The streets raged with the dizzying sounds and scents of Mardi Gras in full swing. Women and men laughed, twisted and writhed to music, singing lyrics known only to themselves. Beads jangled like hollow bits of wood. Torn, dyed feathers floated in the air on a lazy breeze that carried with it the ripe smell of too many people too close together. The voices of drunken revelers warred with the exciting tempo of a zydeco band playing on one corner and a blues band on another. An alto saxophone and a clarinet played a moody, mellow song that stirred the blood of those close enough to hear it above the dull roar of carousal.
There was no other city quite like New Orleans, cozy as a small town with all the amenities of a metropolis. History drenched every street corner, every balcony on high, every facade along the waterfront. Traditions ruled the city with a firm hand, southern justice was always in effect, but everyone turned a blind eye when it came to the decadence of the holiday.
No, there was no other experience to be had like that at Mardi Gras.
It was dangerous times for the unwary, though. He'd never seen so many vamps prowling the streets, hunting prey, getting fat and drunk off the careless and ignorant. Not that anyone would believe an underground war raged in the dead of night. The truce that had held long before he was born was as shaky as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The Lycan territories were breached, and the feuds had spilled over onto the neutral grounds of the historic district--into the main heart of the city.
Since the vampire lord's disappearance a month or two ago, things had turned from shit, to rancid shit.
Gabriel Benoit snickered at that thought. The pack thought he was crazy for braving no man's land, especially at night. He didn't let little things like caution get in his way though. He was just cocky and confident enough it didn't bother him to think of being outnumbered. Some would call it stupidity. He called it weariness of denying his appetites.
Vamps traveled in packs, and when they could, they supped on Lycan. One bite was enough to take a Lycan down, paralyzed with their venom. If two struck, it was wolfie for dinner. Their potent, Lycan blood was the whole reason this damned war had been started in the first place, and frankly, Gabriel was tired of ceding hunting grounds and territory to the blood suckers. It was getting to where no decent Lycan could even roam the streets or bayous alone anymore--except during the daytime.
If he could've, he'd give up all his Lycan powers to just be normal and not have to worry with the bull-shitting politics and wars, the never ending battles that always seemed to flare and stir up the natives. It was just a damn miracle some tabloid hadn't caught on and got the humans started on a vamp and Lycan hunting season.
Gabriel sighed. He just wanted a simple life, with a woman ready, willing, and waiting in his bed ... and a car that stayed running more often than not. That wasn't too much to ask.
Still, Gabriel relished the thought of taking on a pack of vampires, found it invigorating as only a man with too much time on his hands could. Thus, he'd come to the "party" looking for action ... of one type or another.
Moths clinked like tinny music against the heated light above him. The light flickered, making him almost annoyed enough to move--but not quite. Gabriel leaned against the lamp post, his arms crossed over his chest, lazily perusing the crowd with an easy grin and the heat of spiced rum flowing through his veins.
Even without the risk of battle, the others would not have come to the festivities. They felt alienated from the humans, too obviously different. Gabriel suffered no such qualms, himself. But more and more, it seemed they grew more animalistic and less human as time wore on. He would be worried except for the fact that that was what had allowed them to survive through the centuries to start with.
A woman smiled as she walked by, catching his eye. She giggled, hooked her hands under the hem of her shirt, and flashed him before running off. Gabriel grinned, shaking his head.
He never denied himself this pleasure. This was his favorite time of the year, when the underbelly of the city exposed itself and its impurities were reveled in as only proper sinners could appreciate.
Plus, he enjoyed seeing women flash their breasts for something so trifling as beaded necklaces and a smile from an appreciative man.
He'd been lounging against the cool metal post for some time, enjoying the sweet blues spilling from a local bar and lost in his thoughts, when a scent tickled his nose, strange yet familiar. His beast leapt instantly to life, ruffling the hair on the back of his neck.
Gabriel straightened suddenly, sniffing the wafting air. Past the cloying alcohol and perspiration, he caught it again on the wind. Faint, it uncurled with a spicy sweetness in his senses like a rare perfume.
He dropped off the curb and pushed through the crowded street through sweat slick bodies, following the scent. It teased, taunting, drawing him in until he was helpless to do anything but follow.
Pale skin flashed before him as revelers begged for beads from those standing above in balconies. He ignored them all, intent on his quarry, stopping only when he found the source of his affliction.
Gabriel looped and arm around an iron lamp post, gaining height over the crowd, watching her. He knew instinctively she was the one ... the one that taunted unawares.
She was trapped in the throng, walled in by bodies. She looked mildly worried, as though she was claustrophobic but determined to have a good time regardless.
She looked like a china doll: fragile porcelain skin, baby blue eyes, a pink blush tingeing her cheeks. She smiled and pushed back a loose tendril of pale blonde hair behind her ear. One pert breast lifted with the action, and even with the distance he caught the slight pucker of her nipple beneath the thin cotton.
He rubbed one thumb against his bottom lip, drawn by her movement and imagined sensation.
An instant fog of lust clouded his brain. She was in heat. Never had he smelled a woman so ripe for fucking. The scent and knowledge threatened to burn away all rational thought. His hands clenched into tight fists, his fingers digging into his palms. His arms bulged with the effort to restrain himself. For a few minutes, he could think of nothing but taking her and laying her on the street, pushing her legs apart and burying his cock deep inside her.
The knowledge that he was reacting as an animal didn't stop the feelings raging in his blood. If anything, they worsened. His balls tightened, his cock throbbed. He gritted his teeth, pained with the hot surge of blood in his groin.