THE CRIMSON FLOW

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Chapter 3.2 - MY MOST TRUSTED

Turning into an alleyway a few streets from the McDonalds they had just left, the vampire strode quickly, confidently.

Four-storey buildings flanked either side of the lane, their windows dim, some blackened out completely. The alley was starkly lit by occasional lights dotted along its length suspended on the brick walls. The boom from a nightclub filtered out into the night, its source close by, growing louder as they moved further along the lane.

“Thank you for the food. And the clothes,” Riley said as he stumbled along after Luke.

“Well, you’re no good to me, half-starved,” the vampire responded over his shoulder. “As for the clothing, I can’t risk unwanted attention by having you walk into places covered in blood now can I?”

“No, I guess not,” Riley agreed.

“Hmm. Still, you need groomed.” Luke halted and turned to face an instantly nervous Riley. It was hard to resist the rush he derived from such a reaction; it thrilled him seeing the fear and apprehension in their eyes. He moved forward, making his familiar retreat until his back hit the wall - a small “oof” tumbling from his lips.

The vampire reached out and ran his fingers through the man’s hair. He felt him flinch at his touch. This amused him too, it always did.

Frantic, face filled with uncertainty, a gasp fell from Riley’s lips as he heard the sound of footfalls echoing down the alleyway. His eyes flitted left, searching for whoever was approaching. A lone figure neared, features still cloaked in shadows.

Luke cupped Riley’s chin, his fingers digging a little into the stubbled jaw. He had his undivided attention now. He inched closer, eyes scanning the face before him until they settled on the mouth; full, plump, with a perfectly formed philtrum, the bottom lip seductive, made for pleasure. “I did hear you correctly didn’t I when you said you would do whatever it takes?” His breath dusted over Riley’s cheek and vapourised in the fresh night air.

Hesitantly, Riley nodded, swallowed, then uttered a reluctant “Uh-huh.”

“Good. Because I think behind this rather shambolic appearance, is quite a good-looking individual. I do like a handsome man.” His thumb stroked the cleft in his chin.

Riley’s tongue flicked across his dry lips, nervous, not enjoying where this was heading. His dilemma intensified as the vampire leaned in, his mouth opening to steal a kiss.

“You have to stop playing with your food,” a voice said from their left.

Luke stilled, but his grip on Riley’s chin remained firm. The unexpected chide made Riley rigid, tense, expecting only a violent response from his host.

Unexpectedly, Luke laughed and released him. He turned to face the person who had spoken, leaving Riley relieved, gulping air as quietly as possible.

“Fergus!” Luke greeted the newcomer. The two hugged for a few moments then pulled apart. “It is good to see you.”

“And you, Luke. You have been gone for a while this time.”

“Yes. I had some soul-searching to do.”

The two men laughed, the humour lost on Riley. Then Luke turned to him again and tugged him forward. He slung his arm around his shoulders, squeezing him close. “This...” he said, gesturing the confused familiar. “...is Riley. Barnett and his flock captured him. He was used as a top-up now and again apparently.”

Fergus looked the man up and down. His mouth smiled, but his eyes betrayed distrust. “I take it you disposed of that freak?” He asked Luke as he continued to inspect Riley.

“Yes, although this one managed to kill the other three when I strung Barnett up.”

At that, Fergus’ demeanour changed. “Oh? There is hope for you yet then, newbie,” he said, his voice still holding on to a hint of mockery.

“This is a man you should aspire to,” Luke told Riley. “Fergus is one of my finest, my most trusted.”

Riley merely nodded, his expression indicating reservations in his decision to be part of Luke’s ‘hive’. Luke smirked.

“So, did you find what you were looking for?” Fergus’ attention was once more on Luke.

“Yes. And more!” Luke signalled to them both, and they started forward down the alley again.

“More?” Fergus enquired.

“Two Fallen accompany him.”

Fergus halted. “So it’s true? They weren’t just rumours after all?”

“No, all delightfully authentic. I also heard news of a woman involved.”

“What genus is she?”

“Human.”

A dark, throaty laugh rumbled in Fergus’ chest. “A bargaining chip, I take it?”

“Possibly,” Luke replied with a sly smile. They turned the corner and came across the entrance to the club responsible for the beat in the alley.

Riley stood beside Luke, obedient, quiet, glancing up at the flashing neon signage of the club.

The vampire faced his friend. “How many have you assembled?”

Fergus’ eyebrows flexed. With a sigh, he replied. “Six. The usual dependable ones.”

A grunt of disappointment was all Luke mustered.

“I’m sorry,” Fergus went on. “The others couldn’t survive. The majority went mad. I ordered a cull.”

Luke nodded, resigned. “Well, all things considered, it is perhaps a blessing I did not procreate too enthusiastically. Things will change, though, my friend. Soon, he will help us become great.”

“I depend on it,” Fergus smiled, tight. Riley caught the flash of his fangs from the brightly coloured neon sign above.

“Good! Shall we?” Luke gestured indoors. They made their way into the nightclub.

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