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Pillow Candy

Rose is transfixed by the singer. He’s pale-faced, with glistening piercings and spiky hair, and rocks a goth vibe that’s a throwback to the previous century. She smiles. You can’t go wrong with all-black. The attitude and the act are fake, outré and yet the pinch in her belly and the dryness in her mouth don’t lie. She’s drawn to him with all her senses, a powerful drive that she hasn’t felt in a long while. She aches to touch him, lick him, taste him.


All around her, girls are filling the venue with shrill screams, wild jumps, and heavy breathing. She’s one fan among many, indistinct from the mass, just another star-struck female. That too is a new sensation for her. She’s so used to be apart, a perennial loner.

A long guitar solo ends in a prolonged teeth-grinding shriek and for a few seconds the audience floats unmoored in the sudden silence.


“You want him.”


The voice is right in Rose’s ear, soft and suggestive. It makes the little hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She turns to look at the man. He’s older than the people in the audience and the musicians on stage. Rose is tall but he towers a full head above her, forcing her to raise her eyes. It bothers her and she smothers a snarky retort. How does he dare intrude on her desires, who does he think he is? His gray eyes crinkle in a smile at the corners and she puts a lid on her irritation. When her temper flares, things tends to end bad.


“I’m not the only one that’s smitten,” she says.


The noise is overwhelming, from the screaming public and the band that has now launched into a wailing anthem that rebounds on the walls of the packed arena.


“I prefer the lead guitar,” the man says. “Can’t resist the lanky types in tight jeans.”


 The way he says it makes her laugh. She sees the attraction. The guy is sexy is a less slithering way than the singer.


“Long, long fingers,” the man whispers—it sounds like he whispers, but he’s probably shouting.


“You want him to play you like a violin?” Rose says. It’s strange how they’re able to have an intimate conversation amidst the screeching mayhem.


“You’re funny,” he says. “What’s your name?”

Is he hitting on her, after telling her he has the hots for the lead guitar? “Rose. You?”


“Alex. People still name their girls Rose? Smells of lavender sachet. A bit antiquated …”


“I’m older than I look,” she says.


“So am I.”


They’re both talking normally. Rose can make herself heard through the noise without forcing her voice, it’s one of the gifts, but he should be yelling at the top of his lungs, and he isn’t. It’s surprising, and more than a tad disturbing. Who is this guy? He doesn’t belong here. Neither does she, but she at least appears to be the same age as the other girls.


“He calls himself Raven,” Alex says, with a smirk. “Silly kid.”


“A bit on the nose,” Rose says.


The singer’s real name is probably Ray White, or something similarly suburban and innocuous that he couldn’t shed fast enough. Maybe it’s part of the attraction. When she was his age, she was also eager to become something else. She got what she wanted. It isn’t always easy to be what she is. She wonders if Raven feels the same.


On stage, he struts and whirls. He’s removed his shirt, displaying a smooth, toned chest, his flat tummy glistens with sweat, not a hint of love handles on these narrow hips. There is that urge again, sharper than before. Rose bites her lower lip. She aches to bite into something else. She feels Alex’s gray eyes boring in the back of her skull, stoking the fire. Maybe her hunger is so obvious he reads it on her face. That’s dangerous. She has a good thing going in this town. Moving would be a huge inconvenience. She wonders what possessed her to come to the concert tonight. She avoids crowds, too much humanity too close puts her nerves on edge.


“They’re staying at the hotel next door,” Alex says. “They have the top floor.”


What the hell is he doing? Enticing her? She doesn’t need a nudge. She’s reached a taut apex of temptation. The tension is a length of wire jammed down her spine. She should find an exit and go. Before things spin out of control.


“I wonder if they put chocolate squares on the pillows,” Alex says.


Rose turns to him. “Stop it.”


He chuckles. “Isn’t it the whole point of the rock star lifestyle? Hop in bed with a groupie, then hop on the tour bus. Hello goodbye, as the songs go. I’m all for it. Waking up snuggled in broad daylight is overrated. These kids look best in the stage lights anyway.” He leans toward her, complicit. “Don’t we all?”


Rose always found night time enticing, romantic, ripe with possibilities, with the aroma of the hidden and the forbidden. Even in the time before, she loved the darkness.


“What do you say, Rose, how’s your appetite?”


She winces. The red EXIT sign shines bright to her right. She can be through that door in seconds.


She should leave now, go eat something, preferably bland, and forget the pretend fallen angel on stage and the demon hovering at her side.


Raven chooses that moment to let out a ululating scream that stabs her in the chest. It’s a cry from ages long gone, in a primitive and wild language that speaks to her blood. It’s also an answer. The boy is telling her to take him. Her head tilts back and her mouth opens in involuntary rapture, showing teeth.


“Not here, girl.”


Alex slings an arm around her shoulders and pushes her to the exit. She tries to resist but he’s too fast and too strong. She can’t shake him off.


“I won’t hurt you,” he says.


That’s ludicrous. She can’t be hurt. “Who are you?” she says, heart fluttering.


They’re on the sidewalk. There’s nobody around. “I’m releasing you, Rose, keep your claws retracted. You can’t fight me.”


He lets her go and she steps away from him. “It’s impossible,” she mutters.


“I’m as impossible as you are. Yet, we’re both here. You thought you were unique?”

It has crossed her mind. She’s never encountered anyone like her. To meet another nightcrawler, in this town, in a concert arena with thousands of people … yes, it’s impossible.


“Were you looking for me?”


“The young are so self-centered … I’m always looking, often in vain.” He takes her arm and leads her across the street, toward the bright entrance of the hotel. “How good are you at adjusting your settings? You’re not one of these all-or-nothing-at-all types, are you?”


“I can get carried away,” Rose says. She shoots a glance at the arena still pulsing with lights and sounds. “Uh, Raven is … I mean. Oh, you know what I mean!”


Alex leans over to look her in the eyes. “Sex doesn’t have to be scorched earth, darling. The idea is to do it, and do it again, and hopefully enjoy it even more on the repeats.”


That’s all good and well, in theory. What Rose feels is everything but rational. “I don’t know if I can.”


“You can do whatever you choose to do. You’re in charge.” He whistles a little tune. “I plan to have fun tonight. Play a little violin.”


A concierge opens the hotel door for them and Alex thanks him. He walks straight to the elevator and pushes the button for the penthouse floor.


“I can’t believe I’m going to do this,” Rose whispers. Her excitement has abated slightly to be replaced by a pleasant trepidation. How will it be? It’s been so long.


The elevator door opens and Alex motions for her to go first. A housekeeper is pushing a trolley down the hallway. He waves at her. He’s polite. He knows how to hide the threads of seduction behind the everyday words. Rose sees the gossamer net he throws over the woman. She shivers at the dreaminess that floats in the housekeeper’s eyes. Alex makes it look so easy. He holds the passkey now and leads Rose to the main suite at the end of the corridor.


“I’ll make sure he comes in alone,” he says.


“Why are you so interested in me?”


He smiles an almost paternal smile. “I like you. You have no idea how boring our fellow monsters can be.” He shrugs. “Feeding machines without subtlety.” He pushes her through the double doors of the suite. “You show a lot of promise, Rose. Imagination is a wonderful gift when you’re looking at eternity.”


She raises on tiptoes to give him a kiss, something she hadn’t planned to do. “Thank you.”


“Just a warning,” he says, as he closes the doors. “If you damage the kid, I’ll rip your head off.”

 


BIO

M.E. Proctor is currently writing a series of contemporary detective novels. Her short stories have been published in VautrinBristol Noir, Pulp ModernMystery TribuneReckon ReviewShotgun Honey and others. She’s a 2023 Derringer Award nominee. She lives in Livingston, Texas. Her website: https://www.shawmystery.com. She’s on Substack: https://meproctor.substack.com

 

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