© 2017 by Alice Winters. Proudly created with Wix.com

Chapter One

How to Vex a Vampire

*** Giveaway at the bottom

The first thing I notice as I walk into the room is the woman’s body lying on the floor, her blonde hair splayed out around an abnormally pale face. Just as I kneel down to get a better look, someone grabs my arm and pulls me back. It might have to do with the fact that I’m technically not supposed to be in the room, but I do feel like they could’ve been slightly more gentle.

            “What are you doing here?” the man asks, golden eyes sharp. He’s dressed to perfection, not a single wrinkle in his button-up and suit jacket. His dark hair is neatly styled, very much unlike my waves.

            “Working. What are you doing here?” I ask. While I know he is the one who technically should be here, I feel like the longer I engage him, the longer it’ll be before he throws me out on my ass. We don’t exactly have a good track record with each other.

            “Clearly, I am investigating. And seeing as I did not hear that we were needing help from homicide, I believe you need to move on,” he says.

            He’s a handsome man with light stubble, but he has a look about him that tells me he’s used to bossing people around. I saw as much when our paths crossed because of our jobs. I’m a homicide detective and he’s part of the VRC—Vampire Related Crimes.

Even so, my eyes stray over to the woman lying on the floor. I can’t help but wonder how long she’s been dead or who found her body. Since I work with normal homicide, I was not actually called in even though there is a dead body. The department seems to play favorites like that just because I don’t have pointy teeth and look like I’ve never seen the sunlight.

“Do you have permission to be here?” he asks.

            “I do!” And then I return to ignoring him. I kneel down, hoping to examine her body before I’m pulled away again, but the man is far too quick. He grabs my wrist and pulls me back to my feet. “So touchy. Do you perhaps miss the time we worked together?” I was on a case a few months prior that was handed over to the VRC after I’d poured hours into it. I wasn’t pleased to be handing my case off to the other department, and even less pleased when the grumpy vampire in front of me had been the lead detective. Somehow, we got stuck working together for the rest of the day, but I hadn’t seen him since.

            “No, you don’t have permission,” he said, completely ignoring my question.

            “Then why’d you ask?”

            And apparently that was his last straw. These fangy types are always a little quick to anger.

            “Move along,” he grumbles. Clearly, we’re off to a wonderful start.

            I am positive at this point that he wouldn’t mind maiming me. But before he can, I pull up my badge and hold it before him. His gold-colored eyes scan my badge. They’re such a unique color, only seen in a few vampires. Most hold the same color they had when they died, but his are a very clear gold. He takes a moment before handing it back. “What’s this prove? I already know who you are.” He sighs like he doesn’t have time to deal with me and motions to the door like I don’t know where it is even though I’d just come through it. “You don’t have clearance to be here. It’s outside your jurisdiction, please leave the scene.”

            I’m honestly kind of surprised there was a “please” in there with the look he’s currently giving me. “Actually, this is inside my jurisdiction, and I want to know why I wasn’t invited,” I say with a grin. While we are both aware why I wasn’t invited, I feel like making him say it will give me some satisfaction. What’s better yet is the scowl he’s giving me even though he still hasn’t left or forced me to leave.

            “You can bring this up with your superior,” he says.

            “What’s going on?” a voice I recognize asks. I turn and the new arrival gives me a huge smile. “Finn! I haven’t seen you in what feels like months!”

            “It was just a week ago!” I tell Lieutenant Brooks.

            “It sure feels longer!” he says.

            “Aww, does that mean you missed me?” I ask as I slide in for a hug whether he wants it or not.

            He takes it just because he’s that kind of guy. “More like I was hoping it was longer!”

            “Nah! You love me and you know it!”

            The older man laughs. “For some reason, I do,” he says as he gives me a one-armed squeeze. “Finn, you already know Detective Church, right? You guys worked together for an afternoon a while back?”

            “We did,” the man says. “I didn’t know homicide had been invited to help us with the case.”

            “I… don’t think they were. What are you up to, Finn?” Brooks asks.

            I give him a smile. “Just happened to hear this called in and decided to stop and see if you needed my help,” I say as nonchalantly as possible.

            Neither seems too convinced with my exaggeration of the truth. “Happened to hear it? Seeing as we’re on a different frequency, I’m having a strangely hard time believing that,” Brooks says.

            I grab my chest as I stare at Brooks. “Are… Are you calling me a liar? My good man, does this face look like the face of a liar?”

            “One hundred percent.”

            I grin at him. “Actually… I’ve been offered a promotion.”

            He gives me a genuine smile. He’s always been so proud of me no matter what I do. I’ve known Brooks since I was a teenager, and he was a mentor of sorts after I decided to get into law enforcement. Since he doesn’t have children at home, it almost felt like he pulled me under his wing and helped me along the way like I was family. “Wow! Congratulations, Finn. That’s amazing.”

            “That I don’t want,” I interrupt. “I would like to be transferred to VRC.”

            He raises an eyebrow. “Finn, you know that’s not open for debate. You can’t just join the VRC department.”

            “There’s an opening, and you guys have been looking for six months to fill it. I’d like to apply.”

            “Finn—” He’s giving me that tone like he wants to be sweet and nice but is also putting his foot down as father-figure Brooks comes out.

            “Is it because I don’t gnaw on people? I mean, I can give a mean hickey if that’s what I need to do to get considered.”

            Brooks tilts his head and raises an eyebrow. “You’re a crucial member of the homicide department, I know that much, but I can’t have you on the team.”

            I hold his eyes as I stand my ground. I’m shorter than both of them and I know my thin stature doesn’t give me much of a leg up, but I’m determined. “I can hold my own.”

            “I’m aware, Finn. But it’s still a no. There are no humans in our unit and there never have been because it’s too dangerous. You are a human, so you need to deal with humans; we’re vampires, so we deal with vampires. It’s not a choice. It’s what works, and it’s what keeps everyone the safest.”

            I will not be deterred. “I’ve dealt with so many vampires in my life that I’m positive I can hold my own against them.”

            “In an empty-handed fight, you’d get your ass handed to you,” Brooks says.

            “That’s the issue with you vampires, you think everything has to be a fight. You’re right, I might not be able to take on a vampire hand-to-hand, but I have the weapons skills and the smarts to hold my own.”

            Brooks shakes his head. “Why? What’s wrong with where you’re at?”

            That’s a secret, but I’ll give him part of the truth. “I need to do something else with my life and you guys are a man short. You guys need me. You guys long for me. You just don’t know it yet.”

            Marcus snorts, like I might have forgotten about him. I definitely hadn’t. Marcus Church is very well-known amongst us detectives because he’s good at what he does and a bit ruthless. The women, and a few men, all like talking about the renowned Marcus.

“We just filled the spot. Sorry about your luck,” Marcus says.

            I tilt my head at the guy in the corner and notice almost instantly that he’s young. Through years of interacting with vampires and watching them closely, I’ve learned how to decipher whether a vampire is young or old since physical appearance doesn’t help. The younger they are, the more they wear to protect themselves against the sun. But they also do other social things that give it away. Vampires are very respectful of age. The older a vampire, the more respect you give them. Then the dead giveaway is how well they can handle blood. This man is hesitant and he’s having trouble with the blood that’s been spilled across the floor, which is easily noticeable by the way he’s wrinkling his nose. “Him?”

            Most older vampires, unless presented with a large quantity of blood, can handle the smell and control themselves. And vampire blood is rarely noticed by vampires unless the vampire presented with the blood is extremely young. But it’s a requirement for them to keep a mask on their belts at all times, in case they’re presented with a situation they can’t handle. If they’re driven by bloodlust, there’s no telling what they could do.

            “Yes, him,” Brooks says.

            “Good luck,” I say with a smile.

            Brooks shakes his head. “Don’t give me that tone.”

            I widen my eyes like I have no idea what he’s talking about. “I had no tone. I just kindly wished you luck.”

            Brooks folds his arms across his broad chest as Church stares at me, clearly unimpressed. “That’s because you think it’s not going to work out.”

            “It’s not,” I say, and Church gets a little hint of an expression on his face that tells me he actually agrees with me. “Even Church here doesn’t like him.”

            Brooks turns to Church and raises an eyebrow. “While Church might have been a bit… hesitant, our new hire was at the top of his class and Church has taken him under his wing.”

            Church audibly scoffs at that and I realize I kind of like the guy.

I smile at Church. When I first met him a few months ago, I thought that he could be a bit of a dick, but I think it’s a façade he puts up. “I can’t wait to work with you,” I say as I give Church a pat on the shoulder.

            “Who does this kid think he is?” Church asks.

            “He’s like a tiny fly that loudly buzzes around pestering everyone,” Brooks teases even though he clearly loves me and all the stuff I put him through.

            “And your new partner,” I tell Church before holding a hand out.

            Church glances at it then completely ignores it. “I need to get back to work.”

            “When you do, check under the couch, there’s probably a knife or something under there. I’m surprised your superior sniffy skills didn’t kick in and notice it. You can see the scrapes in the hardwood from where they forced it under, and I’m assuming it’s the murder weapon,” I say. “See ya at work tomorrow, Brooks.”

            Brooks shakes his head, clearly forgetting how to show excitement. “Don’t come in.”

            I grin at him as I back toward the door. “You know you don’t mean that!”

            “Don’t come in, Finn! No one wants you!”

            “Church does,” I say as I wink toward a scowling Church before leaving the room.

            While I know they have no interest in me because I’m human, I also know that I will whittle them down until they let me join. They have to because I need to kill him. And the only way I’m going to kill that asshole is with a team of vampires behind me.

            I know, they say that you shouldn’t fixate on revenge.

            But I have a vendetta and I’m not going to stop until that man is lying at my feet with every ounce of his blood drained from his body.

            And then I’m going to watch him burn.

I might be bad at holding on to decade-old grudges, but this is one that I just can’t drop. Not yet, anyway.

            I get into the car and rub at my thigh that’s aching. It’s not like I can rub the pain out of it, but it helps.

Now I just need to get rid of the new vampire, who is book smart but not old enough to control himself in a department such as this one, and show them that I can be a vital part of their department.

I just hope it’s not too late.

 

 

Marcus

            I turn away from the interruption and back to the dead woman lying on the floor. She’s a vampire, but a young one. One young enough that a slit throat killed her. VRC deals with any case involving a vampire while homicide deals with human deaths caused by other humans. Occasionally, they mesh, but most of the time if homicide realizes they’re dealing with a vampire in any form, the case gets pushed over to our department.

            Which is how I met Finnigan Hayes. I’d been taking over a case that he’d been deeply involved in. While I understood his reluctance to hand over weeks of hard work, it was needed because they realized that the killer was a vampire. Instead of willingly handing it over, we got stuck together for part of an afternoon which led me to realize that he’s an annoying human. Thankfully, I haven’t seen him since.

            This is also why I knew that he didn’t belong here, and he knew that as well.

            But humans like him think they’re allowed to do anything they want and get away with it. Why should he be allowed to join this unit without the correct requirements? Unless he’s planning on dying anytime soon, he’s not welcome.

            “Welks, help me move this couch,” an analyst says as he grabs the edge of the couch to see if the knife really is under it.

            The analyst is a human who was pulled in just for the day because the regular one had the day off. Since he’d already been called in before they realized it was VRC’s case, he was asked to stick around.

            The analyst grabs the couch as the new recruit, Welks, walks over to help.

            “Fuck,” the human analyst cries as he jerks his hand back. “There’s something sharp on the edge of the couch.”

            I think nothing of the sweet smell of blood until Welks lunges for the analyst. Briar grabs Welks as he zooms on by, ready to “help” the analyst with his bleeding problem.

            “Nope! Out you go!” Briar, a fellow detective and member of my group, says as she hauls Welks outside with her.

            Welks had already been on edge all day from being surrounded by blood, and this seemed to just set him off. But if this minor of a thing could set him off, what happens when we’re thrown into a bigger case?

            I look up and lock eyes with Brooks. “No,” I state flatly, realizing what the look on his face is saying. “Now, I’m glad that I’m right about the whole Welks thing, but no. There will be no damn human on my team.”

            “He’s smart.”

            I jab a finger at the wide-eyed analyst. “If the human analyst wasn’t here, that wouldn’t have been an issue.” I know what I’m saying is absolutely stupid. It’s not the human’s fault. A vampire should be able to control themselves even if someone simply pricks their finger.

            “Top of his class,” Brooks reminds me.

            “No.”

            “You should see all the work he’s done.”

            “No.”

            “He was practically raised by a vampire, so he understands all the ins and outs.”

            “How do you know so much about this kid?” I ask in disbelief.

            “He talks… a lot. Like if you don’t know everything about him by the end of your first day working together, than he’s either dead or unconscious. I’ve also known him since he was young.”

            I narrow my eyes. “‘Our first day working together?’ Excuse me? I must be going deaf in my old age.”

            “Tomorrow is going to be so much fun!” Brooks says, and I decide he’s an asshole. That’s alright. I’ll make the kid want to leave.

Chapter Two

Finn

            My phone rings, disrupting me from my sleep. I see that it’s six thirty, so I only had another ten minutes to sleep anyway. When I see who it is, I can’t help but grin.

            I feel completely awake now. “Brooks, my man! My bestest buddy and pal!”

            “Don’t give me that cheery tone. Meet me in my office in an hour. And be on your best behavior. Everyone already thinks I’ve lost my mind for even considering you.”

            “I’ll be an angel.”

            He snorts and literally hangs up on me. I push my covers back, swing my right leg over the edge and reach for my prostheses. When I was sixteen, I lost my right leg and my left arm. Thankfully, the man who raised me had both a doctor friend who’d been experimenting on realistic prostheses and the money to get me set up with my own. The prosthesis requires a cap that goes over the end of what’s left of the limb and connects to the arm or leg, allowing me almost full motion. What makes it so unique is that the program inside the artificial limb allows me almost complete access to the prosthesis, as if it’s a real leg. While I can’t move the toes individually on the prosthesis, they bend and give me natural movement. As for my arm, it took him years, but he finally figured out how to create it so I can move individual fingers, grasp things, and easily pick up small items. I’ve gotten so used to them that at this point, it’s like asking the rest of my body to work. While it’s easy enough to hide my leg, my arm is a little harder, so I wear gloves to cover them. Honestly, it’s not that unusual for people to constantly wear gloves since many vampires wear them to help protect them from sunlight.

            The only issue is that what is left of my leg and arm get tired and stressed from the weight of the prostheses, so I have to take them off frequently and can’t get them wet since it could kill the electrical parts.

            I attach the prostheses and pull a protective padded sleeve over them that is supposed to absorb some shock or damage to keep them safe. Honestly, with my job, I’ve been hard on them, but they’ve always held up for me and given me the freedom to walk and move almost like I used to.

            I get dressed and reach out to my boss who tells me that he’s already talked to Brooks and okayed my transfer. The VRC department is in a different building than I’m used to working in, so I find a place to park before walking into the small building.

            There’s a reception desk immediately inside with a smiling woman behind it. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

            “I have a meeting with Brooks in ten minutes.”

            “Go ahead and sign in, and I’ll tell him you’re here.”

            “Thank you,” I say as I jot my name down before looking beyond her. It looks almost exactly like homicide, but less busy. To my understanding, it takes a lot of work to get into a department like this because they’re constantly working around blood which means it’s a requirement to be older. Even so, no vampire is completely immune to fresh blood. It’s not something they can control, so the department is constantly suffering because of the lack of help.

            “He said to go on back,” the woman says. I thank her before heading back to where I know Brooks’s office is from the last time I was here and pestering him.

            I knock on the closed door that says “Chief Brooks” and wait.

            “Who is it?”

            “Your favorite person in the entire world.”

            “Aw, sweetheart, I didn’t know you were coming here today, did I forget something?” he says, sounding overly cheerful.

            I yank open the door and give him a huge smile. “I love you too! Now, where’s my anniversary present?”

            “Your anniversary present is me putting up with you. Have a seat.”

            “Does that mean my presence is so amazing it’s like a gift?”

            He stares at me. Clearly, he’s at a loss for words. I don’t blame him. “Moving on.”

            I laugh as I take a seat across from him. That’s when the door swings open again and Church walks in.

            He lets out this grumbling noise that shows how pleased he is at seeing me. Apparently, my presence is enough that he’s forgotten the basics of speech. He’s now taken to brooding, which seems to be his best ability.

            I just give him my most charming smile and his eyes narrow even more. Or maybe he’s trying to take a nap.

            He sits next to me, back rigid. He feels kind of intimidating compared to last time, and I realize he’s using his aura to make me fear him. Apparently, he’s trying his hand at intimidation. He really doesn’t know who he’s working with.

            Brooks just smiles like he doesn’t notice all the body language going on between the two of us. “We have an opening that we’d like to offer to you as a temporary position,” Brooks says. “I want you to be aware that this is temporary. While I know you have an interest in becoming a full-time member, our department does not have the space for a human. While you’re here, temporarily, Church is your superior and you will do as he says. If he tells you to sit in the corner, you will…?”

            “Perch in the corner.”

            “And will you complain?”

            “Probably.”

            Brooks raises an eyebrow.

            “Do you want me to start off lying? I’m not a very good liar,” I say.

            “You lied to me and told me you’d stop bugging me.”

            I grin at the thought. “You deserved it, and I would like everyone aware of that. Now, Church, let me tell you the story—”

            “No,” he says. “I don’t have time for stories.”

            “Alright… I’m sorry for wanting to share a moment of joy with you.” I turn back to Brooks. “Do you have any other questions?” I ask like I’m not affected by Church trying his hardest to make me hate working with him. I’m not worried.

            Brooks turns to Church. “I don’t. Do you have any questions for him?”

            “I’m not sure anyone’ll listen if I do.”

            “Great!” Brooks says. “Go introduce your new partner to the team.”

            Church smiles, and I realize this is just the beginning of him making my life difficult. “There is nothing I’d rather do. Come, human.”

            I raise an eyebrow at Brooks who gives me a smile and a wave. He doesn’t seem to care that my new partner is probably going to eat me and is also calling me after him like I’m a dog.

            Church walks into the open area and over to a corner where the detectives I’ve seen him interacting with are working. There are two open cubicles where six desks are, three on each side. It’s probably to promote working as a unit, but I can’t imagine Grumpy Fangypants willingly working with anyone.

            Church dramatically clears his throat. “Can I have your attention for the briefest of moments for a very inferior item of business.”

            Two men and one woman turn around from where they’re working all on the same side. Which means I’ll get to sit next to my new favorite partner.

            “This is Finn Hayes. Don’t bother remembering his name. Someone will probably eat him by tomorrow.”

            “Are you offering?” I ask. “Because if you are, I might not mind being eaten.”

            He glares at me as the female and the blond-haired male laugh.

            I shrug. “You’re the one making jokes about wanting to eat me. I was just agreeing to being interested. A little nibble never hurt anyone.”

            Church grumbles something and I try to question what’s wrong with my brain when I find it strangely attractive. Like… really? A vampire talking about me dying and then grumbling when I reply, is attractive?

            Clearly, my lack of partners has turned my brain into mush.

            “This is Homicide Detective Finn Hayes—”

            “A human,” the vampire who didn’t laugh at my amazing joke says. He has an accent that’s probably Russian, if I had to guess. “Why is there a human in here?”

            “He is momentarily taking Welks’s place until we find a replacement,” Church says.

            “A… human?” the vampire repeats. “They think since the last vampire they hired was an idiot, a human would be a better idea?”

            “I promise not to bite anyone unless they want to be bitten,” I assure them.

            “This is bullshit,” he says as he gets up and heads toward Brooks’s office.

            “The guy who already doesn’t like you is Alexei Karsynov—we call him Karsyn—this is Bentley DeGray, and Lena Briar,” he says as he motions to the blond-haired man and the pretty woman with dark hair pulled back into a tight bun.

            I smile at them and hold my gloved hand out to DeGray first. “It’s nice to meet you,” I say, and the man returns the greeting while giving me a solid shake. Then I move to the woman who is watching me with a soft smile. “And it’s nice to meet you too.”

            “This is going to be interesting,” Briar says, sounding amused.

            “Zanuda,” Karsyn snips as he comes back and slides into his seat. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it looks like I might even get to learn some neat Russian terms!

That’s fine, I’m used to annoying vampires. Even cute ones who have the whole pouting angry look figured out.

            Church turns to me. “We just got an alert on the vic’s roommate’s credit card. It looks like he made a purchase at a shopping center off Park Avenue. Come on, kid, we’re headed out.”

            I follow after him, kind of surprised he didn’t tell me to just take a seat and twiddle my thumbs until five o’clock comes around. “You know I’m not a kid, right?”

            “You’re a kid to me,” he says as he keeps walking.

            “Alright, Grandpa. I’m coming.”

            His eyes narrow as he turns to me. “Excuse me?”

            I give him a look of innocence. “You’re a grandpa to me.”

            He ignores me throwing his words back at him and hurries out to his car. I slide on my lightly tinted sunglasses and head after him. Once I get into the passenger seat, I buckle my seat belt, ready for whatever Marcus throws my way.

            He glances up from his phone and starts the car. “Brooks just messaged me. When you get back, he needs you down at the main office to get everything settled. Since you’re still homicide at this moment, you can help me out, but they’ll get everything arranged for you to be a temporary officer.”

            There sure is a lot of emphasis on that “temporary” going around. “Got it.”

            “Here’s who we’re looking for,” he says as he passes a phone over to me so I can look at a picture of the man. “Did Brooks run through the case with you?”

            “Nope. I just know what I do from yesterday.”

            “Thirty-four-year-old woman, a fairly young vampire, killed in her own home.”

            “That explains why she bled out so easily. Didn’t look like much of a struggle. Are you thinking the roommate?” I ask.

            “We haven’t been able to contact Ronald Travis, the roommate, so he’s at the top of our suspect list. But he is a human, so the likelihood of him attacking her without her struggling is unlikely.”

            I think about it for a moment. “It’s strange for her to have a human roommate when she was so young.”

            “People make stupid choices.”

            I’m glad he’s talking to me like a fellow detective. It makes me realize that all of his previous gruffness and bravado might have just been to discourage me. I want to prove to him that I’m useful and not a kid or weak just because I’m human.

            “What’s with the gloves?” he asks.

            I look down at my thin black gloves that hide another excuse for him to believe I’m weak. “I just don’t want to get your cooties.”

            “And the glasses?”

            “I want to look cool, just like you.”

            He ignores me.

            Perfect!

            He pulls into the shopping center and parks behind a large vehicle before getting out. He’s wearing a button-up and tie, much like mine, so we both look inconspicuous. We get out and head toward the convenience store tucked in the shopping center. Since Travis already used his card, it means he was done and paying, so it’s unlikely he’s still around. But there is a possibility he stopped in another store or he’s on foot.

            “You head to the right, I’ll do a sweep in the store and go to the left,” Church decides.

            “Aren’t we supposed to stick together? I don’t want to get reprimanded on day one.”

            He raises an eyebrow, hand on the convenience store door. “We don’t have the same regulations as other departments.”

            “Okay… but I don’t have any way to contact you if either of us finds him.”

            He doesn’t seem concerned. “We’re wasting time,” he says as he slips into the store, leaving me on the sidewalk alone.

            Clearly, just because he was sharing information with me in the car does not mean he’s willing to work with me. I turn away from the store and start down the covered path. I glance in stores, thankful they have glass fronts that allow me to see inside. As I near the edge of the shopping center, I smell cigarette smoke and glance around the corner. That’s when I see two men, one of them matching the description of Mr. Ronald Travis.

            The other man nudges Travis and without even waiting, they take off. Apparently, they were on the lookout and know that we’re searching for them, which tells me they know what happened to the vampire. I take off running after them. But there are two problems with me and running. One is that I’m short. There’s no getting around it—I wasn’t blessed with height. The second is that while my prosthesis works amazingly well, it slows me down a little. Quick movements are harder for it and it takes more skill.

            “Stop! Police! Stop resisting!” I shout after him.

He doesn’t seem concerned about slowing down; instead, he anxiously looks back at me and then runs a little faster as he dashes into the parking lot. He must be heading toward a car, so I’ll have to make sure I stop him before he reaches it.

            That’s when Mr. Sexy Vampire Pants flies right on by me and grabs both men, dragging them to the ground and pinning them there before I take my next step. He even has them handcuffed by the time I reach them.

            He turns to look at me. “Where were you?”

            “Me?” I ask as I jab a finger at myself. “I was chasing them! You fluttered right on by me!”

            “They almost got away,” he says. “You should have called me.”

            “I don’t have your contact information, remember?”

            “I’m a vampire, remember? Superior hearing.”

            Ah, yes. The dick has returned.

            He shoves one at me with enough force he nearly sends me toppling. “At least take one of them. Or would you like me to take both?”

            I grumble under my breath as I take the man’s handcuffs. I help him to his feet and follow Church back to the car. “Are you driving them in?”

            “No, I was just going to leave them here,” he says sarcastically.

            I’m going to strangle this man. “I meant in your car.”

            “What, you think a tiny handcuffed human could disrupt me while driving?” he asks.

            “I forgot that you’re godlike and such a superior being. I apologize.”

            He gives me a warm smile as he yanks open the back door and crams the man inside. “That’s okay.”

            He’s evil. That’s all there is to this.

            I gently help my guy in and get into the passenger’s seat while wondering if we’re doing things by the book because, so far, I don’t even think he’s even mentioned their rights. But I don’t want to anger him further, so I sit down and shut up as he drives.

            That is, until something dawns on me. If he could supposedly hear me shouting to him about seeing the guys, wouldn’t he have smelled or heard them?

            “You already knew they were around the corner, that’s why you sent me that way. Did you see them with your hawk sight or something?”

            Church looks over at me with a raised eyebrow. “Hey, you’re actually pretty good at this detective stuff!”

            “Why?”

            He turns his attention back to the road. “What’s that?”

            I shake my head. “You did it just to zoom your ass right on by me, didn’t you? To prove vampires are superior.”

            His eyes get dramatically wide. “Oh, no! I would never do that to my sweet little human partner!”

            “You’re such a liar. Do you feel good about making me run around?”

            “Actually… I do. Some days I worry I’m pretty slow, but then I met you.”

            I lean toward him as he stops at a red light. He turns and holds my eyes with his golden ones slightly narrowed. “Hey, let me tell you a secret. I’m stubborn as hell. You are not going to get rid of me,” I threaten.

            He gives me a huge grin that makes him even more handsome. “We’re going to see about that, now, aren’t we, kid?”

            “Sure, Grandpa. Let’s see how that goes.”

            “Humans are just so weak. It’s sad, really.”
            “I’d rather be weak than an asshole.”

            He doesn’t have much of a comeback to that, so I decide that means I won that round.

            When we get back to the station, he yanks the poor man out and drags him inside like he weighs nothing. I calmly take my guy in and follow Marcus to a holding area. We put them in there as Marcus prepares to interrogate Travis, which I can’t imagine going well.

            But he’s a professional, right? Like this is his job, so I’m sure he knows what he’s doing. He’s good enough at it that he’s the head of this unit.

            This will be fine.

 

***

 

            This will not be fine.

            Travis is in a chair, eyes as wide as saucers, shaking like a leaf. He immediately told us he knew nothing, and everything went to hell from there.

            “What do you mean you know nothing?” Marcus asks. No… not asks. Growls.

            See, vampires have this thing they can do that allows them to intimidate humans and other vampires. Honestly, it depends on how old they are. And if the suppressing aura in the room is anything to go by, Detective Marcus Church is much more of a great-great-great-great-grandpa than a grandpa.

            Thankfully, I know that he won’t eat me even if my brain is telling me to be worried about this guy. My instincts are kicking in, assuring me that there is a wild predator in this room that would enjoy devouring me, but I’m keeping a perfectly confident look on my face.

            “You knew enough to run from us,” Marcus says as he hits the table. The man lets out a whimper and jerks back, and I realize what this is.

            He’s trying to scare me. He wants me to get terrified of him and run away. Then I’m sure he’d file some complaint about me running off while on the job. Sorry for him, but that’s not going to happen. He can try all his tricks; I’m not going anywhere.

            Even if my body is telling me that the door is right behind me and only two feet away and I should run, run, run.

            “I-I-I…” Travis stutters.

            The man seems to be incapable of speech at this point as I turn my eyes to Marcus who is staring at me instead of the perp. He’s waiting for me to break but instead, I give him a huge smile and a thumbs up.

            “You’re doing a good job being evil,” I assure him.

            His eyes narrow and the room becomes even more suppressing. I feel like if I even tried walking in this, my limbs would be weighed down.

            “I-I-I…” The man seems stuck in an endless loop of I’s, but Marcus doesn’t seem to care he’s made him forget what comes after “I.”

            “You are so good at this interrogating stuff, I’d love to take notes,” I say as I pull out my notepad and write at the top: A How-To Guide to Being Evil.

            He scowls at it and that’s when the aura in the room begins to let up some.

            “I… peed myself a little,” the man says, finally getting out what he was wanting to say.

            I bite my lip as I look over at Marcus, hoping he’s proud of himself. He looks slightly disappointed in himself instead.

            “Can you continue?” Marcus asks.

            “Y-Yes. It was just a little.”

            “Great.”

            I smile at the man who instantly latches on to me now that the evil vampire has calmed himself. “Hey, Travis. So your roommate Robin Peterson was found dead in her home yesterday. She appears to have been dead for about twelve hours when she was found by the mailperson. How did you find out about her death?”

            He rocks uneasily as he glances between us.

            “We can’t help you if you don’t work with us,” Marcus grumbles. He still seems a little butthurt that I didn’t piss my pants and run out crying. It’s clear that age doesn’t always affect maturity.

            “Okay… you guys will keep me safe? You promise?”

            “Just tell us the truth and we’ll do what we can.”

            “Robin was a huge vampire and human advocate. She works… worked at the university teaching vampiric history and ran some human and vampire groups. You know… those groups that try to connect the two. I know there’s less prejudice nowadays, but it can still be seen. Last week or so, she told me that she’s felt something off. Like… just kept having weird feelings when she’d walk to her car and stuff. I asked if we should talk to someone about it, but she refused. Said she thinks it’s one of her students and she knew the kid. That he was a good kid. So… I kind of forgot about it. Then last night, I was in my room when I heard the door. I didn’t think anything of it since her friend comes over quite often. But then I heard a loud noise and shouting. I… I rushed from my room and found her lying on the floor, bleeding out and these… people standing over her. One dropped the knife and kicked it as they ran. The other came after me. Told me if I keep doing what I am, I’ll be next. He said that if I go to anyone or tell anyone, he’ll come and kill me. He knew my name and about my family and everything… I was terrified. So I ran and have been trying to hide since.”

            We continue questioning the man, trying to get everything we can, but he doesn’t seem to know anything else. When we finally leave him to another officer, we only know that there were two of them; one was for sure a male, the other ran before he got anything on them. He didn’t know the name of the student who Robin thought might be following her, but we at least have a lead.

            As I step out of the room, I nearly run into Brooks who’d been hovering outside.

            “Looks like things are going splendidly,” he says with enough sarcasm to fill the hallway. “Church… that was quite an unusual way to run an interrogation.”

            “I was just getting him to talk,” Church says nonchalantly.

            “Which one?” Brooks asks.

            Church is quiet. He actually looks disappointed in himself, and I find it kind of cute.

            I pat my superior’s arm. “Don’t worry, Brooks. I actually like Church trying his hardest to get me to run. It’s kind of fun.”

            “Fun?” Church growls.

            “F-U-N. Fun.”

            Church turns to Brooks. “Has there been a psych eval on this kid before you let him waltz right in?”

            Brooks chuckles. “Numerous ones. They all just come back and tell us he’s quirky.”

            “Quirky? I like that,” I say.

            Brooks ignores me. “Church, I’d appreciate a little more… acceptance, and Hayes, I’d like you in my office.”

            “Ooh, already in trouble?”

            “Not yet, surprisingly enough.”
            I follow Brooks to his office where he shuts the door and waves at the chair.

            “They’re ready for you to sign your paperwork, but I want to talk to you first. It’s apparent now that you’re not welcome, right? They’re stubborn as hell, and it’ll take a lot for them to start accepting you.”

            “I’m prepared to work hard to make that happen,” I assure him.

            He sighs, but did he really expect me to say something different? “Now, Finn…”

            “Oh no, you broke out the first name.”

            He sits down in the chair next to mine, instead of the one behind his desk, and turns it to face me. “Finn, I need you to be serious.”

            “It’s the only way I know how to be.”

            “I need you to not lie.”

            “I’d never lie.”

            “Finn.”

            I take a deep breath. “Yeah?”

            “You have to be honest with me. Are you here because of what happened?”

            “Brooks, this has nothing to do with any of that. If I was on some vendetta revenge mission or whatever you think it is, don’t you think I would have started many years ago?”

            Brooks watches me closely. “Then what are you doing here? What point are you trying to prove?”

            I have to think of my next few words carefully. “I don’t fit into homicide. I want something else.”

            “You want to run around with vampires and do a job where you’re much more likely to die?”

            I give a one-shoulder shrug. “When you put it like that, I wish I’d have joined sooner.”

            He narrows his eyes as he studies me. “Come on, Finn. Why are you here?”

            “I told you.”

            “You’ve also lied to me.”

            “What’s it matter, Brooks? Do you think I’m really stupid enough to take on that man? What will it prove or change? It’s done and over with. I want to be part of this team because I know I’ll be good at it. And you know I’ll be good at it as well, or you wouldn’t have let me in. So either tell me to get my ass back to homicide or tell me where these papers I need to sign are.”

            He shakes his head as he leans back. “You’ve always been a stubborn little ass.”

            “Maybe.”

            “It’s why you haven’t been killed yet. Floor two, the receptionist will direct you.”

            “Thanks—see you tomorrow.”

            “Yeah. Don’t get eaten, Finn. I kind of like you.”

            “I think my new partner would come to my rescue. He wouldn’t let anyone kill me since he’d prefer to do it himself, and he’s just not allowed to.”

            Brooks grins as he shakes his head. “Don’t provoke him.”

            “I’ve got my stick ready. It’s like poking a bear.”

            “Don’t provoke him,” he repeats, like I didn’t hear the first time.

            I point behind me. “You’re talking about the guy who was trying to make me piss my pants, right? That guy?”

            “Yes, that guy.”

            “I didn’t even tinkle.” I’m a little proud of myself.

            “It’s because your brain is broken. You’ve lost your ability to fear what you should.”

            I snort. “Now that… that is very wrong. Sometimes… it makes it hard for me to breathe. The difference is that I know he won’t hurt me. There’s a variation to their auras, did you know that? What Church was doing in there was intimidation. But the aura for someone who wants to kill? Wants to maim, hurt, and abuse? It’s very different.”

            Brooks looks upset. “I’m sorry you know that.”

            I shrug and stand up. “See ya tomorrow. Make sure there are donuts.”

            “No one in here but you eats donuts.”

            “Good. More for me.”

            He shakes his head and I give him a wink before slipping out the door. As I shut it, I hear him calling for Marcus.

 

 

Marcus

            I step into the office. “Do I get a new partner?”

            “Not yet. I just want to give you a pat on the back for not eating him,” Brooks says.

            I snort, knowing he definitely didn’t pull me in for that. “What’s up?”

            “I need you to give him a chance.”

            Not this again. “I gave him a chance. He runs like a grandpa and is annoyingly stubborn.”

            Brooks shakes his head. “Finn could be a good addition to this team. He’s smart, he’s good at what he does, and he’s not as weak as you think he is. Just give him a chance.”

            I grumble, “I will.”

            “And do me one favor.”

            I stare at him in mock surprise. “I… I thought I was already doing you a huge favor by not eating the pesky human.”

            “Keep an eye on him.”

            I let that sink in. “What’s that mean? Like… you think he’s up to something? Perfect! Can I eat him if he messes up?” I ask, even though I haven’t fed off a human since the equality act was put into place almost a hundred years ago. At that point, they began to work on creating blood programs for vampires where humans can donate their blood and get paid for it. I haven’t had fresh human blood in so long that it makes me yearn for it, just thinking about it.

            “No, like make sure he doesn’t stick his nose somewhere he won’t be able to get it out of. He doesn’t need to end up dead at the end of this.”

            “Fine.” But I’m not exactly sure why this has to be a concern of mine. He should have thought of that when he decided to join.

            “Are you done for the day?”

            “Yeah. It’s in the others’ hands until they get me some names to look into. See ya tomorrow, boss.”

            “Have a good night.”

            I head out and walk over to my desk. Briar and DeGray are gone already, but Karsyn is still at his desk which just happens to be across from the human’s new desk.

            “This human thing is a joke, right?” Karsyn asks. When he’s annoyed or angry, his accent shows more.

            “If it is, I haven’t found an opportunity to laugh yet.”

            “A human… in a department that hasn’t seen a human in it ever? What the hell’s going on?” I don’t blame Karsyn for his hatred of humans. He’s never been treated kindly by them and grew up in a time when vampires were treated like feral animals by humans. But he also needs to understand that this kid wasn’t even alive during that time.

            “We’ll just… have to see.”

            He sighs as he rubs at his black hair. “I get dibs on eating him first.”

            I chuckle. “Hell no, Karsyn, you can’t eat the human. Especially since he has to be my partner… I get to eat him.”

            “How flattering! Both of you are fighting over me,” the human says as he steps up behind me. How the hell didn’t I hear him walking up? I guess with the noise of the room, I wasn’t focused on him.

            “Is it really flattering knowing that we’re debating who gets to eat you?” I ask.

            “You know what? When you get to my age and you’ve been alone for so many years you’re considering a profession in cat hoarding, yeah, it’s kind of nice,” he says as he grabs his coat off his chair. “At least someone wants me.”

            I find it very unlikely that he has trouble finding a date. He’s a little short, but he’s attractive and constantly wearing a boyish grin that seems to make everyone else smile.

“Just know that my papa would get really upset if you guys ate me.”

            “I’m sure we can handle him,” Karsyn says, not really sounding like he’s joking.

            Finn snickers. “Good. I’ll let Orin know.”

            I stare at him. “Your father is the Orin Wilcox?” Well, that’s concerning. Did he adopt him?

            “He is, but I’ll let him know you guys want to eat me.”

            Well shit.
            “Can’t wait to annoy you two tomorrow!”    

“Leave already, zanuda.”

“I’m just going to guess that means sweetheart,” Finn says with a smile.

            He gives us a wave as he leaves us with the knowledge that one of the oldest vampires in the area is his father.

            Karsyn shudders. “Just… interacting with him irritates me.”

            I chuckle. “Seeing how fussy you get with him kind of makes me like him more.”

            “You’re an ass.”

            I grin at him as I grab my stuff. “See you tomorrow, Karsyn. Hopefully you’re not as grumpy.”

            “Don’t count on it.”
            I head out to my car and see Finn sitting in his car with the door open and his legs out. He’s fumbling with something on his leg as I watch him. As if realizing he’s not alone, he looks over, sees me watching, and quickly finishes getting in the car.

            What a weird human.

            It’s not that I hate humans. I just feel like they have a place and their place is not in my department. Humans and vampires should not work together in a strenuous job like this. There’s the possibility of him getting hurt that could distract us from our jobs. This is why humans and vampires can’t be in relationships. When a vampire is constantly around a human, there’s the risk of them getting hurt by the vampire. I’ve even seen cases where a young vampire has accidentally killed their spouse because they cut themselves while making supper. We weren’t meant to coexist, but here we are, trying our hardest to make it work.

            I get into my black car and begin driving toward home. I live on the outskirts of town, away from the noise of the city, but only about a fifteen-minute drive from the department. When I pull into the driveway, I immediately see a face in the window that always makes me smile.

            I get out of my car and head to the door before pulling it open. My Irish wolfhound greets me immediately. He’s a giant beast that seems to only love me and is reasonably wary of everyone else. He came from a bad situation that made him timid around others, so it took me a long time to gain his trust. It doesn’t help that most people are intimidated by him since he’s head level when they’re sitting down and isn’t afraid to use his height to his benefit.

            “I’ve had a long day, Artemus,” I say as I rub back his ears.

            But at least he makes my day better.

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