Authors: Stephanie Nelson
I had to admit, it was scary knowing Dorian wouldn’t get a head’s up about my potential demise. I hadn’t realized just how much I was depending on his insight until now. When I first met him I had thought about asking when I would die, but chickened out. Now, I was regretting it. It could be today or fifty years from now. That’s life though; we’re not supposed to know our fates, easier for me to deal with than Dorian. I imagined this was bugging him like crazy.
“So, I will eventually lose my magic and you’re blind to me,” I stated, crossing my arms and shaking my head. “Add it to the list of drama that is my life.” I tried for a smile to lighten the mood, but Dorian was staring at the floor again; his features pulled tight and sharp. As I waited for him to snap out of his zoned out state, I watched how the shadows played along his face. He was such an enigma and it intrigued me. The shiny finish of his sunglasses caught the reflection of what little light penetrated my bedroom and cast a slight glow on his cheeks.
“We need to continue to train.” Dorian lifted his head, pausing when he noticed I was watching him intently. He stood still and speechless as he watched me watching him, both of us captured by one another. A tingle tiptoed down my spine and washed through my core.
Dorian cleared his throat, rubbing a hand across his stubble-lined jaw. “I may need to leave, Gwen.”
His words snapped me out of my admiration. “Leave the apartment or Flora?” I rolled my neck along my shoulders to work out the tension. “Am I supposed to train myself?”
“Both. I need to figure out what is going on. If it can be fixed, it’ll be better for the both of us. I won’t be gone for too long and you can train with the spirits yourself.”
My head was nodding, but I realized after about twenty seconds that I hadn’t spoken yet. Truth was I had grown fond of having Dorian around, even if he infuriated me most of the time.
“Okay,” I finally replied. It wasn’t like having him in Flora would give us the upper hand in the destiny department. But I was still comforted by his presence. Just as Dorian was about to say something, someone pounded on my front door. Dorian and I looked at each other before he headed out of my bedroom with me at his heels.
“It’s a vampire,” Dorian said as he walked to the front door and opened it. A tall leggy blond stood on the balcony, one hip cocked as she studied her nails. The black leather body suit she was wearing looked like a second skin and was unzipped just enough to allow her cleavage to spill forward. Her wide blue eyes latched onto Dorian and a mischievous smile spread across her painted lips.
“Well hello, handsome,” she crooned. “Are you going to invite me in or devour me with your eyes?”
“Who are you?” I stepped around Dorian’s large frame to inspect vampire Barbie closer. Her eyes shifted to my face, a coy glint brightening her eyes as she tilted her head to the side to study me.
“I know who I am,” I snapped. “Who the hell are you?”
“Lauren Hayes, vampire hired gun extraordinaire.” She curled her hand in a flourish. “I can see why Aiden is so smitten with you. You’re just his type, dark hair, light eyes, an innocent face, but I’m sure you’re a hellcat in the sack.” She laughed a musical tune that I wouldn’t associate with an assassin.
“Ah, Aiden sent you then? When he mentioned sending someone over I expected…well, someone else.”
Lauren rested a manicured hand on her hip. “Don’t let the getup fool you, sweetie. I’m not as nice as I look.” She emphasized the statement with a devilish smirk. Fangs peeked out from under her cherry red lips.
“Point taken,” I told her.
“So, you going to invite me in?” Something in her eyes made me uneasy. I was not up to entertaining vampire Barbie, or worrying that she would use me as a midnight snack. Not all vampires were addicted to Brew though, and Aiden trusted her. And she was here to protect me. Just as I was about to invite her over the threshold, Dorian grabbed my arm.
“Why don’t you call Aiden and verify that he did send her before inviting her into your house?” he advised. I nodded, turning away and reaching for the phone. I punched in Aiden’s number while keeping my eyes on Dorian and Lauren. If she eye-fucked him any harder, I would need to offer them both a cigarette.
“Yes, my Gwen?” Aiden’s smooth voice rolled over the phone.
“Hi,” I replied. “I’m just calling to confirm that you sent assassin Barbie to my house.”
Aiden chuckled and my body responded with a shiver. I momentarily closed my eyes in remembrance of feeling his laugh on my skin, the way his breath brushed my throat right before he pressed a kiss to the sensitive spot. Snapping my eyes open, I chided myself and shook the memory away.
“She may look like a grade A hooker but she’s the best in her line of work. I’ve known her for fifteen years and I trust her.”
I shot a quick glance at the woman in question. She was bracing both hands against the doorframe leaning in ever so slightly so that her full breasts spilled forward. I wondered if her being here had more to do with making me jealous rather than her stellar kill record. I could almost hear Aiden say,
See, Gwen, I have plenty of beautiful women to surround myself with.
“Good, maybe you can screw
over,” I mumbled to myself, and then bit down on my tongue when I realized I had spoken the words rather than thought them.
“What was that?” Aiden asked.
“Nothing,” I said quickly. “Thank you for sending…her. It’s dangerous giving out invitations to vampires these days so I was just double-checking her story. Have a good night, Aiden.”
“Gwen,” Aiden breathed before I could hang up. “Stay safe and if you need anything, you know you can call me.”
When I hung up the phone I made my way over to the door. Lauren was giggling, actually
at Dorian. What the hell kind of ruthless killer giggles? I was quickly losing faith in her reputation.
“Aiden confirmed that he sent her,” I said to Dorian. When he looked at me he had a shit-eating grin on his face. What the hell were those two so chummy about? I swear, you put a pair of boobs in any man’s face, human or paranormal, and he turns into a drooling dog. And they think they’re the stronger sex?
“You can come in,” I told Lauren. She smiled at me and stepped over the doorway, swinging her hips and clacking her high heels as she sauntered into the kitchen. Her head swiveled as she took in the small space. Swinging around, she placed a hand on her hip and said, “It’ll do.”
“Happy it has your seal of approval,” I bit out.
“Dorian, would you be a dear and retrieve my bags? They’re in car, the silver Maserati.”
“Bags?” I questioned. “You brought an arsenal with you?”
“Only of clothes and makeup,” Lauren smiled.
“How many bedrooms does this place have?” Lauren took off down the hall, surveying my small apartment. While Dorian headed outside to do her bidding. I followed when I saw her slip into my bedroom.
“Why do you think you’re staying here?” I asked incredulously.
“My contract states that I am to stay in your company at all times.” Lauren walked over to the window and pulled back the curtain, observing the fabric. “We’ll have to get something thicker to keep the sun out.”
Furious, I stepped further into my room and squared my shoulders to face the intrusive Playboy bunny vampire. “This is my room,” I snapped. “And Aiden didn’t say anything about you moving in.”
Lauren released an exaggerated sigh, locking eyes with me. “Aiden said you could be headstrong. You need to realize when people are trying to help you out. You don’t always have to go on the defense.”
Who the hell did this woman think she was? “Don’t pretend to know me.”
“I got your bags,” Dorian announced, lugging three duffel bags and one suitcase down the hall and stopping in front of my room. I stared at him astounded. Since when did the angel of Death jump when a pretty woman snapped her fingers?
“Thank you, handsome.” Lauren walked over to him and ran a painted nail down his chest, while Dorian grinned like a fool. I shook my head, dumbfounded, as I watched the two of them. What the hell was going on? I knew I hadn’t rocked Dorian’s jollies, but he couldn’t be that hard up. Surely he would satisfied his sexual appetite with some local tart since getting here. He was acting like an eager hormone-induced teenager.
“Gwen isn’t ready to give up her bedroom,” Lauren said to Dorian. Looking over her shoulder at me she said, “Some people don’t know what hospitality is.”
“You can stay in my—”
“No,” I interrupted quickly. Both Dorian and Lauren turned to look at me, and I realized I sounded a little too invested in my disapproval. But there was no way I wanted Ms. Bat-my-eyelashes-and-sway-my-hips rooming with Dorian. Yes, I know how that makes me sound. And I’m not the type who tells a guy I’m not ready yet but doesn’t want him with anyone else. Okay, maybe that’s how I was acting, but something was up with Lauren. Dorian wasn’t acting like himself and that’s what scared me.
“I was going to say she can stay in my room and I’ll sleep on the couch.” Dorian grinned at me and an inferno warmed my cheeks.
“Are you two…” Lauren signaled between me and Dorian.
“No,” I answered a little too quickly, shrugging and feigning indifference to Dorian’s sexual partners. I had never been a good liar. I was too obvious or overly adamant about what I was saying which was a dead giveaway.
Dorian was looking at me over Lauren’s shoulder and his jaw tightened the slightest bit when I confirmed that there was nothing between the two of us. Looking down at Lauren he said, “There you have it. Come on, I’ll help you get settled.”
While Dorian was helping Lauren get
, I headed to the bathroom. I hadn’t inspected myself since coming home from the hospital. My body no longer ached and the swollenness of my face had gone down. Dragging my eyes up, I stared at my reflection and was happy to see that the defeated girl I saw in the mirror at the hospital gone. Vampire blood was seriously a miracle worker. Though I was healed on the outside, inside I was a mangled mess. And not just from the rogue attack. I was still mentally dealing with what Ian had done to me while in Moon. It’s difficult making the world think you’re strong when you’re barely bending under the weight of inner demons. But I’m a firm believer in owning your problems and not allowing them to own you. That may sound like a spiel from Dr. Phil, but it’s been a motto that’s worked for me. I had to accept Ian’s abuse and move past it. At least the son of a bitch was dead and unable to hurt anyone else.
See, silver lining.
Lauren’s throaty giggle sounded through the apartment. What was Aiden’s angle in placing her in my home? I dragged my hands through my hair, gave myself one last glance in the mirror and headed out to see what the hell was so damned funny.
I passed Dorian’s bedroom and stared in astonishment. They were both chuckling like hyenas while Dorian helped unpack Lauren’s things. I had never seen Dorian in a full blown laugh, his cheeks stretching wide while a deep rumble of laughter sounded from his full lips. Sure he had laughed around me, but it was more at my own expense rather than finding humor with me. An, “I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you” sort of thing. A nasty pang of jealously stuck in my gut, causing my upper lip to curl up in a sneer as I glared at the blonde intruder. I got my inner green monster under control and headed to the kitchen to slip on my boots. I glanced down to appraise what I was wearing: black yoga pants and a long sleeve gray t-shirt. Deciding that the pants might not be thick enough to chase away the coolness of the night, I hurried to my room and changed into jeans. As I slipped past Dorian’s room, I did a walk by peek. Dorian’s head snapped up and settled in my direction but I didn’t stop my escape.
I needed time by myself, without a giggling vampire Barbie and infatuated angel of Death and I knew just the place. I grabbed my coat and closed the front door behind me quietly. The stairway squeaked under my weight. I liked to walk and the temperature outside wasn’t as cold as I expected. Slipping on my jacket, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and headed for the one place that had become peaceful for me.
* * *
Flora’s cemetery sat on the edge of town. It wasn’t very big but what it lacked in size it made up for in charm. I know how strange that sounds, that a graveyard would be charming, but I no longer found the resting place of the dead frightening. There was something very calming about the hallowed ground. A three foot stone wall encompassed the area and a tall wrought iron arch with a hinged double gate welcomed grievers. Thick oak trees with curvy bare branches shared the area with tombstones and mausoleums.
As I walked down the worn thin path, I closed my eyes and reached my senses out. Dorian told me with more practice I wouldn’t have to concentrate on sensing death, it would become a sixth sense of sorts. Though I was accepting what I am, the idea of always being able to detectdeath was a bit disconcerting. Imagine if you found out your neighbor, the one who always waves and makes small talk, had actually killed someone. Sometimes ignorance
bliss. I knew Aiden killed a lot of people and I didn’t want a constant reminder of sensing it from him.