Home > After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(6)

After Darkness Falls (After Darkness Falls #1)(6)
Author: May Sage

Blair hadn’t eaten, and Chloe decided to have dinner even though she’d only just finished lunch on the train. It was so cold out here that the pie, mash, and gravy looked incredibly appealing.

She moaned at each mouthful.

"There's a smaller kitchen at the dorm—self-serve,” Blair told her. “If you want your food prepared for you, that's here. They also take special orders—delivery comes every other Tuesday."

"The best three grand ever spent," Chloe stated, astounded.

Once they were done eating, they headed out of the cafeteria and Chloe found her backpack right where she'd left it.

Finally, Blair led her out of the Institute, toward Adairford.

Two Sides

Blair certainly hadn't misrepresented the town. Chloe doubted that there were more than a thousand inhabitants in the hamlet, if that.

The town was also quite charming. On the only street’s right-hand side were the businesses—a candy store, a restaurant, a pub, a bar, two clothing stores, a shoemaker, a sporting goods outlet. Chloe made a mental inventory as Blair walked, pointing mostly toward the homes on the left-hand side.

Chloe’s eyes fell on a coat: an ugly thing, puffy and bright yellow. She stared at it longingly. She'd need to stretch her savings to purchase a real coat, at the very least, or she'd turn into an icicle by the end of winter.

"That's old Campbell's place,” Blair said, pulling her attention away from the window displays. “He owns the pub. His family has been here for longer than anyone who doesn’t live on the hill."

The houses were all detached and surrounded by little gardens, but the architecture varied from white rock countryside cottages to dry stone walls and thatched roof croft houses that seemed to be remnants from another era. Campbell owned a two-story brownstone that wouldn’t have looked out of place in NOLA.

“The houses are so different. At least I won’t get lost.”

Blair laughed. “Unlikely. Besides, the dorm is hard to miss.”

She wasn’t wrong.

At the edge of the village, near the surrounding woods, was one handsome Romanesque white hall that distinguished itself. The building would have been the perfect feature in an eighteenth-century romance novel—a Pemberley, standing out like a sore thumb here. It would have fit quite nicely on the hill, however.

Even in the darkening night, Chloe could tell that the homes perched up there were different from the rest of Adairford, closer to mansions than humble abodes.

"Who lives there?" she asked, eyes on the hill.

Blair sighed.

"The Drakes, the Helsings, the Belfords—you know."

She didn't. "Am I supposed to recognize the names?" Her brain catching up, she rectified, "Wait, did you say Helsing?"

That name she did know. From fiction and folklore.

Blair smiled and gestured toward the doors of the elegant hall. "Let’s go in, shall we? If I need to give you a history lesson, it might as well be with a hot chocolate in hand."

Her fingertips frozen, Chloe had never heard a better idea.

They crossed a lawn and entered the dorm. Inside, the floor was made of black and white checkered marble. Black columns stood on the right side, and white on the left.

"Come on through, this way," Blair said, walking straight toward a door on the left. "The other side is for the students who need a little more supervision."

"Minors?" Chloe guessed.

The Institute of Paranormal Studies was a university, but it wasn’t unheard of for kids to finish high school early.

Blair shook her head. "No, vampires, shifters, succubus. Those who might eat you if you catch them on a bad night. The rest of us can defend ourselves, but it's pretty hard for a simple witch—or a regular, for that matter—to take on an unstable werewolf, so they're secluded and warded off."

It made sense. Chloe should have felt safer knowing that they weren’t in the same section of the dorm, but the fact that she would be living with people even sups considered dangerous hit her right then.

And after giving it another second of thought, she shrugged it off. At least no one was actively trying to kill her. Right now, her mundane world held more perils.

Four weeks ago

* * *

The great thing about being the only regular human working the midnight shift at Sucker Punch was that no one else hogged the fan in the break room. Shifters and vampires never really seemed to be affected by the change of weather, nor was Margaret, the witch waitress who’d started around the same time as Chloe. A breeze seemed to follow her wherever she went. Lucky bitch. Chloe might have asked her to perform the same charm on her, but it would probably cost her an unborn child or something like that. If the locals knew anything about NOLA’s covens, it was that magic always cost more than it was worth.

Chloe had only moved south five years ago, in her effort to run far from the drama attached to her name. When she failed to find a place where no one knew about her, she instead looked for one where no one cared. NOLA fit the bill. The city harbored more sups than anywhere else in the United States. The locals were used to freaks and paranormal attacks, and when they woke up with a strange rash in uncomfortable cracks, they just filed a complaint with the head of the covens rather than waste their time and money at the ER.

It wasn't a home, but it was the closest thing Chloe had to one.

"Hey, blondie. Some tourists turned up en masse," Margaret told her, grimacing. "Bachelorette party. Do you mind cutting your break ten minutes short? You can catch a breather during my break."

"Of course."

She regretfully relinquished the coveted spot near the large commercial fan and headed out of the employees' break room, toward the club.

Like all of the establishments belonging to Charles, the most notorious vampire in New Orleans, Sucker Punch was always packed, and twice as much on a Saturday.

Chloe's eyes widened as she got to the bar. In addition to the two bartenders on shift today, a tall, handsome, and incredibly fast vampire was mixing drinks. Charles himself. It was rare that the boss picked up an apron.

"Is this one going next?" she asked, pointing to the tray of drinks in front of her.

Some bartenders placed the most urgent order on the right side of the bar, and others on the left; it got pretty confusing when righties and lefties were working at the same time.

"Who knows," Margaret said with a shrug. "Charles just shoves them wherever he wants."

She took the tray, glancing at the table number on the receipt. The drinks were headed to one of the alcoves on the second floor. Chloe groaned. Businessmen.

Some people complained about tourists, frat boys, or even werewolves, but Chloe didn't think anyone was quite as rude as successful guys in expensive suits. They believed they owned the world, and everyone in it.

Plastering a smile on her lips because she needed tips, she placed their order on the middle of their table, doing her best to ignore their obnoxious conversation.

"All I'm saying is only one percent of sups go to high school, not even university. They're all brawn and no brain. Have you ever heard of a sup scientist, or astronaut? Vamps are rich as fuck, but only because they live long enough to amass their wealth. We're really the superior species."

What the fuck were they doing at Sucker Punch if they were anti-sup? Charles's clientele was notorious for being mostly paranormals and tourists.

"Now, now," said Obnoxious Two, eyes cutting to her. "Sups are generally great company." His eyes roamed over her curves, making her want to puke.

Because she worked here, people often assumed she was a sup of some kind. It was no secret that shifters and vampires had a high libido, so that invited shit-tons of unwelcome demands from idiots. Idiots, because if she had been a vampire or shifter, she could have kicked their lecherous asses.

Tips, tips, tips, she reminded herself.

"Enjoy your drinks, gentlemen."

After making her way back to the bar, Chloe ran drinks to the bachelorette party, another alcove, the balcony, and a private party in the back. Eleven waitresses were working the floor tonight, and they managed to clear the orders relatively fast.

Chloe took a second to stretch her sore wrists while the three bartenders worked on the next rounds. She had just started cracking her neck when a pair of large hands circled her waist. She froze before turning around and slapping them away.

They belonged to a large, plastered tourist. He was drunk, and so high he might just fly away. Knowing there was no point in attempting to lecture someone as far gone as that guy, she just pointed away and shouted, "Move your fucking ass before I move it for you."

She said the words with so much authority the guy stumbled in the direction where she'd pointed without stopping to consider that a five-foot-five woman who hadn't stepped inside a gym since high school P.E. would have a hard time moving his two-hundred-pound ass anywhere.

When she returned to the bar, Charles was smiling at her.

Meow, he mouthed, extending his fingers in a catty gesture.

She laughed and mouthed a roar. Ancient vampire or not, the boss was great fun.

"Is this order ready?" she yelled above the music.

"It is, but you're off the clock." He pointed to the clock hanging above the bar. "You're done at one."

She was supposed to be. "Do you need me to stay until Veronica turns up?"

Charles beamed. "You're sweet. But get your ass out of here. You need your beauty sleep."

She wasn't going to make him tell her twice. Chloe practically ran to the changing rooms at the back.

Charles let his waitresses wear whatever they wanted as long as the main color was black. She worked in jeans and tees, because they were cheap, easily replaceable, and cute enough for her to go out afterward without having to get changed. Chloe just grabbed her backpack and rushed out of doors.

She took one deep breath, inhaling the sweet and spicy scent of the city, and tilted her head at the sound of a footstep behind her. Then something hit the back of her head. Hard.

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