I glanced over at my best friend, Phillip Kincaid. "Really? I'm an idiot? Because I'd say it takes one to know one."
Phillip snorted and took another sip of his Scotch. He studied me over the rim of his glass, his bright blue gaze calmly staring past the blank mask of my face to see the real man lurking underneath. Funny, how well he could still read me, even though we'd been estranged for years and had only recently reconnected. After a moment, he grinned and waggled his eyebrows at me.
I sighed, knowing that he'd keep grinning like a fool until I asked him the inevitable question. "And why, exactly, am I an idiot?"
"Because we've been here an hour already, and you haven't so much as made eye contact with a single woman." Phillip used his drink to gesture out at the scene before us. "And there are plenty of them to choose from, Owen. Blondes, brunettes, even a few redheads. Humans, vampires, giants, dwarves, elementals. Whatever floats your boat."
Phillip was right. There were plenty of women inside Northern Aggression, Ashland's most extravagant nightclub. We were sitting in a booth in the back, giving us a clear view of the rest of the club. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ages happily grooved to a rocking beat out on the dance floor, while others clustered two and three deep around the elemental Ice bar along the wall, slugging down drinks and already looking forward to the next round. Smoke spiraled up into the air as folks inhaled cigarettes, cigars, and other things that weren't exactly legal. The thick gray clouds clung like a layer of fog to the red crushed-velvet drapes that covered the walls.
Northern Aggression was the sort of place where anything went, either back in the more private VIP rooms or out here in plain view. Some of the folks who weren't dancing, drinking, or smoking were engaged in more . . . passionate pursuits. A couple kissed deeply at a table off to my right, their bodies melded together, their hands roaming over each other as though the rest of the world didn't exist. Meanwhile, the booth behind me rocked back and forth in time to the athletic acrobatics of the couple there, although the thumping music mostly drowned out their hoarse cries of pleasure.
A particularly vigorous rocking of the booth made me sigh, lean forward, and take a final swig of my gin and tonic, finishing off the drink. Phillip had dragged me out to the club tonight to celebrate his recovery from being shot in the chest during a robbery gone wrong at the Briartop art museum a couple of weeks ago. Or maybe it was a robbery gone right, considering that Clementine Barker and most of her gang of giants had ended up dead in the end. But thinking about that night conjured up so many memories for me, especially of a beautiful woman in a blood-red dress-
"Hi, sugar," a voice said loudly enough to be heard over the music.
Maybe it was the slightly mocking way that she drawled out sugar, but the sound of her voice made my head snap up, thinking that she was here tonight, hoping that she was-
But it wasn't her. Instead, a pretty woman with tan skin, hazel eyes, and black hair that was spiked up almost like a mohawk stood in front of our booth. For a moment, I thought that she'd come over to talk to Phillip, since he'd been actively eyeing the ladies ever since we'd arrived, but then I realized that she was holding a round tray. The gold heart-and-arrow pendant that glimmered in the hollow of her throat marked her as more than just a waitress, though. The rune was Roslyn Phillips's symbol for her luxe nightclub-and all the hookers who worked here.
Several men and woman wearing the same necklace circulated around the dance floor and through the crowds at the bar, their gold runes flashing like neon signs underneath the club's black lights, letting everyone know that they were open for business. All of them were buff, beautiful, and baring a lot of skin, leaving little to the imagination. Most of them were vampires, and all of them would do whatever you wanted them to-for the right price.