The voices of the crowd melded into a cacophony of screams, whistles, and wild applause. Beryl strutted across the stage, ripping riffs from her bass guitar. Crandall squatted at the edge of the stage, the mic near his lips, pulling off a perfect dramatic pause. A few girls near the front squealed and grabbed at his arm, but he shrugged them off in what appeared a playful gesture.
Behind his drum kit, waiting for his cue, Mike knew better. While Crandall became a different person on stage, he still didn’t like to be pawed at by anyone. He’d tolerate it though. They expected him to, and he needed to sing like he needed air to breathe and profanities to color his speech.
“Shhh…” Even with the mic’s assistance, Crandall’s voice barely left the stage. When the crowd settled to the occasional scream or catcall, Crandall chuckled. The sound was soft and deep, but carried through the now hushed club; it also stirred Mike’s thoughts to things best left unthought while wearing the snug leather pants he always wore on stage.
“You guys are great,” Crandall said. The crowded screamed. He shook his head and grinned. “Really fucking great.” He continued talking despite the noise. “We have time for one more song, and then we have to make way for the losers that headline this place.” When the cheers continued, Crandall shook his head and laughed. “Hit me, Jon.”
He turned his back to the crowd and strode toward Mike grinning. Jon’s fingers danced over the strings of his guitar. Mike listened for his cue, while watching Crandall dance in a tight circle in front of his drum kit. A handful of notes later, Beryl wailed on her instrument ripping Mike away from his distraction. Crandall smirked at him, Beryl glared, and Jon simply repeated his intro, blending it in perfectly.
Mike twirled his sticks and then waved them at Crandall, but the singer refused to be shooed. He continued to dance, but even with the distraction, Mike didn’t miss his cue a second time. He wailed into his part, and by the time Crandall started singing, the music embraced Mike, and carnal thoughts were temporarily set aside.
At the end of the set, each member of Inertia Stand jumped off the back of the stage and ducked through the private doorway that led to the dressing room. Jackson stood guard, and through the door, the members of Dead Inside waited for their cue to climb on stage and start their performance.
Jon squeezed past the vampires first. Mike followed. As he passed, Chaos leaned into him, knocking shoulders with Mike. Mike stumbled, stopped and glared a moment, and then stepped past him. When Chaos pulled the same stunt with Crandall, Crandall spun and shoved him against the wall.
Mike heard the commotion, and turned to intervene, but Chaos was quicker. The vampire grabbed Crandall’s arms, lifted him from the ground, and tossed him against the far wall. Beryl stopped, her mouth open, and her body blocking the hallway between the trouble and their security guard.
In a split second, Mike had to decide how to diffuse an all out brawl. From the corner of his eye, he could see Jackson trying to squeeze past the other members of the vampire band. Mike threw an arm between Crandall and Chaos. Jackson stepped between them, fixing Chaos in place with nothing more than a hard stare. As Mike scowled, wondering how Jackson managed to intervene so quickly, Chaos sucked in a sharp breath and winced away from Jackson’s glower.
“Get on stage,” Jackson said. “Now.”
Chaos snarled over Jackson’s shoulder, baring his fangs at Crandall. “Learn your place, bloodbag,” he said.
Jackson growled, the sound so low and quiet, Mike wasn’t sure it came from him until Chaos’s gaze snapped to the smaller vampire. Without another word, Chaos turned and waved the rest of his band toward the stage. He threw an arm around Beryl’s shoulders, walking with her out the door.
Bas Celik hung back and grinned, his large fangs showing proudly. “Boys will be boys,” he said. Crandall flipped him off, but the vampire singer laughed, gestured back, and then left to join his band on stage.
Jackson turned to face Crandall. “Can you please stop goading him?” The question sounded more like an order than a request.
“Not fucking likely,” Crandall said. His gaze still focused on the doorway.
“I can’t always cover you.”
“You can here, and I doubt the steroid boys go to any of the other places I do.” Crandall’s turned to face Jackson, but his gaze drifted over his right shoulder, fixing on a spot on the wall.
Jackson snorted. “Steroids don’t do anything for us. That’s all natural.”
“There’s nothing natural about you.” Crandall sneered, his posture stiff and his fingers tightening around the stake hanging on his belt.
“Fuck, Crandall,” Beryl said as she walked back down the hall. “Are you fucking jealous or something? Do you have to pick a fight every time you see my boyfriend? Do I have to remind you that you had your chance and you decided to fuck someone else? Should I–”
Crandall shoved Mike away and said, “Fuck you Beryl.” He returned to the dressing room, slamming the door behind him.
Up Next: Bad Temper