The phone in Nate’s
pocket vibrated as he entered The
Serpent’s Den. Fishing it out with slim fingers, he looked down at the
screen and read the text message he'd received.
Balcony. Last table.
Re-pocketing the phone, Nate looked up to the balcony, his eyes easily finding the figure seated at the last table, half hidden in the shadows. He manoeuvred his way through the burgeoning crowd, a glare fixed firmly on his face, and climbed the staircase, skirting around couples too lost in one another to notice or care about what was happening around them. His glare darkened.
When he finally arrived at the last table, he pulled the stool out from under it and perched himself on it, facing his long-time friend, Lucan.
“The Serpent’s Den?” Nate asked, unamused. “Really?”
“What?” Lucan shrugged, not bothering to look at Nate. “We haven’t been here in years.”
“Yeah. For good reason.” Nate glanced over his shoulder at the crowd below. Pierced, leather-clad, tattoo-covered bodies gyrated against each other to what apparently passed for music these days. “Goth clubs are such a cliché.”
He turned back to Lucan, ignoring the eye-roll his friend directed at him. “Have you picked one, yet?” he asked.
Lucan’s thin lips lifted in a smirk. “No, but the night’s still young.”
It was Nate’s turn to roll his eyes. When he fed, he did it as quickly as possible. Feeding had stopped being a source of enjoyment for him decades ago, and had instead become a necessity. Not for Lucan, though. It had always been a ritualistic game for him; something he would draw out over several hours—sometimes he let it go on for days. But then, Lucan had always been a sadistic bastard; even in his human life.
“And you?” Lucan asked. “Has one caught your attention?”
Nate’s eyes were drawn to a young brunette wearing a leather bodysuit and what looked like a thick, spiked dog collar around her neck. She was dancing alone, her head thrown back and her heavily made-up eyes closed, their long lashes skimming the top of her pale cheeks.
“No,” Nate lied, looking away.
Lucan laughed under his breath. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “You haven’t eaten in three days, friend. I know you’re starving.”
Nate pursed his lips. “I’m fine.”
Lucan didn’t bother to acknowledge the second blatant lie. “I also know that sallow doesn’t look good on you, so you might as well just suck it up.” His eyes flicked sideways to meet Nate’s with a mischievous glint. “Pun intended.”
The corners of Nate’s lips dipped in a frown. As much as he hated it, he knew Lucan was right. The problem was, he disliked the way humans of the 21st century tasted. He missed the rich, healthy taste of the humans he had indulged in for the first few hundred years after his transformation. He missed the sound of a strong pulse beating loudly as he fed. He missed their purity. More and more, he found himself suppressing a gag when he fed. Humans had been contaminated over the years by drugs, alcohol, fast food laced with fat and—even worse—the repugnant concoction of chemicals and artificial ingredients in those drinks that promised instantaneous weight-loss.
Just thinking about it made his stomach turn.
In truth, if he could survive on animals alone, he would. They weren’t as nutritious, but they did the job well enough.
“I know that look,” Lucan said, interrupting Nate’s thoughts, “and I don’t want to hear it.”
“But it’s true,” Nate stated. “They don’t make humans the way they used to.”
Lucan groaned. “I have been hearing that same complaint since the 20s. Get over it.” Nate opened his mouth to argue, but Lucan cut him off, adding, “And what does that even mean? Like humans have any say in their genetic make-up.”
“They choose how to live,” Nate pointed out. “They choose what to put into their body.”
“So then just ask.”
Nate frowned. “What?”
“Instead of bitching and complaining about it, just ask what they put into their body before you feed on them.”
“Hey,” Lucan shrugged, “whatever gets you to shut up about it.” He slid off of his stool, his eyes fixed on someone at the bar downstairs. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m famished.”
Nate twisted his body to the left and watched as Lucan sauntered off in the direction of the stairs. So then just ask. He turned the idea over in his mind, as his eyes travelled over the intertwining bodies below. Of their own accord, they sought out the brunette in the bodysuit. Something stirred within him, as his gaze swept over her face. It had been three days since his last human, and while the occasional animal did enough to keep him going, it wasn’t the same.
He watched the brunette flirt with someone. Her smile was coy, her body angled toward the person just so. He had no doubt that she knew what she was doing. He predicted that she would be the one to make the first move—sliding her hand into theirs and leading them toward the back of the club where Nate knew several, individual rooms were situated, providing privacy to those who wanted it.
Like he had said—goth clubs were a cliché.
What he did not expect, however, was for the brunette to lift her chin and stare in his direction, her eyes searching the balcony quickly before landing on him; almost like she knew she was being watched. She held his gaze for a long time and then looked back down at the person in front of her, slipping her hand into theirs, just as he had known she would.
Nate decided to follow them. Something about the brunette was drawing him to her. He wasn’t yet sure if he would follow Lucan’s advice, though. Actually, if he was being honest with himself, he was almost certain he would feed on her regardless of what her answer might be.
He kept a few paces behind, following the brunette and her companion who was, Nate now noted, female. The back rooms were simple and to the point—each contained padded walls, a padded door, a double bed, and a wooden wardrobe, which Nate knew housed all sorts of deplorable items and gadgets.
And humans believe us to be the animals, he thought sourly.
The brunette passed several unoccupied rooms and disappeared around the corner, her companion in tow. When Nate rounded the same corner a moment later, the corridor was empty. Five doors were shut, indicating that the rooms were currently in use, but which one was she in?
He tried the first door on his left, turning the handle and pushing softly, and was greeted with an indignant, “Fuck off!” He didn’t bother to apologise, as he closed the door and moved on.
The next two rooms were a bust, as well. He stood before the fourth door, poised to open it, when a door behind him creaked. He spun on his heel and came face-to-face with the brunette. They stared at one another, even when the brunette’s female companion pushed past her and hurried down the corridor, distressed.
Nate raised an eyebrow, as he watched the girl leave. “Was it something you said?”
The woman ignored the quip and peered up at him, recognition setting in. “I know you,” she stated.
“I don’t think so,” Nate assured her.
“You were watching me from the balcony.” She cocked her head to the side. “Why?”
“Perhaps I find you attractive.”
“Is that a question or a statement?”
Nate smiled. “What’s your name?”
“Leila. And yours?”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Nate.”
Nate looked her over, his fangs beginning to throb. “Yes,” he agreed, “it is.”
“Do you look at all the girls like that?” Leila asked, taking a step back from him.
“Just the ones I really like.”
His movement was a blur. His arm shot out, and his hand closed around her neck like a vice. He walked Leila backwards into the room, then kicked the door shut behind him with his foot.
“Alone at last,” he whispered. He lowered his head toward her jugular, inhaling deeply.
Something was off.
Nate lifted his head and stared into her eyes. “You’re not afraid. Why?”
Leila gripped his arm with her hand and attempted to loosen his hold on her.
“Have you encountered someone like me before?” he pressed her further.
When she didn't reply, Nate pulled her towards him, his eyes raking over her as he thought. “No breath,” he mumbled, after a moment. He narrowed his eyes. “And no heart beat.”
“No,” Leila confirmed, her voice hoarse.
“What are you?” Nate asked, releasing the pressure on her throat ever so slightly, but not his hold on her.
Leila’s other hand travelled over his shoulder and slid to the back of his neck. “I’m like you.” She gripped his hair and pulled his head back sharply, snapping his neck in the process. Nate howled in pain and looked up at her, stunned. “Well,” she said, drawing the word out, “I’m kind of like you.” Then, widening her mouth, she lowered her head, ripped into his throat, and drank until his body grew limp.
A few minutes later, she straightened and licked her lips, satisfied. “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear you earlier, and you’re right.” She caressed his cheek. “They don’t make humans the way they used to.”
With one swift twist, Leila ripped Nate’s head clean off his shoulders and dropped it to the floor. She took a step back and watched as his body began to flake. When it was over, she dusted off the ashes that clung to her, and headed toward the door. Pulling it open, she smiled and said, “Now let’s go find your friend.”
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