It was raining the day I met Ashley Langton. I was heading into work, my umbrella poised nonchalantly over my shoulder as I try to check myself out in the mirror I have attached to my car keys. My hair, which is curly, black, and relatively untamed, is quickly losing its curl, and my blue eyes look washed out by the rain.
I sigh slightly and stick my keys back in my pocket. I look all right today, although usually I’d say I’m pretty damn good-looking, even though I’ll be thirty in a month. I’m the head of the Paranormal Investigation Team, or the PIT, a specialized section of the NYPD that is in charge of, well, investigating the paranormal.
PIT is situated in a large, two-story building about three blocks off of Times Square; I never understood the need for such a big building because there’s only four of us working on PIT: James Avery, Becka Reynolds, Adair (Dair) Lewis, and me, Ryan Conway. James is the technical guy; he runs the cameras, mikes, and any other technical aspect of our jobs. His roommate and best friend since third grade, Dair, takes care of the weapons, making sure that we’re well-armed, and Becka is our case manager. The three of us guys head out on cases but Becka makes sure we’re actually doing them.
I head into the “office”, although we really only pulled a Ghostbusters and bought an old house since the NYPD didn’t want to give us our own office (even though they paid for our creation). Becka greets me, smiling; she’s very pretty in her own way, being only thirty-five, married to a lawyer named John and with three children. “We have a case for tonight.”
I look around. “Cool. Where’re James and Dair?”
“Dair’s in his office, but James didn’t come to work. Dair says he’s pretty sick.”
I nod, even though James never gets sick and it sounds like a blatant lie on Dair’s part, and head upstairs to the large room Dair uses as his armory. He’s a soft-spoken man, a little younger than me, with light brown hair and dark eyes that are usually far-off and dreamy. When I enter the room, he looks up from whatever he’s doing and blinks, staring for a few moments. He finally speaks softly. “Close the door.”
I do as I’m told, shutting the door softly. He stands up, leaving the gun he’s working on lying on the table, and walks over to me, immediately slumping against my chest. This takes me aback and I speak, surprised. “I… What’s wrong, Dair?”
“James was vomiting all night… He was really feverish and shaky, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong…” He pauses for a few moments and then, in an even softer voice, “I… I was putting a cold cloth over his eyes when I saw it… I think he was bitten by a vampire, Ryan, and he doesn’t want to tell me. It almost looks like he’s going through bloodlust but won’t feed it because of me.”
I hold him at arm’s length. “No. When James does get sick, he gets badly sick. I don’t think he’s a vampire, Dair.”
Dair clings to me for a moment more, obviously in a huge amount of distress over this. I finally give in, deciding that I don’t need to lose my weapons man over this. “Come on. We’ll drive over to your house and check on him. We don’t have anything until tonight, and I don’t like him being sick anymore than you do.”
Dair looks up and then smiles like a little kid. “Okay.”
I shake my head and walk out of the room, heading downstairs with Dair following just behind. I tell Becka where we’re going and then head out to my pickup; we’re at James’ and Dair’s one story house in fifteen minutes or so. When I pull in the driveway, Dair practically leaps out of the car before I’ve stopped, landing on his feet and yanking out the house keys. I, who in all reality rather enjoy stopping the car and not risking a broken ankle, roll to a halt and then get out. Dair lets me in and walks immediately to James’ room. “James? How are you feeling?”
James was, when I walked in, lying in the bed with nothing but a pair of boxers on. He sits up, looking paler than usual, which is saying a lot because he’s normally as pale as Death, and half-smiles, his starkly white skin and his platinum blonde hair making him look either angelic or dead, I can’t quite decide which. “Better, I guess. I’m not throwing up. You brought Ryan?”
Dair walks over to the bed, ignoring his question and sitting down, putting his hand to James’ forehead. “Are you cold at all?”
James blinks and then grins. “Why, are my nipples hard?”
Dair blushes and shakes his head. “You feel colder than usual.” He bites his bottom lip. “I… You went out the other night. Did something happen?”
James smiles innocently. “No.”
I stroll over and put a firm hand on James’ shoulder. “If you’re lying to him, James, I will find out.”
James looks up at me for a good few moments and then his eyes travel to Dair. He speaks, his voice low. “I… I was bitten, Dair… I wasn’t going to tell you, but I was sick from the poison… Please don’t be angry…”
Adair looks absolutely crushed. He stands up and walks away, going into the kitchen quietly. James’ face falls and he stands up shakily, following after Dair with the look of a lost puppy on his handsome face and a dreadful look of utter desperation in his gray eyes. I can only follow them, feeling more than a little awkward.
James speaks first, his usually sexy and slightly husky voice sad. “Dair… You have to understand why I wasn’t as forward with you as I should have been.”
Adair turns on him viciously. “Yeah, telling your best friend that you just died isn’t important, I guess. My bad for thinking it is.”
James looks at him, obviously pleading. “Don’t be like that, Dair…”
“Be like what? Concerned?” Adair draws himself up to his full height, which still isn’t as tall as James, and speaks angrily. “I’ve let you do anything you’ve ever wanted to do without complaining, even though half the time you could probably end up with AIDS… But this… This is a great example of how little you care about me.”
James steps forward, taking Adair’s hand with this absolutely devastated look in his eyes. “Dair… I care about you more than anything else in the world. How can you say something like that?”
Adair laughs bitterly, his tone sardonic. I’ve never heard these guys fight like this, and I’ve known them for nearly ten years. “Maybe if you weren’t a slut we wouldn’t be having this issue.”
James stares at him, shocked. “Dair..?”
“We’ve known each other since we were eight and you’ve been doing it since seventh grade, you whore. s**t like that made something like this happen.”
James blinks. I can’t tell if he’s confused or on the verge of tears, though knowing James, it’s probably both. “Would you have told me?”
“Yes! I’ve never lied to you before.” Adair allows a silence to permeate the room and then speaks softly. “I want you to move out.”
“What?” Both James and I speak at the same time, although it only serves to provide me with an opportunity to interject. “Dair, you’re being irrational. You can’t kick him out for such a minor transgression.”
Adair turns his angry, dark eyes on me. “Then he can go live with you if it’s such a ‘minor transgression’.”
I immediately shake my head. “Oh, no. I don’t have room for him. Besides, since Elizabeth moved in I don’t want anyone over.”
Adair shrugs. “He can sleep on the couch. I don’t want him here anymore.”
James looks like he’s about to speak when Adair cuts him off, very vehement in his words and movements. “Shut up, James. Get your stupid clothes and get out of my house!”
James gives up and goes into his bedroom, throwing a few things in a suitcase and walking out. I groan. “Adair… You come back with me to the office. James… You get dressed, take your car over to my place, and drop off your things. Then come to the office.” I hand him the extra key to my house and glare at Adair. “Come on.”
Adair follows me and we head downstairs, Dair visibly angry. I stay as quiet as possible when we’re driving back to work, trying not to antagonize Dair because he usually has a gun or a knife on him somewhere. I honestly don’t want to get stabbed in the throat while going seventy miles an hour.
We go back to the office and walk in, only to be stopped by Becka. “I have the information for tonight.”
I nod. “What’s up?”
“You need to go to that club Wonderland and find Ashley Langton.”
Adair speaks before I can. “No. Absolutely not.”
I look at him. “Why?”
“It’s a gay bar. James goes there all the time. I’ll bet you that’s where he was the other night.”
My face immediately loses all colour. I’m sure I haven’t been to a gay bar ever, and my last and one of only three flings with another man was eight years ago at a Christmas party in college. I speak softly. “Why?”
Becka blinks. “Mr. Langton needs our help. He’s the owner of said club and some weird things have been happening. Ryan, you have to find him and talk to him. James and Dair will have to go with you because apparently a lot of vamps and shifters frequent it. Wonderland is the only place the two groups really mingle without fighting.”
I sigh, resigning myself to the fact that I’ll have to do this. Besides, if James or Dair gets drunk, I might convince them to make up. “Okay. Once James shows up we’ll get ready.”
Adair makes a noise of distaste and I glare at him. “Shut up. Go back to your room and get some weapons together. It’s your own damn fault.”
Adair glares at me and storms off. James shows up a few moments later, his eyes red, which makes me wonder if he was crying. I tell him what’s happening that night and he just kind of nods, which kind of worries me.
How the hell can I fix something this broken?
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