Vampire Games

By: J. R. Rain

(Vampire for Hire #6)

Chapter One

Judge Judy was letting this online con artist know what a scumbag he was—and I was loving every minute of it—when my doorbell rang. I nearly ignored it. Nearly. I mean, she was so very close to having this guy in tears.

Except I knew this was a client at the door. And clients paid the bills.

I reluctantly clicked off the show, set aside the Windex bottle and rag I had forgotten I was holding, and headed for the front door. As I did so, I instinctively reached up for the pair of Oakley wraparound sunglasses that were no longer there. My next conditioned movement was to check my arms and face and hands for sunscreen—which wasn’t there, either.

Wasn’t there, and wasn’t needed.

That is, not since I’d donned the emerald medallion two weeks ago. A medallion that had literally changed my life. A medallion that, curiously, no longer existed.

Two weeks ago, shortly after watching my first sunrise in seven years, I had reached down for the medallion, only to discover it was missing. Left behind had been a disc-shaped burn in my skin and the empty leather strap that had been holding the medallion.

Fang had thought my body absorbed the medallion. I had thought that sounded crazy as hell. Fang had reminded me that a skin-absorbing medallion was actually one of the least-craziest things to happen to me in seven years.

Now, two weeks later, there still remained a faint outline of the medallion on my upper chest, seared into my skin.

I’m such a weirdo, I thought, and settled for reaching up and checking on my hair. Since mirrors were still out of the question, I had become a master at feeling my way through a good hair day. At least, I hoped they were good hair days.

As I stood before the front door, a lingering trepidation remained. After all, sunlight had been my enemy for so many years.

You can do this, I thought.

And I did. I opened the front door wide as sunlight splashed in. Brilliant sunlight. Splashing over me, but my skin felt...nothing. I felt nothing, and that was the greatest feeling of all.

No searing pain. No gasping sounds. No stumbling around and covering my eyes. No shrinking like a monster from the light of the day.

Such a weirdo.

Maybe. But now, not so weird.

Thank God.

Today, I was wearing torn jeans and a cute blouse, a sleeveless blouse, no less. Most importantly, I wasn’t wearing multiple layers of clothing or one of my epic sunhats. Or satellite dishes, as a client had once called them.

It was just me. And that felt good. Damned good.

The man standing in the doorway was smaller than I expected. He was wearing a Chicago Bulls tank top and basketball shorts and high-top sneakers. He looked like he might have just stepped off the courts or raided a Foot Locker. The detailed tattoos that ran up and down his arms—and even along his neck—seemed to tell a story about something, although I couldn’t puzzle it out at first blush.

“Russell?” I said.

“That’s me,” he said softly. “You must be Ms. Moon.”

He dipped his head in a way that I found adorable. The dip was part greeting, part submission, and partly to let me know that he came in peace. We shook hands and I led him to my office in the back of my house, passing Anthony’s empty room along the way. Well, not entirely empty. A pair of his white briefs sat in the middle of the floor, briefs that had seen better—and whiter—days. I reached in and quickly shut the door before my client got a good look at the mother of all skid marks.

Superman had Lex Luthor. Batman had the Joker. I had Anthony’s skid marks.

Once safe in my office, I showed Russell to one of my client chairs and took a seat behind my cluttered desk.

“So, what can I do for you, Russell?” I asked.

“Jacky says you might be able to help me.”

“Jacky, the boxing trainer?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Jacky say anything else?”

“Only that you are a freak of nature.”

I grinned. “He’s always thought highly of me. What kind of help do you need?”

He looked at me. Straight in the eye. He held my gaze for a heartbeat or two, then said, “Somebody died accidentally...except I don’t think it was an accident.”

I nodded and did a quick psychic scan of the young man sitting before me. I sensed a heavy heart. Pain. Confusion. I sensed a lot of things. Most important, I did not sense that he was a killer.

“Tell me about it,” I said.