Home > Blood Gamble (Disrupted Magic #2)(15)

Blood Gamble (Disrupted Magic #2)(15)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

After that, Lucy and Arthur did a bit where Lucy came out with a bow and arrow, and Arthur put an apple on his head. He made jokes about how his wife had terrible aim, and at the last second she lowered the arrow, which flashed across the stage and buried itself in Arthur’s stomach. His white shirt instantly bloomed red. The audience screamed—beside me, Juliet practically jumped out of her chair—but Arthur simply tore out the arrow with a rueful grimace and tossed it aside. “See what I mean?” he called, mugging for the crowd. “Terrible shot.”

“What are you talking about?” Lucy retorted. “It went right where I wanted it.”

The audience applauded and chuckled, and after an elaborate bow, Arthur walked offstage to change his shirt.

Before and after each of these bits, the vampires brought volunteers onstage—a short Asian man, a middle-aged white couple, a teen dressed in black clothes and black lipstick who looked downright worshipful when Arthur took her hand. Each human volunteer was then pressed to do something silly: the Asian man had to quack like a duck, the couple drenched their formalwear with buckets of water, and so on. Still, the audience members continued to raise their hands to volunteer. Next to me, Juliet nudged me and whispered, “Glad we didn’t sit any closer. Tara would have volunteered for sure.”

I let out a quiet snort, leaning forward so I could see past Laurel to Tara. She was actually sitting on her hands, her eyes wide, like she was afraid she would be suddenly teleported down to the stage and forced to participate.

I was keeping track of the number of volunteers, but it took me until the sixth one to wonder why they weren’t immediately taken back to their seats when the trick was finished. Instead, each one was led into the wings. With volunteer number seven, the vampire escort didn’t move quite as far offstage, and I watched as he took both her hands in his, looking into her eyes and whispering intently. Then something flashed from his hand to hers.

They were pressing the volunteers again, but why? Was it just so they wouldn’t remember what had happened onstage? Or was something else going on? I decided I needed to find one of those humans.

The show ended with the enormous ship moving slowly forward to the front of the stage. Lucy did a little introduction for it and then asked us if anyone in the audience worked in construction. No hands went up, and she let out a dainty giggle. “Don’t worry, I won’t make you quack,” she promised. “But surely someone here has some experience with . . . erections?” She batted her eyes theatrically, and the audience laughed. A couple of hands went up, and Lucy pointed at one. A lackey trotted out from the wings to guide the volunteer onstage. As they approached Lucy, I saw that he was a white guy in his early sixties, short and stocky, looking uncomfortable in his suit, though it fit perfectly well. Lucy smiled gaily and held her arm out to someone offstage. Light glinted in the air, and she was suddenly holding a silver microphone, which she handed to the older man.

“Hello,” she said, in the same flirtatious tone she’d used all night. “Can you tell me your name, and where you work?”

“I-I’m Stuart. Stu,” the man said nervously. “I’ve been a foreman at D&S Construction in Boise for thirty years.”

“Wonderful,” Lucy purred. She snapped her fingers, and three vampires jogged out of the wings, each pushing a wooden pallet on wheels. They’d been loaded up with stacks of wood and five-gallon buckets. “Stu,” Lucy continued, “can you look at these materials and tell me if they’ve been tampered with?”

“T-tampered with?”

“Yes, my darling,” she said, unfazed. “Are they real? Or simply fake Vegas props?”

Stu bobbed his head, handed her the microphone, and ambled over to the nearest pallet. He began running his hands over the supplies, knocking on the wood, digging through the buckets. His shoulders relaxed, and he looked comfortable for the first time since he’d stood up.

Lucy waited patiently while Stu investigated all three pallets, each one loaded as high as Stu’s forehead. To keep the audience entertained, the vampire in the tank of water on the side of the stage began to stretch and yawn, pantomiming hunger and boredom. The crowd tittered.

Finally, Stu returned and held out his hand for the microphone, looking more confident than before. “As far as I can tell,” he said seriously, “these are good quality, real materials.”

“No fakes?” Lucy asked lightly.

“No fakes.”

“Thank you, Stu,” she said, kissing his cheek. The older man blushed, turning to walk away. “Wait just a moment, my darling,” Lucy said, and the old foreman turned around. “Would you mind doing one more tiny favor?”

He gave her a guarded look. “Do I have to moon anyone?”

Lucy threw back her head and laughed. “No, no.” She held up one leg, perfectly balanced on a single high heel, and rested her ankle on one of Stu’s folded arms. “Would you mind taking these off me?”

Stu shifted a little, as though his pants had suddenly shrunk a couple of sizes. His big fingers fumbled at the straps on the shoe, while Lucy winked at the audience but didn’t wobble. When Stu was finally holding both of the stilettos, she said, “Thank you, my darling. Be a dear and hold those, won’t you?” Without waiting for his response, she turned to the audience, reaching one hand out toward the wings. Suddenly Arthur was there, holding her hand. No gasps this time—the audience had gotten used to vampire speed. “And now,” Arthur announced, “we present . . . the Demeter!”

There was a flash of strobe lighting, and suddenly the pallets were moving, pushed by the five remaining vampire extras. They zipped back toward the ship, and the supplies began to fly off the top as the eight vampires began repairing the ship at their top speeds.

It was like watching time-lapse photography. The ship started out rather decrepit-looking, like a starved, broken animal, but it began to fill out, expanding with new boards and sails, even some paint. It was astonishing, and although several minutes ticked by, I couldn’t look away.

Finally, the vampires sped to either side of the stage in a line, holding out their arms to show off the ship. Lucy Holmwood made the construction foreman go walk around on top, and his look of utter amazement couldn’t have been more convincing. The ship had been transformed, like magic. Actually, scratch that: it was magic. I glanced at Laurel, who was looking at me behind Juliet. She looked as troubled as I felt.

What the hell were the Holmwoods doing?

Chapter 11

There was a standing ovation from the stunned crowd, and finally the lights came up. Juliet and her friends started collecting purses and jackets, turning toward me, since I was on the end.

Tara was actually the first one to stand up, giving me a pleading look. “I really have to pee,” she said, embarrassed. I started moving us toward the balcony steps. “But wasn’t that amazing, you guys?” she continued. “How on earth did they do that with the ship? Or the guy in the tank?”

“Vegas tricks,” Bethany said dismissively, looking to Laurel for confirmation.

“Some of the best stage magicians in the world live in Vegas,” Laurel said, noncommittal.

“I’m hungry,” Bethany announced. “Shall we hit the buffet here? Or we could go somewhere a little less expensive?” She gave me a pitying glance. I ignored her. I had no time for Bethany nonsense.

“I could eat,” Tara said, one hand on her stomach bulge. “Ooh, after I pee.”

“What did you think?” I said to Juliet. Her brow was a little furrowed. “It was incredible,” she answered, looking a little perplexed. “But I’m with Tara. How could they do that stuff?”

It was mostly rhetorical, but I pretended to feel my phone buzz in my clutch. “Oh, hang on.” I pulled it out and looked at the screen. “Uh-oh. I’ve got to go, Jules. The manager of Dashiell’s new building wants to meet over drinks.”

“Now?” she said, and the disappointment in her voice cut at me. “Isn’t it kind of late for business?”

I shrugged. “Everything happens at night in Las Vegas.” I kissed her cheek. “See you in the morning, okay?”

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