Lover Unveiled Page 3

“You lost or something?”

The question had to be repeated before she realized she was being addressed, and as she turned around, the two girls—well, women—who were making the inquiry were looking as impressed as the bouncers were going to be when they tried to deny Mae entry.

“No, I’m not lost.”

The one on the right, who had a tattoo under the eye that read “Dady’s Girl” in cursive, leaned in. “I think you’re fucking lost.”

Her pupils were so dilated that her irises were invisible, and the eyebrows had been plucked to such a thin wire that they—no, wait, they’d been tattooed on, too. Fake lashes were tipped with little pink dots that matched the pink-and-black ethos of what was more costume than clothing, and there were piercings in places that made Mae hope the woman never had a runny nose or food poisoning.

And FWIW, one had to wonder whether the missing d had been intentional, or if the masterful work had been sold by the letter and someone’s pocket change had run out.

“No, I’m not,” Mae replied.

The woman stepped forward, breasts out like Barbarella, even though she probably had no idea who Jane Fonda was now, much less who the actress had been in the sixties. “You need to get the fuck out of here.”

Mae looked down at the cracked sidewalk they were all standing on. Weeds had muscled their way in through the seams, though everything was dried and dead thanks to the winter.

“No, I don’t.”

Next to the aggressor, the other woman lit up a cigarette and looked bored. Like maybe this happened a lot and her buddy’s drama had long lost its appeal—

“You fucking get out of here, fuck.”

Dady’s Girl punched both her palms into Mae’s shoulders with such force that it was ass-over-teakettle, the landing on the packed ground hard, the only good news that her purse’s broken strap held and nothing fell out. As stunned disbelief consumed most of the air space in Mae’s brain, she looked up.

Dady’s Girl was standing over her prey, all superhero-superior, hands on hips, high heels planted in a wide stance, the invisible cloak of her sadistic joy at having bullied someone waving over her shoulders.

The rest of the wait line was looking over, but no one was coming to any rescue, and nobody seemed as impressed with Dady’s Girl as she herself did.

Mae braced a palm on the concrete and pushed up back to level, rising to her full height—which, compared to the high-heeled GLOWer, was underdog status and then some.

“Get out of here,” the woman hissed. “You don’t belong.”

Those hands came out a second time, hitting the same place, like it was a well-practiced shot, a perishable skill that was kept in tip-top shape. But Mae had also just had some relevant practice. As she stumbled back, arms flapping, feet tap-dancing, her body better prepared for the tilting scramble, she had a moment of profound numbness. She felt nothing, not the bad balance, not the momentum-created wind in her hair, not the quick draw of cool air in her lungs.

It was a surprise that she managed to catch herself.

Dady’s Girl didn’t give her much time to recover. The woman rushed forward at a steep angle, like she was a linebacker—

Mae’s arm shot out of its own volition, the limb going tree limb. And the human female ran right into the open palm with the front of her throat. The instant contact was made, Mae’s fingers closed tight.

After which, the pushback came.

Mae started walking forward, escorting the woman off the sidewalk. And when Dady’s Girl struggled to accommodate the backward movement, those spiky heels catching on the ground, Mae helped things by lifting her up by the neck so that those shapely legs dangled. Meanwhile, long-taloned nails decorated with diamantés and swirls of pink clawed at the hold on that windpipe and got nowhere, the tips snapping off, one of them hitting Mae on the chin and rebounding into thin air.

Not that she cared. Not that she really noticed.

The parking garage was constructed of concrete that had been poured properly—so its walls offered a whole helluva lot of buck-stops-here. As Mae banged the woman against the slab, the body habitus was what gave way, breath exploding out of the lungs, those pink-tipped lashes flaring.

But that didn’t go far enough for Mae.

She put her free hand on the sternum and laid increasing pressure on the front rib bones . . . which translated to the lungs . . . and finally to the fiercely beating heart inside its cage of calcium and collagen bars.

The human woman’s eyes bugged out. Her jugular went from pounding to flickering. Her coloring became florid as barn siding.

In a low voice, Mae said, “You don’t tell me where I belong. Are we clear?”

Dady’s Girl nodded like her life depended on it. Which was the truth.

Meanwhile, on the periphery, the wait line had reoriented from its forward-to-back formation to a horseshoe around Mae, and there was chatter, dim but excited—

“Jesus Christ, y’all know you can’t be doin’ this shit!”

Members of the crowd were tossed aside like stuffed animals as one of the bouncers came forward. And when Mae took her eyes off Dady’s Girl to give him the once-over, he stopped short and blinked. Like he wasn’t sure he was seeing this right.

Like maybe a houseplant had turned out to be marijuana.

Or a man-eating species.

“Lady,” he said in an um-well-so tone. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Mae decided to follow the guy’s example with the onlookers. With a casual flick of the wrist, she empty-chip-bag’d Dady’s Girl and then primly retucked her shirt and straightened her jacket.

Staring up at the bouncer, she cleared her throat. “I’m here to see the Reverend.”

The bouncer blinked again. Then he said in a low voice, “How do you know that name.”

Mae moved her purse in front of her torso and covered it with both arms—even though the likelihood of her getting pickpocketed had just gone seriously south. Then she walked up so close to the guy that she could smell his fresh sweat, his faded cologne, and the hair product he’d used to make sure his high was high and his tight was tight.

Narrowing her eyes, she dropped her voice. “That’s none of your business and I’m done talking. You will take me to him right now.”

Another blink. And then, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”

“Wrong answer,” Mae gritted. “That’s the wrong fucking answer.”

The Commodore Building, Luxury Living at Its Finest™

Downtown Caldwell

Balthazar, son of Hanst, had shoes that were soft as lamb’s ears on his feet. His skintight clothes were black. His head and most of his face were covered with a skull cap. His hands were gloved.

Not that vampires had to worry about leaving fingerprints.

As he lived up to all the silent, creeping myths about his species—or at least the ones the humans made up—he was a shadow among shadows, whispering through the high-ceiling’d rooms of the largest condo in the Commodore, cataloguing all manner of goodies that were on display in dimmed light.

The fucking triplex was like a museum. For someone who watched a lot of AHS.

Coming around another corner, and entering yet another small room with a theme to its objects, he stopped short. “What the . . .”

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