Authors: Jennifer Colgan
Tags: #romance, #vampire, #erotica, #paranormal, #dark
Published by: Jennifer Colgan at
copyright 2011, Jennifer Colgan
Cover art by Ginny Glass
This is a work of fiction. All names,
characters, places, brands, media and events are either the product
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to
be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or events
is merely coincidence.
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The sultry beat coming from the interior of
After Dark competed with the staccato of Erica Talbot’s heart as
she approached the side door of the nightclub. The white stucco
wall, along which the line of hopefuls waited, vibrated from the
new age acid rock playing within. The bone-deep pulse made the
other young women in the line loose-limbed and excited. They swayed
to the beat even though whatever melody the song might have had was
inaudible in the alley behind the club.
Erica wanted to act just like the others. She
tried to adopt the distant, dreamy expression so many of them wore
but she just didn’t have it in her. She’d long ago resigned herself
to having no rhythm, no sexy sway and no desire to hide the sharp
intelligence that shone from her hazel eyes.
Tonight she’d traded her usual style,
conservative pinstriped slacks and tailored button-down blouse, for
a short leather skirt and a low-cut satin T that did little to hide
the black push-up bra she wore underneath. Glitter-dusted stockings
and ankle-breaking black stilettos completed her outfit, and her
golden blonde hair swirled in a wild updo that left her neck
suggestively bare. She’d accented her lips with a shade of red that
should have been illegal, and applied an extra layer of mascara to
her already long lashes.
At least she looked like she fit in. Only her
stiff posture gave her away. Anyone looking long enough would have
figured out that she had nothing but disdain for the whole affair.
This was not her world, and it never would be.
It disgusted her that Elena might be found in
a place like this. Might be--if she wasn’t at one of the dozen
other bars like After Dark that had sprung up over the past few
years when the vampire population in Illinois began a disconcerting
upswing. This was just the type of place in which her sister would
feel right at home.
“You. You. Not you.” The muscle-bound bouncer
who held court at the metal fire door gestured one of the waiting
girls out of line with a tilt of his bald head. The redhead in a
black sheath dress, cloggy heels and black lipstick couldn’t have
been more than sixteen. The layers of kohl that ringed her eyes did
nothing to hide the lack of wrinkles, or the hardened edge of lost
innocence in her expression.
The vicious curse she hurled at the man--in a
voice that spoke of a two-pack a day habit--shattered any illusion
of gothic sophistication. She flipped him the bird and sauntered
off, mumbling threats under her breath.
The last two women he’d let in lingered at
the door watching the girl retreat with smug satisfaction. They
thought they were better than her. Luckier. If only they knew.
Erica was next in line, and the bouncer eyed
her as though he were appraising a cut of beef. She smiled and
lowered her thick lashes in what she hoped was a demure,
come-hither look. “Do you smoke?” he asked.
The question surprised her. She wondered if
he meant tobacco or if the question was some type of code she
didn’t understand. “No.”
He looked her over again and then grasped her
wrists with his enormous hands. Her first instinct was to jerk away
from his grip, but she held her disgust in check. She had to get
inside the club, even if only for a few minutes. When he turned her
hands palm up revealing the unblemished undersides of her forearms,
relief eased the adrenaline rush to her head. “No needle marks,” he
said. “Do you snort?”
He looked at her face, and she held his
bloodshot gaze for a tense moment. “You’re in,” he said finally,
then turned to the others. “That’s all for tonight.”
A wave of recriminations traveled through the
dozen or so women left in the alley. “Come back tomorrow.” He
sounded apologetic just for an instant. But when the women didn’t
immediately scatter, he cursed at them in a gravelly voice that
made the skin on the back of Erica’s neck tighten in fear.
He pushed her inside and shut the fire door
with a clang that rocked the gritty plaster walls. At the end of
the narrow hallway where the chosen ones waited, two other men
stood shoulder to shoulder, blocking most of the view into the
club. Behind them, blue lights pulsed in time to the music that
seemed to have grown ten times louder. While the fifteen women
jockeyed for position in the hallway, the bouncer and his two
friends did a head count and started on the body searches.
Erica fought to disengage her gag reflex when
the men squatted behind each of the women and ran their hands up
under each girl’s skirt from ankle to thigh. The others didn’t seem
to mind the frisking, but the thought of some stranger shoving his
fingers between her thighs made Erica lightheaded. She bit her lip
and sidled through the line, letting other women go ahead of her
and shuffling around until she stood with the ones that had already
undergone the search.
When the two door guards parted and motioned
the girls into the club, Erica’s dignity remained blessedly intact.
She kept her head down as she passed the men and in seconds lost
herself in the river of bodies that filled the dance floor.
Now she had her work cut out for her. In the
pulsating light, the scene before her looked like an old-time
nickel-movie, everyone jerking around in stop motion. In each flash
of neon blue, Erica scanned the faces around her hoping to catch a
glimpse of her sister.
The last time she’d seen Elena her twin had
sported short black hair, and blue contact lenses hid the natural
hazel green of her eyes. To a stranger, the Talbot sisters wouldn’t
have appeared related at all. It still amazed Erica sometimes to
think they’d come from the same womb. Even if she were in disguise,
though, Erica would know her sister by the way she moved, her
voice, and the intensity of her gaze, which even contact lenses
couldn’t hide. If Elena were here, Erica would find her.
She decided to make one complete circuit of
the place, checking the bar, the restroom and even the waitresses
who carried trays of drinks and plates of food. Who could eat in a
place like this? The noise alone made Erica sick to her stomach.
Maybe you had to be drunk to enjoy it. She figured a person
certainly had to be drunk to want to party with vampires.
The only good thing about After Dark was the
lack of smoke. The lighting was nauseating but the atmosphere
inside was crystal clear. She wondered why. Certainly vampires had
no fear of lung cancer. Maybe it was the flare of a match that made
them nervous. Either way, Erica was grateful that she didn’t have
to squint through the acrid haze that polluted most of the human
Pale faces and half-clad bodies swam by in
rapid succession until the details of their features began to blur.
Erica finally reached the bar and clung to the leather pad that
cushioned its edge. On either side of her, patrons leaned in
comfort while they sipped drinks and attempted to talk over the
Elena’s wasn’t among the faces that turned to
appraise her, so Erica did her best to avoid eye contact until the
barmaid slapped a red cocktail napkin down in front of her.
“What can I get you?” The woman was six feet
of blond, Nordic perfection. The only thing marring her appearance
was the brilliant white tip of an elongated incisor that peeked out
beneath her upper lip. Erica swallowed. Female vampires were known
to be vicious, carnal creatures, much less likely to maintain a
semblance of their human existence than their male counterparts.
Erica formed her answer carefully.
“I’ll have a martini.”
The bartender whirled away, her sleeveless
sequined T-shirt glittering.
Erica clutched the edge of the bar tighter
and stared at her featureless reflection in the polished laminate
of the bar top.
I’m out of my mind, she thought. This had to
be the last time she came to her sister’s rescue. She’d peeled
Elena off of too many filthy bar stools and sat in the police
station too many times, waiting for her sister to come teetering
out of a holding cell reeking of smoke and sex.
The fact that this time was different just
added to the hopelessness of the situation. This time the
static-broken message on Erica’s answering machine had sounded
truly desperate, not just momentarily needy. “I’ve been hanging out
at ... you know ... the vampire bar. Come get me, Ricki, I need you
to help me figure out a way out of this one....”
Erica had listened to the message at least
two dozen times and still couldn’t make out the name of the bar, so
she’d started with the letter A.
By the time the bartender returned with her
drink, she’d decided it was time to move on to the next letter,
which meant a place called Danger--Danger on the far side of town.
As far as Erica was concerned, it might as well have been called
Stupid--Stupid. That’s how she felt.
At least she was reasonably sure no one would
recognize her. She didn’t know any vampires personally ... at least
she hoped she didn’t.
“What do I owe you?” she asked.
The vampiress laughed. “You don’t have to buy
your own drinks, babe.”
“I’ll keep a tab for you and when someone
picks you up, he’ll pay the bill. Sorry, he or she--we don’t
“No one’s going to pick me up. In fact, I’m
leaving. I’ve got ... to be somewhere else.” Erica rummaged in her
tiny purse and pulled out a rumpled ten-dollar bill. She flattened
it out with shaky fingers and pushed it across the shiny surface of
Before she let go of the bill, a
hairy-knuckled hand closed over her arm. “You!”
Erica jerked her hand away this time, and the
force of the movement sent the top-heavy martini glass skittering
down the bar showering patrons with vodka and vermouth.
“What’s the problem, Frank?” The barmaid
grabbed the glass before it rolled off the bar and swiped at the
clear puddle with a rag. She looked mildly annoyed at the intrusion
but not as angry as ‘Frank.’
“This one didn’t get searched.” The bouncer
from the alley yanked Erica around to face him. While those nearby
watched in detached amusement, he shoved Erica backward against the
bar and spread her legs with one of his massive thighs. With her
back arched and her breasts practically even with his nose, there
was little she could do but submit. She held her breath against the
overpowering aroma of cheap cologne and turned her head. A sick
feeling crept up from her belly when his meaty hand slithered down
her side and he yanked up the hem of her skirt and rummaged
“I should throw you right out,” he said. His
face was so close to hers that she was able to make out the gold
plated initial F inscribed on his front tooth. At least his breath
smelled of a recently chewed Altoid.
Erica looked away again when one of his
fingers dipped under the garter that held her stockings in place.
“What are you looking for?” She didn’t want to sound breathless and
terrified, but that’s how the words came out.
“Stakes. Bitches always hide ‘em up their
The crowd at the bar backed up a little at
that. When Frank finally brought his hand up, empty, they shuffled
back to their places.
“You’re clean,” he said with a leer. Erica
felt anything but clean. Her flesh tingled unpleasantly where he’d
explored. “Who’s buyin’ for you?”