Crandall lay on his side with his legs hugged to his chest. Mike had, as was typical whenever they argued, suddenly decided he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, and that was that. He left. Hunting. Crandall would’ve gone with him if he had even a sliver of suspicion Mike would actually be looking for vampires. No, they were an excuse for Mike to brood alone. Crandall closed his eyes, but they popped open again a second later. He wasn’t tired anymore. He was too fucking pissed off to sleep. Damn fucking Mike. He loved the guy, but he was a hypocrite of the highest ranking. Mike didn’t want the world to know he loved men – and Crandall did understand that it wasn’t just him; Mike feared judgment on his desire for men, not on which man he desired – but when Crandall had a solution that would deflect suspicion from them, and help their friend, Mike took it personally. Bastard!
Crandall was still staring viciously at the wall hoping for sleep when he heard the soft knock on the door. He wasn’t surprised Ash was checking on him. He was just that kind of guy… in touch with his feminine side. Crandall snorted. Ash would deny it of course, wanting to be as masculine as possible to make up for his physical imperfections, but yeah, Ash fucking cared. He looked out for his friends, and as far as Crandall was concerned that made him a damn good guy. Besides, Mike, with his pouting, was more girly than Ash with his tits and compassion.
When the knock came again, Crandall said, “Go away.”
The door squeaked slowly open. Crandall made no move to turn around. “Crandall?”
“No one else here,” Crandall said.
“Do you want to talk?”
The mattress sunk as Ash sat. “What happened?”
“I said no. No, I don’t want to fucking talk about it.”
“Okay,” Ash said. “If you change your mind–”
“I’ll let you know,” Crandall snapped.
Ash stood to leave, but paused as a knock sounded from the apartment door. “Who would visit at this hour?”
As Ash headed down the hallway, the presence of the late night visitor washed over Crandall. “Fucking shit,” he said, and rolled out of the bed. He rolled out of bed, taking only a second to glance around his cluttered room. He couldn’t remember where he’d dropped his stake holster and he didn’t have time to go to Mike’s room for holy water before Ash made it down the short hallway to the front door.
Ash had already thrown the latch and turned the handle by the time Crandall caught up with him.
“Wait!” Crandall shouted.
Ash pulled on the handle even as he looked up, startled at Crandall’s sudden flurry of energy.
Before either man could speak, the door blew open, knocking Ash back several feet. Nica strutted into the room on knee-high five-inch platform boots as red as the vibrant curls framing her heart-shaped face. She looked deceptively young, but certainly not innocent, as she spun around with a sweet smile on her plush, red lips and something dark in her emerald eyes. She ignored Ash and winked at Crandall.
Her smile fell quickly when Ash screamed and rushed her. He slammed into her with all of his weight. Though lanky and thin, Ash had muscle, leverage, and surprise on his side. Nica squealed as she hit the floor. Ash sat on her, grabbing at her wrists, putting all he could into holding her down as he shouted, “Hurry, Crandall, grab a stake!”
Instead Crandall grabbed Ash’s arm and pulled him off Nica. “Stop, she’s not going to hurt us.” Nica, as the weight was removed, lashed out with her fury, and her feet, planting both platform boots square in Ash’s stomach.
“Hey!” Crandall shouted, glaring at Nica for a long second before rushing to where Ash lay on the floor gasping for breath. Crandall crouched over Ash with both hands on his shoulders to hold him down. “Slow deep breaths,” Crandall said. “Is anything broken?”
“I…” Ash gasped and winced. “Maybe. No. I don’t… don’t know.” His eyes widened and his gaze snapped over Crandall’s shoulder. He tried to push Crandall away, but Crandall held him down.
“Lie still for a fucking minute and listen to me.” Ash made no sign of hearing Crandall, staring over him until Crandall glanced back and growled a few choice words at Nica. When she didn’t move, he said, “Back off or I let him stake you.”
Nica snorted. “Not likely,” she said, but she did turn away and move to the sofa where she perched on the edge with her hands in her lap, shooting a frown around the room. “Where’s your boyfriend?”
“Shut up.” Crandall pinched Ash’s chin and turned his face away from the pretty vampire. “Ash? Listen to me. Are you hearing me?”