Meet a vampire #FirstChapterFriday
Gorgeous Ethan Ross believes he’s immune to love. He’s a lead member of, Deep Dream, a rock band that often plays at StarZ, an up-market, mysterious, New Orleans rock club and he’s never short of romantic offers, so, he reasons, why bring love into the equation? He also works in StarZ as a bartender, which is great cover for what he really is and gives the ladies the opportunity to flock to him. He’s seen some strange things there, but Ethan isn’t easily shocked, after all, he’s supernatural.
When music magazine journalist, Anna Prideaux visits StarZ to interview his band, she’s drawn to Ethan in a way she’s never experienced before. As she returns to the club time and again in the hope he will ask her out, she slowly becomes aware that the club holds a mystery ... what really happens in the private upstairs bar, for instance?
Anna is ready to give up the idea of ever gaining Ethan’s attention when gorgeous Remy Dubois hits on her.
Sparks start to fly as Ethan feels...what...not a twinge of jealousy, surely?
Who will win Anna’s heart and how low will the two men stoop to do it?
“Ethan Ross, that’s your real name?” Anna leaned across the bar counter, hooking her hands over the edge to avoid sliding back. Her face hovered close to his as he prepared to serve her. Her breasts pressed together on display in her low-necked dress.
Ethan’s gaze flicked to her throat where her pulse throbbed almost in time to the low beat of the music piped through the speakers when no live act was booked. He didn’t need to charm this girl. She’d be his at the snap of his fingers, if he wanted, if he didn’t already have an assignation that night. Assignation, the old-fashioned word echoed in his mind and amused him. He smiled before he answered with just a hint of exasperation in his tone.
“Yes. None of the band members uses an alias. I think I told you that before.”
Anna beamed at him, obviously thinking the smile was for her. “So, Ethan, I see you working every time I come in here, don’t you ever get a night off?”
The scent of her blood filled his nostrils and something else, desire. She wanted him, and it was badly from the strength of the pheromones she emitted. Ethan considered her. She’d be asking to let him know she was interested in seeing him. He’d heard that question more than a few times, and similar inquiries down the years, all designed to give him the opportunity to ask a girl out. It didn’t melt his resolve—this time.
He raised his eyebrows. “You’re here every night then?” Ethan put the cocktail she’d ordered down on the bar deliberately at arm’s length. He nodded at the lime green beverage. “Mind you don’t spill it.”
If the derision in his question didn’t put her off, maybe his mocking suggestion she might knock over her drink as she drew back from hanging onto the bar would. Ethan averted his eyes from her delightful cleavage dismissively. He moved off to another customer.
Ethan took his order. He’d seen this guy before at the club and Ethan knew the drink he bought would be left untouched on the bar as the mage waited for his cue to appear in the private upstairs bar. It’s his attempt at looking normal. Ethan grinned to himself as he mixed the Brandy Alexander—horrible stuff. He smiled politely at the mage and set the glass down.
There were two other male vampires in the club that night. Ethan watched them posture and demonstrate their beauty. He noticed Anna gravitate to their display and sighed. She was human, and, as with all StarZ employees, it was his job to make sure she left the club safely. Despite the hijinks that would begin at midnight in the private upstairs bar, known to its select members as the clouds, StarZ prided itself on safety. Long gone were the days when the supernatural beings of New Orleans could use the club as a place to kill and enslave. Ethan hadn’t worked in the club long enough to have seen it, but he’d heard stories, and they weren’t pretty.
That night Ethan’s band, Deep Dream, was playing in the clouds and the two vampires were there to set up the gear. Marcus, the bass guitarist, insisted that the band use members of their own community as much as possible. Ethan understood, but the arrangement sometimes irked him. As far as he was concerned, very few vampires were trustworthy. Marcus, and Jolene, the other singer in the band, were, but other than that—Ethan sighed with the knowledge the answer was negative. He watched the two roadies knowing they’d take a couple of girls with them as they set up in the private bar. Those unfortunates would provide, sex and food.
Ethan couldn’t fault the sex part. He took what he wanted in that department. It was the food part. These two vampires could still kill if they let the bloodlust take over when they’d lured a girl away from the safety of the club. They said they didn’t kill, but all the same, they left their victims close to it. Ethan never killed, had never killed, although none of the other vampires knew that. It wouldn’t do to appear weak.
Ethan could feed and leave the victim feeling euphoric and satisfied. These days he only fed from women, if at all. He made it part of sex. If he was particularly ravenous, Ethan ate before he left home to ensure his conquest’s safety. He had a friend working in a local hospital who supplied him with blood bags for a reasonable fee.
Ethan watched the two roadies welcome Anna onto a stool situated between them. She placed her smartphone on the bar counter. She was at the club to interview him and the other band members for a local music magazine. It still produced a hard copy issue as well as being available online. Ethan knew it was widely respected and wielded clout in the fan base, and that’s why he’d agreed to the interview. Deep Dream had a great local following, and a good statewide presence, but he reasoned a few more fans wouldn’t hurt. Marcus had said maybe it was time they toured, and so the band members had agreed to the interview, even though they knew they’d need to be careful of revealing their true natures. Anna had recorded his answers to her questions and taken a photograph of him tending bar, before he’d tired of her flirting, but it sickened him to see her fall under the vampire roadies spell.
Contrary to the contemptuous impression he’d given her as he dismissed her flirting and interview, he’d definitely seen Anna the first time she’d entered StarZ, heard her heartbeat, in fact. She was stunning and yet Ethan hadn’t made any move on her during the nightly visits she’d made to the club since then. This time something stopped him. The feeling that rushed through his body when he saw her was too close to one he’d crushed down in the last decades.
In nineteen-twenty-two, Ethan swore off falling in love again when the woman he loved betrayed him. He’d met her in New York in a speakeasy. He was twenty-five, and going places in the music world. She was so beautiful, and he flew to her like a moth to a flame. Ruby lured him into a love affair that changed his life.
Carl, one of the vampire roadies, gestured with a wave of his hand to Ethan for service. The other two bartenders served customers. Ethan had fallen into a daydream as he considered the past stretching out behind him, and the annoying prospect of saving Anna from possible death in the immediate future. He woke up as the gesture penetrated his peripheral vision, and wandered over to Carl. Feigning nonchalance, he placed a coaster on the bar counter. Instead of looking at Carl, he kept his eyes on the distinct double interlocking silver S and Z embossed on the black swirling background until Carl spoke.
“Three dry Martinis, no olives for Jim and me, but I believe the lovely Anna will take a couple.” He turned to Anna and smiled. “That’s right, isn’t it?”
Ethan’s skin crawled at the syrupy tone in Carl’s voice as he checked with Anna.
“Yes, please.” She addressed Ethan, and that cheered him. She hasn’t answered Carl, which is a good sign. They haven’t compelled her … yet.
Ethan nodded to her and then cast a stony gaze at Carl. “Coming up.” He sent the vampire a message in that look. Keep off.
As he mixed the drinks, he considered how to keep Anna safe. Ethan had perfected the art of tuning out clamor from the world around him. He left the buzz of the busy bar behind as he retreated into his thoughts. He could easily pass for human, especially since he worked long night hours. No one expected him to have a tan from the hot Louisiana sun. No one batted an eye at the fact he mostly disappeared during the day. Anna would have no idea he was a vampire, but as usual, he would need to make his protection seem within the bounds of normalcy. StarZ owner wouldn’t want any patron thinking the place was unsafe.
Ethan had been turned in the famous Manhattan speakeasy ninety-three years ago when he was twenty-five. At the time, he was in great shape, because if he hadn’t gone places in the music world, he’d be going places in baseball. Ethan looked back on that promise now. Sorrow at the lost opportunity flashed over him. Then his philosophical nature kicked in, and he was thankful that at least he’d been turned when his body reflected an athlete, and his mind an educated young man. The only thing Ethan had never overcome was his lover’s betrayal.
Ruby had breezed into the speakeasy one night with two male companions. Easily the most beautiful woman Ethan had ever seen, he left his own circle of friends to watch her glide through the crowds, drinking, smoking, and tapping a delicate foot as she listened to the jazz band playing. Her dress was remarkably short and the fringes shimmered around her pale, slender legs as if dusted with the Californian gold she said had built her fortune. Entranced, Ethan fell for Ruby’s charming chatter. She lured him into a relationship so sexually charged his head spun continually. He wrote a song for her, followed her every night through the glittering city of New York, and when she said she loved him, Ethan laid his heart at her feet for her to trample. When she’d tired of New York she talked of vacationing in her Louisiana house among an elite group of friends, and Ethan fretted that she’d leave him.
She was the one who’d turned him into a vampire, and at his most vulnerable, she’d brought him to New Orleans to meet her community telling him they’d be married there. Dazed from discovering his newly acquired vampirism, and his consuming love for Ruby, Ethan clung to her for the three nights she gave him after delivering him to her French Quarter mansion—then she disappeared.
He speared two fat green olives on a cocktail stick as the memories flew through his mind and knew he was only thinking of Ruby because of Anna.
Ethan brought the martinis to Anna, Carl, and Jim. He waited for a moment in front of the three taking in the sight of the girl. If he gazed at her for longer than a minute an empty ache started up in his stomach. His gaze skimmed over her glossy hair, creamy skinned bare shoulders, and settled on her pretty, heart-shaped face. Anna didn’t resemble Ruby, but she was just as beautiful. It was the feeling her presence evoked in Ethan that forced Ruby to the front of his thoughts. He sighed, wistful for love, but after all these years afraid to go after it and even uncertain he wanted it.
Over the top of Anna’s head, Ethan saw Marcus, Jolene, Alex, and Luke threading through the crowd toward the bar. He grinned at Marcus, who headed up the line of band members.
“Hi, you might just have time to answer this journalist’s questions before we do a sound check.” He indicated Anna with a wave of his hand, knowing Marcus had advance knowledge of the interview already. Ethan hoped this would send the roadies to the private upstairs bar to set up and make his job of securing the girl easier.
At three hundred, Marcus was the oldest vampire in the city. Easily the most powerful, he assumed the position of leader and it worked well. Ethan respected the vampire, who admitted in the past he’d killed for food, but now never fed from a human at all. He glanced at Jolene, who now stood alongside Marcus, with a welcoming smile. She was a youngster at fifty years, and looked the nineteen she was when turned. Jolene and Marcus loved each other. Ethan watched the way they encircled each other with slight touches and looks conveying care and concern. He’d seen them crushed together after a few hours being apart and the passion in their embrace had fueled his loneliness, but still Ethan couldn’t allow himself to trust a woman not to break his heart.
Marcus engaged Anna in conversation.
Ethan turned to Alex and Luke with a grin as he enjoyed the fact that Marcus elbowed Carl gently but firmly away from the journalist’s side.
The other two band members were born warlocks. They were twins. Their jet-black hair and green eyes gave them an exotic air, but Ethan had never met a more grounded pair of young guys. They smiled at him.
“Hey, Ethan, how’s things? We’ll take a beer with us and head up to the clouds if that’s okay.”
Ethan nodded his answer and uncapped two imported continental beers. He handed them to the twins. “Take Carl and Jim along with you, will you? They’re being flakes and it’s getting late.”
Luke answered him. “Sure.”
Ethan left them to it and walked rapidly to a customer waiting for service at the far end of the bar.
Copyright Elodie Parkes, 2016 Hot Ink Press
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