Twice Dead

By: Kalayna Price

Chapter One



I propped my elbows on the balcony rail that hung over the Death’s Angel dance floor. Below me, industrial music pounded against scantily-clad bodies contorting to the beat. A man in a wolf mask and tight pleather pants ground against a girl wearing a tattered red cloak and strategically placed electrical tape. A zombie in more chains than clothes shambled past the couple, headed for a coven of dominatrix witches. Fictional characters and sexualized movie monsters milled everywhere. What most of the clubbers didn’t realize was that among the costumed masses were real monsters—and I was one of them.

I glanced at the man beside me. Well, not a man exactly, more like vampire. Nathanial leaned against the wooden balcony rail, his back to the club and dancers. A white opera mask covered half his face, but unlike the famous mask of the fictional phantom, the thin porcelain didn’t cover deformity or ugliness—far from it. Nathanial’s features were as sharp and perfect as if they’d been carved by an artist. They were also currently set in an expression of annoyed arrogance that was as fake as the mask. He’d held that exact expression since we arrived at the club an hour ago.

“We showed up. We’ve been seen. Can we go now?” I asked, swirling the contents of my untouched Bloody Mary.

“Kita.”

My name. Just my name, without any inflection. I took his meaning as ‘No’ or maybe that I already knew the answer.

And I did. Tatius, the big bad vampire king of Haven, had summoned us to his little party for a visiting master vamp. So here we were. I balanced the acidic smelling drink on the rail.

And here we’ll stay until we’re dismissed.

So far, my introduction into eternity as a vampire sucked—and not just blood. Sighing, I shoved the untouched alcohol aside. The bartender, dressed as, shock of all shocks, a vampire—complete with genuine fangs—retrieved the precariously balanced glass before moving on to a customer whose drinking habits required a lower iron content.

Without the glass, I had nothing to fidget with, and my attention returned to the writhing bodies on the dance floor.

So many people. So many hearts racing and crashing below thin skin. So many heartbeats drowning out the blaring music. Pressure built in the roof of my mouth, turning to pain as my fangs descended.

A warm hand landed on my shoulder, and I tore my gaze from the dancers. Nathanial watched me, his fingers sliding from my shoulder, down my arm, to my hand. My knuckles were white where I gripped the balcony rail.

I pried my fingers from the wood. Nathanial’s crystal gray gaze flicked to the movement, then back to my mouth.

“It’s nothing,” I whispered, trying to keep my lips pressed over my fangs as I spoke.

Not that it mattered.

“Perhaps we should mingle.” His expression didn’t change.

Not a feature twitched, despite the fact I knew he had no interest in talking to anyone in the balcony crowd.

The balcony was VIP only. Or really, VIV—Very Important Vampire. Some humans were present, as snacks. Thankfully, I hadn’t noticed any public bloodletting. Yet. But, as vamps didn’t trigger my prey instinct, mingling with them was less likely to result in my accidentally eating someone. On the other hand, it also meant I had to talk to the other vamps—which was way more dangerous, in my opinion.

It wasn’t an option I was eager to embrace. “I just need some air.”

The edge of Nathanial’s lips tugged downward. A small motion, barely noticeable. It was his first slip all night—and it wasn’t approval. We disagreed on my eating habits, or more accurately, the fact I was subsisting on only animal blood. He was of the opinion that I needed human blood. I was of the opinion that it was his fault I was on a liquid diet in the first place, and he better put up with my sustenance of choice. I sighed, blowing a lock of my tri-colored hair out of my face and intentionally misinterpreting his look.

“I know, I know. Vampire. I don’t need to breathe,” I whispered in an exaggerated huff. “But I can’t change twenty-four years of expressions just because I recently woke up slightly less than alive.”

Nathanial shook his head, but a smile touched the edge of his mouth. “Walk with me.”

His fingers slid through mine and tugged me from the balcony rail. Reluctantly, I followed him into the crowd of vampires.

The costumes on this level were more diverse than those on the dance floor below. True masquerade outfits, elegant dresses, velvet top coats, and jewel-encrusted masks made the balcony crowd colorful. But for every Victorian dress or harlequin was a vampire wearing only leather straps across strategic body parts. I couldn’t recognize the native Haven vamps by sight, but considering my previous experience with the local vamps, and the fact Death’s Angel was operated by them, I suspected the visitors weren’t the ones in bondage gear.

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