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       Created Darkly, p.10

           Gena D. Lutz
 
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  “It was nothing. And besides, your heart was in the right place.”

  ***

  “That’s a Tequila Sunrise, Absolute vodka, and a Red Bull. Oh, and one ice-cold Budweiser.” The waitress hummed as she placed our drinks on the table. “Will that be all, handsome? Is the beer yours, too? Double fisting it tonight?” She practically drooled all over Rush. He barely gave her a side glance.

  “We’re expecting a third. You can set that beer over there.” He pointed at the empty seat to my right.

  The waitress’s bottom lip popped out, creating a full-blown pout. She was tall and thin, with huge boobs and a pretty face, and she was aware of Rush’s lack of interest. She wasn’t taking it well. Apparently, she was used to drawing lots of attention from the male customers. Probably even some of the ladies, as well. She huffed, keeping that bottom lip of hers pushed out.

  “If you need anything else, just holler, and I’ll come right over.”

  She nudged Rush with her shoulder as she turned to leave, trying one more time to get his attention. He kept his eyes glued to me.

  “What do you suppose is taking Rafe so long? He’s been gone for a while now,” I said, then took a large draw off my straw. After a couple of swallows, I plucked the straw out of the drink and tipped the glass back, draining half of the sweet tequila concoction down my throat. It was no time to be ladylike.

  “Personally, I’d be glad if he stayed gone. His absence allows me more alone time with you.”

  I set my glass down and shifted, suddenly uncomfortable in my seat. “This isn’t a date, Rush. We are here to get drunk. That’s all.”

  An attractive black woman walked by. So beautiful, in fact, that I couldn’t help following her movements. She had legs for days and a smile that could give any man an instant hard-on. Well, any man but Rush. He was still ignoring the abundance of tail in the place, even though the woman’s skirt was so short, I swore if I tipped my head just right, I’d be able to tell if she was sporting a landing strip or bikini wax, or if she was as bare as the day she was born. She looked over at us and winked.

  I averted my stare, almost falling off my chair in the process. It was out of character for me to get so easily flustered, but every time I turned around, I was being hit on, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. I looked down at my dusty shirt and sneered.

  “I feel a little underdressed and grubby,” I said. I couldn’t help noticing that I was the only one in the bar with my legs and cleavage covered. “I’m going to freshen up.”

  I lifted out of my seat and caught another beauty staring at Rush and me. That one had blond hair that flowed in a silken river to her knees. It was longer than the tight red dress she wore. She turned her head and smiled, showing off a set of perfect, white teeth.

  “You’re more beautiful than any of the women in here,” Rush said, dimples popping to emphasize his words. The deep grooves did their job and stole my attention from the blond woman. “Would you like another drink?” he asked, his smile even bigger.

  I stood and relaxed my shoulders. Another drink was what I needed. “Yes, that would be great. Anything with fruit, please. I’ll be right back.”

  I knew fruity drinks were considered ‘girly,’ but in my unvarnished opinion, anyone who’d judge a drink by its umbrella wasn’t worth the salt rimmed on a margarita glass.

  I walked away, leaving Rush to nurse his drink. After passing several tables, I was aware that I was being followed. I pushed open a black door that had bold letters written in red on it. The blood-dripping letters spelled out Mistress. I kept my fingers crossed that I was walking into the ladies room. The door didn’t swing closed after I let it go. Whoever had followed me across the bar had entered behind me. I stopped in front of the first stall. With a ready hand hovering over my gun, I turned and faced my stalker.

  “How do you know about this place?” she asked.

  “You may as well ask me if I come here often. I’ll save you a lot of trouble. I’m not interested,” I answered while taking the woman’s measure.

  She seemed harmless at first glance, but looks could be deceiving. She was the same woman I’d seen earlier in the tight, red dress. The woman flipped her long, blond hair back and leaned her head to the side, giving me a clear view of her neck. “I belong to the owner of this club, which pretty much puts me in charge here. So answer my question, please, before things become difficult.”

  There were two fresh puncture wounds on the woman’s neck; I knew she had just been snacked on because the left hole was still oozing blood.

  “Do I know you?” I asked, trying to remain calm. On the inside, I was frantic, trying to figure out what kind of place Rafe had brought us to. “It’s the way I’m dressed, isn’t it? I came in here to freshen up, if that helps any.” I continued to play dumb, but I was certain she expected some kind of shocked reaction from me. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have unveiled her bite and announced whom she belonged to.

  “Let’s cut the shit and be straight with each other. I know you’re a Creator, and it’s common knowledge that any Creator who wishes to visit a vampire bar must obtain permission from the owner first,” she said, drawing out the words like I was dense.

  That time, she did get a reaction from me. My face paled, along with a hot tremble that took over my hands. Gun forgotten, I stuck them in my pockets to keep them contained. Those hands of mine were unpredictable, and I didn’t want to accidently singe that long, beautiful hair off of Vampire Slave Barbie’s head.

  “How do you know what I am?” I asked, leaning my hip against the sink. I kept my legs open enough to keep my feet planted firmly, in case that wasn’t just an introductory period, but rather, some kind of ambush. The posture would enable me to move quickly. I also had the gun tucked at the small of my back; its presence reassured me. I would have no problem spraying Miss America’s brains across the checkerboard tile if it came down to it.

  “Oh, spotting one of you is easy.” She swayed her hips over to the sink, where a basketful of washcloths lay. She picked up a cloth and dabbed at her bite. “Devil taught me to keep a steady watch on all newcomers, and to check their eyes.”

  After my hands stopped throbbing, I pulled them from my pockets and grabbed a washcloth of my own. I turned on the faucet and proceeded to wash my face. “You saw my eyes glow,” I said.

  She smiled at me in the mirror and nodded. “That’s right. Yours and your hunky friend’s. So what are you two doing here?”

  I thought about my answer. The more time I spent with her in there, the less I worried about any funny business happening. Considering that I usually had good instincts about people, I decided to tell her the truth.

  “The vampire I created tonight invited me to tag along with him. He forgot to tell me about the bar’s formalities.”

  “I didn’t see you with a vampire, only another Creator.” She reached over to turn off the faucet in front of her.

  I continued to let mine run. It seemed as though I couldn’t get clean enough, no matter how many swipes of the rag I applied against my neck and face. I pulled my shirt over my head to clean my arms and chest, seeing the shocked look on her face as she noticed the reflection of my weapon in the mirror. The holstered black metal was eye-catching, tucked at my back.

  Interestingly enough, the fact that I was standing in front of her without a shirt on, wearing only a bra, didn’t seem to register with her. Good. Modesty wasn’t my strong suit, and it would have done her no good to be offended by my half-naked breasts. I did understand her apprehension over the gun, though.

  “He’s around somewhere. Took off ‘round back when we first got here, saying he needed some decent duds. He’ll turn up shortly, I’m sure.”

  “Here,” the blond said, snatching my shirt off the counter. She tossed it into the garbage. “My name is Addison, by the way, but I prefer to be called Addie.” She shoved her hand inside a black, leather hobo purse. I noticed that the purse was made out of more material tha
n her dress. Addie took out a shirt and shoved it at me. “Here, take this. I have a skirt in there, too, if you don’t mind showing a little leg.”

  I stood there, staring deeply into a set of big, brown eyes. It could have been my close relationships to ghosts, human spirits, which made me notice. Or maybe it was something obvious enough for anyone who took the time to see. Addie had a good and kind soul. She was a complete stranger to me, but I trusted her.

  “Nice to meet you, Addie. I’m Kris.”

  I took the shirt from her. “Thank you,” I said with sincerity. I wasn’t looking forward to putting that dirt-caked one back on, so her shirt was a welcomed gift.

  After drying myself off with one of the dry cloths from the basket, I yanked the black, lacey shirt over my head. It fit snugly, barely covering half my chest, with the bottom hem an inch below my belly button. I looked in the mirror. The top was very revealing, and I said a silent prayer of thanks that I’d decided to wear a black bra that night, because the lacey number was see-through.

  I quickly became aware of the bedraggled state that my hair, face, and jeans were in. The difference was painful against the dressy shirt. Addie picked up on my discomfort. She turned me towards her, and a surprised squeak slipped out of me as she attacked my belt and the button to my jeans.

  “You’re in good hands, Kris. Don’t you worry. Feel free to throw your gun in my purse until you’re ready to leave.”

  What was going on? I’d just met the woman, and she was already stripping me out of my clothes and disarming me. I decided to go with the flow. That gun wasn’t the most deadly weapon at my disposal. My power was.

  Addie’s face pinched up like she smelled something vile. She stopped shoving my pants down and looked cross-eyed at my feet. “How could you let your boots get so trashed? A woman’s shoes are her temple.” She grabbed the damp cloth I’d been using and bent her knees until she was sitting on the backs of her heels. This girl was something else, a style drill sergeant. She grabbed my calf in one hand and polished the dirt and grime off my boots with the other.

  “There, that’s much better. These boots are hot; they can stay, but these pants?” She clucked her tongue at them. “They have got to go. Take ‘em off,” she ordered.

  I did what she told me to. When I finished taking my jeans off, I stood as she tossed me a grey, leather skirt. I drew it over my hips and slipped my boots back on.

  Addie rifled through her purse. “Here it is!” she said, holding up a silver makeup bag.

  Before I knew what was coming, she went for my face with a triangle sponge and a plethora of different-sized brushes. They were swept across my eyelids and cheeks, and she used black and red lining sticks to color all my creases and lips. When she was satisfied with her work, she moved on to my hair.

  “That pony tail is out of here.” She huffed. Like a genie, Addison made a big spray can appear in one of her hands and a large round brush in the other. She pointed at me. “Judging by all those knots, this is going to hurt you way more than it will hurt me. Hold your breath. I’m going in.”

  Her first stroke hit a knot and she tugged it through. “Ouch!” Maybe she wasn’t as innocent as I’d first thought!

  “Stop your whining. Beauty exacts its price, and you’re finally paying it. And from the looks of you before, you’re paying the discounted rate.”

  Chapter Sixteen

  The vodka was going down way too easily. I looked at my watch; fifteen minutes had passed since Kristina left. She was taking her sweet time in the bathroom. Women were a mysterious lot, I couldn’t help thinking. They could cozy up in their closets, bedrooms, and bathrooms for eternity. How or why, I couldn’t comprehend.

  “Where’s Kris?” Rafe asked, walking up to the table. As he dragged out the barstool, the legs scraped hard against the floor, making a screech. He jumped onto the stool, saying, “I was expecting a better view—a more feminine one. Not your ugly mug.”

  He grabbed the bottle of beer with a smirk and slammed it down in three gulps. “I’ll take two more,” Rafe said to the passing waitress whose half-naked body had been circling the table like a shark since Kristina left to freshen up.

  I didn’t give the woman more than a passing glance. One night stands had lost their flavor for me. Best believe that’s exactly what was on thigh-high’s mind; she wanted a hardcore romp in the saddle. Last week, or even last night, I would have been happy to oblige her. But after that mind-blowing kiss between Kristina and me, my appetite for other women had been obliterated. That beautiful, sexy woman was a constant pain in my ass.

  I gave the punk vampire a hard look. He didn’t even flinch, the asshole. “She’ll be back. Went to freshen up. I see you found a closet to raid.”

  Rafe was wearing a pair of black dress slacks and a silk shirt. The top buttons were left undone. I figured him for a more scuffed-up, casual style, but if he was able to pay the big bucks for an awakening, he had to be rolling in dough and could afford the duds he was sporting.

  Rafe shot me a dry look. “Why did you come with us, anyway? I distinctly remember inviting Kris along with me tonight; the offer wasn’t extended to you.”

  I slammed my drink down. A small line crawled up the glass. I cracked it. I leaned forward and shot the baby vamp a crippling look of my own. “I know how you vampires are, prick. You think any women you lay eyes on are your personal property. Normally, I wouldn’t give a fuck, but Kris…she’s different. Back off her, man. She’s mine.”

  Rafe stared at me. I knew my face was awash with red. I was pissed. My knuckles cracked white as I clenched my fists to keep from reaching over the table to punch the smug look off his face.

  The waitress dropped off Rafe’s drinks, clearing the table of the empties and the glass I broke. I felt bad for giving her the extra work and slipped her an additional twenty for the trouble.

  “Would you like another?” she asked, batting her mascara-caked eyelashes at me. She stuffed the twenty between her breasts and winked.

  I grabbed Kristina’s tequila drink and slammed it. “Another round for the table would be great.”

  “No problem,” she said, giving us both a half-hearted smile before taking off. No doubt, fleeing because she picked up on the tension between the vampire and me.

  Rafe sat straight in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, hit me over the head with a club or pinch me really hard, so I know I’m not dreaming. That, my friend, is a vision of pure perfection—the stuff dreams are made of.”

  Turning in my seat, I looked behind me. My eyes almost popped out of their sockets, and my tongue tried hard to roll out of my mouth; I almost fell out of my chair when I saw whom the dumb-ass vampire was talking about. A vision of beauty, of pure animal eroticism, was walking our way. I hardly noticed the curvy blond who was accompanying the goddess, Kristina.

  A protective growl hovered menacingly in the center of my chest, threatening to erupt. I scanned the room. Just as I thought, everyone was staring at my woman. Her dark hair hung loose, gentle waves flowing over her left shoulder. The red-hot beauty was wearing a miniskirt that ended halfway down her luscious thighs; there was a brief show of skin before it was cruelly hidden behind her leather boots. I imagined nibbling on the exposed flesh. Her breasts were barely covered, plump, and pushed up to spill over the edge of her shirt. My heart jack hammered.

  Kristina was a natural beauty who didn’t need the fuss of makeup and revealing clothing to get attention, but motherfucker! All the modifying she had done to accentuate that beauty didn’t hurt in the least. I had to reach down and rearrange the suddenly growing proof of it. No woman had ever had that kind of effect on me, and just my luck, the object of my ever-growing desire could barely stand me.

  “Did I miss anything?” Kris asked, stopping in front of the table. She fidgeted with the bottom of her skirt and smiled at me.

  I jumped up, and my elbow struck the corner of the table, making all the drinks rattle. I pulled out her seat. “You’r
e the only thing worth missing around here, Kris. You left this table a beauty and have returned a stunningly breath-taking vision. You have viciously stolen my heart; how cruel of you,” I said half-joking.

  She blushed and took the offered seat. “You’re such a kidder.”

  “He’s right. You are a vision of loveliness, ma chérie.” Rafe gave Kris a lecherous grin and slid a drink in front of her. It made me want to pummel his nose in.

  “Oh, my God! Is that you?” The blond next to Kris squealed so loud, you could hardly hear the booming club music over it. “It has to be…but it can’t be!”

  “Rafe stood up, opened his arms wide, and said, “Addie, get your sexy ass over here and give us a kiss.”

  “It is you! Rafe, I have missed you so much.” With tears crawling down her cheeks, the girl Rafe called Addie went running into his arms.

  ***

  I had to admit, the way the men, and even some of the women in the bar, were ogling my goodies as I walked towards my table made me feel kind of sexy. I was starting to enjoy that side of being a woman. It was a rare occasion for me to get all dolled up, and their reaction to my bared cleavage and legs had me wondering why I didn’t do it more often.

  Rouge caked onto my cheeks was a lot better than having dirt smudged across my face any day, but even so, I didn’t regret the work I did for the poor, suffering ghosts who contacted me. They needed someone to exact their retribution, and I was more than happy to do it. There was no better feeling than to send a once-distraught spirit home into the ether, so they could live out their eternity in whichever heaven each one of them believed in. And since I found out about the body-snatching phantoms—the lost souls who wander the earth in disparity until only darkness is left to consume them—I considered my work to be of even more importance. The fewer body snatchers traipsing the earth, the better.

  I noticed how Rush was staring at me. At first, I thought he disapproved of the new and improved version of me, but upon closer examination, I recognized a deep and carnal hunger in the way he was drinking me in. My cheeks flushed darker than the blush, and I looked down to hide my reaction. Sound fell from my lips, but I didn’t even know what words were being formed.

 
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