Home > Blood and Hexes (After Darkness Falls #4)

Blood and Hexes (After Darkness Falls #4)
Author: May Sage

Under the Surface

Diana Helsing considered herself a patient person, but if the regular human spouting line after line didn’t catch the memo anytime soon, she was going to snap his neck. It would be a service to mankind, truly.

“So, did your license get suspended for driving all the guys crazy?”

She groaned. “Stop, please, I’m begging you. You’re hot,” she admitted. The guy was just her type: tall, dark, and handsome. He must have had Italian or Spanish roots—she couldn’t quite place the look, and though she was naturally curious, she sure as hell wasn’t going to ask for his name to see if she could pinpoint his origins from it. It’d only encourage him. “But then you had to open your mouth, and given what came out of it, there is no way in hell I’ll ever end up in bed with you.”

The idiot winked. “It doesn’t have to be a bed, sweetheart. I’m flexible like that.”

Diana forced a calming breath out. It had been over a hundred years since she’d spilled human blood—a record she was proud of and wanted to keep intact. She was not breaking it tonight of all nights. She was on the continent for the first time since the Great Fire of London. Tonight was supposed to be a night of fun, indulgence, and above all, distraction. In the morning, she was flying up to Scotland and heading to Oldcrest. The place of her birth. Her home.

A home she hadn’t set a foot in for close to nine hundred years.

Diana had been changed nine hundred and one years ago, at age twenty-one. Early, for a fledgling of the House of Helsing. They normally waited until their twenty-fifth year. They hadn’t had much choice in her case.

She gestured to the bartender, who promptly abandoned the cocktail he was mixing to come serve her.

“What can I get you?”

“Just the check, sweetheart,” she replied, flashing him a grin.

She needed to get out of here before the Casanova wannabe trampled over her last nerve.

“Oh, I see,” the guy snapped, his smooth tone gone. “Miss Prissy’s too good for me, but you’ll slum it with a servant.”

Her eyes slid away from the bar, back to Tall, Dark, Handsome, and Dumb. A quick once-over, and she noticed the expensive watch, bespoke suit, and polished shoes she’d missed at first glance. So, he was one of them. The legacies who believed themselves entitled to anything they wanted because of the money Daddy had inherited.

She grinned at him. “That’s exactly it.”

The bartender handed her the check, but remained in front of them, looking between Diana and the boy who practically begged to become her prey. “Is everything all right?”

“No one asked you,” the rich boy spat. “It’s between me and her.”

“There’s nothing between me and you, boo,” she quipped with an air kiss.

Diana pulled a fifty out of her bra and handed it to the bartender. “Keep the change, will you?”

The bartender remained where he was, a glare fixed on the boy. “If he’s bothering you, I can ask him to leave.”

Wasn’t he sweet? He thought she needed help.

“I can manage him, but thank you.”

“Oh, yeah, you can manage me all right,” Rich and Dumb said suggestively, his eyes undressing her.

Ugh. That was quite enough of that. Diana stopped purposely slowing down her motion, moving with all the nature speed and strength of her kind, so fast she was just a blur to the humans in the bar. She would have been a blur to most sups, too. Her fingers wrapped around the boy’s throat and squeezed it. She could practically taste his fear in the air, teasing her senses.

Against her lower lip, Diana felt the points of her extended fangs. She didn’t need a mirror to know her dark eyes had turned blood-red in her anger.

“Here’s three lessons for you, baby boy,” she drawled, bringing her face to his ear. “When a lady says no, she means it. You don’t need to ask twenty-nine times. That’s just pathetic.” She tightened her grip. “Secondly, the whole class war thing is so last century. Your daddy has money. Get over it. He could lose it like this.” She snapped her fingers with her free hand. “Especially if, say, you happen to piss off a girl who can make sure all of his investments blow up by the end of the night. How would you like that?”

The boy was struggling against her hold, his fear more intoxicating with every moment.

“Thirdly? Wear diapers if you’re going to piss your pants.”

“All right, you can let him go,” the bartender said evenly, holding both of his hands up in a placating gesture.

His protective instincts had switched from her to the boy, now that he knew what she was. Diana released his neck. She’d made her point. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be bothering another girl any time soon.

She grabbed her jacket and got out of the club, bursting into the misty, darkening gray London air.

She’d picked the well-presented Leicester Square establishment at random, simply because it was close to the meeting place Juniper had selected.

Diana had met Juniper Marshalls some two hundred years ago, in South America. They weren’t close friends, but when they were in the same city, they tried to meet for a drink and catch up. Diana liked the other vampire; she was fun to be around, and didn’t take life too seriously.

She liked the rest of Juniper’s coven far less, however. Juniper had been turned by a sire who liked to keep all his children around him, in a way Diana had found too controlling for her liking. Juniper didn’t seem to chafe under his leash, and they weren’t close enough for Diana to have broached the subject, although she made no secret of her dislike for the man.

Arlo Shaws was a smooth-talking, sophisticated vampire who had never been anything but charming. To her. Because he was too smart to antagonize a Helsing twice his age. During their few interactions, he’d made her skin crawl, treating his subordinates like they were solider ants whose sole purpose in life was to serve him.

Diana knew Juniper slept with him. If she wasn’t mistaken, he also had sex with Willow and Kenya, the two other females he’d sired. It wasn’t unheard of for a sire and their fledgling to have a relationship. Hell, it wasn’t even unusual. Typically, vampires turned people they cared about—their friends or lovers. But with Arlo, it seemed like he’d chosen a harem, rather than companions. The five males he’d turned were all strong enough to be adequate guards, but not so dominant as to pose a threat to his rule.

The entire thing stank. Diana had hesitated to reach out to Juniper at all, but her flight was at ten in the morning the next day, and she’d known it would be impossible for her to sleep the night before her return to Oldcrest.

There were other people she could have contacted, but she enjoyed Juniper’s company. She’d decided not to let Arlo win this round.

Diana looked down at her watch. Ten. She had half an hour to kill. Instead of finding refuge in another bar—she didn’t think she could deal with another sleazebag tonight—she made her way to the meeting point, a few streets down, near Piccadilly Circus. Tourists flocked to the central Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, taking selfies with its well-known statue of Anteros at any hour of the day. Instead, she’d picked the less-appreciated Horses of Helios—a bronze sculpture of four wild galloping horses. She’d never seen them in person before. They’d been commissioned about two hundred years ago, in the twentieth century of the last era. The pictures had intrigued her, and in person, the sculpture didn’t disappoint. It was even more evocative. The horses looked like they might suddenly burst out of the water and gallop through the evening sky, if their master would only call them.

Diana hopped on the fountain, just as it started to rain. She pulled out her phone and angled it for a selfie, but she couldn’t catch all four horses in the shot. She liked pictures, mementos, and memories, good and bad—but that didn’t mean she was a good photographer. Dejected over her lack of skills, she pouted and stuffed the phone back inside her green leather jacket, then lifted her head to look at the sky.

The rain didn’t bother her, but she’d dressed appropriately to fit in with the rest of the Londoners and tourists. Well, as appropriately as she could. She wore boots, skinny jeans, leather. She drew the line at carrying an umbrella.

Diana generally wore boots if she could get away with it. The ones she had on today were made of a patchwork of leather—green, red, orange, purple, each embossed with different motifs. One of her favorite pairs. These babies, and her jacket's long tassels with wood beads dangling at the uneven edges, made it impossible for her to truly blend in anywhere. So what if she found this century’s idea of fashion boring? She liked colors, shiny things, and pretty patterns. But while people stared, they only saw a brunette boho chick who looked like she owned a crystal sphere or two. Which was accurate. They didn’t guess that she also happened to be the second-oldest Helsing alive. One of the few born vampires who had—and could again—rule the world if they felt like it.

Not that Diana had done much ruling during the Age of Blood. She’d stuck to a territory she’d temporarily claimed up in Canada, and protected its inhabitants against any threat that dared show up on her doorstep. Other than that, she’d left the humans and sups under her thumb to their own devices. Which was one of the reasons why British Columbia was still a haven for sups. The humans around those parts were less wary than those who’d truly known the horrors of a war against her kind.

“Look who we have here.”

Diana groaned, recognizing the voice. Surely, the human couldn’t have been dumb enough to follow her? A whiff of his dull, common scent confirmed her bewildering suspicion. He truly was mentally deficient.

He’d come flanked by two other regular humans—his protection detail, she guessed, from their crisp dark suits, posture, and bulk. The idiot’s smug grin implied he believed he had the upper hand here.

To be fair, it wasn’t entirely his fault. He was too young to have lived through the Age of Blood, back when her kind had shown the regulars just how much stronger they were. Since then, they’d done whatever they could to remain in the shadows, away from humans. Besides, Diana prided herself on appearing sweet and cute. She liked to be underestimated.

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