“Two others?” Mike asked. “You met them?”
Crandall shook his head and dropped down on to the sofa in a slouch, glaring at the floor.
“Then how did you know there were two?”
“I just do. You don’t?” He glanced up, but then quickly jumped to his feet and strode to the other side of the room.
“Jon said you knew they were coming even though there’s no camera out back to let them know we were here.” When Crandall didn’t respond, Mike glanced at Jackson standing guard by the door. He wore a grin that screamed he knew a secret. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all.” He didn’t move.
“Where’s your boyfriend?” Crandall snapped. He strode up to Jackson, standing toe-to-toe and meeting his gaze. “Why don’t you go play with Sidney?”
“Sidney is not my type,” Jackson said. He cocked his head in Mike’s direction. “He is though. Can I go play with him?”
“That’s what I had in mind too.”
“Don’t make me stake you.”
Crandall’s unwavering stare didn’t shake the vampire. Jackson threw his head back and laughed. “I’ll tell you what. If you want to throw around the fact that you have a stake hanging from your belt, save it until after our guests leave. I’ll happily wrestle it from you and then kick your ass for trying to swing it at me then. Deal?”
“Yep.” Jackson nodded and resumed his stoic stance.
Crandall spun around and returned to slouching on the sofa with a look that would kill a stampeding buffalo.
Mike stood in front of him, arms crossed. “What do you know about these guests that want to talk to us?”
His gaze crawled up with great effort, and didn’t make it past the tattoos snaking their way around and down Mike’s right arm.
“Nothing. I… sense them. I guess that’s the word for it. I know they’re here, and heading this way, but only two of them.” His gaze darted away, crawling up the wall.
Before Mike could ask how he knew that, the door opened and Rosey glided in, followed by Angelo and a tall, muscular man with short golden curls, a square jaw, and hooded eyes. If not for the no-nonsense aura of power, he’d be handsome, and if he’d deign to smile, charming.
As Mike turned and stared, Crandall stood and took a step to the side to see around Mike. “Where’s the other guy? I don’t have all fucking night.”
Rosey clucked her tongue and shook her head. “He’s elected to wait until a quieter evening to introduce himself.” She arched a thin eyebrow, daring Crandall to object. After a long pause, she gestured to the blond stranger. “Allow me to introduce Maximian Lucanus.” She bowed her head to the vampire as she spoke his name. Maximian gave no indication that he heard her, his blue eyes focused on Crandall.
“My lord,” Rosey whispered. Maximian nodded and she continued. “May I introduce Crandall Jacobson and Michael Vranken.”
Maximian waved a hand, dismissing her without acknowledging her. Rosey straightened and backed up to take the post Jackson had surrendered when the trio arrived. Angelo waited on the other side of the doorway, watching impassively.
“Is this really a vampire thing?” Crandall’s gaze darted from one to the other. “Pretending like you don’t have any reaction or emotion. Shit, that’s so overdone.”
Angelo’s eyes darkened and his spine stiffened, but he otherwise didn’t react. A small smile curved one corner of Rosey’s mouth. Maximian said nothing and for several heartbeats, he stared at Crandall while Crandall stared at his left elbow. Sweat dotted Crandall’s forehead, perhaps from the performance or the first indications of an anxiety attack. His breath hitched once, and then Mike stepped in front of him, drawing Maximian’s gaze.
“Don’t fucking do that.” Crandall punched Mike’s arm, shoving him to the side.
“What?” Mike snapped.
“Don’t ask the question unless you’re sure you want the answer.”
As he turned to face Maximian again, the vampire’s lips curled into what could be a smile or a sneer, but his vibrant blue eyes reflected amusement. When the vampire spoke, his voice demanded attention despite the low baritone barely registered above a whisper. “So these are my infamous hunters?”
“What’s it to you, Max-ee-million?” Crandall asked.
The vampire laughed. “You may call me Max.”
Up next: Fire and Blood