.
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, CALDWELL CAMPUS
Elise, blooded daughter of the Princeps Felixe the Younger, smiled at the human male across the library table from her. “Of course I’d stay late. I’m not going to leave you to deal with all this by yourself.”
“All this” was a debris field of final papers sufficient to cover every square inch of surface except for two feet in front of her and two feet in front of Professor Troy Becke. Although the submissions for Psych 342 had been filed electronically, Troy believed in printing them out for grading purposes—and after having been through midterms with the man, Elise had to agree. There was something different about holding the work in your hands and being able to write your thoughts down. It had to do with the lack of speed, she’d decided.