A flashfiction piece set in the On The Edge series as part of my Shades of Pink event for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
When she went down to the club that night, Lisa knew what to expect—or at least, she thought she knew.
She’d sat in Brett’s office when the two ladies came to plead their cause, she’d listened to their prepared speech, and she’d have said no if it had been up to her. Brett made all the decisions concerning the club, but when it came to public relations, he usually asked for her opinion and followed her hunches. He hadn’t asked what she thought this time, though; he’d shaken the women’s hands, agreed to donate his employees’ time, his alcohol and the use of his premises, even offered to have the flyers printed for them.
She’d seen those flyers; they’d been on the bar for the past month, a larger version taped to the club’s glass door, the color bright and obnoxious.
She wasn’t a fan of pink. She wasn’t a fan of the name these prim and proper ladies had chosen either. Shades of Pink? Really? She’d had a hard time not rolling her eyes when they’d mentioned it, and had needed to disguise a scoff into a cough.
Brett had asked her, afterward, why she looked so annoyed. She’d tried to explain to him that it wouldn’t be good for business, that cancer scared people and would chase customers away; PR was her thing, she knew how long it could take to repair the damage caused by one bad night.
“You know I trust your judgment,” he’d said when she was done. “But on this one, I think you’re wrong.”
“Wrong? I’ve worked hard for years so that people wouldn’t associate this place and death. This is going to break all that.”
“Not if the night is about something other than death.”
At her blank look, he added, “Strength? Courage? Life?”
She hadn’t seen it then, hadn’t believed him. But now that she stepped into the club, that same life she had feared would be absent to night jumped at her from everywhere.
It wasn’t about the colors, the event holding up to its name with every possible shade of pink all around her, from the lightest baby hue to the brightest neon color. It wasn’t even about the music rising from the dance floor, loud and bouncy. It was about the sheer energy in the room, about the women, all in extravagant pink dresses, all with the event’s signature pink cocktail in hand, all smiling and chatting and laughing. Some of them looked like the club’s regular crowd of young women out for a good time. Others looked like their mothers. A few even looked old enough to be their grandmothers—which meant, they were Lisa’s age.
Watching the party, Lisa realized something. She’d changed as decades passed. She’d retained her youthful appearance, but the way she acted, the way she thought, the things she believed had changed—except for the way she regarded a disease that had once frightened her. People had talked of it in shushed voice, in her time; women had shuddered in fear.
But these women tonight weren’t scared. They weren’t trembling or averting their eyes. Instead, they were standing tall, strong, together.
Turning on her heel, Lisa went back up to the loft. She stripped out of her leather pants and white blouse and hunted down the peach sheath at the back of her closet—the closest thing to pink she owned. She then returned to the club, and joined the ebullient life there.
Captain Karmykel inspected Will’s ID documents for so long that Will was sure he’d soon declare them a fraud. He wouldn’t be wrong if he did.
It had cost Will almost all his savings, and a blowjob to boot, to get one number changed: his birth year. The money had been worth it. And the blowjob… well, it wasn’t like Will and Naikos had never fooled around before. Naikos used to help in the fields before he found that position at the town’s administrative station. He thought that job would lead him all the way to the Lodge. Will had doubts about that, but Naikos hadn’t mocked him for trying to get off planet, so Will had returned the favor.
“All right,” Karmykel finally said, handing the documents back.
There was something in the way he looked at Will that made Will want to fidget and drop his gaze, the way he always had in school when he didn’t know the answer to a question. But this wasn’t school, and Will wasn’t a kid anymore. He forced himself to keep looking straight at Karmykel and waited. After a few more seconds, Karmykel nodded once and gestured for Will to come with him inside the ship.
“She doesn’t look like much,” Karmykel said, a hint of defensiveness in his words. “But don’t let that fool you, she’s a good ship. Plenty of space, too.”
That might have been true of the cargo bay, but as Karmykel led the way down a corridor the walls suddenly seemed much tighter around Will. He chased the thought away. The alternative was wide open fields, and he had already decided that wasn’t for him.
“Living quarters are this way.” Karmykel stopped by a door; it opened with a light whisper of metal on metal at his touch. “This would be yours.”
Will poked his head inside; a bed, a small table and a stool bolted to the floor, a screen on the wall, a narrow door that looked like it opened on a minuscule bathroom area… It was tiny, but he had expected as much.
“It’s standard accommodation for a commerce ship,” Karmykel said a little gruffly. “If you want anything different, maybe this isn’t the right job for you.”
Will shook his head and smiled. “Back home, I had half that much space and I had to share with two brothers. This is fine.”
A look of understanding crossed Karmykel’s eyes. He’d mentioned something about coming from a farming system, too.
“Well, if you take the job this is all yours. Common area’s this way. That you’ll share with me and the navigator, Jay.” He dropped his voice as he led the way through a dining area and continued beyond. “Whatever you do, don’t ask about his tattoo.”
Before Will could make sense of that, they reached the navigation center. A man was in there, seated behind a console, fiddling with buttons. He pivoted in his chair to face them, and Will understood what Karmykel had meant: the lines of a tattoo curled around Jay’s neck like a thin black snake, branding him as a high-ranking member of the Lodge.
“Jay, this is Will. I might take him on as a deck hand.”
“Finally found someone desperate enough?” Jay said, turning a teasing grin and startlingly clear blue eyes to Karmykel. When they shifted toward Will and looked him up and down, Will needed a second or two to realize Jay was offering him his hand. He raised his own jerkily and gave Jay a awkward handshake. His hand was very warm, and very soft, like he wasn’t used to manual labor. For the first time in his life, Will felt self-conscious about the calluses that marked him as a farm worker.
But not for much longer.
He followed Karmykel back to the cargo bay, listening absently to what it was this ship did, trying to picture himself travelling to other worlds with these two men. It was pretty easy to imagine.
“Any questions?” Karmykel finally asked.
Will had a few of them, but he started with the most important one.
“So, is Blue Eyes just your nav, or is he more than that?”
This week the prompt for Tuesday Tales was “ocean” and my participation takes us back to The Edge with Brett and his vampire lovers, Leo and Lisa, featured in a scene from the upcoming Beyond The Edge…
The waves crashed down against the rocks, a relentless rhythm like the heartbeat of the ocean. Under Leo’s hand, Brett’s heart echoed that beat, even and regular in sleep.
Sitting up, Leo looked over Brett’s body to where Lisa lay against him, an arm curled behind her head and a smile on her lips as she looked up at the stars above them.
“Should we wake him?” he asked in a whisper.
Lisa turned her face toward Leo. Her eyes were sparkling with amusement when she said, “Let him sleep. He had a long day.”
With a little snort, Leo looked back at Brett. “Doesn’t he always?”
The smile of the moon hanging above the ocean was more than enough to reveal a few silver threads at Brett’s temples, as well as the darker shadows under his eyes. Brett had always worked hard for the club—and always played hard, too, with two lovers to come home to. On the edge of turning forty, it might have been time for him to slow down before he burned out.
“Any luck on convincing him to get an assistant?” Leo asked, glancing at Lisa again.
“Don’t need an assistant,” Brett muttered, still sleepy.
His eyes batted open and he turned his face toward Leo. His hand rose to rest on top of Leo’s on his chest. He brushed his thumb against the ring on Leo’s third finger, a gesture that had become familiar since Brett had offered the rings to Leo and Lisa.
“Yes, you do,” Lisa said, her tone implying she would suffer no contradiction. “You’ve needed an assistant for years and it’s time to admit it.”
“It’s time because I’m getting old, you mean.”
Leo couldn’t help chuckling at that. When Brett threw him a wounded look, Leo patted his chest gently.
“You’re cute when you pout,” he said, tongue in cheek. “And you’re funny when you pull the age card with us. You always worked too much. Now you’ve got the money to hire an assistant. Why not do it?”
Shrugging, Brett sat up, dislodging Leo’s hand.
“Because he’s too stubborn by half for his own good,” Lisa said. “That’s why.”
Brett started making some sputtering noises, but they faded to nothing when Lisa stood and stretched her arms high above her head. With moonlight cascading over her curves, she looked like a marble statue brought to life. Leo didn’t know whether to watch her familiar but always breathtaking beauty or look at Brett instead, watch him as he watched her, his love and desired engrave on his face as though in stone.
“Now,” Lisa said, stepping closer until she was standing over Brett, hands on her hips and one foot on either side of his thighs. “Are you sure there’s nothing we can do to convince you?”
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This week for Tuesday Tales’ prompt ‘money’ I’m playing with Anando and Virginia from the Out of the Box series. This discussion will take place in the upcoming Beyond The Edge… although I think I’ll need to expand the ‘working out her frustrations’ part… :P
Most days, Virginia enjoyed going to work. There was nothing thrilling about long sheets of numbers, rows and columns matching just so, with a few phone calls and emails going out when they happened not to match the way they were supposed to, but she didn’t need thrills at work; she had enough of those at home.
That day, though, she went home with frustration rolling off her with every short breath she took. Her new supervisor had been in place for three and a half weeks, and already she despised the man, his too soft voice and his knowing smiles. More than once, she had caught him staring at her neck, at the scars Anando had left there.
Whenever Anando reopened his marks and drank from her, Virginia wore a scarf the next day to hide the redness. She wasn’t ashamed of anything, but she didn’t care for her friends’ anxious questions about how much she let Anando take from her. Her supervisor didn’t ask questions, but his gaze sharpened when she wore a scarf. The way he licked his lips, sometimes, was also unnerving.
She wished she could have made a formal complaint to HR, but he’d never actually said anything to her that was less than professional, and the looks could have been all in her imagination.
Except they weren’t.
Anando knew her well enough to see right away that something was off—and to know how to work off her frustration in the most satisfying manner.
Afterwards, when she lay in his arms, her skin slick with sweat and shared pleasure, he brushed the hair out of her face and looked into her eyes as he said very seriously, “You could quit, you know.”
A few seconds passed before the words started to make sense, and even then Virginia had to shake her head.
“Quit? Of course I can’t quit. He’s an asshole but that’s no reason for me to quit.”
“Then what’s the reason for you not to quit?” he insisted.
She was stumped for a second, and let out a weak chuckle. “A reason not to quit?” she repeated. “How about, I need a job?”
His expression didn’t change, the same small smile playing on his lips. “What for?”
She blinked twice, confused as to what he was getting at.
“Most people work for money,” he said when she didn’t reply. “If that’s your reason, then I’ll say it again. You could quit. I have more than enough for both of us. I can put your name on my accounts, or transfer money into yours if you prefer.”
The offer was so unexpected – so outlandish – that Virginia pulled away from him, sitting up and drawing a pillow in front of her to hide her body. It had been a long time since she’d felt the need to hide from him. She wasn’t sure why she felt like it now.
“Why?” she asked, unable to suppress a frown. “It’s your money. You’re going to live for a long time. You’re going to need…”
Her voice trailed off when he started laughing, the sound low, deep, and so familiar it sent a shiver down Virginia’s spine.
“Unless you decide to buy a new house every week, our money is going to last a long, long time.” He leaned forward and cupped her face in his hand, stroking her cheek gently with his thumb. “And yes, I said our money. And I mean it. So when are you quitting?”
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My first contribution to Tuesday Tales. The theme this week was ‘name of a city’ and it just had to be Haventown. Here’s Leo coming home, a prequel to On The Edge.
Leo’s hands clenched over the steering wheel and he scowled at nothing in particular as he passed yet another car. He was going too fast, but he really couldn’t have cared less. Despite leaving the motel right at sundown, Leo knew he’d be too late for his job interview.
A tiny part of him hoped the bar manager would still give him a chance; on the phone, he’d sounded really interested in hiring a vampire. That kind of attitude wasn’t exactly rare, but it wasn’t common either. Then again, in Leo’s experience it also wasn’t common to be hired when you were more than three hours late for the first interview.
In the distance, a sign on the side of the road reflected Leo’s headlights. He lifted his foot off the accelerator and unconsciously slowed down, smiling despite his annoyance even before he could read the once-familiar sign.
It had been fifteen years since he had left the city – and Beth. Of the two, he had missed Beth the most, of course, but this had been his home before chance and their Sire had linked Leo’s life and Beth’s forever. This was where he’d been born, where he’s grown up and lived. It was where he had died and been reborn as a vampire. Where he had learned to hunt, where he had learned to love – where he had hurt Beth more than he ever meant to. He knew those streets, the older neighborhoods in the center of town, the parks throughout the city, the smell of the ocean when the wind blew eastward.
Now that he was so close, with excitement coursing through him like sparks of electricity, he couldn’t help but wonder what would happen. Did Beth still call the city home? Had she stayed there after kicking him out of her life? He’d come back hoping he’d find her. He hoped even more that she had forgiven him and would let him back into her life. The bartending job was an excuse to return, but Beth was his true reason.
The car finally passed the sign, and Leo kept his eyes on it as long as he could.
The city of Haventown welcomes you and wishes you a pleasant stay!
In the passenger seat, Nikolas stretched and yawned. “Are we there yet? I’m getting hungry.”
Leo didn’t reply. He wished he’d come home alone. Maybe now that he was back to the beginning he’d find a way to sever the link that tied him to his Sire.
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See On The Edge on my website.
Set before Blurred Nights.
In two hours, the sun would set. Two hours after that, Marc, Blake, three more vampires and twelve humans would be taking over a demons’ camp. All they could hope was that it wouldn’t be too late for the prisoners.
“I still don’t see why we have to risk our lives for them,” Blake said, raising his eyes from the sword he was sharpening on a wet stone. “If they were stupid enough to let themselves be caught, they deserve to be killed.”
“They didn’t let themselves—” Frustration dripped from each one of Marc’s words, barely controlled until he took a deep breath. He glared at Blake, without getting much in lieu of a reaction. “You wanted to be turned to fight demons. We are fighting demons. Why are you being such a prick?”
Blake’s face lit up with a sinful grin. “Speaking of—”
Any other time, Marc would have been more than open to the suggestion he was sure was coming. They were overdue for this talk, however, and it was time for Blake to understand a few things.
“Shut up. Listen, for once, and learn.” He sat by Blake, and waited to have his full attention. “Centuries ago, vampires and humans used to be allies. Vampires would spend their nights hunting down demons, and the humans who lived around their lair would come and pay a daily blood tribute.”
Blake let out a little incredulous noise. “Never learned anything like that in school. Not that I went to school a lot, I’ll grant you that, but it sounds like some fairytale if you ask me.”
“I told you to listen,” Marc snapped, then calmed down again. “Human history is unreliable. It depends too much on oral traditions and books that were changed to suit whoever was repeating or copying them. Vampires live long enough that centuries can be shared from Sire to Childer and lose few details. It was only ten generations between my Sire and the time I am telling you about, and the memory is still fresh. Our clan back then was two dozens of Childer strong, all obeying their Sire and protecting the villages they were allied to. Something happened, something terrible that nearly wiped out the entire clan, and those who remained stopped protecting the villages. There was just too much ground to cover and not enough fighters. The clan broke the Pact first. We’ve been doing our best to make up for it since.”
Blake raised an eyebrow. “When you say ‘we’—”
“Yes. That includes you too. You’re part of the clan, aren’t you?”
A smile pulled at Blake’s lips. It had only been weeks since his turning, but it hadn’t taken Marc long to realize that belonging—to a clan, to a Sire, to anything or anyone—was something Blake craved.
“Of course. I’m just saying—”
“I know what you’re saying.” Marc sighed wearily. “Everything has to be a game, for you. And everything can be. Everything except that. This is what our clan is about, and you will fall into line. Am I making myself clear?”
“Clear as crystal. Can we fuck, now?”
Marc blinked at the deadpan suggestion, delivered with burning eyes and an impish smile. “This is the reason why I sired you. So that you would help me continue our clan’s work. Do not treat the matter lightly.”
“And here I thought you had turned me because you liked fucking me.”
This time, Marc growled, a low, warning sound that made Blake’s grin waver.
“I understand,” he said quickly. “If it is what our clan does, then I will do it too. It’s not like I don’t enjoy killing demons anyway.”
Closing his eyes briefly, Marc snorted. This was Blake in a nutshell; complaining and arguing and making his life difficult for the simple pleasure of being contradictory. And as much as his Childe could get on his nerves sometimes, Marc wouldn’t have it any other way.
Set before Blurred Nights, sequel to the previous bit of flash fiction.
It had been a bit of a surprise for Marc, when coming back to town, to catch Blake’s scent in the street where they had once shared an apartment. He had hoped to find his Childe again, of course, but he hadn’t believed he would find him exactly where he had left him five years earlier.
Hands buried in his pants pockets, he followed the trail, and tried not to rehearse what he would tell Blake. He had done enough of that while driving back. Whatever he wanted to say, it would all disappear with the first look Blake would give him. Marc would know, then, if he had a chance at repairing what he had broken or if it was useless to even try.
It didn’t take him long to find Blake, in the back alley behind a bar they had once patronized together. He wasn’t alone, which, seeing the circumstances, Marc couldn’t really blame him for. What was unacceptable, however, what sent him forward with fists balled up and an angry growl rising from his chest was the sight of his Childe’s fangs in a human’s neck.
With one hand, he wrenched Blake away from his prey, and, without a second thought, started raining punches on him.
The very first lesson he had given Blake, the night after he had sired him, had been that human lives were to be protected, not seen as a commodity. The lesson had taken time and effort to sink in, but with Marc’s help, Blake had reined in his instincts. And now this?
He caught Blake in the stomach with a right hook and sent him stumbling back. Only the brick wall behind him stopped him from falling to the dirty alley ground. Marc took a step forward, but before he reached him again, Blake’s prey had thrown herself between the two of them, oblivious to the blood marring her right shoulder where the strap of her dress left it bare. She was livid.
“What are you doing, you freak! Leave him alone!”
Shocked by her intervention, Marc froze, a fist still in the air and ready to swing until he finally dropped it. In front of him, the girl had turned toward Blake and was holding him to her, muttering a string of nonsense in which the word ‘hospital’ was prominent.
“I’m fine, Rose. Just fine. That’s just my Sire’s way of saying hello. He’s never been too good with social niceties.”
The words came with a bloodied half-smile for Rose, and a look as cold as winter for Marc. More reassurances convinced the girl that Blake didn’t need medical attention, only to go home and clean up. It took a little longer to dissuade her from accompanying him, but she eventually left, departing with a hateful glare toward Marc.
He didn’t apologize. A Sire just didn’t apologize to a Childe, not when the Childe had disobeyed so blatantly. But because Marc had been mistaken, because the girl had obviously been a willing participant rather than a victim, he wrapped an arm around Blake, mindful of his ribs, and slowly, almost painstakingly, helped him home. Neither of them said a word the entire way there, or even when they had entered the familiar apartment.
Marc washed his Childe’s wounds where the skin had split and blood spilled under his knuckles. He bandaged them as well, even if they both knew it was useless. And when Blake was tucked in between threadbare sheets, Marc presented him with his wrist.
Blake could have refused, then, and Marc would have left without another word, this time for good. He could take a hint. But Blake sank his fangs into the inside of Marc’s wrist and drank, slow sips to make it last, and the ‘welcome back’ in his half-closed eyes had the same elusive feel as forgiveness.
They slept in the same bed, but Marc had never felt as far away from Blake, even when half a continent had separated them. They didn’t speak until the next afternoon; only then did Marc understand that Blake could forgive blows, but wouldn’t forget as easily being left behind.