Werewolves didn’t go to college. At least, they didn’t go far. Some tried, sure, but things often turn out well. Even if their control was amazing (and at that age, it rarely was), they still had at least one night a month to sneak around and be a wolf before they had to return covered in dirt with their clothing torn. And college was stressful already. Danny Klein’s sister Lydia had tried. She’d gotten into a nearby women’s college and had managed to last three months before coming home. The other girls were nice, she said, but they just couldn’t understand. And they never would. Lydia hated keeping secrets almost as much as Danny did, so he could almost imagine the isolation she felt while she was there.
So Danny got a job. He was an electrician, working for the Peach State Electric. Which was owned by another pack leader, of course. Everyone who worked at Peach State was a Wolf, and almost everyone they served was a Wolf as well, though they serviced the occasional Fey or Enchanter, or even Mortal.
Lydia warned him that Andria Parsons was trouble. Of course, he ignored her, because Lydia thought that almost everyone outside of the pack was trouble, and because younger brothers tend to ignore their older sisters, no matter what said sisters say. Andria was the daughter of a customer, and half Fey. If Fey were unpredictable, half Fey were even more so. She had golden pigtails and wide green eyes and that sparkle of Fey beauty that left most people floored. To Danny, though, it was her scent that first caught his notice. Fey tended to smell better than Mortals, and Andria (or Andi, for short) smelled like citrus and mint, with a little touch of something undeniably Human. It was utterly alluring.
They were redoing the kitchen and the bathrooms, so it was Danny’s third time at the Parsons’ house that month. It was a big old place in Buckhead, the surrounding woods of which were frequented by Fey, which was how Andi happened. Andi herself was leaning on the kitchen counter, watching Danny finagle a ceiling fan into working properly. Danny could tell she was attracted to him. Fey were terrible at subtlety.
Andi eyed the strip of skin that was showing between his ridden up shirt and belt and said, “You and I should hang out when you’re not working.”
Fey were good at reading people too. Not that Danny was hard to read. A blush bloomed across his cheeks. “Hang out how?”
“Have you ever been to a party, Danny?” she asked, loudly popping her bubblegum.
“Yeah, in high school. Why?”
Andi shrugged, an expression of faux-innocence spiraling across her face. “I dunno, you just don’t seem like the party type.”
“I like parties,” Danny retorted, probably not putting enough effort into the lie. In truth, he found them claustrophobic. The sounds and smells were overwhelming. Besides, he wasn’t always his best at night. He’d only gone to two parties in high school, and both times he found himself going home with patches of fur growing on his neck, back, and face and his claws starting to extend.
Mischief flashed in Andi’s eyes. “How about a Vampire party?”
Danny was almost relieved. The idea was so ridiculous that he laughed. “Andi, I’m a Werewolf .”
“They’ll fucking kill me on sight if I walk in there.”
“Oh come on,” Andi snorted. “They won’t kill you on sight. Even Vampire parties get a little boring if you’ve been to enough of them. But if you’re with me, there’s more danger. There’s more intrigue.”
“You’re so lame. They’re not Fey parties or anything. If I took you to one of those then you’d definitely die or get turned into a turtle or be claimed by the Fey Queen as a consort or something.”
Danny looked down at her and raised an eyebrow. “You’ve never been to a Fey party.”
“I have!” Andi protested.
“You couldn’t get into one if you wanted to.”
“I could!” Andi pouted. “Will you please come to the party with me?”
Danny shook his head. “No.”
It was just then that Danny’s boss, Rich Blumenthal, came in. “Aren’t you finished yet, Klein?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Danny replied.
“Then get down from there. You aren’t getting paid to flirt.”
Danny got down, clambering down the stepladder like his life depended on it. They were leaving within five minutes, and Danny had never been more thankful for his cranky boss. As he was walking out the door, he felt a hand on his arm.
It was Andi. “Listen, in case you change your mind, tonight or ever, here.” She slid a piece of paper between his fingers. “Call me. The party I’ll be at tonight is hosted by Ali’s clan. It’s at one of the warehouses in Little Five Points. It’s summer, so it’ll probably be starting pretty late. Vampires not coming out after sundown and all. I’ll probably get there around 10:15.”
Danny unceremoniously shoved the piece of paper in his back pocket and promptly forgot about it.
Until later that evening, that is, the sunset streaming in through his bedroom window, bored out of his mind. He’d been lying on his bed playing Tetris on his GameBoy for several hours while his sister argued with their parents in their kitchen. She was at that age where she’d been living in the house too long, but she just couldn’t scrape together enough money to move out, and she didn’t want to get married. Danny didn’t know if she ever would.
He tossed the idea of going out over and over in his mind. It was dangerous, sure, but his parents were the leaders of the Klein pack. The Vampires wouldn’t risk killing him.
If they know who you are, the voice in his head cautioned him. It sounded like Lydia.
They’ll know . That voice sounded like Andi. Vampires have a way of knowing these things .
He was bored. He had been since he’d graduated high school, more than four years ago. He finally got why Dee had tried to go to college. Without it, he was just stagnating. At some point, either he or Lydia would have to take charge of the pack, which might be a change of pace for a while. But not forever. One of them would be still forced to live in this house until the day they died, as every member of the family had ever since the Kleins had moved down from upstate New York. Lydia had probably just been trying to make sure it wouldn’t have to be her. If she could get a good enough job, it might be enough to convince the extended family to move away again. Werewolves were naturally transient. Danny wasn’t sure why his parents (and a lot of the area Werewolf packs) were so attached to this one place. At the very least, if Lydia moved far enough away, it would make it harder to force her to come back.
And if you’re going to Vampire parties, you might be able to make sure that you won’t have to stay, Andi’s voice in his head said.
Was being kicked out better than being forced to stay? He decided not to think about it. Danny reached for his car keys.
It was Lydia who caught him trying to sneak out. It was always her. His parents almost always assumed he was going somewhere to transform, but Lydia almost never did.
“Where are you going?” she asked as he rounded the corner. Her eyes were yellow moons set in her rectangular face.
“Out,” he replied.
“I have a date.” Was it a date? He wasn’t sure. It was only partially a lie.
“Who with? Is it that Andria girl? The half Fey?”
“No.” Now that was a full-on lie.
Lydia loomed over him. “You’re a bad liar Danny.”
And suddenly he was angry. Who was she to control him like this? “What’s it to you?” he snapped. “And what are you gonna do if it is ‘that Andria girl?’ Tell Mom and Dad? You think they’ll do anything? I’m a grown man, Dee. You don’t have the right to know where I’m going every time I leave the house? I have a job, and I’m going to move out soon, which is more than you can say.” That was a low blow, but he was filled with an unexpected fury that caused him to storm out of the house and slam the door in his sister’s face rather than stay behind and apologize.
He clambered into his car. It was more than ten years old at this point, and ran like it was twenty years old. It smelled like cigarettes and wet fur. But he was okay with it because Lydia didn’t even have a car. Fucking Lydia. What did she know? He pulled the address out of his back pocket. He didn’t call Andi to let her know he was coming, but it was too late for that. He didn’t want to go back in the house. 1222 McLendon Avenue, the address read. He knew that street. He could find his way there.
It was a bit of a drive, with traffic, from North Druid Hills to Little Five Points. Little Five Points was crawling with people on a Friday night, bohemians most of them, Night Creatures many of them. He parked on a quiet little side street and figured he’d probably stay over at Andi’s house tonight anyway, so he wouldn’t have to worry about drinking. Not that he ever really got drunk anyway. A Werewolf’s tolerance was pretty high. As for Andi…he knew that Fey could only get drunk on Fey alcohol, but he didn’t know if that applied to Andi. Maybe he’d be driving after all.
The light was neon and dancing, like cavemen around a multicolored flame. It had been a long time since he’d been in Little Five Points on a Friday night, and it seemed to Danny like every other person was wearing face paint or a mask. There was a man on the corner of Moreland and Euclid Avenue who was breathing fire and Danny knew instantly that he was an Enchanter. The smells were overwhelming: alcohol and vomit and perfume and sweat all mixing together with the scent of grime that overlaid every part of the city. He turned off of Moreland and onto McLendon and started making his way down to the warehouse.
It was hard to miss. There weren’t many warehouses in this section of the city. He wondered if these particular Vamps had built it themselves. He could tell even from the street that the windows were blacked out. There weren’t as many people on this stretch of McLendon than there were on the central intersections, but there were a few milling around in the lot in front of the building. Andi was one of them.
Her face lit up when she saw him. “Danny!” she exclaimed, running over to him. “I didn’t think you’d come.”
“I wasn’t sure either,” he confessed.
“C’mon, let’s go in. The party’s just getting started.”
Danny eyed the warehouse door. It was up a level from the ground. A rather burly man in sunglasses was stationed outside it. If he was a Vampire, he was surely stronger than he looked. “There’s a bouncer. If he’s a Vamp, he’ll be able to tell I’m a Werewolf. I’ll never get inside.”
“Say that a little louder, would you,” Andi whispered. “And it’s okay, I’m Fey, remember? Glamours can change more than just your visual appearance.” Andi took his wrist gently in three fingers. Her eyes fluttered shut and a green light pulsed from her fingertips. At once, he was awash in an unfamiliar scent. Or rather, an unfamiliar lack of scent. The smells of alcohol, vomit, perfume, and sweat that permeated Little Five Corners were still all there, as was Andi’s special scent of citrus and mint, but something else was missing, and it took Danny a moment to realize that it was his own scent.
“You know, you could put on some deodorant from time to time,” Andi suggested. “That might make this a bit easier. Is not doing that a Werewolf thing or just a guy thing? Or both?” But Andi was already pulling him toward the door before he could think of a witty response.
The bouncer eyed them suspiciously as they approached the door. He sniffed the air. As he did so, his upper lip lifted off of his teeth, showing just the briefest flash of fangs. “You smell like oranges,” he said to Andi. He sniffed again. “And mint.”
“Only on my mother’s side,” she replied coyly. “Besides, I brought a friend.” She lifted Danny’s arm by the wrist.
“Is he eighteen?” He had a thick Russian accent. Danny’s head was whirling too fast for him to get a good whiff of him though. “We will get in big trouble with Council if he is not adult.”
“He’s an adult,” Andi said. She elbowed Danny in the ribs.
“I’m an adult,” he said. It was the truth of course, but his heart fluttered like he was lying. Fey couldn’t lie, but neither he nor the bouncer (he assumed) knew whether or not that applied to half Fey. “Mixed breeds are always a mixed bag,” his mother sometimes said. “Often they’re more dangerous than the full thing.”
Dangerous or not, the bouncer let them through. As soon as he stepped through the door, he was overwhelmed. There were so many sights and sounds and smells. There was alcohol and sweat and pheromones, of course, as there were in any club, at any party, but the people here smelled so much all together. Mortals and Fey and that ozone scent that hinted at the presence of Enchanters and an unfamiliar smell that must be Vampires. He’d never smelled a Vampire up close before, but it was the only smell he didn’t recognize. It was musky and thick like a humid night, but strangely sweet, with a hint of something that might be saffron or cinnamon.
He was still in an overstimulated daze as Andi pulled him onto the dance floor. Some music was playing—The Backstreet Boys or maybe The Beastie Boys, he always got them confused—and Andi quickly fell into perfect rhythm. He tried to keep up, but her movements were becoming quicker and quicker, sending him into a flurry of awkward motions. This only served to make him dizzier and dizzier, until he was crashing clumsily through the crowd and slamming into the wall.
It knocked the wind out of him and the sense into him, and he could see the people on the fringes of the dance look at him with concern. There was a direct path to Andi, who was staring at him in horror. She made her way over to him and put her hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll get you something to drink, okay?” she said. Her face was red, and it was the first time that Danny had seen her as anything other than calm and collected.
He nodded wordlessly, and with that, she disappeared back into the crowd. Deep breaths, his Lydia voice told him. Fuck her for taking that yoga class that one time. Fuck her for finding the only Night Creature therapist in town. Fuck her for being so damn right all the time. He felt like crying, and he didn’t know why. His eyes flicked around the crowd. They were all still something of a blur, but he was beginning to be able to make out individual bodies again.
But there was someone who stood out. A man, a tall man. Taller than most of the other people here. Taller than Danny, certainly. He was strikingly handsome, with brown skin and long hair and he was staring at Danny with an intensity the likes of which he’d never seen before. Danny quickly averted his eyes. Even then, he could still feel the man watching him. Should he be afraid? The man was probably a Vampire. But it wasn’t hatred in his eyes. Just…interest.
A moment later, Andi reappeared, two bright turquoise drinks in her hand. She placed one between Danny’s palms. It was cold and fresh-smelling, and a sharp wake up call to his frazzled senses. It still sounded like his ears were filled with cotton when Andi said, “Danny, are you into dudes?”
It took him a moment to process the question. “No,” he said sharply. “Well, maybe. I guess I haven’t really thought about it.”
“So you’ve never had a gay experience?”
“Well, you’re about to. That guy over there has been eyeing you up all night.” Andi nodded towards the man whom he’d seen staring earlier. The man was no longer staring at him, and was instead engaged in conversation with a shorter man with broad shoulders and dark skin. “Anyway, feel free to have that gay experience. I’m gonna get myself a piece of that .” Andi pointed back over towards the bar, where a blonde man was serving drinks.
“Hang on, wasn’t the point of this to have—I dunno— experiences with each other?” Danny asked. “Like, a date?”
“I don’t do dates, Danny. And maybe, but the people here are so attractive. I’ve never been to this particular Vampire den before. Besides, you can still come home with me at the end of the night. And if you and Mister Tall-Dark-And-Handsome are looking for a third, well. Come find me.” She gave him a wink that made Danny want to throw up. She paused for a moment. “You seem upset,” she said.
“An astute observation, Mister Holmes,” Danny retorted.
“We can dance some more if you want,” Andi suggested.
“I don’t want.”
Andi folded her arms. “Don’t be such a grouch. You can go home if you’re not having fun.”
“Don’t let me ruin your night,” Danny grumbled, shooing at her with his hand. “Go get a piece of that.”
“You can still call me later,” she offered.
Andi’s eyes flashed, a red hue coming over her pale skin. “Whatever. Have it your way, asshole.” Then she turned on her heel and started walking over towards the bar, muttering, “I hate Werewolves. They’re such killjoys,” as she went.
And then Danny was alone again. All of his common sense told him that he should go home, he hadn’t even drunk anything, but after his fight with Lydia, he didn’t really want to go home. He brought the turquoise drink to his lips. It was sweet and potent and he could taste the magic woven into it. He should probably dance a little more, or else strike up a conversation, find someone else to go home with, but he didn’t. The party was still too much for him to take in. The smells were too powerful, the music too loud, the lights too bright, and the bodies too densely packed together. He stood along the wall and nursed his drink. Despite its potency, it was still barely enough to get him buzzed. Curse his Werewolf metabolism.
“You seem overwhelmed,” a voice said beside him, right next to his ear.
Danny whirled around to see the man from earlier, even more handsome up close. The man spoke softly, but his voice cut through the din of the room like a knife through butter. Suddenly unable to respond, Danny nodded wordlessly.
“Let me take you outside,” the man offered.
Don’t go with him! his Lydia voice screamed. Fuck it , his Andi voice said. Except this time, it didn’t sound like Andi. It sounded like himself. And so, against what was probably his better judgment, Danny took the man’s hand and allowed him to lead him out of a door on the other side of the room.
As soon as he was out of the main room a weight lifted off of his shoulders. The noise was only slightly muffled by the wall, but the difference was night and day. It was infinitely cooler outside as well. Apparently, the warehouse had central air. It was hard to tell in the sweaty room he’d come from.
The man leaned against one of the walls. “Better?” he asked.
Danny nodded. “Much better.”
“I’m Ali, by the way.”
“Danny.” Danny paused, looking the man up and down. Now that they were alone he could smell him clearly. Saffron. “You’re a Vampire,” he pointed out.
Ali cocked his head. “And you’re a Werewolf.”
“You’re not gonna kick me out?”
“If I was going to do that, I would’ve already.”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
There was something in Ali’s tone that made Danny believe him. “And you’re not going to. You know.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Drink from me?”
“Not unless you really, really want me to. Werewolf blood isn’t particularly tasty, if I’m being honest.” He didn’t have a Russian accent like the bouncer. In fact, he didn’t seem to have any accent at all.
“No, I really, really don’t want you to, actually,” Danny said, running a hand through his curly hair. “Are there people who do?”
Ali shrugged. “You’d be surprised. You wanna walk with me? It’s pretty nice outside now that the sun’s been down a little while. There’s a balcony upstairs.”
“Okay.” Danny was surprised by how easily he agreed.
Ali led him down the quiet hall and into a back stairwell. The hall was mostly brick and concrete, but it was plastered with multicolored fliers and absolutely doused in paint. Every mural faded into the next in a myriad of colors. “Who painted these?” Danny asked.
“Local artists, mostly. A few of them were done by us, though.”
They ascended to the next floor, which was painted and decorated in the same manner. Danny never expected Vampires to be so colorful. There was another room like the party room on the floor above, but this one was quiet, dark, and empty. Ali flicked a switch on the wall, and the room was illuminated by fluorescent lights like a classroom.
“The others like it dim, but I’m fond of electric lighting,” Ali explained. “I didn’t have it growing up, so.”
“How did you—oh. You’re immortal.”
“But not unkillable,” Ali pointed out. “The balcony’s out here.”
Ali was right; the outdoors were nice. Still humid, of course, they were still in Atlanta, but much cooler. The balcony was concrete with a metal railing decorated in Christmas lights which Ali flicked on as soon as he walked outside. Danny took a deep breath and leaned on the railing, looking out over Little Five Points and the rest of the city beyond. Out here, away from the party and above the ambient city scents, he could smell Ali’s saffron in complete isolation. It was intoxicating. Or maybe that was just the alcohol. Are you really doing this, dipshit? Lydia asked in his brain.
“I really am,” he said aloud without really meaning to.
“You really are what?” Ali asked, walking over and leaning on the railing next to him.
“Nothing.” Danny shook his head. He pointed northwards, out of the city and into the flatlands beyond. “I live there.”
“Where’s that?” Ali asked.
“North Druid Hills. Where most of us live. Out of the way, close to the woods. D’you live here?”
“Yeah. Bottom floor is living space. I don’t like it much down there though. Kinda damp and cold.”
“Vampires don’t like the damp and cold?”
“Maybe some do, but I’m not one of them.” Ali flicked his eyes up and down Danny’s form. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re pretty twinky for a Werewolf.”
Danny furrowed his eyebrows, trying to discern Ali’s meaning. “Twinkie? Like, the snack cake?”
Ali laughed. Danny was pleased to know that it was a good laugh, whole and hearty and genuine. “Just means that you’re skinny and you don’t have a lot of hair,” Ali explained.
“Is that Vampire slang?”
“Not really. Our slang is mostly shit from the 1400s.”
“Okay, what’s some Vampire slang?”
“Well, some of us call our coffins ‘wooden overcoats.”
“Okay now, hang on hang on.” Danny held his hand up to stop Ali. “You guys actually sleep in coffins? Like, that’s not something Bela Lugosi made up?”
“You do realize that Bela Lugosi was just in Dracula , right? Like, he didn’t write it or direct it or anything.”
“You know what the fuck I meant.”
“It’s the simplest way to be sure that nobody kills you in your sleep, which for Vampires is an actual concern. They lock from the inside.”
Danny puzzled over this for a moment more. “You sleep?”
Ali shrugged. “Not as often as Mortals, and not in the same way, but more or less, yes. Do you sleep?”
“When I can,” Danny replied. “Sometimes for a day or more if it’s the day after the full moon. Do you turn into bats?”
“We can, but a lot of us don’t like to,” Ali said.
“Bats are pretty unsexy.”
“Do Vampires think about what’s sexy a lot?”
Ali snorted. “Have you seen us? Of course we do. We’re incredibly dramatic.”
Danny turned away from the skyline, which was awash in the light of the crescent moon by then, and leaned with his back against it. He bent his back over the edge and felt his vertebrae crack. It was a good feeling. The sky from upside down, and his back looser than it had been in awhile. The party and Andi and his fight with Lydia seemed so far away now. Ali looked over at him and smiled, and Danny couldn’t help but smile back. “You know, I’ve only known you for a little while, but I’m already learning so much about Vampires,” he said. “Before tonight I just knew you guys drank blood, couldn’t be in the sun, and hated Werewolves. Why do you hate Werewolves, by the way?”
“I dunno, why do you hate Vampires?”
“I don’t. It’s just that everyone I’ve ever known basically my whole life has told me that you guys hate us and are dangerous and without any sort of arbitration given enough time our species would wipe one another out along with all of the Humans that stand in our way,” Danny explained. Well, when you put it that way.
“Same here, mostly. Do you believe it?”
“Well.” Danny smiled at Ali again. “Not anymore. But a few hours ago? Yeah. Definitely.”
“Then why’d you come? Was it that girl I saw you with?”
“Yeah, she definitely talked me into it.” His brow furrowed as he mentally thumbed through all of his interactions with Andi. He contemplated what he was about to say. Ali was a stranger, why should he dump all his problems on him?
“You know,” he said, “I don’t think I liked her that much. I mean she was hot, obviously she was hot. And it would’ve been nice to sleep with her, but. I guess she was just the most interesting person in my life. Or maybe just the newest .” He laughed, but it was harsh and forced. “I don’t get out that much. And I’m not that interesting. So, sorry for ranting, I guess.”
“On the contrary. I find you very interesting,” Ali said gently.
“That’s nice of you to say.”
“It’s the truth.” Ali’s words were simple, but they rang through Danny’s chest like a bell. “I find the Werewolves here very odd. It’s in a Vampire’s nature to stay in one place, but before these past few decades, I’d never encountered a Werewolf pack that wasn’t nomadic. I’d heard of them, but from what I could tell they lived in the wild, more often wolf than human.”
“Parents say we stay here ‘cause it’s safe,” Danny explained. “Hardly any hunters, and while the relationship between us and the Vamps is tense, there hasn’t been any significant bloodshed on either side in a while. There’s rules to keep everyone in line. There’s a system here, and it mostly works, and it’s mostly fair.”
“But you’re restless.”
“But I’m restless,” Danny agreed. “I think we all are. Even the ones who are making the decision to stay.”
“So you follow half Fey girls who’re more trouble than they’re worth to Vampire parties in search of a little danger because your nature tells you you should be moving and you’re not,” Ali summarized.
“You seem to know a lot about the nature of Vampires and Werewolves, Ali,” Danny pointed out.
Ali shrugged. “I know a lot about nature in general. So what’s your family like anyway, Danny? Do you get along?”
“My parents mostly leave me alone. I’m grown. I have a job and a car. At some point I’ll move out. Until then I’m just coasting. But I have this. Ugh.” Danny stops, the fight with Lydia flooding back into his head. She was right, wasn’t she? About Andi? And he’ll probably have to admit that in the morning. Or tonight. You’ll probably go home tonight, won’t you? Or are you staying over with someone? Fuck. Ali was right there. Frustratingly handsome, and definitely, definitely a guy and definitely, definitely a Vampire. If he was going to have sex with a guy for the first time or have sex with a Vampire for the first time, he’d rather it be one of the other. And not. You know. Both.
Ali was staring at him with a look of concern. Was it a Vampire thing that you could feel them watching you? “I have this sister,” he continued. “We kind of had a fight before I left. I really said some things I shouldn’t have. She looks out for me, always has. But sometimes it’s frustrating because she’s kind of overprotective? I guess she’s making up for our parents. And I. I want us to have our own lives. But because we’re in this pack together and because I’ll always be her kid brother, we probably never will.” Fuck, Danny, you’re ranting again. “Sorry. I mean, we just met. I didn’t mean to dump this all on you.”
“I know! You should tell me some of your problems! Then we’ll be even.” You stupid asshole! he screamed at himself. You sound like some dumbass in a teen movie.
Ali smiled and laughed softly. “I don’t think I have an outstanding problems right now. I’m happy where I am.” Ali looked up into the night sky. “I miss the sun, still. Even after all this time. Summer is the worst. I’m trapped inside all the time.”
Stupid idiot son of a bitch asshole dipshit. Stupid asshole never get laid again says the wrong thing stupid dumbass sheltered awkward idiot. But boy were Ali’s eyes pretty in the moonlight.
“I can’t imagine not being able to be in the sun,” Danny confessed. “I mean, it gets hot here, so a lot of us complain, but. I’d miss it.” He suddenly realized that Ali was very close to him. His brown eyes were fuller than the moon, and the smell of saffron was overpowering. “Ali?” he asked.
“What do I smell like? What do Werewolves smell like?”
Danny sighed. “I don’t know what I expected.”
“But good dogs, clean dogs. We have dogs here, on and off, and whenever you’re stressed out it’s nice to just bury your face in their fur. It’s that kind of smell,” Ali continued. “Homey. And of course there’s something muskier to it too, like kind of a woodsmoke-y smell? But that’s what all Werewolves smell like. Everyone had their certain je ne sais quoi, and yours is sweet. Like lilies.”
Danny picked up his shirt collar and sniffed it. Of course, nothing. “Must be the shampoo. I use the same bottle my mom and sister do. Dad’s bald, so.”
“Must be the shampoo.” Ali was gazing at Danny with an expression that Danny could hardly describe. Like you hung the moon, Andi said in his head.
Danny laughed weakly. A warm feeling was pooling at the bottom of his stomach which, if he didn’t know better, he’d call discomfort. But he did know better. So he called it desire. “Are you sure you’re not going to try and feed on me?” he asked. “You’re staring at me really hard.” If he was being honest with himself, Danny wasn’t sure he’d mind if Ali did try to feed on him.
Ali laughed softly. “No, Danny. I just really want to kiss you.”
A hot wind swept over the balcony as Ali pressed their lips together. Softly at first, but then harder. Deeper. Ali’s lips were cool, but not clammy. He didn’t taste like death, the way Vampires were sometimes described to. He didn’t taste like much of anything, or maybe Danny just didn’t notice, because he was enveloped by the scent of saffron. Ali was a fair bit taller than him, so Danny pushed himself up so he was standing on the lowest bar of the railing, about half a foot off the ground. Ali’s hand was running through Danny’s curls. Danny wanted to return the favor but his hands were busy securing his position on the railing, so instead he pushed further into the kiss so that their noses were smushed together.
Then, all at once, without breaking the kiss, Ali wrapped his arms around Danny’s waist and spun him around and off the railing like they were dancing a waltz together. This maneuver ended with Danny pressed against the sliding door that led back inside, still a good few inches off the ground. He was more turned on than he’d ever been in his life.
“Sorry about that,” Ali said, momentarily removing his lips from Danny’s. “I was worried you were going to fall.”
“You don’t need to apologize for your badass Vampire strength or for using it in such a cool way ever again.” And then Danny grabbed him by the shirt collar and pulled him back in. With his hands free he was able to run his fingers through Ali’s long, silky hair, which was a definite plus. I am going to pull on that so hard later. It had been too long since he’d been so swept up in wanting to sleep with someone. Maybe he hadn’t ever. Sex had always been something he did to feel less bored or lonely. Now it was a wonderful bonus to this genuine connection he’d made with an attractive and interesting man.
He was keenly aware of Ali’s hands making their way down towards the waistband of his pants, and a shiver ran up his spine. Ali had made his way from Danny’s mouth and down his neck, and Danny knew he’s not going to bite him, but the threat was there. The ghost of sharp fangs against his skin. He dug his nails into the back of Ali’s neck and closed his eyes.
And then Ali has pulled away, and Danny is just about to protest when Ali says, “Let’s move this inside.”
“Hang on. Do you guys have beds?”
“Yup. Top floor. Coffins are decidedly single person.”
Well, I guess he’s right about that.
Danny woke up to darkness. He wasn’t used to that. He was used to sunlight streaming in through his window, but here there was none. The first color he managed to discern was red, which sent him into a state of momentary panic until he felt Ali’s breathing beneath him, and that made him realize where he was. All of the red were the heavy drapes that hung around one of the upstairs beds. Ali’s chest was warm from where he’d been lying on it, but carried no heat of its own. It was strangely comfortable, like a pillow.
Almost as soon as Danny stirred, Ali said, “Did you sleep okay?”
“Yeah,” Danny replied. “You woke up fast.”
“I wasn’t really asleep. Like I said, Vampires sleep differently. It’s more like going into a mini coma. So I wasn’t asleep, just resting. Thinking.”
“What were you thinking about?” Danny asked.
Ali wrapped an arm around Danny’s shoulder and pulled him up so that their heads were next to one another on the pillow. The pillowcase was made of a strange fabric that was much softer than any pillowcase he’d ever felt before. “It was your sister, actually,” Ali said. “You said you fought. And I just. Thought I’d give my two cents, if that’s okay with you.”
“That’s perfectly okay with me.”
“I think you should apologize. It sounds like she’s just trying to look out for you, and I think you understand that. And then I think you should say the things you said to me, about you wanting the two of you to have your own lives. I think she’ll understand. She may even agree with you.”
“Lydia never agrees with me on anything,” Danny sighed. “Except when we agree on everything.”
“That’s just how siblings are, I think.”
“Did you ever have any siblings?”
“My clan are my brothers and sisters. But that’s not what you mean.”
“Once. A very long time ago.” There was no emotion in Ali’s voice, but his words echoed between Danny’s lungs the way only grief and loneliness can.
“I should get going. You guys don’t serve breakfast here, do you?”
“That’s a hard no.”
“Well, there’s a place with good breakfast tacos a few blocks from here if you wanna come with.”
“Danny, the sun.” Ali’s voice was gentle, but again wracked with ache.
You dumb motherfucker. “Oh, right. Sorry. I guess I’ll be going then.” He moved around to the side of the bed where he’d piled his clothes on the floor and began to reluctantly put them back on. He didn’t want to leave. But really, Lydia would be worried, and he didn’t want to damage their relationship further by staying away too long.
“Stay safe,” Ali said.
“You too. Don’t, y’know. Forget to eat. Or drink, I guess. Don’t get staked in the heart.”
Ali smiled a summer’s day smile. “I’ll do my best.” Then his face lit up with realization. “Do you have a phone?”
“I do. A house phone.”
“Then we’ll have to be careful.” Ali whipped out a pen and paper from the bedside table and scribbled down a set of numbers. He handed the paper to Danny. “Here. Call me. We’ll meet up again.”
“I will.” And Danny meant it.
“C’mere,” Ali said, and pulled Danny back in for one last lingering kiss. And with that, Danny pulled back the drapes that surrounded the bed and made his way out of the door, and then out of the warehouse.
The top floor was much less austere than the lower floors, and seemed to evoke a gothic feel that the rest of the building did not. The concrete floor was carpeted, and paintings and tapestries hung from the wall. There were even candles. But upon closer inspection, Danny discovered they were battery powered. The light was a constant, though: despite the windows being blacked out and covered by heavy black curtains, the rooms were still incredibly bright, lit by dozens of electric lamps of all shapes and sizes.
Most of the floors seemed deserted. On the top floor, he heard moaning coming from one room, and on the others, he found a few people passed out in the hallways. He exited the warehouse through the door he came in. There was only one person in the party room, and Danny recognized him from the night before. It was the broad shouldered man Ali had been talking to, and Danny knew at once that he was a Vampire. He was sweeping up confetti off the floor.
Danny tried to leave without attracting the man’s attention, but just as he reached the door the man said, “Hey, kid.”
“Yes?” Danny said, turning around.
“What’s your name?”
“That was way too long of a pause.”
“It’s my real name!” It was indeed his real name.
“Whatever, I don’t give a shit. Listen, what Ali does in his spare time is none of my business. He can make all the bad decisions he wants. It’s not like I could stop him even if I wanted to. But if you two are going to keep doing what you’re doing, you should do it a little more discreetly than you currently are. You’re lucky I’m the one who noticed, and you’re really fucking lucky I don’t care,” the man said.
“Right. Thanks,” Danny replied, not sure what else to say. “What’s your name?”
“Just get out of here before anyone sees you. Or worse, smells you.”
Danny was halfway out the door when Travis said, “And if you or any of your people harm a hair on his head, I’ll slit your throat so fucking fast.”
“Noted.” And then Danny hurried away from the warehouse.
When he arrived at home, Lydia was waiting for him. Without saying a word she pulled him by his sleeve into a hug.
“I’m sorry, Lydia,” he said.
“I’m sorry too,” she told him. “You’re right. You’re grown. You should be able to go where you want without answering to anybody. Even me. I just get so worried about you.”
Danny pulled out of the hug. “We can talk in my room,” he said.
Once they were in Danny’s room with the door closed, he said, “I shouldn’t have said those things to you.”
“No,” she agreed, “you shouldn’t have.”
“I just want us to have our own lives, Dee. We shouldn’t be sacrificing everything for the sake of each other.”
“That’s just how Werewolves are . The pack before all.”
“But It doesn’t have to be that way between us. You should be able to go about your life without worrying about me all the time, and I should be able to live mine without reporting all the minute details.”
“And I won’t ask for them anymore. You don’t have to tell me who you’re seeing or exactly. Just, the general area of where you’re going and when you’re coming back. So I know when to be worried.” Lydia smiled gently.
“That sounds fine,” Danny agreed.
“Do you mind saying who you stayed over with? Was it Andria? I promise I won’t be mad if it was. Your love life isn’t for me to comment on.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Danny replied calmly.
“Then who was it?”
Danny laughed, though it sounded more like a dog’s bark than an actual laugh. “I don’t think I’m ready to have that conversation yet, Dee.”
Lydia laid down on his bed with one hand tucked under her head. “Well, if you ever are,” she said, “I’ll be here.”
Danny laid down next to her so that they were face to face. “Okay.”
“I love you, Danny.”
“I love you too, Dee.”