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by beetle
Rated: 18+ · Novella · Gay/Lesbian · #2004896
Dorsky needs a miracle. It just so happens Wheeze is in the miracles-business. . . .
When it comes to the underworld—and otherworld—of Lenape Landing, I’m the man.

The man who can get you just about anything if the price is right. And the conditions. I’m a big fan of working under the proper conditions, and let me just say that in the ‘Landing? Conditions are almost always sodding favorable.

I can get a body whatever it wants, whatever it needs, whatever it craves in the wee, still, lonely hours of the night. Could even get m’ hands on the Holy Grail, if a body wanted it. But, as I’ve said, price and conditions would have to be right—price being astronomical and conditions being very un-fucking-likely. But still . . . if there’s a need, there’s a niche, and when it comes to the illegal, the illicit, the unnatural—or even just the bloody impossible, I’m the man to fill it.

So when Detective Dan Dorsky showed up on my well-swept doorstep, his pit bull-face both determined and hang-dog, as per usual, asking me to make a miracle happen, my response was: “Sure. What’s it worth to ya?”

Dorsky blinked and gaped a little, before his jaw clenched tight—also as per usual—and he shouldered his way past me into the shop.

“You didn’t even ask what kinda miracle, Wheeze,” he all but growled. He wasn’t angry—or at least no angrier than any Were living on the straight and narrow in Lenape Landing of all places. ‘Cos if there’s any place for a Were to really cut loose and let his wolf come out to play—hell, let his wolf go fucking rogue—it’s the ‘Landing.

Watching him case the joint, as if any of the extra-legal stuff I sell would be out where any old Hume or cop could see, I smiled and closed the door, turning the OPEN sign to CLOSED.

Call it a hunch I had.

“Don’ need to know, do I? When some’at needs to be got or to happen, I’m the man who greases the wheels. You say miracle, I say it’s all in another day’s work.” Snorting, I crossed my arms and waited for Dorsky to get done perusing my wares, all while covertly perusing his. Not that there was much to see, even for a Vamp’s super-vision. Dorsky wore trench-coats and fedoras like he stepped right out of an old movie about a hard-bitten P.I. All there was to see of the man—all there’d ever been, to my amused frustration—was that he was a wall of muscle, somewhere under his clothes, as square and meanly-built as any underground fighter. He had big, workman’s hands, hairy and rough, and a face like a pit bull—which I may have mentioned—pinned-back looking ears, and everything. Though the freckles tended, in my humble opinion, to defeat the grim danger inherent in his strong, brute’s features.

I’d known Dorsky long enough to know that the hair under his dour, old fedoras was thick and gingery, like that brat from that movie about the orphanage. Not that one. The other one, that’s less famous.

You know the one.

Anyway, I shifted my eyes when Dorsky turned to face me, his dark, dark eyes narrowed. I grinned my most charming and innocent grin, and he sighed wearily. Another look at him, rather less covert, revealed all the little things I’d missed while trying to mentally undress him: the pallid complexion, the dark circles around his eyes, and the hollows below his cheeks, as if he hadn’t been sleeping, eating, or tending to his . . . Were-needs, like every good little wolf should.

Tsk.

“Y’ look like shite, mate,” I said, and Dorsky actually cracked a smile at that. A wry one, but a smile, nonetheless. Almost big enough to showcase the dimples few know he has. “Would this miracle of yours be a good night’s sleep and a decent meal? ‘Cos, I can arrange both for you. And some companionship, while you’re at it and if you’re game.”

I let my gaze imply what I was very much thinking loudly enough for him to have heard if his sixth sense wasn’t as dull as a brick.

And I swear, to the few things even I hold inviolate, the man actually blushed. Stuffed his big hands in the pockets of his trench-coat and blushed. It was bloody adorable, but I must admit, my interest had been peaked by Dorsky’s miracle, and what it could really be. “I’m just taking the piss, of course. Unless your answer’s yes. In which case, my door is, as ever, open. Now, tell me about this miracle needs doin’?”

Dorsky sighed heavily, his blush slowly fading as he looked me in the eye like he was measuring me. “I need help stopping a serial killer.”

Frowning, I bit my lip. “In’t that what the coppers are for, yeah?” I asked, genuinely confused. Cos it was what the coppers were for—or P.I.s, like Dorsky, who was himself an ex-member of the Bacon Brigade. A twenty-year veteran who, on his last night of duty, had had the misfortune to run afoul of a Were on a rampage.

Dorsky looked pained, now. “It is. Normally. But there’s nothing normal about these murders, Wheeze. These people—these little girls were all done in by the same person, in the same way. I picked up the same scent on all the bodies and at all the crime scenes.” Taking a breath, he met my eyes again, his own intense and intent. “It was a Vampire.”

I—I, mind you—went ice-cold.

“There’s a Vamp out there making high profile kills, no attempts to hide the nature of the deaths—killing children and taunting the entire city with its own helplessness,” Dorsky went on stolidly, though his voice showed strain at the edges. He even took off his damned fedora and ran a hand through that thick ginger mane he hides. How often have I imagined gripping that hair while I guided its owner’s mouth just where I needed it. . . ?

Usually I was easily distracted by such lovely what-ifs. But today . . . today was a different set of bricks altogether.

“Step into my office,” I said, grim as the reaper, and lead Dorsky deeper into the back of the shop.{/p}

#



“Lagavullin?”

“Double, please.”

Surprised, I finished pouring the whisky that’d been meant for me—Dorsky never drank on the clock. The fact that he was breaking that cardinal rule was . . . disturbing, indeed—and passed it across the desk to Dorsky, who inhaled half of it in a trice.

“This’s really got you rattled,” I noted, and Dorsky snorted, taking another gulp of my good, single malt whisky. I winced. Even us Vamps don’t have the fortitude of a Were in his prime, when it comes to shooting liquor like it’s water.

“Of course it does, Wheeze. There’s an immortal, near indestructible child-murderer running around my city. What part of that wouldn’t incline me to climb into a bottle?” Snorting again, Dorsky finished the whisky. I poured him another double without asking then sat behind my desk, nursing my own, unhappily.

“So . . . this Vamp in’t abiding by the unspoken rules of the ‘Landing? High-profile kills, of children, no less, and he exsanguinates them completely?”

“Not a drop of blood left in their poor bodies,” Dorsky muttered, knocking back another big swallow of whisky. “This Vamp is trying to get on Hume radar in a big way. Not that that’s hard to do in Lenape Landing, but there’re still a quiet majority of Humes in this town that don’t know what really lurks in the dark of the ‘Landing. But they’re starting to ask questions.”

“Fuck.” Humans asking questions never meant well for the likes of us Paranormals. But my kind especially. Vamps ain’t everyone’s cup of tea, and even in the underworld of Lenape Landing, it can be hard to go along and get along when one doesn’t have a heartbeat or a reflection. “Fuck me, Freddie.”

“And it gets better.” Dorsky chuckled his weary, cynical chuckle and held the half-empty glass up to the light almost wistfully. “The higher-ups and, uh, lower-downs in the underworld—and in the city, proper—are demanding this Vamp’s head on a pike, and no one knows who she is. No one even knows where to start.”

“No one except you, Dan,” I murmured, smiling a little and examining my own glass for signs and portents. So help me, but I’ve always been attracted to smart men with good instincts.

Then the import of something else he’d said hit me like a freight-train. “She?”

Dorsky nodded, still smiling his grim, world-weary smile. “So far, even the F.B.I.’s forensic psychologists still think the killer is male. And Human, it goes without saying. But the Weres on the force know this Vamp’s female. Just try telling the profilers that, though. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. A rookie detective, Jana LaFours tried to put the “female killer” hypothesis forward and nearly got laughed out of the station. Fucking Neanderthals,” he added with a grunt. “Anyway, that’s what I’ve got. Vampire, female, and possibly old.”

“How old ya thinkin’?”

“Older than you, for sure,” Dorsky gave me a frank once-over that would’ve set me blushing, had I been physically capable of such a thing. “Jana and I think she’s old enough to be a Daywalker.”

I nearly dropped my whisky.

“Lemme get this bit straight, yeah?” I sat forward in my chair, holding Dorsky’s gaze. “You think this murdering cunt is a Daywalker and you’re trying to get in her way?!”

Dorsky leaned forward, too. “Yes, we are,” he said simply, then sat back again. “We can’t let someone go around our territory, killing our children—and yes, these seven girls were also Weres, or would have been if they’d lived long enough to go through the Change—and sowing fear and chaos. We can’t let these innocent lives go unavenged.”

“’Innocent lives go’—I’m sorry, Dan, but do you hear how y’ talkin’, mate? And do you even know what y’ talkin’ about?” I laughed mirthlessly. “Y’ talking about coming between a fucking Daywalker and what she wants. That’s as barmy an idea as bearding a lion in its den. And make no mistake, Daniel, if a Daywalker’s settled in Lenape Landing, then it is her city, now, and the only way she’ll stop is when this place is one giant sodding graveyard. And anyone that stands in her way will get mowed down. Gruesomely.”

All throughout this speech, Dorsky’s dark eyes had been widening, till he looked less like a pit bull and more like a puppy. “What—what else do you know about Daywalkers?”

“Does the phrase ‘walking plague on Humes and Vamps alike’ tell you what I know?” I demanded angrily. I stood up and paced around my office once. Then did it again because it felt so bloody fantastic. “Daywalkers are so-called because they’re so bloody old, mate—older than most Vampires will ever get—that Sun’s light no longer burns them. And they’re not just old, they’re old-school. Crypt-keeping, water-avoiding, holy-ground eschewing—the whole Magilla. And that’s what keeps the rest of the world safe from them. They’re usually territorial, and that territory, especially if bounded by running water, is usually small. The ‘Landing, you’ll note, is indeed small—compared to Chicago or L.A.—and bounded by running water. It’s got a ready supply of blood and no small amount of juju running through it. A Daywalker's paradise.”

Dorsky was frowning, now. “But if Daywalkers can’t cross running water—”

“Didn’t say can’t. Said don’t.”

“Then why did this one?”

“Who says she did? Who knows how long she’s been here, biding her time?”

“Hmm,” Dorsky said, then shook his head. “No, I don’t think she was here biding her time. I think she came here specifically to kill. The question is why?”

I, too, was shaking my head. In incredulity. “Who gives a flyin’ fart in space why she’s here? The fact is, she’s here, and she in’t leavin’. Not till everyone’s dead, Undead, or has run away in terror!”

I stopped by the right side of Dorsky’s chair, and he looked up at me, very somberly. “Does that include you?” he asked quietly.

“I’m already Undead,” I joked, and Dorsky didn’t so much as smile. Wouldn’t look away from me, which meant I couldn’t look away from him.

So I did the only thing I could do. I knelt by his chair and continued to gaze into his eyes. I’ve mentioned that they were dark, But not like mine. Not dark-brown, but a grey so dark it looks black until one is under direct light and very close to it.

The lighting was right, and I was, indeed, very close.

“I cannot help you, Daniel,” I whispered, putting my London street-accent away for my natural Knightsbridge. Now wasn’t the time for games or hiding. Not anymore. “I’m sorry. I truly am. Helping you might put me on her radar and that’s something I . . . cannot afford. If it were anything but a bloody Daywalker. . . .”

“I know it’s a risk, Wheeze, but—”

“You have no idea, mate. None at all.” I finally managed to look away from his righteous, pleading eyes. “You Weres are lucky. You’ve got souls. When you die, you Run with the Moon forever and ever, Amen. But what do you think happens to us Vamps when we die for keeps, eh?” I reached out, feeling greatly daring, and put my hand on Dorsky’s where it rested on my desk. It felt hairy and warm and solid under my own. Like it belonged there. “We don’t go on to some mystical afterlife of rewards. We simply stop being. That’s it. Period. Full-stop. Do not pass ‘GO,’ do not collect $200.”

Silence fell between us, then, in which Dorsky turned his hand in my own, caught my slimmer one in his palm and squeezed it. Again, it felt so right, it took away the breath I didn’t have.

“Look at me, Adam.”

Of course, stupid arsehole that I am, I did—flinching. Few people know my real name, anymore. And even fewer still would dare use it to my face.

Dorsky smiled, and covered my hand with his other one. I felt utterly helpless and did what I always had done, when defenseless: I began to babble.

“This Daywalker . . . it’s unlikely that she even came into my shop, Dan. Vamps that old don’t bother with little things like faked-up social security cards, passports, green cards, and all that bollocks,” I said, and it was almost a plea. A plea to not be drawn into this any farther than I already had. “And if, as you say, she is a Daywalker, I’d have felt the power comin’ off her in waves. No one like that’s been in my shop since your very own DyreMother came in last winter.”

Dorsky was the one to flinch, now. “Who do you think put me on this case? DyreMother Ruby, among the ‘Landing’s other luminaries, is . . . distressed, to say the least, about the murders of these girls. She wants it ended by whatever means necessary.”

I smiled lamely. “So, you’re a Were with a license to kill?”

“Among other things.”

“Fuck.” I stood up and tried to let go of Dorsky’s hand, but he held on and stood with me. Moved in closer, till I could see the grey in his charcoal-colored eyes again. He was a few inches shorter than me, but easily twice as wide. I could feel his body heat like the memory of Sun’s light. “Let me go, Dorsky. I can’t get involved in this. I’m a Neutral when it comes to the great game of tug o’ war what goes on between good and evil in this city. I stand on the sidelines and wait for the winner to come to me. But I do not pick a team and help out.”

“And I’m not asking you to, Adam.” Dorsky sighed. “I’m asking you to help me keep our city just the way you like it: poised on a balance. Neutral, like you. I’m asking you to save our home from a force that would demolish it and everyone in it, the way a kid knocks down an anthill and steps on the ants. Please.”{/p}

I hung my head for a moment, eyes closed, letting the big, red, neon NO flashing in my mind hold sway before I replied, looking back up at Dorsky’s pit bull face.{/p}

“But if she didn’t pass through my shop for whatever reason, what help could I possibly be to you, Dan?”

Thus began my eventual capitulation. Dorsky knew it, and grinned. “Moral support?”

My eyebrow quirked up.

“Okay, how about—you’re my passport into Vamp polite society?” Dorsky obviously repressed a smile at the thought of Vampires having a “polite” society. I’m about as cordial as Vamps get—we’re not social creatures, not really—and even I tend to live like a recluse, with nothing but the telly for company. “You can get me in to see Vamps who might have an idea of who this killer is. And, well, they’re your people. They might be more willing to talk to you, than to some ex-cop Were who bats for the Light.”

“What makes you think any Vamp, even one whom I may have helped, once upon a time, would talk to me about anything, most especially about the business of a Daywalker?” I demanded. Dorsky smiled and gave me that frank once-over once more.

“Have you looked in a mirror, lately?” And before I could give my snappish answer, Dorsky laughed self-deprecatingly. “No, I guess not. Well, let me be the one to tell you, Wheeze: you’re . . . hot. And charming. And people just like you, whether for those reasons or others. And when people like someone, they talk to them.”

I blinked. “You must be joking.”

“Must I be?”

I frowned. The last time I’d seen my reflection had been in 1847, in hospital in London. Despite the ravages of Consumption, I’d still insisted on shaving myself every morning, with my own straight razor (a gift from my father, which I still have). But the face and body I’d been able to see in that mirror had been . . . wasted and awful-looking. Gantry-thin limbs and torso, so that muscles stood out on me like rope. Though not a Vampire then—not just yet, but it was to be very soon—I was so pale as to appear bloodless. Indeed, more of my blood was in basins and handkerchiefs, than in my body.

My dark eyes had been huge and surrounded by purplish circles. My cheekbones had been sharp as glass, presiding over a fine-boned, slightly receding jaw and a perfect, damned manly chin that was dimpled (and had, before the Consumption had made hospitalization necessary, been my besetting vanity).

My hair was the same ordinary dark-brown as my eyes, and had, in the fashion of the day, hung straight and heavy past my shoulders . . . the only thing on me that had still been healthy and vibrant, if one ignored my eyes.

As far as I knew, nothing about me had changed since the night I’d died. I looked, I just knew, like Death luke-warmed over. Like a skeleton. A skeleton with great hair, perhaps, but still.

Surely Dorsky was having me on. I was many things—some of them quite wonderful, I was sure—but I was not hot.

“You’d clean up real nice, if you wore something other than wife-beaters and blue jeans,” he said finally, after looking me over again. “I can easily see you in dark velvet and leather.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Can you, now? Or is that my whisky talking?”

Dorsky met my eyes and smiled, squeezing my hand again. “I’m Polish and a Werewolf. Two glasses of admittedly fine whisky aren’t enough to get me even close to drunk.”

“Well, you must be something if you’ve pictured me in velvet and leather, and haven’t run screaming in the other direction.”

Dorsky’s smile faded and he stepped closer to me, his free hand settling on my waist. It was so warm, it nearly scalded my room-temperature flesh. His eyes were very direct and practically burning into mine.

Smiling just a little, I stepped closer, too, till my feet bumped his. My iffy self-esteem could take a powder as long as Dorsky kept looking at me like that. “Of course, if you’re into flirty, tubercular dead blokes, who’m I to put you off?”

“Not blokes. One bloke in particular.” Dorsky’s smile was wry. “Moon Above. Of all the times to come clean about this . . . now.”

I leaned closer, already imagining what his lips would taste like, and the skin above his jugular vein, pulsing away with a heartbeat I could hear even now, slightly elevated, but still gentle and lulling. “And what’s wrong with now, mate? Heard there’s never a better time than, me.”

“The Daywalker’s what’s wrong, Wheeze, and you know it.” Dorsky squeezed my waist then took a step back, letting me go. I swore and reached for him, but he stepped back again and put his chair between us. His breathing was accelerated and his face flushed. “I can’t do this—can’t explore whatever this is between us with a clear conscience until that Daywalker’s so much dust in the wind.”

I went ice-cold again. “So, what? You’re coercing me into helping you, for the promise of finally getting you into my bed?”

Dorsky looked so instantly horrified that I felt like a fool. “No! I—I just meant, there’s other stuff going on right now that has to take precedence before . . . us. How could I, in good conscience, focus on anything but her?”

“It’s easy, yeah?” I shoved the chair out of the way and closed the distance between us. This time Dorsky’s eyes widened but he didn’t step away. Not even when I put my arms around him and pressed my body against his own. He was so warm. Almost hot. And I knew, with one of the strongest feelings I’d ever had, that soon, very soon, I’d be feeling that heat invade me and take up residence at the core of me because that’s right where it belonged.

“Adam,” Dorsky breathed, and I leaned my forehead down till it was touching his.

“Daniel.”

Our noses brushed, and it would’ve been followed by our lips but Dorsky turned his face away, breathing hard.

“Once I stop the Daywalker—”

“There won’t be a once-you-stop-the-Daywalker, love, believe me. She’ll end you,” I said harshly. “You think you’ll win against her? Do you really?”

Pulling away from me again, Dorsky’s gaze was naked and intense. “I have to try.” Glancing briefly down at the scant air that separated our bodies, he looked up again, his face hopeful. “Will you help me?”

I threw my hands up, angry and frustrated. “What on Earth could I possibly bring to the table? My legendary fighting prowess? My skills as a Mage? My age and power? Oh, wait—I don’t have any of those things! But I can Photoshop her up a nice, legit-looking social security card. Even her own mum’d think she was a U.S. citizen!”

Dorsky sighed yet again and searched my eyes. “I don’t think I can do this alone, Adam. I need someone with me who’s comfortable doing dirty work, but who I can trust not to do me dirty.”

“And that someone’s me?”

“I want it to be.”

“Well, I want you to bend me over my desk and fuck me silly. Looks like wishes in’t horses, today, mate.” I said with my own brand of weary cynicism. I turned away from Dorsky and leaned on the desk for a few moments before picking up my glass of whisky. I knocked the whole thing back in one swallow. For several precious seconds, the burn obliterated the rat-race of my conflicted thoughts.

Then Dorsky’s hand landed on my back and I shuddered away.

“Wheeze, please. . . .”

“Good luck on your quest, Detective Dorsky. As for me, with a Daywalker around, I’ll likely be picking up stakes and moving on.” I said, without knowing I was going to say it. But it was the logical move. The only one that made any bloody sense, with a Daywalker in town. It was North, to New York, or maybe even East, back to my beloved London. Either way, I couldn’t stay here. Not on the off chance that a Were could best a Daywalker. Even if that Were was Daniel Dorsky.

“Moon Above, Wheeze, I—” just then Dorsky fell silent, freezing utterly, his warm hand hovering inches from my back. I glanced over my shoulder at him, and saw his nostrils were flaring. Then his hovering hand landed on my back and his other came up with his Ruger faster than even I could follow.

I opened my mouth to speak, and Dorsky shook his head once: no.

Then he was noiselessly creeping toward the door to my office and opening it a crack. When it didn’t creak, or otherwise give him away, he opened it wider, until it was wide enough for him to slink his way out.

I didn’t know what was going on—a quick whiff of the air told me nothing. Unlike Weres, Vamps can’t smell around corners—but I did know one thing, as I reached for the top left drawer of my desk:

I wasn’t going to let Dorsky face whatever—whoever—it was alone. Even if it was the sodding Daywalker, come straight from Hell and knocking on my doorpost.

My trusty straight razor in hand, I crossed the room silently and let myself out into the hall.

Hackles that I didn’t technically have well and truly raised, I crept down the brief hall, turned the corner that led to the front room of my curio/pawn shop. A familiar scent of age, power, and death grew instantly stronger . . . along with the faint scent of some magic. Hume magic.

I saw the trespassers before they saw me, and my fangs distended and my vision sharpened. After that, everything seemed to be moving in slow-motion. I could see Dorsky, suspended and frozen in mid-air, Ruger fallen on the floor.

Still lingering in the doorway, the witch holding Dorsky in mid-air looked frightened and extremely young. Below her rainbow-colored fringe, her eyes were wide and incredulous. As if she couldn’t quite believe what she was doing. She kept darting little uncertain glances at her companion.

“Morgan Eliot,” I breathed, drawing her companion’s pale-blue gaze, which had been resting amusedly on Dorsky, to me. We stared at each other in shock and satisfaction, respectively, and the witch’s gaze ticked between us, and Dorsky.

“Fuck, Morgan, I dunno how to do two of them!”

Morgan smiled his thin, ironic smile and brushed long, auburn hair over his shoulder. “That won’t be necessary, Camela. In fact, you can release the good detective at any time. He’s no threat to us.”

“He’s not?” The witch looked pointedly down at the Ruger.

“No, he’s not. And neither is the proprietor of this fine establishment.” Morgan sauntered forward, kicking the Ruger away. It skidded back toward one of my tables, and under it. Then he was looking up at Dorsky, then at me, his nostrils flaring slightly. His smile grew ever so much more amused.

“Oh, Adam. You and your Weres,” he tsked, and for the second time in less than an hour, I would’ve blushed, had I been capable.

Suddenly Dorsky dropped to the floor with a thud and a grunt. A second later he was up on his feet, all a-bristle. The witch’s eyes widened and she took a step back from him. “Uh . . . Morgan. . . ? He seems pretty pissed. . . .”

“Well, of course he does, my dear. You rendered him, however temporarily, powerless.”

“But you told me to!”

“Yes, I did.” Morgan’s smile turned, for a moment, positively evil. And Dorsky continued to advance on the witch, who was practically out the door, by now.

“Adam, do call your pet Were off, will you? Camela’s harmless, really, she is.” Morgan said, leaning against the counter near the cash register.

Sighing, I nodded. “It shall be as my lord commands,” I said, aiming for flippant and falling far short; I folded and put away the straight razor. “Dorsky—Daniel . . . it’s okay. They’re . . . well, not friends, but not foes, either. I don’t think.”

Dorsky, who was as near his Change as I’ve ever seen a Were who wasn’t actually full wolf, yet, glanced over his shoulder at me and at Morgan, who waved me nearer to him. Helpless but to obey such a command, however lightly given, I sidled closer, not missing the way Dorsky’s eyes narrowed and ticked between us.

“Morgan Eliot,” I said as formally as I could—which wasn’t very. Irreverence was in my dead DNA. “May I present Daniel Dorsky, Private Investigator. Dan . . . this . . . is Morgan Eliot. Elder Vampire and . . . Daywalker.”

Dorsky’s eyes widened and the distinctly wolfish cast to his pugnacious features abruptly faded.

“Otherwise known as the answer to your prayers,” Morgan added, sliding his arm around my waist and pulling me close with a possessiveness that Dorsky couldn’t have missed and didn’t, if the way his scowl deepened again was any indication. Then Morgan was sniffing my neck, the tip of his nose causing a shiver as it dragged up along the path of my jugular vein. “You smell of wet dog.”

At this, Dorsky actually growled, turning fully away from the witch and stalking toward Morgan, whose head whipped up. All traces of amusement were gone from his thin, handsome face and whatever was in his eyes stopped Dorsky in his tracks. He stood there, as if faced with an invisible barrier, fists clenched, face thunderous in its anger.

“What do you want, here, Daywalker?” he finally demanded, and Morgan glanced at me, one eyebrow raised, before deigning to answer.

“I want what you want, Detective Dorsky: I want the interloper, Erzsebet of Bathory, out of Lenape Landing. By hook or by crook.” Morgan shrugged elegantly, negligently. “She’s playing dirty pool on my turf and that’s just not the done-thing in Vampire circles. Is it, Cammy?”

“I, uh, guess not,” the witch said, stepping into the shop proper and gazing around at all my fine and some not-so-fine wares. “Oh, my God, Damien and Jason would love this place! They’d get their geek on so hard!”

Morgan glanced at me again, once more amused. “The living . . . so excitable, are they not?”

“Part of their charm, I find.” I sighed as Morgan’s hand slid down and over to rest familiarly on the fly of my jeans.

Dorsky literally turned about six different shades of livid red.

“Oh, dear . . . the puppy wants to show his teeth,” Morgan said playfully, his fangs descending as he turned back to face an obviously enraged Dorsky. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

“Jeez, chillax, guys,” the witch said from across the room. She was holding an Eye of Dagroth. (And here’s an inside tip on those little gems: not nearly as rare as the hoi polloi are lead to believe.) “This isn’t about pissing matches, right? It’s about this Bathory-bitch tear-assing into town and killing little kids. It’s about stopping her before she can destroy the ‘Landing completely. So everyone, put your fangs away, so we can all be adults and help each other.”

And, surprisingly, Morgan did just that, his habitual look of amusement returning, with hints of something I might have called fondness in someone more . . . Human.

Dorsky, with some effort, stopped snarling. Rolled his shoulders and head till the cracking sounds stopped. When he looked back at Morgan and me, his face was closed off and grim, as usual.

“What if I don’t need your help. Or want it?” Dorsky asked tightly, staring down Morgan—or trying to. Morgan merely sighed and leaned into me. Which got me started thinking things like: Wheeze-sandwich, featuring Dorsky and Morgan as bread. . . .

Morgan chuckled deeply and kissed my collarbone. “Oh, Adam, you never change, do you? And you, Detective Dorsky, most definitely need our help. You and Adam may be able to find Erzsebet without our help, but contain her? Kill her?” A patronizing snort. “I think not. That’s where Camela and I come in.”

“And where Dorsky and I make our exit,” I chimed in, and everyone looked at me. I quailed a little in Morgan’s arms, then squared my shoulders and stood up straight, surprised when Morgan let me, and let me go. And I went straight to Dorsky, but slowly, hesitantly. When I got close to him, he looked me in the eyes. “Mate—Dorsky—Dan . . . this is our chance to finally get clear of this madness and let people who are equipped to handle it, bloody-well handle it. And maybe, you know, we could focus on us, like you mentioned.” I searched his eyes, this time, and couldn’t read what I saw there. I took an unneeded breath and a risk, and draped my arms over his shoulders. After a few seconds, Dorsky put his hands on my hips.

“Why don’t you understand, Wheeze? I have to see this done, to the end.” He pulled me close and leaned our foreheads together, his arms sliding around my waist as he held me tightly and possessively. He groaned softly, lighting up the air around us with pheromones. And if that wasn’t a clear enough signal, I could feel him getting hard against my leg. “It’s a matter of honor.”

“Honor’s what gets people killed, Daniel, or didn’t you know? And for what? The good opinion of people who certainly wouldn’t die for you if called!”

“I don’t believe that, Adam, and neither do you.” Dorsky’s nose brushed my own again, followed by his lips brushing mine, so softly. But it was as if someone had shoved my lips in a wall-socket. I moaned and held him closer, deepening the kiss for more of that . . . sensation of life-electricity-hot-cold-burn. But though I was the one to deepen it, Dorsky was the one controlling it, guiding me in the dance of teeth and tongues and lips, as if he was the one pushing two centuries old. . . .

I kissed him till even I had to come up for air, leaning our foreheads together once more. Dorsky’s hands slid down to my arse and he squeezed it pointedly, pulling me flush against him.

Mine,” he growled gently, his eyes a dark glitter when we were so close together. “Mine.”

Not if Morgan’s feeling stingy, today, I thought anxiously, but merely nodded and said: “Yours.”

“Then help me. Work this case with me, until we put that bitch down,” Dorsky snarled with unaccustomed zeal. “Help me save Lenape Landing, Adam. Help me save our home.”

I closed my eyes, thinking of how Vampires were, for all their strength and invulnerability, so damned easy to kill if one knew how . . .and I nodded yes. I nodded, letting Dorsky hug me close and scent my throat and jugular, as I said mental good-byes to New York and London. To a life of safety and comfort. To the likelihood of me reaching my 200th Deathday. . . .

Ah, well.

“Well, isn’t this an inspiring tableau?” Morgan said from directly behind us. “Love triumphs over all! Except, of course, over Erzsebet of Bathory. On whom, I suggest we get a head-start.”

“Yeah,” Camela said, sounding so suddenly shaken, Dorsky and I looked at her. She had the first two fingers of her left hand pressed lightly to her temple, and her eyes had a vague, far-seeing look to them, misty and ancient. “Because she got another little girl. The police just found another body.”
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