Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
Gabriel headed up the driveway of the small bungalow, acutely aware of the eyes that watched him from behind net curtains. The curfew was an issue. Now, even when Gabriel was doing normal human things, like going to work, he felt like everything he did was under scrutiny.
Shaking off his unease, he rapped his knuckles on the front door. A tall, dark silhouette of a man appeared through the panel of frosted glass. The door swung open. The man before Gabriel adjusted his glasses and then folded his arms across his large chest. He was probably a little younger than Gabriel’s human age, wearing a grey cardigan over a maroon t-shirt. Before words were even spoken, Gabriel could feel something off about his energy.
“Hi, I’m Gabriel. I’m guessing you’re Ian Howden? We spoke on the phone,” he said in his polite, work voice. He refrained from offering his hand, sensing that this man wouldn’t have taken it. Instead, Gabriel stepped backwards and ran his tongue over his teeth. He didn’t like that there were two steps up to the house. That this man was looking down at him as he stood out in the cold autumn night.
“Yes, hi,” Ian Howden replied, his voice calm but not friendly. He was standing right in the centre of the doorway, his stance wide like he was trying to look intimidating. Gabriel could just about see that lights were on behind him, but little else.
“I’m the night-time care nurse allocated to your mother,” Gabriel added, unsure of why he was still outside.
“Yes, I know who you are.” Ian looked down the road. “I’ve seen you around the village. Only at night.”
Gabriel chewed the inside of his cheek but kept his facial expression blank. “Yes, as I said, I’m a night-time care nurse. I work at night, so I have an adjusted sleep schedule.”
Ian nodded. “Makes sense,” were the words that left his mouth, but his tone said the opposite.
“I know I’m officially starting next week but like I said on the phone, I always visit beforehand so I don’t seem like a stranger.”
“That’s very thoughtful.” Ian seemed to relax a little, his posture loosening. Perhaps Gabriel was reading him wrong? “Becca gave you a good recommendation.”
Gabriel’s back bristled at the mention of her name. The way they left this man’s lips had him clenching his jaw. It was as if he were tasting it, savouring it, like it meant something.
“We went to the same university, you know?” he laughed. “Funny how we both ended up here, in this tiny, forgotten village.”
“Funny,” Gabriel echoed, with a smile that lacked warmth.
Ian looked at him, looked him right in the eyes, and the intensity of the connection made Gabriel realise the man had been avoiding his eyes the entire conversation.
“The good recommendation makes me wonder why she requested a new care nurse.”
“She gave me a good recommendation, that’s all that matters,” Gabriel replied through gritted teeth. He’d had quite enough of this guy’s weird energy.
“Was it about the breakup?”
Gabriel shifted his weight from foot to foot, and looked down the street. So, this was this guy’s deal. He had a thing for Becca. He was jealous. Was that why he had requested Gabriel to take care of his mother? To have this stand off? To have the opportunity to look down at Gabriel and make himself feel big and powerful?
This guy was a freak.
“If you don’t want me to be your mother’s care nurse, that’s fine.” He held his palms up. “I’ll go.”
Gabriel turned to leave.
“No. No. Wait.”
The urgency in Ian’s voice caught him off guard. Gabriel spun back to the door. Ian was half hanging out the doorway and when Gabriel walked back up to the steps, he stepped back into the porch. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
“My mum’s in the living room.”
Finally, we’re getting somewhere. Gabriel smiled. Ian stepped further back into the house but Gabriel couldn’t follow him. Not yet. He looked down at the steps, at the threshold he couldn’t cross. Then, when he looked back up at Ian, he understood. The man stared back at him, his eyes daring him. A smile playing on his lips.
“It’s probably not safe to stay out there. With the curfew, and all. Apparently, there are thinking lurking in the dark,” he said.
The tension was suddenly palpable. The space between them full of unsaid things.
“Then I should come inside.”
Now, Ian let himself smile. “Like I said, my mum is waiting.”
Every word was calculated. He was making sure that nothing he said could be taken as an invitation. This wasn’t about Becca. This was about him.
This was a test.
Ian stepped back again. The distance between them lengthening and stopping the opportunity for Gabriel to compel him.
Gabriel stepped back and lifted the sleeve of his jacket to reveal his watch. “Look, I was only meant to pop round. But with all this small-talk – I’m running late. I’ve got to go.”
Ian was quick to grab the handle of the door, his eyes twinkling wickedly behind his glasses. “That’s a shame. Well, it was nice to meet you, Gabriel.”
There it was again. He said his name in the same way he did with Becca. Like he somehow owned it now. Owned him.
“Yeah, likewise,” Gabriel threw over his shoulder as he stalked down the pathway. He heard the door shut but he could once again feel the eyes on him. He itched all over, suddenly suffocating within his jacket. His fangs pressed against his gums as angry ate his insides.
He knows. He knows. He knows.
He couldn’t get the image of his stupid, smug face out of his head.
He’d walked straight into a fucking trap. Now the whole street knew.
How long would it take for word to get around the entire village?
If he were human, his heart would have been hammering and he’d be struggling to breathe. Instead, Gabriel just kept walking, head bent and hands shoved into his jacket pockets.
He rounded the corner onto another street and resisted the urge to just vampire-sprint home. It was always a risky decision but usually, in the dead of night, he wasn’t concerned by onlookers. But now… now, things were different.
Gabriel continued on home at mortal speed, mentally ripping Ian Howden’s stupid fucking head off. Did he even have an elderly mother in need? The trap had been so simple that Gabriel hated himself for being drawn in by it. But why wouldn’t he have? He never used to have to be so cautious.
Too caught up in his own head, Gabriel almost charged right into someone as he turned to head into his house. He managed to halt just before he collided with them, and realised it was Lillian. She looked up at him and her eyes shone from under the fur hood of her parka. Blood was smeared under her eyes.
“Lillian, are you okay?”
Her shoulders were bunched up, her hands plunged into her pockets, the same way Gabriel’s were. For a fraction of a second, there was a glint of fear in her eyes. And then she smiled and expelled a small laugh.
“Yeah, it’s nothing. I just had a fight with Ben, that’s all,” she said. Gabriel studied her face, the blood tears still welling in her eyes. “Honestly, I’m fine. I just want to get inside.”
And then she was pushing open their front door. Gabriel followed silently behind and watched her rush up the stairs, not looking back. When he heard her bedroom door click shut, he knew their conversation would never be spoken about again.
Expelling a sigh, he shut the front door and then made his way to his own bedroom. He got halfway up the stairs before the living room door opened and out came Ezra.
“Did I hear Lillian?” he asked, confusion creasing his brows.
“Yeah. She just went upstairs.”
Ezra studied him a moment. “Is everything okay?”
Gabriel’s heart contracted, like a fist squeezing sponge. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Lillian’s relationship wasn’t Gabriel’s problem. He had his own shit to deal with. And even though he knew Ezra had a right to know he’d been caught; he was already kicking himself enough as it was. He didn’t want to deal with the older vampire telling him how he’d let them all down. That his brazen attitude had finally screwed everything up and put them all in danger. Just like he warned him it would.
The crease of confusion deepened in Ezra’s brow as he looked around the room. He lifted his nose as if trying to smell something. Then he stepped into the hallway and gestured about with his hands.
“There’s a weird energy. Something’s off.” He looked back to Gabriel.
Gabriel shrugged. “Burn some incense or some shit, I don’t know,” he said before hurrying up the stairs and shutting himself in his room.
His fangs were pressing against his gums once again. Anger at himself rolling in his gut. His hands turned to fists and the next moment his knuckles were colliding with the wall. Flecks of paint and plaster dust coated his skin when he pulled his hand away. He flexed his fingers and it rained onto the carpet.
He stared at the hole in the plaster, eyes wide, nostrils flared and breathing heavy. Losing his temper wasn’t going to solve anything. He needed to calm down.
He sank onto the end of his bed, dropped his face into his hands and closed his eyes.
This is not good. This is not good.