“Five more,” Mike said. He paced in front of a floor-to-ceiling mirror, counting down while twelve women and five men groaned and continued their push-ups. “Four, three, two, five.” They groaned again. “Four, three. Your butts shouldn’t be popping up, keep your body in a straight. Four, three, two.”
“One!” They all shouted with him.
“Okay, stretch it out.”
Mike hit the skip button, switching from upbeat energetic song to a flowing, calm album he found when one of his students told him about her Reiki classes. He gave them two minutes to do their favorite stretches and then led them through a series of movements to cool down the muscles they’d worked in the previous fifty minutes.
Once he let them go, Mike snuck back to the office and plopped down in a chair in the corner. Dragan lurked around somewhere, probably in the weight room, checking on equipment, but Mike decided to catch a quick nap before his next class instead of bugging his old friend. He had a long night ahead of him. A gig, after dragging his ass out of bed early to work, was draining enough, but he had to be at the top of his game tonight, playing at Blood Moon among all of those vampires.
Mike woke to the sound of the phone ringing. Dragan sat behind the desk, frowning at a stack of paperwork. He answered the phone, mumbled a brief conversation, and then hung up. “You awake?” he asked looking at Mike.
“Ash is running late. Can you cover his first class?”
“Yeah, sure. Let me make some calls and I can squeeze it in.” Mike jutted his chin at his cell phone on the desk and Dragan tossed it to him. He called Jon first, and then Crandall. “Hey, man, Jon is going to pick you up tonight. I’ll leave from here and meet you there. Try not to piss off any vampires before I get there.”
As Mike disconnected the call, he ignored Dragan’s disapproving stare. Not discouraged, Dragan said, “When did you forget what you are?”
“C’mon Dragon, I don’t need to be lectured.” Mike tossed the phone on the desk and leaned his head back against the wall hoping to catch a few more minutes of rest. It definitely would be a long night.
“You’re going back to Blood Moon?”
Mike said nothing.
“You need more than a lecture.”
“I tried to get out of it.” He sat up, and then stood, pacing the tiny, cluttered office. “Crandall found out and it backfired on me.”
“He’s smart. How is it he thinks this is a good idea?”
“Singing is that important to him.” Mike sat down again, resting his elbows on his knees.
“More important than his life?”
“He doesn’t see it that way. He hasn’t fought enough of them to realize we were damn lucky last time.”
Dragan remained calm, the rock that he was to their little group of hunters. “You were. You can’t count on luck.”
“Fuck. I know that. The vamp, Angelo, seems to mean well, but some of the others object.”
“You can’t trust that one either.”
“But you’re going anyway.”
“Someone has to keep an eye on Crandall.”
Dragan dropped his gaze to his paperwork and picked up a pen. “He needs to learn some priorities, and fast.”
“I know.” Mike leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “Oh, boy, do I know.”
Ash ducked through the glass door and into the studio as sweaty men and women filed out. He huffed out a sharp exhale, puffing his jet black hair off of his face. “Thanks, Mike,” he said stepping up beside him as Mike plucked a CD out of the stereo and returned it to the binder beside the machine.
“No problem. You okay?” Mike leaned back against the wall, his arms crossed , but expression casual. He needed to jump in a shower, but Ash rarely missed a class, so while he appeared to be fine, Mike knew better.
“The usual crap from my parents.”
“The usual doesn’t make you late. If you want to talk about it…?”
“My sister’s getting married.”
Mike frowned. “You’re not happy for her?”
Ash looked up, meeting his eyes. “Yes, I’m thrilled. She’s happy. Her fiancé is smart and will take good care of her. It’s my parents. They’re freaking out because they think I’ll embarrass them at the wedding.”
“Seriously? They’re certifiable.”
With a snorted smile, Ash rolled his eyes. “I should live up to the expectations. Maybe I’ll ask that bassist of yours to accompany me.”
“Beryl cleans up nice. It’s a sticky point with Crandall. He says she’s an entirely different girl when she gets dressed up for work. Tailored suit, nylons, plain black pumps.” Mike shrugged.
“Damn. Okay, maybe I should bring you.”
Mike laughed. “If that’s what you need to do. Talk to your sister first.”
“She doesn’t mind.” Ash glanced at the door as it opened and three women filed in. “Good evening ladies!” He raised a hand to them.
“There you go. It’s her wedding, and you need to be yourself. Fuck your parents.”
“That’s nasty, Mike. Incest.” He shook his head and laughed. “Thanks!” He clapped Mike’s back and then shooed him out of the room so he could prepare for class.
Up Next: Rosey