Selected Lovers (Caveat Emptor 7.5)|
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Copyright ©2013 Zenobia Renquist
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Rhea shoved her car door open, grumbling and cursing under her breath. Mondays belonged in the eighth circle of Hell along with the rest of the frauds. It wasn't a real day. It was Hell visited upon Earth in the guise of a real day. That had to be the case because no one should have to endure the amount of shit she had without divine punishment being involved.
A computer crash that ate all her work, missed deadlines that had popped up at the last minute, the wrong presentation for an important client, and to top it all off, being rear-ended while trying to merge in a construction zone. Thankfully the collision had been at a slow speed and hadn't caused any damage. Rhea rubbed at the pinch in her neck that she hoped was stress and not symptomatic of a bigger problem. She'd been too pissed off to get the insurance information of the woman who'd hit her.
All Rhea wanted was a hot bath and alone time. Lots and lots of alone time where she pretended the world outside her bathroom didn't exist. She didn't even have the mental energy to lie to herself about everything being better tomorrow.
Monday -- fraud -- eighth circle of Hell. That was all there was to it. She would be raised up from Hell as soon as she baptized herself with lavender-scented bubbles and a bottle of peach rum. She was still debating whether she would drink the entire bottle or two-thirds of it.
She kicked her car door shut and headed for her apartment. Two steps from the porch she stopped. "Fucking hell!"
A little yellow notice was taped below the peephole. The words "Delinquent Payment Notice" mocked her in giant bold lettering. Delinquent payment her ass. She paid her rent the first day of the month, every month.
She snatched the letter off the door and read it quickly. "What do they mean 'check not received?' I have a fucking receipt." She yanked her phone off her hip and pushed the power button. It was past closing time for the front office. Of course. With the day she'd been having, why would the office still be open?
She would have to call in late tomorrow so she could meet the apartment manager nice and early with receipt in hand so she could clear up this matter. Something told her waiting until after work might mean she would come home to all her stuff on the front lawn.
"What?" She barked the question before turning to see who had asked. She didn't care who it was. She'd had enough. No more bad news. If one more person did one more thing to her, she would lose her mind and kill everyone in a one-mile radius, so help her God.
Two men stood behind her. Both were the same height, which was several inches taller than her, and both had an imposing vibe. The man on the left wore mage robes that cloaked his body from his wide shoulders to the ground. His light brown hair was pulled into a ponytail, leaving his chiseled, clean-shaven features free to be gazed upon... and Rhea was gazing. If he was her reward for putting up with her crappy day, she gladly accepted.
The man next to the mage, who wore tight blue jeans and a half-open button-up shirt that showed his sculpted chest, was just as yummy-looking. His blond hair was cropped short and styled into a mussed-up do that looked too purposefully mussed to be anything but intentional. Light-colored stubble graced his cheeks and chin, giving him a rugged look that appealed to her. His shoulders weren't as broad as his friend's, but that didn't make him any less attractive. And then he smiled. His fangs ruined it for her.
A vampire. Not good.
Vampires didn't frequent human-populated areas, not since the docility charms had failed, and the freed vampires had fled back to their own territory after massacring their former masters. A vampire in the company of a mage had to mean bad news -- extremely bad news of which Rhea wanted no part.
The mage said, "Rhea Valern, we have come to --"
"Not interested. I've never bought a vampire before or even stepped into a store where they were sold. I'm not a mage potential. You've got the wrong girl. Go away." She turned back to her door with her key in hand to unlock her door and make a quick escape into her apartment. If the men persisted, she would call the cops. Human cops wouldn't be of much help, but there were a few mages who volunteered to handle situations like this.
"You don't understand."
"And I don't want to. Bye now." She pushed her door open, took one step and then screamed as the floor disappeared beneath her feet. Not just the floor -- the entire inside of her apartment was a void of black nothingness.
Strong arms grabbed her from behind and pulled her back, except the void started pulling her too. She screamed again. The darkness had hold of her purse and was climbing up it like a snake winding around a branch. She couldn't open her hand to drop the strap. The darkness touched her fingers and freezing pain ripped another scream from her lips.
The man holding her yelled, "Stop standing there like a dumbass and do something, mage. This is your people's shit."
"Shut up, vampire. I know my job." The mage mumbled words Rhea didn't catch. It sounded like an incantation. That was good, right? A spell would end this, right?
The void yanked her into the apartment by her arm, causing her vampire savior -- she hoped he was saving her -- to hug her waist tight as he leaned back.
"Strong fuckers. Any time, mage." He huffed against her neck and made grunting noises that said he was straining. A vampire straining? They could juggle small cars with no effort. If he was exerting that much force, Rhea's arm should have been ripped off in the tug-of-war.
Except for where the darkness touched her, she wasn't in pain. Her arm was stretched to the maximum, but it didn't hurt. A slow glow crept over her shoulder and dripped down her arm like water. It touched the darkness and the darkness... screamed? Could darkness scream?
Whatever. It didn't matter. The darkness was letting her go. Rhea jerked on her arm to hurry along the process. The glow surrounded her arm, pushing the darkness back until it released her completely.
She fell back with a yelp, landing on the vampire as they toppled to the ground.
The mage rushed by them and pulled the door shut. He chanted a few more words as he stepped back slowly. The door glowed, and white script in a language Rhea didn't recognize appeared below the peephole.
"There. I've sealed it until someone else can be summoned to close that portal properly." The mage turned to her. "Now may I tell you why we're here?"
Rhea nodded with a hard sigh. The motion pushed her breasts into the hands of the vampire. In all the confusion, she hadn't realized where he was holding her.