“Jesus. I can’t believe someone from New York could have such a total lack of fashion sense. Did you never go to H&M?” Julia was smoking a joint in the back seat of Scott’s car, and the musky smell made my eyes water. I flipped her off and then rolled down the window. I couldn’t believe these were the friends Scott was making me meet with. The mean girls. The bitch posse. And I’d thought that dogs had good instincts about people.
He hadn’t even warned me. Not in school, when he’d followed me around like some demented pet and talked about how cool tonight would be. How I’d love the monster community and fit right in. He hadn’t warned me in art, either. Not when Julia and her crew had bumped into my paints and made an unholy mess of my assignment, and not when I’d called them bitches as soon as they left.
Now I was in a car with them, desperate for clean air. Hanging with my father was looking like the high point of my evening.
It wasn’t just the pot. Amber, aka Pippi, had made a new hole in the ozone layer with the hairspray she’d lacquered on. The Boho one, Kim, was the only one who wasn’t offending my nose. She just offended common sense; why she was with this group was beyond me. She looked like a girl people picked on, not a bully.
I shot Scott a glare. “This is who you want me to talk to?”
Scott snorted and turned onto yet another hilly street. I had no idea where we were, but it felt like we’d been driving around forever. “They’re hitching a ride, that’s it. Vincent is meeting us there with the group.”
“Thank God. No offense, but the twit triplets back there are not hearing any of my secrets.” I got a kick through the back of my seat for the comment, but I didn’t care.
The party turned out to be in an abandoned gun factory. Abandoned for a while, from the look. There was concrete rubble and broken glass decorating the ground, and “No Trespassing” signs hung up every ten feet. Cars clogged the narrow street, though, and there was a line outside that told everyone it was the place to be. At least if you were under age and wanted to party.
Scott led us past the line of kids in club gear and around the corner. “Just be chill, okay? You’re with me. Nothing’s going to happen.”
I shoved my hands in the pockets of my hoody. Now that it was time to face the monsters, my heart was skittering. “No offense, but you’re part of the group I usually avoid. So you trying to relax me? Doesn’t help. ”
He laughed and led us to an industrial door that was big enough to drive through. “Your biggest threat tonight is Julia and her friends, and they’re too stoned to give a crap. No one in the group Vin’s bringing is going to mess with you.”
I chewed my lip, hanging back as a red-headed werewolf rolled the door open. Julia and the girls tripped their way in, arms around each other in a drunken hug. “What is Vincent, anyway?”
“We don’t go around asking everyone what they are or where they’re from here, you know. It’s a haven.”
“You’re asking me.”
He slung his arm over my shoulder and steered me inside. “True, but you’re not exactly one of the gang, are you? Not as far as we can tell. That means you have to answer rude questions. And trust me, you’d rather do that with Vincent than wait for the fairies to show up and ask.”
Fairies. Of course there’d be fairies. But the way he said the name made it sound like they were the Mob instead of flitty little beings that made pumpkins into carriages. “Fairies are bad?”
“Fairies are bad.”
The abandoned factory theme continued inside. The bottom floor was gutted, nothing but black scars on the floor where machinery had been. A DJ booth was stuck in the middle, surrounded by sweaty kids who made Julia look sober. Chains and hooks hung from a corrugated metal ceiling two stories up and brushed against steel beams that were heading toward rust.
A wave of heat rolled over me as we pushed toward the booth, and the bass was so hard you could feel it in your head. I was going to be deaf by the end of the night. Assuming I made it out of here with my ears intact. Scott could tell me I was safe as much as he wanted, but that didn’t mean I believed him. I was here to meet monsters.
“I’m going to go talk to Roddy for a second. I’ll meet you in the loft in five,” Scott said. “Vincent should already be up there. The guy is anal about being early.”
I set off for the stairs at the back of the club, trudging like I was going to a guillotine. The loft was above me, a big square of open metal grating a story up. A perfect place to be killed by supernaturals if I’d ever seen one. But I was going to it. Kind of willingly. There was something seriously wrong with my head.
Getting through the hell of sweat and hormones wasn’t easy, but I made it. The loft was almost quiet, the bass a thump in my chest instead of an assault on my head. I felt mauled and damp, but I was there.
And I was alone.
No Vincent. No monster welcoming committee. No passed out kids sprawled on the ratty sofas that faced a hinky-looking railing, either. Just me and my too-fast heartbeat, standing limp and bruised among abandoned Solo cups and the sticky residue of stale beer. Waiting for the monsters.