Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Friday, May 19th, 10:59pm
Ace slugged back the last few swallows of beer then slammed the mug down. He got up from his seat situated in a dimly lit corner of the nightclub called The Green Tree, appropriately named for the neon sign in the shape of a green palm tree planted on the flat roof.
“You ready to split?” Soren asked.
Ace shot the blond, green-eyed vampire a quick glance. “Gotta take a leak first.”
“Move it—the night’s wearing on.”
Soren’s commanding tone and words grated on his nerves. Instantly, a flash of anger shot his already foul mood into lethal terrain. “Leave. No one’s stopin’ ya.”
“You’re on probation, in case you’ve forgotten. You’re to hunt with a partner until further notice. And tonight I’m stuck with your sorry ass.”
Probation. What a joke. A month ago while hunting, Ace came across a demon and human conducting drug business in an alley. During the fight, the human male had gotten in the way and ended up with his throat slashed—by the demon. Wasn’t Ace’s fault. He did his job as far as he was concerned—the demon now resided back in hell. But the Sacred Order didn’t see it that way. The human’s death had been splashed all over the news so the Order wanted damage control—and that meant Ace had to now hunt with a partner. The other warriors in the squad were on babysitting duty, a fact that sent his blood boiling.
Ace ground his molars. “Wanna come hold my dick while I piss so I don’t sneak out the back door?”
He didn’t bother waiting to see what the second-in command of the Surrey’s branch of demon-slayers had to say. He didn’t give a flying fuck about Soren, the other slayers, or the demons and the war for human souls. And most of all, he didn’t give a flying good fuck about following other asshole’s rules. The more others tried to enforce their bullshit on him, the harder he fought against the invisible tethers.
He weaved his way through the heavy throng of humans. All his vampire senses were on alert for any sign of demons or danger. Inhaling, his brain processed the scents rushing up his nostrils. The smell of human blood and sweat permeated the air, along with the sweet aroma of different types of alcohol, but no reek of flesh rot that signified a demon was present. Music from the club’s Friday night band throbbed and mixed with the raucous laughter and shouts from the sloshed assortment of people packed inside.
Ace eyed a drunken human male who stumble out from the men’s bathroom. The piece of shit tried to do up his fly with one hand while the other clasped the handle of a beer mug. He blocked the entrance, swaying and mumbling as he fought with his zipper. Ace needed to use the can and he wasn’t going to wait for a dumb-shit loser to do what he should’ve done before leaving the room.
“Move it, asshole.” Ace didn’t wait for a reply. He elbowed the prick aside then kept walking.
A thud followed by an explosion of thick glass hitting the floor, and a string of curses signified the waste-of-skin had dropped his mug of beer.
The strong ammonia stench of urine and the cloying reek of urinal cakes wafted out as Ace shoved open the bathroom door. Before he slipped inside, a hand clamped around his arm and pulled him to a stop.
“Hey, fuckhead. You owe me another beer.” The drunk’s slurred words were clue-one the guy was hammered and not thinking straight. Clue-two, the fact the moron dared to touch and speak to a guy ten times bigger than he was.
A slow smile took the place of Ace’s perpetual scowl. Show time.
He swirled around and wrapped his fingers around the scrawny man’s throat. The guy’s bloodshot shit-brown eyes widened and a strangled squawk issued from his opened mouth, pushing the smell of rotting teeth and booze up Ace’s nostrils.
Tightening his hold, Ace bared his teeth, careful to keep his fangs tucked up in his gums. “I owe you nothing. I gave you fair warning to move.”
“Let...me...go.” The human clawed at Ace’s fingers clamped around his throat.
One sharp twist and the pus-bag’s neck would snap—and nothing would make him happier than to see the glazed look of death in the piece of crap’s eyes.
Fuck, he hated humans. If it wasn’t for the fact vampires needed their blood to survive, he’d side with the demons and help them rid the planet of the useless garbage. And once done, he’d turn on the demon pricks and annihilate their asses too.
“Fight! Fight!” A small group of young males, eager to see blood spilled, circled around Ace, keeping a safe distance.
A part of him wanted to give the fools what they craved only because the rage building inside needed an outlet before he exploded. But thankfully, he contained his wrath.
The drunk’s face turned purple, and his lips opened and closed like a fish.
“Punch ‘em, dude,” someone said from the crowd.
Ace curled the fingers of his left hand inward, making a fist. The urge to pound the holy hell out of this cocksucker surged through him like a raging river.
But what’d be the point? One hit and the fucker would hit the floor out cold. The fight would be over before it started.
Besides, if Roarik caught wind that he’d caused a scene at The Green Tree, his ass would be parked in one those hideous chick chairs his squad leader liked so much, while enduring yet another lecture. Normally he’d take the risk, but tonight it just didn’t seem worth it.
Maybe he was going soft?
He smirked. Right.
Ace glanced at the excited crowd, flashed a one-sided smile, then tossed the choking shit-rat toward them like a bowling ball.
Four of the blood-thirsty humans toppled and dropped their drinks as the rolling drunk smashed into their legs.
Ace laughed then waltzed into the john.
Two men dressed in jeans and crisp button-down shirts, glanced over at him. They looked him up and down before dismissing him.
Fury flooded him. Where the hell did these weak puke-sacks get off dismissing him like he was nothing but dirt?
“Hey, fuckwads,” Ace said with a deadly snarl. “Get the fuck out.”
They both stopped talking. The tallest of the duo glanced over at him. A frown wrinkled his forehead. “Excuse me?”
“Excuse me,” Ace repeated the prick’s words in a high pitched voice. He lifted his lips and flashed his teeth. “You heard me, now beat it before I ram you both head-first through the door.”
The shorter male ran a shaky hand over his close cropped brown hair. “Let’s go, Dan.”
Dan, who obviously was short a few bricks, shook his blond head. “What’s your problem, man?”
“At the moment? You assholes.” A muscle along his jaw jumped with anticipation. Christ, he wanted to beat these two to a bloody pulp. Didn’t they understand how close they were to getting their asses kicked? Were they that stupid?
Sure, he was always spoiling for a fight, but tonight the need was more intense than normal.
And he knew damn well why.
When he’d woken up this evening, his mood had been at an all-time low due to a bad dream dredged up from his past. And he couldn’t shake the strangling effects from the nightmare. The only way he knew how to overcome his turbulent emotions was through fighting—though demons were usually his intended target, not humans, who vampires were supposed to protect.
“Why don’t you leave?” tall, blond and stupid said with a holier-than-thou attitude.
Blackness surrounded Ace, and his focus narrowed on the speaker’s flapping lips. Without another word, he marched across the white tile floor.
The men shrank back against a stall door and raised their hands in surrender.
Too late. They were leaving the bathroom through the door—head-first like he’d promised.
Dan, the loser man, tried to run, but Ace snagged his shirt, jerked him back, then grabbed his buddy by the throat.
“Stop—we’ll leave—just let us go,” military haircut squeaked.
Blondie fought to get loose, but he didn’t have the strength.
Ace dragged them across the paper towel strewn floor. With a violent shove, he propelled them out the swinging door. He caught a quick glimpse of the men sliding across the short hallway before they crashed into the crowd still milling around the entrance.
The door swung closed. Ace dusted off his hands then marched to the nearest urinal.
After he zipped up his fly and washed his hands, he exited the bathroom. The crowd had dispersed, but a waitress squatted down, wiping up the spilled beer with a rag. A dust pan filled with broken glass sat next to her pink sneakers.
Her back was presented to him, so he couldn’t see her face, but her lengthy blonde ponytail slipped over one shoulder, baring her long, pale neck.
Bloodlust reared up and his fangs slipped down. Shit, he’s quenched his blood-thirst three nights ago. He should be fine for another week at least.
Ace stared at the column of the back of her neck, following the graceful lines as they flared out along her shoulders. The hot pink uniform she wore sagged off one shoulder, baring it to his gaze. Delicate bones and small muscles moved as she dragged the cloth over the floor.
“Bloody drunken assholes,” she muttered. “Like I don’t have enough to do?”
Her whispered words weren’t meant for anyone but her, but he not only heard what she’d said, but he caught the annoyance saturating her tone. And he found he liked her sass and anger.
The thought of grabbing the little waitress and shoving her into the bathroom so he could sink his teeth into her throat, gripped his commonsense and wrestled it for control.
But his rational mind warned him not to eat where he drank. Some of the other warriors fucked and fed from the waitresses working at The Green Tree, but Ace preferred hunting his prey in the mean streets of Surrey. He enjoyed the hunt—he didn’t want to be hand-fed like a caged lion.
He forced his canines back into his gums and took a step around her.
The crunch of glass under his hiking boot alerted her to his presence. Her head jerked around and her eyes widened. “Oh,” she whispered with breathless surprise.
Ace’s heart ground to a skidding stop before it jumped back into racing action.
No, this chick wasn’t Sophia, but the waitresses’ features were similar to the whore he’d once loved—the betraying bitch who destroyed his life.
The woman’s pale blue eyes, so much like Sophia’s, traveled over him. The rag fell from her fingers as she stood, then she took a couple steps away.
Christ. Though his logical mind told him this wasn’t the lying, scheming slut from his past, their resemblance was unnerving.
Intense hatred drop-kicked his gut. Blood pounded in his ears as murderous rage filled him from head to toe. The need to wrap his fingers around her thin throat and squeeze until her eyes bulged—until she breathed her last breath—pulled him in her direction.
The woman backed up until her ass hit the wall next to the bathroom.
He shadowed her movements—a low growl rumbled from between his clenched teeth.
His sanity ripped. He fought to pull the shredded ends together, but he lost the fight. No longer was Ace in the short hallway at the back of the seedy nightclub. His mind transported him back to the night his soul had died.
Screams of dying humans and vampires filled his head. Arid smoke burned his nose and throat, and the metallic scent of blood overpowered all.
In the past and present, Ace reached for her. Her eyes turned round with terror—she knew he meant to kill her.
“Help,” she squeaked.
“No one can help you, bitch—you deserve to rot in hell.” Ace wasn’t sure if he’d spoken the words aloud, but they rebounded in his skull, ramping his hate and fury to dangerous levels. For what the calculating, murderous witch had done, death was too kind. She deserved to suffer the way he had.
The burning reek of smoldering wet leaves rushed up his nose. Uncertainty yanked him out of his trance. After all these years he could still remember the smell Sophia’s terror from that night, but the fear scent surrounding him now wasn’t it.
Ace shook off the last of the apparition. The echo of people laughing and the deep thud, thud of rock music coming from the nightclub’s sound system, drowned out the shrieks of death, pain and battle.
The waitress cowered in front of him, but she didn’t try to get loose from the tight grip he had on one of her shoulders. As she stared up at him, she sucked in a hissing breath and winced.
Ace released his hold and stumbled back a few steps. Instantly, she rubbed her shoulder, never breaking eye-contact.
Fucking hell—he’d been ready to choke an innocent woman.
She sagged against the wall, still holding her shoulder, and regarded him with a mixture of fear, confusion, and a healthy dose of indignation.
I’m losing it—Sophia’s long dead. Why can’t I leave her buried?
Because the bitch got the better of you.
Ace closed his eyes briefly, trying to get himself back on an even keel.
Although the hallucination from his past still skulked on the outskirts of his mind, he was clear-headed enough to now note the obvious differences between the two women.
Both shared the same light blond hair color, but Sophia’s hair had been a mass of curly waves that reached her waist, while this chick’s hair was straight and definitely not as lengthy—mid back maybe if released from the ponytail.
The waitress’ face was longer and narrowed at the chin, while Sophia’s had been plump and round. Another glaring variation between them was their body types. Again, now that his brain was thinking clearer, he realized they were as different as night and day. Sophia had been built heavier, with shorter legs, big tits and broader hips. This lady was taller, slimmer—more athletically built—and her tits and ass were small. In fact, her breasts hardly filled out the front of her hot pink uniform.
But their eyes...the waitress’ eyes were carbon copies of Sophia’s: almond shaped, with pale blue irises and long lashes. Except where Sophia’s lashes were the same fair color as her hair, the stranger’s were coated with black mascara.
Ace swallowed as he stared at her lips. They were full and what some called pouty, and they looked soft. Sophia had lips exactly the same size, shape and rosy color.
Eyes and lips. That’s where the familiarities ended.
But that wasn’t completely true. There was something more about the little waitress that reminded Ace of the Sophia, but he couldn’t put his finger on.
You’re insane. That’s what going on. The bitch is dead! She’s worm food.
Tremors started in his legs and soon enveloped his body. His teeth chattered and sweat soaked his hair.
Blackness closed in on him. Ace sucked in air, but he couldn’t get it to stay in his lungs.
“Hey, Mr. Are you okay? Are you ill?”
Her quiet voice slid up his spine like icy fingers and goose bumps spread like cold fire over his skin.
No, I’m not okay. Ace nodded.
Concern replaced the apprehension in her eyes. “You look like you’re about to faint?”
“I’m fine,” he snarled through clenched teeth.
She looked him over then swallowed. “Were you having a seizure?”
“No.” He didn’t bothering telling her he’d been a tweak away from snapping her neck.
Ace ran a hand through his hair and pushed the tattered mass away from his hot face. Without another word, he stormed passed her and headed to the back exit.
He hammered down on the bar and kicked open the metal door, and then staggered out onto the grated landing. The cool night air hit his overheated face, and a stiff breeze blew through the sweat-soaked strands of his hair like fingers.
Fog created hazy light halos around the tops of street lamps, while tendrils of low-level clouds drifted amongst the six cars parked in a line near a six-foot concrete divider.
Off in the distance, a foghorn bellowed, warning any boats in the area to be on alert for hazards.
The dense clouds reminded him of the thick smoke blanketing the courtyard of his family’s castle from the many fires burning—fires set by a clan of vampire slayers—Sophia’s father’s clan...
Sophia...you worthless slut. You manipulative whore.
Two strides propelled Ace across the landing. He grasped the hand railing and squeezed so hard the iron groaned then slowly bent.
He smiled as he imagined it was the betraying bitch’s neck he strangled.
A picture of the waitress’s pale, frightened face filled his head. His grin vanished, and a shot of panic tore through his gut.
Once more, his muscles shook. He released the handrail and shoved his trembling hands into the pockets of his lumber jacket.
Christ, he could’ve killed her.
Since the night of Sophia’s death, he’d been skating on mental thin ice, but he hadn’t fallen through yet. Or had he?
The other warriors saw it. They told him many times he was dangerous and insane—a sadistic freak. But fuck them. They had no idea what he lived through.
He carried Sophia’s ghost and her treachery with him for one reason: to remind himself love was nothing but a fucking farce, designed to make a man let his guard down so a scheming slut could ram a poison dagger through his heart.
Yet, tonight his actions had him questioning his sanity for the first time.
For the first time? Bullshit. I’ve been sliding downhill for over three hundred years.
Pain flared in his chest as memories crawled through the murk toward the surface of his mind.
He gripped the sides of his skull and pushed, forcing them to retreated into the recesses of his brain.
No! She wouldn’t win—he wouldn’t allow it. She’d already stolen enough from him.
When he felt he had himself more under control, Ace blinked and took in a few deep, calming breathes. A couple of young human females walking past the back parking lot of The Green Tree caught his attention. They giggled and one flipped blond hair over her shoulders.
The street lamp illuminated both women as they strolled under it. The blond reminded Ace of the waitress: tall, lithe and pretty. He followed them with his stare until they rounded the corner and disappeared.
Again, his head filled with images of the waitress. Now that he was calmer, small details of her appearance came to him. She was tall, the top of her head had reached his chin, and he stood about six-foot-five. Though thin, her elegant curves were very feminine, and she had long, shapely legs. He wondered if her pussy was as blond as the hair on her head. Or maybe she shaved her pubic hairs like so many women today—a look he liked a lot.
His cock moved, then lengthened. Desire wrapped sensual ropes around him. Yeah, he’d like to get between her legs. A vision of her hands braced against a wall with her ass bared and the skirt of her uniform bunched around her waist sharpened his lust. His fangs slid down and he licked his lips. While he fucked her, he’d shove her hair aside and bite her on the shoulder, hard.
He closed his eyes and allowed his imagination to pull him down. Oh yeah, he wanted to taste her blood as he thrust his cock in and out of her.
Though, he’d screwed and fed from many women over the years, he did so mainly out of necessity. So the fact he wanted the waitress was a welcomed distraction. And Ace always took what he wanted.
He glanced behind at the closed door. No doubt after what happened earlier, she’d be wary of him, but that didn’t matter. In fact, her fear would only heighten the experience for him. Besides, she wouldn’t remember a goddamn thing because he would erase it from her mind the moment he blew his load.
A slow smile dragged one side of his lips upward. Tonight, after the nightclub closed, he’d be waiting for her.