As if on cue, the door swung open and Nica walked in, red curls bouncing around her head as her heels clacked out a steady rhythm of rolling hips. She paused upon noticing Maximian, her sultry smile faltering. “Oh.” Her red painted lips formed a delicate but full circle in that one syllable. “I’m sorry Max. I figured you’d be done by now.”
Crandall’s eyes snapped back to the room, landing on the female vampire even as she threw her charm at Maximian.
“I am not,” Max said.
“How long? I could come back?”
“These things take time, Nicoletta. Find other entertainment tonight.”
“The whole night?” She actually looked crestfallen.
“Like hell,” Crandall said.
“Go.” Max said it so simply that Crandall couldn’t tell if he grew angry with her for the interruption or if it was paternal patience shooing her out the door.
“Shame.” She grinned at Crandall and said, “He doesn’t usually talk much. You know?” She sighed and flicked a look at Max to make sure she wouldn’t be welcomed to stay before kissing Crandall’s cheek and walking the three steps back to the door. She paused and glanced over her shoulder. “I hope you’ll come play again soon. I really enjoyed the show.” She winked and then left in the same swirl of hips and hair as she had arrived.
In the ensuing silence, Max chuckled. “Groupie indeed. Watch your heart around that one.” He chuckled again and shook his head.
“I thought you didn’t like to be called vampire?” Crandall, now refocused on the conversation, beating down his anxiety to barely keep his head above the water of panic, picked up where he’d withdrawn from the conversation and glared at the Max’s reflection in the mirror.
“I am too old to give a damn about the propriety of words. Besides, vampire is preferable to fang-for-brains.”
Crandall’s glower darkened despite the vampire’s levity. “What. Do. You. Want?”
From the corner of his eye he saw Mike reaching for him, and he knew he should calm down, but he walked the fine line of a steep cliff and his ego still stung from the vampire, Angelo, having to talk him down from a panic attack with his freaky vampire mojo during their last visit.
With a brief nod, Max’s demeanor changed. He strode around a chair upholstered in worn green leather and dropped into it with the grace of a deadly predator stalking supper. When he sat, Rosey stepped forward and gestured to the sofa kitty-corner to Max’s choice of seating. “Please,” she said. “Have a seat.” Her voice was a soft and lilting as before, but authority rang through the room. Mike and Crandall sat down, Crandall with his wrists resting against his knees and his eyes focused on the hole in his Doc Marten’s and Mike, back straight, eyes alert, and his entire body ready for a blow that seemed to always be on the verge of landing within the walls of Blood Moon.
“There is an ancient vampire in Boston,” Max said.
“No shit, Sherlock,” Crandall said to his shoe.
“Older than me.”
“Enough.” Max didn’t raise his voice, but the one word carried with it such a demand that the snarky comeback melted on Crandall’s tongue as a tiny voice in his head reminded him that each of the three vampires in the room would be a challenge one-on-one, so even with Mike watching his back, he had a full house of deadly trouble.
“I know.” Crandall took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “There is one more in the building, older than any of you here. He is tired, but strong; stronger than the entire dojo put together.”
Once Crandall fell silent, Max continued. “In an even contest, yes, but you do not fight in an arena with a starting and ending bell or rules of engagement, so while he is powerful, there are ways to destroy him.”
“Oh, no,” Mike said standing up. “We are not getting in on any civil wars.”
Max watched him silently. Mike paced away from the couch and the vampire, and then spun and returned. “No way we’re getting in the middle of that.”
Up Next: The Betrayer