Moon Child (Vampire for Hire #4)

Chapter 16

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Chapter Thirty-nine

I was tempted to call Fang, but I didn't.

Like the detective, he would want to come, too. Unlike the detective, he didn't know what the hell he was doing, and the last I checked, Fang didn't even have a weapon.

Which was probably a moot point anyway, since according to the vampire, nothing could kill him, silver included. "And I am desperate to end this existence, Miss Moon. Desperate. I am tired of living, and I cannot die. Not by silver. Not by anything."

Sweet Jesus.

Of course, that's if he was telling me the truth.

I merged onto the 57 North, slipping into the fast lane, and gave the minivan a lot of gas. I loved my little minivan. Sure, it screamed soccer mom, but it was so handy and smooth and comfortable that I just didn't give a shit what people thought.

Traffic was light and fast, which is the way I liked it. Brake lights, blinker lights, headlights and street lights all mostly blended together with the zigzagging streaks of energy that filled my vision, the glowing filaments that made it possible for me to see into the night.

I gave the van more gas and thought about the medallion. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Whoever Bow Tie was, he surely wasn't going to accept anything less than the medallion.

One problem: As noted by Detective Sherbet, I needed it to give my son back his mortality.

My phone rang. Another restricted call. At this point, it could have been anyone, from a vampire kidnapper to Sherbet. It was neither.

"Hey, Sunshine," said Chad Helling, my ex-partner, a man who did not know my super-secret identity…only that I had a rare skin disease.

"Hey, Romeo."

"I heard about the shitty business at the hospital. Is your son okay?"

"My son's fine, which is more than I can say for another little boy."

"You need me to come down?" he asked. "Once a partner, always a partner."

"Thanks, Chad, but I'll manage."

"I know you will. You always do." He paused.

"You have news about Archibald Maximus."

"Yes, how did you – never mind. You could always read my mind."

I grinned to myself. He was right, and there was nothing psychic about it. I said, "Once a partner, always a partner."

He chuckled. "Anyway, no luck with Mr. Archibald Maximus, although something strange did turn up."

"How strange?"

"Oh, it's nothing. Never mind."

"Tell me, dammit."

"Easy, girl. Okay, fine. There was an Archibald Maximus who died fifty years ago."

I did find that interesting, but Chad didn't need to know that. "And this helps me how?"

"Well, the strange part is that his family and friends reported seeing him on two other occasions."

"After his death?"

"Right."

"And how do you know this?"

"The wife filed a report. She wanted his body exhumed."

"Did they?"

"No."

I chewed on this. But Chad didn't need to know I was chewing on this. Instead, I said, "Well, thanks for wasting the last three minutes of my life."

"Anytime. Be safe, Sunshine."

"Jerk."

And he clicked off, laughing.

The 57 North merged into the 91 East. I was soon shooting past the 80 mph mark – and still there were drivers riding my ass. You can never go fast enough in southern California.

I was cruising at 85 mph and had just settled in for the hour-long drive to Riverside when my cell phone chirped. A text message. I rummaged through my purse, swerving slightly into the next lane, until I found the iPhone. A text from Fang.

Something's wrong, he wrote. I can feel it. What's going on? Where are you going?

Jesus, our connection was growing stronger. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but maybe there was something greater at work here than I thought. Maybe Fang was destined to be something more. Much more. I didn't know, but I certainly couldn't think about it now.

I rapidly typed out my reply: Just getting ice cream with Tammy. On our way to Cold Stone now.

Bullshit, Sam. Why do I feel a tremendous sense of…dread.

Maybe you had some bad Chinese.

A car horn blasted next to me, and I straightened out my minivan. Apparently I had given the guy next to me a fright. I waved an apology and he waved back with his middle finger.

Enough with the bad Chinese, Sam. Please. What's going on? I'm worried sick over here.

It's better if you don't know, Fang. I'm sorry.

Let me help you. Please. I've never felt this way before.

Welcome to my world, I thought. Instead, I wrote: I'm sorry, Fang. I'll call later. Love you.

Love you? Now what the hell had gotten into me?

Chapter Forty

The Mission Inn is a national treasure.

And it's found right here in downtown Riverside, a city that isn't much of a national treasure. For me, Riverside conjures images of heat and gangs and neighborhoods that aren't so nice. A false image, surely, as its downtown is actually quite nice, and boasts some cool bars and nice restaurants. But, most importantly, it boasts the Mission Inn, getaway to presidents and celebrities alike, where thousands have been married and many tens of thousands have passed through.

After negotiating through some heavy downtown traffic, in which I passed exactly three prostitutes and a guy dressed like Lady Gaga, and parked in a small parking lot across the street from the inn. There I sat quietly, closed my eyes, and tried to get a feel for the place. Eyes closed, I sensed lots of movement, lots of happy people, lots of great moments. The Mission Inn is a special place.

I next tried to get a sense of any danger, of what I might be up against, but the place was just too big for me to get a feel for it. Either that, or my thoughts were too scattered to focus correctly. Then again, I still didn't entirely know what I was doing.

Next I focused on the roof, rising as surely as if I was physically floating above the edifice. The suites up here were nicer, more expensive. The roof area, which sported many walkways and ramps that led to various floors and balconies, looked like something out of a medieval fairy tale. A handful of couples were sitting together on their balconies, enjoying the night, smoking, drinking, kissing, writhing.

Uh oh.

Above it all was one of the inn's three majestic domes, this one a mosaic jewel that crowned this section of the inn, and as it came into view in my mind, I gasped.

There was a darkness within. It surrounded the dome as surely as the dark halo had surrounded my son. I tried to dip into the dome, but I couldn't. Somehow, I was blocked. More, I didn't want to go inside. The dome repelled me, horrified me.

He's in there, I thought.

And that's when my cell phone rang. Restricted call, of course. It was him, I knew it. How an ancient vampire knew how to restrict his calls, I hadn't a clue.

I clicked on and he spoke immediately: "You're here," he said. "I can feel another."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I can feel another of our kind, Miss Moon."

"I'm nothing like you."

He laughed sharply, so sharply that my ear hurt. "Oh, we are very much alike, my dear."

"You're in the dome," I said.

"Yes," he said, and sounded impressed. "With the other bats."

"Is the boy with you?"

"You mean that sickly little thing? Sure, he's here somewhere, but he's not long for this world. I should probably just help him along."

"You touch him, and you'll never get the medallion."

"Oh, relax, my dear. I'm won't touch him…yet. I'll see if you'll play by my rules first. If so, he may be spared. If not, there's going to be blood tonight."

"Enough with the threats, asshole. I have the medallion."

He veritably hissed with pleasure. "Good, good! Then I expect to see you soon," and he clicked off.

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