Tucking my t-shirt in my jeans, I adjust my holster.
“FuckI I’m late for sure.”
It doesn’t help Andrew’s penthouse is on the 38th floor. Getting my mind right I ignore the supernaturals coming in and out of the elevator.
Vampires everywhere. I know because the little hairs behind my neck raise and I have the impulse to touch Valentine for comfort.
Once alone, I stare at my reflection. I look a hot mess. Shit, I am a hot mess. I keep coming back and it’s obvious I will continue to come back. Who am I kidding? There’s so much value in the whole “don’t shit where you eat.” Let me tell you it’s easier said than done.
I met Andrew three years ago, working a case. I knew he was trouble the moment I saw him. Haven’t been able to shake him since. We go through our periods of not seeing each other but then I work a case, need his help, and boom here I am on this dam elevator that’s going to make me late!
Thinking about last night and this morning I run my tongue on my swollen bottom lip. I look up and see a smiling face in the mirror. Runny mascara wrinkled shirt.
“Awe man.” I left my bra. Xolo’s readying to run out the elevator. I feel you dude.
I run my fingers through my hair.
“This will not do.”
Although I’m only contracter, since Daniel’s punk ass won’t officially put me on payroll, I stay because I believe in what he is doing for our community. His agency investigates paranormal crimes in Los Angeles County, but that’s not why he started it. “
Toni, do we really want more cops in South Central?”
A younger wide eyed Toni,
“Hell to the nah.”
And I was a goner.Like a mensa I fell right into him.
I run out the elevator Xolo behind me. The bellboy, a 17 year vampire, “Ms. Alvarez.” He opens the glass doors that lead to the outside where monstra, my jeep is waiting. “Thanks.” Winking at him as he turns beet red.
Men are so predictable.
I jump into my seat. Xolo scurries past my lap and posts on the passenger side. I adjusting my mirrors I catch my reflection one more time,
Turning to Xolo, “this will not do.”
I shouldn’t care about how I look, but I do. As a necromancer, Daniel has a supernatural sense of smell.
God forbid he smell vampire on me. “Visiting the vamp again I see…” One thing I hate about our dynamic is his constant assessment of me. Even when he says nothing, I know he is taking me all in. It makes me nervous, which makes for a very grumpy Toni.
Then I’m fumbling for words to justify why I smell like a vampire. Actually that’s when I knew how I felt. It’s wild how it just creeps up on you. The love thing.
I shoot down Figueroa and swing onto the 10 east. I mean if I’m honest honest, I like Andrew. He is white, a snob and I’m not crazy about the company he keeps, but he’s kind to me and great in bed and makes me feel wanted.
But Daniel...now that is something special.
Is it daddy issues or the need for a challenge? Maybe a little of both?
He’s the total opposite. He’s dismissive, emotionally absent and our interactions are a complete mind fuck. One minute I think we’re getting somewhere and then he says some bs that has my mind spinning and heart sinking into my steel toe boots.
I look at my watch. I need to be in Culver City in 45 minutes. I can make it home for a quick shower. Better late than sorry.
Xolo and I walk into the little bar. Heart racing a little from the adrenaline and...excitement? I’m 30 minutes late. I walk to his back office. It’s dark, frigid and empty. Strange. I texted to tell him I was running behind.
Xolo gives one quick bark. Startled but quickly shift to irritated.
“Don’t creep up on me necromancer.”
Daniel apparates. Smoke disperses revealing more of his silhouette. He’s standing behind me and I can see his reflection on the alcohol bottles. Tall and beautiful wearing his staple black suit. The silver charms around his neck and wrists glow. He puts his hand over my mouth and tugs me to him. I take in the smell of incense.
I willingly stay pressed against him enjoying a rare moment of physical contact.
He leans in,
“You smell like vamp”
Standing there, wide eyed I quickly come back. I’m lovestruck.
Code word for dummy. His comment knocks me out of my trance and elbow him in the gut and quickly jump out the way as he reaches for me.
“Ha too slow old man.”
I say as if he didn’t hurt my feelings a little.
“That’s funny -- is the vamp? 100? 150?”
“Give or take. Besides he looks 30. Why are you fighting with me? I actually have an update for you.”
He walks into his office expecting me to follow. He situates his tall frame in a leather chair. He crosses his legs and reclines waiting, making his impatience obvious. Is he really annoyed? Well this sucks.
“Okay so listen up. It looks like our string of missing women all have several things in common. 1. They’re all from south central, 2. All of them women of color, 3. Found 48 hours after they’re reported missing drained of their blood. 4. And they are all worked in the sex industry.”
I say the last part in air quotes because we know it’s more likely they were forced into it.
“The bodies were also moved from one location to another. The murder took place elsewhere. Not in the location where we found the body. ”
Looking up mid text, Daniel gives me a vacant expression.
“This is why you called to meet?”
He’s right. I could have text, but I haven’t seen him in weeks.
I clear my throat.
“What I was also going to say is the bites don’t match any of the local vampire registry. In fact, in all of California. Not Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or San Diego. Which means our perp is an out of state fool stirring up shit.”
I’d hoped he’d be impressed by my findings, instead his dark eyes pierce into me.
“So let me get this straight, he volunteered his database?”
Mimicking my air quotes when he says volunteered.
We both know who “He” is.
Necromancers and vampires don’t get along. Like ever. A necromancer has access and in some ways controls the dead and vampires being dead well, let’s just say they don’t take kindly to this threat. But a vampire as old as Andrew is not easily controlled. I think that’s why Daniel can’t stand him.
I hand him my report. He doesn’t reach for it.
“Shut up! Why are you acting this way? You’re totally slutshaming.”
He hangs his head, rests his forearms on his thighs. Even though I’m tall for a girl he still needs to bend low enough to level his eyes on me,
“Toni he is using you. Want to see if he cares about you? Ask him for a favor, free of cost, no blood, no sex, no….”
I drop the report at his feet. Step back and begin to pull my hair into a messy bun as he closely watches the ritual before I get into fight position.
“I don’t offer anything I don’t want to give.”
His usual indifference resurfaces.
“Fine, let me put this through my network let’s see if anything picks up. I’ll have Rumi call you if we need you to follow up. Money will be deposited to your account Friday.”
“Thanks Daniel, I was wondering if…”
“And Toni, shoot me a text next time.”
Just like that, he’s out the door getting into his beemer where some chick’s been waiting for him. In and out. Didn’t even bother to turn off the ignition. Kneeling down to pick up Xolo, I stand up and watch him drive off. I use to fool myself into believing this would get easier.
“C’mon baby, let’s go home.”