With the dojo opening in a few hours, Ash headed to bed. Crandall stretched out on the couch and dropped his head in Mike’s lap with an exaggerated yawn. He wasn’t tired. Not really. Their cat nap before Ash got home had done the trick.
“We should go to sleep,” Mike said. He lazily caressed Crandall’s stomach. Crandall tried to enjoy it, but he sensed a vampire nearby. Maybe two. He tried to ignore the feeling, hoping they were just passing through. He focused on Mike’s touch, but the itch behind his eyes warned him the creatures weren’t moving on. One was in the building, drawing closer. His skin crawled. He couldn’t focus on Mike at all. Fuck.
“Not yet.” Crandall’s voice was low, quieter than usual. “That pain in the ass is on the way up.”
Mike frowned. “Who?”
Crandall sighed and sat up, swinging his feet to the floor. He walked to the door and opened it. After a moment of waiting, he spotted her as she stepped off the elevator. As she approached, obviously wary that he was waiting, he said, “Be fucking quiet or I’ll stake you. I do not want to have to pull Ash off you again.”
When Crandall stepped back, bright red curls filled the doorway as they cascaded around Nica’s face and down over her shoulders. “I assume you mean he’s asleep? I don’t want anything to do with him either.”
“How do you do that?” Mike stood, but remained near the sofa.
Crandall shrugged one shoulder. “I don’t know. Don’t care.” He faced her again as Nica shut the door. “What do you want?”
Nica sighed and flipped her hair over one shoulder. “We have to do this. Trust me, I don’t want to either.” She cocked a hip to one side and braced a defiant fist on it.
“Look here, you pain in the ass, I don’t need to do anything.”
Mike crossed the room, wrapped an arm around Crandall’s shoulder, and pulled him back against his chest. “Calm down,” he said. “Both of you.”
“I don’t need your help.” Crandall remained tense, but pressed against Mike, finding comfort with his warm, strong body at his back.
“You have to do something.” When neither man said anything, Nica pressed. “They’re not going to let you back out now. You agreed to do this.”
“Fuck that.” Crandall stepped away from Mike to get in her face. “I did not agree to anything. You stupid fucking fangs just assumed we’re going to help you with this crazy ass shit. Well I don’t believe in prophecy. If I see that Judas fucker, I’ll stake him, but I’m not basing my life on his need to give his up.”
“Crank…” Crandall heard the note of warning in Mike’s voice.
“Shit. Go the fuck away,” he hissed in a stage whisper.
“Crandall, please.” Nica looked past him. “Mike?” She looked at Crandall again and sighed. “I didn’t want to do it like this but…”
She looked away, and when she met Crandall’s gaze again, her green eyes were cold and maybe a little bit scared. “They won’t let you walk away from this. You either finish what you’ve started, or they’ll hunt you down. Seems to me it’d be much better for you if you take my help and be the predator, instead of constantly looking over your shoulder like a startled deer wondering if she’s lost the hunter.”
Crandall just stared at her, through her. She shifted from foot to foot. He wanted her gone, but she had a point. Those vampires – her fucking friends – were stronger than any of the ones he’d staked before. It hadn’t taken Crandall long to figure out those vamps were organized and strong, and his friends – fuck, they’d probably only hunted the weak ones that didn’t have the benefit of the pack.
They were different, a step ahead, and there was a very good chance Miss Curls-and-Fangs wasn’t bluffing about any of it.