A Dark Performance:
Spurned by the only person he ever loved, Hunter is the perfect image of a tortured artist. A sorcerer moonlighting as a singer, he uses his magical arts to tantalize the audience during his band’s performances. His preferred method? A sphere that drifts above the crowd, a beacon that calls out for someone--anyone--who will understand him. On one particular night, Hunter finally receives an answer.
Jonathon Cayle is a horror novelist visiting New Orleans for a two-week long book signing stint. Unhappy with his life back in Atlanta with his girlfriend, he is grateful to be able to explore his preference for men while he’s out of town. What he finds in New Orleans, however, is the last thing he ever expected.
Visions of the Night:
Three years have passed since horror novelist Jonathon Cayle encountered his vampiric character Kain Hart. Since then, they’ve made a home together in Atlanta, living as any couple would. However, Jonathon’s curiosity about vampires has grown, and he finds himself contemplating the final step: becoming one. The question is: can he get past his fear of venturing into the unknown realm of life after death?
A Dark Performance
The walls of the club vibrated with every thunderous beat of the last song of the set. Strobe lights flickered to the rhythmic insanity, illuminating the world beyond the singer’s closed eyes. The bass’ pulsing beat, the guitar’s intensity, the pounding of the drums—they all echoed the rhythms of his soul in a dark cacophony. He tightened his grip on the microphone—a single hold on the harsh reality outside his mind, a minute piece of his being he let the world see. His voice could be full of anger, hate, and power or it could be melodic—redolent of forbidden fantasies, secret dreams, and the darkest desires. Whatever the mood—the song—called for, he delivered it with ease, becoming either a demon of Hell or the darkest angel from Heaven. This was his world, his passion.
With the end of the song near, Hunter opened his eyes. Pools of amber, golden and brilliant, they sent everyone drifting into another state of mind. They offered a glimpse into his soul—the dark recess of his being that held many hearts captive but offered no love in return. It was the result of years spent in torment for his love of another man, and for that love, he gave away his innocence and received nothing in return. So he poured his anger and his frustration out into his music. It was the only thing he had left aside from the friends who played by his side and the magic he practiced.
When the final chord of Blake’s guitar faded away, the lights died down and a roar rose from the crowd in front of them. Hunter smiled—a simple act he reserved only for his fans. With the fluid grace of the sorcerer that he was, he brushed away a sable swath of hair from his brow and turned to his band.
“Damn,” Mark remarked from behind his drums. “You look like hell. Did you not sleep?”
Hunter cocked a dark eyebrow at him, but made no move to argue. “No,” he said. “No matter what I do, sleep tends to elude me the majority of the time.”
Jason shook his head as he set his bass in its stand. “Hunter, you really need to try to get some sleep somehow. You’ll be dead to the world in few days if you don’t.”
Hunter nodded absently and jumped off the stage into the dispersing crowd. He groaned as a painfully cheerful young woman bounced over to him.
“Oh, I’m such a fan, Hunter,” she cooed, throwing her arms around the despondent singer’s neck.
“Thank you,” he responded, trying to be as genial as his present mood would allow. The woman, taking no notice of his discomfort, beamed as her cheeks turned a bright pink.
“It would be so cool if you’d let me buy you a drink,” she offered.
Hunter barely stifled the rare chuckle that nearly escaped his lips upon seeing the quick little wink she gave him. With a sigh, he gave in, realizing he could really use a drink anyway. “All right, be my guest,” he said, waving to the bar across the room.
The woman slid her arm into his and nearly dragged him across the club. As they sat down at the bar, the bartender gave Hunter a wry grin. The singer merely shook his head.
“What can I get for you two?” the bartender asked, obviously amused with the oddity of the pairing in front of him.
“I’ll take my usual, Josh—a Mai Tai wine cooler,” the woman announced, still giddy and more than happily showing off to her friends sitting at the table behind them. To even get so far as to buy the lead singer of Cythraul a drink was a remarkable feat, yet she had managed to pull it off.
“What about you, Hunter?” Josh asked.
Hunter glared at the blonde as she proceeded to stick her tongue out at her friends. He slid his fingers through his hair and glanced at the bottle-lined shelf over the bartender’s head. “Something heavy,” he muttered.
Taking advantage of the blonde’s diverted attention, Josh leaned over the bar and whispered in Hunter’s ear. “She doesn’t have a fucking clue you’re gay, does she?” Hunter shot him a look that could freeze a roaring flame, but Josh simply laughed it off. He chuckled and turned back the bar to get their drinks.
“So,” the blonde said, turning back to the singer beside her, “how long has Cy…Cry…Crythroll been together?
Hunter winced at her mangling of the band name. “It’s Cythraul,” he corrected her. “It’s Welsh for ‘demon’ or ‘devil.’ We’ve been together for over ten years.”
“Wow,” she said with surprise. “How old are you? You don’t look much older than me and I’m only twenty-five.”
Hunter resisted the temptation to tell her she acted more like sixteen. “I’m twenty-seven.”
“Oh, cool,” she said, bouncing slightly on her bar stool.
Josh shook his head in sympathy as he set their drinks down in front of them.
“So, you got a girlfriend?” the blonde asked as she took a tiny sip of her wine cooler and grimaced.
Hunter took a hefty swallow of his drink and knew immediately what it was.
Josh grinned. “You said strong.”
“That I did,” Hunter said. His mouth, throat, and indeed his entire body were awash with a searing sensation as the herbal liqueur seeped down his throat, setting every inch of his esophagus and mouth on fire. “Green Chartreuse.”
“Oh, yeah,” Josh confirmed with a grin. “Besides, I thought you could use it, considering you have an unanswered question looming beside you.”
Hunter sighed and answered the blonde’s question. “No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” Noting the hopeful glimmer that sparkled in her eyes, he quickly added, “I’m gay.” The glimmer died out in record time.
“Oh.” Her shoulders slumped and her demeanor became less and less bubbly.
He leaned over to her and whispered, “It’s in the liner notes of the CD.” Then he finished off his Chartreuse and slid off the barstool. “Thanks for the drink, though,” he said. “It was needed.”
“He’s not always that bad,” Josh said just before Hunter was out of earshot. “Sometimes he actually smiles.”
Hunter glanced back in time to see the blonde glare at Josh. She threw the money on the bar and stormed off in a huff. Josh simply shook his head again and resumed his cleaning.
Hunter slipped behind the stage into the small room set aside for the band’s use. He dropped down into the overstuffed leather couch and instantly wondered how the hell he was going to get back up again. Blake, never one to truly take a break, was strumming away on his acoustic in one corner of the room.
“Where are Mark and Jason?” Hunter asked, looking around for his drummer and bass player.
Blake nodded to the door on the back wall leading out to the rear of the building. “I’ll give you three guesses,” he said, not looking up from his guitar.
“Figures,” Hunter remarked. “I hope they don’t get too fucked up to play. We’ve still got one more set to go.”
Just then, the two brothers stumbled through the door, their eyes hazy. Hunter groaned.
“Don’t worry, man,” Mark said with the hopeless grin of a pothead. “We can still play.”
“I hope so,” Hunter mumbled. They had a few more minutes until they had to go back on, and Hunter felt himself growing more tired as he sank farther into the leather folds of the couch. With a muttered curse, he stood, wary of the couch’s effect on one’s level of fatigue.
“Two minutes, guys,” Josh announced, poking his head through the curtain that covered the doorway. Hunter nodded.
“Well, back to work,” Jason said. The others followed him out onto the stage once more.