Jack Soroka was being led around the faire grounds by a vampire. His mother would probably roll over in her grave if she knew he was friends with one. Alec Ronan was a great guy, despite being a bloodsucker. It was actually to be expected that they would get along, even though their worlds were miles apart.
After all, why would a werewolf and a vampire spend time together?
Despite being complete opposites in most things, including appearance, they still had tons in common: nightlife, curses, and a desperate uncontrollable need for blood at least once a month. The major difference there was in how they obtained it. Alec would take it from a willing volunteer; the country was filled with them. But Jack needed to change, to transform, and to run. He had to chase his prey down, and it was usually something small, like a rabbit. He just needed to get the blood flowing and satisfy the wolf inside.
Beyond that, werewolves and vampires were on opposite sides of the creature spectrum. Where Jack was rugged and rough, Alec was smooth and a downright playboy. Jack would have temper flares while Alec stayed calm, cool, and collected no matter what the issue was. Together, they were a unique pair, but Jack was happy to call him friend.
At present, Alec was leading Jack around the faire grounds, introducing him to the other vendors and employees that worked there.
“Bye Holly! Great seeing you!” Alec called over his shoulder at the t-shirt vendor in the process of setting up. Jack thought maybe he could get her to sell some of his band’s tees and hoodies.
“She seemed nice.”
“Holly? Yeah, she’s pretty great. Everyone here is amazing. You and the guys will be part of an awesome team.”
“Love that idea. Will be nice to have a home, even if it’s temporary.”
“Yeah, the festival is only for the month of June, but maybe we could work out a return plan? Like coming back in September or something? I’d love to make this a regular gig for you.”
Jack smiled at his friend. “That would be great, man. Thank you.”
“No, thank you! I’ve asked around, and that’s a pretty good following you’ve got going. Those are all guaranteed festival attendees while you’re here!”
Jack laughed, low and deep, the sound rumbling from his chest. “Glad we can help you out. But really, thanks for having us.”
Alec clapped Jack on the back. “Anytime, friend.”
They kept chatting as they walked. A few minutes later, Alec stopped in front of a large stage space. “Here is where you’ll be playing.”
Jack looked around in satisfaction. The stage was new, built sturdy, and provided some great movement space for the band to get their energy out on stage. There was a great lighting setup in place, and they had large screens on either side of the stage for the crowd to view the band through a built-in video system. His band could have a successful run here for the festival.
Turning towards Alec, Jack smiled. “This looks perfect. Really. Great job getting this built for the festival this year.”
“I’m glad you approve! The crew that set this up made sure they took every precaution to get this built to code in time. I was pretty pleased with the contractor.”
“Wasn’t it Bob?”
“Isn’t he your cousin?”
“Only by blood.” Alec winked and Jack laughed. Vampires were notorious for bad inside jokes.
“Let me finish showing you around, buddy.”
Alec led him over to the more spiritual section of the faire grounds. There were some unique stands there: a taxidermy stand with bones and skulls for use in rituals, a Reiki stand where they wanted to manipulate his energy, some crystal and jewelry stands, and one that had medicinal herbs and the like.
But that’s when he saw her.
Standing outside a tent was a girl with full, long, dark blonde hair and the cutest button nose. Her hazel eyes were shining brightly as she spoke with a middle-aged man. She had a pair of tarot cards in one hand, and her other was moving animatedly about, gesturing this way and that as she spoke in a husky voice that made his breath catch. She was stunning, with her rosy cheeks and full, kissable lips.
Jack immediately wanted to know what they felt like.
“Who is that?” He couldn’t stop staring at her, watching her from across the way as she spoke with the customer.
Alec looked over and smiled a knowing smile. “That is my very, very good friend, Talia Morgen.” He paused as he noticed the lustful stare. “I’d introduce you, but I want her to stay standing on two feet. You’d bowl her over with what you’ve got going on.”
Jack shook his head. “I’m just…curious…”
“You sure? I see that look in your eye.”
“The one that says you want to eat her alive.”
Jack was startled. “No. I just…want to get to know her?”
“Mmm hmm…” Alec eyed him for a minute and then laughed. “She’s a witch, you know.”
“Yeah. She helped me out of a jam a while back. We’ve been friends ever since.” Alec looked at him thoughtfully. “I could definitely introduce you, but only as long as you keep it together. If I catch you putting the moves on her, I’m dragging you out of there.”
Jack held up three fingers. “Scout’s honor. I’ll do my best.”
He turned his attention back to the girl, Talia, and felt something rumbling within him. It wasn’t like him to feel such an intense attraction to a girl so quickly. He’d had his moments, times when a lustful attraction hit him, but this was different. He felt it deep and low in his core, a pull towards her. Something about her was drawing him in, and he wanted to know more.
They approached her and the customer, and Jack had to keep himself from stalking. He put his hands to his sides and flexed them, feeling an inexplicable urge to rush over to her and pick her up into his arms. As they reached her, he could smell her, a sweet grass scent mixed with honeysuckle, and he inhaled deeply. Startled, he looked around the faire grounds, his shoes, Alec’s hair – anywhere but her.
Where was this coming from?
“So you see? You should definitely apply for that job.” She was finishing up with her customer and had a broad smile on her face. Jack thought the sun had come out for a moment, it was affecting him so powerfully.
“Thanks!” She said goodbye to her customer and looked up at him and Alec. “Hi, Alec! Hello, new guy!”
“Hi there.” Jack swallowed, hard. From above, her breasts were pushed together, and her cleavage was blossoming out of her top. He glanced over at Alec to keep from staring.
“Hey, Tali! I’ve got a friend for you to meet. Jack, this is Talia Morgen. Tali, this is Jack Soroka from Awaking the Misery.”
She stood up and held out her hand. Jack just nodded. It was stupid, sure, but he knew if he took her hand, he would never let go. A look flitted across her face, and she put her hand down. Now he felt like an ass. She turned her attention back to Alec.
“So have you been showing him around?”
Talia looked into his eyes. “What’s your verdict? Do you like our little slice of paradise?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty great.” Jack couldn’t look away. Good lord, her eyes were gorgeous. He would have sworn they bore right into his soul.
She glanced at Alec. “Speaking of paradise, are you coming to the party tonight?”
“Sally’s thing? Yup. I’ll be there.”
Talia looked over Jack once more. Her plush, curvy frame was mere feet from him, and he just wanted to grab her and kiss her, the urge continuing to permeate his entire being. He looked away and stared off into the distance, hoping she couldn’t tell.
“Okay then. Um, I’ll see you later?” She gave Jack another glance. “Nice to meet you, Jack.”
“Yeah. You, too.”
Again, an expression (disappointment?) came over her face before she turned away. Jack wanted to grab her and tell her how beautiful she was, how desirable she was to him, to kiss away that disappointment from her face, but it was too late. She had already pushed through the veil leading into her covered tent. The air was different now that she was gone, colder. Jack felt it in his bones and shuddered. He wanted her warmth back, but the opportunity had passed.
Alec turned to him and a look of disapproval was written all over his face. “What the hell was that?”
“What did I do?”
Jack felt Alec’s hand wrap around his arm as he began dragging him away. His voice was hushed. “First, you eyeball her like she’s raw meat. Then you hardly say two words to her?”
“I…uh… I was being polite.”
“Oh is that what you were doing?” Alec stopped pulling him along once they were out of earshot of Talia’s tent. “Listen, she’s a nice girl. Don’t make me look like an ass for introducing you to her.”
“I get that. Jesus, what’s wrong with you?”
“I’m very protective of her.”
“Are you sure you don’t have a thing for her? Is that what this is?”
“No. She’s like a sister to me. I just want to make sure she doesn’t get screwed over. She’s had a rough go of it, and I’m not about to let just anyone muck up the good thing she has going.”
“I hear you. And don’t worry, I’m not planning on ‘mucking up’ anything.”
“That’s good to hear, man.” Alec stepped back from where he had been leaning into Jack’s space. “That’s a damn good thing to hear.”
The silence between them was awkward for a minute, and then suddenly Alec was back, smiling and laughing and talking about the show again. They shared a joke about musicians and Alec continued to give Jack a tour of the faire grounds.
All the while, Jack had only one thing on his mind, and she was back in that covered tent. He wanted to go back and introduce himself – the right way – but it was too late. He had mucked things up properly. Would he ever not make things so fucking awkward?
He got a phone call from the band: an emergency had popped up. Len Dedham, the lead singer, had gotten drunk and was hitting on the band manager’s wife. Again. Now he had to run out and couldn’t make amends. He gave his goodbyes to Alec and headed across the field to his truck, his long legs getting him there in a matter of strides. Climbing in, he started the engine and the band’s most recent track came blasting through the speakers. He quickly turned the sound down, putting both hands on the steering wheel.
Staring off into the distance, he let himself get lost in thought for a moment, staring after her tent. Talia Morgen. Even her name was beautiful. He tensed when he thought he could see her long blonde hair across the distance, but it was a trick of the eyes. He shook his head and put the truck in drive.
Leaving the faire grounds, his truck tires kicked up dirt from the ground and left a cloud behind him. He didn’t pay any attention. He was only focused on getting to the studio so he could separate Len from another mistake.
Jack never noticed the girl who stared after him from a tent across the field.