Crandall paced in the small waiting room behind the stage. His mood so foul that even Beryl appeared to give him space to stride back and forth without question.
At the knock on the door, Crandall paused and glared, but only long enough to see who opened it. Jackson popped in to announce they had two minutes before the show started. Crandall snarled and started his pacing again; Jackson ducked out just as quickly as he’d come in. Crandall had already verbally abused the young vampire, and only because he’d hesitated when Crandall demanded that the other band, Dead Inside, vacate the back room to hang out with the other fangs out on the club floor.
Sunshine, or whatever the fuck his name was, agreed, but only did so with a laugh and some mocking comment that Crandall didn’t hear over the rush of blood in his ears. This had been a stupid idea. Crandall knew it, and he knew Mike knew it too. Crandall had hit the edge of an anxiety attack before they’d walked into the club, and then again, staring down the vampires of the main act. If he lost it during the show, he’d make sure Mike would never hear the end of it.
Crandall stopped pacing, staring at the door. Just one cheap-ass door between him and a room full of vampires. That alone didn’t bother him. It was one vampire. One annoying redheaded vampire. He dreaded her appearance. She claimed to have the key to the next step of the stupid fucking prophecy that only Judas believed in. He didn’t want to talk to her. He didn’t want to see her. He wanted his life back. Everything the way it was before vampires existed.
Except Mike. Crandall turned and leaned against the door. He knew Beryl and Jon watched him warily, but he only saw Mike. Something in the revelation of vampires – in that single vampire bite that awakened the hunter blood in Crandall – also gave Crandall Mike. Sure, he had Mike as a roommate and a friend, but now he had all of Mike. Not just sex, but something so intimate that Crandall couldn’t give it up. And sex too. Fuck yeah, sex. Mike fucked better than any woman. Times five. Times ten. Times a-fucking-hundred.
Mike stepped closer, and in a low voice, he asked, “Okay?”
Crandall jutted his chin in Mike’s direction. He couldn’t nod. He wasn’t ok, but he would be. “Ask me again when it’s over. We have to get through tonight, and then I’ll be okay.”
Mike frowned and looked about to ask another question, but Crandall silenced him with a look. The look. A hard stare that drilled through people making just about everyone who suffered it tuck tail and retreat. Mike didn’t retreat. Not right away. He dropped the confused look and nodded. “Sure. Okay, man. It’ll be a good set.”
“Of course it will.” Crandall didn’t even try to hold back the growl in his tone. Don’t state the obvious. It was one of his pet peeves.
Crandall pushed Mike back, out of his personal space, and then turned around and opened the door. He stepped through and headed down the long hallway toward the stage. At the empty doorway that let out five feet from the steps that would bring him in front of a crowd mixed with fangs and humans, Crandall stopped short. He could feel her. He knew she waited just beyond his vision. Fucking bitch. He’d warned her. He’d warned Jackson, too, the pretentious little shit. Crandall sucked in a deep breath, raised his chin and squared his shoulders in defiance and irritation, and then marched through the door and right up to Nica.
As what seemed to be usual, Nica was decked out in a slutty, cleavage-displaying red silk blouse, a skirt so short it had to be impossible to sit in, and stiletto heels with red and black zebra stripes that seemed to double her height. She was still fucking short.
Crandall gave her the Look. He glared through her, picturing himself on the stage and her with a stake in her pretty, pale cleavage. “Don’t say a fucking word,” he said. He emphasized his words by shoving a finger in her face, a half an inch from poking her pert, freckled nose. “Leave me the fuck alone and let me sing. If you open your annoying fucking mouth I will punch in all your obnoxiously white teeth. Got it?”
Nica’s eyes widened and her bright red lips fell open, revealing not just the white teeth, but sharp fangs glistening in the shifting lights thrown off from the stage.
“Back the fuck off. Now.”
Nica snapped her mouth shut and shrugged one shoulder making her already revealing blouse fall open a little further. “Fine. Later.” She turned and disappeared before Crandall could raise a fist.
Mike came up behind him. “Ready?” he whispered, his breath warm on the back of Crandall’s ear.
Crandall caught himself as he started to lean back into the comfort of Mike’s body. No, that wouldn’t do at all. Mike could hold a helluva grudge if he thought Crandall wasn’t being careful with his stupid secret. “Fuck.” Crandall wanted to pick a fight with Mike for making it impossible to relax, but it wasn’t all Mike’s fault, and Mike played better when he wasn’t in a pissy mood. Crandall leaped forward, dashing up the stairs and onto the stage. He grabbed the mic from Jackson before the vamp finished his introduction.
“Let’s just do this thing,” Crandall said into the microphone. The crowd cheered and screamed and jumped around like the crazy fucks they were. Much better. Crandall relaxed. Much fucking better. As the first few notes drifted out of Jon’s guitar and pierced Crandall’s shell of crankiness, Crandall finally felt at home.