Authors: A. L. Kessler
Tags: #vampires, #werewolves, #shifters, #Magic, #demons, #dark fantasy
“Whoa there kitty, calm down.” Derrik held his hands up. “Just me. Didn’t mean to startle you.”
Kass took a deep breath. “Sorry, sore from a fight, don’t want people touching me.”
“I see the limp you had is gone.”
“The blessing of being a shifter. So, here I am, you want me bartending tonight?” She crossed her arms.
He laughed. “Let me show you around the club first and then we’ll get you set up at the bar for tonight. I’m assuming you know how to mix and serve drinks.”
“Yeah, one of the many things I’m trained in.” She rolled her eyes. “What’s with the thump thump music?”
He shrugged. “Not a fan?”
“It screws with my senses. I can’t really tell if anyone is around me, not something I can afford right now.” She sighed.
He motioned for her to follow him. “It’s quieter in the bar area.” He shrugged and then pointed to an area blocked off with a chain link fence. “That’s the DJ booth.” He waved to the guy in the booth.
“The dance floor covers most of the lower area, and the bar is back here. Keep up if you can, Kitty.” Derrik started weaving through the massive swaying crowd.
Kass cursed as she tried to follow him. She bent and strained to avoid touching people, but still some brushed against her or tried to dance with her. She shoved at them and growled at the wolf when she got to the other side. “I’m not a crowd kind of girl.”
“I needed to see how you would handle it.” He shrugged. “Make sure you wouldn’t shift if you got too overwhelmed.”
She raised a brow. “My cat will stay put. Lucius wouldn’t have sent me if he didn’t think I could do the job.”
“Lucius is a very strange vampire and will often do things that don’t make sense to anyone. Like stripping a shifter of their control.” He walked up a few steps that led to a raised part of the floor that housed the bar. The four sided bar held three bartenders rushing to keep up with the hordes swarming around them.
“This is the bar, it’s twice as big as the one you’re used to, but it has a person serving on every side to keep up with the demands. Well, once you start working, that is.”
Kass saw one of the female bartenders push a portion of the bar and walk through. “This is actually amazing, nothing like Lucius’ bar.”
“His bar only caters to supernatural creatures. This one is well known to the public, and it’s a safe place for all creatures. Remember that.”
Something in his voice made Kass turn to him. “A safe place?”
“A place of protection. We help new shifters, we help new vampires and people in hard places.” He shrugged and walked towards the bar.
Kass spotted a black door tucked in the back. “And in there?” She asked, pointing at it.
“The basement.” His said and waved a hand to dismiss it.
She wanted to push but thought better of it. None of her business. “All right, so I guess I’ll serve drinks for the night and try to enjoy myself.” Derrik had been right, the music was softer at the bar, but the beat still echoed off the walls and shook the floor. Her senses wouldn’t settle and her panther felt like it was pacing. She wrapped her arms around herself as the only word that came to mind was trapped.
“Yeah, you’ll be working with Coran for tonight. He’ll take you to the office to get some paperwork done.”
Derrik looked at her. “Yeah, so we can pay you.” He paused. “Lucius doesn’t pay you?”
“No, he doesn’t. He provides me with everything so I really have no need for money. I guess it’s a perk?”
“You don’t sound too sure. I’m not going to have you working here for free, despite the fact that I begged you off of Lucius.” He laughed.
She sighed. “One problem. I don’t legally exist, I was killed two years ago.”
“Trust me, we deal with that a lot more than you think. Don’t worry about it, Kass. Relax a little, I’m not trying to screw you over or anything. Talk to Coran, serve some drinks, and enjoy the music.”
Kass crossed her arms as Derrik waved someone over to them. The man towered over her and she closed her eyes at the buzzing energy surrounding him that pegged him as a shifter. “Coran?”
He nodded. “The one and only, sweetie.” There was a slight accent to the growl of his voice, the rumble causing her cat to stand on edge.
She rubbed her chest and sighed. “Great, let’s go do paperwork so I can get this night over with.”
Coran led her to a room off to one side of the bar. She leaned on the desk while she watched him pace. “You don’t like small rooms, do you?”
“No, I don’t. I don’t like the fact that you are here either. I don’t like any of this damned mess.” He snapped and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Look, all I need to do is get your information on where we send money to for the hours you are putting in. We don’t worry about social security crap here, cause half the employees don’t have that.”
She frowned at his accent. “Including you?”
“None of your business.” He paused and pulled out a pen and paper from a drawer. “Here, info. Now.”
“Demanding little shifter aren’t you?” She said and wrote down her phone number and the address to Lucius’ place.
He growled again, this time sounding more like an animal. “You want a lesson in shifters, Kassity?”
The way he said her name made her cringe. “Please, call me Kass. What lesson do you want to give me, because trust me, I’ve learned most of them the hard way.”
“Have you ever dealt with an immortal?” He asked, meeting her gaze as her eyes widened. “Take that as a no.” He started to undo the top buttons of his blue shirt and she backed up. “Calm down, just want to show you something.” He exposed an intricate looking tattoo that scrolled across his chest.
She resisted running her fingers over it. “That’s what the mark looks like?”
“A gift from the gods, they say.” He shrugged and buttoned his shirt back up. “My life is different from yours, so do not mock me, do not joke about not existing.”
She shook her head. “Different yes, but I don’t exist either. Lucius faked my death a couple years back to save me from my family.”
“Family? You had to be saved from your family?” He raised a brow. “And Lucius is the better alternative? Man, that’s harsh.” He laughed.
She raised a brow. “You could at least extend the same respect to me. I don’t like being laughed at.”
“Right. Sorry.” He snickered and picked up her paper. “I’ve known Lucius for a long time now, and he’s...well, he’s tough, but he takes care of his people.”
“He’s got a funny way of taking care of people.” She snorted. “Are we done here? I’d like to get to work.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll show you the ropes and then you can get to work.”
She followed him out of the room, watching him. Never having met an immortal, she wanted to ask him about his life, but the glare he gave her cut down her curiosity. Spotting Jax talking to one of the other bartenders, she froze. “Well, fuck.”
“Such language from a lady.” Coran laughed. “You know the cat then?”
She snorted. “Yeah, I know the cat.”
Jax looked up as Kass walked to the bar with Coran. “Do you make a habit of working at different places?”
“Do you make a habit of showing up on nights that I’m working?” She gave an exaggerated look around. “At least we’re not in an alley this way and you don’t have me pinned to the wall.” Kass’ panther stirred at her statement, excited at the thought of Jax pinning them.
Jax shrugged. “Everyone knows about this bar, I didn’t know you worked here.” He grinned. “When did you start?”
“Tonight.” She looked to Coran for help.
The immortal smirked. “Take a break.”
She groaned. “I just started though.”
“Don’t care. Go.”
Jax grinned. “I’ll buy you a drink, and we’ll go talk in the back.”
Jax watched as Kass hung her head and exited the square bar. “Come on, it’s not going to be that bad. I just want to talk for a bit.”
“So you did know I was going to be here.” Her eyes snapped up to his and he sighed.
“No, I didn’t, but now that you are here and Lucius and his other blood suckers aren’t hanging around I’d like to talk.” He raised a brow. “What’s your poison?”
She hesitated for a moment, and he wondered what she was thinking. “Mudslide.”
“Fancy, eh?” He turned to order the drinks. The female bartender let her fingers brush and linger on Jax’s hand. He turned away without acknowledging her advance and handed Kass her drink. “ Shall we go to the back?”
“Yeah.” To his surprise she brushed past him and led him up to the next raised platform.
He pulled out his chair and sat down. The beat of the music faded away and the floor steadied under their feet. He watched as she sat down and took a hesitant drink. “What’s on your mind?”
“I don’t like this.”
His panther shot up at the thought of an unhappy female. “What? Having a drink with me? Have you never had a guy buy you anything?” He leaned back in his chair.
She shook her head. “You showing up, me working here, the attack last night-“ She paused, paling as the words bubbled out of her mouth.
He leaned forward, trying to conceal his panic. The panther inside him longed to jump across the table and comfort her. “Attack? What the hell happened? You were unharmed when I left you in the alley.”
“There was a panther there that attacked me, it was nothing.” She shook her head.
Every muscle in his body tensed. His instincts ran wild as his panther moved in him. The need to protect this woman, his mate-
But she’s not my mate.
“Sounds like it might have been a big deal.”
“I’m just on edge after it. Earlier I thought I smelt another one of us.”
He wanted to reassure her, he wanted to make sure that she felt safe. “Why are you so scared if there is another one of our kind around? Why would they even attack you?”
“I don’t want to get into that.” She sipped her drink and sighed. Her sleeve slipped down her arm and he saw a scar that ran up the entire length.
“Brutal scar, looks like it was done by a claw.”
“A birthday present from my father.” She whispered, closing her eyes. “Right before I left home.”
His fist clenched and he tried to keep his emotions in check. Rage flowed through him at the thought of her father harming her. Of anyone harming her. “When’s you’re birthday?” He asked, trying to keep the conversation going.
“Early next month. After the full moon.” She smiled slightly. “I’ll be twenty-five.”
Twenty-five. He frowned as he watched her. “So you left home, obviously your father wasn’t happy about it, what about your mother?”
“Dead.” Her face went blank.
Time to back away from that subject. “I’m sorry to hear that. You said you’re on edge still, from the attack last night?” His mind drifted back to his meeting with the panther last night; he had mentioned that a Garret went to talk to her. He narrowed his eyes as he realized what must have happened.
“Clubs make me uneasy, this many people make me uneasy....a lot of shit right now makes me uneasy.”
He held his hands up. “Okay, got it. Don’t see why you’re working here.” Not that he cared at this point; now he would be able to see her away from Lucius.
She rolled her eyes. “Lucius makes the rules, I follow them. What don’t you get about that?”
“Why do you choose to stay with him?” He leaned forward. His eyes searched her face to see what she truly believed.
Her gaze dropped. “I don’t have a choice. He keeps me safe and that’s what I need.”
“Keeps you safe? He stripped you of all control, which allowed you to be attacked, and he loans you out like some type of-“
“Say it and I will smash your face in.” She hissed.
What he wouldn’t give to know what she was thinking. “Okay fine, but you know I’m right.”
“He protects me. He’s an asshole, but he’s nothing compared to what I have dealt with.” She downed the rest of her drink and he raised a brow. She shook her head. “That scar is one of many.” She slammed her glass back down, stood, and wandered back to the bar.
Jax leaned back in his chair, thinking on what she had said. ‘A gift from my father.’ It didn’t make any sense, no mention of the siblings and the years didn’t add up. He shook his head and sighed, trying to figure out what he had gotten himself into.
Kass dumped dirty glasses into the sink behind the bar. “I like my bar better, less dishes to do at closing.”
“Then your master shouldn’t have gotten my wolves killed, and you could have stayed there.” Derrik grumbled, passing by her with a bag of trash.
“I shouldn’t have to pay for his stupid mistakes.” Crossing her arms, she leaned against the bar and watched him. “Besides, seems to me that you have plenty of staff, you don’t need me.”
He threw the bag into a pile with others he had collected. “Maybe it wasn’t all about getting staff. We have an alliance, I should be able to borrow his people too.”
“I don’t want a part in this stupid war.” Kass strode across the floor and started to pick up debris off the floor. “If it wasn’t all about getting staff what was it about?”
“An uncontrollable shifter under Lucius’ command.” He looked her up and down. “I know your clan, Kass.”
She froze and her breath caught. “Fuck.”
“Fuck? Not the response I expected.” He raised a brow. “It was hard not to know what clan you came from. You’re strong, you can resist the change if you want and force it in others without causing pain. Your clan killed off most of their females until your blood family and a couple immortals were all they had left.”
She swallowed. “How come everyone is so interested in my past tonight?” She felt the panther shifting in her as Derrick came closer and she stumbled back a couple steps. “Stop.”
He did as she commanded, stopping a few feet in front of her, but remaining in touching distance. “I’m more interested in what the clan has done to push you away.”
“You said it yourself, they’ve killed off most of the females that aren’t blood.” She growled. “The clan is made up of my father, two half brothers, and my half sister.” She felt a pain in her chest, a pressure pushing outwards as memories flashed in her head of running away from her brother’s, fighting to survive.