Change of clothes
Aleah read over the list, her pen poised in thought. This was nuts. She added sweatpants and t-shirt at the bottom just in case and drew a line through Book. If she found herself with time to read, the weekend wasn’t going as planned.
It wasn’t as if she’d never struck out on her own before, met up with strangers, gone on blind dates and things like that. She wasn’t a total hermit and she had her needs. She’d met that man at a campground once and that student up at the college. And what about when she’d been staying in London and found herself pub crawling with guest from a nearby bed and breakfast. Those counted, right? Of course they did, but this was different. This was much further from home and well beyond her comfort zone.
She’d not told a single person about her intentions. They’d try and talk her out of it as if she didn’t know how insane and dangerous it sounded. People in their right minds didn’t just pack up a suitcase, hop in their car, and commit to a five hour drive to meet an almost total stranger. He wasn’t just any stranger though, he was the leader of their role-playing vampire group online and an honest to goodness member of a biker gang. How freaking cool was that?
This weekend was going to be unforgettable.
“You sure about her, Reap?” Leach asked.
“Sure as shit,” he replied.
“Nobody’s going to miss her?”
“Not until Monday morning,” Reaper’s smile was anything but good-natured. “By then it’ll be too late.”
“And she’s told nobody?”
“That’s what she said,” he chuckled. “I told her Braddock. Turtle’s place. She should get there about nine tonight.”
His brother laughed and rubbed the palms of his thick and rugged hands together. “Fucking sweet.”
The parking lot was full. A row of motorcycles leaned like expertly placed dominos along the entire front of the building. The second row was a smattering of bikes and cars. Nearest to the road, more cars and pickup trucks had been parked. It was clear who took priority as Aleah pulled in. He’d told her to park at the back, closest to the road. He’d be outside waiting.
This was it, the point of no return. She could still change her mind. All she had to do was drive around to the other end of the lot, pull out, and make a left hand turn back onto the road. Easy-peasy. Instead she found a spot, parked, and cut the engine.
Still not too late, the logical part of her brain whispered.
C’mon and live a little. Challenge yourself for once, the more adventurous part insisted.
She leaned across the seat and popped open the glove box, withdrawing a pocket-sized spiral notebook and a pen. “Turtle’s Back Bar,” she wrote on the pad followed by the address. Below it she wrote on a line all his own, the only name she knew him by, Reaper.
Don’t be stupid.
A good time is going to be had by all.
She shoved the voices and the notebook back into their places and climbed from the car.
She was cute, Reaper decided as he watched her cross the lot. And a little on the full-figured side. He liked that. Dressed in a leather jacket, jeans, boots, and her hair pulled back into a braid, Aleah made her way towards Reaper as he stepped down off the porch of the biker bar. “Wait here, guys,” he told his brothers. He wore the usual; jeans, t-shirt, the colors of his club and a black do-rag speckled with white skulls stretch over a shaved, bald head. At six feet tall and a body made hard and stocky by martial arts, Reaper wasn’t someone you wanted to piss off. There was a reason he was Sergeant-at-Arms for the club and he always carried concealed, always.
Her eyes lit up as soon as she realized who was walking towards her. He saw her swallow and lick her lips. Nerves. It was good that she was nervous. She should be. This was his world. Soon she’d be part of it in ways she never imagined in her wildest dreams or darkest nightmares.
“Reaper?” she said.
“That’s me,” he said. “You must be Aleah.”
“That’s me,” she giggled back.
He wasn’t normally one to give hugs, but in this case, it was all part and parcel of the game. He pulled her in, the soft squeak of leather on leather and the smell of whatever perfume she was wearing released a genuine, though inaudible, groan from deep inside him. Leach was right, this was going to be fucking sweet, not to mention all the sweet fucking beforehand.
“How was the drive?” he asked. His voice was even more amazing in person. It was so smooth and deep and hypnotic. It was a voice a woman could drown in.
Aleah let out a weary sigh. “Not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s sure nice to get out and stretch my legs.”
“You get some dinner on the way?” Reaper turned slightly and motioned towards a small group of other bikers lingering on the porch in a cloud of smoke. Two of them separated from the pack, all dressed exactly as he was only they had hair.
“Yeah, I grabbed a little something,” she confirmed, eyeing the others with care, as what had been supper turned a bit in her stomach. She’d not expected anyone but him to meet her. This was nerve-wracking, but she’d be okay. She knew everything would be okay.
Reaper put his arm across her shoulders as he turned more, nudging her gently towards his friends, “I want you to meet a couple other members of the club. This is Leach,” he put a heavy hand on the shoulder of the shorter, thinner blonde with a beard and closely cropped hair. “And this is here is Dog.” Dog was as tall as Reaper, only much thinner. He wore his black hair long and tied back into a ponytail. Elvis-like sideburns framed his handsome face. “Dog’s a magician,” Reaper added.
“Oh?” She tipped her head, curious.
Dog smiled. “I make things disappear,” he explained.
“Let’s go someplace a little quieter to talk,” Reaper suggested. “We’ll take the bikes. There’s an all-night diner down the road, then we’ll head to the clubhouse. You need anything out of your car?”
“I brought an overnight bag,” she said.
“We’ll strap it to the back of a bike. Grab it, just in case. Your car’ll be safe here for the night.”
“We’re not coming back here?”
He shrugged. “That’s the plan, but you never know. We’ll pull the bikes around to meet you.”
These runs were always tricky. Sometimes the girls had the sense not to show. Other times they arrived at Turtle’s and pulled right back out without stopping. They didn’t bother to chase after them. The club didn’t like that sort of attention. Then there were the ones that parked and got out, then changed their minds when Reaper gave them the chance to go get what they needed from their vehicle. Aleah didn’t change her mind. He could see she was nervous as hell, but she was standing there waiting with a small black overnight case as the trio pulled around to pick her up. Dog strapped her bag to the back of his bike. Aleah would ride with Reaper. Once she was on, the fun really began. That’s when the reality of their situation struck the girls hard.
It took Aleah almost twenty minutes to shout into his left ear. “How much further?”
“Just a few hours,” he yelled back.
The body that had been pressed against his back, drew away. Yeah, you know it, baby. What you gonna do now, jump off a motorcycle pushing seventy on the highway? Good luck with that.
Reaper chuckled and twisted back further on the throttle.
“Shit,” she muttered to herself.
I tried to warn you.
Stop. It’s fine. You’ll be fine.
Aleah considered her options. Making a wild leap for it wasn’t a choice. Eventually they’d have to stop, right? They’d have to get off the highway. They had to go through traffic lights to get to wherever it was they were taking her.
“Well, shit,” Aleah repeated. This wasn’t the sort of ride or adventure she’d planned, but it wasn’t unsurmountable.
Even his road-hardened ass was starting to get sore when they took the exit. His passenger shifted as they approached the red light. Reaper barely slowed down as he ran beneath it. Dog and Leach followed suit. Parking lot lights streamed down on empty spaces in front of dark stores. Even the gas station was closed. There was no 24-Hour anything in these parts. Come nine o’clock, the sidewalks practically rolled themselves up and tucked themselves in. They rumbled through town. If Aleah was going to make a jump for it, now would be her best chance. They went forty-five through the thirty mile per hour part of town.
She didn’t move.
Too late, baby. Reaper gunned the engine again, hitting sixty in a matter of seconds, heading for the isolated clubhouse that had once been part of a golf course.
The gravel lot was still clear, but the course was more suitable for bailing hay than eighteen rounds of birdies, bogies, and sand traps. The clubhouse was in good shape. Not like it had been during its peak, but it suited the club’s needs. Cardboard painted black covered the large-paned picture windows on the front of the main entry. Four more bikes were already parked out front; their owners waited inside.
Seven. This was getting more serious every second.
Reaper’s bike rolled to a stop. His friends came up on either side. Surrounded. Trapped.
No worries, she tried to assure herself. They’d expect her to panic and bolt. They’d be extra vigilant until they got her inside. She’d be patient. When the chance came she’d not second guess it.
For now, she let Dog and Leach pull her from the bike. Reaper swung off slow and easy. “Having fun yet,” he asked with a malicious smirk. “I know I am.”
She glared at him. “You’ll be sorry,” she seethed.
“Oh, will I?”
While Leach held one of her arms and Dog the other, Aleah was only able to take half a step back as Reaper came up close and pressed his chest against hers. One gloved hand came up under her chin, clenching it, holding it firmly in place as he leaned in and kissed her hard. Reaper’s free hand clamped down on her breast until it hurt. Aleah jerked back in an attempt to twist herself free, but the hands that held her were like iron.
“C’mon, get the Slit inside. Hit Man doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
The inside of the clubhouse reeked of beer and cigarettes, sweat, sex, and grease. Black rings of burnt rubber marred the center of the black and white checkerboard floor. Aleah was pretty certain she saw spatters and smears of blood, too. Years of working as an ER nurse made it easy to identify. Two heads pivoted on the shoulders of the men seated at the bar. A third, acting as barkeep, wiped his hands on a dishtowel.
“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here,” one of the barstool duo said, spinning around and rising.
“Aleah, meet Dragon. The other drunk asshole there is The Captain, and the twitchy whelp behind the bar we call Joe.”
The name took her off guard. “Joe?”
Joe’s eyes opened wide and he displayed his bright white teeth in a huge, over exaggerated grin that reminded Aleah of that tribe in Africa. “It’s the coffee,” he cackled.
Reaper tapped one of his temples, “He’s not quite right in the head.”
Dragon strolled over, eying her up and down with lust in his eyes, but he made no move to touch her. “Nice,” he said. “Hit Man’s in the back with the other one.”
Reaper took her by the arm and followed Dragon down the back hallway. All but Joe trailed behind. Someone had to stand guard and as he’d not earned his patches yet, Joe didn’t have a choice.
Dragon knocked twice on the door, “Reaper’s back.”
The backroom held little more than a queen-sized bed and half a dozen chairs salvaged from the bar. Naked, with her ankles bound to the front legs of one of these chairs, sat a very terrified-looking woman. Her arms were lashed behind her back and her mouth had been stuffed full with a ball gag. “How is she?” Reaper asked.
“Fine. Gave her a little taste of what she’s in for.” Hit Man’s graying hair hung in damp, limp ringlets down his back.
With the tips of his gloved fingers, Reaper flicked back the long hair that had fallen over the woman’s shoulders. A thin line of blood trickled from just below her left ear. He turned back, looking at Hit Man.
“Have a taste,” their leader said with a grin. He turned to Aleah, again held in place between Dog and Leach. “So,” he said, “Reaper here tells me like to play vampires.” With two fingers he touched the underside of her chin, lifting it, looking into her eyes. “We like to play vampires, too,” he chuckled, the fangs behind his slightly drawn back lips just barely visible. “Lock the door, Captain.”
Aleah yanked both her arms down and pulled herself backwards hard and fast. It did no good. The brawn around her flexed and pushed back, holding its own with little effort. Six against one. The odds were not in her favor, but there was always a way out. “Someone will eventually find my car, you know?” she yelled. “I left a note in there. They’ll come for you.”
Hit Man laughed. “This isn’t our first rodeo, honey. When your body’s found, it’s not going to matter to us one way or another. It’s a long way between here and there. We’re untraceable.”
“People at the bar saw us. They’ll be questioned.”
Hit Man shook his head. “Not gonna happen either. They know better.”
“The game,” Aleah added in earnest. “They’ll miss me in the game!”
Reaper stepped away from the other girl with a chuckle, his lips touched with blood. “Players come and go from there all the time. You’ll just be one of the many thousands who simply never log in again.”
He was right. And he knew she knew he was right. Still, she managed to put on her bravest, strongest face. Knowledge was power and Reaper didn’t know everything. He didn’t know about the list in the glove box of her car, for instance.
“What are you going to do with me?” Her voice cracked and eyes darted between Reaper and the one in charge. Unlike them, he wasn’t wearing a vest.
“I think you know the answer to that,” Hit Man said. “So, play along and take your clothes off like a good girl. Maybe we’ll not make it hurt too much or for too long.”
Aleah forced down a swallow. “You’re going to kill me?”
“Not at first. We’ll play for a while, then yes, we’re going to kill you. We’re going to kill both of you as a matter of fact. Two girls split between the six of us isn’t bad. Now, strip down, Slit. It’s party time.”
Dog and Leach released her arms.
Now, do it now!
Wait for it, just wait for it.
Aleah let out a trembling sigh and began to take off her clothes.
Without her clothes on, Reaper could see a lot better how nice and round Aleah’s hips and ass were. Her thighs quivered as she pulled off her panties. As she bent over, her breasts hung down like grapefruit-sized teardrops. That’s how he liked them. The other girl was pretty, but there wasn’t any meat on her. Aleah was a bit on the pale side, but that didn’t matter to him, so long as she tasted good.
As his catch, he got first dibs.
She folded her clothes, sniffing as she set them on a nearby chair before looking up. Her cheeks sparkled with tears.
“Kneel over there,” he pointed to a spot on the floor. His vest was slid off, the t-shirt beneath it removed, and his belt unbuckled. She did as ordered without protest. Smart girl.
Reaper walked slowly around her, nodding in approval. The fight in her appeared to be deflating. Had it not been for the braid, her hair would have been hanging in her face. He reached around, grabbed the rope of hair and pulled, forcing her to look up at him. There was still fire in those eyes. “You bite me and you’ll wish you were dead. We’ll make this last until the fucking sun comes up, understand?”
Aleah sneered. “Maybe I like this kind of thing. Ever think of that?”
As a matter of fact, he had. He’d been playing the role of a vampire prince for a long time on the computer. He’d noticed how a majority of those involved liked their sex play a little on the kinky side. That’s when the idea of using it to bring some of them here had struck him. “We’ll see about that, won’t we?” Reaper pulled his engorged member out and pressed the head to her lips.
She kept her jaw clenched as the warm head touched her lips.
Reaper’s hand went to the back of her head, pushing her closer. “You know what to do.”
Aleah’s lips parted. Her mouth was immediately filled.
It’s show time.
At the taste of him, a growl rose in her chest. The blood throbbed hard and close to the surface. Aleah lifted her hands, placing them on his gently rocking hips. Her upper jaw ached, mouth filling with saliva, fangs descending, sinking, and popping the surface of his sensitive flesh.
Reaper roared. The hands that had been pulling her closer, now tried to push her back, but she was fully engaged. The only way he was going to get away was with his manhood ripped from his body or if she let him go.
This ain’t my first rodeo either, buddy.
“Get her off!” the biker screamed as he alternated between smacking her on either side of the head and trying to pull away.
Burley arms grabbed her from behind, pulling her backwards, but Aleah would not release. Her jaw was locked, the blood that filled her mouth was sucked down and swallowed, filling her with more power than this scum could imagine.
“Stop! Jesus fucking Christ! Get her off! Get this bitch off me!”
Aleah pushed forwards into him more, gulping down his essence.
The release was sudden and unexpected. Reaper flew backwards, landing on his ass with a grunt. Leach and Dog stumbled and fell over the chairs behind them. Dragon shot forward, taking their place in an attempt to grab and control her. Aleah smiled as she spun around in one smooth motion to drag her hand that had now become a lethal claw, across his chest, shredding the leather first then his flesh in four neat lines of thick, red blood. Dragon dropped to his knees, eyes wide with shock.
The Captain came forward next but not so quickly, wielding an eight inch blade. Behind her, Dog and Leach were pulling themselves back to their feet. Reaper was still on the floor, clutching his battered and bloody dick as Hit Man stood back, letting the others do the work for him.
Coward, the devil hissed. He’s a coward.
Aleah crouched, ready, arms open, bare feet planted. She took a moment to lick the blood from the corner of her mouth and grin, flashing her fangs. “Come on, then,” she provoked. “You all wanted to play vampires. Let’s play.”
Fists pounded on the locked door. “What’s going on?” Joe shouted from the other side.
“Grab her, you assholes!” Hit Man barked.
Dog latched onto her right arm. She spun around, grabbed either side of his head and jerked it hard, savoring the loud snapping of the bones in his neck. Leach had backed himself into a corner. Aleah took a step towards him just as The Captain’s blade sank to the hilt behind her left shoulder blade. She hissed and straightened through the pain, backhanding her attacker so hard he was knocked off his feet, landing in the spreading pool of Dragon’s wasted blood.
The pounding on the door intensified, non-stop, desperate hollering. Behind the ball-gag, the girl in the chair did her damndest to scream.
Aleah turned to face the owner of the knife in her back.
Two shots rang in her ears, opening two bullet holes in her stomach that exited out the other side and struck the wall just about Leach’s cowering head. Reaper had come around enough to draw and fire his weapon.
His groin was on fire, but Reaper pulled the trigger a third and fourth time. Unbelievable she kept approaching. What the fuck was going on? “Get the shot gun,” he yelled. “Get the God damn shot gun and blow the door open, Joe!”
Aleah crouched down, pressed her belly to the barrel of the pistol and wrapped her hand around his that held the grip. “I had hoped it would just be you and me, Reaper,” her voice was tender and sad. Her hold tightened. Pain spread into his palm; bones ground together in a symphony of pops and snaps. Reaper tried to squeeze the trigger, but he could no longer feel his fingers. Aleah jerked his hand from the weapon, forcing his white knuckles backwards to his wrist in a final loud crack. She rose, put her foot on his forehead, and shoved him backwards.
Through his screams he heard her say, “Hit man.”
The Captain leapt onto her back and crushed her to the floor. The knife he’d shoved into her the first time was withdrawn and came down again and again, arching her back in spasms of hot pain. “Die you fucking, bitch! Die! Die!” Spittle flew from his lips as he shrieked and continued to pummel her with the blade.
Aleah twisted to her left side and sliced him across the face, cutting off his left ear in the process. Her claws dragged down his cheek, opening a gash that separated his upper and lower jaws. Blood rained down from above. She opened her mouth to take it in like snowflakes on her tongue. She shoved him off, leaving him to writhe on the floor in the mingling layers of blood and gore.
Rising to a crouch, she cast eyes to those who still posed a threat, Leach and Hit Man. Reaper was still alive, but not to be feared at the moment. Despite having barely been touched, Leach appeared to have retreated back into infancy. At the very least, the smell of fresh piss was coming from his direction. No danger there. She focused on the club president.
All that separated them was the bed. Aleah tipped her head to the side, gazing at his mouth and the fake fangs behind his lips. She had to give him credit. They did look pretty authentic. “I can fix those for you,” she cooed, taking him off guard. Aleah stepped up onto the bed, staring into his eyes, letting her naked body sway seductively as she drew closer. “I can make them real. Would you like that?”
His pale, doughy face tipped up. A gurgle came from his throat.
Aleah reached down to stroke his cheek with the back of her index finger. “You want to play vampires for real, Hit Man? Yes or no?”
Hit Man’s mouth closed and opened again. His nod was minute.
“Say it,” she whispered.
“Yes, yes, please.”
“Ah, so sweet.” A smile played on her lips as the other hand came to rest against the side of his face, touching lightly at first then clamping down with its neighbor and twisting with a snap. Hit Man was dead before his head hit the mattress. “Sorry, honey. You’re way too old for this game.”
Aleah pirouetted in place, back to the girl, and Reaper, and the simpering Leach.
The door shattered inward in a rain of wood splinters.
The bits and pieces of door had barely started to hit the floor as Aleah lurched over Reaper’s body and slammed Joe backwards out the gaping hole the blast had made. Their bodies hit the wall. Joe’s screams rose and fell over Aleah’s growls, until both were silent and the soft tick-tick-tick of bits of wood tumbling around him was all Reaper heard.
There were still two shots left in the revolver. All he had to do was pick it up with his good hand, aim, and shoot. It was right there.
Reaper stretched out his arm. His fingers wrapped around the handle.
Aleah’s bare foot came down every so gently on top it.
“Not a good idea,” she said.
Reaper looked up. She was covered in blood from head to toe. More was smeared around her mouth. She squatted down. Sadness looked back at him.
“What do you want?” he croaked.
“I didn’t want this,” she replied with a sigh. “It was just supposed to be you and me, Reaper. Just you and me. We could have had a lot of fun, just like you promised. Like what I’d planned, but you didn’t play by the rules, did you? Now, look what you went and made me do.” Aleah pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head. “It could have been just like in the game, my Prince.” She half smiled and placed an open palm on his cheek.
“It, it can still be like you say,” he stammered. “Change me, embrace me. You can do that, can’t you?”
The frown on her face deepened. “Yes. It can still be done.”
“Then why not do it? Screw the game. Let’s live it for real. You and me. Just you and me.” His eyes flicked to movement in the corner. Leach was watching them. “You, me, and Leach. He can be our, our, what’s it called? Our Renfield, you know, like in the book.”
Aleah glanced over her shoulder. “Joe would have made a better Renfield,” she said half-heartedly and turned back to face Reaper. “Why couldn’t you just have been the man you said you were? I’m sorry, Reap. I really am, but, no. No, I can’t do it. You understand, I’m sure.”
She bent down low as if to kiss him.
With little more than five hours left until sunrise, Aleah stepped out the front door of the clubhouse, glutted. She’d showered and put her clothes back on, not nearly as pale as when she’d stripped down. The t-shirt was a little blood-spattered but it wasn’t anything her leather jacket couldn’t cover until she got home. She gave the line of Harley’s one last look. Riding wasn’t an option. She didn’t know how. She’d have to walk. Oh, well. At least she had his vest all tucked neatly into her overnight bag. He wouldn’t be needing it anymore.
Aleah wondered how long it would take for someone to find the slaughter that had taken place inside. These guys must have families, right? And the girl. It was a shame about her. She was innocent, but Aleah had learned long ago that taking pity on an innocent bystander wasn’t a smart thing to do. There must be no witnesses. She’d given Reaper’s last two bullets to Leach and the girl, in that order.
It wasn’t going to be the same in the game without Reaper. They’d all wonder what happened. She’d have to pretend she didn’t know. But, it was like he’d said, players came and went from there all the time. He’d just be one of the many thousands who simply never logged in again.
Aleah hoisted her suitcase and headed towards the road. Once she got to the highway she’d hitch a ride back to the bar in Braddock. She’d come up with some story about why she was out there at one o’clock in the morning to whoever happened to pick her up. It was easy to make up stories about herself. That’s why she kept the list. It helped her remember who she really was and where she’d come from.
Once she was back to her car she’d add the others, right below him.
And she’d be sure and to put a star next to his name.