A VISIT TO THE HAUNTED HOUSE
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about Juro.”
Luci rolled her eyes as she and Cyn inched closer to the entrance of the haunted house set up in the outfield of a baseball diamond in Santa Monica. “Give it a rest, Cyn,” she said. “Raphael’s estate is like a big commune, everyone living belly to belly. Juro and I wanted to keep what we had private for a while.”
“But I’m your best friend! You guys would never even have met if not for me.”
“You don’t know that.” Luci smiled as she handed over their tickets to a young woman dressed as Elvira. “Cool costume,” she told the girl.
“Thanks,” the girl said in a voice that was way too peppy for anyone dressed as the Mistress of the Dark. “My grandpa worked on the show.”
Okay, well, that made Luci feel fucking old.
Cyn laughed at the sour look at Luci’s face. “Don’t worry about it,” she told her as they passed through the gate. “Maybe her grandpa was already old when he worked on the show.”
“But speaking of old—” Cyn persisted. “—you absolutely did meet Juro because of me. How many vampires did you know before I started dating Raphael?”
Jesus, Cyn was stubborn. It made Luci want to growl. That’s what Juro did when he got pissed. Of course, he also growled when— She quickly shelved that thought before it showed on her face, because Cyn was way too good at noticing stuff like that. “Dating?” she said instead, going for the distraction. “Is that what you and Raphael did?”
“Oh, right. Because you and Juro have been doing nothing but taking long walks on the beach.”
“As a matter of fact, we had several dates before we took any long walks on the beach.”
“Uh huh. Long walks on the beach in this case being a euphemism for—”
“Oh, look, it’s our turn!” Luci interrupted, shoving her best friend toward the front door.
“Coward.” Cyn muttered.
“Snoop,” Luci murmured back.
Cyn grinned, then scowled as the front door of the so-called haunted house opened with a noisy creak. “Why are we doing this again? Isn’t real life scary enough?” she complained, holding the door so Luci could enter first.
“It’s a fundraiser for teen outreach,” she reminded Cyn, walking past her and into the musty-smelling depths of the house, before turning to glare at Cyn. “Hey! Why am I going first?”
“This was your idea, babe. Anything jumps out, you’re my shield.”
“Oh, for . . . I thought you were a bad-ass chick.”
“I am. I’m a living bad-ass chick, and you know why? Because I don’t walk into haunted houses without a shield. I’ll hold your hand, though, if you’d like.”
“Please,” Luci said, dragging out the word dismissively. “I hardly need—” Her denial was cut off as a zombie thing jumped out from the walls and she screamed, stepping all over Cyn’s toes as she tried to escape.
Cyn was laughing so hard she didn’t even complain.
“Good makeup,” Luci muttered.
“Yeah,” Cyn snorted. “That’s what scared you. The good makeup.”
“Shut up. You go first now.”
“Give me your hand, little girl,” Cyn said, smirking as they turned a corner.
“Fuck you. I’m not holding your hand.” Luci shoved Cyn ahead of her. She felt something hard and lifted the front of her jacket. “Is that a gun?”
Cyn twisted, jerking her jacket back in place and shushing Luci. “A little louder, Luce. Not everyone heard you.”
“What are you doing with a . . .” She didn’t say the word, just widened her eyes meaningfully.
“I always carry a . . .” Cyn forced her eyes comically wide in imitation. “I’m licensed for concealed carry in all fifty states.”
“Oh, and I suppose your vampire boyfriend had nothing to do with that.”
“Of course, he did. And I’m sure Juro would do the same for you now that you’re walking on the beach together.”
“Give it a rest,” Luci started, then grabbed Cyn’s arm with a stifled scream as something big and furry scurried across the hallway in front of them.
“What the fuck was that?” she swore. “Was that supposed to be here? Did that look like a rat to you?”
Cyn flattened her lips in a desperate bid to keep from laughing. “I don’t think there are any rats that big, Luce,” she choked out. “At least not on this coast.”
“We can still bug out, you know,” Cyn said in an irritatingly soothing tone. “We already paid for the tickets, which is all that matters. We don’t really need—”
“No way,” Luci insisted. “I told the kids I was doing this, and I’m—” Another scream ripped from her throat when a door flashed open in front of them and a bleeding woman stumbled out, gripping the arm of her wild-eyed and terrified-looking companion.
“Go back,” the man urged, as he shoved past them and headed for the entrance. “Something’s fucked up back there.”
Luci tried to grab him as he rushed past, but he was around the corner and gone.
“Cyn,” she said quietly, squeezing her friend’s hand. “I think that was real.”
Cyn nodded somberly. She loosened her fingers gently from Luci’s, then turned and pointed her in the direction of the entrance. “Raphael and Juro are out there somewhere. Find them.”
“I’m not leaving you—”
“Yes, you are. Something’s weird here, and you’re not a fighter. Find Raphael. Tell him what’s up. He’ll know what to do.”
“Luce,” Cyn said softly, staring into her eyes. “That woman was bleeding. Real blood. There could be others. I need Raphael.”
“You should come with me. We can—”
“What if there’s someone else hurt up ahead? Just get Raphael for me, okay?”
Luci met her gaze for a moment, then nodded grimly. “Okay. But if something happens to you, I’m going to—”
“If something happens to me, Raphael will tear this town apart. So, don’t worry. I won’t let that happen.”
Luci gave Cyn’s hand a final squeeze, then she turned and ran for the entrance.
Cyn waited until she heard the distant sound of the front door opening and closing with that obnoxious screech, before she pulled the Glock from her shoulder rig and started forward. Luci’s reaction to the gun had been weird. You’d think hanging around with Juro would have desensitized her a little by now, but maybe the big guy was one of those who protected the little lady from the realities of the cruel world.
She snorted. Luci was hardly a “little lady,” not in that sense anyway. But, she did a lot of work with at-risk teens, which probably explained her aversion to guns.
Cyn heard a scream from up ahead. Male this time, a young guy, she thought. A teenager. And he didn’t sound scared as in “I’m having a great time.” It was more like “Get me the fuck out of this place.” She lifted her gun and pushed forward through a set of artistically tattered curtains, and then froze.
“Dude,” she said, more in disgust than fear. She’d spent the last two and a half years in the company of vampires who could kill with a thought. One skinny vampire with a knife barely registered on the stress meter.
Of course, the teenaged guy who had a knife pressed against his throat . . . probably didn’t agree.
“What the fuck?” Cyn snapped at the vamp holding the knife. “It’s Halloween.”
The little creep actually bared his fangs and snarled. Like that was supposed to scare her.
“Oh geez, really? Do you know who I am?”
The vamp frowned, so puzzled by her reaction, or lack thereof, that he let the knife slip away from the teenager’s throat. Cyn didn’t blink an eye, simply lifted her gun half an inch and fired, spinning the vampire away from the kid and probably breaking every bone in the vamp’s shoulder in the process.
The boy screamed at the sound of her gunshot, not seeming to register that the vamp had let go of him. But Cyn grabbed his coat and yanked him out of reach.
“Run,” she ordered, shoving him behind her and back toward the front entrance.
The vampire was already climbing to his feet, pissed as hell. “Let the human meat go,” he sneered, barely giving the fleeing teenager a glance. “I’ll take you instead.”
Cyn grunted dismissively. “Yeah, I don’t think so. First, because I’ll empty my clip into your chest before you take your first step—”
The vampire laughed smugly. “Do you have any idea what I am?“
“Yeah, asshole, I know. You’re a vampire. Woohoo. But you know the second reason why you won’t be taking me anywhere?”
The vamp’s eyes went wide a moment before Cyn felt a soft movement behind her and heard her favorite two words in the universe.
Cyn gave the soon-to-be-dust vampire a shit-eating grin. “Hey, Raphael,” she said without turning. “Look what I found.”
“My lord, I—“ The vamp’s face turned an interesting shade of purple as he fell to his knees. And oh, yeah, he dropped the knife, too, since both of his hands were occupied scraping at his throat trying to find air.
Cyn turned around and met Raphael’s patient stare. “This isn’t on me!” she insisted. “I was just strolling through this nice haunted house, grilling Luci about Juro—at least when she wasn’t screaming at every damn thing that jumped out at her—when the genius here decided to join the party.”
Raphael shook his head, but touched his lips to hers with a smile, before his eyes went cold and he turned to regard the struggling vampire before him.
“Do you know him?” Cyn asked.
“No. He’s not mine. A new arrival probably, though he has so little power that I wouldn’t have taken notice had he lived quietly.”
Raphael didn’t so much as blink, but suddenly the vamp crumbled into dust without a sound.
“Huh,” Cyn said smugly. “Well. So much for that. The good news is that it’s dusty enough in here that no one will notice a little more.”
“And what’s the bad news?” Raphael asked, turning her toward the exit with a hand on her hip, then hustling her ahead of him.
Cyn pursed her lips thoughtfully and said, “I bet Juro’s gone all caveman on Luci by now. Which means I’ll have to wait until at least tomorrow to get all the juicy details about what’s going on with them.”
“Does that mean we’re finished with the Halloween festivities for tonight?” Raphael asked, dropping an arm over her shoulder as they exited the house and his security people surrounded them.
“Hell, yes. I was only here because Luci insisted.”
“In that case, lubimaya, I suggest we go home and create some juicy details of our own.”