“I’ll call you Fang-for-Brains.” Crandall sneered, but the dim lights did nothing to hide the sheen of perspiration beading along his hairline.
“I’d prefer you did not.” Max’s expression remained as impassive as the rest of the Immortale while his sharp blue eyes pinned Crandall to his spot.
The hunter wanted to back up, or better yet, run. He felt the curling waves of panic inching across his skin and burrowing down his pores. His vision darkened at the edges and his breath dragged lazily down his throat as if gulping the most humid of Boston’s summers through a veil of moldy burlap. Those eyes, impossibly blue, filled his mind’s eye and blocked out everything else except the rush of blood in his ears. He sucked in a breath with the spreading anxiety and channeled it to the point of its origin. He spat it out with each word as he struggled for control. “Fuck. You. Fang.”
Despite the heightened instincts he’d been told all hunters have, Crandall didn’t realized Max moved until the vampire dangled six inches off the floor with a hand around his throat. He clawed at Max’s fingers, searching desperately for Mike who froze, not out of panic or lack of desire to intervene but with seemingly great pain as he strained to lunge forward. Unseen chains held Mike in place as Crandall’s vision swam.
Ignoring Mike’s frustrated growl, Max’s Caribbean blue gaze bore through Crandall, fangs flashing within inches of his face. Max roared, his words ripping through Crandall’s bravado. “I have little patience mortal, and you are wasting it all in a few brief moments.”
Crandall’s gaze darted to the empty space over Max’s right shoulder. His fingers claws at the hand around his throat. He clenched his jaw, sucking in what little air he could through grinding, gritted teeth.
“What do you want from us?” Mike asked, speaking up both of frustration in his paralyzation and to distract the vampire his friend pushed too far.
“Do we have an understanding?” Max’s voice exuded calm control layered with demanding authority while he kept Crandall immobile with both his lack of footing and fangs bared.
Crandall’s glare snapped at the vampire and, for a frozen moment, snark battled with wisdom. The vicious defense crumbled and Crandall gasped as they fell, allowing sparks of white panic to flood his bloodstream like a shot of cheap heroin.
With the formality and grace of a man bowing to his dance partner after a flawless performance, Max lowered Crandall to his feet. His fingertips brushed along Crandall’s pulse as he lowered his hand.
“Let me go!” As the words shot from Mike’s mouth, as if breaking from an icy prison, he stumbled forward, instantly and startlingly back in control of his body.
“How’d you…?” Mike started but then turned from the vampire to move to Crandall’s side. “Are you okay?”
Crandall muttered to himself rubbing his throat. “Fucking f… fucking vampire.”
“What do I want?” His words trailed off in thought. “Nothing. I have all that I need.” Max waved a dismissive hand and slowly crossed the room as he spoke. The offensive incident apparently forgotten as quickly as it occurred. He gave the two hunters space but it was a false assurance after what they’d just witnessed.
Mike watched Max without discounting Rosey, or even Angelo who had, up until this moment done everything just right to set them both at ease about playing in his club. Both cowed to the blond who seemed more suited to taking a relaxing horseback ride than drinking fresh blood from a vein in the neck.
“Artery,” Max said. He studied Mike in the reflection of a large, unframed mirror propped on a shelf half way up the wall. The glass was dirty and one corner was cracked nearly all the way through, but the bands never requested anything more luxurious or functional.
“What?” Mike glanced at Crandall. The singer’s chest hitched with short, shallow breaths and his gaze locked on the thin line of the door where it didn’t quite reach the floor. If Crandall could become mist and disappear, he’d be through that crack and well on his way home by now.
“The veins carry the used blood back through the body. We prefer arteries: fresh blood, propelled forth by the heart.” Max turned and met Mike’s eyes. “We don’t suck blood like the old tales. We merely break the artery so the body feeds us willingly.”
“I doubt the willing part.” Mike curled and flexed his fingers and then forcibly stretched them as he knuckles cramped and his nails left divots in his palms.
“Do you?” Max raised an eyebrow and Mike suspected it was to mock him. Max favored him with a crooked grin. “The vampire craze in books and movies has been–” he laughed “—a Godsend. Vampires have groupies similar to bands now.” He laughed again and shook his head. “Though I understand one of your newest groupies is one of mine.”
Up Next: King’s Pawn