Some months ago, I introduced a new creative endeavor I dubbed “Storytime with CCJ”.
I have unfortunately fallen off.
But, with this first story, many of you wanted to be able to read about my Black vampires. I was making arrangements to make it available on Amazon, but… I changed my mine. I want to let it live here, on my site, for free, instead.
Until The Sun Comes Up is three short parts, that I do not plan to revisit to write more. With that said, please leave comments and such, because I do want to hear from you! It’s already complete, but I’m not going to post it all at once quite yet – you’ll have to come back and see me again for the rest!
Without further ado… Black vampires LOL
(edited to add, if you want to listen instead, this episode is located here)
All I wanted was a normal day at work.
It was all I ever wanted most days, such a deceptively simple desire. Occasionally, I tricked myself into believing that I really was a typical woman, that this mundane life I coveted was truly within my grasp.
I always came back to the truth though.
This dull, perfect life was only temporary.
It was… fleeting.
I rushed through the commercial kitchen to get to the front of the house. My stomach churned as I averted my gaze away from where Sam, the sous chef, had nicked himself with that oversized Japanese knife he loved to show off with.
My presence had distracted him.
I got out of there, and on to where I was supposed to be – at the Onyx hostess stand – as quickly as I could. Still, the sight of bright red blood was seared into my mind, leaving me flushed with guilt.
I hoped he was okay.
Sam… liked me. I guess that was a better way to phrase it than Sam wants me, although the latter was certainly true. I felt it, in every long stare, every crooked smile, and especially that time he’d trapped me in a corner in the break room. He’d kissed me then, and blamed it on too much to drink, offering profuse apologies I didn’t need.
It was a nice kiss, and Sam was a nice guy. Very charming, very… normal.
Completely antithetical to what fell in the realm of possibility for me.
“Lyrah… you good?” Khalida asked, stopping me before I could made it to my designated post at the hostess stand. Just her presence was enough to calm me – to ground me. She and I had shared a rare commonality that was relieving.
Khalida ran the Onyx club, with a confidence and skill I looked up to. When she offered to train me as an assistant manager, I readily accepted the invitation. With the understanding that at any time, my employment here might have to come to an end.
I had very little say over it.
In the meantime, though, I nodded at her question, even though Sam’s little kitchen mishap had me completely unsettled. Her eyebrows lifted, her regal features spelling clear disbelief, but she didn’t press me for more than I was willing to give.
“Let’s just have you on hostess duties today,” she said. It was a definitive demotion from the assistant manager duties she’d impressed upon me over the last few weeks, but I understood it wasn’t a punishment – it was a gift.
The shift in responsibility kept me mostly in one area of the club, busy enough that my mind couldn’t do much wandering, and would be taxing enough that at the end of my shift, I’d easily fall into bed and sleep.
“Okay,” I agreed, nodding.
It was a Saturday night, so the energy in the club was frenetic, as anticipated. I wasn’t alone at the hostess stand – there was enough work for me and two other hostesses, with us taking turns escorting patrons to their tables, taking down future reservations, and with me still picking up a few assistant manager duties here and there, just out of necessity.
That was how I missed him.
Or at least, I told myself it was only that, instead of the more likely reason I didn’t want to admit. I should’ve felt him, should’ve… smelled him.
It really shouldn’t have taken visual confirmation to alert me to his presence.
But… that’s how it happened.
I was coming back from checking on the band when my feet just… stopped. My gaze had been moving around the club, taking everything in, and then… my eyes fell on him.
He was already looking at me, his mouth curved into a wicked smirk that set off a disconcertingly familiar prickle of arousal over my skin. The signature indigo lights of the club reflected against his golden-copper skin, lending an ethereal quality to a man who didn’t need a single shred of mystery added to his appeal. His long fingers dug into the thick coils of his beard as he stared at me, keeping me trapped under the weight of his dark-eyed gaze.
Then he winked at me, and the spell broke.
I didn’t waste time looking away, rushing to find Khalida. I hadn’t made it far when I barreled clumsily into the solid weight of her husband.
“Aram,” I breathed, startled by his sudden presence. He wasn’t looking at me though, even as his hand circled protectively around my forearm.
“Lyrah,” he spoke, in his usual deliberate baritone. “Do you need me to remove this man?”
Of course, he’d noticed.
Of course, he’d felt it – the barely-bridled power that emanated from Desmond. The thought of friction between these two men sent a shudder of fear up my spine, and I shook my head.
“No,” I said. “It’s fine.”
Not because I just didn’t want to cause trouble, but because it was fine. As displeased as I was about Desmond’s presence, I knew he was no fool. He wouldn’t cause a scene here, not in front of Aram.
Not because he was afraid, but because of the mess it would cause.
“You sure?” I turned to find Khalida standing nearby, wearing a glare focused in Desmond’s direction. “Is he the one you told me about?”
“Yes. I don’t need any help though.”
That was good enough for them.
They let me be, understanding that as much as they might want to help, this was outside their purview. I avoided Desmond’s section for the rest of the night, finishing my shift without incident.
I was beyond glad when it was time to go home.
“You be safe out there!” Sam called as I was leaving, through the back exit. I shot a smile at him. It was late enough that his warning made sense – I loved Blackwood, but at night, it carried the same possibility of danger as any other big city.
“I like to think I can handle myself,” I called, just before the heavy steel doors of the service elevator closed, leaving me by myself to travel down to the ground floor.
Once I was down there, I didn’t linger.
I made my way to the sidewalk, lifting my oversized scarf so it covered my head and ears before I tucked it into the front of my coat. Winter hadn’t arrived yet, technically, but it had sent the biting cold ahead, complete with a frigid wind that seemed to find any uncovered skin to nip at.
I loved it though.
It was so different from my native islands, even though I hadn’t been back in way too long. There were full-blown seasons here in Blackwood, a tidbit that helped sooth the sting of missing home.
I slipped my hands deep in my coat pockets, keeping up a steady stride that would get me out of the cold and into my building in no time. I was nearly halfway there when a call pierced the night.
“Where you going by yourself all late?”
I kept my gaze ahead of me as the source of those words pushed off the concrete steps of a nearby building as I passed. He’d been loitering there with his friends – was probably always loitering, somewhere. My scarf covered my ears enough it was easy to pretend I was wearing earbuds, too distracted to acknowledge strangers.
Sometimes, it worked.
Not this time.
“Ay, bitch! You hear me talking to you?!”
Was that what passed as a pickup line these days?
I kept on ignoring him, especially since I was approaching a crosswalk anyway. If I could just get to the other side of the street, he would virtually cease to exist.
I didn’t make it.
Before I could get there, a hand circled my arm, for the second time that night. His touch was completely different from Aram’s, roughly yanking me around to face a man easily twice my size, his face mostly obscured by a knit mask.
“You hard of hearing or something?!” he spat in my direction, gripping my arm too tight.
“Let go of me,” I warned, grinding the words out through my teeth as I narrowed my eyes to meet his. “Now.”
“Lyrah!” My shoulders stiffened at the sound of my name, and the next thing I knew, Sam was approaching with a quick jog. “There a problem, man?”
The stranger in the mask let me go.
Sam wasn’t exactly imposing, but he was a man, and that was usually all it took.
“Nah. Just trying to have a polite conversation, that’s all,” he muttered, slinking off to return to the stoop where his friends were gathered, watching.
Sam wrapped an arm around my shoulders, creating an impression of intimacy that didn’t exist between us. He stayed that way until he’d escorted me across the street.
“Thanks for that,” I told him, as he dropped his arm and withdrew himself from my personal space. “I could’ve handled myself though.”
Sam grinned at me, tugging his knit beanie down over his ears. “You could’ve, sure, but you shouldn’t have to.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Is your argument that random men shouldn’t be harassing me on the street, or that you should be handling me?”
“Uhh… let’s say both?”
I bit my lip to keep from laughing at that assertion.
Sam couldn’t handle me.
“I’ve told you before…”
“Right, right – you don’t date coworkers,” he groaned. “Fine – you forced my hand. I’ll quit.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Please don’t do that – who would do all the food prep?”
“Damn, I guess you’ve got a point. If I quit, there won’t be anybody for Chef Scott to yell at, huh?”
“Your presence is vital to the club’s ecosystem, Sam. You can’t quit to date me.”
“Is that your way of volunteering to quit instead? Cause I’m willing to help you find a new job, that’s not a problem.”
“Wow,” I laughed. I stopped walking, even though there was still another block before my building. “You are really trying hard, aren’t you?”
He shrugged, his dark green eyes dancing against the illumination from the streetlights as he met my gaze. “I’ve been trying for like a year now, Lyrah. I may not have meant to kiss you when I did, but… I damn sure wanted to. You know what they say about liquor and inhibitions, right?”
I sighed, shaking my head. “You know my rule.”
“Those are made to be broken.”
Sam’s shoulders sank in defeat. “Come on, Lyrah. I’m handsome, employed, no kids, you know I can cook. Come on. Just… lunch?”
His efforts made me smile, but I shook my head. “I can’t, Sam. But you’re right about everything you listed, which means you should have no problem finding some lucky woman to date you.”
“I don’t want her though – I want you.”
“I know, I know,” he shook his head, then gave me his usual good-natured smile. “Aiight – this your building?” he asked, pointing to where I’d stopped.
“No. You’re going to walk back the way we came, and then I’m going to finish my walk home.”
“Ahh, can’t have the lovesick dude from work knowing where you live, huh?”
“Something like that.”
“Cool, cool, I respect it.” He bit his lip as he looked at me, then let out a defeated sigh. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lyrah. Good night.”
“Good night, Sam.”
I waited until he’d crossed the street before I started moving again, glancing back to make sure he really was going on about his business. There was already a bit of a necessary boundary being pushed, and I definitely didn’t need him getting any closer.
All I wanted was a little peace, tonight.
Just like always.
Unfortunately, any chance of that was stripped away as soon as I turned the corner to my building. A motorcycle roared to life in the dark, coming seemingly out of nowhere to fly past me on the street before it disappeared again.
I rolled my eyes, slowing my steps as I approached the building I’d been calling home for nearly a year. It only took a moment before I felt a familiar presence fall into stride behind me.
“Why didn’t you bring him home?” Desmond drawled as he caught up to me, getting close enough that I could feel the heat from his body. “You know I can smell him on you, right?”
I rounded on him, my breath catching in my chest as he didn’t even flinch in the face of my anger. “Close your nose or something then.”
He smirked, his eyes narrowed at me for a long moment before he grabbed me by the throat. The pressure of his grip lasted only a moment before it softened, and he shifted his fingers to dig into the hair at the nape of my neck.
“I haven’t seen you in how long, Lyrah? And this is the reception I get?”
“Did you expect something different?”
He let out a dry chuckle. “No, my love. I didn’t. A man can dream though, can’t he?”
“A man?” I challenged, pulling away from his grasp. “There used to be a time when you’d be offended by that word.”
“As the world changes, so must I,” he called after me, as I started walking again. “So must we.”
I huffed, and started up the front steps of my building. In the span of time it took me to blink, Desmond was in front of me, blocking the door. He relaxed against it, completely – rightfully – convinced of his appeal.
A matte black helmet hung from his fingers, dark denim slung slow on his hips. The black tee shirt he wore under his perfectly tailored leather jacket clung close to his skin, showing off the contours of an objectively perfect physique.
I… despised him.
Hated what he represented for me, loathed the way my nipples beaded into hard pebbles as he ran his tongue over what I knew to be velvet-soft lips.
“You’re aroused, Lyrah. I smell it.”
At the top of the steps, I shrugged. “So what?”
“Because of me, or because of him?”
“You already know the answer to that.”
He grinned, showing off the polished white teeth and fangs he was so damned proud of. “I do. So…” He pushed off the door, stalking up to where I stood. His free hand circled my waist, pulling me against him. “Why don’t we stop the games? We may as well go ahead and… consummate.”
I smiled at him, running my tongue over my own fangs as I let them blossom in my mouth. I slid a hand between us, caressing the bulge of his groin before I wrapped my fingers around it, with a firm hold.
“Des…?” I whispered, bringing my face closer to his, close enough that I could feel his breath.
“Do you if a vampire can regrow his penis, or not?”
Instant confusion dwarfed the arousal in his eyes, and he shook his head. “No… I don’t.”
“Oh. Well then… you may want to get away from me. Cause I’m thinking really hard about tearing yours off.”
“Whoa,” Desmond exclaimed, doing exactly what I wanted him to do – backing up. Anger radiated off him, his nostrils flaring. “Why do you always do this, Lyrah? We both know what this is. What it has to be.”
I swallowed hard, edging past him to get to the door of my building. I didn’t look back as I unlocked it. “And we both know I’d rather die than concede to it.”
“We will. Literally.”
I sighed as I pushed the door open and slipped inside.
“So be it.”