The air inside the nightclub was hazy from smoke machines. Flashes of colored light cut through the swirls in beat with the pulsing music that shook the walls and the floor. The atmosphere was alive with movement?a mass of hot, swaying bodies bent on enjoying the moment. A monster waited in the depths of the darkness to bat her pretty eyes at someone and make them her prey.
The door of the establishment swung open to give way to three eager young men looking to have a good time and celebrate. The trio was instantly surrounded by dancing women. They made their way through the press of bodies to reach the bar.
Daniel forced himself not to scan the crowd for his ex-fiancée, April. But she was the least of his worries, as the real danger was a face he wouldn’t recognize.
Roy got their drinks while Hank and Daniel stood at a balcony that overlooked an even larger dance floor below. The smoke was thicker down there, and there were more lights. The dancers looked like they were paying sensual homage to their deity. The air was tainted with the aroma of perfume and alcohol; it burned the men’s nostrils and fueled their excitement for the revelry to come.
Daniel took a moment to text his twin brother, David, to let him know where they would be celebrating their shared birthday. He received a text back from David saying he was still an hour away.
Roy joined them with three shots and three cold bottles of beer, passing one of each to his friends. They downed the shots in one swallow before turning their attention to their beers.
“Dave will be here in an hour or so,” Daniel announced after downing his shot.
“Awesome—we’re gonna have a great time!” Hank yelled over the music.
As Roy took a drink of his beer, a petite, slim blonde grabbed his waist from behind. He jumped in surprise and turned, recognizing the young woman.
She tucked a finger into the front of his jeans, smiled at him, and tugged him away from his friends toward a table with another girl.
Roy looked back over his shoulder at his friends and shrugged.
“That’s Lynn,” Hank yelled to Daniel. “They’ve been seeing each other for a while. And that’s her cousin Trisha—you don’t want to go there.”
Daniel nodded and looked around. The warming effect of the shot was spreading through his body, relaxing him. He felt less paranoid about running into April.
While he was looking over the crowd, a woman caught his eye. She was a tall, slim brunette, and she was beautiful. She was standing alone at the end of the bar. He watched her for a few moments, and when she looked around, their eyes met.
He smiled and looked away.
Hank noticed Daniel’s mild interest. He knew what his friend had been through recently and why he was gun-shy with women.
“Go for it!” he yelled, nudging Daniel. “Have some fun!”
Daniel looked at his friend, took another swallow of beer, glanced at the woman—noticing she was still alone—and shrugged.
Hank laughed and gave Daniel a shove toward the bar, causing him to slam into two people who happened to be walking past. When he turned to them to apologize, he came face to face with the very woman he was hoping not to run into: April. The man she was with was leaning on her with all his weight while she struggled to hold him up.
Daniel’s heart clenched in his chest and his lungs seized up for a moment. He felt his hand tighten around the neck of his beer bottle. He wanted to slam it over the other man’s head, but he managed to restrain himself. He didn’t want her to know how much the sight of her with another man hurt him, so he put on a brave front.
“Excuse the fuck out of me,” he said with a sadistic smile, raised the bottle in the air like he was toasting them, and then took a big swig of the brew. He was pleased with the shocked expression that spread across April’s face at his harsh greeting.
They didn’t say anything to Daniel, but focused back on each other and moved around him and deeper into the establishment.
Daniel glanced over to Hank, who was grinning from ear to ear.
He smiled at his friend, nodded, and forced himself to put one foot in front of the other until he made it over to the woman at the bar. While he walked he pretended not to notice that April had glanced back at him several times as she guided her drunken man to a table where he could sit down. He was determined to show April she wasn’t the only woman in the world. He was going to prove to himself and her that he was over the breakup.
“Hi, I’m Daniel!” he yelled when he reached the woman, leaning toward her a little so she could hear him as a new song started to play.
“Grace!” she yelled back.
They smiled at each other.
The couple chatted for a while about nothing important, since it was too loud to carry on a serious conversation, and ordered drink after drink as they stood at the bar. Daniel’s emotional tension eased little by little with every drink. He became more and more relaxed, and friendlier and friendlier with Grace. Before he knew what was happening, they were pressed up against each other while they conversed so they could hear each other better.
“Let’s get out of here,” Grace said. She kissed him and reached down between them to rub his crotch.
Normally Daniel would be shocked and uneasy by such a gesture so soon after meeting a woman, but he’d had enough drinks not to care about how respectable she was or wasn’t being.
He nodded in agreement and looked around for his friends, frowning.
“I have to tell my friends I’m leaving,” he said, taking a step away from Grace.
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Grace said, rubbing his crotch again. “They’ll figure it out. Besides, you can call them later and they can pick you up from my place.”
That sounded reasonable so he followed her out to the parking lot. The night was clear and felt cool after the heat from the population of patrons inside the nightclub.
They stumbled together through the parking lot and paused to make out, pressed against the side of her car for a couple minutes before they finally separated their bodies to get in.
Daniel had the passenger’s side door open and was about to climb inside when his cell phone beeped, notifying him of a text. He stopped, stood up straight beside the car, and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket by mistake. He reached into his other back pocket and extracted his cell phone. He frowned and squinted to focus on the tiny, bright screen that said David was only a block away.
“What are you doing?” Grace asked.
“I can’t go with you,” he said with a sigh. “Sorry. I—”
He felt a sharp pain in the side of his neck. He reached up to figure out what had hurt him and spun around at the same time, dropping his cell phone and wallet to the asphalt parking lot.
Grace was standing behind him holding an empty syringe.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “but you have to come with me.”
He tried to shove her away, but his limbs wouldn’t do what he wanted them to. His legs gave out from beneath him as the world blurred into a black blob of nothing.
Grace shoved Daniel’s tall frame into the passenger seat when he started to fall, smacking his head on the door frame. She quickly picked his feet up from the ground and spun him so she could get him all the way into the car.
She heard laughing as a couple made their way through the parking lot a few rows over, so she didn’t take the time to pick up what Daniel had dropped.
Grace shut the passenger door and ran around to the driver’s side of her car. She scanned the parking lot as she pulled out, not seeing anyone close-by. She’d been careful, watching for people as they’d headed outside, but the distant couple had snuck up on them. Luckily they hadn’t come close enough to see what she was up to. She tensed slightly when she had to pass another vehicle as she pulled from the lot out onto the street, but the man was looking in the opposite direction and didn’t even glance their way.
Once she was out of the parking lot and a couple blocks away, she pulled out her cell phone and called Roger.
“Hey,” she said into the phone. “I have fresh meat…”
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Rebecca Besser is the author of Nurse Blood. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization. She has been published hundreds of times in magazines, ezines, anthologies, educational books, on blogs, and more in the areas of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for a variety of age groups and genres. Her nonfiction article on skydiving was picked up by McGraw-Hill for NY Assessments. One of her poems for children was chosen for an early reader book from Oxford University Press (India). Her short story, P.C., was included in Anything But Zombies! published by Atria Books (digital imprint of Simon & Schuster).
Rebecca’s main focus has been on horror works for adults. She writes zombie works, suspenseful thrillers, and other dark fiction related to the horror genre/community. She has also edited multiple books in these genres.
Rebecca Besser is represented by the Loiacono Literary Agency.