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Copyright ©2007 Tawny Taylor
An Authorized Excerpt
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Dead had just taken on a whole new meaning for nightclub owner Sylvie Durand -- a much more literal one.
She wasn't afraid to admit she'd been desperate to increase traffic in her failing bar, Carpe Nocturne. But the parade of rescue and police personnel, dressed in matching blue uniforms and wearing identical grim expressions, wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind.
And the night had been going so well too.
All it had taken was one bizarre discovery for the first successful night in her club to come to a strange and shocking end. Terrifying. In fact, if she hadn't been the owner of the bar, she would've been outta there hours ago. She was still shaking all over from finding the dead guy… hanging… in her office… It had been so gruesome. The poor guy looked like he'd been the victim of a vampire attack.
God, it had been so awful. She just knew it would take years and years for the image branded in her mind to fade.
And the smell. Of blood and stuff she didn't want to think about.
Yes, lucky her. Not. She had owned Carpe Nocturne for two miserable months and was really, really hating it already.
Anyone want to buy a bar for cheap?
Only a handful of costume-bedecked patrons remained, hanging around outside the front door after having been questioned and released. They stood wide-eyed, watching the police detectives as they conducted their investigation. Morbid curiosity.
When the police officers decided they were done asking her the same questions over and over, she managed to drag her weary, shaky body toward the exit, intent upon joining the onlookers still crowded around the front of the building. It was a little chilly outside. And dark. But at least the air wouldn't be tainted with the stench of death. A big, huge plus at the moment.
As she stepped through the doorway, a young woman dressed head-to-toe in Victorian garb gave her a weak smile. She was rubbing at the fake blood on her neck, now dried up and flaking off.
Sylvie attempted to give the woman a smile back. She wasn't exactly in the mood to socialize, although she was glad to be among friendlier company. The police officers who'd questioned her hadn't been rude, but they hadn't been kind either. Their clipped tones and deadpan expressions told her everything she needed to hear, more than she was prepared to deal with.
Yes, this pack of costumed strangers, dressed mostly as vampires -- what a creepy coincidence! -- weren't her first choice for companionship tonight. But they were people. Human beings. Alive. And not eyeballing her with the suspicion that she was a cold-blooded killer.
Or course, given her current mental state, even her worst enemy would be acceptable company. The thought of being alone terrified her. She was scared witless. Completely freaked out. The creepy costumes weren't helping, that was for sure. What had made her think themed costume nights were a great idea anyway?
And why hadn't her best friend shown up yet? Sylvie had called her hours ago, left an urgent this-is-life-or-death message on her answering machine.
"Are you okay?" Victorian woman asked.
"Not sure, to be honest." Sylvie leaned back, letting the cold brick wall support her. Her legs were wobbly. Her knees felt tingly and loose, like any moment they'd give out.
Victorian woman gave her an understanding nod. "I can totally relate. Had to be quite a shock finding that dead body."
That's putting it mildly. Sylvie's stomach did a little summersault inside her belly. She swallowed hard against the acid rising up her throat. "Yeah."
"Did you know the person? The one who… you know?"
"No. Have no idea who he is -- was."
"At least that's a good thing. Would've really been awful if it had been a good friend. I've never seen a dead body, outside of the movies. Although I have thought about being a private detective someday. You know, like one of Charlie's Angels," she jabbered excitedly. "I watch old reruns on cable. The original series was so much better than the movie…"
"Nothing too thrilling about any of this, if you want my opinion," she whispered over the woman's ongoing discourse about the shortcomings of a movie she'd never seen. She lacked the energy to continue the conversation. Heck, she lacked the energy to stand erect. Figuring she'd send a subtle message to the yammering red-headed Farrah Fawcett wannabe, she took a step or two to the side. Naturally, Farrah didn't take the hint and closed the distance between them.
A deep chuckle resonated to Sylvie's left as she took a third step.
Why would anyone be laughing right now? What could be so funny about a man who had been murdered in her office? There wasn't a damn thing about this night that was funny. Or exciting. Or cool. It was just plain horrific! The worst thing she'd ever seen.
What was wrong with these people? Didn't they have any hearts? A man had died in there! Died. As in dead. Forever. What if he had a family? Children. Oh, God!
Okay, she was done freaking out and overreacting. At least for now.
She turned her head in the general direction of the chuckle. Found the guilty party standing about five feet away, a guy dressed as a vampire, black cape and all. He was talking to a gaggle of women gathered around him, all dressed in Victorian gowns like Farrah Fawcett. They were tittering like a bunch of birds. Fluffing their feathers. Shaking their tails and fluttering eyelashes.
At the moment it wasn't a scene she had the stomach to watch.
Although, after taking a second look, she couldn't blame the women. That vampire wannabe's gorgeous face would inspire just about any red-blooded girl to do a little tail shaking. Even her.
That was, if she had a thing for vamps wearing costumes that played up on devil-made-me-do-it smirks like his.