Written by Mikel Andrews
“She’s late,” Elise pointed out.
Danica’s painted eyelids fluttered like she was passing out. “So’s the bus.”
Elise looked up from her cell phone—the one she’d been on all fucking night so far—and pushed some of that Barbie doll blond hair out of her face. “So what do we do?”
Danica shrugged. “I don’t know, Elise. How ’bout we kick off this bachelorette party thing? Forget the bus, screw half the bridesmaids—fuck the bride while we’re at it—and let’s just make a night of it?”
“Geez,” Elise said, bristling. “I was just making conversation.”
Danica let out a hot sigh. “If I lose this fucking deposit.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose and massaged, careful not to smudge the sparkly black makeup that lined her eyes. Of course Elise didn’t get it. Not everybody carried around Daddy’s credit card like a magic wand. If Jess wanted unlimited funds, then maybe she should’ve pinned Elise with the “Maid of Honor” status and not her. Danica was perpetually on a budget—and, plus, hadn’t Jess known Elise since, like, forever? And Mary too? Sure, Jess and Mary hadn’t talked in years, but apparently she’d made the bridesmaid cut, right? So how had Jess overlooked her future sister-in-law and her two best friends since grade school and stuck Danica, the Queen of the Debt, with planning the perfect bachelorette party?
You get what you paid for. Danica knew that. And, okay, maybe the blessing-in-disguise party bus had merely been disguised as a blessing. She should’ve known that for that price she couldn’t expect the night to go off without a hitch. But it was such a good deal!
Although now it seemed like she was going to ruin her best friend’s bachelorette party. And what was next? The wedding day? The marriage? If she was lucky Danica might still be able to get Jess mugged—the night was young, right?
You had one shot, Danica told herself. One shot to prove you belonged here.
Out loud, she breathed: “I need a drink.”
“You already had a drink,” Elise said.
Danica sighed again. “Do you even remember what we were like in college?”
“Do you even remember college?”
The comeback wasn’t bubbly enough to be Elise’s—and way too sharp. Danica looked up and found a patch of shadow that had sprouted lean, pale legs and wavy red hair. Unkempt, not stylish. The girl flashed Danica tired, hazel eyes as she lit up a cigarette coolly. A real professional smoker.
“Mary?” Elise half-laughed, half-gasped. “Is that you?”
“In the flesh. Long time, no see, Legs,” Mary told Elise. Then, to Danica, she said, “And you must be Donatella?”
Danica scrunched up her face. “It’s Danica.”
“Close enough,” Mary said. “So where’s our little princess?”
“She’s late,” Elise answered. “So’s the bus.”
“Ah, yes,” Mary said, nodding. “Our chariot.”
Danica glared at the girl. “They’ll be here. Jess had to pick up Natalie—and I’m sure it’s going to take for-fucking-ever for Jess to explain to Natalie what a dress is.”
Mary chuffed at the burn and took a final drag of her smoke before flicking it into the gutter. “Well, this is a bar, isn’t it? Let’s grab a drink while we wait. Get to hate each other properly.”
Danica put her hands on her hips. Yes, she wanted a drink. No, she didn’t want one with Mary. “I’m the Maid of Honor—I’ll call the shots on where we go, alright?”
Mary forced a smile. “Sorry, Sheriff, I didn’t see your badge—may we approach the bar?”
Annoyed as she was, Danica was still thirsty. And if Mary bought her a drink, she’d have no guilt about not returning the favor. Danica rubbed some warmth into her bare arms and looked up and down the street.
No bus. No Jess.
“Fine,” she growled. “Make it fucking quick.”
Inside the dive—the very cleverly-named Pete’s Bar—the three bridesmaids bellied up to what was once a lane from a bowling alley, even the gutters had been dropped down to make a footrest. Mary had in fact bought the round, throwing down a crumpled wad of cash from inside her leather jacket.
Danica grinned as she sipped the fruity drink, mentally tallying her first freebie of the night. Still got it.
From the other side of Elise, Mary pricked her head in Danica’s direction. “So tell me about this bus.”
Christ. Danica shrugged. “It’s a party bus. There’s a keg. Blacked-out windows. The driver takes us around to small-town bars so we can tear shit up without running into people we know. It’s like Vegas.”
Mary raised her eyebrows. “Right. ‘Cept cheaper.”
Danica nearly choked on her drink. She sat up from the stool. “Excuse me, bitch? Don’t see you footin’ the bill for this evening.”
“What’s the damage anyway?” Mary asked, patting down her pockets. “I’m sure I got some singles here somewhere.”
Danica was up off her stool just a second before Mary.
Unfortunately, Elise was off hers before either of them, creating a human wall between Danica and Mary. Mary got her back, Danica got the tall girl’s shameful glare and crossed arms.
Danica groaned. Ever the fucking angel, aren’t you, Elise? “What?”
Elise shot an eyebrow up. “You said you’d play nice.”
Danica glanced behind the golden-haired tower at Mary, who’d already returned to her drink like nothing had happened. “These are extenuating circumstances.”
“How?” Elise demanded.
“She’s a bitch,” Danica told her.
Elise nodded. “I’m sure the judge will understand.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh come on—”
“And Jess will too,” Elise added firmly. “Right?”
“Ugh,” Danica groaned. She sat back on her stool, waving Elise away. “I liked you better when you were glued to your phone.”
Elise waggled her slim, big-screen phone in front of Danica. “Mark says hi by the way. I’m going to text him the names of every bar we go to. Like a scavenger hunt!”
“Gag me,” Danica said from around her straw. “If you can’t even go to a bachelorette party for one night without having to constantly update your boyfriend—”
“Our chariot awaits,” Mary broke in. She pounded her drink and slammed the empty lowball on the counter. “Jess is here too.”
Danica’s mouth pulled at the corner, nervously, pre-programmed. She scowled at the redhead. “How would you even know?”
Mary put her fingers at her temples, shutting her eyes slowly. The girl looked like she was in pain and Danica wondered if she might collapse.
“My psychic gift,” Mary answered after a second. “Also the window.”
Danica turned and saw the great big black bus idling under the streetlamp. She’d remembered it looking classier when she’d paid for it. Now it just looked like a school bus had driven through an oil spill.
She downed the last of her poison, forced a giddy smile onto her face, and said, “It’s showtime, skanks. Let’s act like we’re friends, shall we?”
“Break a leg,” Mary muttered behind them. Danica ignored her. That girl creeped her out. Royally. She made a mental note to keep Mary on the opposite side of the bar/bus/whatever from her. But in the meantime, Danica had a job to do. To get Jess through the night.
On a budget.
She threw open the bar door and screamed.
Danica had a role to play. She was the wild card. A fucking firecracker. If anyone of the group had done coke, it was her. She hadn’t, truthfully, but she’d never denied trying it either.
Give’em a show.
Elise and Jess didn’t hang out with her so they could copy answers off her Physics test. They hung out with her because sometimes she came out of the bathroom making out with some random girl. Or because occasionally she kneed a frat rat in the balls when he was about to ask for her number.
And mostly because she was the one goddamn girl in their whole little posse that was bound and determined to remind them that they weren’t 80-years-old.
Seriously, ever since college ended you’d think there was mandatory bedtime for these girls. They rarely got together anymore and when they did it was usually over half a margarita at La Casa Del Taco‘s happy hour.
So when the bachelorette party hit the town, Danica hit it twice as hard. She was the first one to tap the keg, and the last one doing a keg stand.
Was it exhausting? Absolutely. But it was worth it. Because even when Jess’s head was shaking, Danica could still see the smirk on her face. That same smirk she’d lived for since freshman year. She loved Jess to death and in the four years they spent as roommates, there were a only a handful of times Danica had let the poor girl just go to bed early. There was always a party, or a movie on TV, or, at the very least, a bottle of vodka that was too full.
So at the end of the day, Danica knew why the Maid of Honor position was hers. Knew why she was here.
Now she just had to figure out what the fuck Mary was doing here.
That little stunt at the bar? Real cute, bitch. Did she really think that nail file was going to do anything? Danica had put down much bigger dogs than Mary and for much worse reasons. Sometimes reason had nothing to do with it.
But with Mary, she definitely had a reason.
You said you’d play nice.
Danica sighed into the bathroom mirror. Her mascara and eyeliner had blended together and started expanding outwards like a pair of shiny black supernovas.
And she liked it.
She ran her fingers through her short, curly dirty-blond hair, slowly at first, then vigorously, making sure to muss it up real good. When she pulled her hands free, the mane popped and sprung like a wiry mushroom cloud.
She looked crazy. Unpredictable.
She liked that too.
She ran her hands down her long neck. Boys liked her neck. Better to suck on. She fingered a bottle of fragrant, glittery lotion from her purse and rubbed it down her throat, all the way to where her plunging v-neck came to a point.
Danica grinned her Cheshire grin.
“Showtime,” she whispered.
As she turned to leave, a sign on the wall caught her eye. There was a bunch of goofy shit on the walls of this place—what was it called? The Attic?—but, for the most part, she’d ignored it. But for some reason this sign stuck out.
Vampires Not Allowed, it read.
Danica snorted at the plaque, rolling her eyes. “Lame.”
This place—The Attic—did kind of suck. The only clientele were a smattering of locals, and they weren’t exactly keeping the party going. At least they gave that bitch Mary something to do. She’d been small-talking truckers and old men at every bar so far. Probably trying to get laid. And they called Danica a freak.
Suck or not, The Attic was the last stop. Danica thought that was lame too. After all, it was a far cry from their launching pad. Was it really that difficult for the driver to pick a route of bars that actually led back to where they got picked up? What a moron.
You get what you pay for.
Whatever. The night was waning and Danica wasn’t nearly as drunk as she was pretending to be. Time to catch up to her act.
She threw open the bathroom door and saw Jess waiting for her, arms crossed. Shit, Danica thought. She hated being caught sober. Think fast.
Glancing around suspiciously, Danica brought her thumb up to her nose and took a few swipes. For effect, she added an audible sniffle.
Jess squinted at her, concerned. “Dani, did you—you weren’t just—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Danica added mysteriously. “What’s up?”
Jess shook her head. “Just wondering where the best Maid of Honor in the whole world was hiding.”
Danica grinned, feeling her cheeks grow hot. She rolled her eyes, playing it off. Jess was the sentimental one, not her. “Just, uh, freshening up.”
“Well, hurry up,” Jess laughed, taking her hand and forcing her into a dance move. “The boys have arrived.”
Danica raised a sharply-plucked eyebrow. “The boys?”
Jess nodded. “Mmhmm. Lots of’em. Good call on this place.”
“You mean it?” Danica asked, letting her facade fall a little. “You’re having a good time?”
“I’m having a great time,” Jess replied. “Amazing. Now let’s go. Seriously, these guys are like free strippers.”
Danica hung back a second. “Can I ask you something?”
Jess nodded. “Of course. What’s up?”
She chewed on the question. On one hand, Danica really did want to know what Mary was doing here—other than to insult people that were actually Jess’s friends. But on the other hand, she knew how the question would sound. How it would make Danica look.
“I just—I have to ask,” Danica tried, feigning politeness. “Why Mary?”
Jess scowled. “Why Mary what?”
Danica almost laughed in her face. Why Mary what? If it weren’t for Jess actually looking confused, Danica thought this might be a stab at deadpan humor.
“Uh, why’s she here?” she continued, feeling braver. “She’s been like this giant nobody in your life—never met Eric, by the way—and frankly, she’s kind of a raging B.”
Jess pursed her lips. “Did you just censor yourself?”
Danica shrugged. “Might’ve.”
Jess gave a short laugh and batted those luminous eyes of hers. “It’s the longest, dumbest story ever and has no place in a bar full of handsome men on my last night of freedom.”
Danica laughed. “You wouldn’t do anything remotely racy with any of them in a billion years.”
Jess nodded. “True. But you might. And somebody needs to teach Nat how to hook for drinks.”
“She is really bad at it, yeah,” Danica agreed. “Just fucking terrible.”
“So come on,” Jess said, tugging her again. The bride-to-be led her out into the main foyer; a large, tiled space so devoid of people it might’ve been a seventh grade dance. Near the wall, Natalie had followed Elise like a puppy to an out-of-place, high-tech jukebox. Danica rolled her eyes; that girl would latch onto anybody. At least if she was tagging along with Elise, it meant that Mary had made herself scarce.
Danica watched as the leggy blonde ran her credit card through and began picking out songs. The first one queued up; a real poppy, synthetic techno number that had about four words repeated a thousand times. Catchy, though, and impossible to avoid dancing to.
Danica bobbed her head. That’s when she saw them come out of the woodwork.
Guys that looked way too handsome for this small town—and not nearly inbred enough—were coming alive from the perimeter. From the top level, down the stairways, in from side exits—everywhere—they swooped in. Ordering drinks in twos and chatting up the bridal party.
Danica couldn’t believe it. Maybe this night wouldn’t turn out to be such a bust after all. She’d never seen so many perfect teeth and chiseled chins in her whole life. Not a hair was out of place. Too perfect. They almost looked fake.
But beggars couldn’t be choosers. And Danica had been begging. Her free drink tally was about to skyrocket.
Did she head right for the bar? No. Instead, she headed for the corner with the jukebox. She hustled as fast as she could without giving up her saunter. A good saunter was key.
When she arrived at her destination, Natalie greeted her with a big, rosy-cheeked grin. “Hey, Danica!”
Danica stifled an eye roll and brushed the pale, mothy girl aside, focusing on Elise.
Elise smiled warmly. “Hey, you—”
Danica didn’t wait for the string of niceties. She linked arms with Elise, prom-style, and tugged her away from the jukebox, away from Natalie, and towed her to the bar without so much as a hello.
Rule #1: Never Fly Solo.
And Elise made the perfect wingman. Pretty enough to get their attention, vapid enough to turn the spotlight on Danica.
We all have our roles to play.
Guys with cash everywhere. Mary nowhere to be seen. This night, in Danica’s opinion, couldn’t have ended any better. She singled out a pair of young men at the bar; their collars neatly pressed and top button left fashionably undone. They might’ve been twins save for their different hair color. Danica went in for the kill.
“Hey,” she said, nuzzling up to the dark-haired one. “My friend and I couldn’t help but noticing you’re two guys in a bar. That happens to be just our type.”
Rule #2: Never underestimate a good bad pickup line.
The dark-haired fellow flashed a pair of dimples that would make the San Andreas jealous and a hundred-watt smile. He backhanded his buddy in the chest. The other guy took a passing glance, but did a double take when he noticed Elise. Suddenly she had his full attention.
“What a coincidence,” the dark-haired one said with a cocky sniff. “You two happen to be our favorite type. My name’s Devon.”
Danica grinned. Of course it is. She took his hand. “Danica.”
“Chase,” the other one with sandy brown hair introduced himself. He made no effort to hide the rise and fall of his gaze as he took in Elise’s frame.
Elise got all giggly and had to look somewhere else. They ate it up, they always did. “I’m Elise.”
“You girls want a drink?” Devon offered.
“You read our minds,” Danica laughed.
Devon shook his head. “That’s just a myth.”
Danica squinted, not sure if she’d heard him right. “I’m sorry?”
“Never mind,” Chase interrupted him. “Pick your poison.”
“Bacardi-Diet,” Danica answered instantly. “Both of us.”
Devon waved down the bartender and ordered the drinks. “Two of them. Make’em stiff.” He lay a crisp fifty on the counter.
Danica bent back the narrow, black straw and took a hearty sip from the rim of the lowball. The rum swam down her throat warmly, toasting the blood in her veins. Exactly what the doctor ordered.
Or, at the very least, a pre-Med? Hopefully?
“So,” Danica began. “You boys are awfully dressed up—what’s the occasion?”
Devon nodded behind them and she and Elise instinctively turned around. “See that guy in the blazer? Spiky hair? That’s our buddy Javier. He’s getting married in a couple of weeks.”
Danica nearly spit out her drink. “You’re a bachelor party?”
Devon nodded. “We prefer ‘stag party.’ But, yes.”
There is a God, she thought. “No shit. My girls and I are here for a bachelorette party.”
The young man’s grin was tight-lipped, but it spread across his face like a devilish crack in porcelain. “You don’t say.”
Danica giggled, over-the-top. “Crazy, right?”
“The craziest,” Devon said.
Maybe she was being a little too eager, but Danica polished off her drink in record time. Normally she tried to time it a little better so that she could get in on the next round, but it looked like neither Devon nor Chase even had a first round. Didn’t they have a beer or something? Danica’s head swam as she spun around, taking in the room. Maybe her tolerance for alcohol had slipped a little. If it had, it was Elise’s fault. And Jess’s.
She pinched her eyes shut and let the spinning room catch up with her gaze. She eyed up individual boys; a hearty pack had now gathered around Jess. She looked like some sort of royalty, spinning around to greet all her suitors.
Very few of them had drinks in their hands. The ones that did were trying to hand them off to Jess. There was even a lineup to give Natalie a drink. The girl looked straight out of a Jane Austen novel, curtsying for a free Sex on the Beach. Sickening. That poor girl really did need lessons.
Still, why buy drinks for all the chicks and not for yourself? Even if you were a group of dudes on a mission to get laid, wouldn’t you at least have a drink in your hands to keep up appearances?
Ugh, Danica mentally groaned. If these guys are Mormons, I’m gonna puke.
“Dani!” It was Jess. Her voice finally broke over thumping decibels. “Come dance!”
“You guys dance?” Danica asked both the guys at the bar, but kept her eyes on Devon.
His gaze held hers as well. “We’ve been known.”
Devon ordered Elise and Danica another round before following them out to the dance floor. Devon kept his palm pressed into the small of Danica’s back, although it kept riding lower. It was as gentlemanly as guys got with her.
“Thanks for the drink, by the way,” Danica yelled into Devon’s ear, fighting against the music. “You sure you don’t want anything?”
Devon nodded. “We’re good.”
The second round blended seamlessly with the third, and they seemed to be getting stronger. Each sip actually made Danica wince. The music seemed to grow louder. Even though she didn’t know most of the songs that were playing, Danica had no trouble swaying to the beat. She kept making eye contact with Devon when she could focus, but she still did her best to give all the guys surrounding her some one-on-one with her ass. She’d attracted quite the audience.
Fuck you, Mary, she thought suddenly. It came out of nowhere. Popped into existence and lingered.
She wasn’t sure when she’d retrieved her camera from her purse—or where her purse had ended up, but there was time for that later—but she suddenly had to take pictures like it was her job. The flash strobed into the rafters of The Attic like a true rave. She kissed cheek after cheek—even Natalie’s before she passed the camera off to the little leech.
Danica just kept dancing, like a music box ballerina set on overdrive. The night became a blur.
And she liked it.
It was that familiar fog-and-flash routine that she craved. That she missed. One minute you were talking to somebody—
Fade to black.
—then you were talking to somebody else, but mostly to their neck and—
Fade to black.
—you’re up on a bar stool hiking your skirt up, then—
Fade to black.
—and you’re licking the bathroom mirror because you like the reflection, then—
“You wanna go outside for a second?” Devon was saying. His whisper was hot against her ear. “Catch some fresh air?”
Danica took a long blink, smacked her lips, then nodded vigorously. “Sure!” She took Devon’s arm and he escorted her to the backdoor.
“Oh, hey, isn’t—”
She turned to look at the opposite front door and saw Elise following them, her arm linked with Chase’s. Her eyes were shut, but her grin made up for it. Behind them was Jess, squealing with laughter as a pair of handsome devils tried to hoist her onto their shoulders.
Danica smiled and felt her eyes get moist.
“For you, babe,” she whispered. A knot in her back seemed to loosen. She wondered for a second if she was still on the ground.
She’s happy. Jess is happy.
It was enough. No, it was more than enough. Jess was happy. Mary had ditched out. Free drinks were flowing. And none of it cost Danica an extra dime. No loans from Elise. Mary could keep her “singles.”
The back alley behind the bar wasn’t as perfect. The so-called “fresh air” was an ice-cold slap in the face. Danica choked on it. Trying to play off the cough as sexy, she rubbed her bare arms, shivering, and took in her surroundings: there was a wall, and another wall, and some Dumpsters, a door, and a fire escape. Nothing to tell the grand-kids about.
“You cold?” Devon asked. His eyes were so fucking intense she almost couldn’t look at them.
“Yeah,” she laughed. “You aren’t?”
He shook his head. “Not really—here. You can borrow some of mine.”
“Some of your what?”
Before he could answer, Devon had his arms around Danica, cradling her in warmth. He was so warm. An inferno when she felt like the inside of a refrigerator.
“Holy shit,” she whispered. “How could you possibly be this warm out here? You’re, like, giving off heat rays.”
Devon grinned. “Yeah, well. We all have talents, don’t we?”
We all have our roles to play.
She cleared her throat and found his eyes. Staring into the brown pools, Danica got lost. Not in the romantic way, but disoriented. She felt drowsy. She wanted to lay down. But she also didn’t want Devon to let go.
Parting her lips, she moved her face closer to his, giving him a quick lick just beneath the dimple in his chin. He was stone-faced for a second, then he blinked. Danica pressed herself against The Attic’s outer wall and craned her neck, revealing smooth flesh. Offering it.
She saw his pupils dilate a second before he dove at her throat. A quiet moan escaped her lips as he suckled the soft skin of her neck. He smacked at it, pinched it between his teeth so it hurt just a little.
Danica’s eyes fluttered shut. She didn’t plan on opening them ever again, but when she did, she found Elise up against the same wall just a few feet to her right.
She had her tongue down Chase’s throat. Chase had his hand up her thigh.
“Jesus, Elise,” Danica managed.
Elise didn’t say anything back. Didn’t even acknowledge she’d heard her. Not so much as the flick of an eye.
Danica sighed. Normally, it was every woman for herself at the bar. She was the babysittee, not the babysitter. But in this particular instance, she knew Elise was just the victim of too much to drink and not enough dinner.
And the no-dinner thing might’ve been Danica’s fault.
As obnoxious as it was most of the time, Danica knew Elise loved her boyfriend. She was practically more married than Jess was. And maybe “College Danica” would’ve let the whole thing play out—possibly even uploaded pictures online and tag them—but she couldn’t let her friend go down that road.
“Elise,” Danica half-whispered, half-barked, as Devon continued doing a number on her neck. “Mark? Remember him?”
Slowly, Elise’s eye batted open. Danica could tell it was dawning on her.
That’s right, Barbie. You’re all tied down, remember? No fun for you tonight.
And yet, Elise was still going to town on Chase like Hasselhoff on Drowning Swimmer #2. Another nibble from Devon stole her voice, but Danica found it again. “Elise!”
“What?” Elise managed when she came up for air. It didn’t sound like her at all. In fact, it gave Danica chills.
Just then the back door swung open and the guy in the blazer—the groom, Javier—stepped out into the cool night air. His face was all business as he glanced at his two buddies, back and forth. Devon eased up, nuzzling Danica’s cheek as he looked back at Javier.
He’s not getting cuddly on me, is he? Danica thought as she watched Javier. His ears had several pairs of metal loops running through them, and his spiked hair was jet black save for a few plumes of stark white.
“Which one?” Devon asked him.
Which one? Which one what?
“The blonde,” Javier answered.
A cold feeling welled up in Danica’s stomach. She stood up from the wall, straightening herself up. She still couldn’t see Elise because the backdoor was left open. She pushed it shut and found that Chase had stepped away from Elise and was gesturing to her.
“I was just keeping her warm for you,” Chase said with a smirk. Javier clapped Chase on the shoulder and moved in closer to Elise.
“Hey, wait,” Danica spoke up. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“It’s fine,” Elise said darkly. Before anyone could say anything else, Elise had her arm wrapped around Javier’s neck. She kissed him heavily on the mouth.
“Elise! What the fuck?” Danica shouted.
“Shut up,” Elise found enough time to say. Her heels left the ground and Danica shook her head as the girl’s long, tan legs wrapped around Javier’s waist. He cupped his hands beneath her ass and carried Elise backwards through the door on the opposite building—which was generously being held for them by Chase.
Just before Elise disappeared into the doorway completely, she reached out and grabbed Chase by the collar and dragged him into the dark room too.
Danica was still shaking her head. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“They’re fine,” Devon reassured her with a cockeyed grin. “Seriously.”
“What was that?” Danica asked him. “What just happened? Wasn’t that the groom?”
“Seriously, Danica, it’s fine,” Devon said, eyes wide. “It’s just this dumb thing they used to do back in the day. She’ll be fine.”
There was no good reason to trust him. But there was no evidence stacked against him either. That’s what she liked about strangers. That, and he’d bought her drinks. Isn’t that exactly what she wanted? A no-holds-barred night out like back in college?
Just fade to black.
Danica shut her eyes as she kissed his open mouth. She drew him closer until he was pressed against her, pasting her to the wall. His hand rode her thigh slowly but he could’ve put them anywhere without her arguing. She wanted them anywhere. Everywhere. But he just took his time. Kept it simple.
She was blind and deaf to anything but him. She wasn’t even sure how long they were out there like that. Forget the bus. Forget the party. Forget—
“Who?” Devon asked, squinting.
A scream erupted from across the alley. It slipped out underneath that mysterious door in the building across the way, slithered down the alley, crept up Danica’s leg and pulled.
“Elise!” Danica cried out.
The door burst open, clattering against brick. Elise ran out into the night, shoeless. She got her bearings and blitzed for The Attic’s backdoor. Without so much as a glance at Danica, Elise was inside.
Danica’s jaw hung open.
Chase thundered out into the alley. His dress shirt hung open revealing a smooth, polished-marble chest. He went left first for a few steps, then spun around and hurried back to the doorway, hands clutching his head.
Devon stood upright, taking his hands off Danica. It almost hurt her that he let go. “What’s wrong?”
Chase looked at him, then Danica, then back to Devon. He pointed at the door to the bar. “She killed him!”
“What?” Danica said, her voice twisting shrill in her throat.
“Bitch killed Jav!” Chase cried again. Then he just dropped everything and raced inside the bar, following in Elise’s tracks.
The moment was frozen. Both her and Devon just stood staring at the spot where Chase had been, his words echoing in Danica’s ears.
It had to be a mistake. She had to have heard wrong.
“Well,” Devon said after a minute. He turned to face her and when he did, a single tooth slid down out of his smile like a spear. It grew into a pearly dagger, quick as a jackknife. Danica’s scream came out a hoarse whisper.
Devon’s eyes, his perfect big brown eyes, frosted to icy white in a heartbeat.
“That sucks,” he whispered.
With a hiss, he plunged the single white fang into the soft skin of her throat. She could hear the puncture, then the felt warmth spill down her neck. Saw Devon’s head pivot suddenly as he dragged the canine across her throat, rending the puncture into a gash. Saw the blood on his lips when he pulled away.
He lay her gently onto the street. “I’m sorry. I really did like you.”
And then he was gone.
For a few seconds, Danica just lay on the pavement. She didn’t move, didn’t try to yell or scream. It was over. This was where she was going to die.
Fade to black.
But after a minute of still being alive, she found enough courage to bring a hand up to her throat, clasping the wound and feeling a syrupy coating of blood. Quick like a Band-aid, she pulled her hand away and stared at the red sheen that clung to her palm.
Danica sobbed. It was quiet, no sound, but a sob nonetheless.
Boys liked her neck.
After another minute of still not being dead, she got pissed. Old-fashioned, fired-up pissed. Pissed that she was still alive, pissed that she’d fallen for whatever that thing was that had slit her throat, and pissed that he’d just leave her in the alley.
No, Danica wasn’t dead yet and she was sick of waiting.
Up off the pavement and a little woozy, Danica tried the backdoor to The Attic.
Leaving a sticky, red handprint on the latch, she made the long, arduous trek around the building to the front entrance. Though she couldn’t tell how much blood had spilled down the front of her black dress, she assumed it was a lot. Her blood was plenty thin at this point and apparently neck wounds bled like a bitch.
Danica tried the front door and luckily it was open. Just to be on the safe side, she clasped her throat. If any of this was arterial, it couldn’t hurt to get a press on it. She didn’t think it was, but the surgical strike to her larynx didn’t leave her much confidence.
She threw the door open like a true movie monster and lurched forward. Her knees suddenly felt weak and they buckled inward.
The bar was a war zone. A flurry of bodies and screams and the music was still playing, but all she could make out was the rhythmic bass.
The first face she recognized was Natalie’s. The pale little girl’s eyes were squinting hard at the main bar; no doubt watching Jess fend off a hoard of razor-toothed douche bags.
Danica called out to Natalie.
Nothing came out.
Danica sighed. Right. No voice.
She put up her other hand, waving it to get Natalie’s attention. Finally, the pathetic-looking girl turned her head in Danica’s direction.
And froze instantly. Terrified.
I’m fucking doomed, Danica thought. She lurched forward. Maybe if she got in close enough she could whisper what happened to Natalie. Or at least pick the girl’s jaw up off the floor. Just another few steps.
Suddenly, Mary appeared behind Natalie, grabbing her by the arm.
“Move!” she ordered the girl. Natalie gave a quick nod and Mary shuttled her away. Not before she gave Danica a pitying stare. Of course.
Fuck you too, Mary, Danica hissed inside her skull.
But then Mary came back.
“Smooth move, Trampenstein,” Mary shouted as she tucked her shoulders underneath Danica’s arm. “What’d you do to set them off?”
Danica didn’t think she could answer even if she had a voice. Now her jaw hung open.
Mary was saving her.
“I mean, really, Danny Boy—what happened in the alley? You promise one of them a handy and renege on the deal?” Mary continued. She hauled Danica towards the ladies’ room with just enough hustle to get them there, but just slow enough to stay off the radar. Most of the guys were too busy trying to get at Elise, who’d barricaded herself into a jail cell made of bar stools.
Three deliberate fist pounds against the bathroom door and Natalie let them in. Mary all but threw Danica to the little girl.
“I gotta go back for the other two,” the redhead told Nat. “That’s gonna be a little trickier. You watch out for Skankzilla and keep the fucking door locked—got it?”
Mary looked right at Danica and nearly jabbed a finger into her forehead. “And when I come back I want some answers.”
Mary pulled the door shut as she left. Natalie propped Danica up against a wall and went to work latching the door shut. There were three locks which earlier Danica had thought was pointless, but now was glad they were there. The bathroom was much quieter than the bar. The music and cries continued, but were muffled. For Danica, the loudest thing in the room was the ringing in her ears.
“Mary says they’re vampires. And that they’re kind of like wasps when you swat at them,” Natalie said as she finished up the third lock. She whirled on Danica, face stern. “So what’d you do to them, Danica?”
Danica pressed her lips together and blew a hot gust of air through her nostrils. She shut her eyes and put her head back against the wall.
Got a pen? I could write a note, she thought. Or act it out maybe? Or steam up the mirror and spell it out? E-L-I-S-E. Yeah, she’s the one. True, it’s a little disheartening that you think me being a slut caused a bunch of monsters to go postal, when in actuality it was the saintly daddy’s girl that could do no wrong. She apparently killed a guy in the middle of a three-way, by the by—but I’m sure that’s neither here nor there.
Danica blinked, staring up at the ceiling as the lights flickered.
But, hey, no hard feelings.
We all have our roles to play, don’t we?