Devil's Playground, p.8Gena D. Lutz
“I believe the owner of the club had a lot to do with it, too. Devil’s been around for quite some time—long enough to acquire some respect in certain circles.”
“It’s good to know I have someone else to call if I’m ever knee deep in paranormal bullshit. Detective Anderson’s number has just been added to speed dial.”
Rafe nodded and said, “Just in time, too. I have some more ‘good’ news for you.”
“Let me guess. More dead bodies?” I asked, biting my lower lip.
He thought about it for a second.
“Well, sort of.”
My brows lifted. That got my attention.
“Josh gave me the information you asked for, plus a little more.”
“Let me have it.”
“He told me that the bar we’re looking for is in Bandit Row and that Solofar is a vampire.”
I huffed and said, “Well, isn’t that peachy?”
For a couple seconds longer, I let the wind brush against my face and refused to think of all the dangers that chasing down a bunch of rapists and murders all the way out in BFE would put me in. Instead, I enjoyed the calm. Then like all things good, the moment ended way too soon.
“All right, then, he’s a vampire. Got it. Let’s go track down the bloodsucker.”
Rafe swept his arm toward the motorcycle across the street.
I sure didn’t feel like a lady. I felt more like my own special brand of monster. Why? you may ask. Because I was a person who could put the bad guy on the chopping block and not give a goddamn about it when the blood began to spurt and limbs and flesh flew off. It was part of the process… and I was good at it.
After driving for an hour, away from the more populated regions of Atlantic City, I stumbled upon the road that would lead me to Bandit Row. As soon as my wheels hit gravel, Rafe hopped off the back of the bike, choosing to spread his wings and fly overhead under the cover of night. I scooched my butt back and enjoyed the uneven glide of the bike, as it vibrated underneath me.
I tightened my grip for better control and felt the motor churning with barely contained fury, creating a heat so intense that it turned cold metal into a scorching weapon that could singe the flesh from bone. Spark plugs ignited and pistons pumped, turning an inanimate object into a fast and wild beast. The wind screamed through the ventilation holes in my helmet, adding to the heavy rumble and roar of the bike’s engine. I couldn’t help it… my lips spread into a wide grin. Even if I did rue the destination, it was one hell of a ride.
Without warning, Rafe swooped down. He spun back around to soar just above my head, so his wings had room to beat and keep him in flight. He was waving his hand frantically, pointing somewhere to the right.
“Mother fu—!”I screamed, giving him a panicked look through the visor.
The son of a gun almost startled me right off the road! I took a deep breath and steadied myself, before I redirected my gaze to see what he was all bent out of shape about. My eyes searched the open road and the dense woods ahead of me. Then I saw it—a sign that stuck out like a sore thumb, with its brightly colored neon lights blaring.
“It looks like a bar,” I yelled through the thick plastic and over the roar of the engine.
I knew he would be able to hear me. Vampires could hear a coin flip from a block away.
The closer I rode toward the bar, the more the residual magic in the air had the hair on my arms standing on end. When I finally pulled into the graveled parking lot, my stomach knotted up like the end of a balloon.
Vampires were there… and a whole heck of a lot of them. I parked my bike across the lot in the dark, far away from an impressive line of Harleys that were lined up next to each other in a neat row at the bar’s entrance. I slipped off the bike and looked up into the star-dotted sky and found no sign of Rafe.
“Looking for me?” he asked, emerging from the trees, shirtless.
The moon cast a blue glow across his body, bathing him in beams of light that accentuated each hill and valley of his expansive chest. Rafe’s wings were furled against his back, and as soon as he willed it so, those spectacular extra bits of his would melt seamlessly into his flesh, as a tattoo-like branding, a mark that signified him as my very own creation.
His pec muscles danced, as he rolled his shoulders and stretched his back, probably sore from supporting such large wings, which then disappeared. And still, with all that magnificent beauty on display before me, I felt not even one twinge of desire, no quickening pulse—nothing. We were family, he and I, the closest of.
“Is this the place Josh told you about?” I asked.
With a smile, he said, “Didn’t you notice the sign?”
I turned my head and did a quick survey of the bar and its logo.
“I don’t see what you mean.” And then I did. “Shit.”
I stuffed my hand into my jean pocket and pulled out Darcy’s bracelet.
“Do you see it now?” Rafe asked, pointing to the neon sign that was in the shape of a wild boar. “That can’t be a coincidence. This bar sits right beside the road that leads to Bandit Row, just like he said.”
I thumbed the bracelet, trying to think. And then a hollow plan slowly formed.
“I’m going in.”
“Without me, you’re not,” Rafe said, like ‘no’ was an inconceivable answer.
“I need to be inconspicuous about this, Rafe. A shirtless vampire that radiates power like a nuclear missile does not a stealth entrance make.”
He paused. Little grooved lines formed between his dark brows, as he remained deep in thought.
He let out a sigh and said, “I’ll wait outside under one condition.”
I crossed my arms and nodded.
“What’s the condition?”
He pointed to the wood slat roof.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on you from up there.”
My brain went into overdrive, calculating the possible ways his idea could screw up my plan, but I couldn’t find any, so I relented.
“Okay. But no jumping the gun. Remember, you’re not my only weapon of mass destruction. I have these, too.” I wiggled my hands in the space between us. “Those vamps are in more danger than I am if shit goes bad.”
Rafe narrowed is eyes at me and then flew off without another word.
I looked down and gave myself a onceover and noticed that my shirt was a problem. I couldn’t walk into Razorbacks, which was the name of that rundown backwoods bar, with the name of the place where the murderers disposed of Darcy’s body prominently displayed across my chest. Especially not on the one area guaranteed to be noticed by a bunch a vampires, second only to my neck. That was the only shirt I had, but that snafu wasn’t going to deter me.
Being the girl who grew up thinking macaroni and cheese with diced hotdogs was a delicacy, I knew how to recycle clothing. I lost my jacket and stripped off my t-shirt. After turning it inside out, I quickly put it back on. I then bunched up the slack fabric into two parts, so I could tie it into a knot in the front, much like my grandmother did with her t-shirts. When I was finished, you could barely see an outline of the lettering. What stood out most was my daringly exposed cleavage and my bare midriff.
Devil would’ve been so proud if he could’ve seen me. Rush would’ve been incensed. I could feel Rafe’s objection all the way from the rooftop, and it chilled my bones. But he stayed rooted in position, perched like a deadly bird of prey in the shadows, waiting to spot a mouse to swoop down and rip to bloody shreds with its talons.
After shrugging on my jacket and trying to finger-comb my hair into something presentable, I turned and walked across the parking lot. Before I reached the entrance, I heard a man’s cough and then a low whistle.
“I know what you’re up to,” the smooth voice said.
I knew he was a vampire right away. No other species, that I’d ever encountered, anyway, sounded that sensual, while being that creepy. A tall man, with muscles
Hmm… this guy must be the bouncer or the door man.
The vampire ran his light blue eyes over me.
“You’re trying to sneak in here, aren’tcha, chicky?”
My stomach turned, but I somehow relaxed my shoulders, pushed my hip out a bit, and then stuck out my chest. With a carefree move, I swiped the tips of my fingers across the top swell of my breasts.
“I’m just out looking for a little adventure. I saw this place and thought maybe I’d score a drink or two while I’m at it.”
His eyes scanned the parking lot, before he took a step forward. Three more like the first one, and he would’ve been up close and personal.
“We don’t let strange in here. To get past me, you either have to ride in with a patch holder, or you need to be related to one.”
I scanned his leather jacket. There was a black and white name patch over the right side of his chest that read, Sonny, and on the left side, Harbinger of Death.
Well, isn’t that just great?
I had stumbled upon a preternatural MC, a motorcycle club, and by the way that member was talking, breaching those front doors was going to be pretty much impossible. Lucky for me, I loved a challenge. I smiled wide and pointed to his jacket.
“You have one of those patches. Can I come inside with you?”
His lust-filled eyes held mine, and I slowly tilted my head.
“I promise to be good.” I drawled out the word good with a purr.
Sonny stepped closer and said, “I’m on watch duty, chicky, but if you hang out for ten more minutes, I’ll give you everything you need. We’ll go to my place.” He pointed proudly at a red and silver motorcycle that was parked next to us. “That smooth bit of steel right there is mine. Why don’t you move your sweet little ass on over there and get the seat warm for me?”
Things weren’t going as planned. I needed to get inside that bar, so I could search for Solofar. I had a sneaking suspicion he was a member of Sonny’s MC.
I took a good look at the motorcycle. There was no way in hell I was getting on the back of that vampire’s bike, but I refused to call it quits.
Against my body’s revulsion, I reached out and ran a hand along the vampire’s shirt collar. With the other hand, I brushed my palm along the side of my breast and then down to travel over my stomach.
“It’s really cold out here, and I’m so thirsty.” I pouted delicately, pushing out my bottom lip. “Can I wait inside for you? Like you said, it’s only for ten little bitty minutes.”
I could feel it the moment he gave in, with the way his entire body relaxed against my touch and by how his smug smirk, which had been riding his carved features the entire time, faded. It was replaced by a sensual haze that showed heaviest in his slack cheeks and bowed lips.
His hands dropped to grip me around the waist, and before I could say another word, Sonny had me pressed against the wall. Then all of a sudden, he got grabby. One of his hands jammed down the front of my pants, eagerly seeking the waistband of my panties. I twisted to the side and bent my knees, narrowly avoiding being finger-banged by the eager punk.
The scene was progressing badly. I was starting to think I was losing my touch, but then Sonny abruptly pulled back. I saw a flash of fang, before he turned away from me altogether. He was trying to hide the fact that he was a vampire. Probably a bombshell he wanted to spring on me once he got me alone, a more vulnerable victim, at his place. He wasn’t the only one with surprises.
“Let’s go, then,” he said, leading me roughly by the arm to the front door. “You head straight for the bar over there and stay put, chicky. Talk to no one. I’ll come and get you soon.”
Then I was practically shoved inside, the door swishing shut behind me.
My slutty subterfuge had worked; I was in. I felt like I’d been thrown to the wolves, the way Sonny had carelessly bulldozed me inside the bar. But who cared? Mission accomplished.
As I walked across the room, three bikers brushed past me, and a cold chill skittered down my back, a clear signal that they were vampires. I glanced at the patches sewn to their jackets: Bones, Rival, and Saw Dog. Those names were as silly as Solo’s, but not the name I was looking for.
I continued walking, until I reached the bar. There weren’t many empty stools available for me to sit on, so I chose to park it next to a medium-built dark-haired man at the far end of the L-shaped bar.
There were a few high-top tables scattered about the room for customers to set their drinks upon, but that was it for furnishings, other than the pool tables, tucked away in a back alcove.
The man I’d decided to sit next to was hunched over, with his face turned away. As I sat, I noticed his leather jacket, which matched the jackets and vests being worn by the other brutal men in the room, all of which prominently displayed the same club patches. The name over that vampire’s chest read, Carl. Just plain ol’ Carl.
The person to my right, a woman in her 30s, was wearing a blue jean mini-skirt and a tight leather vest—no patches. I didn’t know why the missing patches stuck out to me, other than the fact that none of the women in the bar wore any. The woman looked bored, twirling a finger over the opening of her beer bottle. Her curly blonde hair was cut short, leaving a clear view of her neck. I immediately noticed the fang marks there. Some were fresh, and several others were scabbed over or old jagged white scars. There was a fresh bite at the side of her mouth, which caused her bottom lip to swell.
Anyone who was left in the dark about vampires would chalk the cuts and bruises up to domestic violence or maybe even a car accident. But I knew the marks for what they were. She was a vampire’s personal snack pack.
I felt my stomach roll with disgust, as I shook my head. It always came down to that blood-sucking lot. With their lusts and hunger unparalleled, their capacity for cruelty was amplified by extreme strength and, in some cases, centuries of knowledge. Immortals were a big pain in my ass.
It didn’t take long for Carl to take notice of me. He signaled the bartender over with a nod of his head.
“I need a drink for the pretty lady and another double for me.”
He pointed to his empty highball glass, but he had yet to look directly at me.
I hid a smirk and kept looking straight ahead of me, where I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror that hung behind the bar. It was faint, but I could see a red glow at the rim of my irises. A pair of special-issue contacts, which Rush had given to me a week prior, was hiding the more prominent glow that would alert my current suitor, and all the vampires in the room, to the fact that I was not only a necromancer, but also a Creator. I could probably take down two, maybe three, of the vampires if they decided to attack and kidnap me because of my unique gifts, but no more than that. Considering there were upwards of 20 of the leeches scattered throughout the space, I was glad to keep my flavor of species hidden.
Through the mirror’s reflection, I looked over the crowd, but I couldn’t get a good enough view of any of the bikers’ name patches. I only had about five more minutes left, before Sonny came back in to collect his prize—me. So I either had to get up and search through the sea of leather myself, or I could ask the guy sitting next to me if he knew who Solofar was.
Here goes nothing, I thought, as I turned and pointed to the bartender that was walking my way, drink in hand.
“Is that drink meant for me?”
Plain ol’ Carl turned his head and looked me over. His dark hair was cut tight to his scalp. And his eyes were deep blue, probably the darkest midnight blue the color could go.
After he got an eyeful of me, he said, “You looked thirsty.”
I leaned toward him a bit and said, “You must be some kind of mind reader, because I’m parched.”
I smiled up at the bartender, as he set the drink down in front of me. He smiled back,
“Who’d you come here with?”
He first looked at me and then over his shoulder, at the crowd, probably scoping out the men, to see if anyone was heading over to stake a claim on me. I’d never felt more like a piece of meat in my life, but I smiled through the skinning.
I answered honestly, “Sonny. Do you know him?”
Carl slowly nodded, and a half-smile spread across his features.
“Yeah, I know him. He’s my club brother. Are you in line to be his new old lady, or something?”
That merited a raised brow. There was actually an ‘old lady’ line?
Man, there must be some well-hidden perks to being a biker’s chick, because after checking this crowd out, I don’t see any appeal in it… at all.
I took a sip from the thin red straw sticking out of my drink. My lips rounded into a slight pucker. It was gin and tonic; I hated gin but choked it down anyway.
“He’s interested, but I’m not sure if I am. I’m actually looking for a friend of mine. His name is Solofar. Would you happen to know him?”
Carl’s grip tightened around the drink in his hand, and he looked at me. But then his eyes shifted behind me and froze on something. I set down my own drink and slowly turned to see what it was.
At first, I was stunned, and then I was pissed. All of those emotions were quickly followed up by confusion. A storm cloud of grey thundered in Rush’s eyes, as he stared me down from several feet away. He had on dark street clothes, and he’d apparently borrowed a leather bomber jacket that belonged to his cousin, Archer. His dark blonde hair was freshly buzzed into a tight fade. The expression on his face was lethal.
What the hell is he doing here?
Carl stood and set a booted heel on the bar rail. He looked poised to strike.
“Who is he?” Carl practically spat out.
Gone was the enigmatic stranger who’d bought me a drink. I was dealing with vampire-Carl, territorial and deadly, when he set his sights on a target.
But aren’t I supposed to be Sonny’s blood bag for the night? Man, vampire politics is confusing.
Devil's Playground by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes