Bloody Nights by Ginna Moran
I DIG MY fingernails into the bloody dirt. My whole body screams in pain, my neck throbbing because of the vampire bite. Why won’t he just kill me? Why won’t he ensure my final donation?
He kicks me, rolling me onto my back. “Get up. Get up and fight.”
I don’t have it in me. All I can think about is death. I don’t care about life anymore. It was never good for me.
“You’re acting as if you are weak. Get up now and show me what you got. If you don’t get up, Lawrence will come back. You don’t want him to do that. I promise.” The rumbly voice of the vampire vibrates over my cheek as he kneels beside me and grumbles in my ear. “Please.”
I blink a few times, my vision hazy. I don’t understand why he is asking me so politely. He just attacked me, bit my neck, and instead of finishing me off, he’s asking me to survive this torture.
“Kill me.” My words come out as a breathy whisper, and I draw my attention to the vampire’s face for the first time.
He’s filthy. Blood and dirt stain his skin, but his eyes no longer flash silver with starvation. Of course not. He sucked my neck, filling himself up with what he needs to get himself in control. I’ve seen it time and time again in the casino of the Aris.
Doesn’t mean anything, though. Just because he’s satisfied in this moment doesn’t mean he won’t take more of my blood.
His mouth twitches, and his nostrils flare. I rip my focus away and stare at his clothes instead. A rip cuts down the center of the front of what I think might have once been a white shirt, showing off his muscular chest. Jagged tattoos mark his pecs, creating some sort of symbol. I don’t know exactly what it is because part of his torn shirt covers it. It could be a coven crest, but I highly doubt it. Not if he’s here. He looks like an imprisoned Strip dweller. We’re not that far from La Vega...at least, I think.
“So, you’re just giving up. That’s fucking disappointing after what Lawrence told me about you. He thought you would be badass and not some weak, pathetic donor.” The vampire clicks his tongue. “You’re supposed to be better than that.”
My mouth trembles with his words. Me, badass? I can’t be. The few times I’ve tried nearly got me killed. “I’m not. Sex, blood, and bringing in customers. That’s all I’m worth. Lawrence was mistaken.”
Something dark flickers in his eyes, and they flash with what could be blood hunger or desire. Maybe both. Now I regret even mentioning it, but he needs to lower his expectations. He wants me to fight him, but I don’t know how. I’m just a blood donor and dancer.
“Hmm. Of course, you think you are. The La Vega asshole leaders made sure you’d think nothing more of yourself. I’m here to prove them wrong. Now, get up. Get up and fight me. You won’t like what happens if you don’t.” The vampire flashes his fangs, extending them. He bites his wrist and holds it above my face, using his other hand to part my lips until blood pools in my mouth. “You saw the herd out there.”
I intake a sharp breath at not only his comment but also at the tingles zinging down my throat to bloom warmth in my stomach. My body loses control, and I snatch his arm and yank it to my mouth, latching my lips to him. His blood tastes unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
And damn it.
With his blood, the pain in my body subsides. My stomach roars in hunger, and I moan as the sweet, warm liquid courses through me, healing my wounds and filling me with energy. He’s forcing me to live instead of allowing me to beg for death.
He yanks his arm away after another minute, and a surprising guttural growl escapes my lips. I try to grab him again, but he stands up and puts space between us. It takes everything in me not to lunge at him in an attempt to get more.
What is wrong with me? I feel on the verge of...something unexplainable. It’s the same feeling I would get before a show, listening to the audience call for blood. But this time, I feel as if I’m the one about to shout for another taste.
“You like that, don’t you?” The vampire presses his hand over his puncture wounds, staunching the bleeding. “If you get up, you can have more. Wouldn’t you like that? I can see it in your eyes. Lawrence wasn’t kidding about you.”
I heave a couple of breaths, my chest rising and falling as I process his words. Lawrence told me unbelievable things during the car ride here, and this guy obviously believes him. But me? I can’t. If I believe that I’m the dhampir he claims me to be, it makes this real.
This can’t be real.
The vampire wiggles his fingers at me with a teasing smile that digs under my skin. He bites his arm again and taunts me as if I’m some sort of wild animal.
Fuck. This is real.
My stomach screams in pain, the noise loud enough to send the vampire’s eyebrows shooting up his forehead.
“What will it be, my showgirl?” he asks, smirking. “Come to me for another taste, and then we’ll fight. Doesn’t that sound more fun?”
“No, and I’m not your girl,” I snap, digging my fingers into the ground again, trying to find the strength to push myself up. It’s not that I feel weak anymore, but I’m afraid. I’m terrified. I thought I was going to die, and now that I’m not...this is all so fucked up.
“But you are. You’re going to be my perfect performer. Neither of us has a choice. Lawrence said he was bringing you here, and the only way I get out of the fucking herd myself is if I get you in shape for the Fright Fights.” The vampire cracks his neck and rolls his shoulders. “Help me and I’ll help you. Either do that or face whatever twisted shit Lawrence has as a backup plan if you don’t comply.”
Tears burn my eyes. I can’t do this. I can’t be here. I just hope that the Bella Crew manages to find me. Maybe I can hold on a little longer. I know how to survive. I just...I don’t want to survive like this. It was one thing being an obedient Gemstone. This is far, far worse. A show called the Fright Fights sounds fucked up. But I must hold on. I need to do it not only for my guys, but I also need to do it for my friends. I need to do it for Mya.
“This is so messed up. I don’t even know what you’re talking about or what’s really going on. I don’t belong to Lawrence. He kidnapped me. I know my master will come. A whole lot of vampires paid for a part of a contract for me. Lawrence isn’t going to get away with this.” I don’t know why I say any of this, but it feels as if saying it out loud helps me get my shit together. I thought Alexander was bad. But this situation? It’s fucking worse.
The vampire raises an eyebrow. “If you’re here, that means he has gotten away with it, my showgirl. Stop dwelling on what you have been through and focus on what is happening now. I’m sure you’re starving. Like I said, if you come here, I’ll give you some more blood. Wouldn’t you like that?”
My stomach growls, proving that despite my mind shouting fuck no, my body craves to experience his blood again. It’s the strangest thing to feel as if his blood will satiate me in a way it never has before. This is more than healing me.
“I just need food. I don’t want your blood.” I rub the back of my hand across my mouth.
“The hell you don’t. You’re a dhampir. You survive on vampire blood.” Biting his arm again, the vampire extends his wrist to me, slowly stepping forward.
Oh, no. I can smell it.
He’s wrong. He must be wrong. I can’t believe what Lawrence told me and what this guy is telling me now. There’s no way Alexander bit my mother while she was pregnant with me, turning me into a half-vampire and half-human. I would’ve known. Right?
As I think about the words, I think about my life growing up at the Aris Hotel. I try to think of all the times that I’ve been given blood. And it has always been to help me heal or to make me feel better when I was sick. As a child, I used to get sick often. I never really thought about it because as I hit maturity and as an adult, the stomach pains went away. I always thought it was normal hunger because I went without.
Fuck. It makes sense. I was also getting more blood from Opal and Alexander. Almost every night because of Vampire Nights.
“Come on. Have another taste if you want. Maybe you’ll think more clearly and behave for me.” He tilts his arm, getting the blood to stream toward his elbow.
It steals my attention away from my thoughts, and I fly forward as if I’m catapulting from the ground during a floor routine. I jump at him with a scream. He spins out of my way, and I nearly eat shit on the ground. My feet slide across the slippery dirt. Locking his hand to the back of my shirt, the vampire hoists me to him and envelops me in his arms.
I scream and buck my body, jerking my head back and smashing it into his face. Pain explodes in the back of my skull, and stars pepper my vision. The force of my move is enough to get him to release me. I don’t know how I do it, but I manage to spin on my feet and launch at him. This time, he doesn’t have a chance to move. We collide together, and he takes the brunt of our fall, catching me as I land on top of him.
I freeze at our closeness, our faces only inches apart. His startling green eyes flash silver, and his sharp fangs peek out from beneath his plump top lip. The longer I look at him, the more handsome I realize he is. He might be dirty, but he is probably the type to clean up well.
“My showgirl, take what you want. You’ve earned it.” The vampire’s voice deepens with his words, and he tilts his head sideways, showing off his throat as if our roles are reversed, and he’s the donor while I’m the vampire.
It’s enough to knock some sense into me.
Swinging my hand, I slap him across the face and hop to my feet. I rush across the muddy, bloody room and toward the door. I need to get out of here. I need to escape. If I stay in this room, I don’t know what will happen. This guy already told me he has a deal with Lawrence. He claims he wants to help me, but I highly doubt that’s the case. He’s just here for himself.
“Not so fast.” Strong hands lock onto my shoulders, and the vampire jerks me away from the door and spins me around.
I don’t even have a chance to react as he yanks my hair and bends my head to the side. I gasp as he sinks his fangs into my throat again, sending shooting pain through my body. His bite is far deeper than necessary to draw blood. He is doing it on purpose. He wants to hurt me.
I shriek and step on his bare feet with my shoes, trying everything I can to break away from him. He grunts but doesn’t let me go. Thrashing my body, I wiggle so much that he can’t lock his lips to his puncture wounds for long. I elbow him in the gut, my sudden movement enough to wind him. I twist around and shove my hands to his chest, knocking him back.
And holy shit.
My push sends him flying off his feet and into the wall, my strength unlike anything I’ve experienced before. He hits the metal with a clank and drops to the ground. How in the hell did I do that? There’s no way.
Shaking his head, the vampire chuckles. “That’s what I’m talking about. I knew you had it in you, my showgirl.”
Anger rushes through me, the adrenaline helping to ease the pain in my neck and shoulder. “Stop calling me that. My name is Hayley. I’m not your fucking showgirl.”
“Hayley is a beautiful name. I like it. Lawrence only ever called you his heir.” His comment surprises me, and I’m stunned silent, watching him get to his feet. He rubs his filthy hands on his pants and flashes me a smile.
I’m like a donor on the Strip. I can’t get myself to move as he closes the space at vampire speed. Reaching up his hand, he combs my short hair from my face and behind my ear. It feels as if he’s going to lock me in his stare and manipulate my mind.
He doesn’t. I don’t think he can because I consumed his blood.
“But you’re going to need something tougher for the stage. I go by Savage Saint instead of Cooper.” He inspects every inch of my face, from my eyes to my nose, and then he studies my lips for an extra-long time. I should step back. I should put a dozen feet of space between us for what he’s done to me, but my feet refuse to move. My mind and body shut down on me. I can’t help it. It’s how I’ve always survived before. With Alexander, I could never fight. It would end far worse than if I just gave in.
“Savage Saint? You’re a performer?” I wish my curiosity would chill out. I shouldn’t keep this conversation going.
“A fighter. Does that surprise you?” he asks.
I shrug. Instead of saying what’s on my mind, I say, “What about Ruby Vixen? I respond to that name as well.” Hearing me call myself Ruby opens an invisible wound inside me. A dozen memories flit through my head about my life at the Aris Hotel. Ruby has gotten me through Hell and back. Maybe that’s why I mention it. If Ruby got me through Hell before, Ruby can do it again.
“That won’t do. You’re supposed to be a new Blood Princess performer and not the stolen possession of Alexander Aris. From now on, you’re going to be Violent Violet. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?” The vampire, Cooper, smirks with his words.
I tighten my jaw. “I hate it.”
“Good. Maybe you won’t fall into the act of living that persona then. Some of the other donors and vampires tend to...never mind. I’m sure you’ll find out.” He finally drops his hand from my face, but the cool sensation of his fingers lingers.
“Tell me. What does that mean?” I need answers. I didn’t know how badly I needed them until this moment. Lawrence had mentioned a performance, except it doesn’t sound anything like what Alexander has set up.
Jerking me around, Cooper locks his hand across my chest and forces me forward. I try to fight him again, but it’s as if my strength vanishes. “That’s something you can ask our master. He’s coming right now.”
I stiffen as the door clinks and rattles, and the lock slides open with a screech. Cooper walks with me, practically pushing me to keep moving. He jerks me to a stop when he thinks we’re close enough, and his body molds against mine. I twitch my fingers, considering trying to punch him in the cock. I can feel his hard-on pressing against me. Damn horny and hungry vampires. All they ever want is to suck and be sucked. I’d call him out if my heart didn’t pick up in erratic beats.
Fear courses through me as the door cracks open, and Lawrence peeks his head in with a smile wicked enough to stab through me. I tremble at the sight of him. I shouldn’t be so afraid of a vampire after everything I’ve been through, yet here I am on the verge of tears. There is something monstrous about him. I can’t put my finger on it, but my human fear rationale classifies him as the bigger predator, even though Cooper attacked me.
“Did you get a good enough taste, Hayley? It looks as if you’ve already gotten stronger.” Lawrence drinks me in from my dirty feet to my bloody face. Cocking his head to the side, he studies the way Cooper grips me from behind but reverts his attention quickly back to me. “That’s very pleasing for me to see.”
His words snap the fear right out of me, and I manage to throw myself forward and out of Cooper’s hold. Lawrence growls and whips his arms up, but all he can do is brace himself for my attack. We hit the concrete floor outside the room, and I link my fingers through his graying hair, pinning him in place. He doesn’t try to fight me. All he does is smile.
It pisses me off.
“It would be in your best interest to get her off of me.” Lawrence doesn’t talk to me, keeping his voice even in tone. “If she bites, you will end up in the herd together. But you would like that, wouldn’t you? I see you’ve encouraged her to drink from you several times.”
“I wouldn’t have had to if you hadn’t starved me before tossing her in the room. She couldn’t get up. It was the only way to ensure her good health. I drank a lot. I couldn’t help myself.” Cool fingers latch under my arms, and Cooper drags me off Lawrence. He restrains me against his chest and returns to the room with me.
“It was important. You know dhampirs need to be threatened a bit to really get them motivated. This one in particular has been sheltered and doesn’t know her own capabilities. It’s up to us to push her. What better way than to put her in a situation where neither of you was in control.” Lawrence dusts off his tailored suit and straightens his back. “If you have a problem with my method—”
“I don’t,” Cooper says, cutting off Lawrence’s oncoming threat. “I was only explaining the circumstances.”
Turning his attention to me, Lawrence steps closer and narrows his eyes. “What about you, my dear? Did you enjoy the taste you got? Do you understand what I was talking about on the ride here?”
My stomach twists with his words, and I don’t respond.
“Answer his questions, Hayley,” Cooper whispers so quietly that I don’t think Lawrence heard him. I’m not even sure I should be able to hear him now. Something’s different. I can hear more than his whisper. I hear his heart beating.
I slowly shake my head, silencing the noise buzzing around me. “I don’t understand any of this.”
Lawrence huffs a breath in annoyance, and I tense and prepare for him to smack me for speaking the truth. He doesn’t. How am I supposed to wrap my mind around the fact that I’m not who I thought I was my entire life? How am I supposed to understand that he supposedly bit me with his venom to prove I’m not a normal donor? If I was, I would’ve transformed. Or died.
Stepping back, Cooper puts another foot of space between me and Lawrence. I expect Lawrence to snap at him, but all he does is tighten his fingers into fists and continues to glower.
“She will understand soon. I will teach her,” Cooper says, his chiseled body flush against my back. “I just need time.”
Lawrence doesn’t respond right away, staring at the two of us as if he can read our minds. My breathing quickens under his scrutiny. I want so badly to yell at him, but I know better. I’m lucky he hasn’t already beaten the shit out of me. If I ever went after Alexander like this, I’d get the paddle.
“How much exactly? What is your assessment of her?” Lawrence asks, keeping his eyes trained on me. Without having to ask, I know he now regards me as a threat. Something about it satisfies me on a deep-seated level.
“With enough training, she will be an excellent fit as a headliner for the Fright Fights.” Cooper breathes a cool breath against my ear.
“I asked you how long.” Lawrence leans in the doorway, his frame seemingly bigger within the small entrance to the disgusting cell.
I can’t help darting my eyes to look at the weird, twisted room behind him with the stacked beds filled with donors and vampires, taking it in again. The herd. That’s what they both called it.
“A couple of weeks if you really want something spectacular.” Pushing me forward, Cooper finally releases his grip on me. “Things like this take work. We have to break the habits instilled in her by Alex.”
“I want her in a show within the week. Even if it’s just the opening act.” Lawrence flares his nostrils with his words as if hearing Alexander’s name sets him off. “We don’t need it to be spectacular. We don’t even need a full house. All it will take is a couple of people, and word will get out. We will be able to get this fucking hellhole in shape.”
Cooper hums under his breath with his agreement. “Then don’t put her among the herd. We will need every hour we can get.”
“I suppose that will work. But if she fights or resists...” Lawrence’s voice trails off, and he motions behind him by tipping his head back. “Do you understand, Hayley? Give me a good show, and maybe I’ll reward you. Resist, and you will regret ever being born.”
Except I already do.
This is too much.
How will I ever survive?
Oh, right. These fuckers will make me.
This is now my new fucked up life.