Darkness Haunts

By: Susan Illene

Chapter One

A true friend will always be there for you when you need them, but they’ll also be the first to drag you into a pit of vipers. If snakes hung out in this place, I doubted I’d get out of here in the same shape I went in.

“The Mouse Trap” was the newest and hottest club in Monterey, California. At first glance, nothing about it appeared out of the norm. No windows broke the smooth-faced façade out front, and the loud music spilling through the open door was the same as any other establishment of its kind. But it hid a darker element.

The patrons who stood in line had no idea they shuffled impatiently to enter a place owned by supernaturals, or “sups” as I preferred to call them. Hell, they didn’t even know such things really existed. They’d dressed up in their tight-fitting clothes, chains, and leather, believing they were going to have a good time. Little did they know—nothing is ever as it seems.

My nails dug into my palms as the line inched forward.

Lisette, one of my two closest friends, stood next to me. She’d picked our destination for the night, and true to form, she chose one with a mixed species element. Whenever you dealt with sups, anything could happen. I had to hope for the best and continue to play my ignorant human role with her. She didn’t know that I knew.

Blinking red neon lights from the club’s sign illuminated the excitement on her pale face. She hopped up and down, trying to see over the taller humans in front of her. I couldn’t figure out how she kept her balance on the high heels she wore. Then again, she only came up to my chin—maybe being closer to the ground helped. Pixies tended to be on the short side.

“Ten more people in front of us.”

She stopped hopping—to my relief. “Thanks. I hope they hurry and let us in soon.”

I scowled, but didn’t reply. My temples were throbbing. The result of being too close to a large number of sups. They’d hit my senses like a storm of fire, ice, and jagged glass as soon as we’d neared the place. I rubbed my forehead in an effort to get rid of the pain. It would pass, given enough time. My movement drew Lisette’s attention.

"What’s wrong, Melena?” she asked, frowning. “It’s not going to be that bad. Besides, with Aniya up in Alaska, there’s no one else who can come with me.”

“Aniya is a stay at home and drink red wine kind of girl. You know she wouldn’t come to a place like this.” I paused. “Speaking of which, have you heard from her? She hasn’t been answering my calls.”

“No, I haven’t.” Lisette rolled her eyes. “But don’t try changing the subject. Unless something is seriously wrong, you’re going in here if I have to drag you by your hair.” She reached out, as if to do just that.

I jerked the vulnerable locks over one shoulder—the farthest one from Lisette—and edged a few inches away. I’d have to let the topic of Aniya go for now.

My teeth ground together as the line inched forward—five more people in front of us.

I had to hope this place wasn’t as bad as my paranoia made it out to be. Most supernatural clubs maintained strict rules involving their treatment of humans. It was just good business, but until I went in, I wouldn’t know if this one did. A risk for someone like me. It could be said my kind, sensors, were the paranormal equivalent of most wanted criminals. The main thing that kept us safe was that we appeared human.

In fact, we were, except a bit more enhanced. The few differences we had included the ability to sense supernaturals nearby, immunity to magic, and some empathic traits. For having those gifts, the sups had hunted us for centuries. Lisette had known me for eleven years, since our sophomore year in high school, and even she didn’t know my secret. It was safer that way.

My heart skipped a beat—only three people left.

A brawny werewolf bouncer stood as the gate guard to the dark abyss beyond. His alert brown eyes checked the IDs handed to him, but he did little more than skim their details. Subtle sniffs flared his nostrils as he came into contact with each human. You could fake an ID, but you couldn’t fake your natural smell, not even with perfume. A werewolf could detect your age down to a year with little more than a whiff or two.

He pulled a young brunette out of the line who wore a tiny red dress. It didn’t cover up much and left plenty of curves to show. She stood off to the side with her hands on her hips.

“I’m twenty-one. You have to let me in.”

He flung her ID at her. “This is fake. Get outta here.”

She squealed in outrage, grabbed her ID off the ground, and stomped off. I envied her. She had an excuse to leave. Sups rarely messed with underage humans. Even they had lines they avoided crossing.