Authors: Tracey H. Kitts
Till the Break of Dawn
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Till the Break of Dawn Copyright © December, 2010 Tracey H. Kitts
Cover art by Tracey H. Kitts
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This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Till the break of Dawn
Tracey H. Kitts
To Jordan for helping with my plot twist. Priscilla, for listening to every word in this book several times. Jeremy, for putting up with me in general. And last but not least to Justina, the Jager Queen. Long may she be kept out of bars.
Other books by Tracey H. Kitts
The Lilith Mercury, Werewolf Hunter Series
Object of My Affection
The Dread Moon
A Dream Forbidden
Books unrelated to the series
Once in a Blue Moon
Diary of an Incubus
Till the break of Dawn
Three Days of Night
Touch of an Incubus
Frank and The Werewolf Tamer
The Eternal Kiss
Writing as T.K. Hardin
Dracula: In the Flesh
Our Place already had customers lining up by the time I got there. This wasn’t entirely unusual seeing as how we were the only place within a fifty mile radius to sell beer on Sunday. I still wasn’t sure how Jamie got the license for that. The Deep South is strange. No beer in most states on Sunday. Everyone parties like hell the rest of the week and stocks up on Saturday night. The appearance of the familiar one-story brick building brought a smile to my face, even if the crowd didn’t. However, my temporary dejection had nothing to do with the people outside. After all, if we didn’t have business, we didn’t make any money.
Tonight’s crowd was bigger than usual though, and it had little to do with the beer.
“Just a few more minutes, guys,” I said as I took out my keys.
“Honey, you can’t keep us out here much longer, it’s supposed to rain.”
I smiled at George. We’d gone to school together and he never missed a fight. The way he said “honey” was more of a provocation than an endearment. But that was just George. He enjoyed provoking people, especially me.
“You’re here early, sugar. Not my fault.” I smiled sweetly before turning to open the door and locking it back to the sounds of laughter from the men outside. By their reaction it was obvious they were well acquainted with George as well.
As soon as I walked in Jamie yelled, “Did you forget it was fight night?”
She was already behind the bar getting everything ready. From the sounds of the pots and pans banging in the background our cook, Terry, was already there too.
“I never forget fight night,” I said wearily.
As I walked to the back to put up my purse Jamie said, “Oh, right. Sorry.”
My cowboy boots echoed on the wooden floor as I made my way down the hall to the back office. I put my purse on the desk, tossing my keys on top so I wouldn’t forget them. I kept a hat and t-shirt in the office just in case I forgot to wear one with the bar’s logo or hadn’t done my laundry, like tonight.
I was just pulling on the tight orange t-shirt that said “Our Place” right across my boobs when Jamie walked in. She is several inches taller than me with long black hair that she usually wears in a ponytail. Her cowboy hat was already in place and looked quite natural at the jaunty angle she always wore it. Her t-shirt was purple. We didn’t have an official color.
“Sorry I was late.”
Jamie loved the bar and I hated to let her down. But I was never quite myself before watching the fights.
“You’re my business partner. You can be five minutes late if you want to.”
The bar belonged to us so technically I could show up when I wanted. It was “our place.” After all, that’s why we picked the name. Jamie walked over and hopped up on the desk. The scent of her perfume reminded me of cotton candy. I liked the fragrance but wished she’d wear it less often. It always made me hungry. Her blue eyes were full of concern when she looked at me and I felt like a wimp for not being able to suck it up and hide my feelings better.
“Are you okay? I know you don’t like to watch the fights—”
“I’m fine,” I said, cutting off whatever else she was going to say.
I turned to the full-length mirror on the back of the door, and fluffed my long red hair a few times before putting the cowboy hat on and laughing. What can I say; it went well with the cut-off jean shorts.
“I still can’t believe we picked this as our uniform.”
She laughed. “Hey, it’s the south. It works.”
Jamie was a stripper down in Orlando before moving here nine years ago. When we met I was a struggling twenty-one-year-old waitress looking for someone to help share the rent. She came into the restaurant where I worked and ordered a cup of coffee. It’s not like me to start up a conversation with strange, sad-looking women. But she looked like she needed someone to talk to and my shift was almost over. We hit it off instantly and had been friends ever since. She is two years older than me, but it doesn’t really show. I’ve always thought she was beautiful. At five-foot-nine and built the way she is she has always reminded me of a superhero. You know, the kind that could wear stars and stripes and still manage to look sexy.
So, how did we end up as business partners? Well, a few years ago we put our last two dollars and fifty cents together to buy a five dollar lottery ticket. Believe it or not, we actually won. Since we had contributed exactly the same amount, we both owned exactly half of the business. Both of us had always wanted a place of our own and in the area where we lived (a little place called Happy, Florida) a bar seemed like the most likely type of business to be successful. We have been open for three years now and have more than doubled our money. You know how people say you’ve got a better chance of getting hit by lightning than winning the lottery? Personally, I’d always expected to be hit by lightning. The shock of our winnings still hadn’t worn off.
Jamie still looked to be reading my facial expression and when she scooted off the desk and gave me a big hug I knew something was up. “You could always get back in touch with him, you know?”
Him. Why did she have to go there? This was not the first time we’d had this conversation. Very few main events went by when we didn’t have the same discussion.
I shook my head. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.” I gestured to the room around us. “Winning the money to start this place is the only good luck I’ve ever had.”
She patted my shoulder. “You and me both, babe.”
Despite our winnings, Jamie and I weren’t rich. We’d won enough to pay off our debts and start a business. Sure, that was great. But we weren’t millionaires or anything. We were just finally starting to be successful for the first time in both our lives.
“I’m gonna go see if Terry needs any help.”
Jamie smiled and turned to the mirror to adjust her hat. “All right. I guess I can go ahead and open early. Weather report said it was supposed to rain tonight.”
I laughed softly. “Yeah, that’s what George said.”
“Shit, George is here?”
I took her by the shoulders and turned her toward the door. “He’s one of our best customers. Just smile and pretend you like him.”
like him. He just needs to stop asking me out. Hell, you sound like Billy.”
We both laughed. Billy was the name of the guy who owned the club where she used to dance. When we got assholes in the bar I would tease her with his words, “Just smile and pretend you like him.” Billy must have been a nice guy because they still kept in touch. George on the other hand could be sweet if he wasn’t so persistent. It was really starting to get old.
Terry was nowhere to be seen when I walked into the kitchen. This was strange seeing as how he is six-foot-four. I heard something fall and walked around the counter to find him sitting in the floor in front of the refrigerator.
“Need some help?”
“We ain’t got no fucking cheese.”
I smiled at Terry’s usual language. It wasn’t that I didn’t curse. On the contrary, I can be quite the potty mouth at times. But Terry’s normal, everyday conversation could make sailors blush. Even though I was sorry to see him frustrated, it helped to take my mind off my own feelings and that was a good thing.
“Then we’ll just tell people we’re out of cheese tonight.”
I offered him a hand up, but he refused and pulled himself up using the counter. I wasn’t sure I could have supported his weight, but I felt it would have been rude not to offer.
He winced and I asked, “Is your leg bothering you?”
Terry’s right leg was artificial from below the knee down. He lost it in an accident when we were in high school. At the time I was a freshman and he was a senior. Trying to find work in an area where there were mostly manual labor jobs had been a real bitch for him. I didn’t win enough to be able to give him money, but I could give him a job. Unfortunately, all he could cook was burgers and fries. Oh, and anything you could drop in grease.
“Just a little. Nothing I can’t handle.”
“You know if you stand for too long that happens. Why don’t you get that stool back in here?”
His smirk might have seemed rude to some, but I knew it was about the closest he came to a smile most of the time. “Why don’t you stop babying me and go tell them motherfuckers we ain’t got no cheese?”
Jamie and I took turns waiting tables and mixing drinks, even though we had two other waitresses. Since she was already behind the bar when I walked out that meant I got to wait tables. Every now and then we’d hire some extra help, like during the holidays. But for the most part people seemed more than willing to wait a little longer as long as the food was good and the drinks weren’t watered down. It didn’t hurt that we had a huge plasma screen television on both ends of the bar so that everyone could come by to watch most any sports event. The more word spread about Our Place, the busier we got. It was getting hard to keep up.
The evening went by in a blur of beer and pretzels. We were so swamped that I almost didn’t get a chance to breathe. The event everyone had come to see was nearly over when I propped up beside George at the bar and Jamie handed me a glass of water.
“I can’t wait,” George said, his excitement obvious. “Nightmare is up next. It’s the main event!”
I put the water down without taking a sip. George had no idea he’d hit a touchy subject.
“So, what do you think?” George asked, elbowing me. “You think he can take this new guy, what’s-his-face?”
“I don’t see why not.”
Nightmare had been the most feared undefeated fighter for the past twenty-six years and at one time I was probably his biggest fan. He was the leading name in the business. And what business is that you might ask? It’s called the P.F.C. or Preternatural Fight Club and it was all the rage. Vampires, werewolves, and any other beastie that saw fit could now beat the crap out of each other in no holds barred fighting. And, they could get paid for it. It was the hottest thing since professional wrestling. Well, since
professional wrestling. The P.F.C. was still wrestling and the shows were just as scripted. The real difference was that the matches were not. The entire act, right up until the bell chimed was fake. But no one ever knew who was going to win a P.F.C. fight. Not to mention they could get really brutal. Sometimes wrestlers lost body parts. But the good thing about being a vampire or a werewolf was, they could grow it back.
The wrestler everyone was waiting to see was Nightmare. He wasn’t completely undefeated, just at the P.F.C.’s headline event known as Monster Mash. He’d lost a match here and there to someone cheating or other interference. But at Monster Mash he was always the champ. And tonight’s event was leading up to the Mash. I tried to pretend all of this didn’t excite me, but the truth was I’d been watching since I was a kid.
As soon as Nightmare’s entrance music started to play my heart fluttered. His music sounded like something Beethoven had written, but the melody was better suited to Dr. Frankenstein than the famous composer. Everyone in the bar stopped to watch, including me. I couldn’t help myself. You could feel his presence it seemed, even through the screen. He was six-foot-seven, but when the camera got a close up he looked seven feet tall. Darkness hung about him like a cloak. The lights dimmed when he entered the arena. Not because of special effects, but because that was one of his powers. He could control the shadows. His pale green eyes became a solid, glowing, emerald fire as he made his way to the ring.
He removed his long cloak so slowly that it looked like a mini striptease. I noticed he had a few more tattoos since I’d last seen him and it made my heart ache. He added a new tattoo down his arm for every family member or loved one he outlived. All of his tattoos were tombstones of sorts, but some were beautiful angels while others looked more like gargoyles. His left arm had a nearly complete sleeve of tattoos. He had started the collection when he was alive and it only stood to grow now that he was dead.
I knew all of this because I knew him. He ran a hand through his long dark hair and I gasped.
“I know, he’s scary looking, right?” George said from beside me.
Truthfully, I’d forgotten the other man was there. I’d forgotten everyone was there except him.
When the announcer said, “Good evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to the FANG event,” I had to look away.
Terry had come out of the back and was standing on my other side. He’d removed his hairnet and I did a double take. It had been a while since I’d seen his shaggy brown hair without the net.
“Hey,” he said, pointing at the screen, “didn’t you used to date him or something?”
Shit. That’s just all I needed, George knowing something about my personal life. I knew Terry enough to understand he didn’t mean any harm, but he might as well have hit me. It would have been less painful.
“You used to
George was looking at me now instead of the screen and his eyes were nearly bulging out of their sockets. I wanted to slap him.
“Mind your own business.”
About that time the bell rang and everyone’s attention was drawn back to the screen. The man across the ring from Nightmare threw back his head and howled. In an instant a werewolf stood before the six-foot-seven vampire.
One of the coolest things about Nightmare was not his undefeated streak, it was the fact that he’d never had to show his true form in the ring. All vampires, no matter how good they might look, do have a second form. For some it’s turning deathly pale (even more so than usual) and having glowing eyes. For others it’s stuff like sprouting wings and having even longer fangs. They’re stronger in their true form. But Nightmare had never had to use any of that stuff. The thing he did with his eyes was just for show. They were back to their natural pale green as soon as the match began. Other fighters, especially the werewolves, resented him for this reason. He was just a natural born badass.
I tried to watch the fight, but had to keep looking away. When I walked back to the kitchen, Terry followed.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he said. “But you guys did date, right? You have to admit, the prospect of knowing someone who dated Nightmare is pretty awesome.”
“His name is Marcus,” I said softly, before walking to the fridge and taking out a beer. I felt like I’d earned one.
I spent one night with Marcus and it had changed my life. All I was, all I’d ever be came into being in his arms that night. He was only the third man to ever touch my body. Never before had I truly given all I was, not even the first time. Not like this and not since.
I laid myself bare before him in so many ways. My body and soul were like an empty canvas. Like clay to be molded. He taught me things about myself I hadn’t known. And once known, some things cannot be forgotten. His memory burned within me, flaring painfully to life every time I heard his name.
After I took a few gulps of beer I realized Terry was still there. I also realized he looked unsure of what to say. His eyes offered an apology. He knew how much I hated nosy people like George knowing anything about me.
“We dated for about three months,” I answered finally.
“Wow. What happened? I mean, why did he dump you?”
“Motherfucker.” I laughed as I said this and tossed a tomato slice at Terry. “For your information
The look on his face said how truly baffled he was by my admission. “No shit? How come?”
He was killing me. But I took another sip of beer and a deep breath and told my friend the truth. “Because he was going to live forever … and I wasn’t.”
“Damn, that’s deep. Why not just enjoy the ride while it lasted?” Terry took another look at me and must have seen that I couldn’t answer. The emotions were still too raw, even after all this time. “You loved him, didn’t you?”
“B-but, he could have turned you or something.”
“No, he couldn’t. It’s part of his contract. He’s not allowed to turn others.”
We stood there in silence for a few minutes. Terry took a beer out of the fridge too and downed it in a couple of big gulps.
“Dawn, you and me, we’ve known each other since we were kids. How come you never told me about this?”
“Because it’s painful you dumbass,” Jamie said. She slapped Terry on the arm as she pushed past him and made her way toward me.
“I’m really sorry. When I heard a rumor that you two had dated—” He shrugged. “Hell, I just figured you hooked up one night or something. I had no idea you had feelings for the guy. That’s gotta suck.”
I laughed at the pun he didn’t realize he’d made.
“I won’t say anything,” he said very seriously. “If George asks about it later, I’ll say I made a mistake.”
I walked over and hugged him, the top of my head just barely reached his chest. “Thanks, Terry.”
“How long ago was this, anyway?”
“Seven years ago.”
“Seven years and you never said anything?”
He seemed hurt and I didn’t want that. Terry was like family to me.
“You were going through a divorce at the time. You had enough to deal with. By the time you got things straightened out it just never seemed like the right time to bring it up.”
He nodded. “I understand. Your secret is safe with me.”
I laughed softly. “It’s really not a secret, Terry. It’s just something I’d rather keep to myself.”
“Come on,” Jamie said, putting her arm around me. “I’ll follow you home.”
“You mean the fight is over? Did Nightmare win?” Terry asked.
“Of course he won.”
If it weren’t for his prosthetic leg, I think Terry might have danced a jig. “Holy shit. I just won five thousand dollars!”
Jamie laughed. “You said you quit gambling.”
“Don’t nag me, woman.” This was a common joke/argument with them. Terry turned to me then. “If you ever see him again, tell him thanks. I always win when I bet on Nightmare.”
By the time we walked back out front our two waitresses, Angie and Rachel, had the place mostly clean. There were still a few other people hanging around, talking about the fight. But, Our Place was officially closed for the night. George and a few other regulars were finishing their drinks before they left. Nightmare’s music was still playing and when I looked at the screen I got one last glimpse of him before he disappeared behind the heavy black curtain.
“Where the fuck is Earl?” Terry asked.
Earl is our dishwasher and he and Terry almost never get along. I could see him in the far corner of the room stacking up plates. His long blond ponytail was pulled back tightly and as usual he looked damn good in the jeans he was wearing.
“I’m out here collecting dishes. What did you think?” Earl shot back.
“You might as well be jerking off for all the help you’ve been tonight.”
“Terry,” Jamie scolded. “There are still other people here.”
“Fuck you,” Earl yelled.
“No, fuck you!”
She sighed. “Like I said, other people still here.”
It was no use. Those two just did not get along. But they did both work hard, despite what Terry might say about Earl or what Earl might say about Terry. Once the rest of the cleaning was finished and everyone else had gone, Jamie and I left Terry to lock up.
When Jamie offered to follow me home that normally meant she had a bottle of whiskey in her car and didn’t want to drink alone. That was fine with me. It had been a while since we had shared a drink together and I didn’t want to be alone either.
As soon as we stepped outside I was drenched. George hadn’t been kidding about that rain. Sure, I had an umbrella with me. In the car.
“I needed a bath anyway,” Jamie yelled above the downpour.
The drive home nearly put me to sleep. There is nothing quite like the gentle patter of rain when it comes to relaxing sounds. At least, that’s my opinion. The rain had gotten so heavy that I could barely see my mailbox at the end of the driveway. If I hadn’t been living there for a while now, I probably would have missed the turn.
Jamie had lived with me for years because the rent was cheap and easier to split between two people. The rent was so cheap because the old house was practically falling down. Well, it had been before I bought it from our landlady. I used the majority of my winnings to fix the place up while Jamie chose to buy a smaller house across town. It wasn’t that she didn’t like living with me, she was afraid of ghosts.
Since the house was built in the early 1900’s she was convinced that it was haunted. Every time the floor creaked or the roof settled a little bit she thought the dead were watching her. Needless to say, she bought a brand new house. She didn’t think it was possible for new places to have ghosts.
Honestly, I didn’t think my old house had anything in it besides a little bit of dust because I’d been too busy to give it a good cleaning lately. I had been in love with the house ever since I laid eyes on it, even when it was in complete disrepair. I’m not sure what architectural style you’d call it, but it is a two-story with three baths and four bedrooms. And thanks to me it now had a fresh coat of white paint and new green shutters.
Home looked particularly inviting on this drizzly night and I couldn’t wait to get inside. As I suspected, Jamie dashed through the rain carrying a brand new bottle of whiskey. Once we were inside we both kicked off our boots beside the door. I tossed my cowboy hat across the back of the sofa on my way through to the kitchen while Jamie hung hers on a coat rack.
The night was warm and I had no real desire to change out of my wet clothes just yet. Actually, it was kind of refreshing. It was only May the second and already I dreaded summer. Jamie sat at the kitchen table while I got out a couple of shot glasses and some beers.
She slammed back the first shot and made a face. “I’ve got to tell you something,” she said.
“Well, that sounds ominous.” I reached for the bottle and tried not to be uneasy. I hate it when people say things like, “I need to tell you something.”
“It’s not about either of us,” she added, taking a sip of beer.
“Then spill it, you’re making me nervous.”
“Fine. You remember Amanda? Used to work in a salon downtown? I think she went to school with you too, didn’t she?”
“Yeah, I remember Mandy. She moved several years ago. To Texas I think.”
Jamie downed another shot. “She’s back to visit family and friends. I saw her in town yesterday and she wants to have lunch with both of us tomorrow.”
I shrugged. “Well, that sounds like fun. What’s the problem?”
That was fine by me, but I could tell it bothered Jamie. “I don’t understand,” I said softly.
“It’s just another reminder that I’m getting older, I can’t find a decent man and I’ll probably never have any children.”
At this point she started to cry and put her head on the table. I reached over and put my arm around her. This wasn’t the first time we’d had this discussion either. It wasn’t something we sat around and talked about all the time. However, for someone who once made a living based on her looks, getting older weighed heavily on Jamie’s mind.
“I understand. Turning thirty last month was hard. It brought home the fact that I am no longer twenty-something … and I’m alone. I don’t know of a way to be with the only man I’ve ever loved and I can’t stop comparing everyone I date to him.” I sighed and Jamie lifted up to put her head on my shoulder. “I don’t think I’m old and I don’t think you’re old. I just think it’s time I made a decision of some sort. Maybe you should do the same.”
She sniffed and went back to pouring another shot. “What kind of a decision are you trying to make?”
“I’ve got to find someone who can make me forget Marcus and make a life with them.”
“Or?” she prompted.
I reached for the bottle and poured myself another shot. “I’m not ready for that part yet.”
“Do you want kids?” she asked.
It just occurred to me that in the nine years we had known each other I had never answered that question. I was well acquainted with what Jamie wanted out of life, but she’d never asked if I wanted kids before and I never felt the need to discuss it. Maybe that was because I wasn’t sure.
I shrugged. “I thought I did. At one time I wanted it all, nice house, sexy husband, a dog, and a couple of kids.”
“We’ve got that one stray cat that keeps hanging around the bar,” she teased.
“You’re an ass.” I laughed at her words, but still confessed, “That was part of the reason I decided to break things off with Marcus. The undead cannot create life. I thought that life
kids and the whole lot – was what I wanted.”
She took a minute, seemingly to digest what I’d just said. “And what do you want now?”
I reached over and took the whiskey bottle from her again. “The hell if I know.”
Jamie laughed. “Yeah, turning thirty will do that to you.”
“Shut up. Thirty is not old.”
“Of course not. It’s just like you said, time to figure out what I’m doing.”
That wasn’t exactly what I said, but it was close enough.
“You know, I never asked this before because I knew it was a painful subject.” She paused. “But what is it about Marcus that you can’t seem to get over? I mean, it’s been seven years, Dawn. Seven years that I know you’ve slept with other men because I’ve met some of them. Did they just not do it for you? Were their dicks not big enough? What?”
I laughed a little, but still answered, “You’re right, it is a painful subject.”
“Does that mean you aren’t going to answer me?”
“It means I’m not drunk enough yet. Find us some music to listen to and hand me that bottle. It’s been a long time since I got drunk and it’s been even longer since I talked about Marcus. If you want to hear how I feel, stick around.”
An hour and a half pint of whiskey later, we got back to the subject. My hair was almost dry and I thought about going upstairs and braiding it. But, the look from Jamie said she was ready for an answer.
“Are you drunk enough to talk about Marcus yet, because I’m drunk enough to hear it? Much more of this,” she said, pointing at the whiskey,” and I’ll end up asleep on your couch.”
I sighed. “Sure, why not?”
Jamie propped against the kitchen counter where I was standing and took my hand.
“I understand why it’s hard, you know. If it didn’t matter, then you’d talk about it all the time.”
She was right. Jamie knew Marcus and I dated. And she knew when we stopped seeing each other. What she didn’t know was how serious things had been. To be quite honest, I’d tried to hide it, even from her. If I talked about our relationship it seemed to make the loss more real. But if I kept it to myself, then no one knew I had lost anything. At least, that made sense to me.
But, talking to Jamie wasn’t like telling some random person. I trusted her and it was time I spilled it all to somebody. As a matter of fact, she was the reason Marcus and I met in the first place.
When Jamie and I first moved in together she figured out in a hurry that I was a huge P.F.C. fan. I never missed a fight. Once I forced her to watch a few shows with me, she started to get into it too. For my twenty-third birthday not only did she get us into the show, she got us a job working the ticket booth. It was better than just watching the show because you got to meet some of the talent. (I learned from Marcus that that’s what people in the business called the fighters.)
She also knew of my huge crush on Nightmare a.k.a. Marcus, because by this time she had noticed how much I drooled every time I watched him. I started watching P.F.C. fights when I was a kid. Actually, the company started doing shows when I was three years old. By the time I was four, they had already recruited the best professional wrestler in the game, Marcus, who was even then known as Nightmare.
Sometime around the age of sixteen I developed a taste for tall, dark, and sexy. Most people were intimidated by the fact that he was six-foot-seven and heavily muscled. But I’m not most people. Everything about him turns me on. Besides, he’s a really nice guy. Of course, no one outside of the business knows that except for a handful of people. Even if things didn’t work out between us, I felt fortunate to know the real him.
But back to my point. Thanks to Jamie, I got to meet Nightmare. Actually, that part was kind of an accident. The show was almost over and I was trying to find the bathroom. I have a horrible sense of direction to begin with and the crowd that was already gathering in some of the hallways didn’t help. I got lost in the arena and when I turned a corner too fast, ran right smack into him. My head bounced off his bare stomach and I would have fallen if he hadn’t caught me.
When I realized whose body I was pressed against my heart fluttered so hard that I felt faint.
“Excuse me,” I said breathlessly.
He smiled down at me and I knew I was lost. He had green eyes like no one else and a thin goatee that surrounded his mouth, adding to the sensual appeal of his lips.
“You all right there darlin’?”
He had the sexiest voice I had ever heard. It was deep and rough. And the way he spoke was slow, sultry and … southern? I’d never noticed his accent before because Nightmare only ever uttered a few words on camera. Mostly they were threats to other fighters.
“I think I’m um …” I could feel my face burning. I wanted to lose myself inside the robe he was wearing. Here I was finally getting to meet the man I had lusted after for so long and I could barely speak. I laughed and his smile widened. “I think I’m blushing.”
He took a step back, but didn’t release me. His eyes sparkled and my stomach did a little flip-flop. “So, you are. Anything I can do?”
I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. “No, it’s everything you’ve already done.”
He raised a brow. The effect was striking.
“My name is Dawn. I worked the ticket booth tonight and I’m a fan of yours. Have been for a long time.”
I stuck out my hand for him to shake. When he kissed it instead I almost peed in my pants.
“I had no idea my fans were so attractive.”
My laughter sounded nervous, even to my own ears.
He leaned forward and put his arm around me, taking me underneath the robe and against his side. I couldn’t believe this was really happening.
“Tell me, what brings you back here?”
I wanted to ask him the same thing. I couldn’t have wandered into the backstage area because that was guarded by security. So, what was he doing wherever the hell I was? And where did everyone else go?
“I’m lost actually. I was trying to find the restroom.”
“It’s this way,” he said, continuing to lead me down the hall.
As we walked I kept stealing glances up at him. In reality, he was only a few inches taller than Terry, but it seemed like much more. Maybe it was because he stood up straighter? Or maybe he was just so much larger than life to me.
“The bathrooms here are really terrible,” he said.
“The bathrooms, they’re not that great.”
I wanted to laugh. How did I end up discussing public bathrooms with my favorite wrestler? “Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got to go.”
“How about I let you use the one in my dressing room?”
There went my heart, fluttering like a trapped butterfly again. “All right.”
“That is of course, if you’ll go out with me tomorrow night?”
I crossed my arms and paused to look up at him. “Would you really make me use the other one if I said no?”
He laughed and the sound poured over me like liquid velvet. Was that part of his vampire powers or just his natural sexy way? I never got around to asking him.
“Of course not.”
He led me to the opposite side of the arena and right past security. My heart was working overtime. Here I was tucked underneath the arm of a superstar like Nightmare and being walked through the backstage area like it was perfectly normal. Maybe it was. Maybe he took women back here all the time. But even as the thought crossed my mind I saw the way some of the staff looked at me and decided that wasn’t so. Whatever this gesture was, it was not normal for Nightmare.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a seven-foot werewolf approaching and almost didn’t need the bathroom anymore. Without realizing what I was doing I moved closer and hid myself underneath Nightmare’s heavy black robe. About that time the werewolf slapped Nightmare on the shoulder.
“You knocked out my back teeth,” he growled.
Nightmare winced, showing a little bit of fang in the process. Why was that so sexy to me?
“Sorry about that.”
It took me a second or two to get past his bloody mouth and realize that the werewolf was smiling and not bearing his teeth.
“It will take me a week to grow that shit back,” he complained.
“I guess this means you don’t want to go out for steak tonight?” Nightmare asked.
The smile I had was involuntary as I listened. I never knew he had a sense of humor. It was odd to have watched someone for years and realize that I really knew nothing about him. It was also wonderful to see him smile.
The werewolf’s laugh was closer to a bark. “Smart ass.” It was then that he noticed me, hiding against the vampire’s side. “And who is this?”
Hearing him say my name gave me such a thrill. As he introduced me, the werewolf changed back to human form before my eyes. His transformation was much less theatrical than when he was in the ring and quite smooth. It was like watching special effects in a movie, except it was real and it was right in front of me.
“Dawn, this is Hellacious Harry.”
The man standing before me was tall, blond, and completely naked. The torn jeans he was wearing fell off when he transformed. Even though he was still a big man, his waist was much slimmer as a human. Obviously, this had happened before because he seemed completely unfazed. He reached to shake my hand and my smile widened.
“Nice to meet you, Dawn.”
“If you’ll excuse us, Harry, we were going somewhere.” He paused and gave the werewolf an evil grin. “And you need to put on some pants.”
Nightmare tightened his grip around my shoulders and continued down the hallway.
“Here we are,” he said. “I’ll wait here.” He opened the door and ushered me inside. “Bathroom’s to the left.”
I’m not sure what I had been expecting, but his dressing room was nice. It looked more like something you’d expect to see in a theatre than in a wrestling arena. I suppose I was envisioning a sweaty locker room or something along those lines. There was a small vanity table in the corner with lots of lights and makeup. I couldn’t imagine Nightmare sitting in the dainty chair and almost laughed at the thought. There was also a rack of costumes along the side of the wall and a red sofa near the back. And of course, there were lockers.
I headed to the left, past the shower stalls and found the bathroom, which I was relieved to see was clean. By suggesting that the other bathrooms were dirty, Nightmare had unknowingly hit on one of my biggest fears. Stupid as it may sound I actually have a fear of dirty public restrooms.
I tried to make things quick so he wouldn’t think I was snooping around in his dressing room. When I walked back out into the hall he was waiting for me. I’m sure that with his vampire senses he knew I was there. However, when he didn’t immediately look my way I took the opportunity to drink in the sight of him. His long legs weren’t covered in their usual black spandex. Instead he was wearing what looked like black silk pajama pants with a drawstring at the waist. The cloak he wore was one he had used in his act a few times. It was black with red embroidery with some sort of ruffled fringe along the edges. It was also ankle length, which meant I could have used it as a blanket.
“The show is over,” he reported smoothly. “I hope you weren’t really interested in the last match.”
I shrugged. “Not really. I’d rather be here.” Damn, had I really said that out loud?
“So, I take it I’ll see you tomorrow?”
He laughed again and the sound did things to me I can’t explain.
“Can I walk you to your car?”
I paused and gave him a skeptical look. “You’re really going to walk outside with all the fans and paparazzi, just to walk me to my car?”
His grin was devilish. “If you want you can pretend to be my prisoner. With the character I play, I’m sure it could be worked into the storyline.”
It was difficult at first to reconcile the charming vamp in front of me to the dark and frightening persona of Nightmare. I had always known that P.F.C. was scripted, but right then I understood just how much.
“How about you walk me to the door? It’s not that I wouldn’t love to be seen with you, but I don’t think you realize what a huge crowd is out there tonight. I’d be mangled just for standing beside you.”
He leaned closer toward me, still propping against the wall. The movement was surprisingly graceful for someone his size and terribly sexy.
“Do you really think I’d let anyone mangle you?”
No, I didn’t. The look in his eyes said he would do anything to protect me and that in itself caused me concern. As much as I had wanted for this to happen, we had just met. Why would he be willing to risk his safety and possibly breaking character in public for me?
“I’d rather not take a chance.”
He shrugged. “Have it your way.”
As we walked toward the backstage exit he told me they were thinking about having him in a handicap match against six other vampires. The match ended up being a success, but at the time had never been done before.
“Two of them are undefeated. So, since you’re a fan tell me, what do you think?”
“You’re a dead man.”
He gestured to his fangs and said with a laugh, “Obviously.”
I think that was the moment I fell in love with him. But if not, then surely it was the one that immediately followed. He pulled me against him and as he leaned in close I realized he was going to kiss me. My body and my heart were completely unprepared. He touched my face lightly, tracing the line of my jaw as he bent over me. As he did this his hair spilled forward. I can still remember the smell of his shampoo and thinking that he must have already showered after his match because he smelled so good.
He moved his hand to the back of my neck, gently cradling my head as he whispered, “My name is Marcus,” against my lips. And then he kissed me. His lips were soft against mine, not demanding much, but offering many things. I wrapped my arms around his neck, bringing my body flat against his. I had wanted this for so long and now, I didn’t know how to react. To feel his body against mine was beyond arousing. A fire coursed through me, awakening something deep within, a yearning that has only been fulfilled in his arms. I opened my mouth wider, inviting him to deepen the kiss and as he accepted this invitation my hand slid down over his chest. There was no heartbeat. It was this that made me withdraw. But that didn’t mean I hadn’t enjoyed myself. To this day I remain convinced that Marcus’ kiss should be listed among the seven deadly sins.