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Cassie Alexander

Blood by Midnight: Dark Ink Tattoo Book 3 (Ebook)

Blood by Midnight: Dark Ink Tattoo Book 3 (Ebook)

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True Blood meets Sons of Anarchy

Menage, MM, MF, FF, etc

Vampire Romance

Werewolf romance

Fast burn, high heat, BĎSM

Las Vegas and everything that comes with it ;)

HEAs all around!

Synopsis

Angela: Run. I need to run. My boyfriend, Mark, thinks his mafia connections will be able to kill my ex. But Gray’s an alpha werewolf and the leader of the Pack, Vegas’s most notorious motorcycle gang. It will take more than just a mobbed up human to take him down. To protect my boyfriend and my son—we have to run.

Jack: I’m the only one strong enough to save Angela—but even I can’t take on an entire werewolf gang. Which means I have to talk to Rosalie: the vampire who made me, the Mistress I despise. If I don’t, Angela and her son are as good as dead—so I’ll do it, even if swearing allegiance to Rosalie kills me. Again.

She’s a werewolf in danger. He’s a vampire about to sell his soul.

Read Chapter One

I woke up in my own bed, having left Fran’s an hour before dawn. Fran was right, Rosalie was the only tie I had to the rest of Vegas’s supernatural community, but I was supremely reluctant to call on her. Any time I reminded her I existed she reminded me of the debt I owed her, and if she ever bothered to ask me about Tamo…even though years had passed since his death, discovery still felt like a matter of time. I had no doubt her anger would still be fresh, no matter how long it’d been, even if she didn’t find out for a century.

I fed Sugar, took a shower, and did anything else I could think of to do before heading over to Vermillion around eleven.

* * *

Due to the circumstances surrounding my creation, I avoided Vermillion as much as possible, a détente that I think both Rosalie and I enjoyed. I was never sure what I was to her—each time I arrived she treated me like a prodigal son, but seemed content to lose track of me for months at a time. Since she always knew where I was, I knew the freedom I felt was just an illusion, but one that I was glad she seemed careful not to break.

The music was as loud as ever but the place had undergone a remodel—it was shining and clean and lacked the air of desperation that could so quickly perfuse these kinds of places, though I wouldn’t put it past Rosalie to mesmerize the last of her patrons every night, turn the lights on, and make them polish tables and sweep floors like some kind of enchanted stripper-loving zombies.

“Jack?” she asked from behind me, a question even though she had to know who I was.

I braced myself, readying an obedient smile before I even turned. “Rosalie.”

Her eyes traveled my face, trying to discern the reason I was there. “It’s been so long—to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“I have a few questions for you.”

One of her perfect eyebrows quirked. “Really? That sounds like you need my help. Can it be?”

My teeth grit shut. It would be putting myself further in debt to her and both of us knew it. So far, I’d been ‘working’ off my debt by doing occasional jobs for her—because if I didn’t, she’d make me. A conquering smile spread across her face, lighting up her dark brown eyes, making her lift her head in triumph, revealing the neck I wanted to bite and then strangle.

“Yes.”

She lowered her head again to stare at me. “How badly? I want to hear it in your voice.”

“Bad enough that I’m here,” I said, flatly.

“True!” she exclaimed, glorying in her power. A girl ran up to her and started talking in a rushed voice while giving me nervous glances. Rosalie cut her short, gave her a brusque order, and then turned back toward me. “Well, Jack, it looks like you arrived just in time.”

I didn’t ask what for—she turned, and I knew I was supposed to follow.

* * *

She led me to the back of the club, which had also been remodeled since I was there last. She pulled me through the room with all the alcoves, each facing onto its own pole, some of them occupied, while the entire group of them faced a currently lonely stage. It was impossible to walk past without remembering Thea. Rosalie looked over her shoulder at me as I slowed down without thinking.

“You’re going to have to get better about forgetting the past. Forever is a very long time.”

“Have you forgotten everyone you’ve lost?” I asked before thinking where it could lead.

“I’ve even forgotten how many I’ve lost,” she said.

“Is that true?”

I could see her considering lying, before deciding not to. “No. But it sounds nice, doesn’t it?”

I reluctantly nodded. I didn’t want to forget Thea, or anyone else that I’d lost—if I could, I wouldn’t be here, waiting to ask her questions about The Pack for Bella. But what would happen when I out-lived Paco and everyone else I knew? All the more reason I should be on my own.

We arrived in front of a closed door, although music thumped behind it like a secret heart, and Rosalie fully turned.

“I’ve got a group of women in and they’re getting rowdy—too timid to go watch boys, too hetero as a group to enjoy women. They think they’re being risqué, but they were killing the rest of the club’s mood, so I threw them in here.” She gave the door a dark glance. “I need them to either drink until they’re fun or I need to throw them a bone. Yours, to be particular.”

“What? No—can’t you whammy them?”

Her head tilted, framing her brown shoulder in black curls. “Is that what you call it?” She sounded amused. “Trust me, I’m more experienced at it than you. What happens if I tell them they had fun here? They come back tomorrow night, without knowing why, and don’t spend any money again? Worse yet, they bring more friends?”

“So tell them to go.”

“I could, but what if that creates lingering negativity that compels them to tell others they had a bad time? The First Seven never had to contend with Yelp.”

I blinked. She’d never mentioned the First Seven before—I wanted to ask who they were, but who knew what that would cost me? “Then tell them they were never here at all.”

“Ah, I could—but what about cab receipts, drinks charged to credit cards, and photos?” She mocked them, miming taking an imaginary selfie with one hand. “The world’s a complicated place, Jack, and I have a business to run. I’d rather take care of their problem organically. With your beautiful, indefatigable, organ, to be more precise,” she said, and brought her imaginary camera down to pat between my legs. I stepped back before she could touch me, and her nostrils widened at my small defiance. “You are mine, Jack. I let you forget that because I enjoy reminding you, repeatedly, but trust me that the day that I tire of you I will paint the floor with your blood.”

The words tripped off her tongue as she smiled and the girl from earlier ran up. She waited to be polite, thinking that she’d interrupted some casual conversation, and without taking her eyes off of me Rosalie put her hand out for what the girl held—a leather collar and a long matching leash. I knew it was meant for me, just as I knew I couldn’t escape.

“Rosalie,” I said, turning her name into a plea.

She tsked and came forward like she was about to embrace me, buckling the collar around my throat. “You’ve fed recently, I can tell. You’ll be fine.” She clasped the leash to the collar’s metal buckle as I looked past her at the door. “It’s not a lion’s den, Jack—and you’re not a Christian, besides.” She made to tug at the leash and I had a split second to decide if I would obey on my terms or hers.

“And then you’ll answer all my questions?” I quickly asked.

“If they leave here satisfied, yes.” She turned her back on me and snapped the leash, pulling me toward the door.

* * *

I followed her into the hidden room. It was circular, with mirrors against one wall, and Maya spun around the pole on a central stage. Five women from their late twenties to mid-thirties were chatting amongst themselves at high volume, fresh drinks in hand, empty drinks across all the tables behind them. One of them had a crown on, and a sash—only instead of being Miss Universe, it proclaimed her Bachelorette. Two of the women hovered nearer than the rest—her sisters or maid of honor or what not. They were all wearing neon glowsticks as necklaces, slouching on each other in a buzzed fashion—it was clear that Maya’s presence was almost an afterthought.

But one by one, as they saw Rosalie and me, they quieted. “Maya, you’re out,” Rosalie said. She practically leapt from the stage and ran for the door, casting a pitying look behind.

“Aww,” complained the only woman who’d been paying Maya any attention. The rest of them stared.

“Are you here to kick us out?” asked one of them, in a tone that said she was eager to complain.

“No, ladies—I’ve brought you an extra special treat.” She wound her way through their group with me an obedient three steps behind, displaying her control over me like I was a dog at a show. When we reached the stage she gracefully stepped up and knotted the end of the leash around the pole, giving me a six foot range.

“Who is he?” asked the woman closest to the bachelorette.

“This is Jack. Jack’s a friend.” Rosalie said, giving my cheek a meaningful tap, before walking out and abandoning me.

I watched the wall behind the stage, my back to them, as they watched my back in silence. Goddammit. I never should’ve listened to Fran.

I braced myself and turned, ignoring the collar’s chafe. “Hello ladies,” I said, and hopped up to sit on the end of the stage, giving myself some slack.

“You’re not her type!” one of the women exclaimed, moving herself in front of the bachelorette bodily, like a human shield.

I shrugged one shoulder. “Okay?”

The women seemed confused by this. 

“What’s the meaning of this?” 

“Who’re you?” 

“Why’re you here?” they asked, almost as one.

Just like in prison I heard you needed to take out or befriend the biggest asshole—in any group of women there was one whose opinion counted the most, no matter what. And tonight it was hers, the bachelorette. As long as she was having fun, no one else mattered.

I stared her down, not looking away, and for her part she didn’t look away either, knowing the night was hers to decide. “I was specifically told to make sure you have a good time.” I spoke only to her and ignored the others.

“We should go—”

“He’s cute—”

“What would Daryl think about this?” asked the human shield, her voice booming over the others. I was guessing Daryl was the groom and that she was his sister. One of the girls in back leaned over her table, where the others couldn’t see, giving me a distracting view of her cleavage. When she realized I’d noticed she grinned and leaned back, as things otherwise devolved into chaos, women debating the merits of men in general and Daryl in particular.

“Ladies!” I shouted, bringing them to order. I only had a brief window to turn this ship around and gain Rosalie’s cooperation. “Let’s play a game.”

At that, silence ruled. “What kind of game?” Cleavage asked me.

“The only game that matters,” I said, relishing both the quiet and their attention. “Truth or dare.”

One of the girls sputtered her drink, but some others cheered, “Yes!” and one clapped her approval.

“You go first,” I told the bachelorette.

She set her drink down slowly. I imagined her rowdier friends—or relatives?—had talked her into this, because she was a plain girl, the kind you could pass by every day at work and never notice. But when she smiled at me her whole face lit up and I saw what Daryl might have seen. “Truth or dare?” she asked.

“Truth,” I said.

They conferred as a group, before she returned with their question. “How many girls have you slept with?”

I was a bit taken aback. “Uh—more than I can count?”

“Really?”

“Bragger.”

“That’s bullshit—”

“How many guys have you slept with, Susan?”

The bachelorette eyed me. “That wasn’t really an answer.”

“Sorry. If I could count them, I would. But let’s have a redo—more truth.”

She grinned and they huddled. “Okay—what’s the weirdest place you’ve ever had sex?”

My stomach churned but I kept smiling. “Here.”

“Too easy!” protested Cleavage.

“Truth or dare,” I asked back before I lost them again, staring the bachelorette down.

“Dare,” she said, and the room hushed. By the rules of the game I could dare her to do anything—but it was far too early for that. My eyes scanned their number and I read them, noticing those who’d taken off their rings for the night, the ones that were drinking now so they’d have excuses come dawn, the way the glowsticks gave all of them an ethereal glow in the room’s dim light. My eyes narrowed and I knew what needed to happen next.

“I dare you to go flip the light switch.”

The bachelorette’s eyebrows rose, but Cleavage ran for the door on her behalf. As she got outside, the light snapped off—Rosalie somewhere, most likely listening in, making sure I behaved and didn’t whammy them. Cleavage came back triumphant, too drunk to realize she’d done nothing, her blonde hair haloed in pink.

“Thank you,” I said, rewarding her with a grin as she took a seat much nearer the stage.

“Ask me,” she pleaded.

“Truth or dare,” I asked.

“I dare you to touch him, Tabby!” another girl said.

“You heard him, you’ll get a disease,” muttered the human shield from earlier.

“Dare,” she proclaimed.

“Then I dare you to come sit beside me up here.”

Cleavage—aka Tabby—turned grandly and flipped her friends off before joining me, scooting close. I made sure not to scare her—and I thought I saw the bachelorette give her a jealous look.

“Truth or dare,” Tabby asked the human shield.

The shield crossed her arms. “Truth.”

Tabby asked the human shield, not me: “Why’re you such a bitch, Pam?”

“This is a stupid game,” Pam protested.

“It is not,” said the bachelorette, daring Pam to challenge her authority on this night of all nights.

“Fine. I’m such a bitch because—because,” she sputtered, looking for an answer.

Tell us,” I encouraged. Surely Rosalie couldn’t mind me pressing a little, surely she wanted to turn this room over—

“Bobby’s cheating on me.” The words poured out of Pam’s mouth, and her hands fell in fists to her side.

“What?” the bachelorette wheeled on her, full of sudden sympathy. “Oh my God, Pam.”

“There’s this girl at his work—I saw photos on his phone.” A dam broke inside her, tears welled out, and the girls circled round. Even Tabby hopped off the stage to be near her. “I didn’t want to say anything,” she said, wiping one eye. “It’s your weekend, Lori. I’m here, and I know he’s home with her.”

“Oh, Pam, I wouldn’t have made you come if I’d known,” Lori, my bachelorette, apologized.

“I’m so sorry,” Tabby said.

“You all didn’t know,” Pam said, pulling her in for a sloppy hug. “None of you did.” They were a throbbing mass of girl-power for one moment, supporting Pam and plotting Bobby’s demise, and I was reminded why I loved women—on top of their beauty, they were strong. For themselves, and one another, all the time.

“Come here, Pam,” I suggested gently. She rose up, eyes blinking wetly, and made her way to the stage. I patted the seat beside me. “Don’t worry. I don’t bite.”

She sat down beside me, her purse clutched in her lap like I might steal it. I could sense her doing the internal math that kept her away from me—not just thinking that this whole thing was silly or risqué, but the knowledge that men like me didn’t typically find girls like her attractive—that after you’ve had two kids, lose your waist and get a belly, sometimes you feel like you fade away. Her rejection of me wasn’t about me—it was her rejecting all mankind, preemptively.

“You know that phrase, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else?” I asked.

Pam nodded mutely.

“Sometimes it’s true,” I said, then looked over at one of the quiet girls. “Truth or dare.”

She looked around, like I might’ve been talking to someone behind her. Then I watched her steel herself. “Dare.”

I let my eyes travel, looking at each of them one by one, an interloper in their lives, a witness to their grief, a testament to their hope that one frantic party would give them memories to last a lifetime. “I dare you to take that necklace off, and throw it to the back of the room.”

The women conferred amongst one another with their eyes and then with trembling hands, Lori’s quietest bridesmaid unfastened the glowstick necklace and tossed it.

“Thank you….” I told her, asking for her name.

“Jamie,” she almost whispered, then turned immediately to her friend. “Truth or dare.”

“Truth.”

“Tell us the deal with Gabriel.”

Tabby laughed and Lori made a ‘ooh’ sound. Even Pam chuckled. The woman—Susan, by power of deduction—groaned. “He’s good for me, all right?”

Pam looked to me. “Hideously unattractive man,” she clarified, for my sake.

“I heard that—and I know, I know,” Susan said. “But,” she stood and got into the spirit of things, likely as her third drink hit. “Ladies, he is good at going down.”

Lori rocked back, laughing, and Tabby shouted, “I knew it!” as the others hooted.

“What? James would never go there!” Susan stood up for her new man.

“You should never waste time with a man who won’t,” I said, backing her.

“See?” she agreed with me. “Whereas Gabriel?” she turned to address her friends. “That man needs a snorkel.”

“Good, ‘cause I’m getting him one for Christmas,” Jamie said, coming out of her shell now that she was in the safety of the dark. Everyone laughed, even Susan.

If this didn’t count as a good time, I didn’t know what would. And yet: “Truth or dare,” I announced to the group at large.

“Dare,” Tabby shouted back.

“I dare you to take off your necklace, too.”

Tabby gave me a mischievous look, and then whipped it off like it was a belt and chucked it behind her. “Truth or dare,” she asked back. “Pick dare.”

“Dare it is,” I said.

“I dare you to kiss Pam.”

I felt Pam stiffen beside me. “Oh no,” she said, scooting away bodily.

“I would never do anything that someone was uncomfortable with,” I said, and saw her shoulders slightly slump. She didn’t want me to do anything—but she didn’t not want me to do anything, either. “You let me know if that changes, though,” I told her, with eyes full of intent. Blood rushed all over her body, distracting both of us for different reasons.

We were down to three glowsticks worth of light, and the girls had come back from too drunk, to just drunk enough.

“You told me earlier that I wasn’t her type,” I told Pam, with a nod to Lori. “So if I’m not, who is?”

“Daryl,” Lori said with a grin.

“Daryl. Daryl’s so this, and Daryl’s so that,” Tabby said in a sing-song, coming up to sit on my other side. “I mean, the man could probably pick up a truck, yes. But there’s more to life than that.”

“Like what?” I asked her.

“I dunno. Music? Poetry?”

“Head!” shouted Susan, and everyone giggled.

While I laughed along with the women, Tabby wriggled her hand in between us, and started tugging at the outer seam of my jeans. “Where’s the Velcro? Why won’t your pants come off?”

“Oh, they do. Believe me. Is that what you want?” I moved to stand up, leaning against the pole behind me.

“It’s too dark to see,” Jamie complained.

“I don’t know about that. I can see you all just fine—and I think it’s time for the last truth or dare.” I knew more than enough about them now to give anyone who was interested a good time, personally. “Is the truth that you want me to get the lights turned on again? Or do some of you want to dare to see what we can do in the dark?”

The moment froze, as each of them considered what that might mean. Then Lori grinned wickedly and reached for her necklace. “I have to stay true to Daryl, ladies. But far be it from me to stand in anyone else’s way of a good time.” She popped the clasp of her glowstick off, and chucked it to the back of the room. Susan looked from side to side, and took hers off, swinging it overhead like a lasso with a whoop! before throwing it.

Which left Pam. I turned toward her and gave her a warm smile. “Yes, no, maybe so?”

She swallowed audibly, but then decided, yanking her necklace off with force and hurling it to the back of the room, leaving me and the women in darkness.

“What now?” Tabby asked from the front of the stage.

“Now, this,” I said, reaching for my phone. I turned the flashlight on and brought it up to make my face look spooky. I made a ghost noise and they laughed. “So—on our continuing journey through what I always assumed women’s slumber parties to be—get those tables out of the way—set them against the back walls, please.” My phone put out just enough light that all the women could participate, setting all the tables and chairs back. “Good.” I reached up and undid the metal clasp that kept me fastened to the leash, leaving the collar on. I stepped forward and leapt off the stage into the center of the clearing they’d provided, and they gasped, like I was a figure in a painting come off the wall.

“Seven minutes in heaven,” I said, and set a recurring alarm on my phone. I whipped out a chain of five condoms, one for each of them. “I did warn you all I was a man-whore,” I said and made a show of tearing them apart to hold in my bowled palms, feeling like some sort of sex magician. Things would’ve been easier if they were heteroflexible, but since they likely weren’t, this was the next best thing.

“I’m going to turn off the light—and then each of you will have thirty seconds to find somewhere to hide from me—if you want to—or someplace to set up shop. After that, I’ll find you, one by one, and offer you a condom. If you’re not interested don’t take one. If you are—I’m yours until the alarm.”

I could practically hear their heads swivel as I laid out my terms, looking at each other, being scared to take me up on my offer and also scared to deny themselves—or others!—it.

“After everyone’s seven minutes are up, Vegas rules apply.”

“What’re those?” Lori asked.

“The usual—what happens here stays here and all.” I rested my thumb over the button to turn the light off. “Does that sound fun?”

“Sex with a stranger hide-and-seek, oh yeah, totally do that all the time,” Pam said dourly.

Tabby laughed and turned towards me. “Start counting.”

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