She sheltered under the overhang of a building during a sudden downpour, hugging her arms around her and shuffling from foot to foot trying to alleviate the contact of each bare sole with the cold concrete. Her breath smoked out in the cold.
Ironically, in the window behind her, the faceless mannequins of the fashion store were immaculately dressed from top to toe, and seemed to laugh at her predicament from their dry window boxes.
“Just f-king great,” she muttered to herself as she shivered. “No phone, no purse, no bra, no shoes, and it is f-king raining.”
As soon as the rain eased into a mist, she set out again, not wanting to stay still too long in case she was pursued. If they were Wingless, how had they tracked her? She wondered as she danced around a puddle. The cuffs of her pyjama pants were getting wet from the spray and stuck unpleasantly to her ankles.
She had performed the wards daily, even whilst in hospital. Unless that brief time when she was unconscious had been long enough for them to locate her… Surely not, she thought. But who knew? No one, to her knowledge, had managed to actually talk with the Wingless in order to really understand their motivations, or how they tracked down the descendants of Evelyn.
Her mother and father had encountered them several times over the last two decades, and Cecelia had defeated them each time, with the Wingless fleeing through portals to where-ever they came from. There had been discussions, she knew, involving Alatar, about trying to hunt them down and ending the threat that they presented, but life through up distractions from their plans, and the threat of Wingless was a minor inconvenience, really.
Until they traced you down in a foreign country, totalled your car with your purse and mobile, and then tracked you to your apartment, driving you out into a rainy night in your pyjamas and bare feet, she amended ruefully. Then they became more than a minor inconvenience, they became a major pain in the arse.
She was entering the city center, and drew stares as she made her way along the road. She kept her head down, knowing that it wouldn’t stop her looking out of place barefoot and in pyjamas, walking briskly along the busy streets, but feeling better when she didn’t have to meet anyone’s eyes.
Her feet were freezing, and she regretted mightily not wearing a crop top under her pyjama top. “If wishes were horses,” she muttered to herself as she dodged another puddle. “This beggar would drive a Porsche.”
“Hey, gorgeous,” a man called out, to a chorus of laughter from the group around him. They were leaning against the wall, trading a bottle of whiskey between them. Young men, dressed for a night out on the town of a different sort to most, these wore hooded jumpers under their jackets, ripped jeans, joggers or, rather grimly, steel toed boots. All the better to stomp you with, she thought.
Down the alleyway, she could see two of them beating up another man, and a third spray painting the wall. They looked up at the man’s greeting. The two gave the man on the ground one final kick, the oomph of his breath loud, and then grabbed the spray painter by the shoulder, laughing and jerking their heads her way with lewd comments.
“Hey,” she turned her eyes to the ground quickly, and kept moving.
They peeled themselves away from the wall as she passed, the ones from the alleyway trotting to catch up as they fell in around her. It was one way, she thought, to disappear, surrounded by a wall of thugs up to no good. For many, it would mean a permanent sort of disappearance.
In her, however, they had bitten off more than they could chew. Raised by alpha werewolves, Ashlynn wasn’t intimidated by the thugs. She had a few tricks up her sleeve that would more than take care of them if they persisted. In the meantime, she eyed them off, they might prove useful.
The one who had called out to her, moved in closer, dropping his arm over her shoulders. “Your old man kick you out? You look cold,” he commented, to the amusement of his friends. A variety of comments followed, or the predictable sort. “Would you like some whiskey? Here, Dan, pass it.” He offered the bottle.
She took a mouthful, grateful for the burn.
“You can have more,” he encouraged, trying to tip the bottle back to her lips.
“I skipped dinner,” she told him, pushing it away. “I will puke if I drink too much.”
“Fair enough. How about a smoke?”
He was edging her across the footpath, positioning her for a grab into an approaching alley. She imagined that they had rape on their minds – they certainly weren’t keeping her company for fun. She stopped walking, smiled at him, and angled her face upwards in invitation.
He took her up on it, closing his mouth on hers, his tongue flavored with whiskey and cigarettes, and one of his hands against her lower back, pulling her against him, whilst the other explored her arse, pushing his erection against her stomach as he did so.
His friends whistled and joked whilst she used the lessons taught by her mother since a child and pushed the magic into him. She eased the kiss back and judged his size and clothing options. “I want your jacket and jeans.”
He began to remove his clothing.
“James, mate,” his friend laughed as he toed off his shoes and shoved his jeans off his hips, leaving him standing in close fitted boy-shorts covered in comic strip characters. “What the f-k?”
“Nice undies,” Ashlynn sneered as she pulled his jacket on over her pyjamas, and shoved her legs into his jeans, before checking his shoe size as he stood shivering, oblivious to the ribald comments of his friends. “Did your mummy buy you those?”
She turned to his friends, spotting one whose feet looked the right size and smiled at him.“Want a kiss handsome?”
“We all want a kiss, lady,” one of the others said chortling and nudging his mates.
“Alright, but wait your turn,” she replied, and kissed the one whose shoes she wanted. “Shoes, my friend,” she said to him as she eased back and watched him toe them off with speed. With her feet covered, she grinned. “Much better.”
The friends were beginning to suspect that something underhanded was going on.
“Hey,” one of them said in a tone of protest. “You can’t just take off with their clothes.”
“Why not?” She replied, feeling cheerful now that she was warmer. She began to run along the sidewalk.
They gave chase, half torn between their dazed and spellbound, semi-clad friends, and the others determined to catch her. But their smoking habits caught up to them quickly, and she laughed as she put distance between them and her as they had to stop to catch their breaths, doubled over and bracing their hands against their knees, and yelling out breathless insults behind her.
She slowed back to a walk and as she did so, she caught a glimpse of something white on the rooftop above her. She slid a look up discretely and felt her heart leap. She was being followed, and not by a gang of creeps, but by a very delicious looking golden haired winged man.
She put her hands into the pockets of her stolen jeans and trotted across the street. From there, she had a better view of her roof-top stalker, and it was a view well worth having. He was ridiculously pretty, she thought, and seemed to shine in his whiteness against the overcast sky. He walked a parallel path to her, across the roof-tops, his wings carrying him effortlessly over the alleyways and streets that cut through the buildings.
There was no glamour on him, and it was testimony to human beings inattention to their surroundings that no one looked up in order to spot the winged man that strolled along the roof line over their heads. He certainly made no effort to hide himself, she thought. His wings were out on full display, their white feathers bright against the dark clouds.
An angel, or a devil, she thought, watching him. Her parents had spoken to her of the origins of the people on their realm. But they had indicated that angels or devils did not come there, and that it was forbidden. What did it mean then, that one had saved her from her car wreck, and that he was her mate?
What did it mean that she knew he was hers, although she was unable to transform into a wolf? Had the car crash been life threatening enough that it had begun to release the ties around her abilities? She hoped so, but it was just as likely that her latent abilities simply let this through.
How it worked exactly, no one knew. Not her mother, not her Uncle Alatar’s coven, and certainly, not Ashlynn.
She could use magic taught to her by her mother, but she could not generate the power to her hands as her mother could, she could not change into a wolf, and she could not cause wings to grow. It was very frustrating, she thought, to be something too rare to be understood.
He was scowling even as he shadowed her passage through the city, and she grinned. Her ornery angel was all pissed off that he was irresistibly drawn to her through the mate bond. She had several ideas just how to make it up to him when she got her hands on him again. And her mouth. She giggled cheered by the warmth of her new clothes.
She approached the vampire embassy, a building clearly signposted as such in gold lettering above the front door and by the propaganda that covered the windows on the lower floor. There was a line painted around the door and a sign plastered on it. She knocked on the door, watching her angel out of the corner of her eye, and saw him brace his arms against the lip of a roof, the scowl on his face darkening.
The sign on the door read:
“Vampires in Attendance On Thursdays and Mondays
Auditions only on these days
All auditions only by appointment.
Appointments issued only to online applications.
Outside of these Hours Call…”
The door opened and an exceptionally elegant blonde woman dressed in immaculate designer wear from top to toe, leaned against the frame, red flashing in her eyes as she rolled them heavenwards.
“Auditions are held on Thursday and Mondays,” she said in a disinterested drawl. “And only by appointment when an online application has been lodged. It is illegal to turn humans until the paperwork has been through the appropriate channels, and the age of said human has been ascertained.”
She started to close the door.
“I am not a human,” Ashlynn stuck her foot in the door.
The vampire curled a lip, and her eyelids sunk to half mast, bored. “You may feel that you are not a human, and that your purpose in life is to be a vampire, but that is due to mental illness. You should seek psychological counseling. We do not turn anyone until a full psychological analysis has been performed to ensure that the individual requesting turning is of sound mental health.”
“Incendio,” Ashlynn summoned fire to her fingertips, and saw the vampire recoil. “I am not human, I am not hoping to be turned, and I don’t need psychological analysis. What I need is a lift home.”
“Surely your coven…”
“Not a witch,” Ashlynn smiled tightly. “Either. Who is in charge here? Can I see them?”
She looked dubious but moved back from the door. “You will need to wait.”
“I am perfectly happy to wait,” Ashlynn replied. She stepped into the entrance hall and shivered as she looked around. It was, she thought, like a movie set for a vampire movie. The windows were hidden behind heavy velvet drapes, the walls clad in dark wood paneling, the floor in rich red-toned carpet, and the furniture heavy, dark wood and upholstered in dark fabric. Even the art, she saw with amusement, was horror-movie-like – old fashioned portraits of pale, grim faced people in dark clothing. “Who does your interior design? I was thinking of having my apartment done in just this way. Vampire-gothique, isn’t it called? So, on trend.”
“Wait here,” the woman’s lip curled.
“No central heating?” Ashlynn shivered as she threw herself into one of the upholstered chairs.
“We are vampires,” the woman closed the door and arched an eyebrow. “We do not feel the cold.”
“You have guests,” Ashlynn pointed out, although the entrance hall was bare of anyone other than them. “It would be polite to keep things temperate for them.”
The vampire dragged her eyes from Ashlynn’s ill-fitting shoes to the tip of her head and down again. She met Ashlynn’s eyes, her lip curling in a sneer. “We apologize for your discomfort.” She turned on the red-sole of her high heel and sauntered down the hallway towards the double doors of an elevator.
“Fair enough,” Ashlynn muttered.
She wondered what her mate was doing. Her mate, she repeated to herself with satisfaction. She might not have a wolf-self, but at least she was wolf enough to recognize her mate when she came upon him.
It seemed to take forever, and Ashlynn began to get fidgety. She changed seats to one that looked down the hall to the elevator door, and then went to the bookcase and trailed her fingers over the spines of the books there. Fake, she grinned. Fake books, in a fake room designed to cater for human expectations of vampires.
She wondered if every embassy was the same, or just this one.
She heard the ding of the elevator bell and turned guiltily, caught snooping. A male vampire walked into the room, shoved his hands into his pockets, paused to stare at her for a long moment, before turning and walking back away. She heard a door close down the hallway.
She tiptoed down the hallway, pausing by an opulent flower arrangement, to examine a stack of brochures as the pretty face of Elior on the cover caught her eye. “Why not?” She folded one and tucked it into her pocket feeling like a fan-girl.
She returned to her upholstered chair and rested her head against the wing with a yawn, her fingers tapping on the arms of the chair.
The ding of the elevator bell had her jumping to her feet. The woman had returned. “Come.”
Ashlynn stood and followed her down the wood paneled hallway, and a series of closed doors, to a double set of doors against the far wall which opened into an elevator.
The vampire selected the top floor and the doors closed behind them.
“Not busy, eh?” Ashlynn couldn’t resist.
The vampire glanced over her shoulder haughtily. “Vampires are remarkably self-sufficient and rarely require the intervention or aid of an embassy. It serves more as a base for visiting dignitaries, and a tourist attraction, than a resource of aid for foolish travelers.”
“Okay,” Ashlynn raised her eyebrows. She was sure that she fit into the classification as a foolish traveler according to this vampire.
The lift doors opened into a plushly carpeted and elegantly decorated hallway, rich in reds and golds.
“Homely,” Ashlynn commented, as they made their way down the hall. She was sure the woman before her sighed heavily.
She opened a door into a small room, and Ashlynn made a sound of appreciation as she stepped into it. There was a fire in a hearth, and it was a heavenly warmth. “Oh, god,” she moved towards the flames, holding her frozen hands out to them.
“You look enough like your father,” the man in the armchair observed. “That one might overlook the similarities to your mother.”
She turned to look at him and felt a shock of recognition. “Elior,” she said, astonished. “I have seen you on TV.”
He chuckled as he rose to standing. Tall, she thought, taller than he looked on TV. He had less gloss than when he was on TV though, his dark hair was loose around his shoulders, and his cheeks wore the stubble of several day’s growth. He wore jeans and a long-sleeved cotton top, the top buttons left undone.
Prettier in person, she added, feeling the kick of desire. Well, she thought, if there was ever an excuse to scratch an itch…
Elior walked up to her fencing her in against the fireplace, and she looked up at his grey eyes, the red glow of the Other picking up the dancing firelight. “You don’t look this tall on TV,” she commented, feeling apprehensive for the first time.
It was one thing to be told the nature of vampires, and quite another to share a small room with one. He leaned over and inhaled. “You smell like her,” he murmured. “The font. It has been a long time since I have seen her. About,” he leaned back and evaluated her. “Twenty odd years.”
He turned and walked back to the armchair. “What brings you here, child of Raiden Grenmeyer and Cecelia Alexis?” He asked as he sat back down. He lifted a brandy glass full of thick, red liquid that she was certain was blood.
She understood, suddenly, the purpose of the fire in the room when its heat made no difference to him. It kept the blood in his glass at a temperature he enjoyed. The vampire version of a brandy to wind down with, she speculated, a woodfire and a glass of room-temperature blood.
“I seemed to have gotten myself into a situation,” she said. “And attracted the attention of the Wingless. My car was totaled two days ago, along with my purse and phone, and my apartment was attacked tonight, so I cannot go back there. I need to get home, to the pack.”
He gazed at the dancing flames. “And you decided that a vampire embassy was your means of a ride home?” He turned his grey eyes to her, a frown pinching his brows. “Did your parents not speak to you about what your bloodline was to us?”
“Of course, they did,” she resisted rolling her eyes like the woman vampire who had showed her into the embassy. “Did you think my parents let me out of pack lands without the means to protect myself?” She asked him.
He rose and moved to her so quickly that his passage was nothing more than a blur to her vision, until he stopped so close to her that had she leaned forward only slightly, she might have planted a kiss between his pectorals. She tilted her chin up to look at him. He raised a hand and laid it along her cheek.
“You are prettier than your mother,” he murmured, and leaned down until his lips brushed against hers. His lips were soft, and his tongue held the faint tang of blood. He drew her up against him, his hand against her hip, and explored the contours of her mouth in an entirely leisurely way. “Quite beautiful, actually.” He said against her lips.
She slid her hands up the cotton of the shirt, noting the muscles that lay below it, and threaded her fingers into the heavy fall of his hair, slightly warmer nearer to the scalp. He groaned, his hips pressing against hers.
He eased the jacket off of her shoulders, so that it hit the ground behind her heels. “What the f-k are you wearing?” His lips were against her cheek.
“I was on my way to bed when I was attacked,” she replied. “And I needed to adlib on my way here. It is cold and wet out, and, unlike you, I feel the cold.”
“Hmm,” he worked the buttons loose on her pyjama top, before peeling it off of her. “Mhm,” held another tone as her breasts were revealed. “Are you not going to stop me, daughter of Raiden Grenmeyer and Cecelia Alexis?” He wondered as he released the button holding her stolen jeans up.
“I am waiting to see where you go with this,” she replied, letting her head fall back on her neck. His lips rested against the pulse point in her throat, fighting the temptation to pierce through her skin with his teeth and taste her.
He laughed, his teeth grazing her skin. “Where do you think this is going?”
“Mmm,” her eyelids were heavy. “I am hoping you remove some of your clothing soon. It seems only fair.”
He drew in a breath she knew that he didn’t need. “I don’t think your parents warned you strongly enough about vampires,” he observed.
“I was never very obedient,” She admitted as she hooked her fingers under the hem of his top and lifted it. He didn’t resist, his expression vaguely confused, even as she peeled it over his head.
“Oh, yes,” she murmured, leaning back against his grip on her hips. She had been right. His broad shoulders tapered into a v of muscle disappearing into the waistband, and his stomach muscles stood out against his skin. “Very nice.”
“You go much further,” he replied, his voice dark. “And I am not responsible for what happens.”
She released the top button of his jeans. “Oops.”
The Other flared hotly red in his eyes, picking up the firelight, as she eased the fly down and took him into her hands, and then his eyes closed, a muscle ticking in the corner of his jaw, his head tilting to the side. “F-k,” he groaned.
“Yes,” she agreed, and dropped to her knees to take him into her mouth.
His fingers closed in her hair. “Oh, god.”
She stroked her tongue over the tip of him, exploring the lines and textures of him, finding the sensitive points until he cried out, his hips rocking involuntarily. She closed her lips over him and took him to the point of gagging. His moan was filthy with desire.
The door opened. “Get out,” he snarled ferociously, turning his head, his eyelids at half-mast. “Get the f-k out.”
The door closed again firmly.
She sucked in, and his knees buckled. “Oh, f-k,” his voice was thick. “Oh, f-k.”
His hand cupped the back of her head, and his hips bucked into her. She swallowed and he cursed in another language, one native to him she suspected from the way it was accented. He pulled back suddenly, and she complained.
“No,” he said heavily. “No. I want to f-k you.”