Authors: Sarah Bella
BOUND BY BLOOD
TWO NOVELLAS OF PARANORMAL ROMANCE
All rights reserved
Copyright 2013 Sarah Bella
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission.
A Renaissance E Books publication
Dim lights in the Basement worked as a poor backdrop for the fog machine just off stage. Thin clouds of fog rolled along the floor, mostly unseen in the dense crowd. The center of the crowd had morphed into a mosh pit; writhing bodies thrashed together creating a maze of flesh. The bar was packed with people, at or beyond capacity, each booth crammed with bodies, every bar stool occupied. The line of heavy metal tee shirts queued up at the bar made his eyes roll.
Drake hovered backstage, waiting for the final notes of
Fist of Death
to end. The stage vibrated with heavy bass lines and the glare of the light display blurred Drake's vision. Iron Vengeance was the last in a long string of loser bands he'd taken to stardom. Any band with Sidhe in their midst was guaranteed a rocket to the top.
The crowd screamed with each thrum of the guitar. The last ear-shattering strains finally faded away and Drake straightened his tee shirt, preparing to pack up gear and load the truck. The rest of the roadies waited in the shadows beside him, waiting for Iron Vengeance to finish their bows and fist pumping and vacate the stage. They had twenty hours before they had to be onstage in St. Paul.
Glenn jumped into the waiting crowd as the other band members shook their heads in disgust, drifting into the shadows. He had a bad case of LSD – lead singer disease. He mingled with the crowd, collecting phone numbers and hotel keys. His shenanigans made the band's popularity difficult even with Drake's gift.
The other roadies pushed passed him and started their nightly ritual of breaking down gear. Groupies looked on with glee and expectation as the roadies wound cords, dismantled the drums and locked cases, hoping to get a memento – a guitar pick or set listbefore they rolled the pile of gear out the back door to the waiting truck.
Iron Vengeance was just shy of a major recording contract and it was almost time for Drake to let them self-destruct. After Minneapolis, maybe Chicago, he would move on. He'd already decided the next band would be an entirely different genre of music. Glenn's warbling screeches had put him off death metal for a while.
Last call came and Drake scanned the crowd, but no one caught his eye. Waiting would undoubtedly be a good idea, given the droves of 'People of Wal-Mart' rejects filling the venue. He hefted the closest instrument – Chad's bass guitar – and walked out the door. The reek of stale urine and vomit assaulted Drake and he recoiled. He held his breath as he made his way to the truck.
He loaded the case into the truck and stepped aside for the parade of gear behind him. They filled the truck to the top, everything in its place, before Drake slide the door closed and threw the lock home. The two guys who alternated driving the truck climbed into its cab and turned the key.
A rumbling from around the corner warned Drake of the bus' impending arrival. He stepped into the doorway, clear of Kevin and his occasional driving mishap. The lumbering flame-painted beast of a vehicle rolled to a stop several feet from the club door. The hiss of the door opening announced Kevin's arrival like fanfare.
The poorly lit parking lot begged for a fan ambush, but Drake hoped it wouldn't be an issue. Glenn's man whoring seemed to attract more women than it repelled, though no one could figure why. Those women frequently waited behind the bars they played, hoping for a private tour of the bus.
Kevin checked the truck. "We're done?"
"No. I thought it'd be funny to hide the gear inside. Like Easter."
Kevin pursed his lips, unsure if the jibe was an insult. Drake let the door to the club slam shut behind him as he went in after the band and crew.
"Gentlemen," Drake called into the darkness of backstage. "Zip your pants and say goodbye to your dates. We roll out in three minutes."
The sounds of disappointment and scrambling left Drake smiling. On more than one occasion, he'd left someone behind. Taking a Greyhound wasn't fast enough and a cab ride to another city was out of the question. Missing the bus meant losing a job.
Drake left before the lights came on and found his seat on the bus. The faded blue seats and chipped Formica tables harkened back to a band with more money decades earlier. The upholstered walls had worn thin in places, leaving a greasy shine behind. At some point in the bus' life, someone tore out the factory-installed carpeting and replaced it with AstroTurf. Cigarette burns and butts littered every surface.
His seat was the front-facing bench. The cushioned seat dipped in just the right way, making it everyone's favorite seat. On the rare occasion Drake found it occupied he used his charm to empty the space.
The club door popped open just as his watch ticked down to thirty seconds left. The boys peeled off clingy, drunk girls and piled onto the bus, griping blearily about Drake's seat. "If you all weren't so busy dippin' your wicks, you'd be sittin' here."
The grumbling dropped by half.
Kevin closed the door and settled in behind the steering wheel.
Drake did a quick headcount and found everyone accounted for. He gave Kevin a 'thumbs up' and the old bus chugged out of the parking lot, slowly leaving the city lights behind. The roadies and Glenn crawled into the beds in back, sleeping off their liquor. As the lights from the city faded, so too did the noises from the back of the bus.
Drake pulled a pile of faded afghans from under his bench and passed them out to the other guys. March on the old bus got drafty. March on the old bus in the frigid north got down right cold. The ride was shorter than many, only eight hours or so, and Drake knew he could fill the time with Chad and Click.
He rested his head on the seat back, reveling in the afterglow of a particularly satisfying feeding. Most Sidhe didn't feed the way Drake fed, but Leanan Sidhe did.
Drake was a living, breathing, art-inspiring muse.
He didn't just charm the masses into loving each band he followed – he inspired the band. They grew more prolific, more fantastic, more epic, with every passing day. And when he left, they crashed and burned.
Without his Awen – his gift – Iron Vengeance was about to go down in flames.
He'd spent 400 years pushing other people toward fame and withdrawing just before they got there. The give and take of their psychic energy was the only thing he needed. The nomadic life of a musician on the rise was ideal for Drake. No one paid attention to the roadies. Manager after manager got the credit for his success, and then the hardship of the crash.
400 years was too long to wander the Earth. The days melted into one another, the bands blended together.
"Man, you rocked that shit tonight."Chad's comment drew Drake's attention. Click responded with a nod and conversation dropped off again.
Chad tried again. "So, St. Paul. Cold as fuck there."
"Yep."Click scooted farther down in his seat, burrowing into his ugly, striped afghan.
"Ever been there?"
Click nodded once again. "Grew up there. My whole family lives there."
"Whole family as in your ex and kids?" Chad's eyebrows disappeared into his hair. Click just nodded wordlessly. "You gonna go see 'em?"
Click shrugged and it seemed like the conversation would die again. "Wait a minute."Chad's eyes got wide. "That's why we're doin' two shows here, isn't it?So you can go see 'em."
The drummer's mouth opened soundlessly, gaping like a fish out of water. Finally, he laid his head on the seat back, effectively ending the conversation.
Drake mirrored him, resigning himself to a quiet bus ride. Click's revelation had the wheels turning in Drake's mind. He was immortal, but not invincible. It was part of the reason he lived nomadically – there was less likelihood of being discovered or pissing off the wrong person if he didn't hang around one place for an extended period of time.
Unfortunately, there was a downside. People constantly surrounded him, but after 400 years, he'd grown lonely. The people he was with meant nothing to him, because he never stayed with them long enough to form an attachment, or spent time to learn to trust or be trusted.
Maybe it was time to make a friend.
There were thousands of other Sidhe scattered around the US. Odds were, one of them wouldn't mind a job as a roadie. The benefits to traveling with another Sidhe were unending – namely, he would have one person he didn't have to hide his true self from.
Roadies were constantly in flux, leaving one band for another. Drake never had a problem finding a new band looking for a roadie. He wouldn't have a problem finding a band looking for two new roadies either. His Awen was a powerful thing.
He would have his choice of companions, male or female. Sex was never an issue. Everyone wanted to have sex with a Sidhe – whether they knew it or not. But plain companionship was something Drake was lacking.
The rocky bluffs of South Dakota flew passed his window, red-tinted rock formations casting moonlit shadows on the lonely stretch of road. The bluffs turned into plains as they neared the Minnesota border. The plains soon turned into sloping hills and placid lakes.
The wheels turned in Drake's mind, plotting out who would find alternate employment and why. Finding the perfect companion might be the hard part. Sidhe recognized Sidhe on sight, but he couldn't read minds, couldn't see temperament or attitude. Drake wanted someone mellow, easy going; he wanted someone who would take orders and initiative.
The three-night stay was the opportunity he needed – a chance to get to know someone, feel out their compatibility. Finding another Sidhe wouldn't be difficult. Finding the right Sidhe would be harder.
In a city known for its arts, Sidhe would be abundant. He would just find a few and start the conversation, and make his choice.
Growing light in the East roused Drake from his half slumber planning. The boys in the back grumbled their way into wakefulness as the bus drove through downtown. The streetlights quickly turned out as the sun rose; neon signs blinked off as shutters rolled up and 'closed' signs flipped over to reveal their 'open' counterparts.
The bus wound its way through the half-dark streets, passed bustling coffee shops and dead-to-the-world bars, stopping every block or two for the inevitable red light. They rolled to a stop in front of an EZ Stop Inn, creeping from the bus with their overnight bags and claiming roommates.
Drake slid the key card into his single room and pulled the blinds. The desk promised him a 4 pm wakeup call. He slid beneath the covers and within seconds he was asleep, dreaming blissfully of the perfect traveling companion.
As the day grew closer to evening than morning, the sun shone in his west-facing window, waking him before his hotelarranged call did. Drake dragged himself to the shower, spun the knob to hot and shucked his briefs while he waited.
The shower spray beat down on his face when he climbed in, washing away a day's worth of grime. Drake wet his hair and poured half a hotel bottle of shampoo into his palm. The lather ran down his body and he used it to scrub himself clean. Rinsed free of suds and ready to face what remained of his day, he twisted the knob back to off and stepped out.
Freed of his bleary morning vision, the stark white of the bathroom struck him. White tile floor, white tub and shower insert, white painted walls. The white rug at his feet and white towels on the wall rack did nothing to break up the bleakness.
He pulled open the door and kicked his briefs along the floor in front of him. As he dug through his duffle, he realized that tomorrow – their free day – would be laundry day. Today, he would go commando. He donned clean jeans and a black 'Iron Vengeance' tee shirt, ran his fingers through shaggy dark hair and found his way downstairs.
Chad had kicked back in an uncomfortable looking armchair, reading the daily paper.
"Hey, Chad. Breakfast."
"Sure." Chad folded the paper and set it on the small table next to him. His shitkickers tread heavily on the scuffed floor as he opened the heavy, glass paned door.
The streets of St. Paul were packed in the late afternoon.
They scanned the surrounding blocks, looking for somewhere that served food. A sleek, rail car looking place caught Drake's eye. He nodded and Chad crossed the street, stopping traffic as he moved. Drake followed with a laugh, catching up to Chad as he pulled open the door to the diner.
They each sat on a red leather stool at the blue-gray Formica counter and pulled a menu from the scratched silver rack in front of them.
"Welcome to Mickey's, I'm Flo. I'll be your waitress for the evening. What can I get you boys?"Flo pulled a pencil from her ponytailed gray hair, holding it to the ordering pad in her other hand.
"Coffee?"Chad's voice was raspy from disuse.
"Two."Drake held up two fingers.
"Be right back, hun. You take a look at the menu, figure out what you want."Flo disappeared into the back.
Drake flipped his plasticcoated menu open.
He closed it just as quickly. "Biscuits and gravy."He waggled an eyebrow at Flo as she approached with two steaming mugs in hand.
"For you?" She turned to Chad.
"How d'you want your eggs?"
Drake nodded in agreement.
Flo made a note on her pad. "Hash browns?" She made another after they both nodded. "Give me ten."She walked into the back, calling their order out ahead of her.
Drake's boots rested heavily on the metal ring-slash-footrest on the base of his stool, toes skimming the floor. He studied his reflection in the shiny chrome wall panel opposite him. The pale of his skin made his unusual eyes stand out more than they normally did. Black eyes with a light gray ring around the pupil weren't something found in the human gene pool. He gave the credit for them to colored contacts.
Regardless of feeding constantly over the last several months, his health suffered. It was no doubt a result of Glenn's resistance to his charms. 'Work smarter, not harder,' was his motto, but Glenn required him to work both smarter and harder, expending more energy to earn his keep.
It was definitely time to jump ship and he felt compelled to let Chad in on his plan. "I'm leaving after Minnesota."
"Leaving as in, bailing on Iron Vengeance?"
"Not bailing on Iron Vengeance so much as bailing on Glenn. I can't take him anymore, man." He shook his head, stalling. "He's just–"
"I get it man. No one but Glenn can stand Glenn for an extended period of time."Chad shrugged. "You're not the first guy we've lost 'cause of him."
"You ever think about leaving?"
Chad laughed mirthlessly. "Every damn day. There are a thousand metal bands looking for a bass player, but we're right there, you know?Right on the edge."He shrugged again. "So close."
"Yeah," Drake nodded, unsure of what to say. Iron Vengeance was about to crash and burn.
Flo saved an awkward silence by appearing with plates laden with the greasy spoon's best. She pulled ketchup, salt and pepper from her short black apron, setting them on the table with a thump. "Can I get you boys anything else?"
"Orange juice?"Chad mumbled through a mouthful of food, spattering bits of biscuit on the tabletop.
"And a napkin," Flo teased as she walked away.
Drake checked the time on his phone and shoveled breakfast into his mouth. "We've got twenty before we need to be back."
Chad followed his lead, wolfing his food down in record time. The OJ from Flo washed down the last mouthful of food as Drake threw a twenty on the counter. "You boys leaving already?"
"Yeah."Chad looked to Drake.
"Prior engagement."Drake winked and the waitress reacted like he expected – with a laugh and one hand on her chest.
"You would."She pushed on Drake's shoulder, edging him toward the door.
"Thanks for the grub." Drake turned and sidestepped someone walking up behind him. As his hand skirted her hip, the world stopped. His heart broke and reassembled itself, gravity shifted and his breath stopped coming.
For half a second, nothing existed but long brown hair, twisted into a thick braid, hanging down the back of his Other. She had pale, smooth skin, a heartshaped face and wide blue eyes. "'Scuse me," she mumbled.
Drake stood, gap-mouthed, watching her walk away – the swing of her hips, the twitch of that long braid. He wanted to curl his fingers into it and–"
Chad slapped him on the back and pushed him forward. "Let's go man. You can flirt later. We got gear to set up."He looked at Drake's Other. "We'll be at McGovern's tonight, if you want to come."
Drake's mouth opened silently, mind spinning. The bell above the diner door dinged as Chad walked out. In a daze, Drake followed, eyes locked on his mystery girl.
Chad waited impatiently outside the diner. "Man, she was hot, but how long has it been since you got laid?"One eyebrow cocked upward.
"Not," Drake shook his head. "What?"Traffic on the streets of St. Paul was heavy, rush hour having started in earnest while they ate. Cars whizzed by as foot traffic flowed around them. The sun sank lower by the minute, stretching for the horizon.
"How long since you got laid?" Chad dragged out the words, enunciating carefully.
Drake laughed, deep and loud. The laughter took him over, rolling through his limbs until he was clutching his side and leaning against the diner to stay on his feet. "So," he struggled for a breath. "So not even close to the issue."He clapped Chad on the shoulder. "Let's go, man. Like you said, we got a show to set up."
The pair crossed the street back to the hotel and found the rest of their group waiting in the lobby. "Gentlemen." Kevin's voice boomed across the tile lobby. "Let's go rearrange a bar."
The ride to McGovern's was short – only a few blocks – so no one bothered with the bunks, crowding instead in the seating quarters. They spilled out en masse as the bus door opened behind the still-dark bar. The band and Kevin walked directly inside to find the manager and avoiding helping with the heavy lifting. Drake directed the rest of the roadies to the back of the truck.
The guys knew the routine; set up took half the time it did with some of the bands Drake had toured with. He slid the truck door closed again and one of the guys pulled it to a space in the back of the rear lot.
Busy work kept his mind distracted, but his body knew something was missing. A twisting in his stomach, an ache in his crotch – silent reminders of her absence. His Other lingered in his thoughts, images of her hair, her face, her Otherness. Recognition tugged at the edge of his consciousness, something he should know but couldn't put words to.
He moved blindly through his duties, feet following the rhythm he'd set up centuries ago. Half an hour ahead of their opening set, the stage was ready – instruments tuned, amps wired up and stray picks littering the floor. As the lights dimmed, Drake made his way backstage. Groupies flooded the floor seconds after the doors opened, squinting into the darkness off stage, no doubt hoping for a glimpse of the band.
The stage lights went black and Glenn pushed passed Drake, shuffling toward the microphone. The wailing of Rok's guitar split the air, a keening shriek that threw the fans off kilter and brought them to their knees. The spot light flashed on, illuminating Glenn, shirtless and ready for his adoring fans. He gripped the microphone in both hands, head tipped to the side, waiting for his cue.
Having seen the show hundreds of times, Drake scanned the crowds, looking for options, he told himself. In reality, he scanned for
hoping that the shift in perspective hadn't only been on his end. Over and over, he searched the crowd, fruitlessly wanting. Sidhe littered the crowd, half a dozen or more, but a traveling companion just wasn't enough anymore.
He wanted his Other – something that after 400 years, he had begun to doubt he had. The hitch in his happily-ever-after was her species. Humans couldn't be Other.
Two thirds of the way through the set, between songs, Chad set his guitar down and said something quietly to Glenn. Glenn smiled stupidly at Drake and handed Chad the microphone.
"How're you folks tonight?" Chad poured on the charm. "You doin' all right?"He paused while the crowd cheered. "Now folks, I got a problem, maybe you can help me with it. You think you can help?"He winked at Drake and turned back to the crowd. "I ate breakfast tonight at Mickey's Diner – you been there?"
The audience erupted again and he tapped his foot while he waited for relative quiet. "So tonight, I ate breakfast with one of the roadies, Drake. Come on out here, Drake."He pointed and waved, but Drake refused, rooted in the shadows.
"He's shy," Chad teased with a laugh. "Well, Drake over there met a girl at the diner today, only, pussy that he is, he walked away without her number – didn't even say a word."
The crowd booed.
"What I need from you is her number. If anyone here knows the evening waitress over at Mickey's, I want to talk to you."The crowd exploded as people screamed and waved their arms, all vying for Chad's attention. The mass of bodies pushed forward, crushing toward the stage.
Chad handed the microphone back to Glenn while Drake seethed backstage. He stormed out the back door, kicking aside Chad's guitar case as he went. The frigid air stopped him in his tracks, but he sucked in a bracing breath and paced along the back wall of the building.
"Stupid fucker."His breath froze before it left his mouth, hanging in the air like a frosted cloud. "Fucking stupid fucker."He kicked an empty bottle, sending it skittering across the parking lot. "Stupid, fucking, fucking, fucker. God damn fucking stupid fucker."
"That's quite the vocabulary."He hadn't heard the door open, but leaning against the door was the waitress – his Other.
"I ... Hi, I'm Drake."He held out a hand, which she shook tentatively.
"Penelope – Penny. Nice to meet you."Her deep brown hair slung over her shoulder in a thick braid. Her eyes locked on his, intense icy blue.
He felt her Otherness in his bones.
"You too. Were you in there?Did you hear him?"Drake nodded his head toward the club
"Yeah," she chewed her lip. "Heard the whole thing."
"Sorry about Chad – he's got a big mouth."
Penny laughed. "Actually, it saved me from wondering if you felt it too or if this was a one-sided thing. Saved me lots of agonizing." She winked. "Plus, it was cute. I could see you off stage, cussing him out. He's a good friend."
"He is. I'll be sad to leave him." Drake mirrored her posture, leaning against the side of the building, arms crossed over his chest.
him?"Her eyebrows rose.
"No!" Drake bolted upright. "We're not together –not that I'm against that – but I'm straight. I'm leaving the band."He was rambling, but damned if he could stop running his mouth. "I'm very straight. Definitely interested in women, particularly women with long brown hair and blue eyes."He bit his bottom lip, clamping his mouth shut. "So, yeah, straight."One last verbal slip.
"And?"Penny leaned forward, closing the small distance between them.
"And ... wondering if you wanna have breakfast with me when I'm done here."
"I'd like that." Penny nodded.
"Anywhere special in mind?I'm not local – don't really know the good places to eat."Drake shrugged.
"Anywhere but work. The food is great, but I just worked an eight-hour shift. I don't really want to go back in my free time. There's a place off 36." She pointed in the general direction of the freeway.
"Can we cab it?I don't have a car here."
"I'll drive." Her head rested against the brick façade of the bar.
"Oh, all right. I'm usually done about three. That okay?"
Penny smiled. "Sure, I'm a night owl anyway. I'll pick you up."
"You could hang out backstage if you want."That same part of him that had recognized her as his Other wasn't ready to let her out of his sight.
Her nose wrinkled as she shook her head. "I'm going to run home and change. I smell like breakfast."
"I like breakfast."Drake unconsciously licked his lips.
"I like clean clothes. I'll see you at three."She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
"See you at three."
"Can I cut back through the building?"
"Of course."Drake held open the door to the club, sending Penny in first. "Can I walk you to your car?"His hand drifted automatically to the small of her back, guiding her through the doorway. He felt each point of contact acutely, like an electric shock coursing through him.
"I used valet. Thanks though."Penny laughed and waved as she disappeared into the crowd in front of the stage.