Day 3 of previews for Tender Bites, my anthology of romantic vamp stories officially releasing on Saturday, October 13, 2012, exclusively through Amazon. This story is a little different from the others in that the romance at its center is between two men, and it doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. It also has the scariest vampire bite I’ve ever written. But for me, it is also one of the most affecting tales I’ve ever written. I really hope you agree.
Little Boy Lost
Zack watched with a mixture of fury and relief as the battered muscle car tore away from the broken curb. As soon as it was far enough up the ramp to make coming back to kick the shit out of him more trouble than he was worth, he tossed the nearly-empty beer bottle he was holding after it. “Assholes!”
Skating out of Tony’s party with somebody’s cokehead daughter had seemed like such a good idea at the time. He lit a cigarette then stumbled toward the water’s edge, his slick-bottomed tuxedo flats sliding on the oily sand. Take in a rave, taste a little forbidden fruit, reminisce about how the other half lived for a few hours. Shake the dust of queenly good taste from his mane for a little while. He ran a beautifully manicured hand through the sweat-damp spikes of his hundred-dollar haircut with a snort. Kick it, Stallion, he thought, flinging the half-smoked stogie into the drink with a hiss of drowning fire. Time to call Tony and beg forgiveness and a taxi home . . . God bless the calling card and the child who’s got his own.
Picking his way through the trash scattered on the grassy bank, he saw a pair of headlights appear about a quarter of a mile down the shoreline, a double beam that glistened like fairy dust on the water before swinging wide away. Civilization! he thought with mock-dramatic relief. Come, sahib –where there be cars, there be phones . . . Staggering a little, he headed for the disappearing lights.
And found exactly nothing. Wherever the car had come from or gone since Zack saw it, the poor fucker must have been lost. “Fuck!” he shouted at the seagulls, kicking at the sandy black dirt under his feet. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”
He flung himself down on the ground with reckless disregard for his spiffy new Armani–hell, he it was hardly as if he’d paid for it—and lit another cigarette. This was just great. This was poetic justice. Here he was, everybody’s darling dear, alone at midnight in some derelict’s dream of a cemetery.
And where, pray tell, did that come from? he thought with a start, his eyes going wide. Not a headstone in sight, all weeds, no flowers. Still, the cold, damp air had a definite whiff of the crypt to it, and the ground seemed awfully loose, particularly just at his heels.
“Asshole,” he muttered, taking another drag on his cigarette. The general air of gloom he had meant to escape by going raving had caught up with him, obviously. Which was hardly surprising—the angel of death spent so much time in his neighborhood lately, somebody should charge the fucker rent.
He needed to get up and head back to the road. He could hear the traffic in the distance; it couldn’t be that far. But he was so tired . . . he had been so tired for weeks now, his brain running over and over the same tired track. He had to get back to the road . . . he could thumb a ride into the city—now that’d be a blast from the past. Maybe he’d hook up with an outbound trucker instead, climb in a strange rig and leave Chicago and her misery behind him. The fact that he had maybe ten dollars in his wallet was no more than a minor technicality, right? God knew he had gotten by on less. Let somebody else hold Tony’s hand when the angel came calling again. That was cold, yes—but hell, it wasn’t as if the money wouldn’t draw flies enough to replace him if he left. Flies to feed on the corpse . . . his sudden tears stung like a son of a bitch. His eyes were still sore from all the smoke at that fucking rave. Sorry, love, he thought, dashing them away. Sorry it happened, sorry I can’t fix it, sorry I’m such a selfish, shitty little prick . . .
This touching unspoken confession was cut off by the ground beginning to boil. For a moment, he just stared at the tiny volcanoes of dust erupting between his shoes, unable to process the data his eyes were sending to his brain.
Gotta be the coke, he decided, sliding backward on his ass, his heels digging dimples in the shimmying dirt. “Oh shit.” His cigarette burned to ash between his fingers as he watched, frozen, as a beautifully sculpted hand slowly reached up through the earth, white as moonlight against the black. “What did that little bitch slip me?” The idea that what he saw could be real, that someone was crawling out of the ground (the grave?) was too bizarre to consider. He was tripping; stress had been working overtime on him for weeks with the Bolivian army at her back, and he was wigging the fuck out at last.
“Too many funerals, not enough laughs,” he muttered as the hand became an arm, reaching upward, reaching for him. Where had he heard that before? Tony had said it, but when, and in what context? His errant mind worked the pointless question like a sore tooth as the second hand appeared, clutching at the ground for something to pull the rest of what was still down there free. “Oh yeah . . .” His fingers were burning now, but he couldn’t blink, much less fling the butt away. “I remember . . . I asked Tony why he came north, why he left Miss-Sippy—that’s the way he pronounces it even after thirty years in Chicago. It’s an affectation if you ask me, but it’s cute, so who complains, right?” The fingers crept closer, tearing up the grass. “And that’s what he said home was like . . . too many funerals, not enough laughs—“
The hand clamped around his ankle, and his babble turned fast to a scream.