Chapter 18: Starting Shit

Nights passed as they tend to do for our kind, with feeding and killing, playing with our powers, and living like we were dying, though it was possible we never would. We thundered through Arlington in O’Malley’s Nova, raising hell, rocking out, and just having fun. Imagine it: being young, that feeling that you’re invincible, the world is one big amusement park, and you can do whatever you want. Now imagine that it will be that way forever. Always young, almost invincible, and you have all the time until the trumpets sound to do everything, see everything, go everywhere. We felt like we ruled the world.

It was just after sunset on a Friday night, the one-month anniversary of my death, and I was ready to return to Findlay and get started. But first, O’Malley and I went to St Cecilia’s.Dodger followed us in his sleek black Jaguar, and I was grateful he hadn’t ridden with us in O’Malley’s Nova. The radio was blasting and I turned it down to ask, “So, about Dodger…”

“There’s still nothing going on,” she explained patiently, like she was telling a child there were no monsters under his bed.

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

“What is it now?”

“I just thought that, if he’s going to be hanging around us, I should know more about him.”

“Then maybe you should talk to him.”

I sighed and turned the music back up. I knew I had no reason to be suspicious of the guy. After all, he had sewn up my face and neck, and it had probably saved me enough blood to keep me alive just in time for O’Malley to save me. But who the hell was he?

We parked behind Cecilia’s and the three of us approached Mathis, standing in his usual spot, in his usual pose. I began to wonder if he did anything at all, other than standing in front of that door every night.

His face seemed to light up when he saw Dodger, and he greeted, “Dodga! Where the hell you been?”

“All right, Mathis,” he greeted, bumping fists with him.

But Mathis stared at him, confused. “Damn. What happened to you?”

Dodger laughed and spread his arms. “Like it?”

The bouncer’s face turned stony and he crossed his arms again. “Well, I’m happy for you, son. But I’m afraid I can’t let you in anymo’.”

He looked a little let down, but said, “Yeah, I understand.” He turned to us. “You two have a good time. I’ll be upstairs.”

Mathis laughed heartily and said, “I’m just playin’ witcha! Once a vampire, always a vampire! C’mon in, y’all.” He opened the door and we entered. However, he stopped Dodger and asked quietly, “You leave yo piece in yo car?” He nodded and Mathis let him go. The door closed behind the three of us.

“So…” I began as we went down the hall. “You… used to be a vampire?”

“’Til recently,” Dodger said. He glanced at O’Malley and she nodded, I suppose to let him know I could be trusted. “Not the same way as you, though,” he explained.

I sorta wanted to know more, but I accepted what he gave me. I didn’t want to nose around in his business any more than I wanted him nosing around in mine. But when we sat down at a table inside, O’Malley left us, saying, “I’m gonna go to the bar while you two get acquainted.” She winked at us. “Play nice, aye?”

I sighed and took out my cigarettes. “Do you smoke?” I asked, positioning the ashtray on the table.

“Sure,” he said.

I lit my cigarette and handed him one, along with my lighter. He coughed at his first drag and laughed a bit.

“You sure you smoke?” I prodded.

“Yeah, yeah. It’s just been a while.”

I ashed mine and started, “So, there’s something I have to ask you… How did you manage this?” I motioned to my scars. “I mean, do you just carry a sewing kit around with you or something?”

He laughed and said, “Actually, I do.” He paused to take another puff. “In my line of work, you tend to get injured. Sometimes all you can do is stitch yourself up and crack on.”

“What is your line of work?”

He answered delicately, “Uh… Mercenary.”

I grinned. “Ah. That explains the Desert Eagle in the back of your pants…”

He smiled and nodded. “I can understand if you’re defensive. It’s easy to be suspicious of a bloke who kills for a living.”

“I think I can trust you,” I admitted, not without a little internal struggle. “I’d probably be dead if it wasn’t for that battlefield surgery.”

“Yeah, probably,” he said with mock overconfidence. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

I laughed and rolled my eyes. I guessed he was in the clear. But he was still into O’Malley, and that made him competition. So I decided to try and find out just how into her he was.

“So, how did you and O’Malley meet?”

“Oh. That’s a weird story…” he started cautiously. “Basically, she was a target.”

I looked at him hard. “You were supposed to kill her?”

“I was supposed to,” he said. “But, obviously, I’d never come up against anything like her before…” He looked across the room at her. I did the same.

“She is something else, isn’t she?” I murmured, watching her sit at the bar.

“She’s the kind of girl that drives you mad,” he sighed.

I nodded. “But in a good way,” I added.

“Oh, yeah.”

We both gazed at her for a moment, until I nudged him with my elbow and said, “I’ll fight you for her.” I grinned, but I was only half joking.

He chuckled and said, “No need. She’s already yours.”

“What do you mean?”

He looked at me, sort of surprised. “She made you,” he said. “She gave you her blood. You’re part of each other. I can’t compete with that.”

Suddenly, it made sense. The feeling I got when our eyes met. The attraction that was unlike anything I’d felt toward any other girl. Maybe it was another weird vampire thing.

“…Doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t try, though,” he told me, smirking. O’Malley was beckoning him with her finger, holding up a glass of beer.

“You’re on,” I answered as he stood to go and join her. “Wait.”

He looked down at me.

I held his gaze and said, “How about if I go see what O’Malley wants, and you just… stay here.”

For a moment, his face went blank and he started to nod in agreement, but then he squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. Then he laughed and said, “Nice try, but that mindfuck trick doesn’t work too well on me anymore.”

I shrugged and muttered, “Worth a shot.”

Dodger put his cigarette out and walked toward the bar. It felt kind of weird, sitting alone in the middle of the place, especially when I knew there were a few vampires in the room who wanted me staked. In fact, from where I sat, I could see a group of four of them sitting around a table near the exit, whispering to each other and giving me not-so-furtive glances. One of them was the vampire I’d spied on the night I first fed from a donor. They were all guys, all wearing punk rock regalia, mohawks in different styles and colors, faded denim, leather, chains, pins, patches. In any other situation, they were people I could’ve gotten along with. But at that moment, I doubted they wanted to sit around and talk about music with me. They looked like they would rather discuss nailing me to the roof and leaving me there as an offering to Ra. Fuck that.

I picked up the ashtray and moved to the back of the room. After slouching down in a chair, I put the ashtray on the arm and lit up another cigarette. Watching the bluish smoke drift to the ceiling, I began to wonder what really was going on between O’Malley and Dodger. If they weren’t “together,” as she had told me and as my conversation with him had suggested, what was going on there?

I looked at the bar and saw O’Malley pulling him out of his seat by the lapels of his coat, smiling seductively. Jealousy burned in my chest as I watched her lead him to the dark corner of the room. He laced his fingers with hers and pinned her hands to the wall. He tried to kiss her, but she turned away. Her fangs flashed in the dim light of the electric candles and disappeared into his throat. I took a long drag and watched her. She looked hot when she fed. She looked even hotter when she killed.

My concentration was broken when Kate appeared. She came out from behind a black curtain, freshly painted red lips, classy Marilyn Monroe hair, and that beautiful red dress, showing off her long, shapely legs. I grinned and whistled at her. She turned and smiled when she saw me. I jerked my head, inviting her over, and she strutted across the room like a model on a catwalk. I sank deeper into the chair, opening my legs wide and putting the cigarette to my lips again.

“Hey there, Marlboro man,” she said in that sweet, breathy voice. Pure sex.

“Hello, beautiful,” I answered, and reached out and took her hand. I pulled her down toward me, putting her arm around my neck. She laughed and sat down between my legs, her lower back against my thigh and her legs draped over the arm of the chair.

“Where’s your girl?” she asked, taking a glance around the room.

“Right here,” I said with a smirk, took a drag, and held it in as I ground out the cigarette. I tilted my head back and exhaled into the air above me.

“You know what I mean,” she giggled.

“O’Malley’s busy,” I said. Her perfume smelled amazing. I couldn’t help it. I leaned forward and kissed her neck. “Looks like I’m on my own for now.” I punctuated it with another kiss above her collarbone. And another at the base of her throat. I wanted to kiss every inch of her body.

“Well, if there’s anything I can do for you…”

I grinned against her skin. “Do you really mean that?”

“Mmhmm.”

I looked up at her and fully realized what she was suggesting. I remembered the sounds I’d heard coming from one of the rooms in the hallway that first night I’d woken up as a vampire. I grinned and said, “Lead the way.”

She took my hand and led me toward the hallway. A tingle went up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew that feeling all too well, and I refused to look back and see O’Malley watching me leave with Kate.

So what? She probably does the same thing with Dodger.

Kate knocked on one of the doors in the hallway and, when there was no response from inside, she opened it. She reached around the doorway, flipping on the switch. Two lamps, one on each side of the bed’s headboard, bathed the room in a dim glow. Then she led me inside.

It was a very nice room. There were no windows, but on the far wall, there was a nearly photographic painting of a sunrise over the Arlington skyline. It took up most of the wall. Then, across from the bed, there was a widescreen TV on the wall and a stereo on a shelf below it. My boots sank into the thick red carpet as I crossed the threshold, my focus averting to the bed. It was a huge four-poster, covered in black satin sheets and surrounded by black sheer curtains.

“Nice digs,” I commented, closing and locking the door behind me.

“Well, we know you vampires are used to the finer things,” she said, sitting on the edge of the bed where the curtains parted.

“We sure are…” I murmured, pausing as I kicked off my boots to watch her cross her long legs. I put my boots by the door and turned to join her.

The expression on her face as she looked at me was perplexed, then a bit disturbed. I stopped short a few steps from the door, about to ask what was wrong, but then I remembered. I had been careful not to let her see me in strong light, always meeting her in the darkest corners of the haven. But now there was just enough light for her to see my disfigurement for the first time.

“Um… I’m sorry,” I apologized, jerking my hair into my face. “Should I… turn the light off, or…?”

“No, it’s… I just never… noticed,” she stammered.

“Yeah, I know,” I sighed, shoving my hands into my pockets impotently. After a long, awkward silence, I said, “Hey, if you wanna… y’know, run away screaming…” I shrugged. “I’ll understand. And I won’t stop you.”

She smiled sweetly. “Why would I do that?”

I smirked a little. “Kate… We both knew where this was going. And…” I motioned to my face. “I wouldn’t wanna kiss this mess, either.”

Her smile widened and she shook her head. “Come sit down.”

I took a deep breath and walked slowly across the room. I knew the closer I got, the more easily she would see my scars, and the more she saw of them, the more likely she would be to change her mind. So, I gave her as much opportunity as I could. But she didn’t take it, and in fact, she didn’t seem scared at all.

Wait a minute… Do I want her to change her mind?

“So… what happened?” she asked carefully.

“It was the guy who killed me,” I said, grabbing the ashtray from the bedside table. I sat down beside her and balanced it on my thigh. “It’s cool, though. He’ll get his.”

She smiled at me and I took out a cigarette and my lighter.

C’mon, you’re about to make it with a gorgeous woman! And you’re great at sex! Why the hell are you nervous?

…Besides the fact that you could lose control and kill her.

Oh, right. O’Malley.

“Can I get one of those?” she requested.

I took one out of the pack and held it out to her. She reached for it, but I pulled it back and held the end of it in my lips, filter out. “Come get it,” I said around the cigarette.

She gave me an accepting smile and used her mouth to take the cigarette from me. She held it between her fingers, looked at it, then leaned in and kissed me, setting the cigarette aside in the ashtray. I closed my eyes and did the same, and moved the ashtray back to the nightstand.

What? O’Malley? O’Malley who?

Her soft lips moved against mine, urgency rising, until I felt her tongue graze my bottom lip. I obliged eagerly, let her explore my mouth as I explored hers. She sighed and I felt her warm breath on my face. I got up and moved in front of her to kneel at her feet.

“I’ve had something on my mind for a while,” I bantered, lifting her foot onto my thigh. “I mean, I’ve made love, and it feels amazing.” I deftly unbuckled the strap around her ankle, slipped her red shoe off, put it aside. “And I’ve fed on blood, and to be honest, it feels almost as good.” I took off her other shoe, put it with its mate. “So I was wondering,” I continued, running my hands up her legs, to her knees, and down again, “would you show me what they’re like, together?”

“I think I can do that,” she whispered, smiling down at me.

I kissed my way from her ankles to her thighs, up to the edge of her dress. Rising back to my feet, I pressed my lips to hers and pulled the zipper of her dress down. She responded by drawing my shirt up my back, and I let her take it off. She tossed it on the floor, and her eyes and fingers ran over my chest and abs. I moved forward and kissed her again, guiding her to lie on her back. Delicately, I lowered the straps of the dress from her shoulders, pulled it down to her waist, then from her waist down her legs, to the floor. She sat up on her elbows and watched me. I watched her too, lying there in her lacy red bra and panties, while I undid my jeans, taking my socks off with them, and stood there in my boxers. A smile played at the corners of her mouth, her gaze fixed below my waist. I grinned and leaned over her, first kissing above the edge of her panties, up to her navel, and crawled forward, my legs between hers, sliding my tongue up her body to the clasp on the front of her bra. In a moment, I’d undone it using only my tongue and teeth, a trick that had taken a lot of practice to perfect, but never failed to impress.

“Wow…” she whispered.

I smirked against her chest as I kissed her and took the bra off, tossing it behind me to the floor. My hands traveled down her arms and I laced my fingers with hers, moved her hands above her head, and slid my touch back down her sides, following her curves, then up to her breasts. She moaned softly and arched her back, and I smirked and watched as her hips began to lift invitingly. Cold blood flooded to my groin and I massaged her breasts a little more forcefully. She squirmed a little more, and her hips gave a definite thrust.

I rubbed my hands back down her sides, over her hips, down her legs, then up her inner thighs. She let me spread her legs and I slid my hand up over her panties. The heat, the scent, the shape of her sex beneath my fingers, the way she gasped and pressed into my touch, all made me fully hard in a matter of seconds. I pressed the heel of my hand against where I estimated her clit was and moved it up and down, in circles, making her moan and grind, until I felt her wetness seep through the lace. I grinned devilishly and pulled the panties off, then my own boxers. Kate looked down at me and smiled at what she saw.

I got into position, on my hands and knees with her thighs on my hips. I closed my eyes, feeling her parting around me, hot and wet. We gasped as I slid into her, and I took long, slow strokes, letting her feel my entire length fill her to the depths, over and over again. As her excitement increased, I rose up on my knees and lifted her hips off the bed, her behind on my thighs. I gave it to her harder, faster, massaging her hard little clit with my thumb. She writhed before me, her moans getting louder, pitch getting higher, her hips grinding sinfully.

“More… Give me more…” she begged.

I obeyed and lifted her right leg, letting her left stay wrapped around my waist, and got back down on all fours. She was open wide, her knee over my shoulder, and I went deeper, faster, harder than ever. With screams of ecstasy, her body shook and I felt her tightening around me, rhythmically, rapidly. The pleasure made her so incredibly wet, I could feel it dripping from my cock. “Oh, yeah…” I moaned, grinning and baring my fangs. She had me close.

“Grin… Oh, Grin! Yes!” she squealed as a second climax overtook her.

I growled quietly in her ear as I reached my own height, and pounded into her, sank my teeth into her neck, and grunted like an animal with every thrust. The passion of blood and orgasm combined into an indescribable pleasure, one greater than any I’d ever felt. It rocked my world. And while Kate had been coming down again, she went back up when my fangs sliced through her skin. She screamed, her body rolling, the inside of her quivering. I’d brought her over the edge a third time.

At last, we collapsed on the bed, panting and naked. After a few minutes of rest, Kate whispered, “That was… unbelievable…”

I smirked. “Believe it, baby,” I teased, and got the ashtray and the cigarettes we’d neglected for better things. We climbed beneath the covers and I leaned back against the headboard with Kate curled up into my side, head on my shoulder, stroking the hair on my chest absently. I lit our cigarettes and took a long drag.

“How did you do that?” Kate asked. “You know… What you did to me.”

I laughed a little. “Well… I knew this girl, and… she taught me a lot.”

“Tell me about her,” Kate whispered, cuddling closer like she was waiting for a bedtime story.

“Um… We were together three months. It was my longest relationship,” I said, ashing my cigarette.

“What happened to her?”

“She graduated. This was about a year ago. I was a junior, she was a senior.”

“Did you love her?”

I smiled to myself, remembering fondly. “I loved the things she did to me… and the things she made me do to her.”

“‘Made’ you?”

I laughed. “We had a… special… relationship.”

Kate closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against my shoulder like an affectionate kitten. It should’ve felt a lot sweeter than it did, but the afterglow was fading. Reality was coming back.

“Something on your mind?” she asked.

I sighed. “Nah. I’m good.”

She sat up and looked down at me with a knowing smile. “Someone on your mind?”

I laughed it off and stroked her arm. “Yeah… You.”

She lifted an eyebrow, unconvinced.

I sighed. “All right, yeah, fine.”

Kate laughed gently. “Maybe I can lend some female insight,” she offered.

I thought about how to begin and said, “I don’t get it. Me and O’Malley aren’t together or anything… So, why do I feel so… I dunno…?”

“…Guilty?” she suggested.

I cringed. “Sorta? I mean, don’t get me wrong. That was amazing.”

She smiled and nodded. “But, you feel like you cheated on her.”

I didn’t say anything. I felt like a dirtbag, talking to the girl I’d just hooked up with about my feelings for another girl.

“I have a theory… Do you wanna hear it?”

Uh oh. She’s gonna say the “L” word. Stop her!

“Nah… I think I know what you’re gonna say,” I said. “It’s not that. I’ve felt that before. This is different.”

She gazed at me for a second and said, “Well, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m a good listener.” She kissed me on the cheek and climbed out of bed.

“You really are,” I agreed. “Thanks.”

She gave me a smile as she began to get dressed. “All part of the job. Well… part of my last job.”

“What was that?” I asked, reaching out to zip her dress up the back.

“Not all men hire escorts for sex, you know,” she told me, smoothing the red dress over her hips. “Some of them just want the company.”

She put on her shoes and we said our goodnights.

After smoking a few more cigarettes and working up the balls to go back out and face O’Malley, I dressed and left the room. I expected O’Malley to at least give me the cold shoulder when I walked in, but she came from the bar over to me.

“Look, O’Malley, about that…” I started, but we were both talking at the same time. “Go ahead,” I said instead.

“I think we should get going,” she said. “I need to take Dodger back to his place.”

She’s got a funny way of telling me she’s jealous

“…What?” I uttered stupidly.

She jerked her head back toward the bar, rolling her eyes. I looked and saw Dodger sitting there, chatting with Roger, giggling drunkenly and nearly falling off his stool. “Oh,” I acknowledged with a laugh. “Yeah, you probably should.”

We went to the bar and O’Malley clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Having fun?” she asked.

“Yeah! Watch this…” He pointed at the bartender. “Roger…” Then he pointed at himself. “Dodger!” And he broke into another fit of laughter. “I never realized that before! We rhyme!”

Roger nodded, smiling pleasantly as he said to O’Malley, “Please tell me you’re driving him home.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said, and held her hand out to her wasted friend. “Keys.”

“Oh, c’mon! I’m good!” He tried to stand up, but began to topple backward. I caught him, hooking my arms under his. He sighed and stood up, throwing an arm over my shoulders. “Fine, you’ve made your point,” he muttered, and fumbled around in his coat for his keys.

O’Malley reached over and took them out of his pocket, then handed me her own. “Help me get him in his car,” she instructed.

I half carried Dodger after her, but it was hard to maneuver us both through the crowd. We were approaching the four punks’ table. I kept my eyes away from them, honestly trying my best not to start any shit, but I ended up kicking a guy’s foot. Like I’d pressed some kind of button, he jumped to his feet and yelled, “Hey! Watch it, Ichi!”

Don’t start any shit, Grin

I looked back at him, over my shoulder. “Chill, man. It was an accident. I’m sorry,” I said, and started forward again.

Don’t start shit, don’t start shit

Behind me, he muttered, “Hope someone stakes ya, fucking asshole…”

Keep walking, don’t let him start shit

My steps slowed down and stopped. Something crept up my spine to my face, making a smile form on my lips. It wasn’t anger. It was something else, a feeling I got when I knew there was going to be a confrontation. Some kind of wicked delight.

Fuck it. Shit: started.

I turned around and let Dodger collapse in an empty chair, and walked toward the other guy. “Do you have a problem with me?” I asked him.

“Grin,” O’Malley said. It was a warning. I ignored her.

“You know what? Yeah. I do.” He crossed his badly-tattooed arms.

“Let’s hear it.”

“Grin, let’s go,” O’Malley said, appearing behind me and off to my left.

“Hang on. I wanna know what this guy’s so pissed about.” I smiled at him again. “C’mon. What kinda deal could you possibly have with me? I don’t even know you.”

“My ‘deal…'” he began, “is that we’ve got cops searching for a body that happens to be walking around Arlington!”

“The body hunt’s over,” I reminded him. “I’m old news.”

“You should’ve died in that fucking ditch!”

“Ah, I get it now…” I mused, grinning wider. “This is about the choice I didn’t make… Well, I’ve chosen it now. So… we cool?”

He snorted. “That’s not how it works. We have rules for a reason.”

“Rules?” I laughed and looked him up and down, from his red liberty spikes to his black Doc Martens. “Fuck your rules, poseur,” I teased, flipping him off.

His lip curled, showing his fangs, and his eyes turned black.

“Enough!” O’Malley interjected, shoving her way between us with her back to me. Her Irish accent became more pronounced when she was angry. The chattering around the room began to die down and attention centered on the three of us. “C’mere, Davey. It’s not ‘is fault, an’ y’know it. I made the decision. So if you, or any o’ your pals, ‘ave a problem with ‘im, y’ave a problem with me.”

The vampire called Davey visibly resigned, though he continued to glare at us.

“Yeah, me too! ‘Cause I fuggin’ love this guy,” Dodger slurred, pointing at me. “Grin, dude… you’re the dog’s bollocks, mate.”

“Keep out of this, Dodger!” Davey shouted. “You’re not even supposed to be in here. You were never supposed to be in here.”

He shrugged. “Hey, take it up with the doorman.”

Our opponent looked even more resentful at the thought of facing Mathis. O’Malley put her hand on my chest, smirking triumphantly, and said, “Let’s get outta here.”

I winked at Davey, making him give one last scowl, and helped Dodger up again. We exited into the hallway and I commented to O’Malley, “You know, you’re pretty sexy when you’re angry.”

“Thanks,” Dodger murmured. I rolled my eyes, but I had to smile at O’Malley’s musical laugh.

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