Fandom: Criminal Minds
Spoilers: Up through Season 5, with some Season 6 for some background info.
Characters/Pairing(s): David Rossi/Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, Aaron Hotchner, Dr. Spencer Reid, Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau
Warning: Blood, sex, violence
Word Count: 19,258
Notes: I’ve fudged the timeline slightly so Rossi joined the team before Prentiss. This was written for the au_bigbang. Much thanks to murf1307 for betaing and weaselett for art!
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds or its characters and I don't make a dime off them.
Summary: Everyone on Emily Prentiss' BAU team was a little unusual; herself being a vampire and Morgan being a werewolf were only part of it. David Rossi being her chosen blood donor was another large part of it. But despite years of keeping things on the level of friendship, a long-term case brings a few important things to light, not the least of which is that life can be too short for those who aren't prepared to pay dearly for it. And for some the price is too high.
Prentiss opened her door tentatively, having more expected a phone call that the team was getting ready to go. Instead, Hotchner was at her threshold with file folders under her arm. She felt a faint thread of unease as she waved him into the room. Mid-afternoon, she hadn’t stirred from here except to visit a slaughterhouse early this morning, and was still clad in her stiff, black daywalker suit.
“Prentiss, I want you and Dave to look into this case while we’re down here.” Hotchner handed her a file stiff with photographs, marked with the red tag that denoted a possible vampire-related crime. “Tell me what you see.”
The first view inside the closed covers was a mess of crimson gore. The subsequent views were no better. Prentiss took a deep breath as she scanned the pictures for her first assessment.
“This doesn’t look like a vampire assault. The wound placement is all wrong,” Prentiss said authoritatively, looking at the first of the dozen autopsy photographs.
“How is that?” he asked, probing for a thorough explanation.
“Vampires typically drink from the wrist or neck. Wrist is more typical at blood bars—the donor is doing the vampire a favor, so it’s more impersonal. Neck feeding is a sign of trust and equality and possible intimacy. Anywhere else would be concealment feeding or sexual bloodplay, and only if it were a single bite mark. These marks are too random, too large. This was either staged by someone trying to throw blame on vampires, a pretender will little experience, or possibly a ghoul.”
Hotchner’s face became tight and grim at that announcement. Ghouls were even worse than pretenders, people who went to extreme measures to gain what they couldn’t otherwise get. They infused themselves with vampire blood in an attempt to gain the same abilities as vampires. It could never truly convert them, as the virus couldn’t jump people in its bonded state, but it could give someone short-term strength, speed, and enhanced senses. The effect was addictive, and the withdrawal effects were extremely unpleasant. And because the consequences for a vampire dosing someone on purpose were so high, it meant that if it were a true ghoul, he was probably subduing a vampire. That took dedication, care, and resources. A very unfortunate combination for people trying to catch him.
But that was the reason there hadn’t been a confirmed case of ghoulism in ten years.
Emily said as much to Hotchner, and he nodded.
“That why we need to be careful. The information we have is scattered. Though we have several deaths, the geographical profile is almost random. Finding connections between the victims has been difficult. But ghoulism is serious enough to warrant FBI investigation.”
Prentiss flipped to the back page. “The last sightings were near Jacksonville.” It was only maybe a half-hour drive from their hotel.
“You have enough time to start looking around here. That’s why I told you now. Morgan won’t be back from the hospital until after midnight.”
“You realize I have friends down here,” Prentiss said reluctantly.
“I was counting on it.”
Hotchner understood. Then he’d understand this too. “I’m going to go to the Jacksonville blood bar. It’s the best place to start looking.”
“Only share details sparingly.”
“I can be discreet, sir.”
“I am counting on that too.”
Rossi had been entirely fine with going to a blood bar, as blasé about going into a vampire establishment as he’d been invading a werewolf’s den.
“Best possible place to ask around, unquestionably,” had been his only comment after taking a look at the file. Idly Emily wondered if his enthusiasm might have been mitigated if the rest of the team had come along. Hers certainly would have.
She paused and ran that statement through her mind a few times as she parked several blocks away and began to walk; no need to advertise their presence as government agents by showing up in a black Suburban. As a matter of fact, it was probably best to not appear as government agents at all. Vampires were certainly used to having their privacy invaded, but tended to guard what little they were able to keep to themselves with rabid fierceness.
When they were still two blocks away, she paused at a corner, putting her hand on Dave’s elbow.
“Dave, would you be willing to wear a bracelet when we go in?”
He slowed, then stopped, turning to look at her fully. “Marking your claim?” His tone was light-hearted, but Emily didn’t smile.
“Mostly people are pretty polite, but some can get insistent. This will cut down on the misunderstandings.”
“And after you told us you were all kept on a tight leash,” Dave smiled.
Emily bared her fangs in a mock-growl. “Don’t get cute with me about this. I’m just worried.”
“Point taken. Well?” Dave held out his wrist.
Emily turned the palest shade of pink as she pulled a small jewelry box from her purse. Inside it held a thin, dark red leather band with a silver clasp. Dave listened to what Emily was not saying, and didn’t ask questions. “Do they know you here?”
“Marie does; she’s the owner. But she doesn’t know all that I do. Do you mind if I’m your literary agent?”
“I look forward to the day,” he said with a grin.
Emily smiled involuntarily; he was so damn reasonable about this. She held out the box to Dave, and he awkwardly fastened the clasp one-handed.
“Have you ever been in a blood bar before?”
“Several times.” Dave settled the bracelet on his arm easily; immediately comfortable with it.
“Curiosity?” she asked, her heart doing an odd little flip.
“It was for a case study. The victims were all donors, and I needed some insight.”
“The money didn’t hurt either, I bet,” Emily said, her smile turning a bit cynical.
“The FBI doesn’t usually give cash bonuses. Besides, what I do on my own time is my business. And we ended up catching the guy.”
“Ah,” was all she said.
“As long as no one had embarrassing sex tapes, the powers that be looked the other way.” His grin was completely insouciant.
“It’s a good thing I know the owner, then.”
Dave’s smile softened as the bar came into view. The deep sanguine lights were a bit melodramatic, but perhaps the easiest way to identify the otherwise featureless bar. No windows and a solid door made it look blank and uninviting, but the bloody lights drew the donor crowd like a moth to a flame. Apparently the night was still young, as the hidden bouncer, ensconced behind the door with only a slit open, was inspecting the waiting hopefuls carefully, letting only a few at a time.
Blood bars didn’t have individual names; individual ones were known by locations or the proprietor’s name only. This one was known as “4th Street Jacksonville” or “Marie’s.”
For all their outward appearance of nighttime entertainment establishments, they were not primarily places of recreation. They were necessities, not luxuries. Vampires that lived in places where there weren’t blood bars either moved nearer to one or started their own. Part restaurant, part medical center, part meeting place, part sanctuary, there was no greater gathering place for vampire culture anywhere else in a city.
Emily easily parted the crowd of eager hopefuls. Dave could see how her pale, pale face seemed to glow in the sanguine lights, making an instant impression. The low-voiced word passed through the crowd, audible enough to Dave, and probably as loud as normal conversation to Emily.
“She’s new!” “God she’s beautiful.” “Real deal, no faking that.” “Do you think she’ll want me?” “Don’t throw yourself at her. God, Alice, have some self-respect.” “My wrists are good, fuck, please look at me, I need the fucking money…”
Emily sailed on as if she hadn’t heard a thing, Dave following her with complete confidence that he wouldn’t be stopped. That confidence seemed to cow the younger crowd (Dave estimated he had at least thirty years, or more, on most of the throng). When one man seemed ready to block his passage, Dave seemingly idly reached up to brush invisible lint off of his lapel, making the silver clasp of Emily’s bracelet flash. The man backed down, muttering something under his breath. Dave only caught the word “lucky.”
In the abstract, Dave knew the meaning of the bracelet. It marked him publically as someone’s Source. Though blood bars were usually full of unbound donors wanting to offer themselves for the money or the thrill, some vampires with Sources preferred to come there to drink in company, like how a normal human would go out to eat with friends. Hence the occasional Source arriving at a blood bar did not raise any eyebrows, and prevented Dave from having to fend off other vampires all night.
It didn’t matter that he already was Emily’s Source; if it wasn’t announced subtly with the bracelet, Dave would be in for a long-winded explanation with paperwork every time he turned someone down in a place like this. But it was usually more politic on cases to not flaunt his status. He hadn’t even realized Emily had gotten a bracelet for him.
Emily rapped softly at the club door, and the small window portal was thrown open.
“Emily Amelia Prentiss,” she said quietly. Dimly, Dave could see a man inside, who pushed a small block of some clear substance out into Prentiss’ hand. She bit into it, her long fangs extended, going almost all the way through, then pulled it off and passed it back. Through the tiny window, Dave could see the bouncer’s craggy face illuminated by faint white light, as if from a computer screen. A few beeps could be heard as he manipulated the block under a small blue light.
“It’s fang ID recognition. Unique as fingerprints, and a lot harder to forge,” Emily murmured in explanation.
“Dave?” she asked, her voice so quiet she could barely be heard. “Unless you absolutely need to think you need to say otherwise, we have an exclusive contract, ok?”
He nodded, relieved. He certainly wasn’t intending to offer himself up tonight anyway, nor would Emily have asked him to, but the offer of exclusivity wasn’t something he would have asked for. It was a mark of claim that meant a closer relationship than either of them was willing to announce casually, even for a cover.
The door’s bolt slammed back, and Emily turned and waved Dave inside politely, neither making him follow like a lovelorn pet or letting him parade in front of her like he owned her. Appearances were extremely important now, and they both knew it. She stayed at his shoulder as they passed through the crooked hallway. To trap daylight, Dave remembered. No vampire-modified dwelling had an exterior door that opened directly onto any room.
Dave could smell incense and the faint floral scent he remembered from his last visit to a blood bar. In reaction to their clientele having to frequent slaughterhouses, blood bars never, ever smelled of their stock-in-trade. In this case, it smelled of lavender. Once out of the light-trap turn, the bar opened up to an intimate collection of plush chairs, soft, gauzy hangings that offered a bit of privacy, and the long bar of its name along the back wall, more well-supplied with water and juice for donors to rehydrate themselves than liquor.
A few groups of nervous donors sat in the chair-groups nearest the entrance, while others for whom this was clearly old hat sat farther in, calmly waiting for their regulars to show or new ones to take an interest. Dave thought he’d spotted a likely group to talk to when a vivacious petite blonde detached herself from the groups of vampires on the edges of the room and made a bee-line for them.
“Emily!” she enthused, her French accent immediately apparent. She embraced Prentiss joyfully, kissing her on each cheek without a hint of artifice, with blithe regard for her designer dress. One of Dave’s ex-wives had had a thing for couture dresses, and even if he couldn’t name the designer, he could tell it was expensive and genuine.
“Mon amie, it has been too long. How will I ever forgive you?”
“Like you always do, Marie,” Prentiss said, smiling.
“C’est impossible, this one,” Marie said, turning her dazzling smile on Dave without hesitation. “Marie Deveroux, in case Emily forgot to tell you. Welcome.” She hugged and kissed him with not a jot less warmth than she’d greeted Emily. Dave didn’t hesitate, and when she released him, captured her hand and dropped a kiss on the back of it. Marie flushed, dark enough that he could actually see it, showing she was very well-fed.
“Oh, how marvelous! A man with charm, true charm. I thought I’d left them behind in Paris! Do not take this the wrong way, but I almost want to nibble on you.” A wink and another dazzling smile, and Dave smiled back with the right amount of irony.
“I’m flattered. Your place is lovely.”
“As it should be. But I am unforgivable! Your name?” she asked, her hands fluttering, her gemmed jewelry sparkling in the light.
“Dave. David Rossi.”
“David! Oh yes.” Marie put a hand on Emily’s arm, seemingly delighted by them both.
“He’s a writer, Marie.”
“The name is familiar…” Marie trailed off, looking at Dave speculatively.
“I write true crime, mostly,” Dave offered.
“Ah, now I know where I’d heard it before! Forgive me, I found your books very scary. I could not finish them!”
“It’s not for everyone,” Dave said, slightly amused that a vampire would find anything frightening.
“But now that I know you, I shall have to try again. Emily can come over and keep me company if I get scared.” Marie clung onto Emily’s arm for a moment, very bright next to Emily’s black clothing and dark hair.
Dave allowed a very brief, very inappropriate fantasy to play in his mind’s eye before dragging his attention back to the here and now.
“And you, my dear?” Marie asked, looking up at Emily.
“His agent. I’m helping get the word out on the bad guys he writes about.”
“A most worthy goal, and one our keepers would approve. So, a private room, or just a table for two?”
“I’m actually doing a bit of research,” Dave said casually. “Would you mind if I ask a few questions of some of your patrons?”
Marie didn’t have to think for more than a second. “Of course! I shall kidnap Emily and catch up until you’re ready. Darling, you’re so pale, have you had anything today at all?”
“Just a bit of breakfast,” Emily admitted.
“Pah, you cannot skip meals. It is not healthy!” Marie’s eyes flickered over to Dave’s, flowing down his arm to his bracelet. He opened his mouth to make the offer when Emily interrupted him.
“If I could just get a pint, Marie, and I’ll feed later.”
“Sensible. I know my Emily.” With another smile at Dave, Marie linked her arm with Emily’s and tugged her off to her own table.
Dave took one second to pray for strength, and strolled up to his chosen table of potential donors.
Marie was fast, and had warm lamb’s blood, minutes from the vein, in Emily’s hand by the time she sat down. No typical slaughterhouse plastic tub either, instead she had a warmed crystal goblet, making feeding as elegant as drinking wine. Emily silently blessed her for making this feel civilized.
“So, this Dave, I like him,” Marie said without preamble. “He is good for you, trustworthy, handsome, and he loves you.”
Emily almost snorted blood up her nose in surprise. “Marie!” she sputtered indignantly. She’d almost forgotten how very candid Marie was. “We’re co-workers!”
“Business should be taken with pleasure, else why live life? Besides, you love him too, so all is well. I know how you wish equality, a partnership in your affairs.” She gestured broadly for emphasis, talking eloquently with her hands.
“Marie, I’m not in love with him, or him with me! I like him, and we’re friends-.”
“What is love but friendship caught fire? Emily, do not try and fool me that you are dead from the neck down. He cares for you. You gave him the bracelet.”
“It’s-.” Emily clamped her mouth down on a too-truthful explanation. “It’s awkward when he’s my Source.”
“Yet such things are very intimate. I love all my Sources, and they are in love with me, at least a little.”
“That’s you,” Emily said pointedly.
Marie leaned forward and grasped Emily’s free hand. “I am French, Emily. It is my prerogative, my sacred mission, to advice on matters of the heart. I am a lover. I listened to my own mother, all my relatives, my siblings, all of my children and their children. You know me, Emily. Believe me when I say these things.”
Emily finished her cup quickly and put it down before she could shatter it in her grip. Marie was right, at least in the fact that for love advice, she could have no better guide. Marie came from a huge family, and had received the virus when she’d died from complications from the birth of her fourth child. She was over eighty years old, and her family revered her. Marie was a poster child for vampiric success, and wise even beyond her years. It was the reason Emily had wanted to come here for the case. If she could trust anyone, she could trust Marie.
Still. “We’ve barely even-,” Emily protested.
“Oh, ma cherie. Such a long and lonely road we travel. It need not be so hard. God has sent you this man.” Emily’s mouth twisted, and Marie pressed a finger to her lips, smoothing them. The argument was one of old standing: Catholic doctrine held vampirism to be a perversion of God’s law. Those who were injected with the virus were excommunicated as a matter of course. Like all things forbidden, however, an underground existed. Vampire priests and worshippers had formed the Vampiric Catholic Church within two years of the ruling. But it didn’t take away the pain of being forbidden a community you’d been baptized into as a child.
“He has. You are loved, Emily.”
“I’m too well-loved, Marie.”
“Mon petite chou. You cannot blame your mother for wanting you to live. Nor yourself.”
Emily clutched Marie’s hand, and felt the understanding in her grip. “Am I a coward, Marie?”
“We are sinners, you and I. Guilty of lust and greed for life. But you cannot be a coward and choose this fate.”
“Thank you.” Emily could feel the warm rush of tears, and held them back, just barely.
Dave left Emily to her friend, knowing she’d steer the conversation around to the possible ghoul attacks eventually. He checked over the room, taking a moment to lurk and observe some of the people he hoped to talk to. It bothered him slightly that he was the oldest-looking person in the room, but he dismissed it as he approached a table of mid-level donors.
There were informal arrangements in any blood bar that were nevertheless rigidly enforced by the patrons. First-timers or infrequent donors were closest to the door, in the largest section. Those with more experience were towards the middle, some of whom bore collars or bracelets. Exclusive Sources were closest to the bar, their claim jewelry rich and prominent, when they chose to display it. As Dave watched, a black-haired male vampire joined the Sources briefly. A raven-haired woman quickly made excuses and walked off with him to a concealed alcove to feed. Dave felt a jolt of something as he let his eyes glance off of them and joined his chosen table.
“Hey,” he said in greeting, sitting in an empty chair.
A lithe brunette with her hair bobbed greeted him with a dimpled half-smile. “Hey. You’re new.” She was looking him over carefully, and spied the leather bracelet on his wrist. “Who’s yours?”
Dave had no reason to lie, and since it would look odd not to, nodded in Emily’s direction. The girl looked impressed.
“Wow. She’s really lovely.”
“Why not be nearer the bar? We’re kind of a tasting menu over here.”
Dave did not quite manage to cover either his laugh or his surprise.
The girl tossed her hair and giggled. “We thought of that one ourselves. They think it’s pretty funny.”
“I would too.”
“What brings you around?”
“I’m a writer. True crime novels.” Dave pulled a notepad and pen from his pocket as he talked, and the girl seemed to get his implication immediately.
“Ooo! Research. Sexy,” she said with a laugh. Unlike Marie, who was completely unconscious of her overwhelming charm, this girl was applying her skills with careful intent. Dave felt a bit bad she was doomed to disappointment.
“Dave,” he said quickly, before she could get sidetracked.
“Angelica. What are you looking for?”
“Any regular vampires stop coming in the last few months?”
She paused to think, raking her gaze over her table companions.
“Uh, Gavin moved to Minnesota, and Charlene’s in upper Alaska for the winter,” a stringy young man with flaming red hair offered. He looked too skinny to be a donor, but looks were often deceiving.
“Alaska?” Dave asked.
“Sunbird,” Angelica said. “Like a snowbird. Dark all winter up there.”
“Ah. But anyone just stopped showing up?”
“You know, Elise hasn’t been around in a while,” another donor offered. “But neither has Kyle, so I figured they were just moving in together.”
“Kyle’s a donor. He was angling to be a Source, so…” Angelica trailed off.
“Makes sense,” Dave said neutrally. “Is that what you’re all trying to do, become Sources?”
A few nodded, but a couple others shook their heads.
“I like variety. Having new people each time is fun. How’d you pick her? Or was it the other way around,” Angelica asked, nodding in Emily’s direction.
“We work together; she’s my agent. She asked if anyone at the office was willing, a few people said yes, including me, and she asked if I would be her Source.” That was close enough to the truth.
“Oh, she’s a brain-drainer,” Angelica said knowingly.
“A what?” Dave asked, his plan to work the conversation back around to the case completely sidetracked.
“Brain-drainer,” she repeated, and upon seeing his continuing confusion, giggled. “Wow you really don’t come to the bars very much, do you?”
“Last time I did, jelly shoes were all the rage. Would you mind explaining?” Dave wasn’t above exaggerating his ignorance if it would throw the kids off-guard. Besides, he was interested.
“Vampires are all ‘you are what you eat.’ Who they drink from matters. If they want to be more of something, they drink from the right people. You get beauty queens.” She nodded at some vampires at a table of exceptionally attractive people. “Jocks.” This group was heavily muscled men and women. “Swifts.” Thin and fit individuals, runners or gymnasts made up the table Angelica nodded toward. “Or porn stars.” The last group was the largest, a languid table of men and women dressed to kill, all their assets on frank display. “There aren’t too many brain-drainers here. You see them more around college towns.”
“I guess I’m lucky,” Dave said blandly. “What do you consider yourself?”
“Oh, I usually get picked by porn stars,” she said, catching the eye of a vampire lurking near their table. Angelica deliberately took a deep breath, deepening her cleavage as the short, blonde-haired man came within talking distance.
“Good evening,” he said solemnly, his face pale even in the dim lighting.
“Are you wanting one person, or a tasting?” Angelica said, taking control of the table by unspoken assent. Dave gathered the others here knew her well.
The vampire’s eyes brightened. “A tasting would be very nice. Everyone here?”
The others nodded, but Dave stood up. “I was just visiting. Excuse me.” The vampire looked surprised and a little disappointed, but didn’t impede Dave’s leaving. As he walked away, he saw the vampire pull out a feeding card for the table to sign, both for consent purposes and to deposit money into their accounts. The second Angelica had flashed her donor card and signed her name, she held her wrist up, and the vampire fell on it, fangs extended. A brief expression of pain crossed Angelica’s face before relaxing into a smile.
Dave took a quick, steadying breath as he walked away.
He’d lied to Angelica; he’d been at blood bars more recently than the eighties. His last time had actually been on a book tour a couple of years ago. One of the cases in his book had included Garrison Hobbs, the Smithtown Slasher, who preferred to kill donors. Dave had been part of the team that had brought him in, and Dave had attracted more than a few vampire fans from that case.
What he’d told Emily was true; he originally gone to blood bars as research for that case. But he’d kept going back. Not every night. No even every week, but a few times a year he’d gone. The money was neither small potatoes, nor overwhelming, except to those on the edge of desperation; twenty five dollars for a tasting, fifty for a feeding. Sources received more, being as they were on-call, but that was negotiable. No, he’d gone because he’d found it interesting, and yes, pleasurable.
Retirement had only been so amusing, and keeping up on vampire culture was important. Werewolves were far more dangerous and difficult to infiltrate—better to ask vampire friends about them than go yourself. So he’d justified his interest with “research,” building a database of information, a kind of shorthand of vampire culture, that he’d shared with the Bureau. He enjoyed the whole process, talking with other potential donors, short discussions with vampires before and after feeding, and the feeding itself. If vampires hadn’t figured out how to make draining feel good, they wouldn’t have gotten any donors but the most desperate or altruistic.
Dave scanned the bar and found another mixed table, this one fortifying themselves with food and drink in a post-feed feast, and wandered by to make another introduction.
Emily sighed as she dabbed away the remains of her tears. Her picking this blood bar hadn’t been on a whim. Not only was Marie plugged into the local community and culture deep enough that she would be a font of information, the older woman had a wealth of wisdom Emily instinctively trusted. Finding good advice was hard, and Emily freely admitted that if Hotchner hadn’t sanctioned this trip, she would have gone anyway on her own time.
“What weighs on you, Emily? You do not come to visit me on a whim, ever,” Marie said, her strong grasp on Emily’s hand not abating.
“There have been some attacks in the surrounding area recently. The police are looking into it, from what I know. But the rumors are possible ghoul attacks.”
Marie started, looking shocked. “Surely not!”
“Have any vampires gone missing recently? Left town under odd circumstances? Any donors you had to evict, or who were acting strangely?”
Marie paused to think. “I have had two vampires move away; one had her Source go with her. There have been a few visiting vampires, about a half-dozen regular donors have changed their routines, and of course we always get new people.”
“A half-dozen regulars?” Emily asked, aghast.
“Not like that! Three were college students who went back to school, one was a donor as a part-time job and didn’t need it anymore, another moved, and the sixth got pregnant.”
All legitimate enough reasons, but still… “Could I get their names?” Emily asked.
Marie signaled to one of her staff, spoke a few words, and sent the man walking back to the office. She then turned shook her head slowly.
“You are no literary agent, Emily.” That was said with simple conviction.
No point in hiding anymore, then. Marie was too clever, and Emily might get more information out of her with the truth. “I’m a profiler with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.”
“Ah. And Dave is not retired from being an agent.”
“These attacks, Emily, tell me about them.”
Emily quickly outlined the case, saving the names, with a care for vampiric hearing, and Marie shuddered.
“Horrible. And this person is doing this on purpose?”
“That’s the theory.”
“You think it is someone I know?”
“I hope not Marie, but people like this… They hide who they are very well.”
“From his neighbors, perhaps. Not from us,” Marie said sharply. “I know a true ghoul when I smell one.”
“I have a colleague who can smell one a block away, but we have to know where to start looking.”
“A block away? Oh, you have a werewolf on your team?” Marie sounded delightfully scandalized, despite the seriousness of the situation.
“Yeah, Morgan. He’s very sharp,” Emily said.
“It is terrible to ask, but have you…?” Marie’s eyebrows went up suggestively.
“Marie, no!” Emily said, shaking her head.
Marie smiled, then sobered. “Emily, I truly cannot think of anyone who was acting strangely, but I will think, and call you, yes?” The list of donor names had come back from the office, and Marie stood up to hand them to Emily.
Emily passed her card to Marie, accepting another tight embrace.
“Thank you,” she said softly.
“Anytime, ma cherie.”
Turning from Marie, Emily left to find Dave. Looking across the bar, she saw Dave extracting himself from another group of donors, leaving behind a card with his number on it. Emily tasted the leftover tang of lamb’s blood on her tongue as she caught his eye and steered them both towards a private alcove, subtly deadened to reduce the noise of the bar outside.
“Find anything?” she asked.
“A few possible donors who’ve left for apparently greener pastures, and a few absent vampires,” he said.
“Same here, though Marie says she’ll call if she remember anything. Hopefully Garcia will find a connection with the names we do have.”
“I hope so,” Dave said, and then his expression turned mischievous. “I also found out about the difference between beauty queens, porn stars, and brain drainers.”
Emily was startled into a hearty laugh. “Sorry Dave, I guess you know I just want you for your body.”
Dave grinned in response, but he could see the hint of something more in Emily’s eyes, and it killed the joke. He quickly sat down in the padded chair provided, and could actually feel heat from Emily when she sat down next to him. She automatically reached for his wrist, but Dave just tilted his head to the side, baring his throat. He heard Emily’s breath catch, then her warm fall of black hair spilled over his shirt as she descended upon him.