Mike stopped with his hand on the handle of his Mustang. He hadn’t worked on her in a while. He ran his palm over the panel in a slow caress. Not since Crandall awakened as a Hunter. It had been exhausting just to convince Crandall that he needed to accept what happened, and then Crank had needed to be taught self-defense. And when he had accepted it, Crandall jumped in with both feet.
Just like he did with that first kissed.
Mike sighed and turned around. He leaned against the car, forgetting that he missed working on her as his thoughts drifted over that first night and the many before and after. His heart was lost to Crandall before he’d ever touched him as a lover. It wasn’t a bad thing – not by far – but Crandall could be challenging on the best of days.
Was this so bad?
Crandall meant well. Mike always gave him credit for that. Once he considered someone a friend, he’d give everything he had if that’s what that friend needed. Ash had talked about it once – how much it’d cost to fully transition – and it’d been a very depressing conversation. It was well out of his reach. Sadly, he’d resigned himself to not moving forward unless something major changed in his financial life.
Crandall has a logical – painful – solution.
Crandall’s solution was not one Mike could live with. He didn’t want to be selfish, but every way he tried to wrap his mind around sharing Crandall, he couldn’t. He knew it was the right thing to do for Ash, and he loved Ash like a brother. He was closer to Ash than his own brother. Could he let the world think Crank was his brother’s for his brother’s own health? The immediate answer was no, but Mike knew he had to convince himself otherwise.
It wouldn’t matter, if only he could claim Crandall as his own in every way.
Movement caught Mike’s attention. He squinted, focusing eyes and mind as he scanned the shadows over and between cars in the main lot. He couldn’t see much from his vantage point by the Mustang. He always parked her in the secondary lot because very few people used it. Between the two lots, thin, sickly trees formed a boundary, but a wide connecting drive let Mike see about a dozen cars lined up in their painted spaces closer to the building.
There. Mike stood up straight. His right hand went to his pocket. Stake, water, knife. He stared at a non-descript dark sedan. A shadow of a figure where the driver’s seat should be empty could’ve been a trick of light and night, but Mike was certain it’d moved a moment ago.
Humans move. The shadow didn’t. Mike didn’t have Crandall’s instincts for vampires, but he had experience. Either his emotions were playing mind games or there was a vampire sitting in that car. Mike stepped forward, walking directly toward the car, his gaze locked on the shadow.
Halfway through the parking lot, the shadow shifted. The car door swung open and the shadow materialized into a human shape beside the car. Standing at the outer edge of the glow from a parking light, the vampire stood preternaturally still, his passive expression turned toward Mike, unflinching and seemingly unconcerned.
When the vampire spoke, he startled Mike. His voice, though soft, carried easily to his ears. “I hear rumors there are two hunters here, but one at a time is much less messy.” The vampire grinned, flashing his fangs at Mike, but otherwise did not move, still waiting unconcerned about his safety.
Mike loosened a stake from the inner pocket of his jacket. He flipped a small knife out of a sheath sown along the seam of the zipper. He said nothing; he’d learned early on not to give in to a vampire’s attempts to distract him with taunts and threats.
At first, the vampire seemed amused at Mike’s single-minded advance. He tracked him with only his gaze, not moving as Mike circled around the line of cars. “What are you waiting for?” the vampire asked. “Come on now. Show me what you’re worth, oh dinner of mine.”
Mike kept his eyes on the vampire, but let his peripheral vision swept the nearby area. He didn’t want to get suckered into an ambush. He hadn’t actually planned to hunt when he left – he’d only wanted fresh air and time to think — but he knew as well as any hunter worth his blessed stakes, that a vampire couldn’t walk away once it scented a hunter.
Quite often, neither could the hunter.