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Lotus (Daughter of Darkness)

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Lotus

Daughter of Darkness

(Part I)

 

¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨(¸.•´ (¸.•

 

By C.J. Pinard

 

Copyright 2015 C.J. Pinard

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Cover Art by Kellie [email protected] Book Cover By Design

Four authors will each take a different daughter born from the Prince of Darkness, Vlad Montour. (Also known as Vlad the Impaler, an evil villain from history.)

 

Blair – Chrissy Peebles

Jezebel – Kristen Middleton

Victoria – W.J. May

Lotus – C.J. Pinard

Blair can be downloaded [+ here+]!

Victoria can be downloaded [+ here+]!

Chapter 1

The boarded up warehouse smelled like shit. I’m not using that in a figurative sense, it literally smelled like shit. Like a group of squatters had hunkered down here and had taken up residence. Sucking another deep inhale of air through my mouth and not my nose – and holding it before my partner figured out what I was doing, I stroked a finger under my nose and pretended to be rubbing some Vic’s Vapo-Rub under there – a little ‘trick’ my partner had suggested to me when dealing with the horrific smell of dead, decaying bodies.

Of course I couldn’t tell him I was half vampire and that my sense of smell was stronger than most, and that ol’ Vic’s would probably do more harm than good on my sensitive nose. So I just smiled in mock sheepishness and turned my head forward as I surveyed a body that had once been human but now resembled more of a zombie. Its mouth hung open like it was trying to catch flies, but the eyes were milky white – and open. If I could have gagged, I would have.

Which didn’t stop my human partner, Stephan Waters, from gagging himself. I bit back a laugh.

“Nasty,” he murmured.

“You can say that again,” I replied under my breath, moving toward the corpse.

Its pallid, shriveled body sat propped in the corner of the warehouse, the filthy rags he’d once called clothes hanging on his emaciated frame like a hanger displayed in a gory shop window.

I approached the body with trepidation as I always did in these situations. Stephan beside me had no problem marching straight up to the corpse, but being as old as I was, I had learned the hard way that things weren’t always as they seemed – especially when it came to dead bodies.

“Why is he so thin…?” Stephan asked.

“Duh, he’s homeless,” I replied in annoyance, pointing at the rags he wore.

The truth was, I could see the poor dead dude had been most likely drained of every pint of his blood and we had yet another serial killing on our hands. A serial killer with a lust for drinking blood who seemed to have no qualms about leaving dried-out bodies that were nearly husks in odd locations for me to find.

I knew we had a vampire serial killer on our hands – just like in the 1800s when Jack the Ripper was on the loose in London and nobody could explain it – we now had another. Could I tell Stephan or anyone else at the Denver P.D. Local 318 Precinct of my suspicion? Nah, I’d get fired from the job I loved so much and then committed to a funny farm.

Nope, I’d solve these murders on my own, just like I always did. I knew they’d been committed by a vampire, one not too dissimilar to my biological father, and once I found the sadistic bastard, I’d kill him slowly.

And I speak of both this undead serial killer and my biological father.

After all, I was Lotus Arden Smith – fifty percent faery, fifty percent vampire, and one-hundred percent bad-ass.

Crouching down near the body, I pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of my gray slacks and shoved it over my nose as I examined the body closely, all the while trying to remain businesslike, when really, all I wanted to do was dry-heave. Not that I’d ever dry-heaved. I’d just read about it in books and saw Stephan do it a couple times at the other crime scenes.

The body was the same ol’ song and dance. A poor schmuck homeless guy who’d fallen victim to some vampire who was on the loose on the streets of Lo-Do – Lower Downtown Denver. And I was gonna catch him – oh yes him. The bastard always left his manly cologne scent behind. I could always smell it, even if nobody else could.

The body was decaying, and therefore, beginning to wrinkle and prune, but that did not stop me from seeing the two faded puncture wounds in the victim’s neck. They’d never had the chance to heal since the dumbass vampire killed his victims immediately after feeding. If he was smart, he’d let them live for a few minutes, hypnotize them into forgetting about it, let their body heal – and then kill them. Then the puncture wounds would be gone. But no, this jackass was either very new or very, very stupid. My guess was a combination of both.

“What do you see?” Stephan asked me, staring at me intently, hoping I had some sort of magical answer. Little did he know I did hold some magical power, but telling him the truth about this victim’s puncture wounds wasn’t going to be anything I’d divulge to him today. Or ever.

Lifting a shoulder and letting it fall, I pulled the gum from my mouth and tossed it into a trash can nearby that looked as though it had had fires burning in it recently. “No idea. Let the M.E. figure it out.”

“This is the fifth body we’ve found like this. Obviously, someone is murdering the homeless of this city,” Stephan replied, his arms crossed over his narrow chest, his brown eyes regarding me suspiciously.

I eyed the blonde hair flopping over his head to one side and his shirt and pants that had clearly not seen an iron in a while. I swallowed down a grin. I definitely wasn’t telling this guy my vampire secrets, so I was gonna have to play as dumb as he was looking right about now. “No clue, Waters.”

We left the scene once the medical examiner and the crime scene unit showed up. My partner wanted to stay but I didn’t need to hear any of their theories. I had my own clues to chase down and I didn’t need human babble and speculations messing with the cop-vampire mojo I had going on right now.

As we walked back outside the warehouse, I pulled the collar of my coat up around my neck to fight off the biting cold. Getting into the passenger seat of the boring police-issued sedan, I closed the door and reached over to crank up the heat on the dash. Stephan put the car in drive and headed back toward the precinct.

We soundlessly made our way through the cold and into the station. I went straight to my desk, and before sitting down, I pulled off my wool coat and hung it on a hook on the wall near my desk. It was only late October, but that just meant the snow would come in the next couple weeks and we were definitely deep within the fall season.

Sitting down at my desk, I shook the mouse to rouse the sleepy computer and waited as it flickered to life. I looked down at the lotus flower tattoos that decorated my right arm and smiled. I’d gotten them to remind me to just be me. I’d grown up in foster care with no real parents and the first set had given me the name Lotus. I don’t know why and probably never will, but I gathered from a young age that I would only have myself to rely on and nobody else. The tattoos reminded me to stay strong and keep blooming, even when the days were dark and cold.

I had always wished that I’d known my mother but made peace with that a long time ago. I’m 104 years old and I’m sure my poor, faery mother was long dead. I just hoped she had lived a happy life. My father, on the other hand, was a vampire, and a very evil one, of that I was sure. I was also sure he was alive somewhere. I just had no clue where he was. I had been told once that his name was Vlad, but had laughed that off at the time.

The only reason I knew that my mother was a faery was because I’d gone and visited a psychic once about fifty years ago when I was living in New York City. The minute I’d walked through the door, a wide-eyed woman had come bursting through the thick, red velvet curtains that blocked the doorway to her shop and had ignored all the customers in the waiting area. I hadn’t even called or even spoken to her receptionist yet when I’d come face to face with the strange woman.

She plopped me down in a chair opposite to her desk and didn’t even bother going back behind it to sit down in it. She had sat in the gold velvet wooden-legged chair beside me and stared intently at me, grasping my hand in hers while she stared at me.

“Another faery,” she had breathed at me, green eyes unblinking as she studied my face.

“Faery?” I stared at her in horror. She had freaked me out so I got up to leave but she pushed me back down in the chair with a smile. “No, stay. You’re here for answers. I can give them to you.”

That got my attention. I sat back down and stared at the strange witch.

“You are faery but I can sense you are something else, too.”

“Vampire, probably,” I said dryly. “I drink blood, and I like it.”

Her eyes got wide. “That’s why I can’t get a full read on you. Vampires are dead. Faeries are full of life. What a curse you’ve been given to be half. Where is your faery mother now?” she asked excitedly.

I smiled slightly at her. “How do you know my mother wasn’t the vampire?”

Her face darkened at my question. “Female vampires cannot bear children, only males, and only very old ones, if the legends are correct. Female faeries are very fertile, so your mother was most likely the faery, while your father was most likely the vampire. He probably tricked her into bed, too.”

I made a face at her bluntness. “That’s disgusting.”

“It’s true,” she said, still staring into my eyes. “You also bear the glowing green eyes of the fae. You are definitely part faery.”

“Can you help me find my real mother?”

“How old are you, Lotus?”

“How did you know my name?” I blinked at her disbelief.

She smiled. “I’m Maggie-Mae and I really am psychic. Truth be told, it’s simply my faery gift, but those people don’t need to know that.” She jabbed a thumb behind her toward the waiting area.

“Faery gift?” I asked, now completely enraptured by this woman.

She got up but her eyes never left mine, except for a few brief seconds as she pulled a large, brown, leather-bound book from the gigantic bookshelf behind her. She set it down and flipped through the pages while still looking at me. It was starting to freak me out again, but I was too enthralled to leave.

Maggie-Mae’s green eyes briefly flicked down to the book, then back to me. She flipped the book around and slid it across her desk to me. She tapped a purple fingernail at a diagram on the middle of the page:

There were four strange and almost frightening hand-drawn pictures. They were titled “Gifts”, and the first depicted a person – as I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman – with their hand to their ragged head, and next to it was printed “Mind and thought gifts.”

Mind-reader, like this lady, I thought.

The next one depicted a full-length drawing of a woman in a white dress, and next to it was the woman again, but just silhouette of her, and by it was written, “Invisibility gifts.”

What! People can make themselves invisible?

The third picture was of a woman – a faery – who had her hands on the belly of a man lying on what looked like a slab of stone. He appeared to be in pain. The drawing next to it was the man lying peacefully. Written by it was “Healing gifts.”

Wow, that is so cool! I thought.

The fourth and final drawing was what looked like a woman with wings protruding from her back. Beside it showed the same woman flying through the clouds. Written by it was: “Gifts of flight.”

My head went dizzy and I had to grip the armrests of the chair I was sitting in. I never told Maggie-Mae this, but from the time I hit puberty, I had found out the very, very hard way that I could fly.

Although I looked absolutely nothing like the beautiful drawing I saw in front of me when I did fly. And I most certainly didn’t have wings.

“Interesting, right?” Maggie-Mae asked, breaking me out of my shock.

I nodded.

“Which one do you possess?” she asked excitedly.

I hesitated. I didn’t even know this woman, yet she seemed to know me. She did say she was psychic, too. So I responded, “I bet you already know.”

She smirked. “Not really. I know your name but I can’t get a read on your gifts.”

“I’m pretty sure it’s the flying one. But I sure don’t soar through the air like that.” I pointed at the book.

“Oh my,” she breathed. “I bet that was a hard one to master with nobody to show you how.”

I sighed. “You have no idea. Not to mention, it’s more like an acrobatic ability rather than flying. Jumping out of windows, leaping tall buildings in a single bound, that sort of thing.” I grinned at her.

She came around and sat next to me and grabbed my hand, locking eyes with me. She paused as she stared at me, and it began to make me uncomfortable so I looked away. Then she closed her eyes and I relaxed a little. After a minute or two, she opened her eyes again and they were glowing iridescent green. She looked a little alarmed. “I think I know who your father might be.”

I gasped and stared right back at her, and could tell that my eyes, too, were now glowing. “Who?”

“Does the name Vlad Montour mean anything to you?”

I laughed, totally broken by the spell she’d had me under. “Seriously? The monster from folklore and myth?”

She let go of my hand. “Sweetheart, he’s no myth. He’s real, he’s dangerous, and I’m almost positive he’s the one who fathered you.”

I went to speak – to argue – but she cut me off again.

“And if that is true, I wouldn’t look too hard for your mother. There’s no way she survived if she got involved with him in any way.”

I didn’t want to hear any more. I got up and ran out of her shop.

Chapter 2

I wearily slid the key into the lock of my apartment door and slogged inside. I threw my keys and purse onto the dining room table and went into my bedroom to strip off my clothes. The day had been long, and seeing and being around dead bodies always wore me out. You would think after being a cop for 40 years I’d not bat an eye at it, but I still did. After my visit with the psychic – the “seeing faery” – all those years ago, I had decided right then and there that I was gonna help people. If I had to live an extraordinarily long life, and if I possessed this so-called gift, I was going to use it to my advantage.

I’d learned early on that I could heal very quickly. As a child on the playground at school, if I was on the monkey bars and fell off, the cuts and scrapes would be healed and gone by the time I got home from school. My parents –whomever they happened to be at the time – never believed me when I’d tell them I had had an accident at school, or when some bully would punch or hit me. It was always the boys who picked on me, too. I’d developed a reputation as a freak at every school I’d gone to and I guess that scared them. I was and still am sort of clumsy, so when the kids would see my cuts and bruises be gone by the next day, and I couldn’t explain it, they began to distance themselves from me. I began wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts to school, no matter what the weather.

Shaking the memory from my brain, I concentrated on the here and now. I always wore a fully concealed body strap gun holster under my jacket – ironically named a “Lotus” – and removing it, I tossed it with the gun still tucked safely inside the holster onto my dresser. I stripped off my long-sleeved T-shirt and then reached down to remove the small .22 pistol from my ankle holster and set it on the dresser next to the other. No, it wasn’t police-issued, and no, I wasn’t supposed to have it, but ya know what? Some idiot takes my gun, I have a backup. So fuck the Denver PD and their stupid rules. They can fire me, but at least I’ll still be alive to collect the pink slip.

Not that I was that easy to kill, but still.

As I was about to start the water to the shower, I heard a screeching noise outside my bedroom window. Since I was apparently a “faery of the air” and could fly (if you want to call it that), I had a third-floor apartment in case I needed to make a hasty exit – so hearing a noise outside my window was very alarming. With lightning speed, I snatched a gun from my dresser and walked methodically to the light switch in my bedroom and flipped it off. Then, completely naked, I made my way to the window, stopping my breathing as I pressed my bare back against the wall that was flush to the window. It was cold but I paid it no mind.

The screeching sound came again. With my breath still trapped in my lungs, and with my pistol gripped tightly in my fist, I released the breath, and at supernatural speed, shoved the blinds to the side and pointed my gun at my own reflection in the window. Using my enhanced sight, I could see there was someone – something – flying past my window. A man, a very good-looking creature who was clearly not human – falling fast to the ground. He smirked at me and then waved as he passed, dropping like a stone.

I flung open the window, perched myself on the windowsill, then jumped down three stories, channeling my imaginary wings, and landed on my feet, just like a cat. I ran out into the night and saw the figure running through the woods that backed up to my apartment complex.

Why, oh why did I rent an apartment that backed up to woods?

Cursing under my breath, I went darting after my prey, trudging over leaves as fast as my feet would take me. My mind was twirling with a million thoughts on why this guy had been outside my window, or perhaps creeping around the ledges outside my window. I could barely make out his fleeing outline as he used vampire speed to dart through the trees.

An agonizing pain in the bottom of my foot reminded me that I was an idiot. Naked and obviously barefoot, a huge chunk of green glass was now embedded in the bottom of my right foot. Cursing, I reached down and plucked out the glass and chucked it away. My magic had subsided, along with my adrenaline, and now, judging by the small crowd gathered outside my apartment who were gawking at me, I realized what a stupid move that was. One woman even had her hand over her teen boy’s eyes, her mouth open in shock. Thankfully, I spotted a flattened cardboard box near a dumpster and opened it up, stepped into it so it was covering all the good parts, and tried to muster up the last of my dignity by walking very quickly with my head down into my building. I sprinted up the stairs, holding the box over me. After all, it wasn’t as if I could have jumped back up to my window. That would have garnered more looks and points than my nakedness had.

Exiting the door to my floor, I flung it open and looked both ways down the hallway. Determining the coast was clear, I softly padded down the carpeted hallway to my apartment. As I was about to open my door, grateful but cursing myself for not locking it, the door next to mine opened. I hastened my need to open my door when I heard a chuckle, followed by a soft, throaty, “Rough night?”

Pausing in pure mortification, I turned and saw my neighbor, Drew, bending down to pick up his paper from his front stoop. As he stood back up, he regarded me with amusement all over his ridiculously perfect face. He was in nothing but a pair of athletic shorts and his black hair looked a bit damp. I barely knew him, we had exchanged pleasantries at the mailbox in the lobby a few times, and he offered me a hello when we’d meet in the hallway like this.

“Something like that,” I mumbled shoving open my door and darting inside, slamming in closed, but not before I heard more throaty chuckles coming from his direction. Jerk. Stupid, cute jerk with the dimples and blue eyes. I’m never gonna be able to look at him straight in the eye again.

Damn, what had I been thinking? I hadn’t been, and that was the problem. I jumped first and asked questions later. The problem was, I had heard that screeching sound before a few of times in the past couple weeks, and this was the closest I’d ever gotten to actually confirming my biggest fear – there was another vampire watching me – and I had no idea why.

I hadn’t slept well last night, so today was sucking badly. Straight black coffee that resembled black tar heroin was keeping me company today. But my motivation to find the vampire serial killer kept me awake and alert too.

My stomach rumbled and I looked at the clock on my computer – 12:05 p.m. As I was about to get up and head for the fridge to get the salad I’d brought, I heard my boss calling.

“Smith, Waters, in my office, pronto!”

I sighed and flicked my eyes toward Stephan’s cubicle. His eyes met mine and I lifted a shoulder in a shrug, standing up and jerking my head toward our boss’s office.

“Close the door,” the captain barked, pointing at the door. Captain John Ehrens was a 50-something guy with a bad blonde comb-over and even tackier suits. Once we were both seated and waiting for instructions, he leaned forward in his chair and looked down at his yellow lined legal pad. “We got another corpse at West Fifth and Bryant, same M.O., another homeless one.” He ripped the yellow sheet from the pad and handed it to Stephan, looking only at him. “Both of you get on it.”

Chauvinistic pig.

I gave my boss the most courteous nod I could muster and walked out behind Waters and to the sedan. I let him drive since I didn’t feel like it anyway and let my brain wander to the killer.

In no time, we had arrived at yet another warehouse, this one more recently abandoned and a bit cleaner than the previous ones. It appeared to have been some kind of parts manufacturer at some point and the machines looked like they were in various arrays of being dismantled, as if the previous owners were breaking them apart and selling them for parts. The floors were still relatively clean but there were no signs of life, not even any rats or cockroaches.

The body had been reported by the previous tenants when they had come in to retrieve more of their belongings. The body, again, was in the corner but it was not propped up, it was lying flat. This time, a female. A very young-looking one at that. I did not detect any strong scents of decay, and as I got closer, I could see she had very recently been killed. I pulled on a pair of rubber gloves from my pocket and laid a hand on her face. It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t frozen or even stiff. With my enhanced hearing, I did not detect a heartbeat, and judging by her still-open terrified blue eyes, I could tell she was gone. She didn’t look older than nineteen and I had to swallow down a pinch of sadness at seeing someone so young not only homeless, but now dead. Such a horrible statistic.

“Damn, she’s young,” Stephan said, crouching beside me, saying what I was thinking.

I nodded. “I know. Very sad.”

“What’s that?” my partner asked, leaning his head in closer to the body and examining her neck.

Pulling him back, I leaned in for a look. Two very obvious puncture wounds – not even an attempt to hide or try to heal them at all. A vampire’s saliva could be used to heal wounds on humans if applied right away. I used my closeness to inhale deeply. I smelled that same musky, manly cologne I’d smelled on the other bodies, but this time, it was much, much stronger since the body was so fresh. This excited me on so many levels. I inhaled again to commit the scent to memory and then backed off.

“Looks like some kind of snake bite or something,” I mumbled to my partner.

I chanced a glance at him and he was looking at me like I suddenly had a dick growing out of my forehead.

“What?” I asked casually, biting back a smile at the look on his face.

His eyebrows were up near his hairline. “A snake bite? In the winter in Colorado, in the middle of the city?”

“Hey, you never know. I’m beginning to think these are ritual killings of some kind. Devil worshippers love to use snakes and stuff.”

His gaze slid slowly away from mine and then looked at the body, then around the warehouse, then back at me. “Well, where are the candles? The pentagrams etched into the body or around it? Where are the torture marks? These people are just dead. Drained of blood, the M.E. says, and I bet this one, too.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “You watch too many crime dramas. Pentagrams, really?”

He pointed at my neck. “You’re the one with a tattoo of one on your neck. Kinda contradicts those pretty flowers on your arms.”

I yanked the collar of my white blouse up higher over my neck subconsciously and sniffed. “It’s not a tat, it’s a birthmark, I told you before. Now drop it.”

He shook his head and bent over the body again, examining her neck.

I hated this damn birthmark on my neck. It was reddish and sort of star-shaped, admittedly resembling a pentagram – the “Star of David”, a five-pointed star with a circle around it, but it wasn’t perfect. The circle was a bit oval shaped and the star isn’t perfectly shaped, either, but that happens as a person grows, I guess.

If I had thought I was just a regular human, I would probably have shrugged it off. But finding out I was half vampire and faery, something told me that this “birthmark” was probably something more than that. I’d tried Googling it and even searching at the library in old books about this type of mark, but the closest I could find was where witches had branded some of their people with it, but it was much larger and more perfectly shaped – and these witches were cursed with it for being outcasts. A scarlet letter, if you will.

The cologne smell still lingered in my nose and I had an idea.

“Waters, I’m gonna take a look around this place. I’ll be back in a few.”

He waved me off. CSU had just arrived and he was busy with them.

Spying a set of metal steps in the corner of the warehouse, I walked over and started up them. They went up to the second floor, which was open. I could see the entire first floor from up here. I continued up the metal catwalk and saw a set of doors at the end. I tried one of the doors, but it was locked. Then suddenly, the smell of that cologne became strong. I looked down at the crime scene, at the fresh body – thought about how her puncture wounds were still visible – how she hadn’t been propped up like the others – how she hadn’t been posed there, left to rot.

Oh, my God. The killer was still in here!

My heartbeat sped up and then jumped into my throat. I looked down once more at the crime scene and then back at the door. I pulled my gun out of my body holster, took a deep breath, and raised my boot. Rearing back my leg, I kicked in the door as quickly and as hard as I could and it flew off one of its hinges. It lay half on-half off the doorframe and I raised my Glock in front of me and waved it cautiously around.

The scene in front of me made me gasp. Four makeshift beds on a bare stone floor in an empty room that was probably once an office. The one and only window was open and I flew over to it and looked down. That same blonde undead piece of shit who had been looking in my window was now looking up at me, smiling, then he ran off.

I looked up into the sky. It was heavily gray and threatening rain – or maybe snow, it was hard to tell this time of year – and I yelled in rage. Lucky bastard. If the sun had been out, he’d have been a vampire barbeque. I was about to hop up on the ledge and jump out when Stephan and two other CSU members came running in.

“What is it?” he asked me, but he was looking around the room, along with the others.

“Assholes must have escaped out of the window,” I said, pointing at it.

All three went over and looked down at the two-story drop, then back at me.

“What, they jumped?” one of the crime scene unit guys asked me.

I shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe?”

“I don’t see a rope or anything else,” Stephan said, almost in a challenge.

Saying nothing, I looked out the window.

“C’mon, Garcia, let’s get back to the scene. Hopefully they’ll catch this vampire killer,” one of the CSU guys said.

I whipped my head around and said to their retreating figures, their white CSU suits swishing as they walked. “What did you say, Erick?”

He turned around and said, “We’re calling him the vampire killer. Because of the puncture wounds. I thought I saw some on the other body, too, but I couldn’t be sure. But this body’s fresher. Those are puncture wounds.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Yeah, probably made by needles by crazy cultists stealing blood.”

He grinned at me, almost in a knowing way, and then turned around and walked out, followed by his colleague and mine.

Aw, fuck.

Chapter 3

“Another one?” I asked the coroner as I stood next to her at the cold, metal table where the young girl now lay. She was stripped naked, scrubbed clean, and her head was completely shaved.

The coroner nodded behind her white medical mask. She used a gloved hand to point at the neck. “Totally drained of blood. She had less than three pints left in her body.”

I shook my head. A human body holds about ten pints, this girl being homeless may have had less to begin with, as sometimes they would donate blood for money, but less than three pints was definitely lethal.

“It’s unfortunate for us both that her body was found so soon, since those are puncture wounds made by fangs, and not needle marks. Of course my report will say they were made by a needle, but those MEs and cops aren’t stupid,” she said.

Maureen Lindt – I called her “Mo” – was a two-hundred-year-old vampire. She worked the night shift here at the coroner’s office, and I could never understand why she wanted to do this job, but I suppose she probably never understood why I wanted to do mine.

“Yeah, they have already dubbed him the ‘Vampire Killer’,” I said.

“Great,” she said dryly. “You need to find this bastard, Lotus. He’s gonna expose us. Not only that, he’s murdering innocent humans. Not cool,” she finished.

I laughed at her slang. Mo was turned probably around 35 years old but was still beautiful and tried to keep up with the times, like I did.

“I know, we’re trying. I may have a lead, but I’m not one hundred percent sure so I’ll let you know if I find anything.”

She nodded, pulling out her bone saw from a metal drawer, removing the blade protector and setting it on her portable metal tray.

I gestured toward the saw. “That’s my cue to leave.”

She laughed. “Why do you think I pulled it out?”

I snorted. “I see how you are.”

“Go find this murderous bastard. Bye, faery girl.”

I frowned. I hated being called that. But Mo loved to give me shit about it. And I let her. I think she was jealous I could go out in the sun. Couldn’t blame her, really. Not being able to would totally blow.

I headed toward the exit.

“Lotus,” she called out as I was about to slide open the heavy morgue exit door.

“Yeah?” I asked, turning around to stare at her in her garish green scrubs.

“There are about six bags in my fridge. Help yourself to a couple.”

I nodded and smiled, walking to the stainless steel medical fridge and pulling it open. I removed three thick plastic bags of what appeared to be O-positive blood and quickly loaded them into my purse.

“Thanks, Mo. I appreciate it.”

Without looking back at me, she pushed a button on the bone saw and it whirred to life. Lowering it slowly toward the top of the homeless girl’s now-bald head, she called out, “Anytime. But I want the bags back.”

I quickly exited the morgue and made my way to my car in the parking lot. Looking at my watch, I could see it at just gone past 7 p.m. and I realized I was starving. I was so glad I’d left before she’d cut open that poor girl’s head, or I’d have no appetite left.

I got in my car and closed the door, starting it up to get some heat in there. I made sure all my lights were off and then pulled out one of the blood bags and looked around. Closing my eyes, I concentrated hard and felt my fangs slowly rip from my gums where my eyeteeth were. Tearing open the bag carefully with one fang, I made sure the hole was small and wouldn’t make a horrific mess in my car. Looking around again, I closed my lips around the hole and began to suck hard. I squeezed it from the bottom as it emptied and soon finished the entire bag. A subtle green glow illuminated the interior of the car and I already knew my eyes were glowing in satisfaction.

Breathing out in relief, I opened the glove compartment of my little Mazda RX8 and pulled out a plastic grocery bag. I went to toss in the empty medical blood bag in and saw about a dozen empty ones in there. “Oops,” I said, letting out a small hiccup. Better return those to Mo soon.

I hated drinking blood. I mean, I really hated it. Okay I kinda loved it, too, only because I had to; it was a part of me. Thankfully I didn’t really need it ‘til I became a full-grown adult, but that was when it had really sucked for me. After the foster care system kicked me out, I wandered around doing odd jobs for a while, living in New York where I was raised, until that day I’d visited the psychic. My fangs had shown up in my mid-teens but I had never shown them to anyone or told a soul. When the blood hunger hit me, it wasn’t anything I knew how to control. I would eat human food until I was stuffed and miserable, but I would still feel hungry. Not in my belly, but other places in my body, almost if the hunger was coming from deep down in my soul.

One day, looking at my fangs in the mirror, I realized that maybe I needed blood. It grossed me out at first, but after my first feeding on a young man in a nightclub, I knew that I needed it. The rush of blood into my mouth satisfied everything I felt had been missing for a few years. I looked and felt better and thought clearer after a feeding. It took me years to realize how much blood I needed and how often, but I had it down to a science now. Just one blood bag a week – sometimes I could go two weeks – did the trick for me, but I still needed human food, too. Blood bags were the only way I got blood now. I didn’t like feeding on humans, and it wasn’t necessary.

After stopping for a couple of tacos at a drive-thru, I quickly made my way home. Swiftly scanning the area outside my apartment complex with my handy night vision, I didn’t see anything or anyone moving around, so I got out and briskly walked to my building’s front door. We had a doorman and he tipped his hat at me as I approached. “Ms. Smith, how are you tonight?”

I smiled at him. “Great, Adam, thanks for asking.”

He opened the door for me. I used the stairwell to reach my third floor apartment, scanning the hallway suspiciously before walking to my front door, opening it with the key I had ready in my hand, and closing it and locking it behind me.

I set my food on the counter, and put the two remaining blood bags in the fridge. After scarfing down both tacos, I stripped my clothes and weapons off. Then after a quick check of my window, I slogged into bed, too tired for a shower.

“Come to me, my darling daughter,” he whispers in my ear.

I whirl around but there’s nobody there. I turn my head back to the front and continue to walk through the fog, and I wonder why I’m wandering around this forest at night alone. I go to reach for my gun, but it’s not there. There’s nothing there but a long, white, ethereal flowing dress. My feet are bare but I have no fear of stepping on glass or anything else man-made. I never, ever wear dresses but for some reason, I don’t question why I’m wearing one now.

I continue to walk aimlessly, nothing in my vision but trees and fog. I don’t know where I’m walking to, but that doesn’t seem to concern me. I’m heading toward a voice that is beckoning me. Enticing me.

“Come to me,” the voice repeats, except this time, it’s far-off in the distance and I long to go toward it.

The birthmark on my neck tingles, and I reach up and place two fingertips on it. I rub it gently but it just tingles even more. The closer I get to the voice, the more it prickles.

“Where are you?” I call to the voice.

“Come closer,” the male voice says. “My beautiful daughter, I’ve been waiting for you.”

I nod as if the invisible voice can see me, but I get the feeling he can. The voice I’m heading toward both frightens and excites me.

I never met my parents. Know nothing of them. The thought of meeting just one of them, even a vampire, sends a thrill of excitement up my spine. But a small part of me, the part that holds logic, reason, and police intuition is a frightened, too. Terrified, in fact. Something deep down in my gut, and in that logical part in my brain is telling me to turn and run as fast as I can in the other direction. But my heart is urging me on.

“Just a little bit closer,” the voice says. “My Lotus, my youngest. My beautiful faery.”

So he knows what I am, I think. Somehow, that drives me further. Maybe he knows who my mother is. Maybe he can help me find her…

My body floats magically through the forest. There is no pain or feeling at all as my feet pass over the felled leaves of the woods. The fog is dense but only swirling around my feet and legs.

Off in the distance I see a figure standing perfectly still. The fog is stagnant around him and he’s standing with his feet shoulder-width apart, his hands down by his side. He’s wearing dark clothing, and as I get closer, I can see he’s got a cape around his throat, flowing down his back.

As I move closer still, his left hand moves up to beckon me closer with two fingers.

I’m so close now I can make out his face. It’s serious and somber until I get close enough to touch. At that moment, he smiles, fangs poking out and touching his bottom lip. The smile isn’t friendly, nor is it warm or welcoming. It’s sinister and terrifying, and that’s when I notice the body lying prone and still next to his feet. It is a blonde, female faery wearing the same dress I am. She’s beautiful but looks as if she’s asleep – or perhaps, dead. She doesn’t have wings, but something deep down in my soul knows she’s a faery, one of my kind. I look up into his eyes, which are black without any whites at all, and he laughs. Blood I hadn’t noticed before is dribbling from his fangs.

I scream so loud, it could wake the dead.

Bolting upright in my bed, I gasped, wondering if I’d screamed in real time.

My heartbeat thudded in double time and I clutched my chest to make sure my heart wasn’t going to explode right out of it.

What in the hell kind of dream was that? I thought, as I slowly lay back down. A quick glance at the clock told me it was 3:05 a.m. and not even close to the time I usually get up to start my day.

Then I remembered it was a Friday – well technically Saturday now, and slammed my head back down onto my pillow. I tried to force myself back to sleep but that odd dream kept floating through my brain.

I rarely remembered my dreams, and that is no exaggeration. I couldn’t tell you any of them I’d had, except maybe a handful over my long life. But this one was clear as day. A vampire had been calling to me, wanting me to come to him. Had it been my father? My actual biological father, calling me his daughter over and over?

My fingers went involuntarily to the birthmark on my neck. I remember the almost painful tingle of it, as the vampire had been calling to me. The dream had disturbed me on a level I had never known in my life. My eyes stared up at the white ceiling of my apartment, wondering if I could decipher the dream. As I went over and over it in my head, not wanting to forget it, I wondered if the dead faery had been my mother.

So many mysteries, so many questions, and so few answers. I sighed in resignation and closed my eyes, hoping another dream would overtake me and that it would be happy so I could live in peace for a few short hours.

Realizing that sleep wasn’t in the cards for me, I decided to get up and do a perimeter check of my apartment. I tossed on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and shoved my pistol into my waistband at the small of my back. Unlocking and opening the window, I looked both ways and then down toward the ground. The night was quiet and cool, and the stars were glittering above me with no clouds in sight. The moon was full and gave me light I really didn’t need as I slowly perched on the windowsill and then turned myself around, placing a foot on the brick ledge that surrounded the top bank of windows of the third floor. I crept slowly along the ledge, listening for sounds. If my vampire peeping tom was around, I was hoping to catch him off guard and maybe take him out. I had no intentions whatsoever in bringing him into police custody. He’d be a pile of ash before he could even scream.

I found my way to the next window and was surprised to see the light on. Moving as quietly as I could, I slunk past the window, but of course could not resist looking in since the blinds were open. I gasped involuntarily as I saw a very naked Drew doing pull-ups from a bar set between a doorway in his kitchen. His back was to me and I stood frozen in lustful fascination as he continued to do chin-up after chin-up on the bar, every muscle in his back and arms flexing and glowing with a slight sheen of sweat. His ass was composed of perfect muscles that led to long tanned legs. I watched as Drew let go of the bar and dropped to the ground. He began to turn around and I scrambled to move out of the window so he wouldn’t see me.

Losing my balance, I began to fall backwards off the ledge and thankfully semi-recovered, twirling around in mid-air to land on my feet in the grass below, then falling into a roll. I took a deep breath, brushed the grass off my jeans, shook my head at my idiocy, and took a look around. I then peered up, intent on jumping back up to my window and climbing back through when I saw Drew’s head pop out of his window. He now had a shirt on.

“Lotus?” he asked, looking down in confusion at me.

I was sure he hadn’t seen me fall so I said, “Oh, hi.”

“What are you doing down there?”

“Uh, just couldn’t sleep, went for a walk.”

He looked both ways, scanning the area and the woods, then back at me. “You shouldn’t be out here alone at night, box girl.”

I bit my lip to keep from smiling and shook my head, walking back toward the front door of the building to get back into my apartment the old-fashioned way. Realizing there was no doorman at 3 a.m., and obviously not having a key, I looked up to see Drew still peering down at me.

“Buzz me in?” I asked sheepishly.

He nodded and chuckled, disappearing from view.

As I went up the stairs and to the third floor, I was a little surprised to not see him standing outside his door. Guess he thought I was stupider than I did.

Chapter 4

I sort of had a love-hate relationship with the weekends. I was glad I had a nine-to-five job (well, that’s what I told myself, even though I didn’t get home ‘til after 7 most nights), but the weekends were sometimes hard. I didn’t have anyone spend my spare time with, which was why I spent so much time at work. So I do what any bored, single female does. I run.

I pulled on my shiny black running pants, teal sports bra, and brand new pink running shoes I’d just bought. I strapped the iPod holder around my bicep, set the iPod to shuffle, and shoved it in the holder. I grabbed the house key I kept on a little elastic ring and slid it around my wrist. I had no place for my phone, so I left it inside.

Closing and locking my door, I headed toward the stairwell, and once I reached the bottom, I almost got knocked over by Drew.

“Well, hello, box girl,” he said, leering down at me. He was again shirtless, not looking too dissimilar to me with an MP3 player strapped around a very impressive tanned bicep, wearing shorts and tennis shoes. He was sweaty.

“Uh, hi,” I mumbled, continuing into the lobby so I could get to the park and go jog.

“Wish I would have known you ran,” he said to my back. “I’d love a running partner. But keep in mind, I don’t do it in the middle of the night, just F.Y.I.”

I turned around, chancing a glance at my hot neighbor. I smiled at him, as he smirked back, and not sure what else to do or say, so I turned back around and sprinted out the front door.

I was way too damn old to be this awkward around men. My problem was I was so inexperienced with them on a romantic level. I could deal with other cops, my boss, suspects, criminals, and every other kind of man. But ones who flirted made me freeze up. What was wrong with me?

I finally reached the city park and began at a slow jog, turning up the volume on my iPod and trying to forget everyone and everything, including my creepy dream.

As my adrenaline began to pump, I began to run faster, my blonde ponytail swishing behind me and gently bouncing against my shoulders. My feet pounded the pavement of the trail and I breathed evenly in through my nose and mouth. Truth be told, I wouldn’t really break into a sweat due to my strange and jacked-up DNA, and I wasn’t quite sure the exercise did much for my physique or health, as I’d gone years without exercise and my body never changed, but it still felt good. The sun was out and the trail of the park smelled earthly and fresh. There was a slight breeze blowing and I smiled into the sun.

I just wished I knew more about my history, my parents. I felt like I just knew nothing about myself at all. If I was half vampire, how come the sun didn’t bother me at all? I’d seen real vampires catch fire from one finger being exposed to the sun. If the psychic all those years ago had been right, I was half faery and maybe whatever magic that half of me possessed helped me feel half normal. If being immortal was the definition of normal, that is.

Still pounding along, I ran down the twisting trail of the park I’d already committed to memory. I’d lived in Denver for about five years, moving here after having to leave Texas, where I’d been for about 15 years. Not aging raises questions of those around you, so I just got new papers every few years, and moved to a different city. It was a pretty lonely existence but I didn’t see how I had any other choice. I was enjoying the dry and sunny climate of Denver, and the snow reminded me of home – New York – where hopefully I could move back to in a few decades once everyone who ever knew me would be long dead.

I was lost in my musings when a very familiar scent knocked me out of my thoughts. A young man was passing me on the trail wearing headphones, and his cologne was leaking out of his pores due to his exercising. The cologne was the exact one my vampire suspect wore and I stopped dead in my tracks and watched as he continued to jog in the opposite direction. I was pissed off at myself for not even noticing him coming toward me since I had been daydreaming, but now I knew I had to catch up to him.

Turning around, I ran in his direction. I easily reached him, not afraid of him at all since I knew he was clearly human and very obviously not a vampire since the sun was high in the sky with not a cloud in sight. I tapped him on the shoulder and he startled, slowing his run and spinning around to look at me.

He yanked the earbuds from his ears, breathing heavily, and with an annoyed look, said, “What?”

“I’m sorry to bother you,” I began, watching myself look stupid and awkward in the reflection of is aviator sunglasses, “but can you tell me what cologne you’re wearing?”

He looked puzzled, then smiled a bit, probably thinking I was trying to hit on him or pick him up. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and waited for his reply.

“It’s Killjoy, why?”

I cocked my head to the side and had to remind myself to sound as out of breath as he was, even though I wasn’t. “Killjoy? Where do you buy that, at a department store or what?”

He shook his head, reaching into a small case he wore strapped to his waist and pulled out a water bottle. He took his time unscrewing the cap and it wasn’t until after he’d taken a large swig did he answer me. “No, you can only get it in Vegas at the Killjoy shop there on the strip.”

“Are you fucking with me?” I asked, totally out of patience.

He chuckled. “No, seriously. I don’t know why they don’t sell it on the Internet or whatever, but it’s the only place, I swear. You can Google it.”

I nodded. “Thanks, I will.”

I turned around and jogged in the opposite direction. I could feel the guy’s eyes on me. I couldn’t wait to get home and get online now.

I sprinted up my steps and made a beeline for my front door and quickly let myself inside. I didn’t even bother to shower first. I went straight for my laptop and opened the lid excitedly. Waiting for the stupid thing to boot up, I grabbed a towel from the kitchen drawer and wet it under the faucet. Rubbing it on my neck and face to cool off, I went back to my laptop and pulled up the search bar, typing “Killjoy Vegas” into the search.

Sure enough, a fancy website with pictures of the store and cologne and perfume bottles came up.

Killjoy scents for ladies and men are only sold exclusively in our Las Vegas, Nevada, store. The caption was clear and I tried to see if I could buy a bottle on the website, but it wasn’t happening.

I then did a few more searches on places like Amazon and some larger online discount perfume and cologne retailers and didn’t find any. I found one half used bottle on eBay going for a very high price. Satisfied the flirty jogger was telling the truth, I smiled in satisfaction. For whatever reason, my vampire serial killer was either from Vegas or had visited there recently. It wasn’t a great lead, but it was something. I sort of knew what this guy looked like so it appeared I was going to be taking a trip to Sin City soon.

Closing the laptop, I went to my bathroom, stripped off my clothes, and started the shower. I glanced at the clock on my nightstand and saw it was 11:30 a.m. With no other plans for the day, I did what any single girl with no plans would do. I decided I was going to go into work and use their fancy computers to do more searches.

Once I was clean and hair was back in a ponytail again, I threw on some skinny jeans, knee-high riding boots, and a blue hoodie with the Broncos logo on it. Ya know, just trying to fit in and everything. After putting on a little makeup, I grabbed my purse and darted out the front door.

In no real hurry, I pushed the elevator call button, totally distracted about my new lead. The doors slid open and I stepped inside, grateful it was empty.

This is why you’re such a loner, Lotus. You’re antisocial. Stop hating people! my inner voice scolded.

The doors were about to close when a strong-looking hand punched through and slid them back open. Greeted with Drew’s handsome face, it immediately lit up in a smile, both dimples puncturing his cheeks.

“Hi, Lotus.”

I nodded. “Drew.”

“Going down?” he asked, his hand hovering over the button.

“Since I already punched the lobby button, I think you can tell that I am, in fact, going down.”

He chuckled a little. “Ok, box girl.”

“Can you not call me that?”

A grin twisted his mouth. “If you insist.”

I dared to look up at him and he was staring at me with intense blue eyes the color of the clear Caribbean waters. I wanted to reach up and run my fingers over the slight stubble on his chin, but of course I didn’t. Thank God he was fully dressed now so I could more easily resist the urge to look him up and down.

“You have beautiful eyes, I’ve never see that shade of green before,” he said to me.

Any normal girl would swoon at that line, but not me. I did, in fact, have an odd shade of green for eyes, something between lime and Astroturf. If he thought they were strange now, he should see me when I’m, A… feeding or drinking blood, B… fighting or chasing a suspect, or C… uh, feeling frisky. They glowed green like the end of a car charger in a dark car. Not as visible during the day but in dark places, like elevators, they would scare a person.

I slid my gaze away from him, not wanting him to look any longer for fear of me beginning to feel frisky. The elevator car stopped and the doors slid open he gestured for me to go first. I purposely walked faster than him so I wouldn’t have to walk side by side and be caught in more awkwardness, so I turned my head around and smiled at him. “Thank you, blue eyes.”

Oh, my God, did I just flirt? I swallowed hard and walked faster when I heard Drew chuckle again behind me.

Chapter 5

On my way to the office, I stopped at Starbucks to get a coffee. I loved modern-day coffee shops. They were convenient, had perfect tasting coffee, and were always full of nice and interesting people. I liked this store in particular, as a few of the ‘baristas’ knew me by name. I did sort of have an unforgettable name.

I always wondered what my birth name had been. I’d been left on the doorstep of a nearby fire station as a baby and apparently the first set of foster parents, for whatever reason, didn’t want to keep and raise me. Maybe they were just in it for the money. Maybe I had done weird freaky supernatural things as a baby and scared them. Who knows? Nobody will ever know. Being rejected by both my birth parents and the first set of foster parents was a hard pill to swallow, but not something I should dwell on. I was glad they had given me such a unique name, even if its feminine meaning didn’t really match my personality.

I left with my coffee and made my way to my office. The precinct was, of course, open and a bevy of activity but none of my coworkers paid me any mind. They were used to seeing me here on weekends. They knew I had no life.

I went to my cubicle and set my coffee on my desk and my purse next to my chair. I quickly logged into my computer and pulled up the special programs we used to find the baddest of criminals. The first search I did was about the owner of Killjoy.

The owner was singular, a businessman from the Middle East who apparently still lived there and rarely stepped foot in the United States. I quickly found the manager of the store and he checked out clean, too. Not a vampire as far as I could see.

I’d searched this database before for suspects and sometimes I could tell someone was a vampire just by the information. Short and sparse work history but hugely fat bank accounts. That meant either drug dealer, trust fund baby, or vampire. A few fake social security numbers or ones of dead people. This manager seemed to be a legit, tax-paying human.

My computer system, Lexus-Nexus, allowed me to pull up a customer list of Killjoy, and that bitch was a long one. It would take me hours to go through this to see if there were any Denver connections. I realized that would be a waste of my time, as our vampire killer seemed to be squatting in abandoned warehouses and probably left no paper trial. He didn’t seem as if he had a home here, which piqued my interest even more. What was he doing in Colorado, wearing expensive cologne but living like a homeless person?

I was about 90 percent sure the creep who’d been sleazing around outside my window watching me was our “Vampire Killer” but the proof was going to be hard to obtain. I really needed to get to Vegas to investigate this. But how was I going to justify this to my boss?

The pen in my hand began to tap my chin as I scrambled for a way to try to get the Denver P.D. to pay my way to Sin City to investigate. I knew I had a good lead but how was I going to tell my boss this? “Hey, John, I’m pretty sure our killer is from Vegas, buy me a plane ticket, will ya?” Right. That would go over like a lead balloon.

It was clear I was gonna have to go on my own and just foot the bill myself. Money wasn’t the issue, it was the police authority I needed in case I had to make an arrest. Then I thought about all the governmental red tape I always had to deal with when it came to suspects – Miranda Rights, going by the book, and everything else, and smiled. Maybe if I was just “vacationing” in Vegas I could bend the rules a little. Bending the rules was fun, and I figured I was due for a little fun in my mundane life.

Waters gave me a sideways glance as we were in the car, on our way to a robbery call. “You’re going to Vegas. Alone?”

I snorted. “What, a single girl can’t have a little vacation alone?”

The light turned red and he stopped. We couldn’t use our police lights and sirens in our plain sedan, not to mention the call was non-emergency.

“You a lesbian or something? Seriously, just tell me. I’ll still like you. I’m all for equal rights. I just want to know.”

I stared at him at horror. Not for thinking I was a lesbian, but for his boldness in asking me. “No, Waters, I’m not. I just prefer to stay single.”

The light turned green and he hit the gas. I took a swig from my coffee as I waited for him to respond to that.

“Well, I suppose that’s your right. You should try to find yourself a man, though.”

I set my cup in the cup holder and folded my arms over my chest. “Why? Do you think I need a man?”

He hesitated for a minute. “Yeah, you do. You’re kinda uptight. Anyone ever tell you that before?”

“I am not uptight!” I protested, now thoroughly offended by this jackhole of a partner of mine.

He laughed nervously. “Yeah, you kinda are.”

“Well, maybe Vegas will help with that. I’ll see a few shows, do some gambling. Maybe I’ll hit it big and get to quit this stupid job with its crappy pay and shitty pension.”

I laughed on the inside. I so wasn’t in this job for the pay. It really was crappy pay and an even crappier pension. I was already collecting another pension from my previous cop job in Texas. They let me collect after 15 years on the Austin, TX, P.D. I loved being in law enforcement and I probably always would be.

I looked at his white dress shirt and blue tie and the way his hair was thinning at his temples. I really did hope Stephan Waters lived a long, happy, human life. I really did. But I wouldn’t let myself get too close to him, because in another 30 or 40 years he’d be dead from some hideous human disease and I’d still be just me, frozen in time.

Just like I wouldn’t let myself get too close to my superhot neighbor, Drew. Damn, that guy was like a Greek god, all chiseled and tall, dark, and dreamy. I wish I could just use and abuse him for my own personal pleasure like some women did, but that just wasn’t me and never would be. Which was why I would always be alone.

I longed to share my life with someone but humans were off-limits and a waste of time. There wasn’t anything I could garner from a hot human male but a few years of fun and pleasure and then it would end. He’d figure out I was a freak, and I’d have to move to another state, and that would be the end of that.

I sighed at my predicament, yet again, and got another sideways glance from my partner.

“You can change the station if you don’t like my music,” he said, jutting his chin at the radio station.

As if his taste in music was the source of all my angst. I’d love for that to be my biggest problem in life.

The robbery call turned out to be nothing. Some jealous divorce he said-she said crap that was a total waste of the police’s time, and belonged in front of a judge. I was anxious to get back to my desk and use the department’s computer to search for flights and hotels for my Vegas trip.

My boss waved nonchalantly when I told him I was taking a four-day trip.

“I don’t give a shit, Smith, go have fun. You need the time off, you’ve been uptight lately.”

Geez, what kind of bitchy vibes have I been giving off? I asked myself. Second person in two days to say something similar.

“Well, um thanks?” I said back, walking out of his smelly office.

I went home and packed a small suitcase, and then at 9 a.m. the next day, I parked my Mazda in the long-term parking at Denver International and took the flight I’d booked online a few days prior to Las Vegas. The flight was short, and I was grateful. I hated flying, as ironic as that sounded.

I hadn’t bothered to check my bag, and wheeled it with my purse slung over my shoulder out into the airport. I was surprised to see and hear slot machines in the airport. Wow, these gamblers just couldn’t wait to get to it, could they? I thought.

Hopping in the first cab I saw, I instructed the driver to take me to the Luxor Hotel where I’d booked a reservation the same day I’d booked my flight. I watched in awe as palm trees and glittering billboards passed me in a blur. Some of them were quite risqué and definitely not suitable for anyone under 18. The Strip was bumper-to-bumper traffic, but I didn’t mind. I was too busy people-watching everyone in their shorts and warm weather clothes walking along, holding drinks and shopping bags. The climate was still warm here and I kicked myself for not packing different clothes.

The taxi driver deposited me and my lone bag at the front of the hotel and I paid him and tipped him generously. After checking in, I found my room and took a few minutes to freshen up and change clothes.

Using my cell phone to find out where exactly this Killjoy store was located, I was ecstatic when a map showed it was right across the street in some indoor mall set inside a large, popular hotel. I took the elevator down and went out front, gasping as the warm desert winds hit me in the face like a hot hair dryer.

Looking both ways and then jay-walking across the street (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – right?) I made my way quickly to entrance of the huge hotel. It boasted fancy fountains shooting out in front and grand white pillars lining its entrance. The gold doors split automatically to let me in, and I soon found myself standing on highly polished white marble floors, glittering brightly under the ornate crystal chandeliers above my head. There were pitchers of water decorating a few tables, the water bouncing with cucumber and lemon slices floating in them. I dragged my eyes away from the glam and found the directory, scanned it quickly, happy to find what I was looking for.

I truly didn’t know what I was going to say when I arrived at the store, but I had a slight idea that whatever went down was going to involve some magic.

Chapter 6

The smells that assaulted my nose were unbearable. I usually avoided shops like this (and candle stores, too, holy hell no!) but seeing as I didn’t have a choice right now, I plastered on a smile and breathed through my mouth. Although I was quite sure I could feel the perfumes seeping in through the pores of my skin.

A very good looking man who wore what were probably designer clothes and about a gallon of hair gel approached me almost immediately. “Hello, miss. I am Amir. What can I help you find today?”

I smiled politely. “Is the manager available? I have a complaint.”

Watching as his smile fell, he quickly recovered and ushered me to the front of the store. “Of course.”

He took his place behind the cash register. “I am the manager. What problem are you having?”

I took a deep breath and looked around the store. Its pristine white floors were shiny and bare. The white walls were lined with fragrances but the store was otherwise empty of people.

I turned around and licked my lips. Then I locked eyes with Amir, hoping this trick still worked.

“Amir, I need you to show me a database of all your recent customers.”

His brown eyes looked confused for a minute, until I could see a change in his face. I let out a breath. A little. He was now under my spell.

Nodding, he moved to the computer behind the desk and his long olive-toned fingers began to move lithely over the keyboard. After about 30 seconds, he turned the monitor toward me and showed me a list of names.

“You looking for someone specifically?” he asked in a semi-robotic tone.

I nodded. “Can you narrow it down by single men?”

He shook his head. “No, we don’t ask that.”

“Amir, look at me,” I said. “I need you to answer me honestly.”

He nodded.

Pointing at the screen, I said, “Which one of these customers scared you? Freaked you out a bit? Maybe made you nervous?”

His eyes got big. “I had one about a month ago. Very frightening. I thought he was a devil. Came in late at night, around midnight, right as I was closing.”

“That’s great. Do you know which one of these was him?”

Amir shook his head. “No. He wouldn’t fill out the customer list.”

Disappointment flooded me. I felt like I was so close. “Do you have security cameras in here?”

He nodded. “Yes.” Then his fingers went to work on the keyboard again. I turned around when I heard someone enter the store, a couple of teen girls.

“The store is closed for a bit, ladies,” I said to them.

They scowled at me and turned around and left. Then I walked to the door and engaged the deadbolt and flipped the CLOSED sign around.

“Did you find anything?” I asked Amir, walking back to him.

“He came in the day before my birthday, I do remember that. I am looking now, miss.”

“Amir, look at me.”

He swung his gaze away from the screen to me and nodded. “You’re doing a great job,” I said. “Keep looking and I will leave soon.”

He nodded again and went back to the computer.

I never had been sure how this weird hypnotism trick of mine lasted, but I always felt compelled to re-engage each victim to be sure they were still under my spell. I was sure they were, but it’s not like I’d ever had anyone to teach me how to use these freaky powers of mine.

He tapped the screen and turned it back around to face me. “That’s him.”

I could hear Amir’s heartbeat speed up as he showed me. He swallowed thickly and pointed at the screen. This guy had been truly afraid.

I moved my eyes to the screen and saw it frozen on a tall blonde man. He closely resembled the guy I’d chased out of my window the other night – and the window at the warehouse – and I had to bite back a gasp.

“Can you print that, please?” I asked.

Amir hit a few buttons and a printer hiding under the counter flared to life. It quickly spat out a colorful but grainy photo of the only lead I now had on my vampire killer.

I quickly folded it and put it in my purse and looked at my victim. “I’m leaving now, and I was never here. You had a quiet night here alone.”

He blinked his understand at me and as I left the store, I turned around and said, “Delete the security footage from the past hour from that thing.” I pointed at his computer. He nodded and went to work on it. I flipped the sign back to OPEN after sliding open the deadbolt and leaving the store.

I practically ran back to my hotel, dialing Stephan’s number while I was walked.

“Waters,” he answered.

“Hey, you at the office?” I asked.

“Yeah, why?” he replied, as I could now hear computer keys clacking.

“Good, I need you to run a guy,” I said, as I reached the front doors to the Luxor.

He sighed. “Aren’t you on vacation?”

I cleared my throat. “Yeah, but I, uh, saw someone suspicious and need you to run his pic through the facial recognition thingie we have there.”

“Thingie? Really?” He sighed again. “Fax it over and I’ll call you when I have something.”

“Thanks, you’re the best!” I said with more enthusiasm than I felt. I rolled my eyes and ended the call, pocketing the phone and heading to the front desk.

“May I help you?” the young man behind the counter asked.

“Do you have a business center with a fax machine?”

He nodded and pointed. “Right over there.”

I smacked the counter twice with the palm of my hand. “Thanks.”

Pulling a blank sheet of paper from a nearby printer, I fished a pen from my purse and wrote a quick cover sheet so Waters would get it, then unfolded the picture of my vampire and faxed the pages over to our precinct.

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself while I waited, so I went walking around the Strip by myself. The time passed quickly because there was so much to look at. I even did some gambling, but the cigarette smoke was too much for my sensitive nose so I never stayed long, and I sure as hell didn’t win anything. Luck definitely wasn’t my middle name. I think that was proven to me from pretty much the day I’d been born.

Around 5 p.m., my cell rang and my heart sped up when I saw Waters’ name on the caller ID.

“Whatcha got for me?” I asked, putting down the hamburger I’d been eating by myself in the restaurant of my hotel.

“That picture was horrible, Smith,” he replied.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, just tell me what you found.”

“Okay, well his name is Brandon Jacobs and I’m emailing you a pic of his driver’s license.”

A name! I had a name! I wanted to yell out and punch the air. But of course I didn’t. “We sure it’s him?”

I heard Stephan take a sip of something then swallow. Stupid sensitive hearing. “Yeah about 90 percent sure. The computer spat out three names of possible matches, but only one lives in Vegas. One other was in Florida and the other lives in the United Kingdom.”

This had to be my guy. “Well ya done good. I owe you.”

“What did this guy do anyway?” he asked.

I ignored his question. “Bad connection, can’t hear you, I’m going through a tunnel. I’ll call you later.”

“But there are no tunnels in –”

I smiled as I ended the call, clicking over to my email and refreshing the stupid app until one popped up from Stephan.

I excitedly opened the attachment and looked at the photo. Driver’s license said he was six-foot-two and had a Vegas address. So what was this guy doing in Denver? And was he still there? Well a little trip to his place was in order. Hopefully the address on his driver’s license was accurate because I was about to pay his peeping tom ass a visit. As I was now sure that my vampire killer and the guy who’d been hanging around my apartment window were, in fact, one and the same.

It had begun to get dark and I went back to my hotel room and showered and changed. Pulling my hair back into a ponytail, I walked naked to my suitcase and pulled out the black leather pants and jacket I’d brought. I knew it would be a bit warm for this but I didn’t care. I looked super-hot in this outfit and I thought it was would be fitting for Vegas. Plus it was soft and I could move really easily in it.

I slid on the soft leather pants and a loose top, finally throwing on the leather jacket over it. I had attached my Lotus body holster under my jacket. Finding my ‘special’ handcuffs in my bag, I folded them and shoved them into the tiny canvas cuff holder I wore on my belt. Those and the gun had been fun getting through security at the airport. Thankfully my Denver P.D. badge worked just fine without me having to put anyone in a trance.

Slipping on some chunky black ankle boots, I looked at myself in the mirror. I thought some funky hair color might be fun, so I went downstairs in my outfit and into the salon connected to the hotel. Thankfully they weren’t busy and I asked her to put some pink dye into the sides where it was pulled back. I couldn’t believe I was doing this – it was definitely crazy for me, but I figured hey, I was in Vegas and I was gonna live a little. Then I’ll go visit ol’ Brandon.

Satisfied with my new hair, I paid the lady and used my phone’s GPS to find Brandon’s address. It wasn’t within walking distance so I hopped into the first cab I saw waiting in front of my hotel and gave the driver the address.

The driver kept looking at me in his rearview mirror as we drove the short three miles to the apartment complex. He didn’t seem like a perv but more curious or maybe suspicious. I was sure he saw a lot of weirdos in this crazy town but sometimes I knew I gave off a strange vibe. I’m sure it was the vampire part of me, because surely that was more frightening than a damn faery. Or so that’s what I told myself.

“We’re here,” he said in a heavy accent.

I looked at the meter and threw him some cash and sprinted off quickly to the front of the complex. The taxi sped off, as if he could sense that I was up to no good.

And maybe I was.

I walked up one flight of stairs with my gun drawn but down by my side as I reached the second floor. I crept quietly down the hall until I spotted apartment number 210. I waited quietly to see if anyone would be coming or going but the entire floor, aside from a couple TVs and a crying baby, was eerily calm.

Deciding I had nothing to lose, I went to 210 and knocked and waited in the smelly hallway. I heard movement from inside and kept the gun down at my side, then slid it behind my butt, holding it there. An ordinary-looking human man opened the door and regarded me carefully. He kept the door closed around his body so I couldn’t see inside.

“Hi, is Brandon here?” I asked with a flirty smile.

He shook his head. “Nah, he moved out like six months ago. You his old lady?”

I kept my fake smile turned on. “Something like that. Can you tell me where he lives now?”

“No, but I think he still deals blackjack down at the Wyndham.”

I looked him square in the eye. “I was never here. Right?”

He nodded and closed the door.

I re-holstered my gun and ran down the steps and swore when I realized I’d need to call another cab.

It was times like this where I wished I really could fly. It would definitely come in very handy. But then again so did all my vampire talents, like hypnosis and super strength.

I ignored the blood hunger that had begun to build and pulled out my phone and dialed up the first cab company that showed up on Google and waited. Thankfully, I only had to wait a few minutes when the cab showed up. Not the same driver, not that I was surprised. I instructed this one to take me to the Wyndham, the whole time my heart thudding out of my chest.

I practically sprinted into the Wyndham and followed the sights and sounds that led to the casino. I got a few glances from people as I whizzed by them, but I paid them no mind.

Slowly walking into the casino, I spotted the tables and made my way over, trying to act casual and calm when I felt nothing but. The blackjack tables were scattered but I didn’t see any dealers even remotely resembling Brandon Jacobs. I then scanned the other tables and got no better results. With anger and disappointment boiling inside of me, I made my way to the elevators and decided I was gonna search this damn hotel from top to bottom.

I reached the elevator bank and was thankfully alone in my brooding. I was in no mood to share a car with a chatty or smelly human. An elevator in the center dinged its arrival at the exact moment I heard a scream and smelled blood. A lot of blood. I drew my gun as the elevator door opened and inside was a man and woman fighting. The mirror inside had been splintered, most likely by the woman’s head, who was bleeding through her wild mop of curly red hair and down her face, which was masked in horror. The man – the vampire – my vampire – was fangs-deep in her neck and she was putting up a hell of a fight.

He unlatched himself and looked at me. “Leave us!” he roared.

“And I thought it was going to be much harder than this!” I squealed in delight, holstering my gun and pulling out my cuffs.

He stood up straight and wiped his mouth from the redhead’s blood. She made a dash to get away from him, but he grabbed her arm so tight I could see her flesh turning white.

“Who the fuck are you?” he growled at me.

“Brandon Jacobs, you’re under arrest,” I said back, my cuffs gripped in my fist. “You wanna do this the easy way, or the hard way?”

Then the asshole had the nerve to laugh at me while the redhead squirmed in his grip. “Under arrest? For what?”

“For being a dipshit,” the redhead murmured.

I smiled at her. I think I’m gonna like this girl.

Her face fell as Brandon gripped her arm even tighter and barked, “Don’t talk!”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” I sighed, launching myself into the elevator.

Brandon reared his fist back to punch me, but I ducked and swung a sliding kick, taking his legs out from under him. He went flying back and his head landed a matching crack into the mirror. He fell to the ground then grabbed my leg and pulled me down onto the floor. It hurt but I was too angry to care. Grabbing his head, I wrapped my arm around his throat and put him I the best headlock I’d ever done. I looked up at the girl. “You wanna take a shot? Go ahead. After what he did to your face, it looks like he more than deserves it.”

I watched her touch her cheek, and that’s when I noticed the star-shaped scar on her neck. It looked so much like mine, and was in the same spot. I had to hold back a gasp and try to concentrate on the task at hand.

“Uh, no that’s okay. Thanks, though,” she replied, wiping the blood from her fingers onto her slutty outfit.

I glanced behind me, thankful the area was still void of humans, and looked at the redhead. “You’re a vampire.”

“So are you,” she said right back.

Brandon was still squirming and hurling insults at me but I held him tight. I had both knees pinning his hands down so he couldn’t move at all.

“Yep,” I replied, not bothering to try to explain the whole hybrid thing, because it really didn’t matter.

Brandon spat more curses at me and I rolled my eyes. “Shut up!”

“Are you a vampire hunter too?” she asked.

“Nah, I’m a cop, but sometimes I hunt vampires. Like this asshole,” I said, my eyes darting down to him then back at the girl. “What’s your name?”

“Jezebel,” she replied.

I grinned at the name that matched her outfit.

“You?”

“Lotus. Hey, grab my cuffs, will ya?” I asked her as I spotted them lying in the corner of the elevator.

Nodding, Jezebel picked them up and handed them to me, concern etched on her beautiful but bloody face. “These can’t possibly be strong enough…”

I winked at her. “They are when they’re enchanted. Put them on him, will you?”

Yes my handcuffs were enchanted. I’d met a witch about 10 years ago who did me the favor of making them completely unbreakable no matter what, which is why I kept them close to me and in control of them at all times. I’d hate for them to be used on me or fall into the wrong hands. Jezebel was looking at the cuffs in confusion. Brandon was still squirming under me and now trying to bite my arm so I squeezed his neck harder. He grunted and began to turn purple.

“Just push the button and they’ll open. And hurry.” I could feel his head slipping out of arm since my leather jacket was slick and the blood that had dripped down his mouth was leaking all over it.

I pulled my knees off his arms when she was in position and she quickly put them on him and then stood up.

“Well, thanks,” she said, walking out of the elevator.

I stood Brandon up and then pushed him back into the corner of the elevator as he tried to skirt past me with a curse.

“What was going on in here anyway?” I asked her.

She jerked her head at Brandon, her mussed hair sticking up everywhere. “He was trying to kill me.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Some kind of bounty.”

My brows furrowed. “Bounty?”

She waved a hand in the air, her wrist beginning to blossom with a purple bruise. “Slip of the tongue. He was trying to bring me back to Daddy. I declined the invitation.”

With that, she was gone, trying to saunter out into the casino with a little bit of dignity.

“I’m gonna kill you, bitch,” Brandon said, jutting his chin at the redhead. “You just cost me 10 grand.”

I looked around and then reached up and punched him in the mouth. “Shut the fuck up, you murderer.”

He spit blood out, barely missing my awesome boots and looked at me and smirked. “Seriously? You’re part vampire, Lotus. You never killed anyone?”

I ignored the shock at him knowing I was part vampire, and paraded him out into the casino, garnering a lot of stares and gasps, everyone giving us a wide berth. Two security guards came running up. “You need help, miss?” one asked.

I nodded. “Detective Smith, Denver P.D. Chased this guy all the way down here. You got a security office or detaining room I can use?”

One nodded. “Yes, right this way.”

The other said, “Would you like me to take him?”

I shook my head. “Nah, just grab an arm.”

Brandon seemed to be a lot more compliant, even though I could tell he was trying to slip the cuffs. He never would, though. I had the key and no amount of supernatural strength would break them.

We reached the security office and the guards were tripping over themselves to open the door for me.

“Thanks, guys. I got it from here.”

They looked confused and disappointed, but I waved them off. “Really, you can just wait out there and then you can lock up when I’m done.”

They reluctantly nodded and left me alone with Vampire Brandon.

He watched the door slide shut with a snide smirk and said, “You think it was easy to find me, but guess what, bitch? I’ve been looking for you, too.”

I kicked him in that special pressure point on the thigh that makes a normal person’s eyes water. Worked on vampires, too apparently. He screeched in pain.

“First off, don’t call me a bitch. Secondly, I know you’ve been looking for me. I almost caught you when you were looking in my window in Denver. Now tell me what is going on here.”

He scowled at me. “Daddy’s not just looking for Jezebel. He’s looking for you, too, little faery girl.”

Part 2 – Lotus the Watcher coming October 2015!

OTHER BOOKS BY C.J. PINARD:

Paranormal Fantasy:

Enchanted Immortals 1

Enchanted Immortals 2: The Vortex

Enchanted Immortals 3: The Vampyre

Enchanted Immortals 4: The Vixen

BSI: Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

Enchanted Immortals Box Set: 4 Books + Novella

New Adult Contemporary Romance:

Patriotic Duty (Duty & Desire, #1)

Tour of Duty (Duty & Desire #2)

Boots Beneath My Bed (Duty & Desire #3)

Playing the Field (Duty & Desire #4)

Paranormal Romance:

Unscathed (A paranormal romance novel with Tim O’Rourke)

Soul Rebel (Rebel Riders #1)

Soul Redemption (Rebel Riders #2)

Soul Release (Rebel Riders #3)

 

Free Book Collaborations & Short Stories:

Three of a Kind: Tales of Luck, Chance & Misfortune (short story collaboration)

Summer Sizzle: Stories of Love, Lust, and Passion (short story collaboration)

Blood Bites: Three Vampire Tales (short story collaboration)

Tidal Wave: Tales of Deep Passion (short story collaboration, a Duty & Desire short)

 

Coming Soon:

Watcher, Daughter of Darkness (Daughters of Darkness Series with Kristen Middleton, W.J. May, and Chrissy Peebles)

Imperfect Heroes Series (Three-book contemporary romance series)

Unraveled (Paranormal romance #2 with Tim O’Rourke)

Soul Seeker (Kovah’s Story, A Rebel Riders Novella)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.J. is a west coast native who has lived on both coasts and now lives near the middle, in Colorado! Coming from a family of writers and editors, she feels writing is in her blood and hopes people will lose themselves for a little while in the fantasy and fun of her stories. She also loves sweet red wine, the SF 49ers, and unlike most authors, doesn’t have any cats (allergies!). When she’s not writing, she can be found chasing around her kids or working at her day job, which she totally feels interferes with life, but it also gives her inspiration for her books, since reality is sometimes way more interesting than fiction.

She also loves getting notifications that people have sent her an email, added her on Facebook, or on Twitter. So stop by and say hi – don’t be shy! She’s not! :)

 

Email me: [email protected]

Find me: http://cjpinard.com/

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Lotus (Daughter of Darkness)

4 authors will each take a different daughter born from the Prince of Darkness, Vlad Montour. (Also known as Vlad the Impaler, an evil villain from history). Blair – Chrissy Peebles Jezebel – Kristen Middleton Victoria – W.J. May Lotus – C.J. Pinard The Daughters of Darkness is a series of female heroines who may or may not know each other, but all have the same father, Vlad Montour. Lotus Don't let the pretty name fool you. This daughter is no delicate flower. Lotus grew up orphaned. Having no idea who her real parents were, she's been drifting around the U.S. for over 100 years moving every 15 years or so since she just doesn't seem to age. She'd figured out on her own that she had to be at least part vampire, as she needs to suck on a few blood bags a month to survive. Working as a detective with the Denver P.D., Lotus is searching desperately for a serial killer who is murdering the homeless of the city. Except these are not ritualistic or thrill killings. These victims have been drained of blood and Lotus knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have been committed by a vampire. Her search will take her to Las Vegas, and that is where the true adventure will begin, where she learns who has been searching for her. This is part I of Lotus's story. Part II will be out in late October 2015.

  • ISBN: 9781310084522
  • Author: C.J. Pinard
  • Published: 2015-09-07 03:05:10
  • Words: 15886
Lotus (Daughter of Darkness) Lotus (Daughter of Darkness)