Exclusive Excerpt From “Blacker Than Black”
The following is a T2B exclusive excerpt that picks up where Riptide’s expanded excerpt leaves off. Be sure to go read it, here, if you haven’t already!
Chapter Seven: Moving Up in the World
The chauffeur is a mute presence on the drive to our new accommodations. It’s no different than the other times I’ve been in this limousine. Even Muscle is present, a monolith, no doubt to protect Garthelle’s interests. I suddenly wonder if the vampire has a link with the man that permits him to see and hear everything.
The prospect, though preposterous and illogical, keeps my lips sealed shut. Jhez must have similar suspicions because she’s quiet for the entire trip as well. She throws a few narrow-eyed glares at Muscle, but they seem to bounce off the man.
I don’t need to find something to occupy my thoughts, though; the tension in my chest is persistent. I hope the vampire fights this same annoyingly insane craving for proximity, suffers the same intensity that I do.
As the vehicle slows, I peer through the tinted window and poke at the easing tension in my chest. Still uncomfortable, but not nearly so bad. Perhaps that was his prime instigation in relocating us; a lesser distance from his flat would increase his comfort level. And mine, to some degree. But I doubt our comfort played a role, aside from the leverage it gave in negotiating.
When the chauffeur opens the door, I step out onto the sidewalk and turn to look up at the looming structure. An apartment complex in a very upscale, quiet area of the metro. Nicer than anything Jhez and I have seen since our childhood home. No debris gathered along the leeward side of the alleys. No weeds thrusting up through the grooves in the concrete. No graffiti murals adding a splash of color and life. It feels almost . . . sterile.
Movement from up the walk snags my eye and I discover why the tension I feel has lessened.
Garthelle is here. His gaze holds mine as he halts a few paces away. “Good morning, Jhez.” My sister nudges me with her shoulder and I sidle away from the door.
“Garthelle.” She doesn’t sound happy at all. “I wasn’t expecting you to meet us.”
A faint smile curves his lips but his attention doesn’t waver from mine. I can’t look away and I don’t understand why. Part of me wants to, desperately, in a vain hope of breaking his pull on me.
The vampire’s nostrils flare slightly, and at last, his gaze diverts. “I’m the one with the key. And I thought it would only be appropriate for me to show you around.”
Both excuses, just that. I can feel the frailty of the truth in his words as I stare at him, energy thrumming in my veins.
Jhez grunts and shoves my duffel bag against my chest. I grab it reflexively, blinking at her, and all she does is frown.
I can’t possibly begin to explain to her what my problem is. With a shrug, I follow after Garthelle. Though the security measures are nothing like the ones in the building where his flat is, there’s a manned desk. The uniformed guard nods to Garthelle when he walks past to the lifts.
On the second floor, he navigates the corridor with a fluid stride, trench coat swirling and billowing in his wake, and I ponder what the nature of his job is within the vampire community. Um, lyche community. His lithe grace reminds me of some exotic predator. I can’t think of a single vampire that doesn’t possess a similar quality to some degree. But something feels different with him. More . . . saturated? I tilt my head a fraction, slowing my pace, to watch his movements more closely. Ingrained.
Jhez bumps into my back, mutters something, and shoulders me as she walks past. Her aura tangles with mine along the edges, concerned, confused. But still very, very irritated with this unexpected, and unwanted, turn of events.
Garthelle stops before a door along the outer edge of the edifice; the large panes of glass in the nearby wall are tinted, and the morning sun creates an eerie halo around his silhouette. After unlocking the door, he pushes it open and stands aside, motioning for Jhez to precede him with a stiff, fleeting smile. Jhez scowls in response before stalking into the flat.
Garthelle catches my gaze as I follow and his yellow eyes make my stride falter. There is something toxic in his attitude, a residue I recall too vividly from that first evening. His words start to filter through my head. He thinks us criminals. And yet, I’m almost totally convinced he set out to manipulate us into this situation.
I just can’t figure out why.
The next john will drain you dry.
Is it possible the vampires of the metro are that angry about our wealth of “crimes”? I find that hard to believe. Jhez and I, we’ve been doing this for years now. Close to two decades. And this is the first hint of even so much as a whisper that what we do is theft. Hell, I have some regulars that come find me at least once a month. And I pull the same stunt with them every time.
He fiddles with the key, long fingers flipping it incessantly. Finally he extends the ring to me. “Two copies, one for each of you.”
“Why are you doing this?” I really want to know. Chi-thieves on display for the benefit of his distinguished guests? I can’t buy that, unless he’s that desperate to save face.
His yellow gaze widens, flicks over my features as if trying to read what I’m not saying. Then he relaxes and smiles away the question as he leans in toward me. “I have my reasons.”
When I frown, the vampire reaches out and propels me past him with a hand planted on my back. “A vague question permits a vague answer, wouldn’t you say?” He whispers in my ear from behind, his breath against my skin triggering a shudder.
I move away from him, his hand, and into the apartment. Infuriating vampire, playing with me like that. Never mind that his point is valid.
Don’t forget to leave a comment with your email address to enter the drawings! Look the follow-up excerpt that picks up where this one leaves off, tomorrow on Ren Thompson’s blog (http://renthompsonishere.blogspot.com). Or, if you can’t wait, get your own copy of “Blacker Than Black” over here at Riptide.
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