At first all Della saw was his forehead and then . . . "I see . . . swirly lines.
"Now look at my pattern. "Do you the similarities?" Chan asked.
"Yes. But they're not identical," she said.
"Not identical, but he's vampire. Brain patterns are like tracks in the snow, sooner or later, you'll be able to know what kind of animal made that print."
She nodded and glanced around the room.
"Look at that big guy's pattern in the black coat," he said.
She did. The pattern was completely different. Horizontal lines and . . .
"Now look deeper. Keep staring. Open your mind."
She concentrated and what she saw was black and dark and gave off the impression of danger. She took a step back.
He laughed. "It's okay. He's not going to hurt you. Not here anyway. But meet him in dark alley, and who knows."
"I wasn't scared," she insisted, but she knew it was a lie and she heard her own heartbeat speed up as if punctuating the fib.
"You should be. He's werewolf and not someone you want to associate with."
Della remembered. "The doctor. He was a werewolf and he didn't seem . . . bad."
"They are all bad." He looked around. "There's a fae, the pretty brunette in the pink dress. Well, she's half fae, half human."
Della tightened her brows and recalled the pattern of the nurse in the hospital. "I think I sort of understand. But if these people don't get along how come they come to the same bar? And why would they work together?"
"Because some supers think we should live as one big happy family. Like humans who want to live alongside lions. And I admit I've had my fair share of fun toying with a few breeds." He wiggled his brows. "Especially humans. It's fun to play with our food."
Della took a step back. "You're human. How can you . . ."
"I told you earlier, I'm not going to sugar coat it. I'm not human anymore. Neither are you. You need to start looking at humans as prey."
Della put a hand over her mouth. "The blood earlier, you didn't . . . hurt anyone."
"Got it from a blood bank." He glanced away, almost too quickly as if lying. "Oh, see the little guy in the black shirt. Check his pattern out, but . . . if he looks this way, glance away, quick."
Emotions swirled around Della's chest. She stared at Chan.
"Look at him, Della. This is important. You need to know this shit."
"Because he's a shapeshifter. You need to be able to recognize them so you can stay clear of them. They are one pissed-off breed. All that changing forms messes with their psyche. Most of them would just as soon kill you than speak to you in passing."
Her emotions were again swarming in her chest.
"Don't worry," Chan said. "Where you're going to live, you won't--"
Della recalled vague snippets of conversation about leaving her family. She couldn't do that. "Chan, I . . ."
"I'm taking you back to Utah with me. It's a vampire community. I'm actually thinking about joining a gang, and if you want to, we both can--"
She shook her head. "Even if I wanted to go with you, my parents would never let me go."
"Which is another reason we're here. There's a guy here, a mortician, he's going to help us fake your death. How do you wanna go, car crash? Maybe you fall and hit your head when you get out of the tub. He's really good."
Della stood there staring at him, the dark candlelit atmosphere making it seem surreal. Instantly, she remembered how Chan's parents had been devastated at his funeral, how his little sister and hers had cried. How Della had wanted to cry, but her daddy kept looking at her and reminding her she had to be strong.
"No," she said to Chan. "I won't do this."
"You don't have a choice."
And just like that, Chan disgusted her. She had to get away from him. Away from everything he was telling her. She shoved him hard. Harder than she intended to. She saw him flying across the room. She didn't wait to see him land, or even to see if he was okay. She took off. Darting between tables, until she saw a door and ran for it. That room was even darker, only two or three candles were placed on a bar. She darted away from the light, hoping to hide, hoping to lose herself in the crowd.
Suddenly a guy grabbed her by her forearms. "Slow down, sweetcakes. You okay?"
Sweetcakes? She looked at him, and with tears in her eyes, her vision wasn't quite focused and his forehead suddenly opened up and she saw his pattern. She didn't know what he was, but when she looked deeper she got a sleazy feeling. He leaned closer. His breath smelled like onions. "I ordered this for me, but I think you need it more." He placed a warm shot glass in her hand.
She was about to drop it away when the smell hit her. The exotic flavors. She brought the glass to her lips, and swallowed it in one gulp. It was better than any alcohol she'd ever tasted. Even better than the blood she'd drank earlier.
"What was that?" She licked her lips to collect the last taste.
"Fresh O negative. Freshly drained." The guy smiled. "My name's Marshal. How about we go back to my place? I got some of this stuff at home, too."
The seediness of his presence suddenly overwhelmed her. "Ever heard of statutory rape, you pervert?" Della seethed, realizing the guy was older than her dad.
"Need some help?" asked a girl who suddenly stood beside them. Dressed goth, her eyes brightened a gold color. Della tightened her brows to read the girl's brain pattern, and decided she was most likely a werewolf. She grabbed the man.
The man shoved the girl down and grabbed Della. Della lost it and tossed him across the room the way she had Chan, then she took off for another door, but not before looking back and seeing the girl who'd helped her give her the thumbs up. Della couldn't help but wonder if Chan was wrong about werewolves.
"Don't believe everything he tells you. You look like a smart girl. Make up your own mind." The doctor's words played in her head, but she didn't have time to think. She heard the dirty old man spouting out orders to someone to find her and bring her back so he could teach her a lesson.
She'd learned enough lessons for one day, Della thought. She ran faster, knocking over tables and chairs, and occasionally the chairs weren't empty. "Sorry. Sorry," she said as she went, moving through the dark crowded spaces. She smelled beer, and heard the clinking sound of ice swirling in drinks. The club was like an old house, a lot of cubby holes and tiny rooms filled with card tables for people to group together. The interior felt as if someone had just kept building on creating almost a maze like atmosphere. She moved aimlessly, through one door, then another, or maybe it wasn't so aimlessly.
She followed something. She just didn't know what it was until . . . until she did know. The smell.
She entered another room, and three men lay stretched out on beds, needles in the arms and blood being drained from their bodies.
Her first thought was they were being forced to give up their life-sustaining substance; her second thought was . . . Yum. Her stomach grumbled and she licked her lips. Then her last thought sickened her. She took a step back, afraid of the urges vibrating through her body, but then the smell entered her senses and her mouth watered.
"If you're wanting to buy it, you'll have to go to the bar," said one of the men. "We work for Tony and we'll get out ass burned if we start selling by the pints in here. But if you want to take one of our cards, we can talk later."
Della watched as one man got up, pulled a needle out of his own arm, and sealed off the bag with some kind of plastic clamp. But the ripe smell of all those exotic flavors filled the room. She watched as he put the blood on a metal tray.
"Hungry, aren't you?" he asked and he smiled at her. She tightened her eyes and saw he had a pattern similar to the nurse. Was he fae?
She inhaled, the smell again filling her nose. Realizing they offered to sell her the blood later, she concluded that they obviously weren't being forced to give up blood. Somehow that made her desire for it less hideous.
Her heart raced. Her stomach grumbled and she dove over the man, her only goal, her only desire to get her hands on that bag of blood.