Bad Moon Rising: A Seven Sons Novel
By DB Nielsen
Turning into a narrow alley, the darkness grew thicker around Aislinn, and the cold bit just a touch deeper and sharper with every step. The dull, brown-brick Georgian buildings pressed heavily in, creating only an arrowhead of inky, velvet sky overhead. Most of the factories looked abandoned after the working day was done, windows grimy behind heavy iron bars. Litter from the neighboring fast food restaurants gathered in the gutters, blown in from vacant construction sites listed for industry.
London had never seemed so dismal.
Not that she was aware of it or even felt it. Other things occupied her mind. The day had been long and difficult, and pervasive memories of vivid faces continued to plague her still. An indescribable loneliness remained.
Somewhere in the distance, Big Ben began to strike the hour. With each heavy toll, the moment fragmented. She could feel the stillness of time falling.
When will it stop?
She felt an echo of her former self. Her past faded behind the city blocks. Her future stretched before her in that moment, thin and insubstantial, down the darkened street.
The man paused in the shadows. Sneaking a quick glance at the young girl he was following, he was surprised to find she wasn’t showing any signs of being affected by, or even aware of, their miserable surroundings. In fact, she seemed particularly immune to almost everything around her except the fading echoes from Big Ben.
His fingers twitched nervously around the switchblade in his hand, as if anticipating the moment when he would feel it slice through her warm flesh. But not before he’d had some fun with her first. Pretty young things like the pale, blonde-haired girl before him didn’t venture into this part of London often. He took a moment to let his eyes roam up her body.
Fuck. Who was he kidding?
Pretty young things almost never came to his part of town, unless they were looking to buy some meth or coke or that new drug he’d been hearing a lot about, Black Mambo or Black Magic or whatever it was called. Maybe that was why she was here. Hoping to score. Well, so was he. And he’d lucked out. He usually had to go find them.
He watched her possessively, tension in every muscle. His fleshy, pock-marked face broke into a lascivious smile. He liked the way she moved. Graceful like a dancer. Her platinum-blonde hair fell down her back to her waist, a waterfall of harnessed moonlight. His heart beat wildly, so loud and fast it pounded against his rib cage and thrummed in his ears, momentarily drowning out her footsteps.
Again, his hand twitched, feeling the familiar weight of the blade.
His tongue poked out between suddenly dry lips.
Aislinn stopped at a corner beneath the awning of an empty curiosity shop. An aged sign in the grime-streaked storefront window advertised that it was up for lease. She knew better than to linger on darkened city street corners, but something didn’t feel right, an instinct honed back at the beginning of time for all living creatures. A prickling sensation along the back of her neck.
Like the hunter and the hunted, the predator and the prey, she sensed that something—someone—was following her.
The streetlamps flickered up and down the lane as if by a surge of her own adrenaline, but the muted yellow glow they emitted wasn’t enough to keep the darkness at bay.
With an anxious thrill bordering on agony, Aislinn set off down the grim alleyway, the rain beginning to fall softly with the onset of another restless night. Each darkened doorway, boarded up window, and flickering streetlamp she walked past became a familiar blur of insidious intent.
Close! He’s close! Aislinn experienced a strange sense of déjà vu.
She fixed eyes upon the alleyway ahead, picking up her pace as she saw his shadow slide along the pavement, matching her pace.
Aislinn tensed, readying herself for the attack. The cold air gusted and made her platinum-blonde hair and long leather coat flap violently about her. The broken blinds and chimney pots were filled with the blustering wind, whistling between gaps in the narrow alley.
Shh. Aislinn. Calm down.
He’s close now.
She tried not to look over her shoulder. She could have easily confirmed that he was following her, but she deliberately chose not to. Instead, she quickened her pace. That ancient voice that warned her to be cautious spoke up, shouting in her ear like the frosty draughts of winter wind that infiltrated the alleyway’s hollow nooks and crannies.
Don’t let him know you’re aware of him. Just keep going. Keep walking. Careful now, Aislinn.
He continued to dog the girl’s footsteps. She made it easy for him, even with her hurrying. She kept her head bowed low, her shoulders hunched, and her hands thrust into her coat pockets to protect herself from the worsening wind and rain.
She seemed anxious, this slip of a girl with the moonlight hair who looked so young, though was probably in her early twenties. This pretty young thing whom he would make sob in the pitch black of his cellar.
He hoped she would scream. He liked it when they screamed. He was going to take good care of her.
It was easy.
He’d done it before. Twice. And each time, he felt stronger, more confident, more adept.
The gloomy alley was completely empty, except for the rain and the rats and himself and the girl. Even the rats were scampering for cover.
Anyone who needed a hit that badly deserved what was coming to them. Or maybe she was buying drugs to go clubbing later with her foolish friends. It was Friday night, and the nightclubs and bars nearby were always jampacked with fresh meat.
But they weren’t here with her now. She was alone.
It seemed like they were the only two people left on Earth. He relished the thought. And soon, there would only be one.
The tension in his shoulders began to fade as he readied himself for the kill. She wasn’t going anywhere.
“Hey, girly, you lost?” he asked, approaching her from behind. His words carried toward her on the wind.
As if startled, like a jittery colt, she whirled around to face him before he reached her.
Flawless pale skin, a pixie-like face, and fathomless dark eyes.
Her eyes made him pause, and he gripped his blade even more tightly. They gave him the creeps. Either there was something so deeply buried, he wouldn’t find it unless she wanted him to, or he could see nothing behind the girl’s eyes.
“No, I’m not lost,” she said. Her voice was flat, emotionless. Like her eyes. “Are you?”
A sickness roiled in the center of his stomach.
She was reaching for him with her eyes. It was like she was holding him back from tumbling over the edge of eternity. And she would catch him before he fell.
The man experienced one shivering moment of silence, frozen into immobility, until a damp gust of icy winter wind bringing stinging rain blew into his eyes, making him blink and squint in shocked reaction as he gazed through wet lashes upon the most horrifying sight he would ever see.
It didn’t reach her eyes.
There was nothing human in her eyes, only a deadly cold, pure rage. Razor-sharp incisors broke through her gums, snapping down into place. They weren’t like any teeth he’d ever seen before. Not on humans nor animals. They were like polished ivory protruding slightly from her mouth, wickedly strong and tapered.
She took the switchblade easily from his nerveless hand, disarming him. He didn’t even try to put up a fight or resist her. He couldn’t.
He wanted to grab it back. He wanted to pull away, even though she wasn’t even touching him. He wanted to run. But, somehow, he couldn’t gain control of his responses. He couldn’t gain control of himself.
Paralyzed, all he could do was watch as she brought the blade up to his neck and placed the sharpened tip against his pulsing throat. It drew blood. He could feel it. Even with the rain splattering him in the face, he felt his heated blood trickling down his skin.
Her thin nostrils flared in response, as if breathing in his scent.
He couldn’t scream. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t even breathe.
Her eyes were obsidian pools that made all the blood drain from his head. His heart fluttered like a trapped bird inside his rib cage. Her look was knowing. She would set it free.
“I know what you were thinking,” she whispered, her voice now sweetly intoxicating and sultry. “You were wondering, what’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?”
He released the smallest whimper as she leaned into him and licked his neck, right over the quivering pulse.
“Mmmm.” She licked her lips like the cat with the canary, savoring the moment when he finally realized that all along, she had been the predator and he was the prey. She could see it in his darting eyes. The fear. Her power. The beauty of it. “Don’t worry. I’m going to take good care of you.”
It was easy.
“Dammit, Aislinn. You’re late.”
“I stopped off for a bite to eat before work.” Aislinn tossed off the sassy reply over her shoulder as she hung her leather coat in the back office. Then she grabbed a tablet from the counter to check the club’s inventory list. “Besides, it’s Friday night. Hump night. It’ll only be the regulars. The rest will be trolling the Street Buffet.”
Caleb grunted. He would have liked nothing more than to reprimand her, but he refrained. Not only would Aislinn not have welcomed it—welcomed it? Vlad’s balls! She would perform a root canal on me without batting an eyelash—but she was already too anemic as it was, pushing the feeding time often to the third day, almost to the last minute and the limits of any normal vampire’s endurance.
Watching her organize the Nocturne’s weekly stocktake, she looked as fragile as a dandelion that would blow away in the first strong wind.
But looks could be deceiving.
The burly bartender ran one large hand over his bald head, as if massaging a chronic headache. Muscles bulged from his beefy biceps, the intricate tattoos snaking and rippling along his bronzed skin as if alive. His left arm sported the motto, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat”, his right, “Fortes Fortuna Iuvat”, proclaiming his hard-core military background. But even with all his military training and many kills, the slight figure of the girl in front of him made him extremely nervous and protective in equal measure.
She was the last of The Twelve turned by Kayne himself, the father of them all. Yet she was the only female. Why Kayne had chosen her as his Twelfth Disciple was anybody’s guess. She was the most troublesome, defiant, willful baggage around. And a pain in the ass to mentor.
Perhaps that was why Kayne had abandoned her to the care of Julius and the London Coven. A mistake, in Caleb’s opinion. Two of Kayne’s direct descendants under one roof made for World War V.
“Chillax, old man,” Aislinn teased, sensing his discord as she tossed her platinum locks back over her shoulder and moved to stand behind the bar. “Why don’t you have a drink?”
“Maybe I will,” he replied gruffly. “What’s our stock like?”
Aislinn rolled her eyes. In all the time she’d known him, Caleb still couldn’t—or wouldn’t—cast aside his rigidity. He was a stickler for the rules. Must have been his time spent in the army—make that armies. He liked to re-enlist every hundred years or so for the fun of it. But despite sharing ownership of the Nocturne with her, he would never take from his own merchandise. It was always rations and supplies and then surplus.
“All good,” she replied, passing him the tablet for his inspection. “Don’t get your fangs in a furrow. We’re receiving the new delivery from the Blood Bank tomorrow, not tonight. Nikolaus was very apologetic when he called. He’s handling it personally. We’re the first on his route—well, after Styx.”
“Of course we are. Nikolaus has the hots for you. He wants to make the beast with two backs.” Caleb hoped to get a rise out of her. Aislinn didn’t even bother to respond. She’d heard it all before. “So, what’s the delay?”
“That train derailment near Waterloo Tube Station,” Aislinn replied, relating Nikolaus’s information. “Humans injured. Quite a few blood transfusions. Nothing that’s going to really affect supply.”
Caleb grunted. He was a man of few words. He didn’t seem particularly bothered by the delay in their next delivery, but then, it took a lot to faze Caleb.
Although when she’d arrived, she’d noticed a troubled expression on his face while he wiped the stemless glasses a little too thoroughly. She hadn’t failed to notice. She just had chosen not to remark upon it.
There were only two things that fazed Caleb, Kayne’s sudden appearances and the Atum Council.
Plus herself. She had a habit of getting Caleb’s blood pressure up—or would have if he had a working human heart.
Make that three things. I wonder which one is bothering him tonight.
Reaching under the counter, she pulled out a blood bag from the nearest bar fridge, one of several state-of-the-art, medical refrigeration units stacked under the counter and along the back wall, filled with rows of hanging blood bags, bottles, and trays of vacutainers. “C’mon, you seem a little on edge tonight. Loosen up a little. It’s a great vintage. 2018. From the Children’s Hospital. Transfused in individual vacutainers. Nicely aged in blood bags with seventy milliliters of anti-coagulant. I’ll even join you.”
“Decant it first,” Caleb suggested curtly.
Her eyes flashed a warning. She was no Nubes, like the lowest caste of her race. Like any good bouquet, it needed to breathe. Besides, she hated it when it was chilled. It was more like treacle than blood. Though sometimes—desperate times—a girl needed to feed, and chilled or frozen, stored blood would have to do.
As she let it warm to room temperature, she kept her hands busy with the stacking of the glass test tubes used for rounds of shots.
She’d fed once tonight and could already feel the effects. The man’s blood warmed her chilled limbs, increasing her strength and endurance, making her reactions faster, sharpening her sight and smell. But it still bothered her that she needed to feed on humans.
She justified her kills as a service to humanity, ridding the world of vermin like the rapist/murderer she’d just fed on. She restricted herself to those like him who were nothing more than pond scum. She had a sense for these things. She always knew where they were. She could smell their sins in their body odor.
She wasn’t like the rest of her coven who frequented the Street Buffet and preyed on panhandlers and beggars, the homeless and the vulnerable, or made a smorgasbord of the local hospitals and nursing homes. She refused to feast on the innocent. She would only feast on the child abusers and the corrupt politicians and those low-life criminals who deserved to die.
She snuck a peek under her lashes at the brawny vampire beside her who was giving a final “spit shine” to the large capacity centrifuge machine. His movements were economical. She wished she could be more like Caleb, who was entirely pragmatic about killing humans.
“Humans are food, not friends,” Caleb had insisted on their first hunt together. “Think of it this way. We are only ending the pain and suffering of life for these poor mortal bastards. It’s like Willie says, ‘to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished!’” Then he added with a wink, “And I’m all for consummation. I’ll admit I don’t mind a bit of fornication. And I’m even happy to indulge in some procreation.”
He’d used that lame joke for centuries. And no one wanted to tell him he wasn’t funny. Well, except for her.
Aislinn sighed. Death dealers. That was what they were. Caleb had trained her to consider killing humans as euthanasia.
Sadly, she had failed that part of her training. And the procreating. But, consolation prize, she was slightly better at the fornicating.
Not with Caleb, though. Hell, no.
After having her butt kicked by him for half a millennium in vampire boot camp, the last thing she needed was to be fucked twice over every night.
Yet everything she knew about vampirism had come from Caleb. She owed him a lot, not the least of which was her martial skills and combat training. Despite her formidable strength and rapid reflexes she’d inherited directly from Kayne, without Caleb, she would still be unprepared to take on the human hunters who were sanctioned by the church to hunt her kind down and kill them.
“What’ll we toast?” asked Caleb, pouring the ruby-red liquid into two large stemless glasses and handing one to her.
“To Kayne,” came her automatic reply. “To a Blood Moon.”
His eyes dilated momentarily to obsidian. “To a bad moon rising.”
Aislinn smiled and lifted her glass in salute. Sipping slowly, the bouquet opened up to a dry, sweet scent with hints of iron.
“Holy shit balls!” she exclaimed.
“Vlad’s nuts, that’s a good drop!” Caleb agreed, savoring the rich, metallic taste in his mouth. He shook his head in amazement. “Nikolaus must really be itching to get into your pants!”
The Nocturne opened its doors to its patrons promptly at six that evening. The dead of winter brought with it earlier opening times as sunset occurred in the late afternoon, but on Friday nights, only the regulars usually turned up. Fridays meant more humans on the streets—in their clubs and their restaurants and their cinemas and their theaters—and more humans on the streets meant business was slower than usual. Hump night.
Not that Aislinn was complaining. The club was still full, but the bouncers didn’t have to refuse entry to customers. And refusing entry to a vampire was no easy thing, particularly when they were a Malum, the highest caste of vampire.
Like the one who deliberately perched himself on the velvet barstool in front of her, unusually accompanied by a Nubes.
“What is he doing here?” she asked of Dorian, whose Mark of Cain flared jet black on his forehead in recognition that he was being addressed by the daughter of Kayne. “You know that if Caleb sees him, he’ll go batshit crazy and kick your butt from here to eternity.” She paused to look the impeccably groomed young vampire over. “For that matter, what are you doing here?”
The intoxicatingly beautiful vampire looked unconcerned. Instead, he gracefully extended one slim, pale manicured hand to pick at a loose thread on his tailored jacket, dropping it disdainfully on the counter.
The sneering facial expression failed to mar the perfection of his features. He had once been described by one of his more obsessed followers as looking as if he were made from ivory and rose leaves. It made Aislinn want to retch. Though she had to admit, even Narcissus didn’t have anything on Dorian.
His dark hair and eyes, along with his porcelain skin and regal bearing, might have suggested his kin with the angels, but he held the cruelest nature of almost anyone Aislinn knew, despite his youth. He might only have been turned into a vampire a hundred and thirty years ago, but he hated them all. All the immortals and the humans too. The only love he held was for his own sartorially splendid form.
She bit back her disgust. Turning him had become one of the biggest regrets of her eternal life.
“Hello, Mother,” Dorian taunted, his voice deep and sultry.
Little fucker! Aislinn ignored Dorian’s provocation. Instead, she smiled serenely. One of these days, I’m going to have to kill him. Just because he pisses me off.
“I see you don’t approve of my new friend.” Dorian laughed as he clapped the Nubes on the back, making the other youth quail.
Her smile remained intact. If anything, it widened a little, along with her blackened pupils.
“You know better than to bring him here, Dorian. He’s a Nubes.” Aislinn’s voice changed from cool to icy. The temperature in the Nocturne plummeted, making several vampires freeze in their tracks. The South Pole would have been warmer. “He still has the smell of human on him. Freshly turned. And you bring him into my club? Honestly, what were you thinking? Smarten up, Dorian. It’s your duty to take him on his first feed, show him how it all works.”
Dorian might have answered, but Caleb got in first.
“Vlad’s tits! Look what the devil’s dragged in!”
There was no love lost between Caleb and Dorian. He had taken a dislike to the handsome young man even before he was turned. He hated him even more now. It was hard not to hate someone who cared more about the bloodstains on their clothes than the litter of bodies they’d left behind on a feeding frenzy.
“Gray. You’re not welcome here.”
Dorian gave a dismissive shrug. “It’s good to see you, too, old man.”
Uh oh. Aislinn wanted to slap some sense into the boy. When she called Caleb an old man, it was a term of endearment. When Dorian said it, it was just plain rude.
Menace rose from the older vampire like steam. She could almost see it.
“Dorian, what do you want?” Aislinn asked, her voice flat and emotionless.
Dorian smiled and then opened his mouth wide and snapped his deadly fangs down into place. “I want to buy my friend, Seth, a drink.”
“Do you now?” Aislinn’s pale blonde eyebrows raised just slightly to form perfect arches over her coldly amused eyes. She knew exactly what Dorian was up to, and she didn’t have time for his hobby of picking fights with other Malums just because he was bored. She continued, her voice calm with only a touch of exasperation. “Dorian, I’m not impressed. Since when did you become illiterate? Read the sign above the bar.”
But ironically, it was the Nubes, Seth, who looked at the sign above her head to stutter out the words, “N-n-no p-pets allowed.”
“That’s right. No pets allowed.” Caleb’s biceps bulged as he crossed his arms in front of his chest. “So take your pet outside, Dorian, and train him before you bring him back here. Just don’t forget—you’re not welcome.”
Dorian’s dark eyes narrowed viciously, and he bared his teeth to hiss at the older vampire. He leaned forward as if to lunge for Caleb’s jugular when an effeminate voice called out from the other side of the bar. “Hey, bro! Dorian! You came. Look, everyone. It’s my little brother.”