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Title: "Vampire Moon"--Part Two (2/WIP)
When he awoke Nick Carter found the dawn was just breaking around him. He felt stiff from lying against the hard cement, but was unchilled in the tropical heat that made the morning sidewalks appear to be steaming.
Nick raised himself by pushing one hand against the ground and shoving down until he was sitting--legs akimbo--under the thick base of the rugged old palm tree.
The sky was a brilliant glowing vision of mingled purples that were slowly turning redder. The smell of the ocean was strong--tangy salt and odd smells of fish and other marine life. The wind must be pushing to shore eastward, carrying along the scents of the sea.
Nick felt disoriented, but calmed by his familiarity with his general surroundings. He tried to stand, but found his legs were shaky. Nick decided it was best to simply sit and breathe deeply until he could regain his sense of strength and balance.
The sun was starting to climb in the sky. Nick bent his knees and pulled them close to his body, wrapping his arm around them. He was rocking and singing to himself under his breath, not entirely aware of the passing of time.
Suddenly he felt someone standing behind him. Though he could clearly see the large shadow of the palm, the person he sensed seemed to cast no shadow on the ground. Nick felt a shiver run through him, but he felt it was too late for concern.
"Nick. Let me help you."
Nick couldn't suppress a shudder at the sound of Kevin Richardson's deep voice. He lifted his head to try and see Kevin's face, but was blinded by a shaft of light that glinted through the leaves of the palm. All he could see was a towering figure backlit by a sky that was rapidly turning blue and golden with the hot sun.
Kevin moved in front of Nick and squatted beside him. He was in a fresh change of clothing--far more stylish and of brighter colors than the previous night's garb. Kevin extended his hand and Nick recalled the gesture from the previous night--how that same hand had lifted and made Nick follow Kevin's bidding.
Could Nick resist Kevin in the light of day? He seemed like the same man Nick had known for years--the man who had always been like an older brother to him. How could this be the same person who had held him and drank his life-blood in the night?
"We've been looking everywhere for you, Nick. What ya doin' here?" Kevin asked rather loudly, just as Brian Littrell ran to join them.
Brian dropped to his knees beside Nick. "Good God, Nick! I was so worried! Where were you all night long?"
Nick glanced at Kevin and thought he saw something there--perhaps it was a warning. He looked away and into Brian's worried face.
"I... I was out walking. Just taking in the sights and all. I think I tripped and fell. I don't remember that part all that well, Bri."
Kevin's hand came down on his shoulder and gave him an approving pat. Nick knew he had passed some test--an important one. He sighed deeply.
"Let's get him up, Kevin," Brian was saying to his cousin. Brian reached out a helping hand and grasped Nick's arm firmly. Then Brian stood, pulling Nick gently to his feet while Kevin assisted, lifting Nick by his other arm. Kevin's grip seemed infinitely stronger than Brian's--and Nick could see that Kevin was actually expending no effort.
Nick wanted to pull his arm free from Kevin's grip--but he realized he was afraid. He turned his face to Kevin and saw that Kevin could see that fear--that Kevin was sorry to frighten him. Kevin ducked his head, and Nick felt his fear evaporate. This was Kevin. Kevin loved him and had always protected him. Nothing had really changed--had it? Had it?
Brian ran his hands gently through Nick's hair, fingers prodding for bumps or abrasions. He looked Nick up and down and peered into Nick's eyes. "How many fingers?" he asked, holding them up in front Nick's face.
"Six," Nick joked--offering Brian a small smile. Brian smiled, apparently satisfied that nothing too serious was wrong with his friend.
Then Brian was practically dragging Nick down the street. "I guess coming out here wasn't such a good idea, after all." Kevin had released Nick's arm and was following behind the two blonde men, his own dark hair gleaming--an interesting contrast in the morning sunlight.
Nick heard music--heard his own voice drifting on the warm breeze. It was unnatural somehow. Nick could feel Kevin following, though he didn't hear the sound of Kevin's shoes on the pavement. No shadow--no sound. 'Vampire!' his mind was screaming--but in the light of day this thought seemed ridiculous. A figment of his overheated body and brain.
Brian continued to talk as they walked, but much of what he was saying was lost to Nick. Nick reached a cautious hand up and felt his neck. He could just make out the feel of the wounds. But they'd felt gaping to him when Kevin had been 'feeding' on him! Now they could have merely been part of his normal acne that did occasionally reach his neck and shoulders--and his back. No one would be able to tell from these tiny marks that he'd been 'used' by a vampire.
Had he? Was this simply a bad dream that Nick was trying to make real? Was he imagining something different about Kevin? There was no such thing as real vampires. Anne Rice and Bram Stoker and old black and white movies--those were the vampires that Nick knew. Or his friend Howie done up in vampire attire for their "Everybody" video. Not people like Kevin who went walking near him in the light of the morning sun--in one of the brightest spots in the world!
Nick could make out A.J. standing in the doorway of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Café--one of their favorite places to eat when in Key West. Then Nick caught sight of Howie further down Duval Street running toward them.
Suddenly the idea of a 'cheeseburger in paradise,' smothered in mushrooms with avocado seemed like a potential lifesaver to Nick. He felt so hungry he thought maybe he could even add a 'blackened chili dog' to his order--his other favorite menu item at the restaurant.
"So I guess we should just head back to Garden House," Brian was saying as he turned to face Nick. "We can always eat later."
Nick shook his head vehemently. "I'm starving, Bri. I wanna eat now." Nick headed toward A.J. and pushed past him into the coolness of Margaritaville. A.J. swiveled on his heels and followed Nick, with Howie and Brian close behind. Nick stopped and watched the door--waiting to see Kevin enter.
"I've got us a table upstairs," A.J. said, taking the steep rough wood steps two at a time.
Brian's face still showed his concern over Nick--as did Howie's. But A.J. seemed 'cool' with Nick's recent absence. Maybe he thought Nick got 'lucky' the night before...
Nick continued to stare at the door until Kevin came inside. Kevin offered Nick a brief private smile before he walked past him to climb the stairs. Nick rubbed his neck, reflecting on how stupid it was to be thinking about vampires while in a tropical paradise.
Nick knew his dreams were frequently vivid and seemingly real--so it was altogether possible he had imagined the entire thing.
This thought in mind, Nick moved to climb the stairs. He was surprised by how winded he was as he reached the top. Nick took a seat quickly, anxious not to give his weakness away to the others--especially to Brian who was carefully studying his face.
Nick grinned at Brian and took the grin around the table. The grin faltered when his eyes fell on Kevin, who was toying with his fork.
A waiter was standing beside the table taking down their orders. As usual, A.J. was having the Delta catfish Rueben sandwich he so loved. Howie had opted for the soft-shell crab sandwich and Brian was studying the menu as if he might actually eat something different for a change...
Nick ordered both the famous cheeseburger in paradise--which came with hand cut french fries--plus a blackened chili dog. He felt ravenous. Brian immediately followed suit with an order of both burger and the tasty hot dog. The waiter wrote down various beverage choices then turned to Kevin.
"I'm not all that hungry. I think I'll just have a bowl of gumbo, please. And some iced tea." Kevin's voice was so soft Nick could barely make out the words.
Well, it wasn't as if the gumbo here wasn't substantial. It could certainly pass in place of full meal. No one else seemed to find Kevin's order odd, so Nick decided he shouldn't, either. Still...
But Nick was so hungry he didn't know if he could wait for the meal to be prepared. He leaned across the table toward Brian. "You got a candy bar or anything? I'm just starved."
Brian shook his head his face still worried. "Never mind," Nick said deciding it was hardly worth upsetting his friend any more than he already had.
Brian stood. "I'll find ya somethin', Nicky," he said over his shoulder, as he bounded down the stairs. Brian's drawl was always more pronounced when he was upset.
Nick sat and listened to A.J. and Howie starting to joke back and forth. He sensed A.J. was attempting to get things with the group back to 'normal.' But Nick avoided looking directly at Kevin, not sure what his face might give away. He didn't want Kevin to think he was crazy or something...
Nick glanced to the main floor of the restaurant and saw that Brian was conferring with someone in the kitchen. The man handed something to Brian who was nodding and gesturing with his free hand. As Brian turned, Nick could see his huge happy smile. Brian came up the stairs in a near run.
"Chow on this, Nick," Brian said, handing Nick a large piece of bread.
Nick snatched it greedily from Brian and began to wolf it down. Bread had never tasted so good before. He felt immediately better--and rewarded Brian with a large smile.
Brian grinned back.
Howie thumped Brian's back over some comment of A.J.'s and they all laughed. Nick joined in though he'd missed the joke. It didn't matter. He was back with his friends and it was a beautiful day in a place he loved and his stomach was no longer begging for fuel. All was well.
Then Nick caught sight of Kevin out of the corner of his eye. Kevin's expression was indulgent--which was common enough for the man. But it seemed to be directed entirely at Nick, as if Kevin took no note of the other men.
Nick swallowed and considered. Was this his own weird paranoia from the dream he'd had? Why was he continuing to read so much into every single thing Kevin did or didn't do? It was ridiculous. But Nick couldn't shake the feeling that all wasn't as it was supposed to be.
Their meal came, and the guys all fell to with gusto. Nick licked the meaty juices from the sides of his hands as he chomped down huge bites of his hefty cheeseburger--and again found Kevin's eyes on him. This time Kevin was staring at Nick's lapping tongue. It seemed creepy somehow. Nick put down the remainder of the burger and turned away from Kevin's eyes. Then he and Brian began to discuss the merits of their blackened chili dogs.
Nick glanced briefly at Kevin, and noticed that the older man was lifting a spoonful of gumbo to his lips--but he seemed to barely taste the rich soup. This was too strange. Nick wanted to yell at Kevin--tell him to quit kidding around and eat the damned soup!
He turned away and ate another bite of the tasty dog. Thinking of Kevin, he realized his friend might simply have an upset stomach. Perhaps he couldn't face much of the spicy house specialties. Nick had been in similar situations many, many times over the years. It didn't mean anything.
A.J. had finished his meal and was rising. "I'm gonna head back over to Garden House and change. We still gonna hang for the day--or do you wanna head back now?"
This was directed at all of them, but A.J. was looking at Kevin while he spoke.
Kevin briefly raised his hand from the table, palm up. "How are you feeling, Nick? Do you want to leave?" He dropped his hand back down and Nick stared at it before replying. Kevin had such fine, beautiful hands. So perfect and smooth.
"I... I'm fine. I wanna stay Kev. You know I love coming here."
Kevin shot Brian a glance and Brian nodded. "Okay, then. We'll drive back this evening--if everyone agrees."
There were general murmurs of assent as they all began to scoot out chairs and rise from the table. Kevin lifted the bill from the table and moved to the stairs. Nick looked at Kevin's soup bowl. It looked untouched.
Brian clapped Nick on the shoulders. "Are you sure you're okay, dude?" he asked, peering into Nick's face. "You still look a little bit pale."
Nick nodded. "I'm fine. I don't know what that was about last night. I guess I was just really tired, B-rok. Let's not let it spoil our fun."
Brian gave another big smile and nodded back. "'kay, then. Let's go."
And they all headed out of Margaritaville and into the midday heat.
-end part two--back to top of page-