Chapter 1

He dreamt of blind butterfly kisses left against her skin. The alarm awoke him and he laid in bed long enough to soak up the dream before sliding out of the sheets. Shower, hot water, Mozart. The music lasted for several minutes before dying batteries left only the quiet of his own thoughts.

He stepped out of the shower, large crimson towel in hand. Hair brushed, light use of cologne. Silver chain slipped over his neck, ring onto his right hand.

He was already awakening to a growing hunger. He glanced out the bedroom window at the setting sun.

Time to leave. 

* * *

An hour later and he found what he was looking for.

She was pretty, in an oft-used kind of way, and he recognized her as a regular at the club. The promise of something chemical was enough to convince her to join him in the shadowed alley just twenty feet away.

Keeping his back slanted toward the street against the possibility of curious eyes, he backed the girl against the club wall, reached for her, and breathed her in.

Fear and desire were evoked in the deliberate wrapping of her hair around the fingers of his left hand, a slow tightening at the base of her neck until his grip tugged her head back. Her cheeks flushed crimson and the slight catch in her breathing was almost lost under his words. “Have you seen Jessie?”

No response, just the flickering of eyelids as she fought to keep her knees from giving out. The alleyway next to the club provided a dusky grey background, a hastily sketched setting of hard surfaces and shadowed corners that felt less important, less real, against the hunger he felt. He built his domain on moments like these – steel belief made in the silhouettes of his darker self. He wrapped his will in cords around the knuckles of his right hand, a winding of tension and a hardening of desire until it became a weapon wielded in the touch of fingers that found the steady thrum of a pulse just under the surface of her skin. He felt her crumble, piece by piece.

In…inside. Justin was sp-speaking to her earlier.” Each word was a concession to the growing need he had instilled in her. How she trembled, how soft her voice. Satisfied with her answers, hunger partially sated, he leaned forward to release her. His left hand slipped free of her hair and he felt the long silky strands of gold run between his fingers as he let her body slide gently down the wall. He left her on the ground, her mind clouded by lingering pleasure and a growing cold in the places his presence had warmed.

Getting into the club itself wasn’t difficult. He walked to the front of the line, stepping in front of a young twenty-something girl with raven-black hair and bright green eyes. “Hey! You can’t do that.” She pressed forward, but he had already turned towards the bouncer.

Still riding high from his recent feeding, he flashed the man a smile, sharing a bit of euphoria, a brief surge of elation that left the bouncer off-balance. A moment of hesitation was all he needed to slip past the velvet rope and into the dark club.


* * *

He slid through the crowd, a dark silken presence unnoticed amid the manic energy that permeated the club’s interior. Club music can get under your skin; what doesn’t seep through your pores often beats itself into your head. The music was proving to be an effective distraction.

He needed to get his bearings, pause, breathe. He stepped out of the main room and into a dark hallway with two doors, one set along the right wall, the other at hallway’s end. He considered his choices: a large mahogany door leading to the promised land for those selective few with connections, and a simple door in fire-engine red that led to an outdoor landscape of rain-slicked pavement and milling hipsters hoping to get in.

Information gathering first, then action. And then, if he was still alive, an exit plan.

He rested his shoulder against the wall next to the door, eyes closed; to all appearances, he was a man who’s had just a bit too much to drink, someone in need of a quiet moment without noise. In the darkness behind his eyes, he drew on the hunger he had cultivated from the girl in the alley. Feeding his senses, he let them expand outward.

Careful now, he thought. With practiced precision, he focused his attention away from the rhythmic throbbing of the club’s music, a heady mixture of sharp chords and deafening drumbeats. He directed his senses towards the room on the other side of the mahogany door.

The bass of two male voices could be felt more than heard. They were talking to a third person, a silent presence marked only by rapid breathing. He burned more hunger, focusing on his empathic sense, one that measured emotive energy, and found a miasma of violence hanging about the two men and a violent and dispassionate anger directed at the third person in the room. A decidedly female person.


He didn’t hesitate. He turned the door handle and shouldered it open. Standing just a few feet from the door were the two men he had heard speaking. The first was no taller than he and wore dark blue like it belonged to him; the dark blue came in the form of a tailor-made suit that matched the man’s carefully cut short blond hair and sharp blue eyes. The second man was built like a line-backer and wore a suit that must have cost a small fortune to fit his large frame. In his left hand was a gun – and it was currently aimed at David’s head.

David didn’t recognize the man with a gun, but the first – “Justin.”

Annoyance flickered across Justin’s face; it only lasted a moment before being replaced by a controlled smile, “David. How kind of you to stop by. I don’t believe you’ve met my most recent bodyguard, Vincent” Justin made a motion with his right hand and Vincent lowered the gun. “Or my new friend.” He nodded to the girl across from him.

David turned to face the girl across from them. Jessie, she was not. Where Jessie was a few inches short of six feet, this girl was just over five. Jessie had long auburn hair and bright green eyes; this girl’s hair was raven black and stopped at the nape of her neck. He looked back at Justin, “Where is Jessie?”

“I’ve been wondering the same thing. In fact, you’ve just interrupted my interview with Jessie’s replacement. Her name is Kara.” Justin nodded to the girl standing across from him. “Why don’t you join her over there?

David glanced at the gun in the bodyguard’s hand and then met Justin’s gaze. He held it for a moment, and then joined Kara in the back of the room.

“I’ll be done with her in a moment. And then you and I are going to have a chat.” Justin turned his attention back to the girl.

David followed suit, his gaze settling on the girl next to him. Kara had her arms wrapped defensively around her chest. She was shivering, and it wasn’t from the cold.

The girl radiated fear.

Fear had power. David preferred desire, joy, even pain. But fear had it’s own strength and he dared not turn away from it. The snack the girl in the alley had provided him would not be nearly enough, not if he planned to survive the next few minutes.

There was just one problem: for the fear to be of use to him, he had to have a personal connection to it.

“As I was saying,” Justin folded his hands behind his back, his eyes on Kara, “Your responsibilities at the club will be simple. Your role as hostess is to please the various VIPs that visit my establishment.” Justin paused, smiled, “The job comes with many benefits, such as an exposure to a wide-range of experiences. The VIPs that frequent the club are rather…eccentric, and you’ll be encouraged to indulge their curiosities.”

David was getting a better feel for the source of Kara’s fear. An interview in the back room of a club with two rather intimidating men, one of them holding a gun. The entire set-up felt sinister. In his world, this was the norm. Kara had likely never been exposed to anything so disturbing in her young life.

“What do you mean by eccentric?” Kara asked, arms tightening around her chest.

Justin arched a brow, “Don’t play naive. Nobody applies to work at Maelstorm without having some idea of the clientele we cater to. Oh, you probably thought you’d work here for a few weeks, give out a few massages to the big-spenders, let them smack you on the ass, make some connections, and then move on.” Justin leaned forward slightly, blue eyes glittering. “And you will make those connections. But they’re going to cost you more than a few games of slap-and-tickle.”

David didn’t have much time; he knew where this conversation was going, and at its conclusion, Justin would turn his attention to him. And that particular conversation had a more than even chance of ending with a bullet in David’s head. He had to act.

Reaching over, David wrapped Kara’s hair around his hand and tapped into the last of the fading energy he had cultivated in the alleyway, using it as a physical force to drive to her knees. Kara gave a startled cry and rolled her eyes up to meet his own. He held her gaze and reached…waiting…waiting…and there, a sliver, a thread of fear that was all his. Carefully, but nimbly, he tugged on the thread, spooling it inside. With his fingers tightening at the nape of her neck, tugging her head further up, the thread thickened, weaving a pattern of fear for him to use.

Keeping her on her knees, David glanced up. Time was short – Justin knew what he was, and the bodyguard had most likely been working at the club long enough to have ideas of his own. In fact, the gun was already coming to bear on David’s chest.

Kara’s fear had an edge to it, so he kept things simple, honing the edge into something visceral. His left hand rose just a few inches, in a cutting motion, and red lines appeared along the hand holding the gun.

With a soft grunt, the bodyguard reflexively squeezed the trigger, but his aim was off. The bullet shattered a glass lamp behind David and Kara.

She gave a small scream. The sight of blood on the bodyguard’s hand and the firing of the gun fed into her initial fears. David felt true terror blossom inside of her. The terror had no single source, but he had provided more than enough inspiration to make use of it. With practiced mental dexterity, David used his initial grip on her to tap into the terror and take it in.

Fear had a very particular taste to it, dark molasses and quicksilver. It stuck to the surfaces of his mind, shifting slowly, a steady threat of suffocation. But the physical response was swift, a shot of adrenaline that filled his veins.

Time slowed for everyone but him. Justin and bodyguard were already over their initial shock and both faces were frozen in expressions of anger. David’s hold on Kara provided a conduit for him to share his slowed perception of time, a perception that allowed him to react much faster than those around him. Physically, his body would struggle to keep up with his racing thoughts, but it did provide him with the advantage he needed.

Keeping his hand on the back of her neck, he drew her roughly to her feet and shoved her in front of him, towards the door. She twisted the handle, opening the door just far enough for David to push her through. Like a wolf nipped at her heels, he used her own fear to drive her forward.

She ran the four feet between the hallway’s two doors, banging into the door under the exit sign. It shuddered, but didn’t open. David reached past Kara and pushed hard, but the door remained closed; he closed his eyes, casting himself forward. Fear had force, but no finesse – he couldn’t make out what was blocking the door. And he didn’t have the seconds necessary to wrestle the flow of fear into something capable of delicate work.

He stepped back, pulling her with him. David closed his eyes and focused on her thudding heartbeat. Drawing in the rest remnants of her fear, he kicked at the center of the door.

The door flew open with the sharp sound of metal breaking. It hit the brick wall of the building’s exterior, cracking the surface, and rebounded back towards his foot. He stepped back and let the door swing close with a shudder.

With the last of her fear ripped from her, Kara had quietly slumped to the floor. David could hear the loud staccato of running footsteps coming from the room he had just left. David assumed Justin had paused only long enough to call for reinforcements. He reached down, slung her right arm over his shoulder and nudged the exit door open with his foot.

Shattered links of the chain that had bound the door closed laid scattered on the pavement. He stepped over them and out into the night.

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