This is a chapter of an Adult Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.
If you are not at least 18 years old please do NOTread.
For a list of Content Warnings and Possible Triggers, please go here then come back.
Ronnie Bhanrion at her Tattoo Emporium.
~ Chapter Six ~
Ronnie and I spent the morning and the early afternoon talking about her family, the cases, and everything that led up to her home being the headquarters for all this madness. Two-thirty rolled around, and she excused herself to get to her first appointment at her Tattoo Emporium. We parted ways on the street out front, and I walked toward the bar.
That word didn’t do the Crimson Claw justice. It was an underground preter hangout that happened to have a bar. If you knew the right person, there were also other not so legal activities you could participate in, for a price.
As I rounded the corner, someone whistled. I looked up and grinned. Sandra was leaning over the railing of a fire escape as she smoked a cigar. Her blonde hair blew in a slight breeze and her green eyes sparkled as they roved me.
“Look what the Polar Bear dragged out of the Tundra,” she called, and I teleported to her. She hugged me and pecked my cheek, pausing with her lips near my ear. “If you’re looking for Jackie, I don’t know where he is.”
“Charming as ever, Sandra,” I said, pecking her cheek then whispering. “Nicky and Trix don’t know where he is either. They haven’t heard from him in weeks.”
Sandra pulled back with slightly wide eyes then looked around before taking my hand and stepping through the open window behind her. Inside, it was like any other apartment on Bourbon Street: small, crowded, and white plaster but that was only a façade. She opened the door into a long, elaborate hall, and waited until the door was closed to say more.
“He’s been here. I don’t know what he’s been up to, but he usually comes by once a night. Until two weeks ago when one of the girls was killed in the back alley. There’s been too many of Lou’s men around since then. He knew they’d look for him here and would ask me about him,” she said, leading me down the too quiet hall. “I’m worried about him, Ma.”
“I’m here. You don’t have to worry anymore. I’ll find him and pull his ass out of whatever trouble he’s gotten into this time,” I said. She turned to me at a stairwell that led to the bar, and I set a hand on her shoulder. “I promise, I’ll bring him back alive.”
“I know you will. I’m just scared. He’s been calling me at night to check in, but last night he didn’t. I wanted to call you or Nick, but with Vixen so close to delivering, I didn’t want to bother them, and I know you’re her doula this time,” she said. I squeezed her shoulder and offered a reassuring smile.
“I know. You’re like me. You like to handle things yourself and don’t want to be a burden, but you’re not a burden to me, Sandra,” I said. She nodded and set her hand over mine on her shoulder.
“If he didn’t show or call tonight, I was going to call you. Honest,” she said with tears in her voice. I pulled her in and gave her the long, tight hug she needed. Her body relaxed little by little, but I hung on until all the negative energy buzzing around her aura dissipated. When I loosened my hold and stepped back, she took a deep breath. “Thank you, Ma. You always give the best hugs.”
“You’re welcome, Hun, but don’t ever think twice about calling me, even if you just need a hug from this mama bear. I can pop in and give you one anytime,” I said, taking her hand. I gave it a squeeze and her eyes watered. “You’ve been part of my den since the day Jack introduced us, and I don’t say that lightly.”
She threw her arms around me again and, in that moment, I felt the joy and the need she had for a mother right now. Again, I wondered where her family was. Jack hadn’t told me much about her past, but the past didn’t matter much to Jack. The present and the future were his focus. I always wondered about her family, but I never asked, and she’d never brought them up. She squeezed me, and I rubbed her back.
“Thank you… thank you so much,” she whispered into my hair.
“You’re welcome, Arkæus. Let’s go downstairs away from listening ears,” I said, feeling some of the girls staring at us, wondering why their fearless leader was being so emotional. She wiped her tears, using me as a shield from their worried eyes, and quickly led me downstairs. She unlocked the deadbolt on the door at the end of the bar. She pushed it open and ushered me in.
It was dark in the room that was three times longer than it was wide. No lights were on, not even the neon signs which depicted women in various pinup poses.
“You smell like Queenie. What did she tell you?” she asked, referring to Ronnie by a nickname she’d given her. She had one of the most powerful senses of smell I’d ever come across, except for Max… Again, he came to mind. She flipped a light switch under the edge of the bar and the neon lights brightened the room as I tried to get him from my mind.
Four booths lined the wall opposite the bar on the other side of the three wooden pillars holding up a beam that ran down the center of the room. In between the pillars were five tables with four chairs turned upside down on each. At the far end was a tunnel with thirteen steps up to the street. Upside down on top of the bar were thirteen stools, but she ignored it all and turned to me, waiting for an answer.
“She said that there’s a serial killer on the loose. Lou said that Jack is a suspect, and they want to question him. I’ve also seen one of the cards,” I filled her in on the necessary details, leaving Ornias out of it. Her eyes widened at the last, and I pulled the stools down, one eyebrow rising in question. She held my gaze for a moment before she shook her head and grabbed a towel to buss the bar that didn’t need it.
“The cards are just a distraction,” she said, her left eye twitching. She grabbed a square bottle from the shelf and set it in front of me. “It’s Chaos Theory. Jack bought a case off Ronnie last month.”
“What did Jackie find out?” I asked, grabbing the bottle as I moved to take the chairs down. She prepped drinks for her crew, and I watched her, waiting for the rest.
“They’re keeping the Agency from pursuing the real threat. The Illusionist is the third member of the triumvirate now, and he hands out those cards. The Underworld rumor mill says that he gives them to those he deems worthy, and when they’re out of favor, the cards change…” she said, setting the towel over her shoulder. When I finished with the chairs, I swished the amber liquid around the bottle before I twisted the top off. I took a swig and sat on one of the stools.
“Jackie got his hands on one, didn’t he?” I asked. Her back tensed, but she gave a small nod. “That boy has no sense. He needs to learn to leave well enough alone.”
“He’s too much like you, Ma,” she said, and I thought about that for a minute. Damn, if she wasn’t right. When I found out something like that, I always meddled. It was part of my nature. I couldn’t leave anything alone. Why couldn’t my boys inherit any of my better traits?
“What did he want with one?” I asked. She stopped polishing the bar but didn’t look at me.
“He was a mover for some of the local Underworld boys,” she said, voice low, and I set down the bottle ready to rant, but she hurried to clarify, “Not like that. They wanted things moved, and he found a way. He didn’t handle any merchandise, just told them how. It was strictly intel, nothin’ hands on. First, it was only once every couple years, if someone needed it—”
“And now it’s a regular gig,” I said more than asked. She nodded, and I cursed. “Jackie, you son of an egotistical, arrogant, money hungry bastard.”
She didn’t argue or defend him. She agreed with me and knew more about his hairbrained schemes than I ever wanted to. His schemes were never for the same reasons as his namesake Calico Jack’s. My Jack only took odd jobs for the Underworld to make a better life for his found family here at the Crimson Claw. They were his crew, and damned if I didn’t understand his reasoning.
“Who’s he trying to rescue this time?” I asked, knowing that it was always about someone else. He lived to rescue people. Addicts, those in financial hardships, and those who’d been taken by the Underworld. If I knew who it was, I could get them out and he’d come too. She looked down, and I tilted my head. “Arkæus?”
“I’m pregnant,” she confessed, setting both hands on the bar just out of arm’s reach.
 Demoki: Bear Cub
My eyes went wide, but I quickly hid both my excitement and fear behind my neutral mask. They’d been together since the turn of the early twentieth century. After so long with no children, I never thought they’d slip up. She slowly looked up at me, and I offered an unassuming smirk.
“Should I say congratulations or let you vent about the possible complication of having a child when you’re in the business of rescuing people?” I asked, phrasing it as delicately as I could. She sighed, her shoulders sagged, and she fingered the compass locket she wore. She’d worn it every day since I gave it to her a hundred years ago.
The locket was given to me by Calico Jack. I passed it on to her when I realized what she meant to my Jackie. To my knowledge, they’d never officially married, but I knew they weren’t likely to split after so long. They didn’t need a piece of paper to make it binding. She tucked one of her long blonde curls behind her slightly pointed ears and sighed.
“At first, I was terrified. It’s taken a couple months, but I’m happier now… or I was,” she said, popping the locket open. The waterline of her green eyes glittered in the neon lights as she looked at the picture inside, and I took her hand. “Then Jack had to go and try for a nest egg.”
I squeezed her hand as the first of the tears fell. She looked from the locket to me.
“I can’t imagine how you must have felt when you found out about Jackie,” she said, putting a hand on her stomach over the baby bump that was starting to make an appearance. “Did his father even know?”
“Not until the night we were boarded,” I said as tears burned my eyes at the memory. The smell of gunpowder and rum filled my nostrils as I remembered telling John Rackham about our son. “I told him after we captured that ship. He was so happy… Damn him, he was elated. He talked about retiring to Africa before Barnet could catch us.”
My voice broke as thoughts of Barnet, one of Ornias aliases. One he’d made specifically to hunt me. He was the reason John wasn’t a better pirate. She squeezed my hand, and I shoved the memories down with the rest. I squeezed her hand back and brushed away a single tear before it could slide down my cheek.
“I won’t let him do what his father did,” I said, cursing John again for giving himself up like that. She blinked at me, and I sighed. “The stories say that when Barnet found us, John was too drunk to fight. He was drunk, but he was never too drunk to fight and honestly, he fought better when he was drunk off his ass. He refused to fight. Mary and I were the only ones who fought because the rest of the crew listened to him, the idiots. We might have won if he hadn’t stopped me from using my abilities.”
Dark mist swirled around my free hand as my blood boiled and my chest glowed under my tank top. I clenched my fist and both my fire, and the darkness vanished.
“I would have killed them, but he had to go all noble and get little Jackie and I out by sacrificing himself. The bastard didn’t know that Barnet wasn’t going to spare us,” I said, taking a long drink. She scoffed and shook her head as I dropped the bottle again.
“A big heart, no sense of self-preservation, and no mind for strategy. Like father, like son.” Sandra rolled her eyes. I nodded and lifted my bottle to her.
“I’ll drink to that.”
Ten minutes later, I unlocked the doors and set a wall of power over the entrance. It was a simple ward that would tell me who entered and what brand of preter they were. I sat in the farthest booth from the stairwell and watched it in case Lucifer sent someone else, or Ornias came looking for me. He knew my haunts from the last time he tracked me. If he wanted more than a booty call, he’d come here, and I’d kill him.
I sat facing the door with one leg on the table, sipping at the bottle of Chaos Theory.
I watched everyone come and go, judging their aura, and looking into their soul. Prosokinesis was one of my unique gifts. I could see into someone’s innermost being without looking in their eyes or expending much energy. It was one of my many abilities tied to both my aspects of Life and Death.
It made tracking targets easier, but it made relationships harder. That was the sole reason I erected metaphysical walls around those I loved. Keeping the wall between Ornias and I was why I hadn’t seen his corruption coming. Removing one such wall was what ruined my relationship with Max.
In a moment of weakness, when Max stopped talking to me, I opened a door in that wall and was hit with cold, hard truth. While I was away on a mission, he’d gotten bitter and fallen for someone else.
I don’t know what I expected after being unreachable for six months even though we’d been apart for longer than that before. He’d been mad at me for going on said mission, and for remaining silent like I told him I would. So, he found a bartender and poured his heart out to her.
He fell for her, and she for him. He’d slept with her the night before I returned. I should’ve stayed in Paris and called him first. Walking in on them at her bar was the worst pain I’d ever endured. Even after their relationship had ended, or how we’d nearly made up twenty years ago, that hurt still stung because it reminded me of walking in on Ornias and the Scubaid.
I tipped the bottle back and drank the last mouthful, trying to wash away the memories. I looked into the empty bottle and sighed. I needed another drink if I wanted to look casual. I walked to the bar and a familiar power touched the ward. I stumbled as I reached the bar and shook my head.
No, my mind was playing tricks on me. Max couldn’t be here. He hadn’t left the west coast in twenty years. It was just residual energy from the memory. There was no reason for him to be here, especially not now. The door opened, and I paid no attention to the newcomer as Sandra drifted over to take my order.
“What can I get you, Red?” she asked. I set the empty bottle on the bar and opened my mouth to ask for my usual mix, but a looming, mountainous shadow entered my peripheral vision. I turned and instantly salivated. My mind was continuing its games, it couldn’t be him, but what if…
“Am I seeing things, or is there a mountain of a preter prowling by the tunnel?” I asked, pointing to him. The tall, blonde hound whose biceps were three times the size of mine stood at the bottom of the stairs. If he were any taller, he’d have hit his head on the seven and a half foot ceiling. She looked at him and nodded as her eyes roved him.
“If he’s your type, you should bed him. You might get more information from him than from the rest of the riffraff,” she said. Half of me wanted to tell her that I had bedded him many times, the other half didn’t want her to know about the failed relationship. She took my silence for hesitant trepidation and decided to add a bit more to sweeten the pot.
“He’s a member of Lou’s newest squad…” ‘He’s the one who’s been prowling for Jack,’ she telepathically added. I was surprised that Max hadn’t found him yet or maybe he only told Lucifer he hadn’t out of respect for me. After all he was there the day Jack was born and had been watching out for him, when he could. Though, I don’t know if he continued to do so while he was mad at me. He was also the best tracker I knew. He could sniff out a trail that was months old, so why hadn’t he found Jack?
I looked from her to him as his cybernetic eyes scanned the bar. Those were new, and they hadn’t been there in my dream this morning. Had Lucifer conned him into testing out the cybernetic implants he’d been working on when I refused, or was he further injured on a mission for the dumbass?
“I just might,” I tapped the bottle with one knuckle and pushed off the bar. “Fill her up with my mix, and I’ll take care of him.”
My eyes roved the almost seven-foot-tall mountain of muscle as I sauntered toward him. When I met his eyes, they turned from cybernetic green to chartreuse, reminding me of my dream again.
My dreams always warned me of things like this. Ornias simply took over when it moved to sex and passion, since he was an Angel of Pleasure… or he had been. My powers were warning me that Max was in town. My subconscious was trying to tell me that I still craved him. I hadn’t listened. I was too preoccupied with the monster in my kitchen to entertain that possibility.
I tuned out my internal monologue berating me for missing it as I stood a foot in front of him. A seductive smirk turned my lips as I looked up at him and his smirk mirrored it, though it was skewed because of the scars on either side of his mouth. Even after nearly three hundred years, they were still there.
“Have we met before?” Max asked, quoting Thomas O’Malley from the Disney movie the Aristocats. The deep bass of his voice rumbled through me and sent a shiver down my spine.
In that moment, I decided to let my body have what it wanted. I set my hands on the shoulders of his leather jacket, grabbed the straps, and jumped into his arms. He caught me just like old times, and I stared down at his eyes from inches away.
Disclaimer: this is an older picture a few things have changed about these two since the picture was made.
“If we haven’t, let’s skip the pleasantries and head straight to the bedroom,” I whispered, breath hot against his lips as his hands cupped and groped my ass. “Kiss me.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” he growled low and captured my lips with his.
You can get this picture on a tumbler if you head on over to the Kickstarter and get the Upgrade Box! Ebook, Paperback, and Hardcover available!
I lost myself to the familiar feel of his lips on mine, of his tongue as it licked my lips then slid past my fangs into my mouth, and the way his muscular body felt in the vice grip of my legs.
A few minutes later, the bar erupted with cheers and whistles reminding me that we weren’t alone. I pulled back with a gasp, and he walked to the bar, carrying me as if I weighed nothing.
“If you want a room, they’re through the door,” Sandra told him. He looked from her to me, and I nodded, not letting the warning flags in my brain get in the way of my need for him. He kept his hold on my ass until he got to the end of the bar. He stopped only to grab the bottle from Sandra and duck under the doorframe into the stairwell.
Thank you fore reading! If you liked it leave a comment and let me know!
You can download the first 10 chapters by going to the Discord's Nightmare Book Box Kickstarter and backing the project (reserving your book or box)! (click the icon to be taken to the page)
Kickstarter ends July 17th.
I'll be reading more of this book every Saturday at 9 p.m. EST from now until July 15 when the book is released to the public!
(Click the icon to be taken to my page)
If you don't want to mess around with Kickstarter (which would be preferred and honestly, support me more), you can go to amazon where the eBook is now available to preorder by clicking the icon.
To preorder the paperback or hardcover, you'll need to go through the Kickstarter and get the "Basic Book Box" for just the book and a few stickers.