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Friday, May 26, 2023

F³ Public Display 14

            “They are quite lovely, Thomas,” Nikki said. “I may have to arrange for a pretty for myself, tonight.”

            I felt the warmth of Nikki’s will momentarily wrap around me before releasing. It was the sort of thing that I couldn’t truly get used to. She didn’t do it often, smothering my own will in the warmest, most comfortable weighted blanket when it was cold outside. When she withdrew it, there was an absence, a longing to get it back. Certainly that was what Thomas had done to his pretties, wrapped them up some that all they craved was more of that warm presence wrapped around their souls.

            For me, though, it was a clear signal.

            I pinched Nikki’s bottom.

            Instead of jumping or giggling, or do any of the things that I probably would’ve wanted, her eyes whirled on me, hard as stone and piercing like daggers. “I have warned you repeatedly that now is not the time. Nor is it time for your jealousy.”

            She stood up and crooked a finger at me to get up.

            I did.

            “Go. I have business to conduct and I’ll not have you pouting and pining for me. Arrange a room for us so that I can have proper words with you . . . and pick up a pretty for me. I’m sure the club will be accommodating. But be sure you are waiting for me when I have concluded my business.”

            I had kept my head down and sunk further into myself with each word, being suitably abashed.

            “Yes, Nikki,” I said meekly.

            “Leave us,” she commanded.

            I left, making sure I kept up the meek, defeated posture until I had disappeared into the hallway.

            Maybe I can get to the bottom of this, now.

Friday, May 19, 2023

F³ Pretties 13

            “When I signal,” Nikki whispered, “pinch me.”

            She didn’t give me time to respond as she strode into the salon, pulling me with her. She aimed straight for a pair of the younger men with two women each on their laps, both fawning heavily over them.

            My immediate instinct was that they were vampires, or perhaps wights, but as I got closer, I thought the one with light red hair had the slight yet powerful build of one of the fae. My encounters with their kind had been blessedly rare, but my old partner Max had run into them a few times and had described them and given me the literature to identify them.

            The other one had a strong chin that he constantly kept lifted up, as if he were some kind of royalty. He well could have been as I suspected he the dark hair and nose reminded me of Slavic features, and I was fairly certain that he was a vampire, especially since one of the women who fawned over him wore a lace choker wide enough to cover any potential puncture wounds. I also recognized that glazed look in the eyes of someone whose will had been overtaken by a vampire.

            “Make it soon,” I put almost no voice to the words to Nikki.

            Nikki gave no indication she heard, though. When we reached the area, the two men regarded her passively, and me with disdain as she pushed me into a seat before plopping herself on my lap. Had this been another time and place, I would have greatly appreciated the feel of her there.

            “Thomas,” Nikki inclined her chin to the Slavic man. “Or have you changed your name again?”

            “Thomas still suits me. I had heard that you had adopted this man as your pet.”

            “One wonders why,” said the redhead.

            “Thomas, manners.” Nikki prompted.

            “Of course,” Thomas said. “Nikki Alexander, this is . . . Sean.” The name didn’t come naturally, as if Thomas was trying to change it up.

            Sean raised a glass of something. I didn’t drink enough to be able to identify liquor based on its color or glass.

            “And your pet?” Sean asked.

            “Not worth naming, or should I demand the names of yours?”

            “Ha! Except that your pet is one that our conclave sentenced to death, yet your intervention spared his life, and now you bring him here. Why?”

            Instead of answering Sean, she turned back to Thomas. “Does your friend truly not understand the delights of the flesh.” She wiggled again, and I felt myself growing, er, warmer.

            “Ha! Truly? You could do better, Nikki.”

            “There are more ways than one to be attractive, Thomas. I believe you have seen us at a ball or two.”

            He was at some of those? Well, that’s embarrassing. Guess it doesn’t matter since I wasn’t investigating anything.

            “Dancing. Yes. Well, I prefer my pretties in more horizontal movements.” Thomas raised his eyebrows suggestively. Sean rolled his eyes at the idea, clearly disinterested.

            But he still has his own pair of pretties on his lap. What’s he get from them?

Friday, May 12, 2023

F³ Distinguishing Features 12

            “I think that can be arranged,” she whispered. “Am I sending you away out of anger, anticipation, or boredom?”

            “Lady’s choice.” It didn’t matter to me.

            We moved off the escalator and passed into a twisting hallway that opened up on a salon with dozens of chairs and couches subdividing the space into separate camps where people could have semi-private conversations and still maintain social visibility. My eyes roamed over the faces. The more I scanned, the more uncomfortable I became.

I couldn’t pinpoint any one face that made me uncomfortable, rather, it was the collection of them. There were too many perfect features in the prime of their lives. Sure, there were rich tech millionaires in their thirties aplenty, but the Fairhaven Club was more about old money, old power. There shouldn’t be so many youthful faces, here. The women up here seemed to fawn over them, too.

Then there were the older faces with angular features that didn’t fit quite right. Too hight cheekbones, eyes too far apart with a small, button noses. If I had seen only one of those faces, I might have written it off, but a cluster of five such people set my hair on end. Coincidence didn’t happen on this scale.

“Loose, Matthew.” Nikki whispered. “We’re not ready for our display, yet.”

“They’re. . . .” I trailed off.

“Yes. When this is over, you shall have to tell me how you knew.”

Most of this room was full of supernatural creatures wearing human guises. I didn’t know all the various types, but I didn’t need a rundown to know I was in great danger.

I was keenly aware that my gun and its silver bullets sat in Nikki’s limo.

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