He may own a Goth nightclub, but Tristan Stone avoids people—the darkness that surrounds them drains him. When he sees Maya for the first time, alone on the dance floor, a light surrounds her. He must discover who she is and what gives her power. He wants her, must have her.
Maya sees a man with haunting eyes watching her from the back of the club. She feels their connection, but thinks it’s merely physical attraction. Their passion ignites, overpowering them, and they must work together to understand their connection. The heat of their passion could send their world up in flames.
I hadn’t been back since the fire.
Whoever had bought the club had kept the black brick exterior with the painted black windows, ensconcing the club in mystery. Passersby down this hidden alley might think it an abandoned warehouse, unless they got close enough to look up into the recessed doorway to see it flanked by two watchful gargoyle statues.
I felt a moment of hesitation before I walked down the alley. When I used to come with Nike, I never felt threatened. We’d come after long shifts at the firehouse to unwind and dance off some steam. I’d practically bounce down the alleyway so I could get inside sooner.
But now, on my own, the creepiness of the alleyway set in. I wrapped my long black leather trench coat tightly around my body to shield my fishnet-covered legs as if protecting myself. It could be dangerous walking alone through warehouse alleys near the waterfront.
No wonder Vamps was hidden back here. You wouldn’t want an underground club on the main drag, would you?
My Mary Jane heels clicked loudly on the cement. The further I walked, the closer the clicks were.
Easy, Maya, I chastised myself. You’re going to break into a trot in a second.
Finally I made it to the front entrance and pulled on the heavy wooden doors with steel bars intersecting in the middle and was rewarded by a familiar figure.
“Byron, you’re still here!” I said to the extra-large bouncer who had an extra-large heart.
“Maya, where have ya been?” He threw his enormous arms wide and I rushed in, aware that I was grabbing him tighter than warranted, probably due to relief after my misgivings walking here alone.
“Whoa, girl, you must have really missed me,” he said before he let me go.
“Of course I did. It’s been forever. How have you been?”
“Been survivin’. Taking odd jobs here and there while they rebuilt this place. You saw the damage from the explosion.”
“Yes, I remember.” It wasn’t something I could forget any time soon.
“Why you here alone tonight?” he asked. “Where’s your partner in crime?”
“Nike? I haven’t seen her since the fire.”
“Are you kidding me? It’s been what—a year?”After I nodded, he asked, “What happened with her then? One of the bartenders told me how she saw her go upstairs with the former owner that night. What do you think—they hooked up?”
I didn’t know how much to tell about Nike and Michel, even though I was still hurt that I hadn’t seen heard from her in months. Sure, she sent postcards from time to time, but it wasn’t the same. We were like this—if you could see me, you’d know I was wrapping my index and middle fingers together. I know Byron was concerned about her, but I also didn’t want to perpetuate any rumors.
“Word spreads quickly around here, doesn’t it?” I chose to avoid the juicy part of the question and answered, “Last I heard she was traveling around Europe.” I left out the part that she was with Michel.
We were interrupted by a couple who opened the door. He was wearing a red velvet smoking jacket a la Gomez Addams, but didn’t pull off the look completely with his dirty-blond hair. While they showed their IDs to Byron and paid the cover charge, I looked at her outfit to see if she was sporting a Morticia-like dress. To my surprise, she was wearing a cowgirl outfit—hat, tassels, boots and a very short khaki shirt. Not a usual costume for a goth club, but she pulled it off.
Note to self: see if you can pull off a sexy cowgirl outfit.
After they passed through the next set of doors, Byron asked, “So you’re solo tonight?”
“Hopefully not all night,” I lifted an eyebrow. “How’s the eye candy in there?”
“You know, the usual. Lots of weirdos.”
“Just my type.”
“Who you kiddin’? I’ve never seen you leave with anyone besides your girl Nike.”
“Byron. I haven’t been out in months. I went on some crappy dates this past year and realized I’m happier just being on my own. So all I’ve done lately is work. Which means the only males I’ve encountered are coworkers and they smell pretty rank after a twenty-four-hour shift. Since Halloween is on a Saturday this year, and Halloween was always the best night of the year here, I decided to climb out of my self-imposed isolation and make an appearance.”
“Well then, get in there and be a naughty girl.” Byron smacked me playfully on the ass to push me on. Then he said, “Wait.” He took my hands and extended them out to the side.
“Let me get a good look at you. See what outfit you’re sporting tonight. Are you wearing a costume under there?”
I cocked my head as I took my hands back to open my leather trench coat shawl, which could fit in just perfectly at a gothic club or a Renaissance fair, but not too many other places. Tonight I was wearing a sexy little pirate wench costume, with a laced-up corset top and short leather miniskirt. “Does this warrant your approval?”
He put his hand on his chin as he sized me up. “Not bad. I’ve seen you in worse. Still trying to forget the blue velvet gown, black combat boots debacle.”
“That was hot,” I protested.
He raised an eyebrow before his gaze moved up to my hair. “And you’ve gone back to black hair, I see?”
“Technically blue-black. There’s only so much color I can get away with at work, being a professional and all.” I winked. Lately, I’d been alternating between blue-black and a magenta tint, which was about as much as I could manage without the chief giving me the look. If I was feeling spunky and wanted to sport a hot pink or blue, I had to wear a wig. Could you imagine a firefighter with pink hair coming to your aid to deal with your distress call? I didn’t think so.
“All right, you get my seal of approval. And you know that’s not so easy, princess. Go on in.”
I kissed him on the cheek and walked down the dark tunnel lit by candelabras attached to the stone walls. A new sign adorned the door leading to the main club area. Dante’s quote was carved into the wood: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.
“But Maya,” he called after me. “Leave some of the pretty boys for me.”
“Obviously,” I said, rolling my eyes. “So not my style.”
* * * * *
Much of Vamps looked the same, yet much of it had changed. Gargoyles still guarded from their perches around the club. The three smaller dance platforms were replaced by one larger stage. They now had live bands perform up there as indicated by posters adorning the walls. Or when the stage was free as it was now, it was covered with uninhibited dancers who wanted to be watched.
I was worried that the vibe of the club wouldn’t survive the transition. Some clubs try too hard and end up seeming phony. Vamps always had its own style. Some called it goth for the prevalence of goth-inspired dress and music. But they played other music as well.
Others called it a fetish club for the freaky revealing outfits many chose to wear. Black duct tape pasted over nipples has been seen more than once. And the sexy futuristic outfits with hulking boots were a common choice. But to me a fetish club alluded to kinky sex out in the open, which wasn’t the case here. I’d never caught anyone doing it—but I have seen some couples get pretty close on the dance floor or in a corner.
I’d call it more of an underground club. One that was frequented by people who didn’t stick to conventional dress and music and followed their own path, rather than worrying what other people thought. Whatever the club was, it was where I fit in.
But I wouldn’t want my fellow firefighters to see me in my sexy pirate outfit tonight.
Continuing to look around and assess the club, I thought it still had an authentic feel. The red marble bar hadn’t survived the fire, I noted. But it was still manned—or womanned—by the hot bartender with pink hair and a nice rack. I looked over the drink menu posted above the draft beer.
“What’s in a Tempting Fate?” I asked her.
“Southern Comfort, Amaretto, vodka, pomegranate juice, pineapple juice, grenadine,” she rolled out in a velvety voice that was as sexy as she was.
“Sold,” I said, banging an imaginary gavel.
“You won’t regret it,” she said.
After she gave me my drink, I toasted nobody in particular, well, I guess myself, thinking here’s to tempting fate. Then I watched the crowd as I tasted the drink. It was exquisite and I took another large sip. Maybe I’d pay for it tomorrow, but it was gooood.
When I heard a remix of Type O Negative’s Cinnamon Girl, I left my drink at the bar to slink my way amid the gyrating bodies. My favorite band, one of my favorite songs. Tragic that the super-hot singer died so young.
In a sea of black-clad bodies, I blended right in. It had been months since I danced, but I quickly found my rhythm and lost myself in the music, dancing with the crowd. I didn’t feel the least bit self-conscious that I was alone.
That is—until I felt his eyes on me.
You know the feeling when someone is watching you and you’re suddenly aware of it? I felt that and looked up. A tall guy dressed all in black—naturally—stood alone at the right side of the bar.
Something about that gaze arrested me and I stopped dancing. Dark eyes, almost black, on a face that looked as angelic as a young Jim Morrison. The black hair was a devil-may-care length, past his chin but not quite to his shoulders. Instead of the rock star’s signature black leather pants, this guy was wearing a cape over dark clothing.
His eyes defied the angelic appearance. Dark, penetrating eyes. The eyes of someone who was troubled—maybe haunted.
Why was he staring at me like that? Didn’t he know my weakness was a dark, brooding bad boy?
My lips parted as if they wanted to say something. But what did I want to say? And he couldn’t hear me anyway.
And then with a swoop of his cape, he was gone.
I stood there for a few more moments trying to process what just happened. Was some hot guy in the corner watching me? Who then took off with a flourish of his cape?
It seemed very Bela Lugosi-ish—another dark, brooding bad boy. I tried to shake off my confusion as Cinnamon Girl ended.
The DJ mixed in a version of David Bowie and Trent Reznor’s I’m Afraid of Americans. It took me another moment or two to brush off the effect that dark stranger had on me. I thought to hell with that guy and then got back into my groove.
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Also available, the first book in the series, Smoldering Nights.