It took several attempts and a lot of cursing before Crandall dragged Ash’s devoted focus from the vampire sitting on his couch. If it had been anyone else, Crandall would’ve assumed her ultrashort skirt and creamy pale thighs held his attention, but Ash was obsessed with hunting. It probably hurt his head to let her sit there, unharrassed, even if he still couldn’t draw in a full breath after her vicious kick. Fuck, this Judas shit was going to be even harder than Crandall had thought if they had to do it without Ash.
Ash stared at Crandall. He didn’t blink. He didn’t move. Crandall, used to staring at people with intensity, finally understood the depths of discomfort he caused with that behavior. He knew it unnerved most people, but he’d never realized just how much such a stare could make his skin crawl. He wanted to throw a pillow case over Ash’s head to get away from that look that seemed to bore through his skull, his brain, and every pore of his existence.
“You didn’t turn into Terminator when Max showed up unannounced. What the fuck gives?”
“I wanted to stake that one too,” Ash said. “But…” He looked away, shooting a glare at Nica before meeting Crandall’s gaze again. “Something held me back.”
Ash shrugged. “Can we talk about it later?” He paused for a brief moment, leaving Crandall to wonder why Ash couldn’t resist attacking Nica, but had appeared much more under control when Max barged into their training room. Ash interrupted Crandall’s thoughts as he said, I know you told us about her, and I’m all for destroying vampires, but I don’t know if I can do this.” He gestured at Nica. “I can’t be allies with them.”
“We promised,” Crandall said. “We agreed not to attack her, or Angelo’s bastard family. She’s supposed to be helping us.”
Crandall snorted. He had his own doubts on how much they could trust Nica. Mike did too. Crandall wanted to believe Max didn’t have an ulterior motive giving her to them, but the whole Judas shitstorm didn’t make sense on the surface. Something wasn’t right. No, a lot of things.
He turned to Nica. “You should go.”
“Yes you fucking can.”
“Nope. Max told me not to come home until we’ve worked out our differences.”
“So you can go. Leave. I don’t care where the fuck you go. I suggest the bottom of the fucking Charles River.”
Nica scowled. “Jerk.”
“Yep. Get over it.”
Ash moved to stand, but Crandall caught his arm and forced him back to the sofa. “I need to think,” Ash said. He looked at Nica. “You’re a vampire–”
“Immortale. Some vampires don’t like the v-word.” She rolled her eyes, letting him know she didn’t care herself.
“We can’t be allies,” Ash said.
“Let’s start with not being at each other’s throats. The time is going to come that you need my advice. If I’m pissed at your attitude, you’re less likely to get it.”
“Max said you have to help,” Crandall said.
“He can only force me to do so much before it becomes more work than it’s worth. I’ve known Max since I was killed. I’ll talk with you, but he can’t make the decisions on how much to say for me. I’m not the dumb bimbo you think I am.”
“I think you’re a violent, evil creature.” Ash spat out the words, daring her to attack since he’d been forbidden.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Crandall shoved Ash back and stood up. He glared at Nica, gesturing wildly with his fisted hands. “Just fucking go. We’re good, for now. Get out before you make things worse.”
She rose slowly, narrowing her eyes.
“If you’re as manipulative as you just claimed, you should have no trouble convincing Max you’ve succeeded for now. Get the fuck out!”
* * * *
When Mike burst through the door calling Crandall’s name, he started for the bedroom, but caught the sight of the living room out of the corner of his eye before he’d made it three steps. He stopped, turned, and took in the scene before him.
Once he’d killed the vampire in the parking lot, he’d remembered thinking someone was waiting for someone when he saw movement in the car. Then he’d panicked when he’d thought about who that might be. Vampires didn’t hang around their building, and even if they did, Crandall’s weird vampire senses would’ve warned them if the beast had drawn too close to the apartment. Not once.
Mike sucked in a sharp breath. Time froze. A thousand thoughts ran through his mind, but only two stood out. Devastation and vengeance.
“Crandall,” he whispered, the name nearly a sob.