The church was never full for the early service. Only the devout attended. So when Bay Ryder walked in, enough people took note of the new face. He stayed in the back pew during the service; I was with the sisters from the convent, and he didn’t dare approach. After I had taken communion, I continued down the aisle past my usual pew and slipped into the pew beside him. The others paid no heed. I’d met clients here enough in the past years that it didn’t surprised anyone anymore.
Not that they knew what I did for a living, but Mother Superior commented a few years back that a new face at Saturday morning mass was usually a result of a murder or my side business. She just hoped the two were not connected. It was a joke on her part. Mother Superior was one of my first clients years ago, when she needed false documents for an abused woman and her children needing to escape her husband. That job opened the door for my side business in helping victims and survivors escape their pasts.
As I sat back from praying after taking sacrament, Mr. Ryder slipped his hand in his pocket and began to withdraw an envelope. I shook my head as Father Mathew started the final prayer and Mr. Ryder left it alone, standing beside me to sing the last hymn with gusto in a perfectly pitched tenor. As Father Mathew came alongside, he gave my client a stern look before taking my hand, stealthily slipping a piece of paper into it before continuing outside the church.
The rest of the congregation followed after him except for those who knelt and continued their prayers. I opened the slip of paper and read the request before pocketing it and turning to face my client. Mr. Ryder raised a brow at me, having seen the priest’s communication.
“Even the Rectory employ your services, Miss Michaels?” Bay sat back down, slightly slanted to face me.
I stayed standing. “Everyone has their needs, Mr. Ryder, and sometimes those needs can only be met at a cost.”
I slipped past where he was sitting and headed for the side door out of the church. Outside, the sun was already up and promising to be a beautiful autumn day. I walked to Mary’s Grotto and took the seat a few meters back from where I usually kneel to pray. Mr. Ryder followed casually, taking in the gardens before sitting next to me.
“It’s quite beautiful and peaceful here. I never knew a place like this existed in the city. I guess I should feel privileged that you would bring me here.” His eyes glanced over me. “I much prefer that dress on you than last night’s casual attire.”
The flowing black velvet maxi dress with long lace sleeves, cinching under the bust, was a favorite of Alexander’s too. I smirked. “Mr. Ryder...”
“Call me Bay.”
“I’d rather not be on a first name basis with you.”
“You’ve fondled my genitals, Miss Michaels.”
“I’d prefer we not use the word fondled either.”
“Would you prefer caressed?”
“Then, since you have fondled my genitals, I believe you can call me by my Christian name, and I shall call you Spectra.”
“As long as by midnight tomorrow night you stop calling me at all, I can live with that. Shall we do business?”
Bay gave me a quick nod and handed me the envelope from his pocket. “My license, passport, recent passport photos, and fifteen thousand dollars cash. The agreed deposit for your services. I would suggest not depositing it all in one hit with the way governments monitor cash withdrawals and deposits these days.”
“Thanks for the advice.” I reached into my sleeve, withdrawing a piece of paper rolled around my arm under the sleeve and handing it to him. “Your birth certificate stamped and authenticated.” I stood up and took a step away. “While I can get a license fairly easy, passports are very hard work these days. I’ll do my best to make it back for your deadline. If I’m running late for the drop, I’ll call and reschedule the meet before sunrise.”
Bay stood. “You got my email with the location and time?”
I nodded. “Do you have other plans that may cause an issue if I run late?”
I swallowed hard and closed my eyes on the mental image.
Bay’s voice dropped an octave, “I do not kill my food like humans do, Spectra. I am old and have a lot more self-control than younger predators.”
“And yet I feel no more comfortable in your presence than I did two minutes ago.” I turned, heading towards the convent to grab my bags and take the morning train to our country’s capital.
* * *
With all the security procedures in place these days, it was near impossible to forge a passport in our country. So I didn’t. Three hours of train travel and two different bus rides later, I was sitting in an office cubicle of the passport office creating Bay Ryder’s tamper-proof passport based on his most recent birth certificate. I honestly thought it would take me longer to access their files, but one of the staff responsible for issuing new ones went off on a long lunch break without logging out of their computer.
I was still prompted for her password during the steps in the process, but I’d already watched her process two passports before she left, so I was good to go. After I finished processing the passport, I just needed to wait for it to be generated and authenticated. The bonus of doing this on a Saturday was that the place ran on skeleton staff who tended to take long lunches. The downside was that generating and authenticating took longer. By the time I held Bay’s passport in my hand, I’d missed the train home.
I booked a cheap hotel and opened my laptop to check my emails. My personal business account only held one new entry, a request from a longstanding client at a woman’s refuge. It wasn’t an urgent request, so I flagged it to follow up next week and closed the browser. I set the laptop aside and lay back, closing my eyes.
The dream floated in like always. Snippets of scenes like a mangled video tape. My vision was foggy, I felt sick, and Jeff, my high school boyfriend’s smile, swam through that fog.
Come on; it’ll be fun.
I don’t want to. I don’t feel well. I want to go home.
Just chill, babe. I really want to try it. I felt his hands pulling my knickers off as I lay facedown on his college room bed. Everyone’s doing it.
I’m not everyone. I really feel sick, Jeff. I think I need a doctor.
You’ll be fine.
Did you give me something? My eyes were struggling to focus on the can of Coke on his bedside table.
Chill, babe, I just wanted you to relax. I’ve wanted to try this for so long.
I don’t remember going into cardiac arrest from the allergic reaction. I only remember waking with a shock, my lungs burning, body freezing cold, everything hurting, and then Alexander’s face, tears streaking his cheeks.
I thought I was too late. I’m sorry, Spec; I couldn’t lose you.
I came back to the waking world, eyes opening slowly in the gloom of the room. I turned my head and looked at the window; it was light outside. I groaned, sitting up, and looked at the clock beside the bed. I swore a string of profanities, quickly gathered my stuff together, and bolted for the door. Another four hours and a rushed taxi ride later, I disembarked the train to find Alexander standing on the platform.
“You look like you just crawled out of your grave, Spec.” His face was serious.
“Thanks for coming. This place crawls with predators after dark.”
I yawned and let Alexander pull me in close to his body as we left Central Station for the walk to his apartment just ten minutes away. We stayed, walking with his arm around me till we entered his building, then I let him lead the way up the stairs to his apartment.
“I’m still down the license. I’ll have to get it on the way to the meet.”
Alexander checked the watch on his wrist as he opened his door, “You’ll be hard pressed to make the meet then.”
“I have a contingency set up if I miss it.” I walked into his bathroom to freshen up since I was still wearing my clothes from yesterday.
“Take the time to shower, and I’ll leave you a dress on the bed.” Alexander’s dark eyes were alight with mischief. “Pity we are both pressed for time or I’d join you in the shower.”
I rolled my eyes and headed for the bathroom. I didn’t question Alexander having clothes ready for me. He probably arranged them the minute I called from the train station and told him the time I’d be getting in.
“I have to get going, Spec. You alright to let yourself out?”
“Of course, have a good night.”
I heard the front door close as I stepped into the shower and washed away two days’ worth of travel grime. In the bedroom, I found a short-sleeved black cocktail dress, stockings, underwear, heels, and an ankle-length jacket all in my size. I wouldn’t spend this sort of money on myself, and Alexander knew it. He knew my sizes because he’d bought me clothes when I first went off the radar and was hiding out in a hotel room he’d paid for while I learned to deal with what happened to me.
I got dressed, slipped Bay’s passport into the pocket of the elegant but practical jacket, along with my smartphone in its wallet case, which I only used for checking emails and emergency calls. I cursed Alexander’s choice of shoes halfway to the licensing office but continued regardless. As I approached the building, I breathed out entirely and slipped through the employees’ only entry.
Licenses were an easy ten minutes. I just called up his last license, changed the date of birth, and reprinted it. While I was waiting, I updated his details to reflect the most up-to-date birth certificate information. Alexander was right, except for passports, I could make easy money working for the Nachtwelt, but my morals cringed at the very idea. Committing federal felonies to help abused women and children escape their tormentors didn’t give me the ‘burn in hell for all eternity’ feel that helping predators did.
With the license safely tucked into the passport protector pouch, I walked the twenty minutes to the meet.
The rooftop party was in full swing when I exited the elevator. My name was at the door like Bay promised. I slipped out of my jacket at the coat check, keeping his passport wallet in hand, and made my way into the thick of the party. People were dancing to the jazz music, others socialized by the bar. The area by the pool was relatively quiet, so I made my way there and stood waiting for Bay to find me. I checked my watch; the window for the meet closed in five minutes.
I closed my eyes, reopened them, and focused on recognizing predators. When I first learned to do this, it would instantly alert all of them to my presence, but with Alexander’s training, I’d learned to do it without most of them even knowing. There were several predators here, a handful of them Bay’s kind, which was exactly the reason I avoided the modern nightclubs. The crowd parted, and Bay approached me from the bar direction, his lips pulling slightly up in a smile. His expensive suit fit in a lot better at this party.
“I was starting to think you wouldn’t make it.” He held out his hand, and I placed the passport wallet in it. His eyebrows lifted as if that’s not what he expected, but he opened the wallet, checked the license and passport, then pocketed them before once again putting his hand out to me.
I raised a brow. “I believe this is where you hand me my payment and we bid each other farewell, Bay.”
Bay nodded but moved no further. When I stood to look at him, he exhaled in frustration and scooped my hand up in his, leading me to the dance floor. He pulled me into him and started dancing. I went rigid, from being held so firmly against him, and because I’d also never danced with a guy like this before.
“Relax, I’ll lead. I promise not to tread on your pretty shoes.” Bay smiled, and it hit me how good looking he was. I closed my eyes and growled at myself. “I’ve angered you?”
“You’re trying to charm me.” I kept my voice low and bitter. “I don’t understand, considering how angry it made you when I touched you only two days ago.”
Bay’s smile died, his face returning to his emotionless mask. “We are at a party, Miss Michaels. Your money is in my coat. When we have finished this dance, you will escort me out, and I will give you your payment in the elevator on the way to the lobby.”
I tensed in his hands at the idea of being alone in an elevator with him. I shook my head and stepped back. “Screw the money.”
Bay’s eyes focused on mine with curiosity. I stepped away from him and turned to find the exit. Nothing was worth the risk of being alone with him. I’d never done this for the money anyway. I could feel Bay following me through the crowd. I was examining all my options for escape when a tipsy brunette stepped into my path, a predator smiling charmingly at her side as he led her to the exit.
“God, I’m so sorry.” She laughed as she turned to apologize for running into me.
I had a split second to recognize Heather, my best friend from school, before her eyes fell on me. Heather’s eyes went wide with fear. “Spec?”
I looked at the predator next to her, keeping my face controlled and serene. He was focused elsewhere and missed her reaction. “He’s a predator, Heather. Leave with him, and you may never make it home again.” With Bay standing at my back stopping my retreat, I breathed out entirely, becoming incorporeal. I fled through the crowd for the exit.
“Spec?” I heard Heather’s voice call again weakly.
I was shocked that Spectra would choose to refuse payment rather than enter a confined space with me, but I shouldn’t have been. I may not have bedded a woman in centuries, but I used my charm on humans daily in my business, so I should have known when my charm failed to work on her that she would run. All my confusion went out the window when I saw the brunette’s big brown eyes widen in horror, the blood draining from her face enough to still look shock pale despite her fake tan and heavy makeup.
I just heard Spectra warn her about the predator before she turned and vanished into the crowd. I looked for her but lost her amongst the milling bodies, her aura already very faint. The eyes of the alarmed brunette locked with mine in the absence of Spectra.
“Are you well? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” I asked half-heartedly while I searched for Spectra moving through the crowd.
“I did,” she whispered, tears starting to run down her cheeks. That response got my attention. “She warned me...” She looked over her shoulder at the man she was with, busy talking to another of his kind and a drunk blond human. The scared brunette quickly moved into the crowd away from the danger. I held her elbow to stop her tripping in her hasty retreat.
“Possibly you’ve drunk too much.” I frowned. Spectra was real. I touched her, and she definitely wasn’t a ghost, so this woman’s reaction was fascinating. “You obviously haven’t seen your friend in some time...”
“Seven years,” the brunette sobbed. “She died seven years ago. We used to be so close; it tore our whole circle of friends apart when it happened. Her boyfriend, Jeff, he didn’t mean to hurt her, he couldn’t have known she’d react badly to what he gave her. After what happened to her sister and her mother, it almost seemed as if the family was cursed, and Spec was fated to die young too.”
I swallowed, gaining a little insight into why Spectra resided at a convent. She must be an orphan. “How long was she dead for?” I think I understood why Spectra could identify predators, why she stood one with foot in the Nachtwelt.
The brunette looked at me, exasperated, like I hadn’t been listening. “We buried her seven years ago.”
I stood straight, hearing the honesty in this woman’s words. I turned and looked towards the exit. Spectra was there, waiting for her jacket to be given to her. I walked away from the distressed woman and towards my prey. There are very few ways someone comes back from the dead and stays human. If her friends buried someone, it wasn’t the woman he was doing business with. There was no way Spectra ever went into a grave, which meant she never died completely and went into hiding for a reason, or she was something new.
I grabbed her elbow to stop her retreat while handing over the ticket to collect my own jacket. Spectra turned her pale eyes toward me, and whatever she saw in mine caused her to swallow hard. She closed her eyes and looked away as I took my jacket and led her to the elevator.
We waited quietly for the elevator to arrive. When it did, I stepped us both inside, hit the button for the basement, and turned to block her view of the control panel. I took out the envelope containing the rest of her payment and held it out to her. “Your payment. Thank you for your professionalism, Miss Michaels.”
She took the envelope hesitantly and slipped it into her jacket pocket without checking it. Her anxiety was filling the elevator. I stepped towards her and touched her cheek. Spectra’s blue eyes flashed up to mine, surprise swimming like a torrent behind them.
I smiled down at her. “I want you to stay the night with me, Spectra.” I intended to take her with me the moment I saw her. No one had stirred my desire in centuries, and suddenly there was this woman. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.
Her eyes hardened and flashed fiercely. “I’m not food.”
“I’ve already eaten tonight. I want you in the biblical sense. Stay with me tonight, and tomorrow morning you can walk away from me. I’ll never seek you out again.”
I saw the answer in her eyes before she even opened her mouth. She was not the sort to be ruled by desire. I took her face in my hands, seeing my chance at knowing pleasure again quickly disappearing. I kissed her passionately and felt the desire flood my system. My cock stirred the moment I saw her upstairs, but now, it became full and hard and pulsed with the ache of centuries of disuse.
I ran my tongue over my teeth, slicing my tongue open before thrusting it into her mouth. She wasn’t pushing me away, and I could feel the temptation radiating off her as the elevator stopped and the doors slid open. But, when I pulled back to look in her eyes, the fear within her overcame her curious nature. She shook her head and stepped away to alight the elevator but paused when she saw we were in the car park.
I stepped forward to stop the doors from shutting and put a hand on her lower back to encourage her forward.
“What about the word ‘no’ do you not understand?” she growled, giving me a look full of rage, refusing to budge.
I kept my face neutral and put enough of my strength behind my hand to let her know getting off the elevator was not an option, and it wasn’t now. I couldn’t leave her defenseless in a place like this. She stepped off the elevator and turned, putting her back to the wall immediately outside.
“No, I’m not staying with you. No, I’m not having sex with you. No, I’m not feeding you. No, I will not ever see you again. Our business is done, Mr. Ryder. Our agreement was that you would forget my name, forget me...”
Spectra swayed a little, and she put a hand to her head. I stood waiting, guilt gnawing at my consciousness as she put her hand on the wall and her knees started to weaken beneath her.
“What?” She stumbled.
I caught her and lifted her into my arms effortlessly. Her head rolled into my chest, unconscious, as I started walking to my car.
Spectra will be published on 22nd February 2017.
Did you enjoy my ongoing story so far? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Ebony OlsonWrite a Review