Blood Rising: a Fallen From Grace novel
Before the Sun Rises – Book 4
Copyright 2017 Nicola C. Matthews
All Rights Reserved
“And, and you know what – what else?” he asked, his words slurred slightly as he sat swaying in his chair.
Aleria looked over at Gnash, the leader of the Fallen From Grace coven and master vampire of the city. He had been a regular at the Leather and Lace Gentleman’s Club for the past two years, maybe longer. He was there every Friday and Saturday night during her regular shift, from sundown until just past three in the morning, a few short hours before dawn. He always sat on the same stool, wearing the same leather jacket, jeans, and black shirt, his shoulder-length straight black hair half-heartedly pulled back away from his face.
The longer he sat on his stool, the drunker he got, which was the whole reason he was there. In the past few years, they had talked about a great many things – her life, his life, her goals, history, music, politics, and any and everything else which popped into their heads. The drunker he got, the more he talked, and the funnier he got. They had become pretty close, and she had her suspicions a less-than-ideal home life was the driving force behind his consistently more frequent visits in recent years.
“Gnash, darlin’, don’t you think it’s about time you headed to your coffin?” she asked as she wiped down the bar. It was nearly four in the morning, well past Gnash’s usual self-imposed cutoff time. The place was empty of vampires, fang whores, and the usual vampire club Goth kids, the last few incapacitated humans being roused from their fang-gasm induced slumber and dropped into the club’s own personal cab service.
She glanced over at the manager as he hefted a young man from one of the corner booths, her bright blue eyes drawn to the movement more so than anything else. The young man’s glazed-over eyes caught her own, and he sobered up just enough to wave. She tried not to smile. It seemed no matter where she went, if there was a supernatural in the area they were going to find her. Vampire, werewolf, it mattered not. They all seemed drawn to her like a moth to a flame.
“Nope,” Gnash said in answer to her question, the word slurred as his body tilted so far to the left she thought for sure he was going to fall right off his stool. “I’m gonna, gonna stay right here until I finish this drink, and then, then I’m gonna …” his words trailed off as he glanced down at the empty glass sitting in front of him. “Who the fuck drank my Black Leather?”
Aleria snorted, grinning at him as she shoved a stray piece of hair out of her face. “You did, G, about fifteen minutes ago.”
He looked at her, his dark brown eyes taking in the strawberry-blonde hair which was barely still held in its elastic band, the tendrils outlining her heart-shaped face like a halo. She was wearing the same black shirt she always wore, with the little “L&L” embroidered on the left shoulder, her light skin and hair a stark contrast.
“Damn,” he muttered before he hiccupped rather loudly. “Guess my blood-to-alcohol level … finally, finally … tipped over in favor of the sauce, huh?”
She giggled as she took his glass and tossed it in with the other dirty glasses. “You gonna be ok to get back to the coven?” she asked as she began cleaning up the bar in earnest. “I can get you a cab if you need it. It’s only about an hour until sun-up. Don’t want you getting your ass-cheeks toasted.”
He sighed as stood up, grabbing hold of the edge of the bar to steady himself. She eyed him suspiciously. “You know we got a few coffins down in the cellar in case of emergencies.”
He shook his head as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a few twenties. “Yeah, I’ll be fine, but thanks. This shit wears off entirely too quickly. Guess it just comes with age.”
“Guess so,” she said as she watched him lay out three twenty-dollar bills. “You know your money is no good here, Gnash,” she said as she shoved the wad of cash back across the bar.
“Yeah, I know. It’s not for the drinks, it’s a tip for you having to put up with my drunk ass all weekend.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know I have to share my tips with all the rest of the shitty staff around here, right?”
He took the bills and rolled them up, leaning over the bar and covertly stuffing them into the front pocket of her jeans. “Then don’t tell anyone, ‘kay?” he asked as gave her a wink.
She shook her head as she laughed. She wasn’t sure how many times he had slipped a twenty into her jeans pocket over the years, but she was very grateful. If it hadn’t been for him, there were plenty of times she would have gone hungry. The job didn’t pay too damn well, and since she was forced to share her tips with literally everyone else on staff, it didn’t take long for the really good tips she earned from some of the vampires to wind up in the other staffs’ pockets, leaving her virtually empty-handed at the end of her shifts. Gnash was the only one who knew she was forced to share her tips and started sneaking them into her pants pocket every chance he got.
“See ya around, kiddo,” he said as he turned to leave. “Stay outta trouble.”
“You too, G. Good night,” she said as she waved, watching him stagger down the steps toward the exit.
She sighed as she looked around the bar. With the exception of the dirty glasses, she was done for the evening. She picked up the heavy plastic flat and hauled it back to the kitchen. She debated on just leaving it for the kitchen staff, but thought better of it. Last time she did that she ended up getting her ass chewed out for not ‘pulling her weight.’ Sighing, she loaded down one of the heavy-duty dishwashers and clocked out for the evening, yawning as she flung open the back door.
She stopped for a few seconds and stretched, letting the cool breeze wash over her skin. She could already feel the slight difference in the temperature change, the coolness of the night giving way to the warmer patches of pre-dawn air. She yawned again as she shoved her hands into her pockets, walking slowly down the back alley toward her small apartment two streets over from the club. She whistled quietly to herself, enjoying the short walk. She really loved this time of day. She thought maybe she would climb the fire escape to the roof when she got home and watch the sun rise as she oftentimes did.
She heard the sound of shuffling feet and raised voices as she rounded the corner of the building. She stopped, staring in disbelief at the scene playing out inside the small back alleyway. She could see him, Gnash, half-collapsed over the side of a garbage dumpster, his body limp and flopping around like a rag doll as he tried to right himself, two unknown figures standing to one side. His head was bleeding, his shoulder length black hair matted on one side where his skull was caved in slightly, the white of his skull looking very out-of-place amongst the dark hair and red blood. He was struggling to get his feet back under him, his impaired balance putting him at a great disadvantage as the other two vampires closed in on him.
Aleria didn’t think, she only reacted. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out the small can of vampire mace she carried on her at all times. It was the one thing Gnash himself insisted she always have with her while working at the club. Safety, above all else. She had never had reason to use it – until now. She rolled back the safety lever on the small hand-held can, simultaneously bending down to scoop up a large chunk of brick as she walked toward the three of them.
“Hey!” she yelled as she came upon the two vampiric vultures hovering over Gnash, their backs to her. One of them turned, and she swung her arm as hard as she could. The brick contacting with the vampire’s skull made a sickening, crunching sound, the thought of what she had just done making her so sick to her stomach she thought she might vomit. The kickback vibrations from the blow traveled up her arm in record time, the pain so severe she screamed as the brick went flying out of her hand. She cradled the injured arm against her chest, watching the vampire as she took a precautionary step backward. He didn’t make a sound as he crumpled to the ground. The other vampire turned just as she straightened up, her body pivoting as she depressed the button on her can of mace, aiming right for the guy’s eyes.
The sickly smell of rancid butter and garlic hit her nose as the fine mist flooded the other vampire’s orbital sockets, the allergic reaction instantaneous as his eyes immediately grew red and swelled shut. He screamed, his fingernails clawing at this face as the combination of concentrated garlic oil and silver nitride burned his corneas. He stumbled back, falling to the ground next to his friend and thrashed about on the ground as he howled in agony.
She wrapped her good arm around Gnash’s waist, bracing herself against the dumpster. She pulled at him, trying to help him back to his feet as he mumbled incoherently. A second later she felt a cold, heavy hand on her shoulder, the nails digging into her flesh as she was pulled back so quickly she had time to do little more than gasp. She felt herself rushing through the air, as if she was flying, and then the pain engulfed her neck like a white-hot branding iron. She tried to scream, but the arms around her waist were crushing the air right out of her.
She could smell the metallic scent of his blood. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew the vampire she thought she had knocked out cold had bitten straight into her jugular. There was no escaping him, his bite, or what he was about to do. His hand grasped the waistband of her jeans, popping the button off and ripping the fabric as if it were nothing more than paper as he shoved the cloth down around her upper thighs. He bent her over slightly, all of this happening in less time it took her to blink. The realization he was fucking her barely had time to register in her muddled mind as he hammered into her, over and over again, his cock harder than steel as he sucked the life right out of her.