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Devils playground, p.2
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       Devil's Playground, p.2

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Gum popped and crackled from the back of her cheek, as she stuffed her order book inside a hidden pocket, situated at the front of her apron. I smiled at her, and she gave me a rushed smile back.

  “Welcome to Bee-Bops. Would you prefer a counter seat or a booth?”

  “A booth would be grea—”

  “We’re meeting someone here. But thanks, anyway,” Torra interrupted.

  “Suit yourself. Feel free to look around. If you can’t find your party, let me know, and I’ll seat ya.”

  After one more pop of her gum, the waitress winked and moved on to a couple who’d walked in behind us.

  I saw a flicker of something in Torra’s features. It was a look that screamed, I’m up to something. I opened my mouth to question her, but before I could get anything other than a stammer out, she ushered me down one of the aisles by my arm. Her neck was getting quite the workout, by the way she searched the sea of red and white booths. Then with wide eyes, her frantic motion abruptly stilled.

  “You can’t get mad at me for this,” she said, keeping a firm grip on my arm.

  Oh, boy. That couldn’t be good.

  My guard was officially up. I swallowed the dryness in my throat.

  “What are you up to, Torra?”

  She brushed a loose strand of hair from her face, saying, “Okay, fine, I tricked you a little bit.” Her bottom lip popped out. “Mom really wants to talk to both of us together. So I figured, what better way to do that than a quick lunch, in public, where there’ll be witnesses?”

  I wrapped my hands around her arms, a little too tightly, and pulled, until her body was pressed against mine.

  “Hey! That hurts.”

  I loosened my grip and said, “Sorry. I just don’t understand you. Our so-called mother doesn’t deserve our time, especially yours, Torra. We’re leaving.”

  I turned to do just that, but she yanked away from me.

  “No, we are not.” Torra smoothed out her shirt, and at the same time, she shot me a perturbed look. “I’m not a child, Kris. And I sure as hell don’t need to be protected from my own mother. Now, can we please just sit down and act civilized?”

  She batted her big blue eyes at me, and her lips fell into a sullen bow. That was a gesture that I rarely could resist… and the brat knew it. I swallowed a long stream of profanities.

  “Fine,” I conceded, catching the stare of my mother from a few booths away. She’d been watching our scene the entire time, without saying a word. “For you, I’ll do it. But you owe me big time for this. Like major big.”

  Relief and excitement showed on Torra’s face, and I realized that the ambush, I mean, ‘lunch,’ meant a lot to her. So for that reason alone, I knew I’d made the right decision to stay and suffer through it.

  “Come on, let’s get this over with.”

  I climbed into the booth across from Lizet, and as I inched my way in, I had a strong sense of déjà vu from our earlier meeting. Torra scooted in beside our mother. Not sure what else to do, and because I didn’t want to be the first one to speak, my eyes frantically searched the diner for the waitress. I was in dire need of some coffee, as well as a quick distraction, to help cut through the thick fog of awkwardness I’d sat down in.

  As a maneuver to avoid eye contact with Lizet, I looked to the right and spotted a miniature jukebox. The tiny machine was filled with sounds of the golden oldies. Music guaranteed to get my bootie bouncing in my seat. If nothing else, I could slip a couple nickels in the slot and enjoy some songs by one of my favorite artists, Elvis Presley, until the waitress arrived. I started to fish through my purse in search of coins, when the sound of Lizet’s low voice broke the silence.

  “I guess I should start with an apology. God knows, I haven’t been the best mother in the world to you girls, and I’m full of regret for it. But all I’m asking is for a chance to make it up to you both… especially you, Krissy.” Lizet stared at me with big wide eyes. “I left you holding a pretty full bag, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am for doing that.”

  My breath chilled in my throat, and my pulse thundered loud in my eardrums.

  What the hell did she just do? Apologize? Where is the sarcastic lady from earlier?

  I registered the sentiment behind her words as something hollow, as thin as the bones in a bird’s wing. I had a hunch that her change in attitude was solely for the benefit of my sister. It had to be. The million-dollar question was why? And would I be able to protect my sister from the repercussions of it?

  I set my purse next to me and placed my hands on the table.

  “I’m at a loss for words.”

  Torra’s happy expression fell, as she said, “She’s trying here, Kris. The least you can do is meet her halfway.”

  My eyes narrowed. Torra was so gullible when it came to our mother.

  “No, the least I can do is what I’m already doing. I’m sitting here, aren’t I, even after you tricked me into coming?”

  “Calm down, girls. There’s no need to argue. Let me tell you why I called you here.”

  “Please do. I have work in an hour,” I said with a bitter smile, glad she decided to drop the pretenses.

  Torra’s fingers began a slow tap against the linoleum table top.

  “You’re such a bitch sometimes, Kris.”

  I laughed, before I could think. It was times like those that reminded me how hard it was to be a responsible adult.

  “Someone has to be.”

  “It’s okay. I wasn’t expecting a tearful reunion, Torrance. Your sister is well within her rights to be upset with me. So cut her some slack.”

  “I don’t need you to mediate between my sister and me. Back off,” I warned.

  Lizet threw her hands up and said, “Okay then, as promised, I’ll get to the point. I want all three of us to combine our talents and open up a metaphysical boutique.”

  With raised eyebrows, I asked, “Are you serious?”

  The idea was almost laughable.

  All of a sudden, Torra did a 360-degree mood swing, which had her reverting back into her happy-go-lucky self. With excitement, she clasped her hands and bounced in her seat.

  “Oh, my God, Mom, that is such a perfect idea! Let’s do it!” Torra cheered.

  I took a long breath in, then let it out slowly.

  “Hmmm… let me find the appropriate phrasing for this. Abso-freakin’-lutely not.”

  Shocked, Torra threw me an evil glare, before shrieking, “Huh? What is wrong with you? Won’t you even discuss the possibility, before pissing all over everyone’s Cheerios?”

  Our eyes met and held.

  “Somehow, I don’t think that you and I, with our wayward mother in tow, performing spirit divinations and some sort of gypsy fortune telling, are a good combo. Like I said… I’ll pass.”

  “It’s okay, baby girl. We can do it ourselves, just the two of us,” Lizet said to my distraught sister.

  That did it. I’d had enough.

  I pointed to Lizet and said, “You’re dumb as a box of rocks if you think that’s going to happen. She is going to college as planned. You can’t just swoop in here with your grand ideas and promises like this. You’ve already thrown a wrench in all our lives once. I won’t let you do it again.”

  I stood, eyeballing the exit. I was only ten feet away from those magical doors, an escape route from that lunch from Hell—a lunch that I didn’t even get a damn coffee at.

  Torra stiffened and asked, “Where are you going?”

  After picking up my jacket, I shoved my arms through the sleeves and yanked the strap of my purse over my shoulder.

  “I’m going to work. We’ll talk later.”

  Flames flickered across her eyes.

  “You always say that. We’ll talk later,” she mocked.

  “Well, stop putting me in tough situations, and I’ll start having easy answers for you.”

  Lizet stood from the booth. Her smile was waning but still holding on for dear life.

We’re not finished talking about this, Krissy.”

  I shook my head and said, “You have no clue how finished we are, Liz.”

  Chapter Three

  I arrived at Devil’s Playground half an hour early. It was 12:30 in the afternoon, but the bar still managed to bring in a halfway decent crowd. I could give the credit for the steady stream of customers to the top-shelf booze, flowing liberally from the morning bartender’s heavy pour, but that wasn’t the reason that certain group of people patronized the dark and spacious establishment. It was because Devil’s Playground was a supes bar. In other words, it catered to all the supernatural species that prowled the streets of Atlantic City, furnishing them with a place to act out their dirty and depraved fantasies, with more than willing participants.

  I pulled my dark hair back into a ponytail and took my phone out of my purse, before stowing it behind the bar. I was wearing a pair of my tightest jeans and a black crochet top that showed off way more of my upper body than what would be considered respectable. But like the waitress at Bee-Bops, I worked for tips. And if you think middle-aged truckers liked to see some skin, you didn’t know the half of it. Their appetites for the flesh were nothing, compared to a vampire’s.

  At Devil’s Playground, a good-looking bartender, who poured a decent drink and had a strong stomach for the smell and sight of blood, could make a killing in a single shift… no pun intended.

  I glanced at my phone and swiped the screen. One new message blinked brightly. I swiped that, too, and saw that it was from Rush.

  The Council has convened early… See your beautiful face soon.

  My fingers auto swiped a reply.

  I’m wearing your favorite heels. J

  The phone beeped two seconds later.

  Not for long…

  I smiled and slipped the phone into an empty coffee mug that was next to the tip jar, which reminded me that I still needed some coffee… bad. Especially if Rush planned on getting my heels off of me before my shift ended. I knew from experience that he would be unstoppable, until he accomplished his goal, so I would need all the energy I could get, to run away from his groping hands.

  “Well, it looks like you’re early,” said Slone, the day bartender, as I prepared my long-awaited caffeine fix in the back room behind the bar. “Do you need me to stick around until 1:00, or can I push out of here a few minutes early?” She stepped past me and grabbed two cases of beer from the walk-in cooler. “After I stock these, the bar will be ready for you to take the reins.”

  I threw her a look over my shoulder and smiled.

  “Sure, there’s no reason for you to stick around.”

  Red curls that fell to her shoulders bounced, as she nodded and said, “Thanks.”

  Slone was the quintessential redhead, with striking pale skin, freckles, green eyes, and a temper that could blaze and burn like an inferno when ignited. She’d been working at Devil’s Playground since the bar opened, over a decade ago, and was the daytime manager, while Devlin, Devil, the vampire who owned the bar, slept in the basement rooms below the club.

  Devil wasn’t alone down in the catacombs, which was what the vampires called the rooms made available to them for feeding, playing games, and resting. He was also joined by his brides, Addison, Millie, and Cecily.

  After Slone finished stocking the bar, she would disappear down into the catacombs, as well, because Slone Donovan wasn’t only the bar manager. She was also a 300-year-old vampire.

  Abruptly, a crash came from the main bar area, making my heart skip about five beats. Slone dropped the cases of beer on the ground and zipped out of the door, before I could even take a step forward. I ran to the front and came to a jolting stop behind the bar.

  Slone was standing in the middle of a group of high-top tables. A wild-eyed man was hanging from Slone’s balled-up fist, the tips of his shoes barely touching the ground. An infuriated woman wearing a pink t-shirt, sweats, and white sneakers was standing in front of them, shaking her fists and screaming. The lady’s entire form wavered, and I quickly realized that I was the only one in the bar who could see or hear the profanities flooding from her transparent mouth.

  “Someone needs to go wake up Devil, like now. We have a big problem,” Ward, the human bar-back, announced from across the room.

  I ran past Slone, who seemed to have whatever she was doing handled for the time being. I opened the back door and then quickly closed it.


  Ward nodded and said, “They all pulled up a few minutes ago, just as I was coming back in from taking out the trash.”

  My eyes flashed over to the ghost.

  “I’m pretty sure they’re here to investigate a murder.”

  Ward’s face went slack, as he asked, “What makes you think that?”

  “Let’s just say I have a hunch.”

  I didn’t come right out and tell him that we had a new ghost haunting the guy Slone was manhandling. Everyone there knew I was a necromancer, but still, I didn’t like to go around advertising it.

  “I’ll go get the boss man.”


  I moved the velvet rope, which was draped across the entryway that led to the section of the building where all the slot machines were housed. That part of the club was closed to the public between 6:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon.

  As I walked across the gaudy casino-themed carpet and into the cordoned-off room, lights flashed in my eyes from the machines, and enticing pings and dings rang in my ears. I veered to the right, following a pathway that lay narrowly in between two rows of machines, until I came to the last one.

  When I first started working at Devil’s Playground, Rafe—my vampire creation—had given me a keychain filled with keys to the bar. There was one each for the front and back doors, bathrooms, the upstairs living quarters, and a special secret key that granted the holder access to the VIP rooms in the catacombs.

  I pulled that secret key from my pocket and lifted the permanent Out of Order sign that covered the coin slot. I flipped the slot mechanism back, slipped the key in, and turned. I heard a rush of air expel from behind the slot machine, before I swung it open. The fake machine clicked closed behind me, as I began to jog down the stairs.

  It seemed like every time I turned around, there was another set of stairs for me to descend, ones that would inevitably lead me into a pit of beautiful but potentially deadly or devious creatures. It was the damndest thing, how there always seemed to be more of them to fight, or in recent cases, care for and love. That fact made me seriously wonder about all previous decisions I’d made that led me there… to Devil’s Playground. I was living a life full of unpredictability. But if I were being honest with myself, I’d have to admit that the allure was exciting and kind of cool.

  The stairwell opened into a wide hallway. A set of equally large passages were on both the left and right of me. I could hear music playing down the one on the left, a sure sign that at least one of the rooms was occupied. And whoever was bunking in there for the day had the door wide open, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to hear anything through the soundproof walls.

  I walked forward, passing all four gaping arches, and headed toward a large door at the end of the hall. As soon as I got two feet from it, a camera secured in a steel box that hung from the ceiling clicked on, and a red beam of light hit me square in the eye.

  The first time that happened to me, I jumped back, while screaming like a little girl, but that time, I was prepared for it and opened my eyes wide to let the security beam check out who I was.

  After the laser vanished, the door opened up, and I walked over the threshold, into a room that was a throwback to the Neanderthal times. But the debonair caveman that occupied the space had considerably superior taste over the knuckle-draggers that came many centuries before him.

  Devil laid atop a huge pile of fur pelts, each one of them in a different shade of grey, black, and brown. The makeshift bed was a subtle display of simplicity and opule
nce that, when melded together, created a regal scene.

  His long black hair was tousled and flowed down his broad shoulders, to blend with gleaming strands of curled red, blonde, and black hair. The intermingling locks belonged to Devil’s wives, Addison, Millie, and Cecily.

  He wore a white satin nightshirt that was unbuttoned low to reveal a massive chest, which had a light dusting of black hair scattered across it. His thin shirt traveled over his hips and ended, barely covering a set of thickly muscled thighs.

  The ancient vampire was a corded valley of eroticism, his silk swathed body, a pallet for his slumbering wives, who wore nothing but their pale flesh, to rest their heads and drape their limbs upon. They looked perfect together, sensual, so much so that things began to heat up and tighten low in my body. I was entranced. I had to physically shake myself back into soberness.

  Devil’s raven black eyelashes fluttered. He was gradually rousing from his self-imposed slumber, a respite from the sun that all vampires required during the day. But gradual wasn’t going to cut it; I needed him to wake up faster.

  “Umm, Devil,” I began, while taking a few hesitant steps forward.

  I stopped just short of the fur bed, and the tips of my toes, which peeked out from my heels, brushed against the softness of the pelts. Prickles of pleasure rode up my leg, and I quickly backed away from the soft stimulant.

  I was way too aroused, as it was. If my boyfriend was with me at the moment, those raging feelings would be okay; I could just steal one of the slumber rooms to slake my building lust. But since he was at work, that real-life porno scene was nothing more than torturous teasing.

  While pushing up from the comfort of silk, fur, and limbs, Addison, Devil’s main bride and my good friend, said, “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”

  Devil’s large palm slid over Addison’s hip and dipped out of sight, to rest on her bottom.

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