A little something I wrote for a friend:
It had to be the most boring party ever. The guys huddled around the beer pong table, congratulating themselves on trick shots, mostly peacocking for the nearly identical blondes, who stood in a giggling group, feigning disinterest.
Chelsea tried to push away the negativity. Four months ago, she would have been in the thick of the tournament, tossing ping pong balls and quips.
She trudged back to the crowded bar. Dink and Trevor were playing some drinking game with dice. She knew the rules but only after a few rounds.
“Gimme another jack and coke, please, Dink.”
Dink crossed his arm somewhere in the stratosphere over her, and his deep bass voice settled in her chest. “Sorry merbabe, you’re cut off.”
Chelsea sighed. “Shut up and fill my cup.”
Chelsea flipped her bright red hair out of her eyes. “What kind of fraternity cuts girls off.”
“The kind not full of stereotypes from a movie.” Dink bent over and dropped his voice. “You’re trashed, little mermaid. Let me call you a cab.”
Chelsea swallowed tears. Dink and his fraternity brothers had been a godsend since her parents died. They never charged her for alcohol, and made sure she went home, alone, every night. “I think the walk would better tonight. It’s only a few blocks, Dink.”
He sighed. “Let me get my coat.” He kept talking over her protests. “Merbabe, there’s been a bunch of muggings the last few weeks. I don’t care how what color belt you have in which martial art. You’re drunk and I’m walking you home.”
“Whatever.” Chelsea knew it was pointless to fight. Last time she’d walked away, the fraternity had shut down the party to go and find her.
Once Dink had grabbed a replacement bartender and their coats, they headed towards Main Street. The high piled snow was most gray ice now, but the bracing cold cleared her head and sobered her a little. It felt good to be in the freezing quiet, alone.
Well, mostly alone. Dink was a solid, silent presence stretching above her. His head moved constantly, peering into shadows and frequently looking behind them.
“You scared of the dark, Dink?”
He raised one bare, earth brown hand with a smirk. “I am the dark.”
Chelsea giggled and blamed the booze.
Dink beamed down at her. “That’s the first laugh I’ve heard in months.”
She shrugged. “I think that asshole killed my sense of humor along with my parents.”
Dink’s arm settled on her shoulders. “C’mon, merbabe. Happy thoughts.”
“You’re mixing your kid’s movies, now.”
He chuckled. “Some time, we need to hang out outside—” Dink was gone. Chelsea blinked and spun around, wobbling a little.
In the still, brisk darkness there was a moan, and then a streak of white. Chelsea was whisked off her feet. The rushing cold air tore tears from her eyes, and her stomach flopped and flipped.
The frozen brick wall slammed the air out of her lungs as it knocked some of the drunk out of her brain. A woman stood above her. Skin whiter than the falling snow and dark eyed, she had fangs.
Chelsea kicked and shrieked, all her self-defense training gone in a moment of terror. She lashed out blindly, no thoughts of aiming for the woman’s eyes, just a desire to hit back.
Then the pressure at her neck was gone, and she was hitting the frozen pavement. Her head ricocheted off the bricks, and stars danced in the snowflakes.
“Oh you’re feeding on a ginger? Gingers are my favorite.”
Chelsea blinked and shook her head, trying to clear her vision. A man stood down the block in the orange steetlight. His hoodie blocked his face, but he held two axes.
The pale woman charged him. The man dropped to his knees. Chelsea had trouble seeing what happened next. The woman got lost in the dark shadows before the streetlight. But the man whirled his arms and she appeared, screaming as she fell to the ground.
The man leapt to his feet, darted to the downed woman, and swung his axes again. The woman’s head fell awkwardly to the ground.
“What are you doing?” Chelsea tried to scream, but her voice came out as a croak.
The man rose to his feet and hurried over to her. Chelsea tried to crawl away, but her scattered wits couldn’t make her body move right.
The man squatted. “You okay?”
Chelsea pushed the maniac away.
“Hey, it’s okay. I killed it.”
“It?” Rage ran through her “It! That was a person!” She sat up, shoving the man away from her. “You killed her.” She drew back her hand to hit him.
The man caught it. “It was a vampire. And you know it.”
Chelsea struggled to pull her hand away. “Vampire? You’re crazy.”
“You saw the fangs.” The man left go of her hand.
“Prosthetics.” Chelsea rubbed at her wrist.
The man smiled. “She lifted you up by your neck with one hand and blurred out of focus when she ran.”
Chelsea’s stomach flipped. “Humans… .”
“She wasn’t human.” The man leapt to his feet, avoiding the puke that Chelsea couldn’t stop.
There wasn’t much in her stomach thankfully. She hadn’t had much of appetite since her parents died. She sat up after a few minutes and wiped at her mouth.
The man rubbed at her back. “Do you live near here?”
“Okay, can you get there on your own? I need to take care of the body.”
Chelsea wanted to say yes, but her head shook and tears ran down her face.
The man sighed. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” He stood.
“Wait!” Fear shivered down her spine. “What happened to Dink? My friend.”
The man took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. Her partner took him and ran.”
Chelsea nodded and more tears ran down her face. One thought ran through her head: He had been a great friend, and she didn’t even know his real name. He’d been introduced to her as Dink and she’d never even asked why he was called that.
Time was as frozen as the air. She sat against the cold bricks, not bothering to brush the snowflakes from her eyelashes.
Eventually, the strange man came over and held out his hand. “Let’s get you home.”
Chelsea nodded and took his hand. To her shock, she had at least an inch on the man. In the dark of the building, his hoodie kept his features vague, but she got the impression of a smile.
She shook her head, and headed towards her off-campus apartment in silence. As they got closer to the building, she texted Sarah. To her intense relief, her friend didn’t ask questions as she let them in the side door. In fact, the way Sarah winked and hurried away, she had a elicit friend over as well.
The joys of religious schools.
Chelsea learned towards the man. “You’ll have to be very quiet. I can’t have overnight male guests.”
The man chuckled in his hoodie. “Lesbians must adore that rule.”
A laugh bubbled up in her stomach. She clamped a hand over her mouth, and leaned against the wall. Dink was dead, and here she was laughing.
The man stood on the step above her and pushed back his hood. Brilliant green eyes peered down at her. She couldn’t look away from them.
Hands gripped her shoulders. “It’s okay to laugh. He’d want you to.”
She nodded, lips pressed together, and tears coming.
“C’mon.” He patted her shoulders. “You need to get cleaned up.”
She lead him to the third floor, thankful that her psychiatrist had insisted that she needed a private room. The single apartment was tiny, just one room.
The man settled on her couch, and grabbed the remote. “Do you have cable?”
Chelsea took a breath, and locked her door. “Yeah… I’m going to take a shower.”
As she undressed in the bathroom she wondered if she was some kind of death magnet, destined to be alone. She sat on the floor of her shower and cried until the water turned cold. When she finally was able to face him, she headed out of the bathroom.
A pizza sat on the table, steaming in the low light. Chelsea stared at the man, finally looking at him. Without her heels, they stood eye to eye at five foot seven. He was ropy with muscle though. In addition to those amazing eyes, he had cheekbones she could use for a ruler and dark hair.
“I’m Jackson Hawk.” He offered her a slice of pizza.
“Chelsea Childing.” She went to take a bite. “How did you get this?”
“Your friend stopped by with it. Said it was for beer munchies.”
Chelsea set the pizza down on the coffee table and plopped herself in Jackson’s lap. “I feel cold and alone. And I’m tired of feeling that way.”
He brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Yeah, I know. And here’s the thing, Chelsea Childing. Some time tonight, you’ll discover that the last thing you want is to pretend that this never happened. You’ll want—”
“To kill that thing that killed Dink.” Her strained and rough voice surprised her.
Jackson smiled. “Exactly. And after we kill it, you’ll want to kill more. Because you won’t want anybody else to go through this.”
She slipped away from him to the floor. “No, no. I have classes on Monday.”
He laughed. “No, you don’t. And you never will again. Maybe you’ll try for awhile, but trust me, you’re a monster hunter now. The life you knew is officially over.”
A weight lifted in her chest. She tentatively touched Jackson’s knee. Shame warmed her face at her ‘on again, off again’ behavior.
Jackson smiled, grabbed her hand, and kissed her fingers. “Relax, Chelsea. You’ve had a rough night.”
Her eyes narrowed, even as shivers ran down her spine. “Are you taking advantage of me?”
“Tell me no and I’ll stop. I’m perfectly willing to sleep on the couch.”
She rolled her eyes, and grabbed his hoodie. “Get over here.”