Not until a month later, did Mike and Crandall figure out why the vampire dropped in on their training session. Inertia Stand had been invited to play at Blood Moon again, and Angelo had learned to extend the invitation to Crandall, to avoid argument about whether or not they’d play. Mike objected in the privacy of their apartment, and again at the Dancing Crane, but the rest of the band loved the club, and Beryl took great joy in reminding them that she dated a member of the house band, so nothing bad would happen to any of them… unless she got angry and Chaos wanted to avenge her honor, or some other such foolishness.
Crandall glowered at her as she primped in front of the cracked, unframed mirror leaning against a wall on a barely stable shelf. Once again, she threw around comments about her vampire boyfriend that she never suspected was, in fact, a real vampire, instead of just playing one on stage.
“Don’t threaten me, Beryl,” Crandall said. “That guy might be a bus, but if he starts shit with me, he’ll be hurting.” He fingered the stake at his hip as he spoke, a decoration he only wore for Blood Moon shows. Not that she cared one way or another.
Beryl laughed, loud. “You?” She chuckled and narrowed her painted eyes at him. “You think you can kick Chaos’s ass just because you play at kickboxing with Mike?” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Come up with a better one.”
“For someone getting laid regularly, you sure are a fucking bitch.”
“Okay, enough,” Mike said shooting up from his seat. He grabbed Crandall’s arm and dragged him toward the dressing room door. “We need to talk,” he said in low, growly syllables. “Privately.”
Crandall stumbled after him willingly, but only after throwing a pissed-off glare at Beryl’s back.
As soon as Mike shut the dressing room door Crandall demanded an explanation. “What the fuck, Mike? Since when are you our referee?”
With a shrug, Mike released Crandall’s arm, but his fingers lingered, tracing up Crandall’s biceps, as his gaze darted around the empty hallway, ensuring they were alone. As alone as they could get anyway; he knew Jackson stood guard just on the other side of the open doorway at the end of the hall. Jackson knew, of course, as did several of the other vampires, thanks to their first gig with Blood Moon. “Since I wanted to do this,” Mike said. He lifted the hand to Crandall’s chin, tapping it up as he leaned in to brush a light, warm kiss over his lips. He hummed a happy little sound and smiled.
“Good job, asshat,” Crandall whispered. The corner of his lips twitched up into a smirk. “You’re reinforcing the fighting.”
Mike chuckled and kissed Crandall again before letting his hand drop to his side. He straightened and cast a quick glance around. “You’re probably right, but it’s not like you two ever stop anyway.”
“Tell Beryl and Jon about us.”
The two men stared at each other for several seconds. Mike broke first, his gaze shifting first to the closed dressing room door, and then back over his shoulder to the still empty hallway.
“You know I can’t do that,” he said. His shoulders rolled forward and his gaze drifted toward the floor. He wanted to be as uncaring as Crandall about such things. He wished he could shrug off negative opinions as easily as Crandall called him an asshat for just about anything. But he couldn’t. He’d thought about it long and hard, and well before he kissed Crandall that first night. He simply couldn’t be “out and proud”, even though Crandall certainly didn’t embody that term either despite his loathing of secrets.
“They’re going to figure it out. When I don’t spend time with anyone else, they’re going to wonder. I might hate B, but she’s not going to fucking blab.”
“You don’t hate, Beryl.”
“Not the fucking point.”
“I didn’t want to tell Dragon.”
Mike nodded. “Or Ash. This is private, Crank.” The flatness of his voice set a burn in his stomach. He wanted to and, at the same time, knew he couldn’t ever move forward with that need.
“You knew all along about Ash, but couldn’t trust him with your secret. That’s fucking lame, Mike. A big, fucking, lame ass, dumb attitude.”
“Trouble in paradise?” a soft but chipper voice asked.
Mike spun around, his posture stiff and defensive. Crandall stepped in front of him, between Mike and the diminutive, redhead. “Fuck off,” Crandall said.
Nica pouted. “Is that any way to treat a fan?”
“I don’t like groupies.” Crandall crossed his arms over his chest and stared ferociously at the wall beyond the vampire.
She waved, dismissing his anger. “Max would like to speak with you after the show.” She paused and took a breath, her gaze wandering from Crandall to Mike and back to Crandall, as if she had all the time in the world, and from what they knew about vampires, she probably did. “That means,” she said, “Don’t take off after your set, or you’ll tick him off.”
“What’s he want?”
“I don’t know. I’m not important enough to be a part of whatever has his panties in a knot.” She held a hand up, studying her manicure with practiced indifference. “So can I tell him you’ll be here?”
Up Next: An Unlikely Ally