Edith sashayed through the open doorway like she owned the place and the party couldn’t possibly start without her. With her tiny plaid skirt and neck-breaking boots, she’d have stood out anywhere. It didn’t take long for the bar patrons to take interest. A were rose from his stool and slinked his way to her. At five feet ten inches, she towered over him. He grabbed her ass. Edith grinned back with her fangs and bit his nose right off his face. The were collapsed on the floor with his hand over the opening, screaming and writhing. Edith spat out a chunk of skin and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She waved at the onlookers, who—funny enough—didn’t find her so appealing anymore.
The level of violence apparently wasn’t anything new. Everyone returned to their beers and conversation as Vicente Fernández blasted his sorrowful tune on the beat-up jukebox.
Humans sauntered through the mounting crowd of preternaturals, offering their bodies in exchange for a few bills. Most were teens, provocatively dressed and trying in vain to shield their bare flesh with their hands. I could smell their shame…and fear. Some were fondled for show before ultimately being shoved away. It was all I could do not to kill every male there.
One of the youngest prostitutes approached Tye. She lifted her chin and smiled to express confidence, but the indignity in her childlike face when she rubbed her body against his was as obvious as his disgust. He withdrew from her and pulled me close. “Ask her if she wants to make money.”
I stumbled over my words when a familiar scent cut through the mob. I whirled around, recognizing the lingering aroma of vampire I’d caught during my meet-and-greet with Lucinda. Tye and Edith shadowed me as I pushed my way to a vamp tucked in a corner with a young girl. The vamp teased her jugular with his tongue. Her right eye was bruised shut and she bled from the fresh scratches on her shoulders. She cringed, begging him to stop when he ruthlessly squeezed her breasts. I hauled him away from her and ripped off his shirt.
“Hey, baby,” he said in Spanish. His smile faded when I took a whiff of the cloth and scented the pale aroma of my favorite vampire.
My claws dug into his throat. “He’s been with Misha.”
My new friend must have held a leadership role. The patrons abandoned their booze and idle chatter and swarmed us. The young girls sprinted out screaming, sensing the escalating thirst for blood. I clenched the vamp’s throat tighter and shouted over their shrieks. “Get out of our way and no one will get hurt!”
They stalked forward, vicious hisses competing with lustful snarls. I didn’t like the odds and neither did Tye. “Can you shift us out?” he muttered.
“No. I’m blind when I shift and don’t know what’s beneath us.”
Edith perceived our dire situation as similar to finding a truckload of stranded virgins. She clapped excitedly. “I get to eat now, right?”
Tye roared, and everyone attacked. Chairs and beer bottles soared at my head. The moment I ducked, the vamp spun out of my grasp and jetted from the bar.
A weremule tackled me when I tried to chase after him. Michael wrenched the mule off before my fists could connect with his face. The vampires had heard Tye’s call. They flooded the bar, kicking ass and chowing down. I barreled my way through the mass of sweat-soaked bodies and out the door, stopping the minute I reached the cobblestone street. I closed my eyes. In the far distance, my ears tracked the quick feet of the fleeing vampire. I shot toward the sound. Vamps were outrageously fast. I was faster. Within a few minutes, I’d picked up his scent and was almost upon him.
The footsteps suddenly stopped and he disappeared. I scanned the neighborhood he’d led me to. Pathways and sidewalks separated the houses instead of streets and branched into different developments. I’d wandered into a maze, sniffing out my rat. Where are you?
A scream from a nearby home alerted me to his presence. “Shut up,” he mumbled in Spanish.
I snuck up the concrete steps to a single-story home and peeked through a window. A terrified woman clutched a child in her lap. Five more children gathered around her, the oldest one no more than ten.
A petite little girl cried against her mother’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I let him in, Mami.”
The woman pulled her around to shield her from the vamp. “Please don’t hurt my children,” she begged. “I’ll do anything.”
“You speak again and I’ll cut their throats,” he hissed.
The woman covered her mouth, her eyes wide with terror. I took a breath to relax. If I didn’t calm I’d kill him for threatening the family. I needed him alive—well, at least long enough to find Misha.
The house rested on a small hill. It seemed solid enough so I shifted underground and across. My guess to where the vampire stood was slightly off. Instead of surfacing behind him like I’d planned, I popped up in front of him. I scared the crap out of everyone there, including the vamp.
He fell back into a chair. When he realized it was just tiny ol’ me he laughed. “I’m going to kill you, little bitch,” he told me in Spanish. “But first we’re going to have some fun.” He lunged at me at full vampire speed. I used his momentum to flip him over and slam him to the floor. He kipped up. I kicked him in the face and knocked him back to the floor with a second shot to his knees.
Tye leapt through the door and pinned the vamp against the wall with his forearm.
“Sorry I’m late, dovie. Is there something you’d like to ask him?”
“Where’s Misha?” I yelled at him in Spanish.
“The vampire Lucinda holds.”
The family gasped behind me. “Go to hell,” the vamp said, then spat in Tye’s face. Tye forced his fist into the vamp’s mouth, tore out his jaw, and tossed it over his shoulder.
The poor woman fainted, dropping to the floor with a loud thump. One of the older girls caught the baby before their mother rolled on top of her. I hurried to them, speaking softly. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to you,” I assured them. I lifted their mother carefully in my arms. They followed me into a small bedroom, holding hands and watching me as I lay her across the bed. “Stay here with your mami,” I told them.
The girls listened. The oldest, a little boy, followed me out. “You may not want to see this,” I warned.
He jutted his chin. “I’m not afraid.”