Excerpt for Bloodlust and Metal by Lisa Carlisle

Bloodlust and Metal
By Lisa Carlisle

Chapter One

 

Devon

On the flight from London, I studied a road map to drive from Boston up to the nightclub Vamps where Bloodlust Diamond was playing. Vamps was hidden in the warehouse district in Caterina’s Cove, a little coastal village on the coast north of Boston. A brochure advertising condos described it as a quiet seaside setting, the perfect place to have access to the ocean without the typical tourist crowd that attacked most of the other beaches on the North Shore.

The brochure conveniently left out how Cat’s Cove, as it was called, was also home to an underground/Goth club that attracted “freaks and weirdoes” as one regular had described it online. In my word-of-mouth research, I discovered it also attracted a small, but growing crowd of supernatural beings. Rumor spread it was once owned by a vampire. After an explosion took out a good chunk of the club, it was bought and rebuilt by the current owner. Employees described him as tall, dark and utterly mysterious; some speculated whether he is a vampire as well.

Vampires. I hated them. Always have. Cold, dead creatures stalking the Earth and sucking sustenance out of humans.

Pathetic.

When I got the call from a vampire named Stefano, one part of me cringed. I loathed dealing with these blood-lusting walking corpses. Since this one was willing to pay a large fee and it sounded like an easy gig, I swallowed my revulsion and took the job. All I had to do was hunt down a female vampire who stole from him and ran away. If he disposed of her, even better. One less vampire in the world.

After we landed in the U.S. and waited at the long lines at Customs, I found the car rentals. Earlier I had requested a black car with tinted windows and plenty of space in the back seat and trunk, either which might serve as a temporary abode for Miss Costa. Of course, I told the rental agent I had a lot of luggage. I smirked at the visual of having that bloody vampire bound in the car. Then I drove north to Cat’s Cove.

Stefano knew better than to hire a human to find Layla. They relied on paper trails and online transactions, both of which vampires kept to a minimum, especially considering their extended life periods. He needed someone like me, with abilities beyond a typical human’s. With those and the skills I’d learned in the British military, I had established a lucrative career as a bounty hunter. A job I enjoyed more than I like to admit.

Most of my targets were scumbags. They deserved to be caught and brought to justice. Not all, though. On a few occasions, I suspected the person whom I was hired to bring in might be innocent. But I had to stay objective. It wasn’t my job to judge a person’s guilt or innocence. It was my job to track them down and bring them to whomever hired me. This time, it was the thieving little vampire, Layla Costa.

Tracking her down wasn’t that difficult, but it did take longer than I had expected. I caught her scent all over Stefano’s place. It was rather sweet, reminding me of herbs and flowers, and not the smell of the dead I’d associated with most vampires. This distinctive scent helped me track where she’d went next. With her photograph in hand and scent imprinted in my mind, I asked about her at each location. One location led me to another. And eventually I discovered that Layla Costa was now portraying herself as Angelica Blackwell, a singer for a heavy metal cover band called Bloodlust Diamond. She changed her appearance dramatically, but I could still discern the same features.

She was quite striking, I noted. Both as the dark-haired vampire Layla Costa and the wild heavy metal singer with teased multi-colored hair Angelica.

What did her looks matter, I corrected myself. She was just another job. I would simply grab her, take her to Stefano and collect my money.

 

Layla

I teased my variegated black and blonde hair to get into character for the show. After all these years as a brunette, it was strange seeing myself with blonde. The hair stylist I paid big money to “reinvent me” insisted this is the look to capture attention as the new singer of an Eighties hair band.

“Heavy metal,” I’d corrected.

He’d snickered. “Okay, princess.”

What did he know about music anyway?

He’d bleached one side of my hair a platinum blonde and dyed the other side black. Then he added a few streaks of black amid the blond and white amid the black.

If I turned one way in the mirror, my reflection showed a raven-haired woman. When I turned the other way, my reflection showed the blonde. Amazing how the hair color made me look like two different women. Then I looked at my reflection dead on from the front. Whoever was looking at me would focus on my wild hair, which commanded attention, rather than my face. Money well spent. The better I disguised myself as Angelica, rock singer, the less I resembled Layla Costa. Which would make it harder for Stefano to find me.

I accentuated my eyes with black eyeliner, extending them slightly beyond my lash line to give me a cat’s eye style. Then I added two coats of black mascara. It was too easy for features to wash out under the stage lights. With some blush and a dark maroon lipstick, I made sure it wouldn’t happen tonight.

I put on red stiletto boots over the tight black vinyl pants and readjusted my tank top in the full-length mirror. Then I took a nip of the blood from my flask. Just a little bit to take off the edge. Immediately after drinking blood, I felt almost drunk so I tried not to overdo it before going onstage. But a little sip was my ritual to fortify me for the energy I’d expend tonight.

“Here we go again,” I said to my reflection. Then I drove to the rehearsal space to meet up with the rest of Bloodlust Diamond, the band I’d joined six weeks ago. Their lead singer had quit to enter drug and alcohol rehab. I was looking for a new opportunity after running away from Stefano. What would be more fun than reinventing myself as a sexy rock star for a fun metal band?

 

With our equipment stashed in the back of the van, we drove to Caterina’s Cove, a town I’d never heard of north of Boston. A woman named Maya Winters had called us from Vamps, some sort of Goth/underground club.

“We’re having a theme week,” she’d explained. “Hair and Roses—The best and worst of the Eighties. We’d like to book you to play here a couple of nights.”

Since Bloodlust Diamond was usually out there soliciting gigs, we jumped on the opportunity.

“How did you hear about us?” our guitarist Joey Bangs asked.

“I’m always looking for new talent to book here. I asked our regulars if they knew any good bands who played 80s covers and a few mentioned you. They’d seen you play around Boston. So I checked out your Web site and liked what I saw.”

 

When we walked through an alley to reach Vamps, I thought we’d probably made a mistake. Who would come to a hidden club in a town nobody had ever heard of? But when we reached a building with gargoyles perched on each side of the front door, my interest was piqued.

The bouncer called some of the staff to help us unload and set up our instruments, which was cool since we weren’t big enough to hire roadies. When I opened a door with a sign reading “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here” and entered the main area of the club, my initial impressions changed drastically. Judging by the number of people wall to wall, this place was definitely not unknown.

The dance floor was packed with people jumping or dancing wildly to Ozzy Osborne’s Crazy Train. Although a number of people got into the spirit when they came to our shows, almost everyone here had dressed for the 80s theme tonight. Most of the women had teased their hair to make it bigger and harder than nature intended. Some of the guys had long hair, but I couldn’t tell if it was natural or very good wigs. I should go out there and give some a little tug.

Many of them wore band shirts with torn jeans. I read some of the shirts—Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Testament, Biohazard, Danzig. Some of the women opted to vamp out in tight black spandex pants or animal print.

A smaller portion of the crowd dressed from the older punk scene. Spiked hair, hair shaved into an asymmetric style, or mohawks. I wondered if they were punk rockers or just going all out for the night. Punk band shirts—the Ramones, the Clash, and Black Flag—and a lot of spiked belts. An even smaller portion sported a gothic look. Black clothing, pale faces, and eyes painted dark and smoky.

Despite the variety of couture, one accessory was a given—black boots everywhere.

The sounds of Crazy Train faded out and I noticed the DJ at the back of the club. He’d play before and after we had our set. The crowd slowed down as the music dimmed. The DJ blended the final notes into Nine Inch Nail’s Head Like a Hole and the crowd’s energy rose again.

 

While the guys from the club helped us set up our equipment on stage, I walked up to test the mic and adjust it to my height. Whoever played here last had to be extremely tall as I moved it all the way down to reach my much smaller stature of 5’2”. Maybe I could inch up to 5’ 5” or 5’ 6” in stilettos.

Then I met up with the guys backstage and we went over the set list. Joey caught a glimpse of a tall, striking woman striding toward them.

“Hi, Maya,” he said. I noticed he used the tone he reserved for women he found attractive. “This is Mark, Rocco, and Layla. Guys, this is Maya Winters, the woman who booked us.”

After we all exchanged hellos and nice to meet yous, Maya ran over the last minute details about our set.

 

Maya walked out on stage as the DJ faded out the end of the song.

“Good evening, everyone,” she said. “I’d like to welcome you to a special event at Vamps tonight. As you know we’re having 80s week here, Hair and Roses, bringing all of you back to the best—and the worst—of the 80s.” Lots of shouts and hollers from the crowd. “Judging by the outfits here tonight, I’m glad you’ve all gone for the best.” More hoots from the crowd. “We’re also going with the best by bringing you an awesome band recommended by some of you regulars out there. Thank you. You know who you are. So without further ado, get ready for some of the best of 80s heavy metal. Let’s welcome Bloodlust Diamond!”

The crowd applauded.

“Ready?” Joey said.

“Ready,” Mark Dudley, who we called Studley, said.

“Let’s go.”

More cheering as the guys walked on the stage, raising their hands in welcome as they took their positions at their instruments.

I sipped another nip of blood while nobody was looking to counter the initial stage fright that consumed me before I went on stage. Once I started singing, I was fine. It was that quiet moment between walking out there seeing the crowd and beginning to sing that gave me an issue. I checked my lips for any signs of blood that the dark lipstick wouldn’t camouflage. Then I walked out to join the guys, striding confidently to compensate for my nerves.

Maya touched my shoulder as she passed and said, “Break a leg.” I had to look up at her. Damn, she was tall. What I would do for long legs like that.

Enough of that for now. I’d already reinvented myself for more than one lifetime.

 

Devon

“This is bullshit,” I overheard some guy in the club say.

“What is?” his friend asked.

“This whole fuckin’ night. I thought we were going to see Bloodlust Diamond play. Now they have some lame ass chic singing. When did that happen?”

I took a sip of my beer, pretending not to listen to the conversation.

“Don’t be such a dick, man,” his friend said. “The other singer left. Went into rehab or something. Their new singer is a woman. Big whoops.”

“She’s going to kill the band. How can a woman sing metal? The way the other singer did? No fucking way.”

“We’ll find out soon, won’t we? In the meantime, relax, dude. Go hang out at the bar if you don’t want to listen.”

“Good idea. You know where to find me.” He walked away in a huff.

His friend noticed me and must have assumed I heard the whole conversation. “I don’t know what crawled up his ass,” he said, then focused his attention on the stage as three guys and then a woman came out. “Who cares if she can sing or not? She’s smokin’ hot.”

I nodded. He was right—she was quite ravishing. The photographs of her didn’t do her justice and I had thought she was striking when I saw those. Now I was transfixed. Looking at the males in the club staring at her with rapt expressions on their faces, I wasn’t the only one. She wore a heavy black trench coat that hid her body and drew all attention to her face. Her large eyes sparkled, and her cheeks looked so soft I wanted to touch them. Her lips with the perfect amount of plumpness, were just begging to be kissed.

Not only had her presence commanded the attention of every guy in the club, but most of the women as well. What they couldn’t perceive, but I could, was she wasn’t human; her skin was far paler and eyes much brighter.

I examined the others in the band. Humans. Did they know their singer was a vampire?

When Layla yelled out, “Hello, all you motherfuckas!” the rest of the crowd looked up, too. “We’re Bloodlust Diamond and we’re here to have a wicked time rocking out tonight. Who’s with us?” A bunch of people hooted and cheered. “Good. I don’t want anyone creeping around in the back of the room. Get up closer. I want to see you. I want to hear you!” The crowd screamed again. “We’re going to start with some old school Metallica.” She turned to the band and said “One, two, one, two, three, four.”

The drummer launched a heavy beat and the band joined in. Then Layla leaned close into the mic and sang the beginning lyrics to Am I Evil.

I hope that jerk at the bar heard her, because as she wailed the lyrics, she left no doubt that she could sing. How a tough-ass voice came out of a petite body like that was a mystery. Even in her red stiletto heels and teased-up hair, I gauged her to be 5’3” at the most. The illusion of the heels and hair made her appear much bigger and tougher than she was.

For some reason, I imagined her coming out of the shower wearing nothing but a towel. No hair done up or makeup on, no heels. All natural. She was probably a wee little thing that you’d just want to pull on top of your lap and hold. And touch…

Wait, why was I thinking stuff like this? I had a job to do—capture her. Not fantasize about her coming out of the shower.

I studied Layla as she played, watching how she moved. Although my eyes scanned every visible inch of her, I convinced myself I was focused on her the same way I would with any other acquisition I’d been hired to bring in. I had to be aware of anything I needed to know to capture her.

She was a vampire so she’d be fast, her reflexes even faster than mine. She’d be strong, but that’s where I had the advantage. I had more strength than most men in human form, and once I transformed, I had the strength of whatever animal I shifted into.

She would be tougher to capture than a human, but I loved challenges. Capturing humans was almost too easy. Throw a supernatural into the mix and that’s when things really got exciting.

When the band finished the song, I went to the bar to order a beer.

The jerk was still complaining at the bar. “Oh great. A girl covering Whitesnake. Just shoot me now.”

I ignored him, even though I agreed with him about covers. Most bands who played covers killed them. They either tried too hard to copy the original and failed or went the other way and tried so hard to make it their own they lost the essence of the song. That’s not to say some bands didn’t kill it in a good way. Every now and then a band would play a cover that blew the original away.

When I heard Layla wail out the first two lines of the Still of the Night, I turned back toward the stage, compelled to see her again. Her voice stirred something inside me. She threw off her heavy black trench coat. When I saw her up against the microphone stand in such an erotic stance, I tried to ignore the sensations surging through my body. Her skintight black pants showed off finely toned legs, making me wonder what her ass looked like. Her black tank top was torn at the top, revealing some cleavage. Her pale arms showed definition as she clutched the microphone.

She belted out the sexiest rendition of the song since David Coverdale sang it. Her voice alternated between a purr and a seductive wail. Whenever I heard this song from now on, it wouldn’t be Tawny Kitaen writhing on a Jaguar that I fantasized about. It would have to be this vixen on the stage compelling me and every other guy in the bar to watch her, listen to her, be her slave.

By the end of the song, I had completely forgotten that I had come to Boston for one specific purpose.

Focus, Devon. Snap out of it. You have a job to do. Don’t let your dick get in the way.

 

Layla

Our guitarist, Joey Bangs, went backstage for a quick change while the rest of us played. When he came back on stage, he’d added a button-down white shirt and tie to go over his black leather pants. Then he donned a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses and the ladies screamed their approval of the sexy intelligent persona.

While Joey distracted the crowd with a guitar solo, I escaped backstage to quickly take off the heels and spandex and throw on a tiny schoolgirl outfit. Plaid skirt, fitted white tank top, and chunky Mary Jane shoes.

When I came back on stage, I took the mic. “Call it heavy metal, call it hair metal, call it rock. We don’t give a fuck. We’re here to play music and have an awesome time. If you’re with us, let me hear you!”

The crowd responded with shouts and hollers.

“That’s what I like to hear. Now Rocco is going to start with a little drum solo I think you might recognize.” I turned. “Rocco.”

He launched into the familiar intro to Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher and the crowd cheered upon recognizing the song. I strutted over to the drum set, moving as sexy as I could to the beat.

Joey joined in with the guitar and I moved over to him, dancing in a suggestive way as I admired his talents. I mussed up his shirt a little and loosened his tie.

Mark started with the bass and I sang the beginning lyrics. Joey and I acted out our new stage personas with him as a tempted professor and me as a naughty school girl. At one point I bent over in front of him so he could catch a glimpse of my white cotton panties and he smacked me playfully on the ass. Mark donned a classic brown wool blazer and a pair of glasses to play the part of the principal. He stood between us as an authority figure, pushing his hands out to the sides to keep Joey and me apart, while I reached past him to loosen Joey’s tie and unbutton the top buttons of his shirt

When Bloodlust Metal hired me to replace the previous singer, I decided not to copy his stage presence. Instead I invented my own. Joey was on board with the concept of his skirting around a forbidden attraction on stage, flirting with the idea of becoming lovers. The act added a fun, sexy element to our shows. Mark often acted as an opposing force, throwing obstacles in our way or even pulling one of us away from the other.

So far, our act was working well. It helped get the crowd into the shows as we continued the forbidden lust-addled love story, rather than having four musicians simply play a string of songs.

By the end of Hot for Teacher, I’d managed to get the shirt, tie and glasses off Joey, so he was now donning a torn Bloodlust Diamond shirt. The ladies loved this part, hooting as I stripped off his good boy image to reveal the bad boy hiding inside the upright and proper professor. Rock star Joey with his wild brown hair and lean physique then took over the role of seducing me with the sultry stances and bedroom looks he’d perfected; I thought a few women might rush the stage and knock me over to get a piece of him.

 

Devon

As I watched Layla play, the sexy way she ran her hand over the mic stand. I pictured her tiny hand running over my body. Down the front of my chest, over the muscles in my legs, in between my legs, increasing the mounting excitement.

It’s just adrenaline building. Your body preparing for the capture.

The hard press of my erection in my jeans told me I was full of shit.

The music ended, jolting me back to reality. I wasn’t here to ogle her and fantasize about what she’d be like in my arms or in my bed. I was here to capture her.

I forced myself out of the mindset of a male attracted to a female and back into one of a predator on the prowl. She was prey.

I watched her say good night to the crowd, thanking them for coming, and then leaving the stage. Swarms of fans surrounded the band members to talk to them. While the females jostled to get closer to the guys in the band, males vied for Layla’s attention. Unfamiliar jealousy stabbed me square in the gut and I forced it away.

I could wait for her fans to subside. I’d wait for her to be alone or lure her someplace alone if I had to. No rush. Besides, I liked to take my time. Like a cat playing with a mouse. The thrill of the hunt.

I smiled at that thought. Like a cat.

The woman who’d introduced them came back onto the stage. “How about a hand for Bloodlust Diamond?”

The crowd applauded with a bunch of hooting and hollering.

“I knew they could play, but I had no idea how visually appealing they would be. A feast for the senses, don’t you think? Did you hear the way she sang? And the guitarist? Yummy.”

More hollering and whistling from the crowd.

“Lucky for you they’re coming back for another set tomorrow night. So how many of you will we see again tomorrow?”

More cheering. “Great. We’ll see you again. And now our awesome DJ is coming back to get all your hot bodies on the dance floor. Give it up for DJ Stark.”

The DJ started up again with The Clash’s Rock the Casbah. People were already back on the floor dancing. I scoured the crowd for signs of Layla, but she’d disappeared. I figured I’d check outside, in case she was a smoker. The bouncer stamped my hand when I said I’d be right back. I opened the large wooden door and stepped out into the cool New England night.

A few people who were smoking had congregated near each other. I wondered if it was a camaraderie thing. With fewer people smoking these days than ten years ago, did they stick together? Complain about being ostracized from the clubs?

I walked down the alley to the main road, which was devoid of people. I saw a black van, which was nondescript except for a few Bloodlust Diamond stickers on the back portion. It must be the band’s van, or some hardcore fans. I hoped for the former, as it  meant Layla Costa had not escaped me.

Although I wanted to hurry to get back inside the club, I resisted the urge to walk quicker. Part of the thrill was hunting her down and I didn’t want the excitement to end just yet.

Back inside, I searched the crowd for her, a petite woman with distinctive hair. One side so blonde it was almost white while the other as black as midnight. On each side strips of the other color. She’d be easy to spot in a crowd.

There she was standing near the bar.

Bingo.

She was talking to a few people, taking a sip of her drink from time to time.

I walked closer while staying behind the crowd so she wouldn’t see me approach. When I was in earshot, I tried to listen to their conversation. Even with my extraordinary senses, I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the sounds of a Siouxie and the Banshees song, Kiss Them for Me.

How would I get her alone?

As I pondered this question, she looked up and noticed me. When her eyes found mine, I froze. Not only did I feel as if I was caught doing something wrong, but something else made my chest tighten. Her dark, inquisitive eyes searched mine as if trying to figure out my secrets. Beyond making me aware that she might be more difficult to capture than a typical human, I was also now aware of parts of my body responding to her inquisitive gaze. My lips felt parched and I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.

She was a vampire and vampires had that special ability to mesmerize humans, but I’m not human so she shouldn’t have any effect on me. So what exactly was going on?

Another part of me, the one that was former military and current bounty hunter, kicked in. Take control of the situation and seize any opportunity. Use whatever options you have to your advantage.

Now that she’d seen me staring, I’d play the part of a fan idolizing a band. I walked directly up to her and ignored the people around her. I didn’t recognize them as the band members on stage so this might fit.

“Hi!” I said in an excited voice. “I just wanted to say how great you were tonight.” As her eyes focused on mine, I was drawn in to them. They weren’t black as I thought from a distance, but a rich brown the color of hot chocolate on the outer edge fading to a honey brown toward the pupil. I’d never seen eyes like that. Could humans even perceive how Layla’s eyes appeared different from theirs? Utterly spectacular. Her eyes flashed excitement and hinted at mystery all at the same time. I looked away briefly to break the eye contact.

Vampire eyes, vampire eyes, I chanted in my head in an effort to avoid them.

If she was trying to mesmerize me with her vampire charms, it was working. No, I was a shapeshifter, I reminded myself. Vampire tricks that worked on ordinary humans wouldn’t work on my kind. I focused on a bottle of whiskey behind the bar, took a deep breath to refocus, and looked at her again.

“Thanks,” she said, flashing me a megawatt smile that disarmed me once again. Her teeth were perfectly white, even, and gleaming, showing no signs of fangs. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

Whether she was sincere or could see right through me and was playing along, I had no idea so I kept going with my act.

“I’d never seen you guys play before and I’m so glad I came tonight. I had a smashing time.”

“What’s your name?”

“Devon.”

“I’m Angelica.”

No, you’re not. You’re Layla Costa. I know who you are and why you’re on the run. You’re nothing more than a common thief. I nodded like a devoted fan. “I know.”

“Devon, you’re British?”

“Yes. I live in London.”

When she laughed, the sound was almost musical.

Vampire trait, I told myself. Don’t be taken in.

“I hope you didn’t fly all the way to the U.S. just to see us play.”

“Not exactly.” I didn’t come to see the band, but I did come especially for you.

“So what brings you over to this side of the pond?”

“Oh, you know, I like to travel. You ever go to England?”

“Not yet. I’d like to.”

Liar. You lived there for years.

She glanced at my arms. “Sick tattoos.”

“Thanks.”

“You get all those in England?”

“Most. I travel a lot.”

“For business or pleasure?”

“A bit of both.”

“Interesting. What do you do for a living?”

Hunt down criminals like you.

A question I would avoid answering directly. “I’m self-employed.”

She nodded slowly as if assessing my evasive reply. I still couldn’t figure out if my shtick was working. Was she humoring me as a fan? Or on to my ruse and playing with me? Time to turn the focus back to her.

“Would you mind giving me your autograph?”

“You have pen and paper?”

I looked in my pockets even though I knew I didn’t have them. “No.”

“Go buy a shirt or CD or something and find me later.”

I smiled graciously and walked away.

That didn’t exactly go as planned. But it didn’t blow up in my face either. As I walked over to the display selling T-shirts, bumper stickers, CDs and all kinds of merch, I tried to think of what my next step would be.

“What can I get ya?” A guy showing more tattoos than his actual skin color asked me.

I grabbed a CD, but then noticed it featured the previous singer. I imagined Layla wasn’t with the band long enough to record a CD. “One of these.”

After paying him, I retreated to one of the back walls of the club so I could think of my next move. I watched her all night. A few times I caught her looking around. A part of me hoped she was searching for me. But I remained in the shadows, lurking and waiting for the right moment. Like a predator.

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