“Can I buy you a drink?”
The pretty redhead was young, though I couldn’t say what her exact age was. Probably mid twenties. She was tall and curvy in all the right ways with that gothic look I always found sexy. Dark-rimmed cat eyes and long painted nails. She was alone and she was trouble, that I instinctively knew.
“I don’t drink,” I said, expressionless, my eyes trained on the small stage across the room as the band played a loud, out-of-tune rock anthem to a thick crowd of swaying hipsters.
“That must be why you look so thirsty.”
Her smile was a subtle point. I didn’t smile back.
Come here often? The same voice abraded my thoughts and I snapped my head around to see her smile turn to a sneer. As I refocused I saw through several layers of enchantments to the withered old witch beneath. She was good—good enough that I couldn’t just blow her off without expecting a nasty repercussion. I tipped my head to the back door, the one leading the way out to the alley. She withdrew wordlessly through the crowd and exited through it.
Several minutes later I found myself in a dark and littered corridor behind the club, but there was no woman. Just a black cat perched on the lid of a dumpster, staring emphatically at me.
“I don’t want any trouble,” I said to it.
The cat mocked me with its raised haunches and slow blinking eyes.
Liar, it said.
“What do you want?” I pulled out a pack of Camel unfiltereds and lit one, exhaling the smoke in the cat’s direction, but it didn’t move or flinch or even turn its head.
I wanted to meet Mercy Brown’s lover, she said, and then I realized what dark witch I encountered there.
“There are plenty who fit that description.”
Yes, I know, but you are Edward Cullen, the Reckoner. Not one of her many lovers, but the one she actually loves.
“She doesn’t love anyone,” I said very quietly, noticing a small group of young people wandering in the street just yards from where I stood talking to a magic cat. “Your spell hasn’t worked. You of all people should know that.”
Oh, is that what she tells you?
“Is there something you want?”
There is something you want. Very badly. Perhaps I can help you.
“I don’t think so,” I said, clawing my way back from the desperate hope she dangled in front of me.
I know how long you’ve been searching for her.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
You know, for a vampire you’re not much of a liar. I know you’re here in Boston looking for a woman, a very special woman, but I can tell you she isn’t here.
I grabbed the cat by its neck and held it high in the air, squeezing its throat. It swung its legs wildly, trying to swipe me with its claws.
“What the hell do you know about it? Start talking. Now.”
I’ll tell you nothing unless you agree to my price.
“You’re lying to me just like you lied to Mercy. I don’t want any deals with a hedge witch.”
Listen to the vampire calling out the witch. You know, your own mother was a great sorceress in her time.
“You lie. You never knew my mother.”
How did she avail your sire to turn you, then? What human could do that?
“How do you…” I stopped talking. The more I said, the more I thought and the more I felt, the more she’d use her psychic tricks to fool me. I released my grip on the cat and it turned into a fading old woman, wiry dreads of thick, black and gray hair blowing in the brittle December wind. She fell to her knees and clutched a tattered shawl to herself against the cold. In a moment of pity I reached my hand down to her, which she took and then steadied herself against the concrete wall.
“What do you want from me?” I asked.
“Justice,” she hissed, her face shadowing over with rage.
I never should have come back to Boston. Never. Carlisle warned me it was a mistake, that I couldn’t tempt the future by flirting with the past. Again I hadn’t listened to him, and again I regretted it deeply.
“No, I don’t think I will forget it,” the old witch spat. “If I could forget it, I would have by now.”
“You’re a powerful enough witch to track me. I think you can handle your own vengeance.”
“Yes, well, I have a little problem, you see,” she said, lowering her voice and raising her eyes under heavy lids to meet mine. Her breath was stale and her skin was flaky, graying scales when you looked closely. I turned away. “If I do it myself, I’ll forfeit my last hope of redemption. I am old, Reckoner. I’m ready but I can’t let go until I know justice has been done.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“You think my magic can’t find you in Portland, sweetheart?”
Fucking witches. For decades I’d watched Mercy suffer under the remnants of a spell the Boston witch had cast at the turn of the last century. But I also knew that this old haggard bitch had already discovered my greatest weakness.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Come with me,” she said. “And I’ll tell you all you need to know.”
It was snowing that night. Large wet clumps of flakes fell more than floated down and covered the cobblestones, shining wet, reflecting street lamps and headlights from the busy road. I waited at the bottom of the stairs, outside by the basement entrance, where I could hear my victim’s sick mind as it went through its final preparations for a fresh kill.
She will be in a short skirt. She will be a blonde. It’s too bad no one taught her how to treat a man. It’s too bad it was left to me, but I am here and I will show her. One last time.
He was going to make it so easy for me to kill him.
There is a lot – a LOT more coming. By donating to Alex’s Lemonade Stand as part of the Fandom Gives Back, you’ll get the whole thing in addition to the stellar comp of 80+ authors. Details, again, are in the previous blog post.