The vampire’s smile warmed, but he did not move from the doorway. After several long seconds, he nodded once and stepped back. “Come,” he said. “I am Nicolucci. I am…what you might consider the right hand of the head of the New England vampires.”
“Nico. Nica. Don’t you Fangs have any original thoughts?” Crandall shoved the stake back into its holster and strode into the now quiet club. Mike held his breath, pausing a moment for a reaction from Nicolucci but, after getting none, he followed Crandall preferring to keep his belligerent singer in sight.
“There is no history between us. Nicoletta is much younger, and from another family well separated from my own line. A coincidence, nothing more.”
“Yeah right.” Crandall started walking toward the stairwell that led to the second floor. “It’s fucking lame. Big, lame vampires. I prefer mine with some balls, like in horror movies.”
Mike, desperate to interfere before Crandall pushed too far, stepped in front of Nico and said, “So you work for Angelo? Or Max?”
Nicolucci politely gestured for Mike to continue, and then fell in step beside him as they crossed the vast dance floor. “Neither,” Nico said. “My mistress has remained outside of this…power play. She observes, but like Angelo, has no direct effect on what is expected from you or your friends.”
“In other words, what Judas wants, Judas gets?” Mike tried to make it sound light and joking, but he was aware of the painful truth in his words.
“When one has as much life experience as Judas Iscariot, one has many methods of acquiring desires.”
“Are you hedging,” Crandall asked without looking back. “Or do you always speak in riddles?”
A soft chuckle echoed from the dark stairway and Crandall stopped in his tracks. His hand returned to the stake at his belt.
“Nicolucci is trying to be polite and answer your questions without revealing many of our secrets.” A shadow drifted forward. In the dim light of neon surrounding the bar, Judas’s features appeared sharper and darker than before.
From the corner of his eye, Mike noticed Nico bow to Judas before moving forward, slipping past the older vampire and up the stairs. Crandall hadn’t moved, but Mike could see the tension crawling up his spine. He took two quick steps to Crandall’s side, ready to grab him should he try something stupid.
“I’m not stupid,” Crandall said with a growl. Mike glanced away from the vampire to meet Crandall’s gaze. “I know damn well I can’t take him like this.”
Mike forced a weak, shaky smile. “Instincts are strong, and we haven’t worked them as well as we should.”
“Shut up, Mike.” Crandall faced the vampire. “You know why we’re here—”
“On the contrary, popular myth says we read minds, but it is just that – a myth. Now, body language is another thing altogether, and your drummer’s concern was not unfounded. Was it, Mr. Jacobsen?”
Crandall snarled, and Judas laughed without mirth. “You demanded us,” Crandall said. “Here we are. Get to the fucking point quick because I have shit to do in the morning.”
Judas’s expression hardened. “I will assume you are here to finalize our deal. If not, you may get the fight you’re itching for, young hunter.”
Crandall visibly relaxed, but his hand remained near his stake. “I’m getting really tired of having to deal with a hundred different people. Max called. You’re being evasive, and Nico/Nica are worse than Brangelina gossip at the office.”
“Max is my, as Nico said, right hand. You only need worry about me, or him. The others are inconsequential.”
“I’m sure they’re thrilled to know that.”
“They know their places.” Judas took a step forward. Crandall sucked in a sharp breath but held his ground.
“Yeah, we’re here to finish this,” Mike said, hoping to shift the conversation back to the purpose of their near dawn visit. “Do we get Nica’s assistance?”
Judas turned away from Crandall and nodded at Mike. “You do.”
“But first,” Crandall said. “You’re going to make sure she’s useless to us.” He stepped to the side, putting space between him and Mike. His fingers closed around the stake again. “Tell her all the things she can’t tell us.”
“Not at all,” Judas said. “I want you to succeed, but I also must ensure my family will not suffer unnecessarily.”
“You don’t trust her.”
“Crandall,” Mike said. “Stop pushing–”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m pushing his buttons, but you know what, he’s not going to do a damn thing about it.”
“Why is that?” Judas asked with an amused smile.
“You need us. You said the four of us made the prophecy. If you kill me, you’ll only have three again.”
Judas laughed and it sent shivers up both the hunters’ spines. It rang with danger and something much, much darker.
Up Next: Friendship Reluctant