Stones Unturned CHAPTER TWO

Eve let the music of the dance club fill her, the rhythmic pulse of the loud, techno beat acting as a kind of surrogate heartbeat. It wasn't anything like having the real thing, throbbing around inside your chest, but in her situation, it would have to suffice.

It was hot inside Sultan's, the hottest new club on Lansdowne Street. Three hundred or so sweaty bodies moved to the music on the dance floor, and she was in the middle, pretending she was one of them, acting like she belonged. And for moments, here and there, as she allowed herself to get caught up in the music, she could almost believe.

But eventually something would come along to screw it up. Something always did.

Eve saw him across the room, an island of absolute stillness in a turbulent sea of gyrating bodies, and he was watching. She closed her eyes, wanting to lose herself in the pulsing beat, wanting to be part of this microcosm of humanity, even if it was just for a little while. Maybe he'd go away if she ignored him.

"You dance beautifully," said a cold, soft voice that somehow managed to be heard even over the blare of the club's sound system.

She opened her eyes to see that he was closer, less than two feet away. Eve doubted that the others could see him, but they still gave him space as he moved across the dance floor, unknowingly moving out of his path.

Jophiel. He was part of the heavenly host, one of the Cherubim. Eve had not seen him since they had run into one another at a symposium in Tel Aviv on the forgotten books of the Old Testament. That had been five years ago, and the time before that . . .

Eve turned her back to him and tried to lose herself in the moment, hoping the physical act of dancing would keep the painful fragments of her memory at bay. It did not. In her mind's eye she saw Jophiel as she had the first time, so very, very long ago, wearing armor that seemed forged of the sun, brandishing a sword of fire. The beating of his powerful wings as he chased them out of the Garden had sounded like the end of the world.

And in a way, that was precisely what it had been.

"What do you want?" she asked the angel, continuing to dance.

Several people around her shot confused glances in her direction - obviously believing she was talking to them - and they moved away, allowing Jophiel to glide closer.

"It amuses me to see you here - among them." The angel smiled, and it was the most hideous thing she had ever seen. "What would they say, do you think, if they knew?"

Eve turned her back on him, directing her attention to a darkly handsome college guy dancing with an attractive blonde. It only took about a second for him to notice her. He danced closer, leaving the blonde to continue her dance alone.

"If they understood . . . truly understood who you are, and what you and your mate stole from them . . ." Jophiel whispered in her ear.

The angel's mere presence sickened her, dredged up within her all of the terror and anguish of her existence. All the regret. All the pain. Ignoring him simply wasn't going to work.

Eve continued dancing, but, masking the motion as part of her gyrations, she shot her elbow back hard, gauging the distance so that she would hit the angel's face. She'd anticipated a satisfying crunch. Fully manifested, angels could be hurt. They healed quickly, but it would still feel good to shatter Jophiel's nose or cheekbone.

The angel wasn't there. Her elbow shot backward, and she danced into its momentum. As she turned, she realized that she had nearly struck a heavyset bald man with glasses, who seemed oblivious to how close he had just come to dying. With her strength, that elbow would have shattered his skull.

Eve had no idea what had made Jophiel so obsessed with her. The angel took it upon himself to track her down every few centuries to remind her of the magnitude of her sins, as though he worried that she might, even for a moment, forget the horror she had caused and have a day or an hour without the weight of the world's guilt on her shoulders.

Really, he was just a whiny little shit.

As if she could ever forget who she was and what she had done. There were nights when the wind was just right and the sky clear and pure that she could close her eyes and still taste the sweetness of the forbidden fruit on her tongue and lips.

The original sin. The original crime. Yes, she was guilty. But she was just a toy, a puppet trapped in a tug-of-war between the Creator and Old Scratch. The Creator should have trusted her. If He'd not made her so ignorant, she would have known better than to fall for the serpent's lies.

Now here Jophiel was to remind her again, and all she wanted to do was scream at the angel and tear out his eyes. Hadn't she suffered enough? Driven out of the Garden, raped and tainted, turned into a monster. When was it enough? She was the mother of men and the mother of all vampires, but she had never wanted to be either. She had been innocent and desired nothing but the feel of her man beside her and the warmth and sunshine of the Garden.

Eve was Forsaken. That much was clear. The Creator would take no responsibility for the soul-destroying evils that had befallen her, turned her into what she had become. For so long afterward - after the demons had used her up and cast her out and she had become this thing - she had been a mad, ravenous thing, spreading the plague of vampirism. Now she did her best to eradicate it from the world, to destroy the monsters who were her children. She wanted - needed - to redeem herself, not in the Creator's eyes, but in her own.

And if that meant the Creator would forgive her, would open His arms and gates and let her in, all the better. That way, she could look into His eyes and ask why he had forsaken her.

Someday, she would know.

The Cherubim stood five feet away beneath a spinning disco ball, his eerily pallid features bathed in reflections of colored light.

"Could their simple little minds even grasp the enormity of what you stole - that you took Paradise from them?" Jophiel asked.

She locked eyes with him, allowing the intensity of the hate she felt for him, and for herself, to travel across the crowded floor.

Jophiel smiled then, and she knew that this time it was indeed an expression of pleasure, for he'd gotten exactly what he'd wanted from her - exactly what he came for.

The angel slowly bowed his head and turned to disappear into the sea of bodies. She considered going after him, plowing through the dancers, fangs bared, but managed to restrain herself. The bastard would've probably enjoyed a tussle, not thinking twice about unleashing his full angelic fury on her among the club's patrons.

Eve seethed, her body trembling from the anger she was keeping bottled inside. No longer dancing, she had faltered at Jophiel's words and now could only stare at the place where the angel had been. Thanks to him, she could not stay here. Eve often took pleasure in losing herself among humanity, reveling in the scents of their blood and sweat, the sounds of their laughter. If she could sweat and bleed and laugh with them, then for a little while, she could feel human.

Jophiel had taken that away.

The music no longer made her feel alive. Eve started to move through the dancers toward the exit, only to feel two hands grab hold of her waist from behind, pulling her back. Her first instinct was to spin around, to use her claws to rip the flesh of whoever dared to touch her, but she pulled back.

Conan Doyle would have been so very proud of her restraint.

The handsome college boy that she'd lured away from his blond dance partner grinned at her lasciviously, hands still clutching her hips, pulling her toward him.

And Eve allowed it.

Lost in her remorse, she let the drunken young guy - she could smell the stink of alcohol seeping from his pores - hold on to her like she was just another party favor. A toy. But she had been treated that way since the dawn of Creation, so why stop it now?

Cute guy pulled her toward him, his lips mashing against hers in a hungry kiss. And she responded, grinding against him as they kissed, there upon the dance floor.

Desperate to abandon her anger and sorrow, she used the touch and taste of the boy to forge it into lust. Eve found herself inflamed with a nearly overpowering, animal desire. They continued to kiss, their mouths locked hungrily together, and she found it more and more difficult to keep the animal under control. The beast. The monster. She could feel his heartbeat against her chest, the hardness of him through his pants as he rubbed against her leg.

Eve couldn't stand it anymore. Desperate for some kind of release, she allowed the beast in her to surge forward.

The young man yelped, pulling away from her hungry mouth, a crimson trickle running from his lip, down his chin, from where she had nipped him.

His blood in her mouth tasted of lust, and it made her hungry for more. There was a spark of fear in the young man's eyes, which only served to arouse her more. She grabbed his hand in hers, roughly pulling him toward the darkness at the back of the club.

Where they could be alone.

Danny had returned to the rooftops, the pursuit of his prey easier above the streets, where he could leap from roof to roof.

He was truly amazed and thrilled at the distance he found himself able to cross in a single jump. The horrifying changes in his body had altered him in so many ways, but not all of them were bad. He liked the way his senses were so much stronger, his eyes keener. He liked the strength and speed that came with being whatever he really was. If the track coach back at Newton South could have seen him now, he'd have been amazed.

Once he finished screaming.

The thought made Danny laugh. He threw back his head and howled gleefully as he leaped from one roof to the next, a dark blur in the air above the cars roaring along the street below. Then the laughter was gone, and bitter hatred returned. He snarled as he thought of the coach. Making him scream would be such a pleasure.

Yeah, I'm scholarship material for sure, Danny thought as he ran and then jumped again. He hurtled through the air above Mt. Vernon Street, landing with a roll on a rooftop patio, its furniture tied and covered for the cruelty of the coming New England winter.

The farther he moved away from Mr. Doyle's townhouse, the more varied the scents of the city became, but he could still smell her drifting on the cold, night air - could still smell her flow. He had the scent in his nostrils now, and it was like a beacon, flashing in the darkness. All he had to do was follow it.

Danny had calmed a bit in his travels from Louisburg Square, the intensity of his anger diminishing with activity. He really didn't understand why he was chasing the couple. It just seemed like the thing he had to do at the time. He thought about going home, but decided against it. What was he going to do there? He was too worked up to sleep, and there was nothing but crap on television at this hour, and besides, he was enjoying being out - enjoying the whole adventure of the hunt.

The noise of a door coming open snapped him from his thoughts, and he reacted instinctively. Danny took a step backward, reaching out to take hold of a shadow thrown by a plastic storage shed, drawing it around him like a cloak, and hiding in the darkness. He'd nearly forgotten about this unique talent, but his instincts said otherwise. It wasn't the first time. It seemed as if his brain had somehow been broken down into two parts, the one half that had accepted the gradual transformation into something less than human and all that it entailed, and the other half, which was still kind of in a state of shock - wondering what was waiting for him around the next corner.

A kid no older than Danny came out onto the roof with three of his friends - two girls and a guy. None of them were wearing coats, and he watched as they all pulled the sleeves of their shirts down over their hands trying to keep them warm.

Why don't you just go and get your coats, dumb asses? he thought watching from his cocoon of shadow.

The girls were cute, but seemed a little young, and it was obvious that the guys were attempting to show off, maybe hoping to get a little something, he guessed. Danny could smell alcohol as they chattered among themselves. He figured whichever one lived in the building, the parents had gone out for the evening, making the liquor cabinet fair game. He listened as they talked about school and some kind of big winter dance, and also how somebody by the name of Darlene Golland was a whore.

One of the guys, the kid Danny figured actually lived in the building, moved suddenly toward him, dangerously close, and Danny felt a spike of panic. Had he been seen?

Danny watched the boy go to the storage shed, open the door, and start to rummage around inside. He emerged with a pack of cigarettes and returned to the friends with his prize. Eagerly they each accepted, the other guy lighting the smokes for them all with a disposable lighter he pulled from the back pocket of his baggy jeans.

He wanted to leave, bored, but at the same time he was fascinated with how ordinary it all was. How long had it been since he had shared a similarly ordinary moment? How long since he'd just been able to relax and be a normal kid?

Jealousy burned in him.

They continued to smoke their cigarettes, talking about nothing really - video games, the new cell phones that they wanted their parents to get for them, what they would be doing then if one of them had a car. It was all so mundane, but it made him hungry for it. He wanted this, a chance to be like them again, to be nothing more than a stupid kid who thought he knew everything.

It just wasn't possible for him anymore. And that really pissed him off.

One of the girls - a skinny little thing with pink streaks through her short, black hair - took a camera phone out of a tiny Lenore lunchbox she carried and started snapping digital pictures of her friends. They were all acting like goofs, making faces and hanging all over one another.

Danny felt the nearly overpowering urge to rip the concealing cover of shadow away.

But then what? a small voice inside his head asked.

More disturbing images, much too real for his liking, appeared in his mind. He saw himself emerging from the shadows, attacking the boys first, ripping them apart with his bare hands. They would be no match for him, of course, and the girls would be screaming at the top of their lungs, right up until he ripped their throats out. And, damn, what he would do with them afterward...

He felt like he was going to throw up, crouched there under the cover of shadow. It took everything he had, but Danny held it together long enough for the teens to finally get too cold and leave the rooftop patio, heading back down to the warmth of an apartment below.

Danny emerged from the shadows a trembling wreck. He didn't like these kinds of thoughts, and the fact that they were happening more and more frequently was freaking him out. It was definitely time for him to go home.

He leaped from the roof out into space, the cold wind rushing past his face as descended to the next building. It won't take long to get back to Doyle's, he thought, preparing to leap again out across the void that separated the structures.

But even as he leaped across the rooftops of Beacon Hill, heading toward the brownstone he now called home, he sensed something. Danny felt less and less comfortable in the human world every day. Now, though, he had the overwhelming feeling that there was someplace else, completely unlike this world, quite close by. It was as though if he just turned down the right alley, or went through the right door and just the right time, it would be there waiting for him.

Then, as quickly as he'd sensed it, it was gone, leaving him with a painful yearning for a world he did not know, and yet, strangely enough, felt like home.

The pretty college boy fancied himself a tough guy.

Eve let him have this belief, allowing herself to be thrown roughly up against the metal wall inside the toilet stall in the men's bathroom. It must have been the nip she'd given him, pissing him off. The wound was still bleeding, the taste of blood on his lips arousing her all the more each time they kissed.

The men's bathroom: what a pig, she thought, going with the flow of the situation, even though a bit disgusted. This wasn't about romance and love. This was about being down and dirty, and she couldn't get more down and dirty than this.

College Boy shoved his hand roughly up under her shirt, almost tearing the black silk blouse that she'd paid five hundred dollars for on Newbury Street late that afternoon. Eve pulled his hand away. The guy was fumbling, and she was more than happy to help him get her undressed.

Then he struck her.

The slap was sudden and vicious, knocking her head to one side. It didn't hurt her, but the shock of the attack . . . her cheek stung with the impression of his hand.

The fucker smiled and for the first time, beneath the drunken college boy demeanor she sensed a predatory thrill coming off of him. This was what he liked - what turned him on. It was all about the control. She had dared to take charge, to pull his hand away. He wanted her to know who was in charge. She almost felt bad about what a rude awakening he was in for.

But not really.

Curious as to where he would take this next, she continued to stare, playing up the fact that she'd been startled by his sudden violence. She could practically see him growing harder as he reached out and grabbed hold of her blouse - her five hundred dollar blouse - and tore it open.

The sound of pearl buttons bouncing off the tile floor was the final straw. He threw himself at her, groping for her exposed breasts. The lust in her turned to rage, but no matter the emotion at the moment, Eve was looking for some release.

She pushed him away, slammed him against the locked stall door. Fire erupted in the young man's eyes, the sneer of surprised anger spreading across bloodstained lips. He lashed out at her again within the confined space, but she was ready this time.

Eve caught his wrist.

"So you like to play rough?"

With a twist, she snapped it like a breadstick.

The sound of breaking bone was surprisingly loud, and satisfying. The acoustics in the bathroom were quite good.

The fire left College Boy's eyes, replaced by the glint of intense agony. Eve could see that he was going to scream, but that wouldn't do. She grabbed for the toilet paper holder, ripped what remained of the roll off the spindle with a powerful tug, and crammed it deeply into the his mouth.

"Bet I play rougher."

He drove his shoulder into her, attempting to knock her back against the stall, but she refused to move. The poor bastard bounced off of her as if he weighed nothing at all.

"That all you got?" she asked.

Fear mixed with the stink of alcohol wafted from his sweating flesh. He stumbled backward, his good hand going to his mouth, as the other dangled limply by his side, frantically trying to remove the roll of toilet paper blocking his screams.

"You don't want to do that," she purred with a slight shake of her head.

He ignored her suggestion, pulling the wad of spit-soaked two-ply from his mouth and turning toward the door, his good hand fumbling at the lock.

"Help!" he managed to shriek, but nobody was listening. The bathroom was empty, and anybody standing nearby would have been made deaf by the blaring music inside the club.

With taloned hands she gripped his curly brown hair. Eve yanked his head back fiercely and then slammed it hard against the graffiti-marred door.

"Not sure what you're used to, Charlie," she growled in his ear, allowing his head to turn ever so slightly so he could get a good look at her.

The stink of urine, as her potential lover let his bladder void, filled the cramped space of the stall. She knew he was likely to scream again and didn't want to hear it. Eve leaned in close, bringing her razor sharp incisors close to the man's neck, and took a fold of the loose flesh of his throat into her teeth.

"Another sound from you," she whispered close to his ear. "And I'll take the biggest bite I can without thinking twice."

She felt her stomach rumble hungrily as her body started to believe that she was about to feed. And oh, how she would have liked to. Murdering the little shit would feel good, and fresh, hot blood sliding down her throat and coursing through her body would light her whole body up like the longest, greatest orgasm in the world. She remembered it all too well, and longed for it every moment with an ex-junkie's ardor.

But murder and blood wouldn't do anything to assuage her sadness and remorse. Jophiel had stirred it all up in her tonight, and her hatred burned inside her like a tiny sun. Now if it had been him pressed up against the stall door, maybe she would've changed her mind.

She hadn't had a meal of angel's blood in a very long time.

But this sadistic fuck wasn't worth her time.

Eve left College Boy lying in a puddle of his own piss on the floor of the bathroom stall, shaking and crying like a baby, praying for God to forgive him and swearing that he wouldn't hurt anyone ever again.

Her blouse was open as she made her way out of the club, the buttons still lying on the floor of the men's room. She gave the dancers an occasional shot of the girls as she strolled toward one of the fire exits. Eve could feel their eyes upon her as she passed, but nobody dared approach her. It was almost as if they could sense her difference now, some primordial mechanism in the brain warning them to keep their distance, which was probably a good thing.

She was no longer in the mood.

Stepping out of the club into a back alley, she reveled in the touch of the cold night air on her exposed flesh. Eve looked down at her blouse, considering whether or not it was possible to salvage, but noticed some of the delicate material had been torn where the buttons had once been.

"Shit," she muttered under her breath. She'd really liked this shirt. She was considering going back inside to the men's bathroom to scare the little puke some more, and maybe relieve him of five hundred dollars, when the feeling hit her.

It was as though a wave of unease had just passed over her. The hairs on the back of her neck rose to attention, and goosebumps rippled her cold, undead skin. An awful, high-pitched sound came to her on the wind, and she turned to stare at a dumpster at the far end of the alley, where a commotion had erupted.

Rats - what seemed to be hundreds of them - swarmed and hissed and tore at one another. The fighting vermin resembled a single, writhing entity of grayish black fur and multiple, hairless tails. They were all screeching as one, tearing and biting at each other, a puddle of expanding red collecting beneath the undulating mass they had become.

"What's this all about?" she whispered to the night, walking from the alley out onto Lansdowne Street. Eve sniffed at the air, searching for the scent of whatever it was that had just passed by. She glanced back down the alley to see that the ground was covered in blood and pieces of dead rat. The swarming had ceased, the survivors scuttling into the shadows.

A hint of something nasty lingered in the air, but before she had a chance to try to identify it, the feeling and the scent were gone.
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