Blood & Curses

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Chapter 5: Blush

William gripped the steering wheel tighter, his knuckles turning white. He was anxious to meet Adrian. Although he knew how hard it was to control the animalist urges of the transition at first, he felt that he was trying to use it as an excuse to find the good in all people. He knew, through his wisdom acquired over the years, not everyone could be saved.

“If you grip that steering wheel any tighter you’re going to break it off,” James said with a raised eyebrow.

William loosened his grip and exhaled a deep breath.

“You didn’t have to come with me tonight. I can handle this myself,” William said.

“I know you can,” James replied. “However, I thought it wise for you to have backup just in case something happened. Adrian won’t be alone when he meets you and I can’t have that on my conscience.”

“I appreciate that,” William stated through gritted teeth. “I hear Matthew is already searching the area for a venue for his escort service and Victoria is thinking about opening her antique shop online and then expanding to a brick and mortar.”

“Yeah. Eleanor is looking into a building for her massage parlor tomorrow. It looks like everyone is getting their business together.” James stared out the window.

“Now we just have to settle ours,” William commented as he pulled the black Escalade onto the curb outside of Blush.

William exited the vehicle and glanced up at the old brick and mortar building. It appeared to have been rebuilt in the early 20th century. James walked up to stand beside William as they gazed upon the night club. They walked in silence towards a side entrance where a man in all black stood with his hands clasped over one another in front of him. It was apparent that he was more than just your regular bouncer as a gun made a minor appearance from underneath his jacket. He waited in silence as they approached with a scowl upon his face.

“I.D.” the man said as he held his hand out in front of him.

“We don’t need any,” William said as he flexed his control over the man.

“Sure…” the man agreed as he opened the door for William and James. Music pulsated from inside as they stepped out from beside the bar area onto the red tinted dance floor.

“Where is he?” James whispered to William as they strode about the club watching the people dance. They browsed the seating area for any sign of Adrian.

“He’s here. He’s watching us,” William stated as he looked up towards the rectangular window that overlooked the dance floor. “There.”

“Not even the decency to greet us?” James clucked. “And they think us the heathens?”

William shot James a warning glare. “There’s no doubt in my mind they’re listening to us right now, so hold your tongue. There’s no reason to start a war with our own kind.”

“He’s right, you know,” a sensual voice rang out from behind them.

They both turned to lay eyes upon a woman with dark brown hair in a pixie cut. She was petite, her face appearing fairy like. She had shrewd amber eyes and a smirk upon her thin lips. Her brow was raised in speculation.

“I’m William. I’m here to speak with Adrian.”

“I know who you are. What I don’t know, is who he is,” she said gesturing to James.

“The name is James. And you are?”

“Melaina. Now that we’ve been introduced, please follow me,” Melaina said as she turned to head towards the staircase behind the bar area.

James and William followed her as she sashayed up the stairs. James couldn’t help but stare at her tiny ass as she flaunted it in front of them. William nudged him in the side to stay focused as they reached the top of the stairs and entered the study. Adrian was seated in one of the red leather armchairs with a glass of brandy in his hand and a cigar in the other.

“Ah!” he exclaimed as he stood up momentarily from his seat. “There they are! I was wondering when I would be meeting the leader of the infamous Elderidge Clan. Please, have a seat. Emrick, get these gentlemen a drink, will you?”

A large man stood near the desk and poured some amber liquid into two crystal tumblers before handing them to James and William who took a seat on the red leather sofa. William surveyed the room. He always had a contingency plan if things went south. It was his duty, he felt, to take care of his family at all costs.

“You seem tense. I just want to have a little chat with you. I’ve heard some things about you from those two beautiful girls of yours. Your sisters, right? And this must be your…brother?”

“Cousin,” James corrected.

“I see,” Adrian said more to himself than to them. “What can I say? I had to create my own family here.”

“Let’s get down to business,” William said. “Victoria and Eleanor trespassed and for that we apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“Oh, that?” Adrian waved off the comment with his hand. “Forgotten. No hard feelings. What I would like to know about is that trick they pulled in my club while feeding on those two tourists.”

“What trick?” William asked skeptically.

“Oh, you know.” Adrian crossed his legs in his chair. “The one where they were able to feed off those humans without killing them.”

“It’s not a trick, but a skill one can hone. It takes practice and patience in order to ensure the temptation doesn’t take hold to drain them. Then you simply erase their memory of the experience,” William explained.

“Interesting. And tell me, why would I want to do that?” Adrian asked.

William hesitated. He wasn’t understanding Adrian’s game. “I’m not sure I quite follow. It’s to ensure the safety of the human and the safety of our kind from tipping off Hunters.”

“The last Hunter to set foot on my turf was ripped apart in a back alley. They know better than to set foot in my town. You, on the other hand, haven’t learned that lesson yet. I’d like to make a deal with you,” Adrian began.

William shot a glance over at James. He didn’t like where this was going at all. He was wrong with giving Adrian a chance to be civil. The Ashford’s had made the right decision in keeping evil off their premises.

“We don’t make deals,” William said flatly.

“This one you’ll want to make,” Adrian insisted with a grin. “I can tell you’re old. Forgive me if I’m being too blunt here, but I know you’re much older than you’re letting on. I’ve heard a lot about your family and not just from your sisters. I know that you and your family are almost completely immune to the effects of the sun. I also know that you’re very old school in your ways. I like that. I think we could help each other out.”

“How so?” James asked.

“I’ll make a deal with you. You and your family work for me and I’ll make sure my feeding grounds are open to you and you’re given priority in this city. I’ll even make sure to keep the Hunters off your trail. How does that sound?” Adrian took a puff of his cigar.

“What does working for you entail?” William was growing even wearier of this meeting by each minute. The thick aroma of cigar smoke permeated his senses.

“Oh, just some odd jobs here and there.” Adrian was being too vague for William to be at ease.

“No deal.” William was not about to risk everything on a gamble with Adrian.

Adrian’s smile immediately turned into a frown. He glared at William, silently smoldering over the fact that his offer had been snubbed. James sat coolly through the matter making his own assumptions.

“Very well. Is there anything I can do to change your mind? Perhaps, I’ll give you another 24 hours to think over it? I think that would be more appropriate. Talk it over with your Clan. You seem like a fellow who likes a little democracy,” Adrian stated to lighten the mood.

“And if my final word is still no?” William inquired. He wasn’t here to play games.

“Well, consider this your warning. If I have any more trespassers upon my feeding grounds, they will be executed on site,” Adrian warned. “I don’t mean to be a downer, but you can understand my predicament? My hands are tied when it comes to my family as well. I wouldn’t want to put them in any danger from rogue vampires that we aren’t sure we can trust. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly.” William could tell Adrian was thinly veiling a nerve that he had clearly hit.

“Well, I believe we’re done here. Please, enjoy your brandy before you leave. Melaina, help them find their way out.” Adrian motioned for her to retrieve them.

William and James stood from their seats, their glasses untouched. It was clear that Adrian was the territorial sort. If he couldn’t control you, then he would banish you. James shot Adrian a smile just to incite some rage from the vampire leader as they began their descent down the stairs behind Melaina.

“Well, he was pleasant,” James whispered to William.

William shook off the comment as they were shown the door out into the street. He was shaking with rage from the blatant threat that Adrian had given him and his family. The only comforting thought he had was that Adrian would never be able to set foot within their property lines. This was something that he knew must have irritated Adrian when he found out a vampire Clan had moved into the neighborhood.

“I do think we should think about this,” James said suddenly as they made their way to their car.

“Think about what?” William inquired harshly. “He threatened this family. There is nothing to think about. The answer is no.”

James grabbed William by the arm as he began to walk away. “Listen to me. Can we really afford to give up this opportunity to be Hunter free and to have no worries within stable feeding grounds?”

“There is no guarantee. You know that. You also know that if we say yes to this deal, we are signing ourselves over to him. Do you really want to work for a man we know nothing about, doing things that could potentially be dangerous for us?” William had a point.

“And that’s not better than putting our family in danger not only with Hunters but also with fellow vampires?” James wouldn’t let this go.

William took a deep breath and glared back at James. “They aren’t any friend to me.”

He turned to walk toward the car and entered the driver’s seat. James stood there by the passenger door thinking about what had just happened. He tapped on the window and William rolled it down.

“I’m going to take a walk. I need some fresh air. I’ll catch a cab home.”

William nodded and drove away.

“That’s unfortunate,” Melaina said from behind James.

“What you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be up there rubbing Adrian’s feet or something?” James asked coldly.

Melaina frowned. “I’m not Adrian’s whore if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

“I didn’t. You did,” James commented as he began to walk away. In a second, Melaina was in front of him stopping him in his tracks.

“Look, I know you and your brother and I got off on the wrong foot. Adrian isn’t as bad as he seems but I wouldn’t say he’s not a ruthless man. He’s done stuff in this city in order to protect his bloodline. I understand if you have to do what you have to, to protect yours,” Melaina explained.

“Thanks for your understanding,” James said gruffly. “Do you know what jobs Adrian was talking about?”

“I’m not sure. I can only assume they’re jobs to protect our kind,” Melaina said.

“Protect our kind, how? You see, William isn’t big on the killing thing anymore. In fact, we’re all over it,” James replied.

“Adrian does what he needs to do to get the job done,” she said slowly. She seemed to be thinking carefully about her choice of words. “It would be easier to talk about all this with a glass of wine in my hand.”

James thought for a moment. He didn’t want to appear too eager to accept her invitation, but he didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spend an evening with a pretty woman. It gave him a feeling of danger and intrigue, something that he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

“We can get a drink, but not here,” James finally answered.

Melaina smiled. “Splendid. Just let me get my coat out of the club and I’ll be right back.”

“No.” James grabbed her hand. “How about we forget the coat and just go. No need to tell your boss you’re going out with the enemy. I know for a fact you aren’t cold.”

“I think we’ll get along just fine,” she said through a smile, her white teeth flashing.

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