Okay, let's get the usual questions out of the way. No, I wasn't in a gang. No, you don't remember me from prison, I just have a memorable face like that. No, I don't have any drugs on me. Yes, I was a fangbanger and if I catch you looking at my scars I will take it as my personal mission to beat the crap out of you so badly you will need a cane to get around for the next twelve months.
No, I will not give you free beer because you used to date Marilyn Monroe. I don't care if you were fuck buddies with fricking Bill Shakespeare- no free beer. No, we did not go to high school together- mostly because I didn't go.
So now that we got that out of the way, let me introduce myself. I'm Calleigh, sometimes called Natalie depending on how you know me. I work for Aodh Aedén Keir Coneelly as his right hand man. If you don't know who he is you probably don't belong in my world. But I'm sure you'll meet him later. He loves to butt into my personal life- what little Ihave.
Every important vampire needs a human to watch over his properties and make sure everything is legal and okay with the human community. that's where I come in. I guess you could call me a Consultant, as in he consults me about how to deal with everyday humans. I don't really get paid, just comped. I have a flat downtown a floor below him, unlimited use of any car he grants me- which currently is a shitty little thing until my usual car comes back from the shop (someone had thought it would be funny to set it on fire)- and a credit card with no limit (which I very much enjoy). The only condition was that I'm always on call, so I don't really have time for a personal life, not that anything I do is ever personal. Aeden keeps a close eye on me.
I didn't get here by going to college- this isn't that kind of position. This was kind of like the Entertainment community: you started young, had to know the right people, make some not-so-respectful sacrifices, and look hot, or at least a vampire's idea of hot.
I started 'banging at fourteen, and somehow managed to become a regular for a powerful socialite in the vamp community. He in turn introduced me to Aedén. I said the right thing at the right time and voila! Here I am.
But not all stories ended on such a happy note-
"What?" I hissed, turning on the innocent bartender as if he had just interrupted something important. Which he hadn't, I had just been daydreaming, but still... I tended to get a littl sore when looking back at my past. It certainly wasn't a pleasant one.
I hated doing this part of rounds. It meant I had to wait around in places like these- bars full on scantily clad, underage humans hoping to be bitten and arrogant vampires trying to play coy- until Aedén was done. Places like these brought back bad memories.
The bartender gave me a reproachful look. "Did you want to do anything about the two slayers over there?"
I groaned. Slayers were pompous assholes whose sole mission in life was to annoy vampires. They weren't as scary as they liked to think, though they multiplied like fucking fleas. And they stuck their nose in everything. They liked to think they had the vampires under their thumbs, which so wasn't true.
I don't know what they were doing here, them showing up in a vampire-run bar was like asking to get hurt. If they started a fight they would get clobbered, they had no friends here. I just hoped they didn't take after the slayers in the south that torched vamp-exclusive clubs. Those slayers were are a bad influence. They made the others that much harder to deal with. Fucking slayers. If they came in here they deserved a beating.
"Leave them." A rich, accented voice behind me ordered. A heavy hand came down on my shoulder. I knew better than to shy away.
The bartender nodded and went back to his station.
"You really should be nicer." He told me. "You never know who might be useful."
He said it perfectly normal, but the warning was implicit. He felt that he shouldn't need to chastise me since I was such a good little girl, so he spoke his words naturally, but God so help me if I dared to snap at another worker like that.
If it had been anyone else I would have told them to go screw themselves, but thin, wan scars crisscrossing my back reminded my that Aedén didn't take too well to insults. He promise me that if I ever learned to behave, one day he would make my skin flawless again.
I wasn't looking forward to that day. It was relatively easy for a vampire to heal on open wound, I know you've heard the ways, but scars were different. The affected area had to be completely cut off so that it was once again an open wound, then healed accordingly. It was a bitch.
"Of course." I responded to him. It was the only thing I could think of. "Okay," was just a weak response. I would have gotten a look if I had apologized.
Baird came up behind Aedén. He was a lot stockier than the latter and fit perfectly his role of bodyguard. All muscles and squares, he was a tall, intimidating figure. It might have had something to do because he was once a warrior for Ireland or Scotland or wherever the hell he was from. I couldn't ever keep it straight. Aedén tended to surrounded himself with people from the British Isles, and wasn't too picky from which one.
Baird had adapted well to the change of technology and was equipped with the latest of everything, which was probably why he was such an effective bodyguard. He could protect Aedén from practically anything, whether it be technology-savvy humans or stuck-in-the-dark-ages vampires.
He adjusted the leather straps of his shoulder holster and gave me an affectionate little smile. The black cotton of his shirt was stretched to its limits and didn't like the fact that he tried to push its limits even further by tucking the shirt into his jeans. I always gave him a hard time about wearing such tight clothes and would ask if it was awkward because he was used to wearing man-skirts. He never rose to the bait, but he would make up for it by teasing me with something later on. Baird and I were cool like that.
He scrunched up his already pinched nose, blocking those green jewels he had instead of eyes from view, figuratively speaking of course, beacause they- oh never mind, those eyes were so beuatiful, it should have been a sin to have them. He brought up a hand under his nose, scraping against the stubble he always had. "Smells like trouble." He grunted. When he was working he never seemed to do anything other than grunt. I guess he though it made him look tough- and he was right. But I knew better, deep down, Baird was just a giant teddy bear.
"I am aware." Aedén mumbled. His hand moved from my shoulder to the small of my back as he steered me to the exit. "I have instructed for them to be left alone. Baird, you have the money?" Aedén, unlike Baird, took pride in having no trace of accent in his voice unless he consciously added it for effect, which he ony did with humans. I mean, how can you resist the titillating and melodious accent of an Irishman? I sure as hell don't know how I managed. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Aedén had never tried something like that. His lovers were strictly of the undead kind. He mentioned one time that it was because they could take more damage. I had shuddered. I mean, being me, I've gotten some odd requests, but Aeden scared me sometimes.
I know from personal experience that vampires, especially the older ones, tended to have a penchant for the exotic, but very few were as bloodthirsty as legend warns. Even Baird, the acclaimed warrior, hadn't been violent in bed the one time I had him. That was a disaster. I mean, the sex was good, but the emotional repercussions after was just… well, it was just awkward between us for the longest time. But now he was comfortable enough around me to compliment certain parts of my body others wouldn't dare to voice.
Baird grunted in response and opened the door for us. Aedén pushed me through. A slick, small car waited for us just outside. Baird sat in the front while Aedén and I slid into the back. The seat sighed as it conformed to the curves of my body, the leather hissing as my clothes slid across it. God, Aedén could pick his cars. But he hadn't brought out the Bentley in quite a while, I had to wonder what the occasion was.
"Where to, Boss?" I asked, half jokingly. After a dismal experience at one of his fetish clubs, I always made it a point to ask so I knew when to get off the Aedén Express. Usually I would wait at a nearby diner, fetching me some dinner. Aedén knew I didn't like clubs in the first place, that being where I did most of my vile work as a 'banger, and was generous to go in without me.
"Farrah's," he replied. The driver didn't seem nearly as fazed by this as I was.
"Woah, wait." I said, ignoring the look he fixed me with. "The Ukrainian front?"
He gave me a small nod.
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Are you planning to start trouble? Because I really wouldn't recommend it. The cops are all over the place. They haven't warranted Fed attention yet because they're more interested in the operation in LA, but, still, that's dangerous territory."
He considered me with those light eyes. His eyes were such a light hue of blue that they were almost grey. It was an fascinating combination; so easy to get lost in them. When he got angry they turned a little more grey. It was a great indication for me to know when to stop pushing. "I am aware."
He didn't talk much in public, but sometimes during the day, when he couldn't sleep, he would call me up to his flat and go on for hours. I would just sit and listen, but that was all he wanted. And there was no harm in telling me his secrets because I would never dare to betray him. I may have not gone to high school, but I wasn't that stupid.
"Then why in holy hell are you going there?" I asked, my voice a little excited.
"Maybe I just want to enjoy myself.," he murmured.
Other than being the front for a bunch of drug runners, Farrah's was one of the city's most highly praised strip clubs, all the girls being fresh young things from the University. And all addicted to coke. It wasn't one of my favorite places. It was even rumored that the high rollers could go into the back and "receive the full package."
"You're not fucking serious," I said scathingly. His eyes narrowed at me. "Fine, sorry. But you can't be serious."
"I'm not," he informed me.
Baird turned in his seat. "Cal, you have to promise that this time if they ask you to work there again, please say yes." Yeah, that was another reason why I didn't like going there. They always assumed I worked there. And when they found out I didn't they would always offer. It was almost insulting, and it took a lot to insult me.
I gave him the finger.
Aedén's hand flashed out, grabbing my finger and bending it back to the point way past "painful" and bordered on "excruciating." I let out a strangled whimper as I tried to twist my arm into a less painful position. "Women do not do that." He said casually before letting go.
I snatched my hand away and cradled it to my chest. I wanted to let out several colorful words to express just how much it hurt, but I knew better. Aedén didn't like coarse company. Which was why as soon as I had been drafted for my position I scrounged up any textbook I could find. I was still pretty shitty in math and science, but I had learned my history and could write well enough to get around. I even took a couple of etiquette classes, but that didn't last long. The teacher and I had some… differences. But it was okay, as Aedén took it upon himself to point out any faux pas I might make.
"You're fine." He told me, which was his version of "stop whining or I will really give you something to whine about."
So I shut up.
The rest of the ride was quiet. There wasn't any tension, but Aedén's brevity encouraged silence. I was content to sit in the cozy leather seats and look out at the lights.
Santa Barbara was infamous for being a party town. Clubs lined every street downtown right alongside diners, restaurants, and a plethora of other late-night things to do. Needless to say, nighttime was colorful. Neon signs blazed from every corner, filled with pulsing music, and overflowing with young college students taking a break from the drollness of the University.
Finally, we slowed in front of a building that looked fairly classy for a titty bar. By that, I mean there was no neon sign in the shape of naked women or signs advertising how big-busted their strippers were. A line of nicely dressed barely legal men waited in a line that went outside the door and around the corner. Yep, you had to wear a tie to this place. Classy.
Aedén got out with Baird, but stopped me as I followed.
He grabbed my wrist softly and impelled me back into the car. "Go get something to eat, Calleigh." His voice was carefully even and his eyes a little dark.
The order was clear. I scooted back into my seat and gave the driver the name of my favorite eatery. If Aedén didn't want me there, it was because he planned to start trouble. What was I here for if he wasn't even going to listen to my advice?
I was an okay street fighter, pretty good with a shiv (had to have some protection for the vampires who didn't want to stop drinking), but I didn't know any of that fancy stuff slayers used. And Aedén refused to let me learn how to use a gun. So when it was going to get really nasty, I had to go find someplace safe. It wasn't fair, but if it kept me alive, I was okay with it. Usually, Aedén sent a bodyguard for me even if I was out of the line of fire. It was cute how they took care of me sometimes. Other times I just wanted to strangle them