“What the hell was that?” he shrieked.
“Nothing!” I replied. “I just gave you a little magical makeover. No big deal.”
“No big deal, my ass! Was that fairy dust that you just sprinkled over my head?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” When all else fails, go straight to denial. Do not pass go. “Look, we’d better get going. I wouldn’t want to risk missing Chad.”
“Now just wait a minute, Karli. I know what I saw. You just---”
“Look, I don’t know what you think you saw, but it doesn’t matter. Let’s go.” I grabbed his arm, pulling him through the doorway. I closed it, locked the deadbolt, and started walking towards the parking lot.
“Karli, wait---” he said as he ran after me.
I whipped around to face him just outside my building. “No, Vance, you wait.” I spread my hand out across his chest. “If you want me to come with you, we’re going now with no further discussion. If you continue to press the issue, I’m going back into my apartment alone. What’s it going to be?”
“That’s not fair! You just---”
“Vance, what’s it going to be?” I insisted. “You have three seconds before I go back inside. Three…two…”
“Let’s go,” he grumbled as he unlocked his car.
We rode in silence during the entire fifteen minute drive. Vance kept looking at me, making several attempts to raise the subject again. Every time I saw his lips begin to part, I gave him a warning glare. We pulled into the club parking lot and drove towards the back. I jumped out of the car as soon as it stopped and started making my way towards the front entrance. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
“Hey, jackass, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Karli, we are going to talk about this whether you like it or not.”
“Talk about what? There’s nothing to discuss.”
“Okay, let’s agree to disagree for the time being. Just remember, I’m not going to forget about this and the time for confessions will come very soon. Now get back here so we can formulate a game plan before we go in there.”
He popped the trunk open and began shuffling through the contents. There were quite a few items in there, all stored very neatly. He reached into a brown satchel and pulled out a small white crystal wrapped in a leather strap. When he placed it in his pocket I asked, “What’s that for?”
“It’s infused with a truth spell,” he replied. “If we find Chad, all I need to do is touch it and then focus on reading him. It will tell me whether or not he’s lying. Now, you need to prepare yourself for what you’re about to see in there. I’m not sure what kind of scene you’re into, but it can be pretty shocking to most people. I have a feeling you’re about to be thrown out of your comfort zone big time.”
Okay, I didn’t know if I should be flattered or offended by that last comment. “How do you know I haven’t been here before?” I asked.
“Because you admitted so earlier, by telling me that your friend had to advise you on what to wear.” He gave me the once over again. “If I forget, remind me to thank her later.”
“Um…thanks, I think?”
He laughed. “Anyway, back to business. I spoke with Leo earlier today and he agreed to let me look around, but only if we go incognito. He wants us to go through the back door and stop by his office first.”
“What is that supposed to mean? ‘Go incognito’?”
“It means that as far as anyone else is concerned, you and I are here for entertainment purposes only. You need to trust that I will keep you safe in there. Whatever happens, you just need to go with it.”
“What do you mean, ‘whatever happens’? And what do I do if we run into Chad?”
“Just trust me, Karli. You’ll be fine. If we run into Chad, you introduce me as your date. I will activate the crystal and start focusing on reading him. I just need you to ask as many questions as you can to find out how long he was with Leslie last night and where they went after you last saw them. Do you think you can do that?”
“I guess we’re about to find out,” I mumbled as I headed for the back door.
The back entrance led us into a dark hallway, barely lit by a red bulb. There were several half naked couples scattered about engaging in some sort of foreplay. Thankfully, the office was just ahead to the right.
Vance pounded on the door and shouted, “Markos, it’s Vance Alexander. Open the door.”
“You may enter,” someone called from inside. He opened the door and walked inside, towing me behind him.
“Ah, Vance. It has been far too long since I’ve had the displeasure of your company. Please, come in. Natasha was just leaving.” I looked for the source of the velvety voice and found the gorgeous vampire. He was sitting behind a desk with a topless woman on his lap. She kissed him as if her life depended on it and then pulled away reluctantly.
“We really must do this again sometime very soon,” she said.
“Yes, of course,” he replied. He was licking blood from his lips as she stood. This was way too intimate for my taste and neither one of them seemed to mind that they had an audience. The curvy brunette turned toward us and started pulling up the top to her halter dress, with no shame whatsoever. Wow, so much for modesty, huh? Wait a minute, I thought, did Vance and Markos know each other?
“Later, baby,” Natasha said as she glided out the door.
Markos stood and started walking towards us. I instinctively retreated from his advance until my ass hit the doorknob. The closer he came, the more suffocated I felt. Why is it so damn hot in here?
“I see you have brought my lovely bartender with you,” he said in a voice punctuated with a slight accent I couldn’t quite place. It sounded British, but with something much more exotic behind it.
I shivered involuntarily. This man was disturbingly sexual and took up way too much space. I felt tiny next to him which was very strange considering my height. Power was rippling off him in waves, like a charged, dangerous electrical current. He exuded barely leashed violence, yet strangely, I felt safe in his presence… protected almost. The effect was rather unsettling. He kept his eyes on me the entire time, stopping in front of me to grab my hand.
“It’s very nice to see you again.” He kissed the palm of my hand, making me a little dizzy. “I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to become properly acquainted yesterday; I had rather pressing business to attend to last night. I must say, you look absolutely delectable this evening, Ms. Lane.” I quickly scanned his ensemble. He was wearing black vinyl pants with a white silk shirt that had been left unbuttoned, revealing a chest every bit as magnificent as I had imagined.
“Um, thanks,” I said, trying really hard not to stare at the impressive package below his belt. Vinyl definitely doesn’t conceal much. “Please, call me Karli.” Wow, I could see the color of his eyes now. They were a pale shade of bluish-gray with a dark blue ring around the pupils. Mmm, pretty.
“It would be my honor, Karli. Please call me Leo.” He brought my hand to his bare chest and smiled at me, showing a little fang. My earlier vision of him standing naked in the shower returned, instantly making my cheeks flush. He eyed me inquisitively, probably trying to decipher my thoughts. I had a feeling that I was being a little too transparent because Leo’s nostrils flared while his fangs lengthened, and Vance’s face became about five shades of red.
Vance cleared his throat. “What kind of business?” he asked.
Leo answered, still holding my hand, and my gaze. “Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that. I don’t want to bore you with the details.” He released me and walked back over to his desk. “Please, have a seat,” he said, gesturing towards the two chairs in front of his desk.
I briefly looked around as I sat down and found myself staring into six different flat-paneled security monitors. Each one displayed a very graphic live sex act of some kind. Oh God, how many people are in that one on the left?
Leo noticed me looking and asked, “See anything you like, my sweet? I’d be more than happy to give you a personal tour.”
Vance didn’t give me a chance to respond. “You mentioned we could look around?” he growled.
Leo ignored his question and asked one of his own. “Do you have any new information on the case, Detective?”
Vance glared at him. What was the deal with these two? “The saliva on the victim was demon, but Forensics cannot tell which breed yet. It may have been a ritualistic killing because her heart was removed. I’m looking for a guy who is possibly the last known person to see her alive. He also happens to be a demon which makes him a suspect. He’s been known to come here a lot so I’d like to take a look around.”
“I will allow you to look,” Leo warned. “But only in an unofficial capacity. Unless you produce a warrant, you will follow my rules. You will not interact with any other patrons or conduct any interrogations. My guests come here expecting discretion.”
“Understood,” Vance replied.
Leo waited a moment before turning his attention back to me. “My club is divided into two areas, my dear. The larger section is for people who wish to simply observe, or get loosened up. There are three stages to offer them variety with a bar located off to the side. There are three rooms behind the main arena for people who wish to join in the fun.” He looked at Vance. “Once you two leave this office, you will act like you are here for the entertainment. If I notice any odd behavior, you will be asked to leave. Ms. Lane is welcome to stay as long as she’d like. Do we have an understanding, Mr. Alexander?”
Great, now Vance’s face was turning purple. “Karli has a history with the suspect so she will be the one asking any questions,” he snapped. “She could easily strike up conversation with him without raising suspicion. After we’re done looking around, she’ll be leaving with me.” Okay, I so didn’t appreciate him speaking for me like that!
Leo looked at me thoughtfully and said, “A history, you say? Interesting.”
I was too pissed at Vance to acknowledge Leo. “Hello? I’m right here,” I reminded him. “Will you please stop talking about me like I’m a piece of property? I think I’m perfectly capable of deciding when I do and do not want to leave! Keep it up and I’m calling a cab right now.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “Karli, that’s not what I meant. Just stay out of it, okay? This is between me and Leo.”
“Excuse me?” I shrieked.
Leo interrupted. “Now really, Vance, is that any way to speak to a lady?”
“Fuck you, vampire.”
The next few seconds were a blur, but in the end Leo was somehow holding Vance by the throat against the door. “You are in my club, Detective. If you knew what was good for you, you’d remember that.” What the hell was going on here????
Vance shoved him away and ran his hand over his neck. “Trust me, asshole, I know exactly where I am. And if you knew what was good for you, you’d remember how powerful I can be too.”
Leo tried charging him again but I saw it coming and jumped in between them. “Stop it, you two!” I yelled. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Leo stepped back and smoothed out his shirt. “Please forgive me for losing my temper, love.” He walked back over to his desk and sat down. “If you want to play detective out there, don’t let me stop you. I’m granting you special immunity to the house rules.” He chuckled and gave me another sexy grin before adding, “I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this.” Seriously, was the air conditioner broken in there or something?!?