One Immortal - Tia Louise


An Encounter


My search for the vampire has led me home.

It’s been six years since I walked the streets of New Orleans—the hot, moldering streets of this historic city time forgot. How well I know these ancient buildings stubbornly hanging on centuries after Napoleon left, the dark green vines climbing every stationary object. The air is heavy with music and spices, mystery and decay.

I’ll need a day to get used to the climate, another to ease back into the smooth-talking, greased-palm way of getting information. The little wink and a smile, the lazy request accented with a darling or a cher. Even among the undead, it’s all about the sugar in the Crescent City.

My phone blips, and I quickly pull it out of my pocket. Patrick Knight, my new partner, is checking in from our offices in New Jersey.

Any signs of nonlife?

He’s always one with the jokes.

Not yet. I reply. I’ll alert you if anything appears.

He doesn’t miss a beat.

Or doesn’t.

Shaking my head, I slip the thin black phone into my pocket. When Patrick first joined his older brother Stuart and me in Alexander-Knight LLC, I thought on more than one occasion we’d made a mistake. As the weeks have passed, however, I’ve come to appreciate his subculture contacts, and his knack for turning up fresh leads on stale cases. It helps that he has extrasensory abilities.

The Knights come from a long line of shifters—their preferred form being large-breed dogs, although I once saw Stuart shift into a grizzly. In human form, we’re all around the same height, six-foot-give-or take-a-few-inches, but while I release my tension in the weight room, the Knights prefer working out between the sheets. One thing about shifters, they’re horny as hell.

The result is I outweigh them by at least thirty pounds of straight muscle. Still, I’m no match against the undead on my own. My special gifts are my training and my weaponry. If I’m outnumbered, it’s best to have an oversized lycan at my side.

On the books, I’m a private investigator and occasional Law Enforcement Online instructor at Princeton University. Much further off the books, in the deep background, I’m one of the top three paranormal detectives in the States, specializing in vampires. When I started I was one of four, but sadly, in this line of work, the fatalities are quick and untraceable. As such, we’ve established regions. New Orleans is not mine.

Only two people know why I’m here, and it’s not because I don’t respect our rules. I’m here because this time it’s personal. An Old One is at work in the city, and from what Patrick’s been able to flush out, it appears to be the one I’ve sought for a long time.

I’m taking a big chance coming here alone, but I have one more secret—I’m immune to vampire glamour. Acting alone, it’s possible I’ll catch the killer off-guard. Still, if I’m detected, at least I won’t be hypnotized.

Settling in at the dim-lit Korner Bar, I survey the patrons. College girls clearly looking to get wasted and get laid twist and giggle on the dance floor. Their shiny slip dresses barely cover their asses, and they lick their lips while tossing back their hair, leaving their necks and arms wide open and vulnerable.

One might expect the undead to favor a more historic spot like Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, or the subculture atmosphere of Oz. One would be wrong. Vampires like the easy kill, the kill that goes down without a fight or that is readily subdued. These women are prime targets.

I consider the foolishness of youth when my eyes land on her. She’s alone at the bar, nursing a Sazerac. Her eyes are sad, and while she’s young and beautiful, her expression is world-weary. Long, dark hair ripples over one shoulder, and I can’t resist the pull of curiosity. She’s far too elegant for this bar. It’s almost as if she’s hiding.

I watch her lift the old-fashioned glass with a slim ivory hand, and her full red lips pull together as she sips. It’s a seductive movement, but suddenly she winces and does a little jump. I can’t help a grin. It’s unexpectedly cute.

Almost as if she feels my gaze, her sapphire-blue eyes blink up, across the darkness, straight into me. It’s like a thousand-watt volt of electricity, a Taser blast straight to the brain, and all the years I’ve spent alone hit me like a medicine ball to the chest. She blinks a few times, and the smallest smile lifts one corner of