Authors: Sindra van Yssel
Dark Xanadu 2:
Chilled to the Bone
Sindra van Yssel
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Chilled to the Bone
Copyright© 2010 Sindra van Yssel
Cover Artist: Devin Govaere
Editor: Sable Grey
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
Cobblestone Press, LLC
The moon was barely a sliver in the sky. The rain fell in a steady drizzling mist on the pavement below, the little splashes like an echo of Doreen’s squishy footfalls as she ran through the night.
The road was lined with buildings: shuttered businesses, gas stations, and warehouses, but none of them provided any refuge from the rain or her pursuer. She was tired from lack of blood. Eventually the vampire behind her would catch up. Or possibly he was toying with her. Soon she would collapse on the sidewalk, harmless, easy prey. Perhaps he would leave her alone then to await the burning dawn.
No. He would drag her to some place out of the way, where none would see her as the rays singed her flesh and turned her body to ashes. Would she even feel it? She ran on.
Obeying the laws of the vampires by keeping her pace down to what a mere human could attain seemed pointless now. The vampire who followed her—Mickey was his name—was a lackey of the lord of the city, anyway, and she could only die once at his hand. Her pursuer needed to obey the rules, so she ran as fast as she could. It didn’t seem to make a difference. She still felt his presence with some sense beyond hearing and sight.
Maybe I’m paranoid.
The sprint left her more tired than ever, barely able to pick up her feet. A few months ago, running for such a distance would have left an ache in her lungs as she panted to get oxygen—now, she didn’t need to breathe. But she still ached. Every vein in her body hurt. Blood was all the food she needed, and the only food that would suffice. She hadn’t had any in over a week.
She recognized the building up ahead. A blockish old warehouse, it had been turned into a nightclub. She had been inside it once, although her invitation had long since been rescinded. She had been involved in a fight there against the owners—three vampires against a gaggle of humans. Scarcely a fair fight, but somehow the mortals had won and she, the weakest, was the only vamp to survive it. She’d thought the punishment Pemberton, the lord of Washington, had ordered for her was over, until she awoke one dusk weak from lack of blood. She had been drained in the middle of the day and left near final death. She had fed then—oh how she had fed. Thinking about it made her feel sick.
The man she had drunk from still had a pulse, and she prayed to a God she suspected had long forsaken her that he might survive. She didn’t even know how she could find out.
The last few days Mickey had been watching her, following her. She had run, and he had given chase. So far he had never overtaken her. Sometimes she had eluded him for a night before he picked up the trail again at dusk. She quit staying at her apartment after—
No! I don’t want to think about that.
But tonight her luck was running out. She should have fed, she knew. But she didn’t trust herself to stop once her fangs had penetrated a helpless neck and the taste of sweet blood was on her tongue.
She had a few minutes before Mickey would catch up. She walked to the back of the warehouse, no longer running, and climbed the concrete stairs from the parking lot to what had once been a loading dock. The sign on the door was small and provided little contrast with the black background. From a distance it was unreadable. Only when she got close could she see it said
in deep red letters and a flowery script. She knocked. She would have a better chance of being invited into a random home, where perhaps someone would take pity on a bedraggled young woman whose T-shirt and jeans were soaked to the skin. Then she could drink. No, she didn’t dare. Even if she was going to die. She didn’t have anything in her life—her existence—worth killing for. What better place for things to end other than Dark Xanadu? There had been a man at Dark Xanadu she had wanted to possess. For a moment she had held his mind in her own. He had haunted her dreams. Another man, the one who owned the place, had severed the head of her maker. Which, she wondered, did she want to meet—the man who meant instant death, or the man whose mind she had once touched, who had no reason to do anything but leave her to her fate?
Just past three on a Friday morning
Charles Keller heard the knocking. He almost missed it. He was wiring up a new set of speakers, and had been about to test them on full volume to see how they filled the space when he heard the tap-tap on the metal door. Dark Xanadu’s acoustics were challenging at best, the result of a square
shaped space with a little chunk taken out of it to make the reception and coat check area, but he wanted to make it as good as humanly possible.
When he was halfway across the floor
the knocking became more insistent, the tapping turning into a pounding. A two-hundred and fifty pound angry man might make such a noise. Maybe the husband of some woman who came to the BDSM night at Dark Xanadu, or more likely one of the swingers’ nights on Saturdays, had come looking for trouble. Whoever it was, he wasn’t looking for Charles—he didn’t play with married women, no matter how much they insisted their husbands didn’t mind. He wasn’t part of the swinger crew, either. He’d talk the angry man down and that would be that. More than a decade of dealing with musicians had made him pretty good at calming the high strung.
“Coming,” he yelled.
He opened the door. The person there was shorter than the man he’d envisioned. She was decidedly female, and not especially big either. Oh, there was enough of her to create lovely curves against the soaked clothing she wore. The way it clung to her breasts, each nipple outlined against the fabric, made it hard to avoid dropping his eyes and staring. His first thought was he’d seen her before, somewhere. But if he’d seen her
there was no way he’d have forgotten her. She had deep brown eyes and brown hair a shade lighter than midnight, and when he stared at those eyes
he thought he could be lost in them forever. Her skin was the palest he had ever seen.
She turned her face away suddenly and quickly, breaking his gaze, and the spell was broken. Yes, she was still gorgeous, but for a moment
a haze had come over his mind like the one he’d felt when he was fifteen in the back seat of a station wagon with Jean McAndress, and now his brain was back in control.
“Oh good,” said the woman, “it’s you.”
seen her before, and she’d seen him. Strange. “Anything I can help you with?” he asked.
“Please. I’m so cold.” For October, the night was a positively balmy sixty-five, but the rain made things feel colder. She wouldn’t die of exposure, but she’d still be better off once she got out of those clothes. He tried to convince himself his motivation was pure. She kept her face turned, so he couldn’t see her eyes anymore. What was she hiding?
He hadn’t noticed any trace of dilation in the eyes, but still, she was probably on drugs. Running around in the rain on a night like tonight, the evasiveness, the loud pounding with a strength belying her size: it all fit. Poor girl. He reached out to touch her forehead. He was so startled he almost yanked his hand back. She wasn’t a little cold. She was a lot cold, barely warmer than the air around her. But that wasn’t possible. She should be dead by now being that cold.
He pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll get help,” he said, stepping out into the cool air. He started dialing 9-1-1. He got as far as the 9, when she swung and knocked the cell phone from his hand. It flew against the wall and made a sickening crackling noise as it broke.
“No. They won’t understand. I need you.”
What the fuck?
He glanced over at the remains of his cell phone. She was strong. He was still taller than her, and presumably stronger, although in her current hyped up drugged state he couldn’t be sure of the latter. And she definitely needed medical attention. He should invite her in. The warehouse wasn’t warm, but he had a space heater near where he was working; it was at least warmer than the stoop.
He looked past her. Beyond the concrete block in front of the door on which they stood was the club parking lot, shielded from the street. She hadn’t come in a car. His red Porsche 911 was the only one in the lot.
Something gnawed at him though, as if there was some reason not to let her in tucked away in his memory somewhere. He frowned. He knew plenty of Doms who were cold-hearted bastards, but he wasn’t one of them. He backed up. “Come on in,” he said.
Even with her head bowed downwards, he spotted a flash of teeth. Was that a grin on her face? Was she playing him all this time? Quite possibly. She hurried inside, taking the few steps over the threshold quickly, and then slowing back to a walk. It wasn’t much warmer on this side of the door than the other. He’d get her near the heater, get her wet clothes off, and get some blankets on her. While he was using that as an excuse to get away from her, he’d call an ambulance on the landline phone. He remembered telling Kent, the owner of Dark Xanadu, that having a landline was a waste of money in the modern world of mobile telecommunications. He didn’t think so anymore.