“Does it suit you both?” Vikarr waited with his arms crossed in front of him and Eliza and Caleb looked over a redesigned Sordid. With the upstairs opened into slightly less private VIP areas and a few surrounding building procured to expand and add a kitchen and lounge area, the all hours Sordid was now going to be more inviting for a wider range of clientele. He had maintained some of the sensual, ambient aesthetic to pay homage to Eliza’s years maintaining Sordid as it once was, but it was brought into a more elegant and tasteful style.
“This is gorgeous, Vivi.” Eliza grabbed his arm and hugged it. Dozens of his succubi were lined up and ready to work. In adorable matching outfits as Caleb had suggested. “I love it.”
“So amazing.” Caleb agreed. The pretty little demons in little black skirts and tight white blouses, each with a tie that matched their hair or eyes. Some in dainty black heels and others in boots that rose half way up their thighs. Even without the wings and tails most of them had, Vikarr’s little army of girls would no doubt become one of the reasons the new and improved Sordid would be a success. Caleb turned to Eliza. “Are you bringing back any of your old staff?”
“I haven’t decided yet.” Eliza shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll wander in and ask. I might consider a few.”
“When can we open?” Caleb thought it would have taken months to get this far, but seeing it so close made him impatient. “I hate to rush it. This is just exciting.”
“Immediately.” Vikarr wrapped his arm around Eliza. With a nod he had the lessers he called start their work, music played and lights began to set a mood. “There are a few lessers about to keep things safe and running smoothly.”
“If we open you will have to give your Circle a few hours off.” Caleb laughed. “I told Mala and Donovan they had to be our first customers.”
“I’ll have them here as soon as possible then.” Vikarr laughed.
“Dance with me.” Eliza pulled Vikarr down the stairs onto an empty dance floor and Caleb leaned over the railing with Vale to watch them.
“They are kind of cute together.” Caleb watched Vikarr fawning over Eliza as if she were a goddess and smiled. Vikarr was the one that oozed with the perfection all demons seemed to, he had the air of grace and an aura of magnificence. Eliza was attractive for a girl, but Caleb didn’t understand how she had managed to win over the Head of Nihil. He thought it was probably better not to think about it. It was not any of his business, and he had no reason to complain. Caleb stretched out and grinned at Vale. “What is your story, honey?”
“Like all succubi, I serve Lord Vikarr.” Vale answered. “I offered myself to Lady Eliza as a personal servant as well.”
“I meant personally.” Caleb giggled. “You seem to always be with them. Don’t you have anyone special?”
“Nope.” Vale smiled. “Not really in the nature of a succubus. Do you?”
“I don’t seem to have much luck with romance.” Caleb chuckled. “Maybe it’s not in my nature either.”
“This is going pretty well.” Eliza returned to the table with drinks for Vikarr and Vale. “All of your sisters seem pretty popular, Vale.”
“Just don’t let it steal all of your time away from me.” Vikarr pulled Eliza close to him and kissed her. In only a few hours with the doors open word of mouth had filled Sordid and Eliza was thrilled to have her business and independence restored. Vikarr regretted restoring it so quickly. He had been enjoying all the time she was spending with him and feared he would rarely see her now that she once again had her club to run.
“I won’t, Vivi.” Eliza hugged him.
“And this is a part of your important work.” Myrt scoffed as they arrived in the crowded establishment.
“This is part of having friends.” Donovan corrected and spotted Vikarr above the crowd on the balcony with the others. Sordid was as crowded as before, but much less offensive. He squeezed Mala’s hand and hoped the night didn’t do any damage to the cause. “The work is important, but we do have a life beyond it.”
“A life I want you to share, Myrt.” Mala started to pull him through the crowd.
“I can walk just fine.” Myrt shrugged away and followed them up the steps.
“Took you long enough.” Eliza teased. “Did you get lost?”
“We had to finish some of our work.” Mala laughed as he watched Vikarr pull Eliza closer. They had become so comfortable together. He leaned down and gave Caleb a quick embrace. “I’m sorry we’re late.”
“I’m just glad you came.” Caleb smiled around his friends at Myrt. “You too, pretty. Did you enjoy the rest of your treats?”
“I only had one more.” Myrt had held the box most of the evening however. He only let go of it when Donovan insisted it would all spoil if he didn’t put it in the refrigerator. “I wanted to keep them.”
“They aren’t the best gift for keeping.” Caleb smiled at him. He had the urge to just latch his arms around the demon and never let go. “You are just too cute. Come sit with me.”
“Are you going to attack me again?” Myrt asked as he watched Donovan help Mala into his seat and cozy up beside him. As much as he wanted to be offended by it, he was glad to see Mala treated with so much care and respect. The little collar around Mala’s neck bothered him, but it was Mala who wanted it. No amount of kicking and screaming was going to change the way Mala was or the decisions he made. He left behind Heaven’s rules and traditions to find happiness and it looked like he had found it. Myrt shook his head slightly as he looked over the table of ‘friends’. It was certainly unconventional, but there was no denying that Mala was happy. Myrt approached Caleb nervously. “Please, don’t jump on me.”
“I won’t.” Caleb smiled. “Unless you want me to.”
“Looks like somebody has a crush on imitation Mala.” Eliza giggled as she whispered to Vikarr.
“Are you going to be staying in Nihil?” Caleb inched as close as he dared to Myrt when he sat beside him. “I could show you around.”
“Doubtful.” Myrt sighed as he looked at his brother. After hours of discussion he was trying to accept that Mala and Donovan were happy, but it was at odds with everything they had been told. It didn’t help to see Donovan bite into Mala and take his blood, or that Mala seemed to enjoy it. “I don’t understand this place.”
“That’s disappointing.” Caleb frowned.
“Why?” Myrt didn’t like the sudden change in Caleb’s expression. He laid his hand on the vampire’s head. “Stop making that face.”
“I was hoping you were going to stick around.” Caleb forced himself to smile and once again scolded himself for being optimistic beyond his station. He stood and caught Myrt’s hand as it fell from his head, giving it a slight squeeze before he stepped away. “I’m gonna go sneak behind the bar and make Mala’s drinks.”
“Oh goodie!” Mala grinned. “Get one for Vikarr, too!”
“Sure thing, honey.” Caleb tapped Myrt’s shoulder. “Want one?”
“I’ll help you.” Myrt stood and followed a blushing Caleb to the upstairs bar. Even knowing the man briefly he had gathered that Caleb was the talkative type and he felt responsible for the sudden quiet. Myrt watched Caleb set out several glasses and make attempts to avoid looking at him before he sat in front of him at the bar. “Did I do something to upset you?”
“Nope.” Caleb poured sugar into a shaker with rum and pineapple juice and started to dissolve the sugary mess. “I upset myself. I tend to get my hopes up over things that don’t make any sense. I should know better by now.”
“You don’t work for the Circle.” Myrt watched Caleb pour the thick sugary base into the glasses and reach for a brightly colored liquor. “How did you meet Mala?”
“He and Donovan just started hanging around in my place.” Caleb laughed. “It took them forever to get together. I love seeing them happy.”
“He bites him.” Myrt mumbled.
“I’m sure Mala doesn’t mind.” Caleb slid a glass to Myrt. “Try this.”
“Mala likes this?” Myrt pushed the glass away. “It’s awful.”
“He loves it.” Caleb laughed and grabbed a few more glasses and filled them with simpler concoctions. “Is this better?’
“Much.” Myrt nodded after cautiously sipping the second offering. While Caleb grabbed a tray and started to sit the glasses on it, Myrt shifted behind the bar and stepped close to him. “You are a vampire like Donovan. Bite me.”
“I… what?” Caleb backed away with a nervous smile. “No. I’m not going to just bite you.”
“I want to know what it feels like.” Myrt looked away. “I wasn’t suggesting anything inappropriate.”
“Well, I can’t do it now.” Caleb sighed and lifted the tray off of the bar. “When social hour is over maybe. I have to think about it. It’s not a very normal request.”
Caleb carried drinks back to the table with his mind on dozens of impossible scenarios. Each one ending with him reminding himself to come to his senses. All he was going to end up with was a daydream and a broken heart. As the hours passed logic slowly started to lose the fight and Caleb found himself stupidly entertaining the idea of indulging Myrt’s odd request. The demon was going to leave Nihil, there was no romantic future in the favor he had asked, but Caleb wanted an excuse to put his arms around Myrt one more time before he disappeared forever.
When Vikarr insisted he had to spend a few hours tending to his duties, Eliza agreed to join him. Donovan saw them off with Vale before he gave Mala a sweet kiss and promised to make quick work of his messages. Mala smiled as he watched Donovan run off to work before he finished the last of his drinks.
“I have to check on things at the reserve before I go to my office.” Mala stood and smiled at Myrt. “Will you join me?”
“I’ll meet you later.” Myrt shook his head. “I should see some of Nihil on my own.”
“I should be in my office in a few hours.” Mala stooped beside Myrt and embraced him tightly. He hoped the sudden interest in Nihil and the continued conversation with Caleb were a sign that Myrt was willing to see reason. “Don’t be too long. If your visit is going to be short, I want to spend as much of it with you as I can. I’ve missed you.”
“Get your work done.” Myrt tussled his brother’s hair. Once everyone had gone he reached behind Caleb’s chair for the tray he had used all evening to carry drinks.
“Leave it.” Caleb smiled. “The girls will clean up.”
“Have you thought about it?” Myrt tapped his fingers on the table.
“This is such a terrible idea.” Caleb laughed. “I’ll do it, but not here. Come on, pretty.”
Caleb decided to lead Myrt through the city quickly so he had little time to second-guess his decision. At his door he noticed his hands shaking and he tried to convince himself it was due to a thirst he had ignored in favor of celebrating.
“This is your home?” Myrt peered inside as Caleb pushed the door open. It was modest, but tidy.
“For the moment.” Caleb invited Myrt inside. He kneeled in the center of the couch facing the corner of it and patted the cushion in front of him. “I’m moving closer to Sordid. Are you sure you want me to do this?”
“I’m curious.” Myrt nodded and took the offered seat.
“Where do you want me to bite you?” Caleb exhaled anxiously and ran his fingers back through his hair. “I don’t know how I should… you know I have to touch you, right?”
“He bit Mala here.” Myrt took Caleb carefully by the back of his neck and pulled him across his lap until Caleb’s lips rested against his neck. After the vampire tensed a moment he seemed to almost melt against him and Myrt felt strangely comfortable in the embrace that followed. The sting as Caleb’s fangs cut into his skin was not painful as he thought it would be, but there was no sensation he could liken it to. He just knew there was something about it he enjoyed and he was disappointed when it ended so abruptly and he heard Caleb’s soft whimpering. Myrt let his fingers move into Caleb’s hair and tried to comfort him. “What did I do?”
“Not a thing.” Caleb wiped his face before he looked up at the demon. “I just had to remind myself I was doing you a favor.”
“Why would that make you cry?” Myrt pushed away further tears as they escaped Caleb’s eye. “Is there a problem with my blood?”
“No.” Caleb pushed himself back a bit. “The blood is amazing. I think I might be drunk, but it’s amazing. I was… I get the feeling you aren’t really interested and I like being in your arms more than I should. I had to stop before I couldn’t make myself let go.”
“I don’t understand.” Myrt shook his head. “Why do you say these things to me? You want me to stay in Nihil. You enjoy my embrace. What do you want?”
“A chance to be close to you.” Caleb admitted with a sigh and pulled himself off the couch. “I can see that bothers you and I don’t make a habit of being a pest. I won’t bother you about it anymore. If you end up visiting Nihil from time to time, I make a better friend than whatever I just failed at.”
“I didn’t say you were a pest.” Myrt stood and took Caleb’s face in his hands. “I just don’t know what you expect. Everything I have ever been taught tells me the way you are looking at me is wrong. I’ve suffered for my sinful thoughts before. This feeling is frightening.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Caleb looked at him nervously and wrapped his trembling fingers around Myrt’s wrists. “I said I would back off. You plan on leaving anyway. I don’t expect anything. Do one thing for me, honey. I don’t know who has been teaching you, but they are about as smart as exploding bubble gum. Feelings aren’t wrong. No one has any business telling you what you are supposed to feel. Your heart is going to want what it wants. Trust me when I tell you it does not always make the best decisions, but we learn as we go. Eventually your heart finds the one it is meant to be with, but it won’t do that if you are following someone else’s idea of right and wrong. Live for yourself, Myrt. Do that and smile. I want to remember you happy.”
“I’m not sure I was happy to begin with.” Myrt rubbed Caleb’s cheeks gently with his thumbs. Caleb’s advice was much like Mala’s had been so long ago. Live your own life. Myrt looked at the sweet face of the vampire so ready to give up what he wanted if it meant making Myrt understand the value of such simple wisdom. “I don’t want you to be upset while I try to figure it out.”
Myrt caught Caleb in his arm as he put him to sleep and laid him out on the couch. He pulled a blanket over him and crouched beside him a moment trying to decide if it would be best to just make the evening disappear for Caleb. He decided it would be unfair and instead just wished him sweet dreams and gave a slight push for patience. Myrt left a short note on the floor saying he would stop by Sordid later and left Caleb to rest.