Chapter 80 - M.

“Why am I doing all the work on this one,” I ask Destiny

“Because I’m trying to get you a license. You’re going to need it sooner or later.”

“For what?”

“To make money, duh,” she rolls her eyes.

“I already have a job and I do stuff on the side. I just built a website for a guy the other day.”

“You’ll get bored of it. You’ve got a taste of the life now.”

She was right, I did have a taste of the life now. I haven’t tangled with a vampire, werewolf, orc or even and elf. But I’ve seen them all, and even talked to a few of them. I’d also seen her track down criminals and apprehend them. I’ve got a nice little magic pocket, which is great. I’m never without my computer, or wallet, or anything really. I don’t know I’m going to jump inter her field of work. She says people specialize in different things. I haven’t asked but I figured hers would be missing people and fugitives, since that’s all I’ve seen her do. I haven’t even seen her fight since that first night I met her. 

Today she’s got me doing all the work. We’re looking for a guy named Mike Stein. He’s a thief, plain and simple. He’s also just a normal human. I didn’t know she even took this kind of job. I expected some big werewolf on the run for murder, but it was an accident. I let my mind drift off to other options, like a vampire who’s looking for a cure. Would I rather be a vampire or werewolf? Focus, the task at hand.

I get lucky when looking at his record. Arrests for theft date all the way back to the time he was thirteen years old. A few resisting arrest charges with nothing attached. I can’t blame him for that. Not sure how police get away with charging people for resisting arrest while not arresting them for anything else. Either way, I manage to get an address from him from an old arrest about six months ago. 

“Got an address,” I let Destiny know.

“Great,” she starts the car and hits the gas.

“You don’t even know where we’re going.”

“Then tell me,” she laughs.

“I’m driving next time.”

After we turn around it doesn’t take is long to get to the house. I’m a little let down when I see it. I thought we would be done with this job, wrap it up quick and go get lunch somewhere. I guess that would be too easy. Nothing ever seems easy anymore. We snoop around the outside of the house, and all signs point to it really being abandoned. The boards covering the doors, and windows are pretty secure and they’ve been there for a while, much longer than when his recent arrest was. That means the police officers didn’t do their due diligence.

“So, we didn’t get him here. What else did the bio say,” Destiny senses my frustration.

I rethink the data I had read, “he likes to get lunch at the same bar every day.”

“Great so let’s go get lunch, and get fucked up,” she heads back to the car.

“You don’t even drink heavily, and drinking on the job is bad.”

“Drinking on your job is bad, drinking on my job is a plus.”

The Nimble Hatchet, is the strangest bar I’ve ever heard of in my life. A big neon hatchet hangs over the door, and flickers back and forth giving the illusion that it’s being swung down on the door. The outside says biker bar, but inside it looks more like a sports bar. Destiny orders some hot wings while we sit and look around, waiting for Mike to show up. I’m surprised she asked for ranch with the wings instead of blue cheese. I was pretty sure I was I was in love with her before, but now I’m sure I love her.

When Mike doesn’t show up right away we spend some time playing pool. I’m usually pretty goo at pool. I didn’t expect her to be way better. Is being a vampire cheating? She’s got better vision, and speed. I’m pretty sure she can move faster than I can see if she wanted. I was cocky and didn’t mind taking a bet. By the time it was finished I owed her $112. I guess she was right, I’d need the money if I kept hanging around with her.

Mike finally makes his way in, and he might as well have been an orc. Mike has the body of someone who learned to workout in jail and never stopped. His upper body is large and muscular but his legs seem pretty similar to mine. I wait until after he’s eaten to alert Destiny but I’m sure she already knows.

“Alright, go get what we came for.”

“What did we come for,” I hadn’t bothered to ask.

“The Pink Panther keychain.”

“Wait are you serious? We could just buy one,” I’m shocked the job could be so simple. 

“Yep, it’s a good luck charm.”

I make my way over to Mike and just ask “Hey, can I have that keychain?”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, I know someone who wants it back.”

“Fuck off weirdo,” Mike gives me an answer I probably deserve.

“I can’t leave, until I get that keychain.”

“How about I give you something else,” Mike asks in a calmer demeanor.

“Sorry, it has to be the keychain.”

“How about you take this, and reconsider?”

My eyes flash and blur as I realize Mike had just punched me in the head. Usually I would run away, avoid the fight. That’s what I had done my entire life. But I can handle this now. I’ve been training, I’ve done some pushups, and I’m ready. I thank him for the punch with one of my own. He only smiles and I know I’m in trouble. I just close my eyes and tuck my head as he tosses me across a table.

“Fuck is wrong with you,” I look up to see Destiny laying into Mike. 

It doesn’t take long before the rest of the bar is involved in the brawl picking sides. I take the opportunity to track down Mike. I snatch the keychain as he’s brawling with someone trying to make his way to Destiny. She was standing on a pool table laughing and fending people off with a pool cue. I’ve never seen her this way. Not exactly blood lust, but she’s having fun with the fight. I could sneak out now, and meet her outside. But my bad side takes hold, so I ball up my fist and go back as far as I can before punching Mike right in the balls and watch him scream in pain. He’s knocked out as someone takes a chair over his back.

“That was crazy,” Destiny says once we’ve finally got back to the car.

“Over a keychain,” is all I can say as I twirl it in my hands.

Chapter 79 - M.

“Why are we here,” I follow Destiny in stretching. 

“We’re going to make you a real bad ass,” she laughs. 

“No seriously, you’ve got me out in the middle of nowhere looking like I’m about to run a triathlon.” 

“Die Hand Die Verletzt,” she says with a smile, popping the car trunk. 

“I’m not sure what that means,” I follow. 

“It’s German and translates to the hand that wounds,” she draws me in closer. 

“Woah,” I get a look in the trunk and see a wide range of weapons. “What is all this.” 

“You’re going to have to learn how to fight eventually. Usually you’d start with some basic sparring. But we’re going to kick your right up to weapons. So, what calls out to you?” 

Long swords, short swords, broad swords, thin swords, maces, axes of all sizes and even a few hand guns. Something small will probably work best for me. I’m not strong enough to swing a big axe in a long battle. Wait, why is she training me to fight? What does she have planned? Maybe a gun would work, versatile and guaranteed killing power, but I’ve never fired a gun before. 

“Don’t think too hard, pick whatever calls to you,” she interrupts my train of thought. 

“I like these,” I lift a pair of large curved knives with blue hued metal and black wooded handles. 

“Hachoir de guerre,” she nods with approval. “We’re getting a lesson in languages today. These are French made, a combination of axe and knife. Meaning if you can master these, you can pretty easily transition to swords or axes.” 

“You really know a ton about different weapons, and languages. How long have you really been alive because 28 doesn’t seem so believable anymore.” 

“28, for real,” she smiles. “But I’ll say this, when you haven’t had to sleep for six or seven years you find yourself with a lot of extra free time. Study languages, history. I know a lot, but I’m not an expert on any of it.” 

“Wait, vampires don’t have to sleep? Turn me right now,” I joke. 

She puts a finger on my neck and gently caresses it, “that could be arranged,” she bares her fangs playfully.  

“I don’t know if I’m creeped out or aroused.” 

“Why not both,” she gently pushes me away. 

“I didn’t even mean to say that out loud.” 

“Yeah, whatever,” she jokes. “Let’s teach you to fight.” 

“What’s the first step.” 

“Take up a position you think you should take.”  

I think for a moment and take up a pose, similar to one of my Elder Scrolls characters who would wield double daggers or axes. Slightly bent knees and blades the same height as my head. Destiny only laughs and corrects my posture. She instructs me to take a few swings. It takes a moment before I get used to the weight in my hands, they don’t look heavy but the handles are weighted. Maybe there’s some kind of heavy metal that keeps the weight low. I wonder what the purpose for that is. 

“Alright, are you going to teach me some cool moves now?” 

“Nope,” she reaches into the backseat of the car and pulls out a book. “Teach yourself.”  

“Wait, I thought you were going to teach me,” I catch the book. 

“I said I was good at a bunch of stuff and mastered none. I don’t know how to use those things. I just remember proper formation from the books,” she laughs as if she’s told the funniest joke ever.  

“Wow, you brought me out here to Karate Kid me, then just make read a book?” 

“Nope, we’re going to run too.” 


“You need to get your cardio up, and your strength. But we’ll work on that later.” 

Gym class, the only class I skipped in school. Now I’m out here running after a vampire before the sun is all the way up in the sky. There’s still dew on the ground for heaven’s sake. Is this what love is? Because I wouldn’t do this for anyone else. At least she’s letting me keep up and not leaving me in the dust. Why am I always chasing after this woman? One day I’m going to catch her.  

Chapter 78 - M.

“Cinnamon rolls, the best mall food of all time. Hands down,” I say before stuffing my face with another bite.

“Okay, but malls have ice cream,” Destiny laughs and takes another bite.

“But you didn’t mind a cinnamon roll, did you?”

“I mean, they’re a strong second.”


“I mean we can agree that pretzels are the worst right,” she asks.

“Ew, they’re the worst. Just so salty.”

“Like eating crunchy sweat.”

“I think the soft ones might be worse. Like salty spaghetti,” I joke.

“Eww, I’d never eat one willingly.”

“Can I ask you a question,” I ask as we throw away our trash.

“Sure, anything. No secrets between us.”

“Am I going to get a brand?”

“This again? No, I’m not going to brand you.”

“Okay, so what’s the deal with thralls? I get that they’re supposed to be tight with the vampire, that’s why they get a brand. Supposedly they get a little stronger, age a little slower. All that sounds good, but what’s the down side.”

“The downside is that the vampire can override your free will, anytime they want. You don’t have any secrets, they read your mind and the brand can be used as a way to punish people.”

“That’s really messed up.”

“Yeah, which is why Adze banned the creation of thralls hundreds of years ago,” she smiles.

“How can they ban it? I thought you said you all didn’t do the whole vampire ruling houses thing.”

“There’s like a shared consciousness we can tap into. Where we can have the knowledge of any dead Adze, and any living that consents. But they have to consent, otherwise it can go bad.”

“So, you couldn’t make me a thrall even if you wanted to,” I internally breathe a sigh of relief.

“Nope, not even if I wanted to.”

“I guess you aren’t going to make me rich and famous.”


“Then why do you keep me around?”

“Because you’re my boyformation guy,” she almost calls me her boyfriend.

“What’s that,” I press it.

“Information guy, my information guy,” she blushes, and I feel like I do too.

“Maybe a little more?”

“Wow, is that a GameStop? You love video games,” she leads the way into the store.

We brows for a few minutes, and she pretends to love my hobby. I’m just glad we’re back on better terms than we were before. I guess I owe Elias for that. She’s still not ready to call me her boyfriend, even if I want to call her my girlfriend withal of my heart, and soul, and everything else. As for the games, nothing of interest to me right now.

“Really? Information guy,” I ask as we head out the shop.

“Yeah, you’re pretty good with computers and finding stuff. I mean adults who play video games are weird, but you’re kind of smart,” she jokes.

“Women who watch movies in Spanish, but don’t know Spanish are weird,” I give her some of her own medicine.

“You’ve got jokes now?”

“You knew that. But you know what isn’t a joke?”

“What’s that?”

“You almost called me your boyfriend back there,” I bring the topic forward.

“No negro, you’re just a friend I hang out with,” she rebukes me.

“That sounds like we’re going on dates.”


“Not even when we played board games or went to the movies.”


“That’s wild, because when we went to the movies, that was specifically a date. I got a date after the whole succubus thing.”

“I,” she stops walking and thinks. I’ve got her. “We had a date.”

“My brother thinks we’re dating.”

“Your brother is an idiot.”

“Yeah, but he’s my idiot, and he’s pretty good at art too.”

“We’re not dating,” she starts walking again.

“So when can I start leaving clothes at your place?”


“I’ve slept over like a dozen times.”

“I don’t care,” she walks faster.

“When do we share a bed?”


“But we even got matching shoes today,” I hold up our bags.

“It was a coincidence.”

“We chose together. I bought yours, you bought mine.”

“Accidental. Cashier got mixed up.”

“What’s making out like? Can we try that,” I jog to catch up.

“Why are you like this,” she calls as she runs faster.

“I think we’re getting pretty serious. Where are we on a scale of one to ten? Are we exclusive,” if she really wanted to run, I couldn’t catch her. She’s being deliberate.

“You don’t have any other options,” she calls back.

“We’re totally exclusive!”

Now the for the perfect move. I throw myself forward towards the blacktop. I had to trip myself to make it look real. In a moment Destiny has caught me. I never thought I would be playing the damsel in distress, but here I am, putting myself in fake distress. Now that I think about it, Elias has some scummy plans. Does he fake fall in front of women all the time? This is gross, even if it works. Hurting yourself for sympathy kisses? I need to talk with him about this. After I see if it works.

“So, is this the part where we have our first kiss,” I ask from her arms.

“No, and I’m going to drop you.”

“You really don’t want to be my girlfriend then,” I stand up.

“Stop using that word,” she smiles, a genuine smile as she gets into the car.

“You didn’t say no,” I mumble to myself as I put the bags in the trunk.

“I heard that dork, vampires have great hearing.”

“I wanted you to hear it.”

Chapter 77 - M.

 “I guess she might like this one,” I hold up a white teddy bear.

“What? No. When you pick a stuffed animal for a girl it should be memorable, remind her of you. You are not a small polar bear. For starters, you’re a black bear. Say it loud, you’re a black bear and you’re proud,” Elias screams in the toy store.

“What about this,” I hold up a black teddy bear.

“Nope, this is more your speed,” he holds up teddy bear.

It’s a brown bear with glasses and a laptop. I don’t even wear glasses, I wear contacts. I only wear glasses around the house. Destiny has never seen me wearing glasses. But I guess it does kind of look like me. I’m just glad it doesn’t have bucked teeth and braces, or that chubby phase I went through. Does Destiny even like teddy bears? I didn’t see any at her place.

“Yeah sure,” I toss the bear in the cart. “Why are we at the toy store?”

“Because adults love toys just as much as kids. You only start aging when you stop trying to have fun,” Elias smiles.

“That’s stupid.”

“Wow, you were no Chipper Ken but your attitude has been way down. You must really like this Karma girl.”

“Destiny, and she’s a woman. Girl is demeaning to adults.”

“Not all girls, but I got you, it’s about respect and all that. Anyway, there’s a difference between growing up aging.”

“Let’s just pay and get out of here.”

“Sure, I’ll meet you outside, there’s a holistic shop next door. All kinds of great stuff in there. She sounds like a smart, neo soul gir...woman. She’ll love the stuff we can get there.”

I leave the cart in the aisle and head to the register to pay for the bear. Looking around at all the parents with their kids, I don’t feel weird, I feel lonely. They’ve got all this love to share, and I don’t. I thought Destiny and I might start a family one day. Can vampires even have kids?  

“Sir, Sir, will that be cash or credit,” the cashier tries to get my attention.

“Oh, sorry. It’ll be debit.”

Outside Elias is playing hack sack as if he doesn’t have a problem in the world. He leads me across the parking lot a little shop called Camille’s. Inside it smells like incense and perfume mixed together way too heavily. But he’s right, this is the kind of shop Destiny would love. Handcrafted soaps made from natural ingredients, books on Black liberation and ornaments of power, this is her kind of place. I go a little wild with the shopping, a little of this, a little of that. I spend the most on a beaded necklace with a sapphire pendent at the end. Supposedly it means the wearer will find true happiness in life. Even if she isn’t with me, I hope she’s happy.

“Got enough,” Elias jokes as we pull off.

“Nope, we’ve got one more stop.”

“Now you’re getting into the spirit lover boy.”

The blood bank is where I’m taking us. Elias doesn’t need to go inside, and I nearly passed out last time, but I have to. I saw some great stuff that Destiny might like last time I was there. Maybe some candy, soda and other stuff. I won’t be sharing it with her, but she can enjoy it, even if I won’t be around.

“What are we doing at the blood bank? I’m trying to help you get your girl back, not give blood,” Elias jokes.

“I told you, vampire,” I exit the car.  

“Big titty goth girlfriend, I see you,” he hangs out the window.

“She doesn’t have big breast, and don’t talk about her breast,” I’m embarrassed. He’s the older brother.

This time I don’t have a panic attack seeing everyone inside. I purchase some treats, and wine. It’s the most expensive wine on the list, the alcohol content is low, but it’s sweet and made from the blood of Wood Elves, Destiny loves sweet things. They’ll go great with the rest of the gift basket. Elias doesn’t believe they’ve got blood inside of them despite the red tint to the treats. Destiny told me that you can’t really perceive the magic in the world around you until after you’ve been introduced to it. Maybe you just have to see it with your own eyes or something because I keep telling him and he doesn’t believe any of it.

“Can I give you a few words of advice,” Elias asks as we stop outside of Destiny’s apartment.

“Sure,” he does know way more about women than I do.

“Actually, I’m coming with you,” he gets out of the car. “Get your basket and lets go,” he makes his way into the building.

“What are you doing,” I ask as we get in the elevator.

“What floor,” he asks, I just press the button.

“You can’t come with me,” I get louder now that no one is around.

“Yeah well, you never had a wing man. I should have been your wing man. Now I’m going to meet your girlfriend and fix this. You’ve done a lot for me little brother, let me do something for you,” he smiles as if he’s an anime character that did something cool.

“No thank you, and she’s not my girlfriend.”

“Friends with benefits?”

“We’ve never had sex.”

“Still? Okay, I’m coming for sure now.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Which way,” he steps out of the elevator.

“I’m not telling,” I refuse to move.

He sticks his hand in the elevator door to keep it from closing, “there’s like six doors on this floor. I can just yell her name or knock on every door, and then she’ll really hate you.”

“This way,” he’s finally got me.

He bangs on the door as if he’s the police and nobody answers. I feel relieved and eager to go away and give up. Maybe I can find a way back on her good side another day. A day when my womanizing big brother isn’t here to ruin it. I almost vomit when she opens the door.

“Who the hell is knocking on my door like they own the place,” she stares down Elias.

“Hey, I’m Elias. I assume you’re Destiny. My brother never shuts up about you,” he extends his hand.

“Why did you bring this nappy green headed asshole to my home,” Destiny leans around Elias and stares at me.

“Actually, black with spots of green. I’m growing freeform dreads. It’s going to be a big thing in a few years,” Elias steps between us.

“What do you want,” she asks, and for the first time I can see she’s been crying, maybe as much as me.

“Well, my brother fucked up. He’s sorry,” Elias begins.

“He’s already said that,” she cuts him off.

“I brought a gift basket,” I try to chime in.

“I don’t care,” she pokes out her neck and shakes her head at me.  

“Hey, he fucked up. Even at his big age you’re his first girlfriend,” I’m surprised she doesn’t correct him. “From what he told me, he let some people get in his head. You two have been hanging out for months now, you know he isn’t like that. He’s been sitting at home crying about losing the best thing in his life. I don’t want to see that, and I can see your eyes are all red, and you’ve got streaks on your face from crying too. A relationship isn’t anything without communication, and you two have both been ignoring the other. Now, I know you’ve had some good times, I’ve never heard him so excited about board games before. I’m not saying it’s wrong to cry, just cry together,” I’m shocked she let him get that much out.

“What’s in the basket,” she asks me.

“A teddy bear, some hand-crafted bath soaps, a few books, cookies, brownies, wine,” I start to list everything.

“Come in,” she tells me.

“We’re getting somewhere now,” Elias steps forward but Destiny doesn’t budge.

“Thanks for coming, but this is between us,” she gives him a light shove backwards.

“Two questions,” Elias stops before the door can close. “Should I wait in the car, or pick you up later?”

“I’ll call you,” I tell him.

“Question two is for the pretty lady,” Destiny doesn’t even smile at his joke. “Are you really a vampire,” she closes the door in his face.

“Don’t fuck this up little bro,” I hear from the other side of the door.

Chapter 76 - M.

I sit at a table watching as other vampires enter the room, it’s a slow process. This isn’t like any prom or black tie even that I’ve ever been to. For some reason I expected a meal to be served. Then I remembered most vampires can’t eat food like Adze and Dhampir. It makes sense they would just sip fancy blood at one of these events. Food would be for the help, and they don’t really care much for the help. They brand us, use us and discard us at their own leisure. Destiny makes her way back in the room and I instantly look away. She can find me, if she even cares. I’m not going to keep chasing after her just so I can be used and discarded.  

“Get what you came for,” I ask coldly.

“Not really, but I got close. We should dance before we go,” she says like there’s nothing wrong.

My mom used to make my siblings and I take turn slow dancing with her when dad would get home from work late or be too tired to dance. I take the lead here and she seems surprised, probably expecting me to keep following like a sick puppy. The song comes to an end, but she pulls me closer as the band starts to play again. I avoid looking in her eyes and just dance the steps.

“What’s bothering you,” she asks me as we slow dance.

“Are you using me,” I ask her in response.  


“All the other people here. They’re all doctors, lawyers, a few politicians, bankers and so on. The vampires use them for whatever they want. Are you using me?”

“Why would you think I’m using you?”

“Because everyone else here is being used as a tool, and they’re just okay with it, but I’m not.”

“Who told you that,” I can hear anger in her voice.

“Look around you, nobody had to tell me.”

“We’re leaving,” she cuts the dance short.

As she keeps her fake smile, I exit behind her. Not because I’m doing what I’m supposed to or because I’m afraid of being left alone with dozens of vampires. I’m following because I want answers. She is using me, that’s why she wouldn’t say it. I want it to come straight from her mouth. I follow her right into our waiting limousine.

“I told you be on guard in there. Didn’t I,” she speaks to me like a child.

“You see I didn’t get eaten up right?”

“But you let them get in your head.”

“No, I let you get into my head.”

“How did I use you? Tell me how I used you,” she demands as she pushes me.

“You’ve sent me out to run errands for you, I tracked down that vampire’s son for him. I missed work because you wanted to go out hunting and need an assistant,” I start to list all the tings. “Oh wait, I forgot. I almost got raped because you used me as bait for a Succubus.”

“This all started because you got knocked out stalking me at a night club. I took you home so nobody would find you in a dark alley covered in blood. That was my first mistake, bringing home a stray, because they get attached. Trust me, I know.” She puts her hand over my mouth before I can respond. “My second mistake, not making you disappear when you started showing up at my place unexpectedly. Mistake number three was assuming we were friends, because friends do things to help each other out, so yeah, you ran some errands for me and I taught you to meditate. When’s the last time you fell on the floor having an anxiety attack? Did you help me find that vampire’s son? Not really, you just lied to him. I was going to work that case anyway; you chose to tag along. I didn’t ask you to find anyone, you got your computer out and went super hacker all on your own. You told me you hated your job, I thought you would want a break. Sorry for trying to entertain you. As for the Succubus? I would have never let you get hurt. Did I ever ask you for money? Jewelry? Anything but a little time? So, tell me, how am I using you?”

“I’m sorry,” is all I can think to answer after a few blocks of silence.

“You’re sorry?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. Really sorry. You told me be on guard, and I let them get in my head. I let them use me to doubt you.”

“I’m sorry too. I’m sorry I let a stalker into my fucking life. I’m sorry I let you get close to me. I’m sorry I thought we had a good thing going. I’m sorry, I trusted you enough to show you the world I live in. You’re a sorry ass excuse for a man and I’m sorry I didn’t see that. I’m sorry I thought we made a good team.”  

Destiny starts tearing at the bottom of her dress, until all the frills are gone and it looks more like a blouse. I didn’t know she was wearing basketball shorts underneath, that’s just like her. She pulls a pair of sneakers from her purse and turns her head, unable to look at me. In the moment, I feel like I might have just gotten dumped. I’ve never been in a relationship before, and we didn’t make it official. I see her as my girlfriend, but not my real girlfriend; not that’s she’s mine either, especially not now or ever.

“Driver, let me out here,” she knocks on the window.

“Please, don’t go,” I call out as she leaves the limo and takes off running.

I know I’ll never catch her, so I don’t even give chase. I just wait for the limo to drop me off at home and think about how I screwed this up. One of the few good things I’ve had in my entire life, and I ruined it because I let some vampire groupies get in my head. I was on guard, ready for a fight. I just didn’t think the fight would be with the love of my life.

Chapter 75 - M.

I didn’t take Destiny as the belle of the ball kind, but she was serious about this one. I didn’t even picture her as the house party kind. I always saw her as someone like me, who enjoyed their time alone. Last week she made it mandatory that we were to attend this ball. I even had to get a tuxedo for this one, something I never thought I’d be doing. Suits and ties aren’t exactly my kind of thing but this midnight blue looks pretty good on me. The color looks even better on Destiny, her is poufy and flowing, like a ball gown for a Disney princess. She looks beautiful, not more than usual, but a different kind of beautiful.

“Stop staring at me,” Destiny punches me in the arm.

“What? Nobody is staring at you.”

“Then what were you doing?”

“Wondering why we were taking a limo, since last time you almost let me die,” smooth save by me.

“No, you weren’t wondering, because you knew I wouldn’t let you die. You were looking at me. Hard.”

“My look wasn’t the only thing hard, I just think you look amazing.”

“I always look amazing.”

“I’ve seen you eat,” I laugh.

“Okay smart ass.”

“What’s the deal with this whole fantasy ball thing,” I change the topic.

“Occasionally vampires get together and have big parties, just to remind ourselves there are others out there. Usually the primeval kind love to have big fabulous balls like the old days. That’s where we’re heading to.”

“Why would you want to go there?”

“I’ve got my reasons.”

“Like seeing me looking my most handsome in a tuxedo?”

“You’re not that handsome,” she waves her hand.

“So, you’re saying I’m handsome,” I nudge her with my elbow.

“Sometimes, but I’ve seen you on a normal day,” she grins at me. “When we get here, you have to be really careful,” she suddenly sounds serious.

“There are a lot of vampires here, they’re going to have familiars and other people around. You’re with an Adze you’ll stand out for that. You’re also black, and there won’t be a lot of us in this place. I’m sure you’ve had that nervous feeling when you’re the only black person in the room.”

“All through school.”

“Well this will be like that, but a hundred times worse. Don’t leave the ball room, nobody will try anything there. Outside the ball room, they might try to drink your blood as a power move. These old school creeps have a thing about showing they’re more powerful than other vampires. That might even mean killing a familiar.”

“If it’s so dangerous, why are we going?”

“Because I have my reasons, and I need you to trust me.”

We arrive outside of what appears to be a rundown old hotel, but there’s a red carpet and people waiting outside. As we’re let out of the limousine people snap photographs as if this was some kind of movie premiere, but there’s no fan-fare or shouting, just a lot of pictures. We wave and pretend we’re celebrities for just a moment before stepping inside.

The outside of the hotel looks like crap, but inside is magnificent. The interior is bright white, dotted with red. White tablecloths covered in red roses, a white curtains with a red trim, some chairs have been covered with what appear to be midlevel crests, and sigils. I’ve played enough video games to know that they must be the important families.

I get why Destiny said to be on guard here almost immediately. It seems like every person here, vampire or not is trying to excerpt their dominance in some way. Yelling at the wait staff, loud clothes, just being loud or commanding their own followers to make a mockery of themselves for amusement. The two of us find a corner and have some champagne, no old friends to chat with or anything like that. Clearly this is a all business for Destiny. I pass the time drinking and trying to spot different types of vampires to no avail. A small chime echoes throughout the hall catching me off guard, but nobody else.

“Stay put, be careful. That sound means there’s a vampires only meeting upstairs,” she finishes her drink in a big gulp and heads off.

I assume the rest of us left in the room are the guests of our vampire buddies. I make my way around the room looking for a friendly face. I settle in at the bar where a group of guys are chatting about how they’ve been for the last few years.

“Hey, new guy,” a man takes a seat next to me.

“How’s it going?”

“What house you belong to,” he asks.

“I don’t know,” is the only answer I have.

“Let me see your brand,” he asks.

“My what?”

“Your brand,” he rolls up his sleeve.

A circle is burned into his ping flesh, raised and looking old yet raw at the same time. Inside the circle is a 4 pointed pitchfork, each one tipped with a diamond and odd looking letter inside. It reminds me of a fraternity brand, but looks more painful, as if it’ll never fully heal. Something I don’t have.

“I don’t have one of those.”

“What? You must be new blood. Your master must have you picked out for something big. What are you a lawyer or doctor,” he asks.

“I work in IT.”

“Hmm, dot com bubble already popped. You must do some special IT work.”

“Not really. Is everyone here a doctor or lawyer or politician?”

“Nah, but each of us has an important role to play. You just haven’t been given your role yet.”

Talking with the man about the vampire hierarchy gives me a completely different view than chatting with Destiny. Thralls, ghouls which are failed thralls, brands, blood lettings and all of this crap, way different than what I’ve heard. Sure she’s Adze and they’re different but I can’t help but think she’s just been using me this whole time. Bait for the succubus, running errands for her, solving cases, so on and so forth. From what I’ve learned every person here is here, because some vampire finds them useful. Butlers, politicians, lawyers, architects, but not a single friend. Why would she even bring me here if I was anything more to her than just a toy to be played with and discarded?

Chapter 74 - M

“Why are we hanging on this rooftop in the middle of the night,” I ask Destiny.

“Because I’m waiting on my target to make himself known.”

“And who is your target? The mysterious rooftop jumper?”

“No, he’s a thief that takes magic artifacts from people’s homes.”

“Wow, that’s thrilling. We could go watch a movie,” I suggest.

“This is how I put food on the table and keep my bitches looking pretty,” she laughs.

“Am I supposed to be bitches? Because I was pretty when you met me.”

“Just shut up and practice your little pocket thing,” she laughs.

“It’s a great idea.”

“I showed you a big book of magic, and you landed on trying to create a magic pocket. I still don’t get it.”

“Because Green Lanterns are awesome. I can’t exactly go making light projections but I can make a pocket. I can keep a change of clothes, snacks, a laptop and a bunch of other stuff. You should think about learning too. Women’s clothes don’t have pockets so a magic pocket means I won’t have to carry your stuff,” I give her a big toothy smile.

“You should be honored to carry my stuff,” she makes her way to the ledge.

I let her concentrate on finding her guy while I go back to working on my pocket. Right now, I can almost open one up. I think I’m approaching this one wrong. Green Lanterns basically make like a pocket dimension. That’s how I’ve been thinking about it too, making a whole dimension, but I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. At least not with my mind, I fixate on every single detail. Is there life in this universe? Is there a source of light? How will I know which object I’m trying to take out?

No, I just need to keep it simple. Maybe instead of a pocket dimension I’ll think of it as something like a locker. Not as big, that’s basically what I need. A blue locker, padlock no combination, air vents for no reason. Tall and rectangular, it’s my idea so I want a double wide, not a school locker. Maybe a shelf, I’m overthinking this, but still less than a universe.

I open my eyes and a little bluish grey cloud floats in front of me. I think this is supposed to be my locker, or universe. It’s not like any weather thing I’ve ever seen before. I look around to tell Destiny but she’s gone. Just me and the cloud, I really want to touch it, I think I have to. I dig for the penny I kept in my pocket for this moment.

I reach my hand towards it, but there’s a mild electric shock that makes me pull back. Okay, maybe I should think on it a little more. I close my eyes again and picture the cloud, this time I picture it letting me in, a nice little door that only I can reach in. A door that won’t shock me when I try to touch it, that’s it. I’ve got an image now.

I open my eyes and stare down the cloud again. This time I clutch the penny tight and jam my hand inside. There’s no shock, it’s a cool felling, the perfect temperature, almost like liquid. I let the penny go and it feels like it floats away, but I can’t watch it go, only feel it. Still, I can feel where it’s at, almost as if there’s a big ocean, and I’m aware of everything inside, even if it’s only a penny. I pull my hand out expecting it to be wet, but there’s no difference than when I put it in.

Now, the real test. Can I pull it out? I stick my hand back in, and it still feels like a cool ocean. I grasp, but there’s nothing. I can’t find the penny; I’m thinking I might have just sent it to nowhere. What did the book say? Right, I have to think about the item and call it forth. Penny, I choose you. Something small bumps against the palm of my hand and I grasp it then yank my hand out. I open it up, and there’s the penny. The exact same penny I put in there. I’m the man.

I turn at the sound of thud against the ground and spot Destiny with a hogtied elf. From what I know he’s too dark to be a high elf, brownish skin, he must be a wood elf. What’s a wood elf doing so deep in the city? They’re supposed to stick to the edges where they can be close to nature, or just not live in cities. I’m thinking some of those books Destiny gave me are outdated. There needs to be a Wikipedia for this kind of thing. I’d donate $5 a month for that.

“So, how do you actually get paid for kidnapping him,” I can’t help but ask.

“Well, I brand him with my registration number and place a call. They come pick him up. I don’t even have to wait if I think the restraints are good enough,” she says like there’s no big deal.

“You’re going to brand him like property,” that’s disgusting.

“No, like a magic brand. If you ever get registered you’ll get one of these,” she produces a small bingo marker from her pocket and pops the cap. “Basically, each of these is coded with a number. You just touch it somewhere like a forehead and you’re done.”

“I don’t see anything.”

“It’s not for you to see, it’s for the Syndicate to see,” she shrugs.

“How do you call them?”

“On the phone you dweeb,” she bursts into laughter.

We wait for the pickup and I tell her about my cloud, that’s still floating beside me. I just need to learn to call it and make it go away on demand now. I have to go to work in the morning, I can’t bring a cloud with me.

I’m startled when two people in suits appear on the roof silently. I don’t know how they got up here, but they go straight to the elf Destiny had captured. An Orc and another elf, a high elf, both wearing all black suits with sunglasses. They look like every depiction of the men in black in comics, movies, TV, books. Some members of a shadowy government organization. The elf waves his hand over the tied up elf and nods to the Orc. The Orc tosses Destiny’s bounty onto her shoulders.

“Payment will be deposited in 12 hours,” the elf speaks and they quickly exit.

“We should get pizza,” Destiny says.

“None of that was weird to you?”

“Nope, just work. Look, your little cloud went away,” she laughs. “We’re getting pizza.”