Warrior of Darkness
His fingers played with the steel of one of his favorite throwing knives in the pocket of his suit jacket… cold, silent, and deadly; just like him.
The action calmed him as he repeatedly ran the blade under and over his fingers and palm. It was small enough to carry anywhere on his body, and he had a couple more secreted away. One in his boot and another in a sheath at the base of his back… Hell, he rarely went anywhere without some kind of weapon, and blades were his favorite.
“Want another one, boss?” Joel, the barman, asked Lazarus as he sat in Fortune, one of the nightclubs he owned, pondering the file he’d received earlier. One that held a woman’s life in his hands. Literally.
The information contained within had already determined her fate; she’d die. And he’d take great pleasure taking her last breath. He’d watch closely as her eyes dimmed, growing glassy and grey as the life left them. They all did. Every last pair he’d gazed into as he’d taken their lives had followed the same route as their last breath left their body and their heart stopped beating… eyes glazing over and dimming until he was certain there was no longer anything left behind but a shell.
He’d put that on hold for the night, however, because if he dealt with the case now, his fury would take over and things would get ugly fast; a bloodbath would ensue, and that’s not how he carried out his assignments.
He was certain he wouldn’t be able to contain the darkness inside, absolutely positive it would break free and wreak bloody havoc. No doubt about it. It was hard enough keeping it harnessed on a good day. It had taken him a lifetime to learn how to do so. Fuck, it had taken many lifetimes to learn how to keep it in check. But on a day like today, after reading that shit? It would be impossible. So here he was, doing his damnedest to relax while trying to get the images out of his head from reading the file had brought.
He wasn’t sure that was achievable, not until he carried out his sentence anyway.
Even the loud music as it thudded around him while the club started to fill up didn’t help like it usually did, and he had yet to decide whether he’d stay and play. Or not.
He was riled up and maybe it was too dangerous for him to risk. He hadn’t made his mind up, but a few drinks would certainly help to relax him.
“Aye, sure.” He nodded over the bar and another whisky appeared, sliding across the sleek black bar top, his hand catching it before it dropped over the edge.
“You in for the night, boss?” Joel swiped a cloth over the already pristine bar, ensuring it was kept clean… as always. His dark brown hair combed to perfection to match his immaculate white shirt.
“I’ve not decided yet.” He raised his drink while Joel tipped his head and smiled; the guy always had a smile on his face. It earned him a ton of tips and he was a great worker, but sometimes his unending cheerfulness irritated the hell out of him.
Once, just once, Lazarus wanted him to moan about something… anything. Hell, there was enough in the damn world to gripe about, but no. Joel was always happy, no matter what was happening around him, or if the world was going to shit.
“I’ll keep ‘em coming then.” Joel gave him another of his damn smiles as he ran the cloth over the bar… again.
“Aye, you do that.” Lazarus’ fingers sped up, flicking his blade through them and attempting to calm the anger flaring to life inside him. “Looks like you’re going to be busy tonight, rushed off your feet, Joel.”
Joel set up a round of drinks for a lanky young man who looked like he needed a good dinner, or ten; he was so damn thin. But he certainly had money to burn as he ordered enough shots to sink the Titanic, which Joel poured out, two-handed and at breakneck speed, laughing and joking as he did.
“There you go, and remember to watch the clock; there’s two for one at midnight.” Joel pushed the tray over, grinning.
“Really? Thanks. Here.” The guy threw a bundle of cash over, a big bundle. “Keep the change and thanks for the tip. I’ll be back.”
He rang up the drinks and counted the money out, a large amount of cash going into his jar before answering, “Yeah, it’s going to be busy but that’s good. It means the time goes fast and usually ends up with a lot of extra in this jar, so I’m happy.”
“I bet,” Lazarus snarked back but he bet that Joel didn’t notice. He was right.
“Another?” He held up the bottle of his whisky, waggling it around, and that smile was still pasted onto his face.
“Aye, fill her up.” Lazarus pushed his glass over and Joel topped it up.
“So, have you decided?” Joel asked, at the same time putting together an order for one of the waitresses, his hands grabbing drinks and glasses while she read them off her pad and quickly placed them onto her tray before returning his attention to Lazarus, who knew he should be happy at having such a good worker under his employment instead of annoyed.
“I’m staying for now.”
“Okay, I’ll make sure to tend to you.” Joel gave him a nod before he sped off to deal with other customers, still fucking smiling.
Lazarus watched as Joel and Alma, the other bartender on duty, took care of business. The two of them working quickly to get orders out, both for the customers standing at the bar and for the waitresses who were shouting orders at them. He couldn’t help but be impressed, they were good at their jobs, but that’s why they worked for him; he only employed the best. His bar manager, Matteo, was at the opposite end, helping out as they started to get busy. Lazarus checked his watch, noting the other bartenders would be arriving shortly.
After that, Matteo would disappear to his office to do his paperwork and whatever else he had to do to run the place, only coming back if he was needed. He liked that he could leave Matteo in charge; hell, he had so many businesses that he’d be run ragged if he had to deal with the day to day running of them all.
It didn’t stop him from dropping in without notice though. That always kept them on their toes, and if he found anything amiss, they soon saw a side of him that kept them on the straight and narrow from then on. In fact, he relished that part, especially when it was a new staff member and they were unaware of who, or more importantly, what he was.
That first time, that first look, when he unleashed his power, his darkness… that was glorious.
Lazarus couldn’t help but take pleasure from the fear that washed over them… No, not fear… downright terror as they saw the beast inside him. Saw what he was capable of.
Hell, he couldn’t help himself from relishing in the emotions that rolled off them; he lapped them up like a baby at its mother’s breast. He couldn’t help who he was, what he was, or what gave him pleasure.
Swirling the amber liquid around in his glass, he inhaled the tangy, almost citrus-fruit aromas wafting up together with a slight honeysuckle scent… nice. One of his favorite whisky blends he’d had shipped over from Scotland, but not one of the most expensive. Those he kept for special occasions, but, before he could take another drink, a disturbance at the entrance caught his attention. His sensitive ears picked up everything as his doormen yelled at someone who was obviously attempting to get past them.
“Good luck with that”, Lazarus thought briefly before a body rushed inside, quickly followed by the burly men who manned the door.
He didn’t think twice, slamming his glass down and hopping off his stool, Lazarus sped forward to intercede the body completely dressed in black. He took in the disheveled state of the person, dirt on their clothes and one important detail hit him as he closed in: a long dark braid swung down their back. All the way to curvy hips encased in denim and knee high black boots.
“What the fuck?” he cursed under his breath as he sped forward.
His feet moved with lightning speed as he covered the distance in a blur of movement, passing people whose heads spun around wondering what the rush of air was that had caused their clothes to flap around them, and seeing nothing because he was already gone. Their dazed and confused faces as they looked all around were comical but nothing new to him.
His eyes were glued to the intruder, that long braid swinging around, and Lazarus couldn’t believe a female had managed to get past his men and into his club. How the hell had that happened?
And what was going on with her? She was obviously hurt and running from someone. He could scent blood, the smell intoxicating and growing stronger the nearer he drew to her. She was looking back over her shoulder, keeping an eye on his men, who were pursuing her, and she didn’t see him until the last moment. Her eyes dark and cold as they locked with his blue ones. Lazarus was surprised to see not a hint of fear staring back at him. Not even when he tackled her; deftly stepping to the side, his arms grabbed her roughly around the waist, sweeping her off her feet and spinning her around with the speed she’d been careening toward him.
She’d tried to veer away, her eyes darting all around, but there was nowhere to go. Bodies were everywhere and her legs knocked a couple who shouted in annoyance before they saw his men and quickly moved away. A circle emptied around them, people worrying they’d get caught up in whatever was going down as his guys came stampeding toward them…nobody messed with them.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” He held her back to his front, his mouth at the shell of her ear as his keen sight took in the wounds on her face.
She’d been in a fight, that much was clear, and she’d taken quite a beating. The left side of her face was puffy and bruising already, a cut at the side of her eye was bleeding profusely, and she had a split lip to boot.
“Let me go,” she replied coldly, struggling in his arms violently and with a strength that defied her size.
She continued to struggle until he tightened his hold. His steely grip a clear warning that she was going nowhere unless he allowed it, and that wasn’t happening anytime soon. Not until he found out what the hell was going on.
Raised voices behind him had him turning to look over his shoulder…two men had turned up and were now arguing with his staff. And they didn’t look happy. One had a bloody nose and the other appeared to have a knife wound to his upper arm.
“Did you do that?” he whispered, his lips so close to her that he felt her skin as he spoke, her body shuddering. Then she kicked his shin and moved her head back fast to try and bash him right in the middle of his face.
Hell, if he hadn’t seen it coming and didn’t have reflexes as fast as he did, he’d be sporting a broken nose, and a lesser man would probably have loosened his grip and allowed her to escape. Then again, that was probably her plan.
Damn it, she was a firecracker, but he merely tightened his grip again. She inhaled sharply as he did; her body tight against him, her scent invading him, and he could feel her tensing her muscles as she readied to make another bid for freedom. Aye, as if that was going to happen. Was she deluded?
“I said: let me go,” she repeated, her voice just as cold, but Lazarus felt the change in her body. She wanted to run, that much was obvious, but it was more than that. She was desperate to escape. He could sense it in every cell of her being as she wriggled in his arms.
Why? What the fuck was going on?
He put her down onto her feet, holding onto her arm with a vice-like grip, and turned around, keeping her behind him as he faced the men.
“Who the fuck are you and why are you chasing this woman into my club?” he snarled, anger rising up. Why? He wasn’t sure. Yet.
The one with the wound on his arm pushed forward, trying to look around him to see the woman.
“Give her to me, now, and we’ll get out of your hair. We can forget all about this.”
Lazarus looked him up and down, his senses going into overdrive. Scum was the first word that sprang to mind. Lowlife was the second, and bully was the next. He knew this kind of man. Seen their type over and over again…and he loathed them.
Despised was more accurate, and he wasn’t about to hand this woman over to him. Not a fucking chance.
He was tall, almost as tall as Lazarus, and he was wide, but there was no muscle mass there; it was pure blubber. Lazarus would bet his last dollar that this thug would use his size to intimidate, especially women, and he wouldn’t put it past this ass to do more than that. He could scent it on him, see it in him, and he knew his kind.
“What’s your name? As I said, this is my club. I own this place, so give me the damn courtesy of answering my fucking question before I lose my patience. Trust me, you don’t want me to do that.”
Lazarus glared over at the man, allowing some of his supernatural powers free, including permitting his eyes to turn fiery red and his fangs to spring free. He never hid the fact of what he was, but he also didn’t advertise it either, unless it was to his advantage. And at this moment, he wanted this fucker to know exactly who and what he was dealing with; a powerful and deadly Vampire.
It worked, in spades. His face losing all color as he stumbled back. His blood dripping slowly down his arm, falling through the air with a soft whisper before landing on the floor… plop. A dull noise as the crimson globules made contact, his ears heard them loud and clear and his nostrils flared to take in the essence of the man before him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.” His wheedling tone drew his attention back to his face. “My name’s Evan Smythson, and this bitch here broke into my loft where me and my buddy had just returned after a few drinks. She attacked me with a fucking knife and broke his nose before escaping out the damn window. We chased her and she came in here so we followed.”
He waved his arm back to his friend, as if attempting to get him to back him up, but he didn’t. The other man remained in place and silent. Interesting.
“And you’ve never seen her before?”
Lazarus kept his eyes pinned on Smythson as he shook his head before blustering out, his uninjured arm raising to stab a finger toward the woman behind Lazarus, “Never. I don’t know this crazy ass whore. Maybe she was gonna rob my place and didn’t expect us to come back. I’ve no fucking idea. All I know is she attacked us.”
Lazarus tipped his head, retracting his fangs and looking back at the female he still held. Her eyes were full of hatred as she glared over at Smythson. Pure, unadulterated hatred. Not the look of someone who had broken in with plans to rob a place, and certainly not a look of someone who didn’t know him. She did. You didn’t look at another person with such loathing for no reason.
“But you two managed to get the weapon from her, didn’t you?” Lazarus pressed, raising his eyebrow and spearing this piece of shit in place.
Smythson’s feet shuffled, looking back at his buddy who hadn’t said a word and who had moved away by several yards. In fact, if it weren’t for Lazarus’ men, he was certain the second man would’ve fled by now.
“Well, yeah, but it took both of us to do it. She fought like a madwoman.” He held his injured arm out, looking for sympathy. Yeah, that wasn’t working. “Like some kind of crazy ninja chick. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“So…” Lazarus inhaled slowly, looking Smythson up and down and leaning over to look at his friend and then back to him again. “…two big, strong men against one woman. You get roughed up and you manage to get her weapon away, and then you decide to get your own back. Right? You rough her up a bit, as I can see from her bruises, cut eye, burst lip, instead of just calling the police. And I can guess what happened next.”
Smythson’s face turned white, anger rising as he shook his head vehemently and took a step back. He looked like he wanted to turn tail and run, but he didn’t, or rather he couldn’t. Not with his men at his back and his cold dark eyes keeping him pinned in place.
“No, no, that’s not what happened.” Sweat started to pour down his face, fear showing as he realized Lazarus knew what he’d had in mind for the woman Lazarus now held behind him.
“Yes, it is,” Lazarus spat out, pointing a finger straight at him. “I know your type. You’re a bully and you didn’t like a woman coming into your home, you liked it far less that she got some hits in on you. So you had to teach her a lesson. What was next? Were you going to really teach her a lesson? Huh?”
That’s when he felt it. The woman’s entire body stiffened behind him briefly before the scents assaulted his nostrils: anger, disgust, and topping it all was fear. Hell yeah, that’s what was going to happen in this fucker’s loft. Only, it didn’t because she fought back even more and somehow managed to get out.
How she did that was a mystery, one he’d like to figure out. One that was taking root inside him and slithering around like a snake seeking its prey; just like he normally did. This woman wasn’t all she appeared to be, and with every passing second, Lazarus wanted to know more.
“But she got away, didn’t she?” he pressed again, his voice low and filled with venom. “Did she hurt your ego, Smythson? Is that why you ran her down? Or is it because you wanted to continue the game?”
She began to wriggle, tugging her arm in a vain attempt to break free, but he held fast as he motioned to his men.
“Get them out of here, and if I ever see either of you again, then I promise you that you’ll regret it. And by that, I mean in any of my clubs, on the street outside, or…oh shit, I just mean in general. Stay away, got it? And another thing, if I hear that you’ve hurt a woman, any woman, in any way whatsoever, I promise I’ll come for you. Believe me, you don’t want that to happen.”
He waited as they were manhandled out, enjoying the way they were treated; especially when Smythson complained and he was rewarded with a swift punch to the kidneys. Yeah, that would hurt for a while and probably have him peeing blood for a week. His friend was wiser, keeping his mouth shut, as he had done the entire time he’d been there. Although, that had Lazarus’s spidey senses tingling. Sometimes the quiet ones were the worst. Maybe he’d check him out when he had the time. He had Smythson’s name now so it would be easy enough for him to track his friend down; he was good at that.
“You can let me go now.”
Her voice settled over him like a dark whisper, causing a reaction inside that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Without a doubt, this woman intrigued him. How she’d managed to get the better of those two men was something he’d like to know. Never mind the fact she’d broke past his men and inside the club. The phrase some kind of crazy ninja chick stuck in his head. What had Smythson meant by that?
But more importantly, what was she doing in his home in the first place? Lazarus didn’t get the feeling that she was there to rob the guy. So what? In fact, he was one hundred percent certain that wasn’t the case.
And why was he still holding onto her instead of releasing her and allowing her to disappear into the night?
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