alentin was outside the Cove entrance, perched on his bike—a purple and black Harley with flames on the side panels. Nico, Gianni, and Joey were with him. The streetlight had cast an amber yellow glow in the cold evening darkness. A radiant full moon loomed above.
In the round of hello kisses, I welcomed Valentin’s warm, sensuous lips on my cheek.
Gianni brushed his hand along the faux fur of my brown leather bomber jacket. “Very nice,” he said.
I managed a thank-you and could have sworn Valentin detected both my delight and discomfort. He was in jeans and a distressed aviator-style black denim bomber jacket. He wore biker boots and held the helmet that rested on his lap. I’d say he was a welcomed sight, but he was more of a godsend.
A car sped past across the road. The female driver honked the horn. The other females in the car began squealing and calling out to Valentin. One hung out the window, waving. Another leaned out her window, throwing him a kiss.
Joey laughed. “You saw who that was, right? Haylee Higgins. Billy went around telling everybody you forced her to strip on Gianni’s boat when we went out on Labor Day. Are we lying, Gianni?” Joey grinned. “You know how charming and seductive Lord Hades can be.”
Gianni’s response was, “Yeah, uh … I’m not into Valentin like that.”
Valentin laughed. “Yes, he is.”
Everyone joined him in laughter.
“The day she was supposed to have stripped on the boat, I was not even on the boat,” Valentin stated emphatically. “And Billy was never on that boat.”
Farran teased him. “I guess the ol’ warlock skills come in handy, huh? You could have been there invisibly. A warlock is a male witch, right?”
“It’s come to mean that,” Valentin replied, taking it more seriously than I’d expected, “but in the early centuries, a warlock was an oath-breaker, a betrayer who couldn’t be trusted. In Wiccan culture, a witch is a witch—or a Wiccan—regardless of gender.”
“So are you a witch?” That was Angie.
“No,” he said.
“I think Billy’s just mad because he’s got a thing for Haylee,” Joey quipped.
Nico said, “He can eat shit and die. My brother would never do that—not to Haylee, not to anyone. I’m tired of these lame attempts to dishonor my brother and me.” Something about his conscientious intensity was as appealing as it was intimidating.
My eyes shifted from him to Valentin, who met my gaze and then winked.
“How’s the novel coming?” he asked.
It meant a lot that he remembered how important it was to me, regardless of my “tender age,” as he might have said.
“It’s coming along great,” I replied. “I’m going to start entering poems in contests, too, and submitting articles to magazines. I’ve gotten some decent feedback on the book but nothing published yet.”
He said he was impressed.
A shivering Farran asked if they were going inside. Gianni mentioned that Tommy and Liz were in there, and, after some discussion, everyone turned toward the entrance.
Valentin grazed my forearm. “Wait,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”
Farran appeared alarmed by this gesture, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Angie tugged gently on her arm and led her inside.
Everyone went in but Valentin and me.
“So, you missed me,” he said.
“Wait, did Tommy tell you—?”
He answered before I could finish. “Yeah.”
“It was no big deal.” I trembled. “I was just wondering about you. Now that you don’t need an angel healer or an exorcism, you forgot about me. You are like here today, gone tomorrow.”
“All time, for me, is fleeting,” he said. “A month is like a moment. A year is like a day.”
“Let me guess. It’s because you are immortal and have lived for centuries!”
He laughed. “You have a lively imagination. What a tragedy it would be if nothing could compare or compete with that.”
“Last time we spoke, it felt like we were good friends. Now it seems you just like to play games.”
“I’m not playing games.” Those eyes of his were soul-piercing blades. “I missed you, too, love. As for being out of touch, I’m sorry.”
“Why would you have to say you are sorry? You certainly don’t owe me an apology.”
“Because you are right. We are friends. I hope I never made you feel otherwise. I never meant to. I didn’t realize any of it until I told you I had something to confess.”
“Any of what?”
“That we have developed a friendship as well as a bond.”
“Yeah, we have.”
“There you have it.” That smile. It destroyed me.
“I want to know more about you.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Hmm, what you draw, being an artist?”
“I do sketches, drawings, illustrations … a lot of cartoons.”
“That’s funny.” I smiled. “I used to draw Charlie Brown. It’s the only character I can draw where someone would actually recognize who it is.”
Again he laughed. “I can do Charlie.”
“Joey was telling me about your job. I work in advertising, too—as a secretary. How did you end up an assistant art director at some Manhattan ad agency?”
“I did go to school in Spain to study art,” he said. “I got my design degree there. I want to start working on my master’s.”
“Wow, good for you. I’m so proud of you.” I smiled. “Now I am impressed! And I always wanted to work in Manhattan! That must be awesome.”
“If you worked where I work, those guys would never get anything done.”
I was both flattered and amused. “Well, I’m sure it’s the same with you and the ladies. I’ve watched you mesmerize all the women around here. They seem to worship you.”
“They don’t know me.”
“And they’d do anything for you in a heartbeat … must be quite a boost to your ego.”
“To be a false idol? To have others succumb to you with blind faith and reckless abandon? It’s a double-edged sword, and, going by your impact on the male population, I’m sure you’ve already bled from it.”
It took a moment for that to sink in, and then I opted to shift gears. “You were talking about confessing something, but then you do like to confuse me. I think you want me to join your many admirers in worshipping the ground you walk on.”
“You are wrong.”
Things changed from harmonious to awkward. I felt I had messed things up, and yet I was not sure what it was I’d messed up, since I had no idea what I wanted from him.
“Fine,” I said. “Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by all this metaphoric vampire stuff.”
He explained. “In the past, I’ve instinctively used my power to drain what I needed from others to survive. I’ve come to realize I’ve done this all my life, unaware. There were times I hated myself. When I see innocence, I am drawn to it. I want to take it and preserve it somewhere, so nothing can taint it, as if it could bring me back a piece of my own innocence. There were times I tried to do that, and I tainted that innocence before I ultimately destroyed it. It’s pathetic, when you think about it.”
“Is this about Katharine?”
“She’s a part, yes.”
“Are you still living with her?”
“I’ve been looking for a place. I’ll be moving out.”
“I take it she knows.”
“Yes. She’s inside—drowning her misery with one straight-up gin after another.” He looked at me. “All of this must seem absurd to you. You walked into this play during the fallout of its tragic conclusion.”
“You really care about her.”
“Of course, I do. She’s been a wreck. Something is telling me I need to fix this, and something is telling me to just go. I’m not sure what to do, but it’s not your concern. You were right—it is unfair to involve you.”
“I owed you for the car, so we’re even.”
“Ah, so that is how it works. We barter.”
“For our next exchange, I’ll walk you to the door. You, in return, stay safe.”
“You’re not going in?”
“I am, but I have to park.”
He dismounted for the short stroll to the Cove door.
“You are very mysterious,” I said nervously, as he walked alongside me. “I am half expecting you to fly by my window one night.”
“Fly by your window, huh?”
“I was kidding.”
I felt a wave of righteous indignation, and I was ready to admonish him, but my heart palpitated more than I’d thought possible. “God, you’re so serious! I’m trying to cheer you up by joking around. I didn’t realize—”
“May I ask you a question?”
“If it were possible for me to fly by your window, would you let me in?”
We were at the Cove door. He turned to face me and repeated the question. “Would you let me in?”
In that brief second, he seemed the devil’s child—the bad boy, every bit as wicked as I’d heard. I couldn’t help feeling, for those fleeting moments, there was nothing I wouldn’t do, nothing I wouldn’t say to bring forth that smile, and nothing I would not do to please him.
“Yes.” I laughed after I said it, not knowing why I said it. Perhaps it was the giddy madness of the full moon, or his eyes. Yes, I could easily blame his eyes.
He looked serious now and a bit apprehensive. It made me nervous.
“Relax,” I told him. “I know you’re messing with me. You try to confuse me, because you are confused.”
He opened the Cove door and stepped aside for me to enter. “You seem to be the one who is confused.”
The door closed behind me. He was gone.
Farran rushed over immediately. “What’d he say?”
I had told her already about Meadowside Inn and his help with the car. She had seemed distressed by it, so I wasn’t going to elaborate. “It was a follow-up of last time.”
Billy approached and expressed his concern. Evidently, he had seen Valentin at the door with me.
Farran laughed. “Oh, Billy, come on. You make it sound like all Lynx men are diabolical. I’ve known Joey and Tommy for years. Tommy’s a pussycat!”
“Tommy … Valentin … yeah, that’s like comparing a puppy to a junkyard dog,” Billy said.
“You’re saying Valentin is a junkyard dog? And Tommy is a puppy?” That seemed to amuse Farran. “Look, Billy, I don’t blame you. Family is family, and you feel they hurt your family. But you can’t think because some relationships don’t work out or have problems, those guys are going to have problems with everyone.”
“Alrighty, then,” he said, “you girls enjoy the night.” He moved on.
Katharine was about two feet from us, and a drunken man was beginning to harass her. Valentin had returned and intervened. He got the man to back off while appearing relatively calm.
“I’m sorry,” I heard Katharine say to Valentin. “I keep giving you a hard time.”
“It’s okay,” he replied.
“Can you forgive me?”
He put his arms around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. “It’s all forgiven.”
“I still love you. I always will. Please tell me how you feel.”
He dropped his arms to his sides. “I don’t know how I feel.”
“You protected me.”
“I will always protect you.” He walked away.
As the night progressed, Katharine was at one end of the bar drinking, while Valentin and Gianni were at the other end doing shots.
Angie played Metallica’s “Fade to Black,” and the three of us remained huddled near the jukebox. Angie was drunk and lamenting Cliff Burton, the Metallica bass player who’d died in a bus accident the year before. She became quite emotional, saying he was so young, and questioning why God took people so young.
I gave her a hug, and then Joey snuck up and grabbed Farran from behind, pulling her into a hug. He must have left shortly afterward, because it was the last I saw of him that night. I recall thinking that, not long before that, Farran was sitting on Tommy’s lap, running her fingers through his hair, and now she was eyeing Valentin.
I watched Valentin, too, as he walked over to Katharine. I didn’t hear what he said to her, but she took another guzzle of her drink and shouted, “You shouldn’t be allowed to have a dick!”
Then she was yelling, “I lost my virginity to you! Oh well, guess what? I don’t give a fuck what you want!” When she got off the stool and stood before him, those entrancing eyes of hers burned with defiance. She threw the drink in his face and told him he would never see his daughter. Though he never touched her, she looked as though some invisible barrier kept her from moving in any direction. Her eyes were wide and focused solely on him.
“Don’t ever do that again,” he said. “This isn’t a game, and my child is not a pawn in your futile crusade.” He backed away from her and headed for the door.
Billy went after him, yelling, “My family owns this bar! If you guys are done screwing over the women in this family, why are you here?”
“You make a good point,” Valentin said, though I could see he was fuming. “I’ll go.”
“Good, and take your high and mighty brother with you.”
“Fine with me,” Nico said. “I thought we could all be friends and work it out since there’s a child that’s connected to us all, but I’ll concede to your better judgment.”
Katharine and Shannon pleaded with all of them, and then Valentin confronted Billy about spreading rumors.
Billy said, “Maybe I don’t always get it right, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and you two have been nothing but trouble since day one.” He went to push Valentin in the direction of the door, but the moment he put his hands on him, Valentin grabbed Billy by the collar and flung him hard against the wall.
“Easy, Lord Hades,” Billy taunted.
A fight broke out. Steve called the police, but not before Valentin threw Billy into a side table. When Billy got back on his feet, he charged at Valentin. It looked as if Valentin crouched, grabbed Billy’s legs, flipped him over, and began slamming Billy’s head against the floor. I could hear female screams and pleas for it to stop. Many attempted to intercede, but Nico grabbed Valentin first. The grip didn’t hold. Gianni assisted, and the two of them held him back.
The police arrived.
Billy was a bloody mess. “Look what it took to get him to stop,” he said. “He’s an animal. Valentin’s the God of Hell.”
“Billy, don’t lie,” Nico said. “You started this. You don’t have any respect. You never do. It’s like that all the time, not just this time, with you calling him names.”
Billy ignored him. “I want that bastard in jail.”
Emergency technicians led Billy away. Katharine and Shannon followed.
“And stop telling people I’m a warlock!” Valentin shouted after them.
I might have laughed at that if I hadn’t been so frightened.
“Let’s go,” one cop said to Valentin, taking him out.
Nico and Tommy ambled out behind them.
Liz was there, shaking her head. “Billy always has an attitude with me, too. His attitude toward fellow bikers is not one of mutual respect and loyalty. He rides a BMW and drives a LeBaron. Need I say more? He’s a poseur.”
Angie rolled her eyes. “I have a headache.”
“We’ll go,” I told her.
We got our coats and headed out. It was hard to see anything with all the flashing lights, vehicles, and bodies. I couldn’t hear above the noise.
Tommy passed, and Farran asked him if they had arrested Valentin.
“Well, they didn’t cuff him,” Tommy said. “They’re talking to him, trying to calm him down and find out what happened. They gotta know everybody involved is drunk.”
The cops urged us to move on, and we proceeded to the parking lot. Angie looked sick.
Farran’s eyes were on me. “Valentin will be fine.” She smiled reassuringly. “Billy’s okay, too. He walked out of there. Shannon and Katharine will get Billy to drop the charges. I know it’s upsetting, but if you hang out in a bar long enough, sooner or later you’re gonna see a barroom brawl, and, yeah, brawls get bloody.”
I was more than worried. I was devastated.
Farran nudged me. “Tell ya what. When this blows over, and, trust me, it will, maybe you can talk to Valentin about me, tell him I’m interested. I mean, since you two seem to have a platonic friendship, it’s time I put my cards on the table and the ball in his court.”
There were many reasons I didn’t want to do that, my own conflicted emotions being the least of them. It crossed my mind that he’d come to put things in perspective for me after what Tommy had said to him. I shuddered at the thought. It never occurred to me that I didn’t have the right to say such things in the first place, to send him these ambiguous messages. He was a forbidden fantasy—an impossible fantasy, especially now.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.