Things are heating up!
VAELA DENARR (SHE/THEY) & MICAH IANNANDREA (THEY/THEM)
The Gift of Blood (Crimson Tears: Book One)
The Gift of Blood Book Cover by Lexa @rocket_bird
CW: This book contains gore, brief mentions of self-harm, and brief mentions of homophobia.
Chapter 3 CONT
The nervous feeling of a potential Blood tailing her persisted until she reached the city area where the ID in her pocket told her she’d find the home of Victor Vaughn. It was a heavily populated area, and many of the surrounding cafes were still open, taking customers that trailed off from a nearby Pride party.
Ryann stopped at the mouth of an alley from where she could see the gathered crowd, waving rainbow flags and glow sticks. The smell of drinks and sweat wafted over to her. Ryann smiled a little. It brought back some happy memories from her own visits to Pride parties. She slipped off her hood and ran a hand over her hair. For a moment, she let herself breathe deep. It helped in calming her heartbeat, which was still elevated from the run there.
She walked a little closer to the crowd and watched the party go on with a smile. A band played on a large stage set against the facade of an older building. Neon flashed on the stage, lighting up the limbs of the band members as the lead singer’s voice carried over the crowd. Their logo glowed brightly above the stage. ‘Neon Drip.’ Ryann just caught the end of the song, and after a moment of silence, the lights came on properly. Every single member of the band looked utterly gay. The lead singer had a purple mohawk and looked utterly amazing, with glowing neon tattoos over her shoulders and collarbone. She smiled at the rest of the band, which looked just as gay as her. Her ear glinted with a multitude of piercings, only outdone by the backup singer with the russet hair and the neon glowing guitar strings. Their ears were pierced even more.
The band waved at the cheering crowd and started their next song. They looked so in their element. It was very nice to see. Just gays being happy, smiling, and playing punk rock.
Ryann noticed a lot of younger people at this party. That was also nice to see. She couldn’t quite remember her own coming out. Maybe she hadn’t really had one. She remembered talking to her grandmother about if she could have a wife one day. She had been… twelve, maybe? Her grandmother had said yes, if she wanted one. She had brushed a hand over her granddaughter’s hair and smiled at her, her wrinkles deepened by joy and the light of her eyes, and that had been that.
Now Ryann waved to a few of the participants as she caught their eye, and they waved back happy enough. Several stared at her arms and the tattoos on them, and Ryann chuckled a little. Weaker or not, clearly she still drew the eye. That felt nice. Especially
On any other night, Ryann would have joined them to dance a little. But tonight, she was hunting.
There was a bittersweet note to her nostalgia as she watched the crowd, and Ryann decided to take a breather. She still had more than enough time to find Victor’s residence, find out if he had survived the cemetery, and get back home again.
Honestly, she wasn’t quite sure what she expected to find. If he was a Blood, (He had to be one, right?) this would be the time he was out, when the sun didn’t burn his flesh. And if he was dead… Well, maybe there’d be some clue. A proper phone. Notes. Letters. Anything.
Ryann walked away from the crowd, pacing close to the walls of the buildings that lined the open plaza. She couldn’t help but feel a bit less happy as she left the music and partying behind. A Pride party was where she’d met her girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend, she corrected herself bitterly for the hundredth time. Going to the party had just been a momentary indulgence. And then she had met London. The girl who had helped Ryann get off the streets and had helped her get her inheritance so she could take charge of her own life. Ryann had really loved her. And now…
She gritted her teeth and looked down. She really didn’t want to think about London anymore. Maybe someday, when she was feeling less hurt.
A group of teenagers walked a few metres in front of Ryann, chattering happily, and for a second all she wanted was for them to shut up and let her wallow in her momentary bout of misery. At the same time she wanted them to talk louder so she couldn’t think about the recent heartbreak. She kept her eyes fixed on the floor as she balled her fists in her sweater pockets. Her pointed fingernails pricked her palms a bit. She could swear they had fucking grown again. She walked slowly, creating more distance between her and the group in front. Her mind remained occupied with thinking and not-thinking about her ex. Why did it have to hurt so much?
Ryann was torn from her thoughts when she bumped into someone. She came out of her thousand-yard-stare and glared, looking for the offender. A growl instinctively rose in her throat. She was already agitated enough.
She immediately suppressed the sound when she saw that it was one of the teenagers she had been inadvertently following. The poor girl looked terrified.
“Woah, sorry!” Ryann said quickly as the girl staggered, and took her arm with a swift motion to help steady her.
“No, no, I’m sorry!” the girl said quickly as Ryann pulled her hand away. “I should have watched where I was going!” She fidgeted to adjust her dark grey beanie, and pouted down at where her fresh cone of ice cream had hit the pavement. She looked almost heartbreakingly cute in that moment. Russet-brown hair fell down to her shoulders in a cute, asymmetrical bob cut. “Ah, dammit,” she muttered and looked up at Ryann. “I didn’t get you dirty or hurt you, did I…?”
That was when she finally got a good look at Ryann. Her face fell a little in surprise as her gaze wandered up Ryann’s bulk, looking for her eyes. She took a step back, nervously fidgeting with the ends of the flannel sleeves she had tied around her waist.
Ryann couldn’t help a little chuckle. She reached up and took the mask off to be a bit less intimidating. “I’m fine,” she said, a little bemused. This cutie, hurt her? Yeah right. “Are you okay?” she asked back. She leaned away a bit to give the girl more space. “I bumped you pretty hard, kid.”
“Um, I’m not a kid, and I’m fine,” the girl said, narrowing her eyes a little. They were pale green, with a ring the colour of honey on the inside. “You’re, uh… big.” Was that a little blush on her cheeks, or did Ryann imagine that?
She just couldn’t help the grin creeping onto her face. “Yeah? I get that sometimes.” She patiently waited as the smaller girl looked her over, clearly impressed. And she was definitely blushing a bit. Ryann’s gaydar was going off at everything about her. That gentle, flustered blush and stammer were prime gay panic.
She enjoyed that immensely, but she still felt bad about making the cute girl drop her ice cream. I should at least replace her ice cream, she thought to herself. And introduce myself. “My name is Ryann,” she said. “Two N’s. And you are…?”
“R-Rachel,” the girl said, clearing her throat. “And for the record, I’m twenty-one. Not a kid!”
“Sorry,” Ryann said with a light chuckle and her hands up in a peace offering. She didn’t want to be rude and call her short either, so she didn’t try to make excuses. “Habit, I guess.” Her nostrils flared gently. Was it her imagination, or did Rachel smell really, really good? Sweet and… warm, somehow.
“It’s okay,” Rachel said. “Since you apologized.” Her eyes wandered to Ryann’s shoulders and then to her neck. And then definitely up and down that neck.
“Also, sorry for bumping into you.” Ryann rubbed her neck and ignored the gay little stares. She knew she had an effect on people. Especially baby gays, apparently. She gave Rachel a little smile. “I was pretty lost in thought.”
Rachel fidgeted with her flannel again. “It’s really okay,” she muttered. Her face was bright red, and she had trouble looking Ryann in the eye.
Ryann hummed softly. “Hey, can I treat you to some ice cream? I did make you drop yours,” she said.
Rachel looked down at the cone on the floor and blinked as if she’d completely forgotten about it. She looked back at Ryann and flushed even darker. “Oh, no, that’s fine!” she said quickly and raised her hands before realizing that she’d done that in reflex. She clasped them nervously. “I can just buy another.”
“Hmm, nope.” Ryann smiled at the cute girl. “Come on, I’m paying.” She walked right past Rachel and into the ice cream shop she had stumbled out of. Some ice cream actually sounds pretty good right now. I’m still hot from my run.
They passed the rest of Rachel’s group just as they were exiting. They all immediately made way for Ryann. They then only belatedly noticed Rachel following in her wake. “What are you doing?” one of them asked.
“Oh, I bumped into her and dropped my ice cream,” Rachel explained. “She uh… She’s buying me a new one.”
“You should be careful!” one of Rachel’s friends whispered to the girl, still quite audible to Ryann. “Look at her! She’s definitely one of those… like, from over there, you know?”
Oh here we go. Ryann looked over her shoulder. “You mean the Pride party that’s literally impossible to miss? Yeah. What are you guys doing here?”
The girl huffed and lifted her chin. She smoothed down her blue dress in a nervous gesture. “Rachel just really wanted to get some ice cream because she likes this shop! We didn’t come here to get hit on by gays!”
Well, that’s some unfortunate homophobia, Ryann thought with a frown and didn’t look at the very gay, very awkward, and very embarrassed Rachel.
She shrugged. “Why would anybody want to hit on you?”
The rude girl’s curly golden hair whipped around her head as she flinched back at the comment. Her mouth hung open. She floundered for a response. Ryann just winked at her and turned back to place her order.
After a moment of inspecting the options, she looked over her shoulder. “Alright, Rachel, what do you want?” She smiled at the baby gay warmly.
Rachel blushed faintly. “U-um…” She looked at her friends, who were all shaking their heads and looking rather upset. “I’d like a chocolate and peppermint mix,” she then said. “If that’s okay.”
“Sure thing.” Ryann smiled and placed the order. As the vendor prepared the cone, she pulled out her thin wallet. She usually paid in cash and kept her credit card reserved for big payments. But as she looked through her reserves now, she frowned a bit. She was running low. She’d have to remember to stock up soon.
The vendor smiled at Ryann and Rachel, who had stepped up next to her. “Happy Pride!” they said and handed Ryann the cone.
“Happy Pride to you, too,” Ryann said back with a smile of her own and reached for the cone. She rolled her eyes playfully when she saw that they’d added a little heart-shaped wafer to it.
She handed Rachel the cone. “Here you go.” She almost wished Rachel a Happy Pride too, but she stopped herself. She didn’t think Rachel was out to her ‘friends’.
“Th-thanks…” Rachel mumbled with her eyes averted. And, much quieter, almost to herself, “Happy Pride…” She looked up at Ryann, with her pretty, green and sunlight eyes. Her honey-sweet scent touched Ryann and made her pause briefly. Their hands lingered on each other for just a moment.
Ryann smiled softly at her and gave her a little wink. “Happy Pride,” she whispered back and pulled her hand away.
Rachel looked really happy at that.
And of course her idiot friends had to ruin it. “Hey, don’t try to hit on her!” the blond girl said and all but dragged Rachel away. “Rachel likes guys!”
“Larissa…” Rachel looked completely devastated. She clutched her ice cream cone like a treasure.
Ryann narrowed her eyes at the blonde. Her lips twitched, almost revealing her fangs, and she fought down a growl. She really wanted to say something, but she really didn’t want to out Rachel. So she smirked and tilted her head back a bit instead. “Oh yeah?” she asked. “You want me to flirt with you instead?”
Three of Rachel’s other friends, who had at least had the decency to look sympathetically embarrassed, gently snickered at that. But they still didn’t say anything. Larissa gasped, utterly shocked. “Who would ever want you to hit on them?” she said and probably really thought she’d shown her with that one.
Ryann smirked and leaned in a bit. “Women,” she said in a low, husky tone. “A lot of them, actually.”
“That’s just because you look like a man!” the one dude in the group blurted. He was a scrawny, thin guy in a dirty white tank top that showed off his ribs and the little flecks of patchy hair on his chest.
Ryann looked him up and down. “Clearly I don’t.” She was completely unimpressed.
“Well, you’re never gonna be as strong as a man!” he huffed, and Rachel looked like she wanted to sink into the floor. “So stop harassing my girlfriend! Or else…”
“Kevin!” Rachel called to him as Larissa tried to drag her away. “Stop it! Lari, let go! Tell him to stop!”
Pretty sure she’s the one doing the harassing. Ryann bit back the retort even though she could still see Rachel trying to squirm away from the clingy bitch that was pulling at her arm. “This is a fight you don’t wanna pick, buddy.” It would take exactly zero seconds to send this guy bouncing off the tables.
“I could still beat you,” Kevin said, given confidence by selective idiocy and bullshit gender stereotypes that nobody outside the dark ages still believed in.
“Dude, I’m literally a professional fighter.” Ryann tilted her head and her neck popped loudly. “But sure, if you wanna throw down, I’ve got some seconds to spare.” She rolled her shoulders and stretched just a bit. Kevin turned white as a sheet as he realized just how much bigger she was.
“Come on,” Ryann said and gave him a glare that had sent more capable fighters running. “We doing this or what?” Her knuckles cracked loudly.
Kevin stammered something, about to wet himself. Rachel was the one to come to his rescue. “Oh, um, guys, we should really head home! Lari, weren’t you saying how you wanted to be home by one o’clock?”
“Y-yeah!” Larissa pulled Kevin away, who looked like he couldn’t move his legs by himself. The group quickly filtered out, and Ryann just crossed her arms.
“Don’t forget to eat your ice cream!” she called after them and smirked when she saw Kevin and Larissa flinch just at the sound of her voice.
Rachel looked back at her. with a nervous and apologetic look. Ryann gave her a little smile and a wave, and Rachel smiled back a little before slipping out.
“Poor girl,” the vendor said.
“Yeah, really,” Ryann muttered.
“She’s definitely gay.”
“Oh yeah, like, a hundred and twenty percent.” Ryann turned to them again. “Can I get the same as she got?” She thought it sounded kinda tasty.
“Sure, just don’t punch anyone while I’m on the clock,” the vendor hummed and twirled their scoop a little. “One baby gay special, coming up!”
“Please don’t call it that,” Ryann chuckled. She rolled her eyes again when there was another heart on it. “You’re having fun, aren’t you?”
They smirked. “Yup! Best show all month! Dunno what that guy’s problem was.”
Ryann shrugged. “Just some fragile masculinity,” she hummed and made her way to a booth. “Right in front of my ice cream.”
READY TO BUY? CLICK THE COVER!