Lover Unveiled Page 2

“I love you, I fucking love you,” he grunted.

He was so into his girl, so into the coming, so into the feel of her coming with him . . . that he didn’t notice who was watching them from the shadows about twenty feet away.

If he had, he would have packed up his true love and his crew, and left rubber on the road as he got the fuck out of the parking garage.

Most of destiny was on a need-to-know basis, however.

And sometimes, it was best that you didn’t get a heads-up on the inevitable that had your name on it.

Way too fucking horrifying.

2464 Crandall Avenue

Eleven Miles from Downtown

Mae, blooded daughter of Sturt, blooded sister of Rhoger, pulled on her coat and couldn’t find her purse. The little ranch didn’t offer a lot of hidey-holes, and she found the thing—with her keys, bonus—on the washer by the door out into the garage. Oh, right. She’d brought in her necessaries the night before and had lost control of so many bags. Her purse had thrown up on the tile floor, and she’d only had the energy to put the Humpty back in her Dumpty. Carrying the Michael Kors knockoff into the kitchen had just been too much.

The lid of the Maytag was as far as she’d gotten.

Grabbing the thing, she checked that the broken strap was still hanging on by the safety pin jury-rig she’d managed. Yup. Good to go. She supposed she could head to T.J.Maxx and buy a replacement, but who had time for that. Besides, “Waste not, want not” had always been the mantra in her family’s household.

Back when their parents had still been alive.

“Phone. Need my . . .”

She found the iPhone 6 in the pocket of her jeans. Her last double check? The mace canister she always had with her.

Pausing by the back door, she listened to all the quiet.

“I won’t be gone long,” she called out. Silence. “I’ll be right back.”

More silence.

With a sense of defeat, she lowered her head and slipped out into the garage. As the steel door slammed shut behind her, she locked the copper dead bolt with her key and hit the opener. The overhead light came on, and the cold, wet night was revealed inch by inch as the panels rolled up the tracks.

Her car was eight years old, a Honda Civic that was the color of a winter cloud. Getting in, she caught a faint whiff of motor oil. If she were human, instead of a vampire, she probably wouldn’t have noticed, but there was no avoiding the scent. Or what it meant.

Great. More good news.

Putting things in gear, she hit the gas and eased forward onto the driveway. Her father had always told her to back in, so she was ready in case she needed to get out in a hurry. In the event of fire, for instance. Or a lesser attack.


Oh, the sad irony on that.

Looking into the rearview, she waited until the garage door was locked back in place before hanging a right on her quiet street and speeding off. All the humans were settling into their houses for the night, hunkering down for the dark hours, recharging before work and school rearrived with the return of the sun. She supposed it was strange to be living so closely around the other species, but it was all she had ever known.

As with beauty, weird was relative.

The Northway was a six-lane byway running in and out of downtown Caldwell, and she waited until she was on it and cruising at sixty-one miles an hour before she got out her phone and made her call. She kept things on speaker and in her lap. There was no Bluetooth for her old car, and she was not going to risk getting pulled over for using a handheld—

“Hello? Mae?” came the frail, wobbly voice. “Are you on your way?”

“I am.”

“I really wish you didn’t have to do this.”

“It’ll be okay. I’m not worried.”

The lie stung, it really did. Except what else could she say?

They stayed connected without talking, and Mae had an image of the old female sitting beside her in the car, the embroidered housecoat and pink shuffle slippers like something Lucille Ball would have worn around her and Ricky’s apartment. But Tallah was barely mobile, even with her cane. There was no way she had the gumption for what was coming.

Hell, Mae wasn’t sure she could handle this.

“You know what to do?” Tallah asked. “And you’ll call me as soon as you’re back in the car?”

God, that voice was getting so weak.

“Yes. I promise.”

“I love you, Mae. You can do this.”

No, I can’t. “I love you, too.”

As Mae hung up, she rubbed her stinging eyes. But then she was all about the exits. Fourth Street? Market? She got nervous about missing the one she needed, and ended up leaving the highway too soon. Making an inefficient box pattern around a basket weave of one-ways, she found Trade Street and stayed on it, the numbers on the avenues going up through the teens and into the twenties.

When she entered the thirties, the commercial property values plummeted, the old-fashioned office buildings all boarded up, any restaurants or shops abandoned. The only cars around were either passing through or dead and picked clean, and forget about pedestrians. The cracked and debris-strewn sidewalks were empty, and not just because April remained inhospitable in upstate New York.

She was losing faith in the whole plan when she came up to the first of several packed-full parking lots.

And Jesus, it was about what was in them.

The vehicles—because they sure didn’t look like regular sedans and hatchbacks—were brilliant neon unless they were black, and they were styled like anime, all aerodynamic angles and scooped bumpers.

She was in the right place—

Scratch that. She didn’t belong here, but she was where she needed to be.

Mae pulled into the third lot on the same theory she’d bailed early on the highway: If she went much farther, she might overshoot things. And once she was inside the one-block boundary of rusted chicken wire, she had to go all the way to the back row to find a space. As she rolled along, humans who matched the fancy drag racers, versions of Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau, looked at her like she was a librarian lost at a rave.

This made her sad, although not because she cared about a bunch of humans’ opinions of her.

The fact that she knew anything about human influencers was courtesy of Rhoger. And the reminder of how things used to be between them was a door she had to shut. Falling into that black hole was not going to help her right now.

When she got out of her Civic, she had to lock the door with her key because the fob was dead. Tucking her bag against her body, she lowered her head and didn’t look at the people she passed. She could sense their stares, however, and the irony was that they weren’t eyeballing her because she was a vampire. No doubt her jeans and her SUNY Caldie sweatshirt were an offense to all their Gucci.

She wasn’t exactly sure where to go, but a trickle of people was funneling into a larger tributary of humans, and the lot of them were heading toward a parking garage. As she joined the eventual river of twenty-year-olds in all their hot-and-sexy, she tried to see up ahead. The entrance to the multi-leveled concrete stack was barricaded, but a line had formed outside a door that was off to one side.

As Mae took a spot and kept to herself, there was a good forty feet of single file going on and things were moving slowly, two men the size of semis growling at the chosen who were allowed in—and they did turn people away. It just wasn’t immediately clear what the data screen was, although no doubt Mae was going to be on the “yeah nope” list—

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