Originally published on Literary Escapism on September 29, 2012.
There's a character interview that prefaces this a bit. If you'd like to read it first,
it's the Holiday Shopping With an Immortal interview with Roland and Sarah.
After another long night of hunting psychotic vampires, several immortals and their mortal Seconds, or guards, gathered as they often did at the home of David, one of the eldest and most powerful Immortal Guardians in the world. Sparring sounds wafted up from the large training room in the basement and warred with the large screen television at one end of the living room.
Sarah Warbrook, formerly Sarah Bingham, watched the men and women lounging on the sofas as they chatted and jested with each other. Her prey had not arrived yet. If he didn't come soon . . .
The front door swung open. Marcus Grayden, a nearly nine-hundred-year-old immortal strode inside, his long black coat and black shirt splattered with blood.
The others called out a greeting.
"Psst," Sarah hissed.
Stopping short, he turned toward her and raised his eyebrows. "Hi, Sarah. What's up?"
She waved him over. "We need to talk. Fast. While Roland is down in the quiet room, showering, and can't hear us."
This man had known her husband for over eight hundred years and was like a brother to him. He better than anyone would understand her dilemma.
She drew in a deep breath, then blurted the horrible news. "Roland wants to take me to my high school reunion."
He stared at her for a full minute without blinking.
"Hold that thought." He strode past her into the kitchen.
Sarah watched him open the refrigerator door, draw out a bottle of tea, and return to stand before her.
"Okay," he directed, opening the lid. "Say that again." Tilting his head back, he partook of the tasty liquid.
"Roland wants to take me to my high school reunion."
Marcus spewed tea in what even Sarah had to admit was a truly impressive spit take.
She eyed him balefully.
Marcus shrugged. "I thought it the most appropriate response."
"Dude," Darnell called from the living room, "I'm not cleaning that up."
Sarah ignored him. "Marcus, this is serious."
"Hell, yes, this is serious. Remember what happened when you took him Christmas shopping?"
"What happened when you took him Christmas shopping?" Tracy called.
Marcus turned to her. "He flashed his fangs and glowing eyes and threw a guy across a toy store. In front of children."
Several laughed and shook their heads.
"The children weren't scared," Sarah hastened to mention. "They thought it was cool. It was the parents who freaked out."
"Why'd he do it?" Tracy asked with a grin.
"Because the guy bumped into her," Marcus replied drolly.
Sarah rubbed her forehead as it began to pound. "That guy didn't even know me, Marcus. What do you think Roland is going to do when he comes face to face with one of my old boyfriends. Or if someone makes some snide remark to me?"
Darnell whistled. "It'd be like prom night in Stephen King's Carrie."
"Exactly. So, Marcus, I need you to talk him out of it."
"What put the fool idea into his head in the first place?"
"You did," she accused and motioned to the others. "All of you did. If you didn't razz him so much about being antisocial, he wouldn't insist on taking me so I wouldn't miss out on whatever it is he thinks I'll miss out on if I don't go."
Marcus frowned. "Do you want to go?"
"Of course not. I don't want to see any of those people again. You know what my teen years were like. My mom was always borrowing my clothes and hitting on my boyfriends. It was humiliating."
"Then tell him you don't want to go."
"I did! Thanks to you guys, he thinks I'm just saying that because I think he doesn't want to go."
"Well," Tracy said, "it would be totally cool to show up at your reunion with a six-foot-two-inch tall, well-muscled, gorgeous immortal warrior who hunts vampires for a living on your arm. I mean, seriously, who could top that?"
Sarah sighed. "You aren't helping, Tracy."
Marcus pursed his lips. "We could round up a dozen or so vampires and sick them on him."
"Really? That's the best you can do?"
Sarah heard the door to the quiet room open down below. A moment later, her husband strolled into the room, hair still damp, looking irresistibly handsome.
He crossed to her side. "Hello, sweetheart." He gave her a brief kiss. "Marcus. How was tonight's hunt?"
"Same old same old."
He nodded, belatedly noticing that every eye in the room was trained upon him. "What's up?"
Marcus cleared his throat. "You can't take Sarah to her high school reunion."
Roland glanced at Sarah.
Shrugging, she gave him an innocent I-don't-know-how-he-heard-about-it look.
"Why not? High school reunions are important gatherings in the mortal world."
"Because you'll kill any guy who hits on her," Marcus pointed out.
Tracy held up a hand. "Or you'll kill anyone who says anything snarky to her."
Darnell nodded. "Or you'll kill anyone who accidentally bumps into her."
Marcus shrugged. "The bottom line is you'll kill someone."
Roland scowled at them. "Oh, come on. You're exaggerating. I wouldn't kill them. I'd just . . . maim them a little bit."
"What? I'm supposed to just let them get away with it?"
"Sweetie," Sarah said gently, "you know I can take care of myself."
He sent her a sensual smile. "I know. I love that about you. But protecting you is a knee-jerk reaction."
Marcus drew out his cell. "I know what to do." After dialing, he held it to his ear. "Seth?"
Sarah bit her lip. Seth was the exceedingly powerful leader of the Immortal Guardians.
"Just thought you might like to know that Roland is planning to take Sarah to her high school reunion."
Seth appeared out of thin air beside Marcus, a look of utter disbelief on his handsome features as he stared down at them. "The hell you are. After what happened when she took you Christmas shopping?"
Roland opened his mouth to protest.
Seth pointed at him. "No. Absolutely not. I have too much on my plate right now to have to stop and erase a gymnasium full of people's memories because you can't keep a cool head. Besides, Sarah doesn't want to go."
Roland frowned at her. "Because of me, right?"
"No," she insisted again. "Because high school sucked and I'd rather spend that night doing anything else with you."
His lips tilted up. "Anything else can cover a lot of ground."
She grinned. "Yes, it can."
He looped an arm around her waist and pressed a kiss to her neck just behind one ear. "All right. We won't go."
"You see?" Marcus said smugly. "Crisis averted."
Seth shook his head. "I'm out."
Originally published on Paranormal Haven on May 7, 2013.
When I wrote it, I imagined it taking place early in In Still Darkness,
my novella in the Predatory anthology.
A shadow among shadows, Richart watched Jenna stride through the darkened parking lot toward the store, preparing to embark upon yet another grueling nightshift. Though petite, she moved with long, confident strides that swiftly ate up the cracked and stained asphalt and made it nearly impossible for him to drag his gaze away from her shapely form. Her head swiveled from side to side as she kept an eye on her surroundings, allowing him brief glimpses of her face.
His own eyes, preternaturally sharp, searched for but found no threats lurking tonight.
Oblivious to his presence, Jenna disappeared through the front doors. He smiled as he heard her greet her friend Debbie, laughed at the joke she cracked and Debbie's witty rejoinder.
Monster by Skillet split the night, driving him to retrieve his cell phone and answer a call from he glanced at the screen his Second. "Yes?"
"Code blue! Code blue!" came Sheldon's urgent greeting.
"Code blue! Code blue! Or code red! Wait. Which one is it if it's an emergency?"
Richart groaned. "What have you done now? I thought you were out on a date."
"I was," Sheldon said, the panic in his voice temporarily giving way to disgruntlement, "but she bailed on me as soon as she saw I was taking her to a carnival."
Richart frowned. "Why? I thought women liked that sort of thing." And he knew Sheldon had really been looking forward to tonight, yet another first date. The boy couldn't seem to land a second. Not that Richart could talk.
"I did, too. I mean, how many times have we seen couples make-out on carnival rides in chick flicks?"
"Too many times to count," Richart responded dryly. "Did your date leave before or after you tried to grope her on the ferris wheel?"
"We didn't make it to the ferris wheel. We didn't make it through the gates. Apparently she thinks carnivals are for kids and that they're juvenile and . . . I can't remember the other big word she used. The bottom line is they aren't sophisticated enough for her."
Richart pursed his lips. "If she wanted someone sophisticated, why did she agree to go out with you?"
"Oh, ha, ha, ha. I can be sophisticated when I want to be. Wasn't I the one who"
"Sheldon?" Richart interrupted.
"Weren't you calling about some kind of emergency?"
"Oh, crap! Right! Code blue! Code"
"Just tell me what it is!" Richart snapped, then counted to ten.
"Right. I need you to meet me in the Tunnel of Love."
Richart remained silent for a long moment. "Seriously?"
"Do I even want to know what you're doing in there?" Richart asked.
"Nothing pervy!" Sheldon instantly denied. "I followed some vamps in here and have them cornered.
Alarm rose. "You what?"
"They were hunting a human couple drunk, easy prey, you know how it goes so I followed them in and . . . intervened before they could attack."
"Damn it, Sheldon. You know Seconds aren't supposed to actively hunt vampires on your own! You don't have their speed or strength or"
"What else was I supposed to do? I knew you were busy stalking Jenna and didn't want to interrupt."
Richart ground his teeth. "I'm not stalking her. I'm watching over her."
"Whatever you say, man."
"Where is the carnival located?"
Sheldon told him.
Richart's surroundings disappeared. First darkness, then the outskirts of the carnival grounds replaced them as he teleported. Four feet away from him, a woman stood with her head down, texting away on a cell phone. The toddler clutching her hand, stared up at Richart with wide eyes and gaping mouth as pink cotton candy melted on his tongue.
A hasty glance around confirmed that no one else had noticed his sudden appearance. Relieved, Richart offered the boy a smile and a wink, then strode through the gates and began to search for the Tunnel of Love.
"How many are we talking?" he asked Sheldon.
That Sheldon, a human who lacked their preternatural speed and strength, had gotten the best of even one vampire was impressive, particularly since he was likely unarmed.
"Where are they? What are they doing?" Relief suffused Richart as he finally spotted the Tunnel of Love, it's exterior as gaudy as he had feared it would be.
"I sort of immobilized them," Sheldon said uneasily. "But I don't think it's gonna hold much longer, so you might want to haul a" A crash sounded. "Oh, crap." Click.
Screams erupted from the tacky tunnel.
Groaning, Richart pocketed his phone and raced forward.
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