The first thing Sudsy noticed about the singer was the scent of his blood. The second thing was that he was drop-dead gorgeous.
Normally Sudsy wouldn't complain about the scent of blood, especially when it smelled as delicious as this, but the problem was he shouldn't be able to detect it unless the man was bleeding. By the richness of the aroma, it wasn't a simple paper cut either.
Still one wouldn't know the handsome, black-haired hunk was hurt, not by the way he dominated the stage with almost boyish charm and held the high notes with the lung power of a champion swimmer.
Sudsy enjoyed catching the acts at other hotels in Las Vegas, but he was rarely impressed. He'd been hearing a lot about the singer who called himself Julian -- nothing else. Simply Julian.
From what Sudsy had heard so far, all the positive reviews about this guy had been well deserved.
Julian's voice caressed each word, but it wasn't just his finesse that held his audience captive. His pleasant, offhandedly sexy manner was a major turn-on to women while at the same time non-threatening to straight men. To a gay man like Sudsy, who just happened to like long black hair, a tall lean build and lips that begged to be kissed, Julian was an absolute dream.
Beyond the physical attraction and admiration for talent, Sudsy felt a hint of concern that grew along with the scent of Julian's blood. Where was the injury? It must be bandaged somewhere beneath his sexy black clothes and it probably hurt like a bastard.
Sudsy sat close enough to the stage that he could see sweat misting Julian's chiseled face. Though tied back in a ponytail, tendrils of his long black hair clung damply to his strong neck. He gave a lively performance, so it was hard to tell if he was perspiring from exertion, fever or pain. He was so poised that one couldn't tell by his actions or speech how he felt.
As the show drew to a close, the hotel manager approached Sudsy. He and Ross had known each other for years and while they weren't exactly friends, they got along well and treated each other hospitably on one another's territory.
"How did you like the show?" Ross asked. "Julian's great, isn't he?"
"Yes," Sudsy replied, glancing briefly at Ross, then once again fixing his gaze on the sexy singer. "Why is he performing in a dump like this?"
"Dump?" Ross glared. "Why, you --"
Sudsy chuckled. "I'm just kidding. Don't you know my sense of humor by now?"
Ross straightened his jacket and grunted. "You should know I have no sense of humor when it comes to my hotel. The show's just about over. Want to meet him?"
"I'd love to."
They rose from the table and Sudsy glanced at his untouched wine glass. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy a drink once in a while, but the scent of Julian's blood left him thirsty for something stronger than alcohol.
Sudsy was reluctant to leave before the show ended, but he knew it was better to beat the crowd. On his way past a glass partition, he caught sight of himself and smiled slightly. He had to admit he was a damn good-looking drag queen. Statuesque with ebony skin and gleaming dark eyes, he had a lean, muscular build that looked good in a dress, yet was cut enough for him to turn heads when he wore men's attire as well. His black hair was cut ultra-short, but tonight he wore a burgundy wig. The thick tendrils flowed down his back and nearly matched his dark red lipstick.
Ross led the way backstage and they arrived just as Julian was coming off. Sudsy thought he looked pale beneath the lights, but up close he was as white as a proverbial sheet.
"Julian, when you have a second, I'd like you to meet Sudsy. He owns the Bloody or Nothing Hotel a few blocks from here."
"Of course," Julian replied, his voice a bit rough after his performance. He nodded, but there was no missing the tension on his face. Sudsy's keen hearing detected his erratic heartbeat and recognized the signs of a human about to faint.
He strode forward and gripped Julian by the shoulders before he hit the floor.
"Hey, somebody get some water!" Ross shouted.
Julian hadn't exactly lost consciousness, but came very close. Slipping an arm around him, Sudsy guided him to a nearby chair.
"Just take a few deep breaths," Sudsy told him.
"What's wrong?" Ross demanded. He accepted the water a young woman handed to him and held it to Julian's lips.
The singer took the glass and sipped, then shook his head, his jaw set.
"Sorry about that," he muttered, the look on his face something between annoyance and embarrassment. "I've never passed out in my life."
"Are you sick?" Ross demanded.
"Don't worry. It's nothing that will keep me off stage tomorrow night," Julian told him, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
"That's not why I asked," Ross said. "Even though I'm glad to hear it's nothing serious. Is it?"
"No. I'm just tired. Haven't been getting much sleep," Julian replied. Something told Sudsy that wasn't the complete truth.
"Would you like me to help you undress?" asked the young woman who had brought the water.
"No thanks, Marcy," he said. "I'm going straight up to my room and get some rest. You can get the clothes later."
She nodded and walked away.
"My costumer," Julian explained to Sudsy. "I'm sorry, but I won't be very good company right now. I hope you enjoyed the show."
Sudsy nodded. When Julian rose, he placed a hand on his elbow. Though he wasn't quite as pale as he had been a moment ago, he still didn't look well and smelled strongly of blood.
"Do you need help to your room?" Sudsy asked.
"I'm fine." Julian offered a slight smile. "It's nice to meet you."
Once Julian left to take the back stairs to his room, Ross sighed deeply and said, "Performers. You never know what the hell is going on with them. I know Julian doesn't drink much and I doubt he has a drug problem, but --"
"He's probably just tired, like he said," Sudsy reassured him.
Ross didn't look convinced, but let the subject drop.
"I really need to get back to my place," Sudsy said. "See you later, Ross."
Sudsy also decided to take the back way -- he didn't leave the hotel. Instead he followed Julian. Traveling quickly and stealthily came with the territory. Within moments he'd tracked Julian and was glad he'd decided to follow him.
The singer sprawled in the fourth floor corridor, this time in a dead faint.