The Phoenix’s entrance was located near the middle of the dead-end street in what looked like an old-fashioned speakeasy. There was a small, neon sign that read “Welcome to The Phoenix” above a set of stairs that led down to the entrance. Lacey looked up and down the narrow street. There were a few college kids loitering around the alleyway, smoking cigarettes and flirting with each other, but it still seemed an odd
place for a bar, especially considering its lack of parking. Lacey would not have pegged this bar as the typical place young girls would go to hang out. But, of course, who knew what college kids wanted these days? The view from the outside was almost dismal, but the dead-end street was packed with cars. There was obviously some appeal to this place, otherwise, it would have been quiet. Looks could be deceiving, and she had learned to never judge anything at first glance.
“Do we have any idea on how long this place has been in business?” Lacey asked.
Jackson was quick to answer. Though he was a hulking mass of muscle, he was also the computer whiz of the team. He liked to analyze problems from all angles and make connections from obscure events. He was like a pit bull; once he sunk his teeth into a problem, he would never let go until he found the answers. He searched both official and nonofficial sites on the internet with his computer and smart phone to collect
information about seemingly random events. If there were a history of odd happenings at this bar, Jackson would find it.
“Liquor license was issued twelve years ago, and in all that time, there have never been any reported disturbances. No calls for fights, drunk and disorderly, disturbing the peace, or otherwise. It’s like the place just opened yesterday and still has a squeaky-clean record – too clean if you ask me. There ain’t a bar in the world that hasn’t had at least one drunk fight or disturbance call. So, either the owner knows people in high places, or else is real proficient at covering things up on his own.”
“Well, then, shall we go in and check it out?”
“Lead the way, Boss. We’re right behind you.”
Lacey walked down the three stairs, opened the door, and was blasted with music so loud that she almost did not want to go in. She glanced back at the guys and practically yelled, “How can anyone hear themselves think in this place?”
“I don’t think they come here for polite conversation,” Jackson replied loudly.
Lacey nodded in agreement and walked through the door.
The club was packed, the music was blaring, and a dance floor just beyond the bar was full of young, gyrating bodies. Both pool tables had games going and there were a couple of guys playing darts on the far wall. Cole and Jackson spread out and surveyed the room while Lacey pushed her way through the crowd to the bar.
The young man sitting on a barstool next to her turned and smiled. “Hey, pretty lady. Can I buy you a drink?”
Lacey shook her head from side to side, but that didn’t seem to deter him.
He leaned in closer to her and put his arm around her waist. “Ya know, you’re pretty hot; let me buy you a drink to cool you off and see where that takes us,” he whispered in her ear. “I could really make this night one you will never forget.”
Lacey grabbed his arm and twisted it behind him before he knew what hit him. “I said I wasn’t interested. Are you drunk or just plain stupid?”
“Damn it, lady. You don’t have to get violent.”
“I think it’s a good idea if you found somewhere else to sit,” she said and pushed him away from the bar.
The guy glared at her while rubbing his shoulder, but he grabbed his drink, vacated his seat at the bar, and moved away from her.
Lacey sat back down and shouted over her shoulder, “Thanks for the seat.”
She glanced down the length of the bar. The bartender was looking at her. She watched him closely as he made his way toward her. He moved like a large jungle cat, muscles rippling and undulating beneath his form-fitting shirt. She couldn’t help but notice his superb body, like a god etched in marble. The Greek God of War, she thought, sensing a dark undercurrent beneath that perfect façade. Her insides fluttered as he came closer. She couldn’t look away from his smoldering eyes.
The bartender leaned toward her. “What can I get you?” he asked.
Lacey continued to stare at those dark eyes, the strong cut of his jaw line, and his full, sensuous lips. She licked her lips. What she wouldn’t give to kiss those lips, and that body…
Cole stepped behind Lacey and whispered in her ear, “You need some help, Boss?”
It was enough for her to snap out of her stupor. She had no idea what had just happened. Instinctively she knew that the bartender was dangerous, but the attraction was immediate and undeniable. He was the kind of trouble she didn’t need, but she had an overwhelming desire to kiss those lips and feel his strong, muscular arms around her. He was just her type, and it took all her willpower not to suggest they go somewhere private to talk.
She looked down, pulled her badge out of her pocket, and held it up in front of her. “I’m Lieutenant Lacey Gardner with Boston PD,” she said, while pointing a thumb over her shoulder. “This is my partner, Detective Henderson.”
Damon looked at her badge, then at Cole, before turning his attention back to Lacey. “Okay, what can I do for you Lieutenant Gardner?”
His voice was deep and lyrical and sent a thrill straight up her spine. What was going on here? Why was he having such an effect on her? She had no problem admiring a good-looking male, but this felt entirely different. It was so unlike her to have feelings like this, so unlike her usual behavior with men. Oh yes, this man was dangerous and it made him even more attractive to her. Her body hummed in anticipation.
Lacey shook her head as if to clear out the cobwebs, put her badge back in her pocket and pulled out the pictures of the two dead girls. She placed them on the bar in front of the bartender. “Have you seen either of these girls in here during the past two weeks?”
Damon picked up the two headshots and studied them. Both blonde girls, both striking, both with their throats slashed. Charlie had been right – this was the work of a vampire. But what he couldn’t figure out was why. He had established multiple feeding dens across the greater Boston area to feed and control the vampire population, including the main den behind this bar. Looking at the pictures from cops in his bar was not a good thing and the situation was becoming dangerously out of hand.
Damon shook his head. “I don’t recognize either one of them. They look like a lot of the college kids that come in here. As you no doubt can see, the bar is packed with them, usually every night of the week. What makes you think they were in my place?”
Lacey pointed to the stack of matchbooks in a bowl lying on the bar. “Found one of these on each victim.”
“Well, as you can see, they are free for the taking. A little bit of marketing to keep the kids coming in and business in the black.”
“Only thing these girls found was red, as in their blood splattered all over them,” Lacey said, shaking her head. “Sorry, poor choice of words.”
She reached for the pictures and their hands touched. A shock similar to static electricity raced through her. She looked up and the bartender was still staring at her. His eyes seemed fathomless and she was drawn to them. She wanted nothing more than to lose herself in this man’s embrace.