Back | Next

Songs Sung Red

Tanya Huff

In a few short weeks, Millennium Ten, the latest club to spring up on Queen West’s transitional block between money and attitude, had become the place to be on a Friday night. It didn’t seem to matter that the bouncer guarding the entrance was an arbitrary ass, that the drinks were expensive, that the dance floor was too small; people still waited for hours in line, determined to get in.

Vicki didn’t like waiting.

As she made her way up the line, she let the Hunger rise. Not enough to give anything away, but enough that the people she passed knew. No one protested when the bouncer’s gaze skittered off her face and he stepped aside.

The stairs down to the lower level were lit with strips of neon, mounted low on the walls. Descending patrons could see their feet clearly while their features were already wrapped in a play of light and shadow that made everyone, if not more beautiful, more mysterious.

Vicki carried mystery with her.

A cluster of young women in brightly colored, nearly there dresses—high on thighs and low over breasts—shuffled aside on spike heels when she passed, instinctively giving way before the superior predator.

Making her way slowly around the room, Vicki ignored the crowd at the bar, her eyes locked on the moving bodies that filled the dance floor. It wasn’t easy, not with the combined scents of heated flesh and arousal, but she kept the Hunger damped down far enough it attracted only positive attention. Dangerous but not deadly.

No one likely to approach her would believe the danger was real.

“You here alone?”

She’d known he was there before he’d spoken. Felt his eyes on her. Felt him move up behind her, close enough she could feel his clothing brush against her shoulder blades. He’d tipped his head forward to ask the question, warm breath lapping against her ear, his voice low, as intimate as possible given the ambient noise. He was tall, he had to be to pull off that maneuver when she was in heels, and he smelled like clean sweat and fabric softener.

Stepping back just a little, just enough for her ass to accidentally brush against him, she turned and smiled. “I am.”

He was in his mid twenties, seven or eight years younger than she’d been when she changed. His eyes were a medium blue flecked with gold. His hair was the same dark blond as hers, short enough to be military but his beard, even though it was barely more than stubble, suggested otherwise. He wore a dark blue button down with the sleeves rolled up over muscular forearms, black jeans, black boots. Fully aware she was checking him out, his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled and his smile said he thought he controlled their interaction.

“Do you want to dance?” He nodded toward the dance floor as if reassuring her that he actually meant dance—although given the vertical foreplay happening out there, Vicki wasn’t sure why he thought drawing her attention to it would be reassuring.

“Love to.”

There were protocols for this type of hunt. As easy as it would be to lead this young man out into the alley behind the club and take what she wanted, part of the fun was allowing him to believe he was leading her.

That way, everyone was happy. And besides, no one wanted fast food every time they ate out.

The press of bodies kept them close. He kept his eyes on her face as they danced. He was good, Vicki gave him that—one Hunter to another. She no idea what song was playing; as his heart began to beat in sync with the throbbing bass from the surrounding speakers, she danced to the pulsing of his blood. The thin fabric of his shirt began to stick to damp skin, outlining muscle, accentuating movement. As she breathed in his desire, a little more of the Hunger slipped free.

Outside, in the real world, people would have instinctively moved away. Down here, in the fantasy, they moved closer, flirting with fear, believing the same anonymity that allowed Vicki to Hunt would hide them. Like lambs to the slaughter.

Clubs like this were practically designed to become blood baths.

Vicki hurriedly damped it down at the look of terror on her partner’s face and, rather than make her move at the end of the song, kept them dancing until he regained his confidence. It didn’t take long. When she slid her leg between his, rubbing against the hard muscle of his thigh, showing him what she wanted, he closed his hands on her hips, fingers hot and strong, directing her movement.

She let him think so.

At the end of the song, the music stopped. Before a protest could rise from the dance floor, the DJ leaned into his microphone and said, “And now the voice you’ve all been waiting for!”

A single spotlight illuminated a tiny blonde woman standing alone on the small stage at the narrow end of club.

Vicki had no interest in even high-end Karaoke, so she tucked herself up close to the young man’s body, tilted her face up—barely resisting the urge to lick the salt off the tanned column of his throat—and opened her mouth to suggest they take their dance elsewhere.

And the tiny woman began to sing.

Vicki closed her mouth again.

Soaring melodies and raw emotion held the audience in thrall without the need for words. Looking around the dance floor, Vicki could see smiles and tears and want and near worship. Strong arms wrapped around her from behind. His cheek resting against the side of her head, their bodies in contact from shoulder to floor Vicki could feel the fine tremors running under her young man’s skin. He rocked his hips gently forward, in time to the music, and she knew the way no one else in the room could that neither the motion nor his arousal had anything to do with her.

That wasn’t right.

At this stage in the game, that wasn’t possible.

As the last note soared through blood and bone, blue-green eyes met hers for an instant.

Then the spotlight went out.

Before mortal eyes had time to adjust, Vicki had slipped through the door marked staff only and was moving down the corridor behind the stage. Under normal circumstances, she’d have lingered long enough to tell the young man to forget he’d ever seen her but these were not normal circumstances and she very much doubted that, while he was still in thrall to the song, she needed to bother.

Light spilled into the far end of the hall through an open door. As she walked at a mortal pace toward it, her heels announcing her presence against the worn, tile floor, Vicki could hear a single heartbeat and smell...


The dressing room was functional rather than opulent—cinderblock walls, a rack for clothes, a dressing table.

The young woman sitting in the captain’s chair, combing her hair, looked better than she had any right to, given the industrial lighting. Her song had commanded all available attention while she was on stage but here the silence paid her beauty its due. She sat facing the door, her back to the mirror. Her feet were bare. The hem of her floor length dress was...


There was a drain in the floor, not really surprising in a basement room that had likely gone through a hundred renovations over the years, but the tiles looked dry.

As Vicki closed the door, the young woman looked up and smiled, familiar blue-green eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. “I know you,” she said softly. The comb slid through the long fall of her hair. “Vampire. Nightwalker.”

“I prefer Vicki, if it’s all the same to you.”


She frowned and Vicki had to fight the urge to run her thumb over the delicate arch of her brows. Interesting. Probably a leftover from the dance floor; she’d never been physically interested in women.

On the other hand, as Henry was fond of saying, blood had no gender.

“Victoria.” Her voice slid over the syllables like she was tasting them, making them into a song. Vicki could see the tip of her tongue moving behind the parted barrier of her lips. “No, Vicki suits you better. Direct. To the point.” The comb slid through her hair again. “You may call me Lorelei, if you wish.”

“What are you?”

The question surprised a laugh out of her. “You’re young to the night. The day is not far behind you.”

“I know what I am.” Vicki allowed a little more of the Hunger to show, let it ride the throb of the bass beat from the club up to the surface. Allowed it to imply she was not going to ask again.

“What am I...” Lorelei tilted her head and watched the comb stroke through her hair, the movement slow, almost languid. The comb didn’t appear to be anything special; plain tortoiseshell plastic, wide teeth, and from the wear, she’d obviously had it a long time. “I am vaguely appalled by modern education. I am a stranger on these shores. I am a woman wronged.” When she lifted her head, her eyes were sad and she met Vicki’s gaze as though she had nothing to fear. “Tell me, has your heart always been true?”

“I don’t...”

“Know what I’m talking about? Yes, you do.”

Vicki couldn’t remember when the other woman had started to sing. Thought maybe she’d been singing throughout their conversation, although that would be...

“I give you the freedom to be yourself, Vampire.”


“Looks like someone really hated these guys.”

Moving carefully through the destruction, Detective Sergeant Mike Celluci glanced over at his partner and muttered a terse, “You think?” The head office of Droege Shipping had been literally ripped apart. Desks and filing cabinets had been thrown through walls and windows, doors had been ripped from their hinges, and computers had been smashed. Even the light fixtures had been ripped from the ceiling and if there was unbroken piece of glass anywhere on the 26th floor—excluding the external windows—Mike hadn’t seen it.

The management offices along the west wall had received the same attention the central cubicles had. Rank had no privileges.

He nodded toward the steel mount that had held one of the destroyed cameras and then to Detective Dave Graham, his partner. “Dave, see if they got anything.”

“On it.”

The two security guards had been found by the employee’s lunchroom. Before it had been destroyed, the lunchroom had probably been a pleasant enough place—pale brown walls, a fridge, toaster oven, microwave, kettle and two coffee makers. There’d been—Mike paused to count the pieces—six round tables, each with half a dozen comfortable chairs.

EMTs surrounded the survivor. Male, early twenties, black, six one or two, packing impressive muscle under the ruin of his uniform. Whoever had taken him down wouldn’t have had an easy time of it. He was already up on the gurney, strapped in with an IV working but his eyes were open so Mike moved to him first, hoping to get some kind of a statement before they moved him out.

He shifted his coat far enough to expose his badge. “Can you tell me what happened?”

The injured man’s eyes opened a little wider, far enough for Mike to see his pupils were dilated. He rolled his head over, exposing what looked like bite marks on the side of his throat, and sighed. “So easy to fall into the darkness.” Long fingers clutched at Mike’s wrist. “You know?”

“Duncan Riley. Twenty-four. And you’re not going to get anything coherent out of him.” The EMT waited as Mike gently extricated himself from Duncan Riley’s grip. “He’s been babbling off and on about the seductive darkness since we got here.”

He seemed to be off at the moment, staring at the ceiling, smiling at nothing. “Seductive?” Mike asked.

The EMT sighed. “That’s what he says.” She stepped away as one of her team checked the straps. “And the evidence points to it being literally seductive, if you catch my meaning.”

Mike blinked. “He was...”

“He definitely had sex with a woman at some time after his uniform was ripped off him.” She shrugged. “Professional opinion from eyeballing the equipment.”

Mentally, Duncan Riley was obviously not 100%. “Physical condition?”

“All things considered, not too bad. His blood pressure’s way down and, given the way he reacts to touch, I’m guessing there’s going to be some bruising coming up along both arms.” Her tone was frankly appreciative of those arms.

“And the injury?”

“The injury? On his throat? No, it looks bad but there’s no bleeding so it’s got to be a couple of days old. Looks like he got into a fight with a big dog or something doesn’t it?”

It didn’t actually. Mike had seen dog bites and this...wasn’t.

Mike had also seen enough to know there were other things it could be.

He watched as they rolled him away.

“So easy to fall into the darkness. You know?”

Yeah. He did.

The other guard—Chris Adams, male, white, mid-forties—was dead.

“Not a mark on him.” The coroner stood and dusted off his knees as his people moved in with the body bag. “At least not one that’d kill him. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say heart attack. He just wasn’t up to what he walked in on.”

Had he walked in on Riley and the darkness?

“Why didn’t he push the panic button?” Mike wondered aloud. “Call in the police?”

Dave snorted moving into place at Mike’s side. “Who calls the police because their partner’s getting some?”

“Point,” Mike admitted.

“Not that one woman did all this,” Dave continued. “And whoever did do it, they took out the security cameras first. They all show the same thing, a blur then nothing.” Dave pointed toward the camera nearest the door. “That one first. Then that one. Then this one here. This kind of total destruction looks like crazy people did it but no, they were thinking.”

“A blur?”

“Yeah. Like...” Dave grinned. “Like the Flash. Like evil Flash on a rampage.”

“You need to cut back on your caffeine.”

“You got a better idea?”

Mike glanced around at the ruin of Droege Shipping, then down at the body bag and sighed. “No.”

Over the last few years, he’d become a very good liar.


One moment she was dead to the world, the next Vicki was awake. She drew in a deep breath redolent with sex and blood and remembered.

The freedom of not holding back.

Of strength and speed and letting the Hunter run....

The sound of blood surging below the surface. The taste of salt licked from firm flesh. The feel of terror turning to desire.

She remembered seeing the security guard come through the door...


He hadn’t seen her yet, she wore the darkness like a cloak and she moved too fast for him to find, easily eluding the searching flashlight beam. Stepping out into the room, he tripped over a piece of the wreckage and swore, his voice a low rumble that rubbed against her like crushed velvet. As he reached for his radio, Vicki slid between him and escape, lightly running her fingers over the muscles of his broad back.

She ducked, his swinging fist passing over her head, and when they were face to face, she smiled, caught his gaze with hers, and had the darkness hold it.

His heartbeat quickened. His pulse throbbed at wrist and throat and temple and at the meeting of his thighs. She didn’t want terror, although terror had a flavor uniquely its own and it would take little effort to push his response toward it. She wanted the less primal, more personal response to her presence. She wanted to finish what she’d started in the club.

His name would make it faster to evoke a specific response but she didn’t want to know.

She wanted the heat and anonymity she’d left behind.

He was taller than the first young man. Built. With beautiful dark skin and eyes. And the seams of his cheap uniform parted so easily.

She pressed her face against the warm planes of his chest and breathed deeply. Taunting herself with his scent. Keeping the Hunger reigned in until she got everything else she wanted. When she looked up, he wrapped a hand around her cheek, his skin warm against hers. She caught his gaze again, her eyes silvered, and she let her desire draw up his.

“Say yes.”

He swallowed. She touched his throat, following the movement, then licked the sweat from the tips of her fingers. He exhaled, shakily, his breath smelling of mint and coffee.

“Say yes.”


She slipped a hand behind his head as she took him to the floor, careful of her strength, careful not to damage him. His belt buckle jammed so she ripped the leather apart and threw it hard enough to sink it into the drywall.

When he bucked up under her, his rhythm gone, his fingers dimpling the flesh of her hips, she let the Hunger go. Curved her body over him, hands gripping his arms, and sank her teeth into his throat. Hot blood gushed into her mouth as he slammed up into her one final time. She drank without caring, drank her fill, drank until...

“What the hell is going on here?”

It was the Hunter who twisted in place to face him, lips drawn back off bloody teeth.

The second guard gasped, staggered, and fell, right hand clutching his left arm.


Vicki felt her hands curl into fists. “Son of a fucking bitch.”

Rage sizzled under her skin. Rage at the singer who’d used her. Rage at herself for being used. The wooden end of the packing crate splintered against the cinder block wall as she shoved it aside. Vicki had never been the icy cold anger type. Her anger burned and she only barely managed to keep it under control as she slid through the false wall and into Mike’s crawlspace.

Sunset came late enough this time of the year that he was home. Above her. In the kitchen.

She used his heartbeat—slow and steady, more familiar to her than her own—to find calm. Enough calm, at least, to allow her to get a handle on her emotions. By the time she’d showered in the basement bathroom and shrugged into the robe hanging on the back of the door, she’d managed to use the same techniques that hid the Hunter to bury the events of the night before. Bury them deeply enough that even Detective Sergeant Mike Celluci wouldn’t be able to find them.

Mike worked violent crimes; if this wasn’t his case, he’d have heard about it.

He’d know where the evidence pointed and at what.

Not who.

And Vicki intended to keep it that way.

He could know what vampires were capable of, he just couldn’t believe it of her.

Her clothing was in the master bedroom closet with his—because that’s what normal couples did and they fought to keep the line as close to normal as possible—but she could avoid the kitchen on her way through and delay facing him until she was dressed and ready.

To lie.

Hide the rage at being used. Hide the other emotions roiling about below that.

Show time.

“Any chance there’s another vampire in town?”

Vicki stopped and stared across the kitchen at Mike who watched her over the edge of his laptop, his expression 100% police neutral. The question was a little more direct than she’d been expecting but infinitely preferable to what were you doing between midnight and four am. “Say what?”

“The offices of Droege Shipping were destroyed last night...”

“Destroyed as in blown up?”

He turned the computer around.

Vicki moved closer, frowned down at the pictures, and remembered strength and speed unchecked. “Messy. Explosives aren’t out of the question. Anyone hurt?” The logical question to ask. Cop question.

“One security guard dead. One...” Mike reached around and changed the screen. “...used.”

She remembered the heat of his flesh under her mouth. Remembered the cry he’d given, caught somewhere between pain and pleasure. She hadn’t been careful. If not for the coagulant in her saliva, he’d have bled out when she pulled away.


She forced her lips down off her teeth and made sure she had her anger under control before she looked up. “I can see why you asked.”


“I’ll look into it.”

He had a small scar on his inner thigh where she’d gotten a bit enthusiastic and a puckered ridge across one shoulder where she’d shot him, accidentally, in another life. He met her gaze, not fearlessly because Mike Celluci was no fool, but in the full and certain knowledge that he was in no personal danger. “A man died, Vicki, I’ll be looking into it too. You share what you find.”

Oh she knew what she was going to find and she knew where to find it.

Mike sighed as the edge of the table cracked under her grip. He lifted his arm then let it far back, clearly reconsidering reaching out for her. “Vicki?”

“When I know something...” He wouldn’t believe a smile so she didn’t try one. “’ll know something.”


Mike sat at the kitchen table listening to Vicki’s car pull out of the driveway, his hands curled into fists. She’d always been a terrible liar. She was better now than she used to be but then her condition gave her plenty of opportunity to practice.

Sometimes she forgot that while he couldn’t hear blood moving under the delicate skin of her wrist, he wasn’t deaf. He’d heard the crash when she opened the packing case. Heard the way she moved as she showered and dressed. She’d been furious from the moment the sunset had wakened her. Furious and trying to hide it from him.


She’d have told him if she’d known there was another vampire hunting in her territory.

What else could have gotten her so angry?

Vicki could have...was capable of...

He forced his hands flat on the kitchen table.

...was physically capable of doing the damage, all the damage, Droege Shipping and its employees had suffered last night.


Millennium Ten opened at nine. At eight forty, Vicki ripped the lock off the back door, snarled “Forget you saw me,” at the young man stacking cases of empties at the bottom of the stairs in the back hall, and made her way down the corridor to Lorelei’s dressing room. She could hear a familiar heartbeat, smell the sea, and had reached nearly full speed when she charged through the open door.

Only to be stopped by a single note that hung in the air like an invisible wall.

“Why so angry, Nightwalker? Didn’t you enjoy yourself?” Lorelei sat in the chair combing her hair. Same position she’d been sitting in the night before. Same comb. Same languid movements. The cuffs of her jeans were wet, the denim dark against the pale skin of her feet.

Vicki threw herself against the barrier. The seawater smell was stronger up against it. “A man died!”

“And you’re surprised?” Her brows rose. “Oh, don’t tell me; you’re one of those good vampires. Tortured. Tormented. Misunderstood. Sparkly. You’d have given that young man in the club last night a choice.”

“He’d made his choice,” Vicki growled, her eyes silvering.

“Did he know what he was choosing?” She laughed, unaffected by the Hunger as Vicki struggled to get closer. “You killed because that’s what you are. All I sent you to do was destroy the office.”

“Of Droege Shipping.”


“What’s your connection to a shipping company?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got time.”

She paused the constant motion of the comb. “I suppose you do. Well, all right then. A long, long time ago...”

“How long?” Vicki demanded. She knew she should just let the woman talk but anger made it hard to keep silent.

Lorelei met Vicki’s gaze and Vicki found herself sinking into blue-green depths. Deeper. Deeper. This sea was confined but no less deadly for all of that. Anyone else would have drowned, but Vicki had the Hunger to pull her back to the surface.

“That long?”

“That long.” Lorelei’s grip tightened on the comb, her knuckles white. “Year after year after interminable year.” She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I had a lover once. He betrayed me. Heartbroken, I gave myself to the river and the river changed me, tied me to it with the curse of lost love. Still grieving, I sang.”

Vicki rolled her eyes. “Oh yeah, singing. Very proactive. You should’ve kicked his ass.”

Lorelei blinked, frowned, and said, “Times change.”

“Assholes are eternal.”

She blinked again, then nodded. “True. The sailors who heard my song tried to get to me but the river protected me and took their ships. Took their lives.”

“I know this story...”

“I can stop if you’re bored.”

The barrier between them continued to hold against her assault. “Go on.”

“If you’re sure.” When Vicki growled, Lorelei nodded and continued. “One day, a handsome young man named Fredrick Droege braved the river for my song, for me. He told me he loved me. Why wouldn’t I believe him? He’d risked drowning, risked death to hold me. He owned a shipping company and he convinced me to sing only for him.”

“To sink the ships of his competition.”

“So you have heard this story.”

“Not that unusual,” Vicki snorted. She’d have been a lot more sympathetic had she not been used the night before. Had Chris Adams not died. “Let me guess. Fredrick Droege lied about loving you.”

“He did. And when I tried to leave him, the curse of love betrayed that had bound me to the river bound me as firmly to him. When he died, I became just another asset of the company, controlled by his son and then his grandson and now his great-grandson. Albert Droege. I have given them power and power has corrupted them.”

“Yadda yadda. Same old. But if there’s no company there’s nothing for the curse to tie you to. That’s why you had me destroy the offices.”

“But it wasn’t enough.” A graceful gesture indicated both the dressing room and the club beyond. “They give me this, an audience for the songs I chose to sing to keep me happy.”

“Bird in a gilded cage.”

“It’s concrete.”

“It’s a metaphor.”

“Fair enough. The point is, I’m still not free. I need you to deal with the people who run the company. Begin with Albert Droege, work your way through the board of directors, and finish in the mail room if that’s what it takes.”

“Deal with?” Vicki snorted and folded her arms. “Nice euphemism. I don’t care how corrupt they are, you can’t make me kill for you.”

“Actually, I can.” She drew the comb through her hair, her smile cruel. “Who was he, Nightwalker? Who did you betray?”


Vicki watched in amazement as Henry exploded out into the light, face and hair a pale blur above the moving shadow of his body. The gunman on the nearest rack got a shot off just as she knocked him into the air. Henry’s howl of pain drowned out the ripe melon sound of the gunman’s head making contact with the concrete floor nine meters down.

The smell of Henry’s blood rose to obliterate the singed sulfur smell of the gunpowder, the hot metal smell of the spent casings, and the warm meaty smell of the men below. Henry’s blood. The blood that had made her.

The Hunger ripped aside all controls.

When they were all dead, when the screaming and the running was over, when she stood with Henry in the midst of broken bodies, she drew in a deep breath of the rich, meaty, blood-scented air and laid her palm flat against his chest. Leaning forward, she licked a bit of blood from the corner of his mouth.

Henry caught her tongue between his teeth, carefully so as not to break the skin.

She moaned against his mouth, pushed a body aside with the edge of her foot, and dragged him to the ground. They managed to get most of their clothing out of the way without destroying it and then it was flesh against flesh and a strength that could answer hers. No need to hold back. No need to be careful.

So Vicki let the Hunger have its head again.

She dragged his mouth back down to hers as she slammed up to meet his thrusts. Tasted the mix of lives on his lips as he could taste them on hers. Challenged his darkness. Matched it.

Streaked with blood, his skin was slick under her hands.

Her back arced up. His teeth found her breast as hers found his shoulder.

The world went red.


When she got back to the condo, Vicki stood just inside the master bedroom and watched Mike sleep. Watched the rise and fall of his chest. Traced the curve of the arm he’d flung over his head. Listened to his heart beat.

He shifted and a curl of hair fell down onto his face.

She stepped forward, hand outstretched to brush it back but stopped as the movement pulled the saturated cuff off her sweater across her wrist, drawing a dark smear over bruises rising in the shape of Henry’s fingers...


The only other property Droege Shipping owned in Toronto was a trendy dance club called Millennium Ten. Technically, Mike was off the clock but if this case involved—God help them all—a second vampire, he wanted it solved as quickly as possible. Nine twenty found him pulling up outside the club, using his lights to grab one of the rare Queen Street parking spots. He was still standing by the driver’s door, ignoring the traffic passing two inches from his ass when he noticed Vicki’s car half a block east.

No real surprise that she’d found the same information and headed here as well.

In an effort to delay exposure to the music he could hear being pumped out the front door, Mike headed down the alley leading to the back of the club. The people he wanted to talk to wouldn’t be out on the dance floor.

Rounding the ubiquitous dumpster, he paused as the rear door opened and Vicki stepped into the alley, lips pulled back off her teeth, her eyes gleaming silver. The terror was instinctive, his hindbrain momentarily taking over. A little harder to place blame for the surge of arousal but given the twisted strands of their relationship, it certainly didn’t surprise him.

He fought to control both reactions, knowing that with the Hunger released Vicki would sense them. If he wanted to maintain any kind of equality in the conversation they were about to have, he couldn’t...

Between one heartbeat and the next, Vicki was on the roof. And then she was gone, the not quite visible flicker of a vampire moving at full speed heading south toward the lake.

Forcing himself to unclench his jaw—they were definitely going to have a talk before the sun came up—he took a step toward the club and paused. Why would she be heading south? Relatively speaking, there wasn’t a lot of city between Queen Street and the lake.

Vicki had emerged from the club fully vamped out.

Something or someone in a club owned by Droege Shipping, the same Droege Shipping that had been destroyed by a supernatural creature the night before, had set Vicki on the Hunt.

To the south.

Albert Droege, the man with controlling interest in Droege Shipping, was currently staying in a company owned penthouse at Queens Quay. Mike had spoken with him briefly that afternoon and had been ripped a new one for not having already found the vandals who’d destroyed the office. Were he a betting man, Mike would have bet big bucks that the elderly CEO’s temper tantrum hid something significant.

His gut told him that Vicki had gone south to find out exactly what that was and, given the mood she was in, she wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about following even the spirit of the law.

“Son of a fucking bitch!”

He hit the siren and forced his car out into bumper-to-bumper traffic. South on Niagara to Bathurst. South on Bathurst slowed by the fucking streetcar and an SUV driven by a fucker who wouldn’t yield. Left turn onto Queens Quay West. East to Droege’s condominium. He wouldn’t beat her there but God willing he wouldn’t be far behind.

The concierge met him at the door, mouth open to complain about his car, not so much parked as abandoned up on the wide sidewalk. Mike flashed his badge as he pushed by, heading for the elevators. Security had just been improved, replacing decades old locks with electronic keypads. “Can you unlock the condos from here?”

“If it’s an emergency but...”

“Unlock penthouse four.” If Vicki was already in there, no one would be available to let him in. Mike had no idea what the concierge saw in his expression, nor did he want to know, but as the elevator door closed he saw the man nod and run for his desk.

And thank fucking god it was only nine floors to the two story penthouses.

The door to four was open when he got there.

The glass doors out onto the terrace were still closed. Good sign. Vicki wouldn’t have taken the elevator.

A crash from the upper level. Something breakable thrown, and thrown hard.

He ran for the stairs.

Charged through the first open door and nearly had his head taken off by a flat screen monitor.

Although he was clearly terrified, Albert Droege was fighting back.

Mike would consider the implications of that later. Right now, he needed to keep the situation from escalating any further out of control.


She glanced toward him. Her lips were pulled back off too white teeth and her eyes were as inhuman as Mike had ever seen them. He’d seen her vamped out before; had lain in her arms while she sank her teeth into his body and taken him to edge of darkness but there’d never been a time when hadn’t been able to see Vicki. Here and now, there was nothing in her but Hunger and words weren’t going to be able to stop her.

He felt himself responding and knew that in half a heartbeat he wouldn’t be able to do anything but bare his throat. A trickle of sweat ran down his side. One step, two... By the time he hit her, he was running full out. He dropped his shoulder, wrapped both arms around her, and took her with him out the open window.

If words couldn’t stop her, gravity might.

Vicki’s body took the brunt of the impact. She’d managed to get her feet under her, her knees and hips acting as shock absorbers for them both but hitting the cedar decking still hurt like hell. Mike rolled, tasted blood, swore as pain shot up his arm from his wrist, and found himself, finally, staring up at Vicki as she lunged toward him.


Mike’s blood wasn’t, couldn’t be, enough to keep her fed but it sustained her in other ways. The familiar scent cut through the song and stopped her before her teeth broke through the skin. Mouth against his throat, she breathed him in. Home. Humanity.

She wasn’t...

She couldn’t...

The song filled all the spaces Mike wasn’t and threatened to overwhelm her tenuous control. She skimmed a hand over his body, feeling him respond. Pain. Pleasure. Want.

She needed...

She had to...

She ran.


There were uniforms in Droege’s penthouse almost before Vicki disappeared over the edge of the roof. The concierge had to have called them.

By the time Mike filled them in on the situation—“I’m guessing she was on some kind of designer drug. A two story drop barely phased her and if you don’t stop touching my fucking wrist, I’m going to shoot you.”—Droege’s lawyer had arrived and Droege himself was unavailable for questioning. The lawyer issued a brief statement, the clear expectation that everyone not a billionaire CEO should just clear out of the condo. A big believer in using bad moods to his advantage, Mike threw his weight around until Droege, through his lawyer, agreed to an appointment. At the club. Ten thirty AM.

Between filing reports and having his wrist taped, Mike wasn’t home until just past three. He made a coffee, sat in the dark, and tried not to think about silvered eyes. Tried not to think about pain and pleasure so entwined he couldn’t tell anymore where one ended and the other began.

Tried not to watch the clock as he waited for sunrise.

The crate behind the false wall in his crawlspace remained empty. He had to believe that Vicki had made it to the safety of her downtown office. He had to believe it because he wouldn’t believe the alternative.


Vicki’s car was still parked just down the street from Millennium Ten. She’d been ticketed but somehow missed having been towed. Staring past his refection in the car window, Mike flipped open his phone. The call went straight to voicemail.

“Nelson Investigations. Leave your name, number, and what you need me for after the tone.”

And what he needed her for? He unclenched his teeth long enough to growl, “Call me the minute you’re up.”

Few things looked less attractive than a dance club at ten thirty in the morning. The harsh glare of the overhead lights illuminated every stain, every scuff, every lie. Mike flashed his badge at the bored young woman running a steamer over the carpet. She half turned and pointed toward a door tucked in to the right of the small stage.

One end of the concrete corridor lead to the exit up into the alley. The other to an open door, defined by a rectangular spill of light. Odds were good Droege wasn’t waiting in the alley so Mike turned toward the light.

The room he stepped into seemed to be a dressing room. Four meters square, cinder block walls painted a pale institutional green; if the tiny window high in the far wall didn’t give away its basement location, the off-center drain in the floor did. It held a dressing table and mirror, aluminum rack of clothes, and the most beautiful woman Mike had ever seen sitting in an old wooden captain’s chair, combing her hair. She was singing softly to herself but she looked up as he entered the room.

Her smile promised sunlight and laughter.

Mornings spent lazily in bed, warm under the covers, long legs wrapped around his as they rocked slowly against each other. Afternoons sprawled on the grass, her head on his lap, bending to lick spilled jam from warm skin. Evenings at the table surrounded by family, her eating off his plate as though she didn’t have exactly the same on hers while under the table, her touch wanders up his thigh. Nights together with no surprises in the moonlight.

Mike didn’t remember moving but he was standing close enough to touch. He reached out, needing to know if the curve of her cheek was as soft as it appeared.

Her smile changed. “So easy,” she sighed, “for you to betray her.”

Considering how the investigation to this point had turned up sweet fuck all, Mike found it amazing that the Droege Shipping case was taking up so damned much time. An autopsy had determined that yes, the dead guard had been taken out by a heart attack. The coroner had refused to speculate on the cause although had allowed that given the state of his arteries, Chris Adams was a myocardial infarction waiting to happen. Duncan Riley, the surviving guard remained physically fine and mentally unhinged. His doctors suspected he was reliving the night over and over...“He’s ejaculating every two, two and a half hours. All things considered, his recovery time is impressive.”

“Way, way too much information,” Mike muttered as he hung up. Rolling out his shoulders, he glanced toward the window where the sunset gilded the glass. Vicki’d be calling soon and as little as he was looking forward the conversation, at least it would get him away from the piles of futile paperwork he’d spent the day on.

“Well...” Dave propped a thigh on the corner of Mike’s desk. “...what’d you turn up?”

“Big fat nothing.” Mike nudged his coffee mug out of harm’s way with the back of his bound wrist.

“Let me guess, Droege had no idea who could possibly be after little old never cheated anyone him.”

“Yeah, well, Droege’s lawyer seemed to have no idea.”

“He brought his lawyer to the club? That sucks.”

“To the club?”

Dave stared down at him for a long moment then shook his head. “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, paperwork kills brain cells. Did Droege,” he continued slowly, with heavy emphasis, “bring his lawyer to the club?”

“I don’t...” Mike frowned. The lawyer had been at the condo. Hadn’t allowed him to speak to Droege. The club was on Queen Street West. It was... There was... He didn’t... “I don’t remember.”



“Because lately, my friend, all your memory lapses tend to lead back to Vicki.”

“Vicki has nothing to do with this!” When Dave reared back, both hands up, he realized he’d been a little overly vehement. Dave hadn’t known what the bite marks on the Duncan Riley meant. Hadn’t know it was Vicki that Mike had chased out of Albert Droege’s condo.

“Dude, chill. I didn’t say she did. I was thinking maybe you were distracted by a little afternoon delight not that she’s been ripping people apart. Not that it would matter if it did. You got it so bad you’ve never give her up.”

Mike rubbed his head wondering who the hell had the music playing so loud in the squad room. “Give her up...?”

“Rat her out,” Dave expanded, rolling his eyes. “Squeal on her. Turn her in. Betray her trust.”

“So easy,” she sighed, “for you to betray her.”

Memory returned as the music faded.

“Mike! Hello! Where the hell are you off to?”

“Back to the club.” He shook off Dave’s grip and pushed past him toward the door. “There’s a loose end I need to tie up.” But he’d have to beat the sunset to do it.


The second evening in a row, Vicki woke to a flood of memory.

The look on Mike’s face, equal parts fear and arousal, as she bent toward his throat.

Remembered the effort of moving against the music as she turned the Hunger back into the city.

Remembered the feel of flesh compacting under her grip as she dragged the dealer into an alley, his customers scattering. Remembered the hot splash of his blood. The dark taste of his terror.

It was easier as she fed to fight the music.

Easy enough to finally throw the first body aside and Hunt for another. One appetite fulfilled, others still needing to be.

So many people on the streets. Unaware.

An arm broken in passing, caught on the upswing between one blow and the next. So far beyond when he collapsed to the ground that the screams of his companion were nearly lost in the sounds of the city.

Blue eyes and broad shoulders and hair long enough for her to grip. His pulse pounding. Hips rising to meet hers. His blood tasted of desire. He was weak when she stopped but alive.

The look on Mike’s face...


Vicki ripped the back door of the club off its hinges and threw it across the alley. Before it landed, she was running into the dressing room at the end of the corridor, ready for Lorelei’s song when it hit her, When the Levee Breaks pounding into her ears at about a hundred decibels. She’d got her hand around fistful of hair when a bullet whistled past her cheek and smashed the mirror.

Lorelei’s comb caught the wires as Vicki turned, pulling the earbuds free. The song changed. Caught her.

On the other side of the room, his back pressed up against the clothing on the rack, Mike lowered his weapon, his movements as much beyond his control as hers were.

“Kill him,” Lorelei sang. “Kill him.”

Vicki could feel the Hunger rising along the notes of the song. “Mike, run!”

“The hell I will!”

She heard his heart pounding. Inhaled the scent of his fear. Her tongue swept over his throat, tasting... Fuck! She didn’t remember moving. The hard ridge of his gun dug into her hip and she managed to find enough control to grunt, “Shoot me!”

“Not going to happen.”

“Do it!”


He titled his head to the side, giving himself to her. Trusting her. Vicki’s teeth broke the skin and she froze in place, fighting the music with everything she had. Fighting the need to rend and tear. Fighting what she was. She licked at the blood welling slowly to the surface...



...and used the strength it gave her to turn, shards of the mirror grinding into the tile under her shoes.

Mike’s hand caught her elbow as she swayed, suddenly free of the song.

On the other side of the room, Lorelei stood and stared at them like she’d never seen a cop and a vampire hold each other up before.

Vicki was pretty sure she still had every intention of breaking the singer’s neck but Mike’s grip on her arm held her in place.

“In spite of everything, you’d rather die—both of you would rather die than live with the pain of killing the other.”

“Because of everything,” Vicki growled.

To her surprise, Lorelei smiled, suddenly looking young and hopeful and...


Vicki stepped back, pushing Mike with her, as a vaguely Lorelei-shaped puddle of water ran down through the drain.

“Is she...?”

“An apparently undereducated guess says she’s gone. Free.” Vicki bent and picked up the comb. “Albert Droege is going to be pissed.” The plastic sounded like a distant gunshot when it snapped. “Can’t say that I care.”


Chris Adams’ grave had one of the bronze memorial markers set into a granite base, the whole thing flush with the ground. Easier for groundskeepers but Vicki preferred the old slab markers. As much as it bordered on cliché, she liked cemeteries to look like cemeteries.

She’d gone to the hospital and pulled Duncan Riley up out of the darkness. Gave him back his life. Unfortunately, death’s embrace was a little more final. A lot more final.

“You weren’t responsible.”

“Reading minds now?”

Behind her, Mike huffed out a half laugh. “I know how you think. And you weren’t responsible.”

“For the condition of his arteries? No. For his heart giving out when it did...”

“Vicki, she was controlling you.”

Pushing back against Mike’s body, centering herself in the circle of his arms, grounding herself on the beat of his heart, Vicki remembered.

“I give you the freedom to be yourself, Vampire.”

But that truth was a line Mike couldn’t cross so she smiled, touched the comb in her pocket, and said, “I know.”

Tanya Huff lives and writes in rural Ontario with eight cats—as off this writing—two dogs, and her partner, Fiona Patton. She has a degree in Radio and Television Arts from back in the days of physically cutting audio tape. Her latest book from DAW is Truth of Valor (September 2010), the 5th Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr novel. She’s currently working on a sequel to The Enchantment Emporium for 2011. No title as yet, although there’ve been a few doozies tossed around. When she’s not writing, she gardens and practises the guitar—although not at the same time.

When I requested an afterword, she supplied the following:

Way back in 2007, the Vicki Nelson books were made into a television show called Blood Ties. FInally using my RTA degree, I wrote an episode for season one called “Stone Cold” and had a verbal agreement to write two episodes for season two. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a season two, but there were a half a dozen pitches I’d already put together. The sirens pitch had been written with a specific guest star in mind (nope, can’t tell you), and while there were obviously things about it that couldn’t translate from the TV-verse to the bookverse—Henry, by way of Kyle Schmid such an amazing presence in the show, isn’t in the bookverse at this point—the story had a strong core and an interesting look at the relationship between Mike and Vicki that I didn’t want to lose. This version is definitely a little sexier than would be allowed on at 8 o’clock but it’s basically the same story.

Back | Next