Monday, November 29, 2010

Vampires And Almost First Kisses

Jack stands beside me, mouth open, eyes wide, as we stare down into an empty trunk. The heat of the exhaust burns my leg through my jeans, but I can’t move away from it. The trunk is empty.

“Where the hell’d it go?” Jack asks.

I shake my head. “How’d it get out?”

Jacky slams the trunk closed and turns around to lean against it. I do the same. The cicadas buzz so loud out here at night it’s impossible to hear anything else, so there’s no point being on guard. Besides, not even Jack can outrun a pissed off vampire. After being knocked over the head with a tire iron, wrapped in silver chains, and thrown in a trunk, I’m sure I’d be pretty pissed too. Vampires aren’t known for their happy-go-lucky attitudes.

“What do you wanna do?” I ask.

“I guess we go home.”

“We can’t go home without finishing a job, Jacky. You know that.”

He shrugs. “Who has to know?”

He’s right. Mama would kill us if she knew I was on a vamp hunt, on account I’m only supposed to be doing ghosts and only one hunt a week, so we didn’t tell her about it. And this was a side job; Jacky didn’t get the order from Mac, his boss with bounty hunting and at the garage, so he doesn’t know either. It’s probably not the smartest thing to do, going out without telling anyone in case something happens, like a vampire goes missing from your trunk. But Jack needed the money to fix the Chevelle, and the pay was right.

I steal a glance at Jack and watch him fish a pack of camel cigarettes from the pocket of his flannel shirt. I could tell myself I’m just along for the ride, but I’ve never been much of a liar. Jack taps out a cigarette and leans forward to light it. His dark hair falls over his eyes. I have to fight the urge to brush it back so I can see his eyes.

“So we goin’ home or you feel like lookin’ for it?” He blows out a puff of smoke, rubs his fingers over his sideburns.

“What about the client?”

He shrugs. “I’ll handle it.”

Mama isn’t home and she thinks I’m at Amanda’s house. I don’t want to go home and be bored and alone. And Jacky could really use the money to fix up the car. It feels wrong to back out now. “Let’s just go find it. Not like we had any other plans for tonight.”

“Fine by me,” he says, tossing his cigarette to the ground. “It can’t be too far. Split up?”
I want more than anything to prove myself to Jack, but splitting up on a vamp hunt? Especially one who is bound to be madder than hornets and was smart enough to get out of a locked trunk? “I think we should stick together on this one,” I say.

“Yeah, probably right. Damn things are hard enough to catch the first time.” Jack takes his Colt out of the glove compartment, double checks to make sure it’s loaded with the silver bullets with crosses etched into them, and then he grabs the bottle of holy water from the duffle bag in back of the car. He tosses it at me along with my stake--cow oak, Daddy made it for me.
“Get the chain too?”

“Good idea,” he says smiling at me. I turn away so he doesn’t see the blush on my cheeks. Once we’re both fully loaded, we head down the dirt road, leaving the Chevelle behind. Hunting is always done best on foot. If we get too far ahead, we’ll go back and move the car farther up the road. It takes a lot of time, but the car is too loud to find anything. And if we leave it too far back? Vampires are very fast.

Out of all the monsters we hunt, vampires are my least favorite. Fast, strong, and on top of that, they’ve got God-only-knows how many years of intelligence and experience. The perfect predator.

“Any theories on how it got out?” Jack asks.

“Um.” I rack my brain for something smart to say. I’m no expert on any of the Darks, Jacky is. He usually knows everything, but he’s asking me what I think. “They’re strong. It could’ve just broken the lock and we didn’t notice.”

“The lock looked fine to me.”

“Oh.” I ramble off a few other theories, just to have something to say. Then all of a sudden Jacky stops at a wall of trees. He sniffs at the air.

“It’s in here.”

“You sure?”

He nods. “I’ve been out here before. Lot’s of times. It smells different.”
“You come way out here? For what?” My lips snap shut as soon as I ask. None of my business what he does when he’s not working, much as I want it to be.
He shrugs. “It’s quiet.”

I listen, expecting to hear the cicadas, but there’s nothing. No sounds from the main road. No bugs. No owls. Nothing but heavy quiet. Jack hears things ten times louder than normal people, so I get his need for quiet. “It’s nice.” Well, except for the vampire somewhere in the dark.
“Yeah, and look at that.”

I follow his gaze up to the sky. It’s the most velvety blue, with more stars than I’ve ever seen. “Wow.”

Jack laughs and nudges my shoulder. I smile at him, close my eyes and breathe him in; cigarettes, cologne, and something else. Something unique to Jack that I can only describe as woodsy. His fingers find mine and lock together. He squeezes my hand. “You ready to go in?”

“Yeah.” I try to let go of his hand, even though I really don’t want to, and take the first step into the dark woods, but he pulls me back.

“Wait. Hey, Charlie?”

“Yeah, Jack?”

“There’s somethin’ I been wantin’ to do. And I know now ain’t the best time but--” He looks up at the sky, so full of stars, “--before we go in there.” He brings his free hand up to touch my hair. His thumb brushes my cheek and I suck in a breath. “I wanted to thank you. For comin’ out here with me tonight, even though you didn’t have to. And for, you know, huntin’ it twice.” He chews on his lip, brings his face a little closer to mine.

I draw a breath, steeling myself. This is it. He’s finally going to make a move. He leans in closer. I can just imagine how his lips will feel on mine. I’ve imagined it thousands of times.

A twig snaps. Jack’s shoulders stiffen and his head flips up, looking over me. “Aw, sh—”The vampire sails into him sending them both flying into the trees.

“Jack!” I chase after them, cursing the whole way. Stupid vampires.

The vampire throws him into a tree, splinters of wood go flying, and then he pins Jack up against it. “I’ve never tasted a werewolf before,” he says. “I’ve always thought you guys had more hair.”

Jack shoves him back. But the vampire is up and after him again before he can get himself away from the tree. They wrestle, the vampire hissing and Jacky growling. Then the vampire shoves Jack up against another tree.

“I’m a hairless. It’s a new breed,” Jack says to the vampire, but his eyes are on me. He sees me sneaking up from behind the vamp. We both know the damn thing could hear me miles away, but the big bad wolf never expects much from little red.

The vampire laughs. He throws his head back, mouth open, in that annoying way they all do right before they bite. I take that split second to pull my stake from its holster and drive it into his back. He screeches, then falls dead at my feet, shriveling up into the old, moldy corpse he should be.

Jack brushes some wood splinters and tree bark from his shoulders. “Damn thing almost bit me.”
“Now you know I wouldn’t allow that.” Especially after it interrupted what I hope was our almost first kiss. I really hate vampires.

“Nice work,” he says, pulling out my stake and wiping it off on his jeans. “Let’s get this to the client and collect.”

“Yeah.” I kick the corpse.

Jack, only slightly out of breath, eyes glistening with adrenaline, grabs it by the ankle and starts dragging it back toward the car, forgetting all about what almost happened. I could tell myself I’m glad the vampire turned up so that Jacky and me could get paid for finding it. But I’ve never been much of a liar.

Check back Wednesday for another full short by Natalie!

Photo by {peace&love♥} on flickr

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