|Up in Flames
Author: Indravyn PM
My name is Aerie and I am an Other. After meeting Camille Black, vampire and CEO of Dynasty Records, my world comes crumbling down when I am forced to choose between the woman after my soul and a group of Others seeking to recruit me to murder the vampire who has offered more than just immorality. Rated M for sexually explicit contentRated: Fiction M - English - Supernatural/Drama - Chapters: 18 - Words: 87,508 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 04-27-13 - Published: 12-08-12 - id: 3081214
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Brake lights made starburst patterns on the glass visor of my helmet as it started to rain and I cursed myself for wearing jeans instead of my leather pants. Thick grey clouds covered the night sky and the wind whistled past my exposed neck as I drove across the Bay Bridge towards San Francisco and a night of work. My motorcycled purred beneath me as if unperturbed by the evenly spaced drainage grates the tires grinded over at regular intervals or the droplets of rain splattering against the sleek black metal. San Francisco Bay glimmered to my right in the light of the giant sky scrapers nestled next to the water and the barges were nothing but shadows in the distance.
I love my job. I thought as I passed the exit for Treasure Island and rode beneath the brief over passed cut through the bedrock on my way to see one of my favorite bands play their first concert. It was a beautiful spring night, just this side of cold with a promise of more rain for the next day or two. I was ok with the rain and that fact that it was spring, it meant no more fog or blinding cold until at least November. My watch read half past nine when I quit the freeway and merged into the one way streets and red light turns that made San Francisco part of what it was. I quit the freeway and merged into the maze of one way streets and red light turns that covered a vast majority of San Francisco as I headed down Geary towards the inner Richmond district. The concert would be starting in forty five minutes and I was running late. My jeans plastered to the tops of my thighs made me uncomfortable and I wished for the briefest of moments that I had a car. The venue, Outreach, was housed in what had once been an old run down opera theatre before Dynasty Records had purchased the foreclosure doomed to become another parking structure, and converted it into a concert hall.
"Should have gotten here earlier . . ." I grumbled when I reached my destination only to find that all of the street parking was filled with nary a space for a motorcycle to park. Instead of endeavoring to find the impossible, I steered my bike down two long city blocks, my engine louder as the rumble bounced echoed off of the nearby cars and buildings until I found the parking garage I knew wouldn't charge me twelve dollars an hour for parking after nine. It was a relief to finally get out of the rain as my tires rolled smoothly down the sleek driveway into the bottom level and I parked in one of the spots designated for motorcycles before killing the engine.
Water pooled on the concrete beneath me as it ran in rivers down my leather jacket and dripped from my soggy hair. I took off my helmet and strapped it to the handle bar before taking the wayward strands of my long auburn hair and wringing it out onto the growing puddle of water at my feet. Satisfied that it was as dry as it was going to be, I pulled it back into a low pony tail and dismounted. My boots clicked smartly on the hard concrete, the timing off with the messenger bag slapping against my rain soaked thigh, as I made my way to the sidewalk outside. The rain had momentarily lighted up and the clouds separated to allow snippets of the half full moon to wink shyly through. Cars sped by, their tail lights trailing red as I squinted through the cold wind rushing against my face, my head bent and hands jammed into the pockets of my leather jacket as I passed by alleyways that stank of urine and other unimaginably unpleasant things; a stench the rain could never hope to wash away. San Francisco was a Mecca for homeless civilians, their numbers insurmountable as they trudged through the streets every day, fallen victims of the deteriorating economy or vets lost to the anonymity of the streets upon their return home from serving in the military. The only thing these nomads had to look forward to was the hope that when he or she went to sleep that night, they would awake the next morning and the next morning after that. I wrinkled my nose as I passed by and tried not to breathe until I'd passed the dank alleyway and what that stench stood for.
The sprawling lettering of the Outreach sign glowed bright neon blue against the mercury street lights that peppered the rain slicked sidewalks and bathed the adolescents huddled outside smoking cigarettes in its neon glow, making them appear almost alien. Smoke hung around them like a halo, soft and translucent. It was obvious they were high school kids by their young faces marked with acne and the sound of their voices carrying over to me on the currents of the wind. The thump of my footsteps was lost in the sound of their raucous laughter as I approached and flicked my gaze past the kids to see a group of reporters wearing rain slickers and carrying plastic covered equipment standing just behind the blue glow.
What were reporters doing at a show like this? It wasn't like there was any one famous slated to be there other than Starless Night playing their first show since signing with Dynasty Records a year ago. I would know. Henry, my boss, made it his business to know when someone special was going to show up. The bouncers, big tall brutes wearing matching black dickies and black t-shirts, stood to either side of the big glass door, their shirt sleeves strained against the thick muscles of their crossed arms. Steroid enhanced maybe? The herd of reporters watched them with contempt, but quickly looked away as a black town car pulled up to the red painted curb, and I stopped mid step as curiosity got the better of me. It was a sleek thing, with gracious curves and darkly tinted windows -the car, not the reporters. I wondered who was inside. The front passenger door opened without a sound and a tall man in his mid-forties slid out. He was dressed smartly in an Armani suit with his salt and pepper hair slicked back against his head and what may have once been a handsome face was creased with frown lines. The blue neon sharpened the deep folds of his face and made his eyes gleam in the light. The man looked familiar, but I couldn't put my thumb on it. I watched as he opened the back door and held out his age spotted hand for his companion.
Long, pale pianist fingers circled his palm and I saw a pair of high heeled feet touchdown on the pavement. The woman slid gracefull out, paying no attention to anyone around her. She was beautiful beyond imagining, her lips were full and luscious, eyes blue pools of smoldering temptation set into a into a thin, oval face with high cheek bones and straight Romanesque nose that could have been sculpted from alabaster. Her long, blue-black hair framed her face perfectly and the Gucci pant suit she wore was tailored to show off every curve she possessed. The woman glanced around briefly, her gaze cold and calculating, before walking with her head held high and her companion trailing after her towards the long glass doors.
"Camille!" The herd of reporters called after the woman, nearly tripping over themselves to get closer, but she kept her eyes straight and her head high as she strutted inside, her hips swayed like a gypsy dancer. Lights flashed from their cameras as they took pictures and the bouncers stepped threateningly forward. The flock shrank back under their intimidating gaze, cowed for now by the giant brutes guarding the threshold. Brazenly she ignored the flock of reporters dying for a story, and I shook my head in disgust. Vultures, every last one of them.
It took a moment before I mentally slapped myself for not recgonizing the raven haired beauty upon first glance. How the hell could I have not known? How many times had I seen her picture in magazines and the newspaper? The beautiful brazen woman from moments ago, was Camille Black, the owner and CEO of Dynasty Records. Henry hadn't told me she would be there; maybe this was a last minute decision? All I knew was an interview with Dynasty Records top woman would be great coverage for the article I needed to write for tonight's show.
Puddles splashed around me as I crossed the rest of the distance to the front door, a woman on a mission, only to be stopped by the bouncer. My eyes barely came to his chest to read the name GRIFFYTH embroidered over his right breast pocket. He put a thick, tanned arm out to protect the door and peered threateningly down at me. "No reporters."
I smiled sweetly and batted my eyes at him. "I'm not a reporter."
"Then what are you?" He grunted. I reached into the top pocket of my shoulder bag and handed him my badge. The thin plastic rectangle looked tiny in his girthy hand as he glanced at it with eyes that were too small in his wide, tan brow. The bouncers eyebrows drew together before handing it to me.
"So you work for Nightlife Magazine?" He asked as I slipped the badge back into my bag and tried to ignore the daggers being glared in my direction from the reporters who had been denied access. The hate was almost tangible and the area between my shoulder blades tingled.
"Yeah. Don't worry, I promise to do a good cover of the show." I said.
Gryffith smiled to show blocky, coffee stained teeth. "I know, I read your magazine on my break, it's the only thing interesting in the break room. I don't fancy Vanity Fair too much, but the girls love it."
"I hear ya." I put my hand on his shoulder as I passed and his eyes widened as the energy of our Otherness found a comfortable equilibrium and the scent of vanilla rose. Like always recognized like. He nodded his head at me in respect.
"Give 'em hell." I said with a smile and jerked my head in the direction of the reporters.
"Oh I will." He replied with a wink, his smile turning wicked before aiming his scary gaze back on the herd and they visibly shrank away, intimidated by the big burly man.
Warm air and wild energy blanketed me as I slipped through the glass front door, coalescing from nowhere and everywhere to tickle my senses and chase away the chill. The cloying scent of cloves and dusky smell of incense filled my nose, mingling with the smell of wet grass, vanilla and burnt wax. There were supernatural's around me and hidden subtly underneath the wild energy and scents was the feel of Other, humans like me, born with supernatural gifts and the ability to weed out Others and supernatural's in the area. The energy circulating through the large room threatened to eclipse my own power and send me reeling with everyone else. I tamped down my Otherness until all of the wildness sifting through the warm air became a dull tingling in the back of my mind; I wasn't some novice Other stupid enough to get lost in a power high.
Camille was nowhere in sight as I scanned the crowd of people hanging out in the lounge that had once been the opera house lobby. The renovation had turned the room into something breathtaking. KMFDM played from speakers hidden in the walls and the music video to go along with the song played on flat screen TV's mounted into three of the six walls. The black marble floor gleamed beneath the soft fluorescent lighting and white leather couches sat around coffee tables in concentric circles throughout the better part of the room. Teenagers not old enough for the bar, sat on the thick seats drinking coffee from recycled paper cups, their voices reverberating off of the white walls and the smiles on their faces spoke of youth. Ah, to be that young . . . The faint energy barely discernible through the wild forces circling about, told me they were human and easily dismissed.
Cold air whooshed in the moment the front doors behind me open and reminded me I had a mission. I glanced at my watch as I trudged across the gleaming marble floors in my knee high black boots to check the time. There was still twenty minutes until the show started, plenty of time to find Camille. I went through the door labeled 'Bar' and lost myself in the cool dim. Quiet conversation rose to greet me, the patrons barely spared me a sidelong glance. The scent of supernatural and Other was stronger in here and mingled with the smell of cheap beer and tequila.
The bartender, a handsome man with ash brown hair that fell to his shoulders, high cheek bones and a five o'clock shadow, looked up as I approached. "What'll it be love?" He asked in an authentic English accent, his grey eyes twinkling in the dim light. The careless air around him reminded me of my boyfriend, Jesse. The scent faint scent of cloves rising from him marked him as vampire and my guard went up; I didn't trust his kind.
I slapped a ten on the counter, careful to keep my gaze low. "I'll have a beer, please."
"Coming right up." He said as he grabbed a glass with a small laugh when he noticed my careful attempt to avoid his eyes. The tap whined as beer shot into the mug in his hand with a wet gurgle. I checked over my shoulder, doing a quick scan for the CEO but saw nothing.
"Anything else?" The bartender asked, pulling my attention away. I gave him a fake smile and deposited half my change in the tip jar. He grinned to show a hint of fang and a cute little dimple appeared at the corner of his mouth before going off to help other customers. I turned my back to the bar and leaned against the lip with my beer cradled in my hands; it pressed into my shoulder blades but I didn't want to sit.
"Hmm . . ."
It was quite dark in the bar and the ambient lighting from the lamps drilled into the middle of the tables made it hard to discern just how large the room was. Shadows of photo's and drum sticks clung to the walls, becoming lost in the darkness of the unseen corners. I scanned through the tables, looking for a red rope partitioning off a private booth, but there was none to be seen.
I glanced to my right as a kid dressed in gothic attire that looked barely old enough to be in the bar sidled up next to me. He slid onto one of the bar stools with a beer in hand and shot me a crooked grin. My right eyebrow cocked at the sight of his greasy black hair, acne scarred face and eye liner darkening his dull grey eyes. Was he serious? I lifted my left hand so he could see the promise ring on finger and preceded to ignore him.
"Hey there beautiful, you here are by your lonesome?" His voice was nasally and his eyebrows waggled suggestively.
I leveled a glare at him from the corner of my eye. "Hi there, does your mother know her baby faced son is out past his bed time?"
That didn't faze him in the least. The gothic kids smile grew lazily wider and he gave me a sultry state. I could tell by his posture and the faint hint of energy exuding from him, that this human boy thought he was some kind of ladies man. The white face paint, black eyeliner and fishnet shirt tucked into fake leather pants just made him look pathetic.
"My names Chase." He said, reaching a hand out to grab a lock of auburn hair that had come loose from my ponytail. I watched him with a bored expression on my face as he twirled it around his forefinger, thinking the sudden poutiness to his thin lips made him look like a lost puppy.
"Why don't we get out of here?" Chase said, his eyes darting to the door.
"Why don't you go back to your mother? I can smell your diaper reeking of shit." I said smoothly.
"Come on baby, I can show you things you wouldn't believe." He gyrated on the stool to let me get a picture, titillated by his "clever" pickup line. I promptly poured my beer down his front and walked off.
"You bitch!" He yelled and I smirked. The conversations going on around us grew quiet while the patrons turned their heads to watch.
The gothic rat grabbed my arm to stop me and I twisted around, pivoting on my left foot and rammed my right knee into his groin. Chase let out a high pitched squeal and fell to his knees with a thump, his hands clutching his bruised balls. The people around me started hooting and hollering, amused by the sight of a kid who had gotten his ass kicked by a woman. Heat crept up my neck in embarrassment. A bouncer appeared from one of the many shadowed areas of the bar and nodded his head in respect to me. "Nice move." He grunted as he lifted the kid off the floor.
"My mom forced me into karate when I was younger, I guess it just stuck." I replied with a shrug.
He let out a bark of laughter and hauled the kid still clutching his groin towards the door and disappeared through it. The commotion died down and the patrons quietly went back to their conversation. Chagrinned, I turned back to the bar to order a second drink.
"You look like you could use another beer." The vampire bartender said wisely as he set another glass on the top. "On the house of course."
I raised my beer to him in a salute and took a sip. "This happen often?"
He leaned his pale arms onto the bar, revealing the name Gem embroidered in fancy red lettering over the left breast of his black polo. "Oh enough to always get a laugh, though usually it's the boyfriend defending a woman's honor and not the other way around."
"I just know how to take care of myself." I said idly.
"I can see that you do, your fiancé must be a lucky man." He said with a playful grin. If I was a school girl, I would have blushed. Even though he was a vampire and I was taken, he was definitely easy on the eyes. He didn't need to know that I wasn't engaged either.
I took another sip of my beer. "So, does Camille Black come to the shows often?"
"Here and there." He said shortly, tapped the top of the bar and then walked away without another word.
"Well that was evasive."
The cloying scent of cloves suddenly rose to tickle my nose and the darkest energy I had ever felt brushed against my aura, probing, searching . . .
Vampire . . .
I wheeled around to find Camille Black standing behind me, her gaze cold and calculating and weight on her right foot with her left hip cocked. She tilted her head to the side to reveal the long line of her smooth neck. She was taller than my five foot six by at least three inches, forcing me to tilt my head back. The confident indifference that blanketed her like a second skin only added the visage of power circling around the raven haired vamp. I hadn't felt her coming until she wanted me to know she was there and if the power flowing easily from her wasn't any indication, I should have felt Camille the moment she entered the bar.
"Gem is not paid to answer questions about me; he is paid to serve the patrons of this establishment." She said, her voice soft and her English accent real.
"My apologies." I mumbled, trying not to fidget under the scrutiny of her stare.
Her cold ice blue eyes raked up and down my body before settling on my face and forcing me to match her gaze. There was no compulsion in them, but that could change in a heartbeat; for now they were just eyes. The barest hint of fang peaked from behind her half closed lips and it took all my willpower not to look away.
"And just what is it you want?" She said silkily.
"My name is Aerie Surreal and I work for Nightlife Magazine." I replied caustically. I would not be cowed by this woman.
"So you are Henry's little pet journalist. Not what I expected at all." Her snide tone made me bristle with ire.
Had she really just referred to me as a little pet?
Keep it professional Aerie. I silently chided myself.
"How wonderful that you are acquainted with my editor, he didn't tell me you were a vampire." I said so softly that I knew only she would hear it. Henry, my boss, of course was human and wouldn't have known. Avoiding them was common Other practice. She paused and the confident expression changed to one of wariness for so brief a moment I wasn't sure it had happened. The CEO uncrossed her arms.
"Nor did he tell me an Other would be working the show this evening. Now why are you looking for me when you should be down on the floor doing your job?" She snapped.
I took a deep breath and tucked my long bangs behind my ears to chill the rising anger. My skin tingled ever so slightly and the sensation worsened as her dark energy probed mine invasively.
Gem broke the tension by putting a stem-less glass of red wine on the bar top and my stomach roiled when I noticed the viscosity of the red liquid swirling inside. The vampire glanced away, curling her long, pale fingers delicately around the blown glass. "Live people aren't enough for you, now you infuse their blood with your wine?" I said acerbically.
Camille's free hand snaked out and grabbed me by the neck as she took a sip; fingers closed threateningly around my wind pipe and pulled me until our faces were barely an inch apart. I could smell the tang of red wine and blood on her breath and my stomach churned. Her ice blue eyes glowed dangerously and her face twisted into a snarl. The people around she and I went on with their conversation, oblivious to what was taking place right underneath their noses. The vampire was cloaking us; those sharp fangs could sink into my neck, drain me dry, and no one would be the wiser.
Fear crept up my spine as the cold realization hit and I held my breath.
I didn't want to die tonight.
"You do not know anything about who or what I am." Her voice was dangerously soft. "Do not presume to pass judgment, especially not in my territory. Do I make myself clear?"
I said nothing and the pressure increased until I was gasping for air. "Do I make myself clear?" The vampire repeated softly.
"Crystal." I rasped.
Camille released me and I stumbled backwards until my heels hit the bar and I grabbed hold of the edge to steady myself. I forced myself not to touch my neck, though I knew I would have bruises in the shape of her fingertips later, letting the vampire know she had gotten to me would only give her more power.
Rule number one. When dealing with vampires, do not, under any circumstances, show fear, creatures like them thrive off of it. I had already broken said rule.
"So tell me Aerie," She began mockingly. "Why are you looking for me when you obviously have so much disdain for what I am?"
My hand trembled ever so slightly as I grabbed my beer and took a drink to calm my nerves. My heart threatened to beat a fierce tattoo inside my chest and I knew she could sense it. Realistically, I should just walk away and tell my boss I'd come down with something. Camille and her kind were danger; any association with her would get me killed or worse, bound. I leveled a steady glare in her direction which she returned in kind. I set my beer down and took a deep breath before answering.
"I want an interview for my article."
"You can call my assistant and set an appointment with him. My schedule will be open in November, you can interview me then." Camille snapped and turned on heel.
I watched her walk away and mentally kicked myself for being an idiot.
God . . . Did I really want that interview? The answer? Yes. I left my beer where it was and went after her.
I stopped and cast a glance over my shoulder to see Gem a step behind me, hand reaching hesitantly for me as he remembered what I had done to the last person to grab me.
"Tread lightly, Camille is dangerous." He warned, his expression deathly serious as he let his hand fall to his side.
"Ya think?" I snarked. "I can take care of myself, thanks."
"You don't know her like I do, she's cruel and manipulative, she's bating you right now. Stay off her radar, it will be for your own safety." Gem called after me but the rest was lost as the bar door swung closed. The fluorescent lights overhead were nearly blinding as I entered back into lounge, forcing me to squint after Camille until my eyes adjusted. The CEO was half way to the private staircase, her heels silent on the marble floor, when I finally caught up.
"Camille, wait." I called.
She stopped in her tracks and half turned to look at me. "I have already told you when you can book an appointment, now leave me in peace and do your job."
"I'll owe you." I said without thinking.
The smile that tweaked the corners of her lips was cunning and cruel. Her eyes flashed bright blue before settling back to their natural color. "And just what is it that you will owe me?"
"I will let you feed from me but only a small amount and at the time of my choosing." I offered up.
"You think I will trade my time for a sip of your blood?" I froze as her breath whispered against the shell of my ear. I hadn't even seen her move. "I will give you my time if you spend a night in my bed."
I twisted away, but Camille grabbed my wrists and forced me to stay where I was, her breath warm on my skin and I shuddered at the delicious promise igniting in the space between our bodies.
"I don't like women." I hissed but it only made her laugh.
"Every women has lesbian tendencies deep inside . . ." She moaned. "One night only, I can give you more than just words. I can show you pleasure beyond your wildest dreams."
"You know the last person who said that to me, ended up with my beer down his front and my knee in his groin? I offer my blood as a token, take it over leave it, Camille." I snapped, miffed by the invasion of personal space and perturbed by the effect it was having on my labido. Vampires were all the damn same.
"Such an ice queen. . ." She hedged. "I like it."
"Stop playing with me, vampire."
She released me and I wheeled around to see her standing there with her head tilted and her fingertip tapping her chin lightly. Her long black hair fell to cover half her face, it only made her look all the more dangerous.
"Fine, but I want your blood tonight." She said suggestively.
Camille put her hand out, palm facing upward and fingers splayed. I slid my hand into hers, feeling how soft and supple her cool skin was beneath my touch. Her fingertips tickled the inside my wrist before her grip tightened and my bones creaked beneath her strength.
I gasped in pain.
"Do not think you can manipulate me to your will, you may be Other, but I am vampire and if you push me, Aerie, the consequences will be great." She said dangerously and let go. I cradled my hand against my chest and cursed myself for a fool. "You have my protection for now, use it wisely."
I cracked my knuckles and stretched my hand until it felt normal again. She was lucky I didn't slam her ass into the wall with my power, but I couldn't let her know just what it was I could do.
"Shall we?" Camille asked with her arm extended to bid me to go first. I narrowed my eyes as I preceded her despite my instincts screaming at me to have the vampire in sight at all times. My footfall was heavy next to her silent heels; I didn't like it. The fact that she was behind me was both stupid and smart. By having her at my back, it let her know that I would hold our bargain and behave. That didn't mean my heart didn't skip a beat though.
The view when we ascended into the private box was stunning. Two rows of padded leather seats and small glass tables had been carefully set in the center of the black carpet and candles burned in holders on their tops. The banister opened just above the floor below to reveal the large wooden stage below gleaming beneath the bright strobe lights and a crew making last minute adjustments.
People milled about on the floor below dressed in jeans and t-shirts or gothic attire like the baby faced rat that had tried to make moves on me earlier in the bar. The fact that I didn't seem him down there gave me a grim kind of satisfaction. Served him right. The buzz of conversation filled the room and I tuned it out. I put my camera case and purse down on one of the padded chairs and thought about removing my jacket but decided against it; the tank top I wore underneath would just make me look like I was begging to get bit sooner than later.
Camille watched me as she leaned on the railing with her glass of blood-wine cradled between her pale hands. The weight of her gaze burned as I rummaged through my things to pull out my camera and note pad. I tried to ignore it but it became harder when I noticed her eyes specifically focused on my ass.
"Do you mind? I don't believe you raping me with your eyes was part of the 'I'll Behave' agreement."
She merely shrugged and pointed her gaze at the floor below, hair falling to shield her face.
I felt my eyebrow start to tick in irritation. This was going to be a long night . . .