Happy holidays! Thank you, Addison, for letting me drop by again.
[Welcome, Ofelia! It’s wonderful to have you back…it’s been a while!]
If it had been a normal year, I bet some of you would’ve been gearing up for parties right about now – some of you still might be, restrictions and recommendations vary depending on where you are in the world.
For those who don’t know me, I live in Sweden, and in Sweden, we do Christmas on the 24th. The result of this – apart from giving Santa a chance to make it across the Atlantic and reach the US in time to give all the kids their prezzies, of course – is that the nightclubs are packed on the 25th. It’s mostly young people, many of who are home to visit family from wherever they’re living now, who go out to meet up with old friends.
So the tradition is that you spend the 24th at home with your family, on the 25th you’re hitting the clubs with your old friends, and on New Year’s Eve you’re celebrating with friends – often your ‘current’ friends which may or may not be the same bunch you drank way too many drinks with on the 25th.
Most often, New Year means you get to put on a sequin dress, but it might mean – horror of horrors – that there is a costume party.
Why am I talking about this, you wonder. It’s because Ilya in The Ruby Tooth is going to a nightclub on a dress-up night. He doesn’t want to be there, but his best friend Vera has talked him into it.
I tend to avoid parties best I can, and I feel a little guilty for putting Ilya through dress-up night, to be honest. He’s a much better friend than I am, though, since I would’ve refused to go.
The Ruby Tooth, the nightclub where this dreaded dress-up night takes place, is a supernatural nightclub. Neither Ilya nor Vera knows this, but the club is split in two, and the doorman is a veritas – a supernatural species who can see into your soul and see if you’re a good person or a bad one.
Ilya is shown to the left, which is where good people go, but Vera is shown to the right. They don’t know this, but when they figure it out, Ilya sneaks in through the kitchen and finds his way to the naughty side.
On the naughty side, he meets Ulric. Ulric is a strange man who claims to be a bounty hunter.
I wrote this story for an in-house call for JMS Books where we were to write short stories that were either Naughty or Nice. The Ruby Tooth is a Nice story… though if Ulric is naughty or nice is debatable. He’s a werewolf, and he didn’t lie when he told Ilya he was a bounty hunter, even though Ilya thought he meant he was dressed up as one.
Ulric believes he’s a nice guy, but the veritas keep showing him to the right side every time he comes to The Ruby Tooth. He’s always believed they’d made a mistake, but after meeting Ilya, he’s not so sure anymore. And the universe has clearly made a mistake since Ilya is his destined mate.
Ilya Lewis was gonna kill Vera. First, she’d forced him to come to this creepy place. On dress-up night. Wearing a costume she’d picked. Then she didn’t show.
He’d circled the place three times, but she was nowhere to be seen.
The way the doorman had made them go in one at a time, only to stare at them for several seconds, still had Ilya shuddering. He wanted to complain, needed to tell Vera she’d been wrong about this being a nice club.
It wasn’t nice.
Everything seemed staged. It could have been because everyone was walking around dressed up as Santa or a reindeer, and a couple of women had Christmas tree dresses. No elves.
He grabbed his phone, which wasn’t easy considering he was wearing an elf suit—leggings didn’t have pockets, so he’d put his phone in a passport holder he had around his neck, hidden underneath the moss green tunic.
It rang several times and he was about to hang up when there was a crackling.
“Ilya, if you’re calling to cancel, I’m coming there, and I will be dragging you out by your balls, you hear?”
Ilya blinked. “Vera?”
“There is no one I know here. They said at work they’d all come.” She sighed.
“I’m here, but I can’t find you.”
She was silent for a few seconds. “I can’t see you. It’s really fucking dark in here.”
Ilya tilted his head toward the ceiling—several light fixtures were giving the room a soft but comfortable glow. “It’s light where I am.”
“You’re at The Ruby Tooth, right? You didn’t go somewhere else?”
He sighed. “I’m here, but—”
“I can’t see you.”
“I’m right next to the bar.” He took three steps to the right so he wasn’t lying.
“I’m at the bar. Sitting on a stool with a drink I didn’t ask for.”
In his experience, she never turned down a drink. “Isn’t it good?”
His gaze swept over the bar, there were no stools. It was a large, curved bar with two bartenders behind it, both wearing Santa hats and both smiling and nodding to the club goers.
“There are no stools at this bar.”
Vera went quiet. “There must be two bars then.”
Relieved laughter escaped Ilya. There were two bars—of course there were. “I’ll come find you, stay by the bar.”
“Will do, darling.”
He winced at her dragged-out darling and hung up before putting the phone back in the passport holder and getting it to look good underneath the tunic. He looked like he had a starring role in Lord of the Rings rather than a creature from Santa’s workshop. Vera had found it highly amusing. A fairy suit for the fairy.
He’d stopped being offended a long time ago.
They’d been friends for an eternity. When the mean kids in school had picked on him, Vera had beaten them to a pulp—an exaggeration, but there had been a nosebleed, and from that day on, she’d been feared.
He didn’t know what she saw in him—she mostly complained about how boring he was—but when her world fell apart, which happened to her more often than anyone else he knew, she came to him. She slept on his couch for a few nights, drank way too much booze, and cursed the world. She never cried. He was the one who cried. When his mother had died, when Anthony had left him, when he’d had to put Mr. Snuggles down three months ago… he cried, she cursed, but she held him until he didn’t have any tears left.
And that was what this dreadful night was all about. Other than to go to work, he hadn’t left his cramped apartment since Mr. Snuggles had died. Vera had finally lost her patience and nagged and threatened until he’d agreed to come.
With a sigh, he walked toward the entrance. The creepy doorman had shown him to the left, but maybe there was a room on the other side.
As soon as he neared the door, another doorman stepped out of the shadows.
“Ah… eh… no, I’m looking for my friend.”
The doorman gave him a blank look and gestured toward the bar. A chill slithered down Ilya’s spine. There was something off with the doormen. Maybe they were on drugs.
The doorman gestured in the opposite direction from the bar.
“Thank you.” Ilya pretended to head in the direction of the restroom, but as soon as the doorman focused on someone else, he veered off closer to the bar again. There had to be another room somewhere.
When there was a gap at the bar, he stepped forward and waited until the bartender focused on him.
“What can I get you?”
“I, eh… mineral water, please.”
The man smiled. “Lemon?”
“Please.” He had a nice smile, and Ilya found himself smiling back. “Hey, I’m meeting a friend here, but she’s at the other bar. How do I get there?”
The bartender froze. “You don’t. They divide you at the entrance.”
What the hell? Unease spread in his gut, but he did his best not to let it show. “Yes, I know, but I need to get to her.”
The bartender bit his lip and guilt swamped Ilya. He hated lying.
“They won’t let you in, but the kitchen has doors to both sides. You’re not supposed to go in there, though.”
Ilya nodded. “No, I understand. Thank you.”
Ilya Lewis is gonna kill his best friend Vera. She not only persuaded him off his couch and into the creepiest nightclub in the city, she also didn’t show. When Ilya learns the bar is split into two halves, and he’s been let into the wrong side, it doesn’t make things any better. Once the doorman determines which half to let you into, he won’t let you into the other.
Ulric Moon hates the Ruby Tooth. But as a bounty hunter, he must go where the trails lead him, and tonight it’s landed him in the worst nightclub in the universe. All he wants is to catch the vampire he’s hunting, but despite trying to convince the veritas doorman examining his soul that he needs to be let into the good side of the club, he’s shown to the bad. As if that wasn’t enough, his destined mate somehow manages to sneak into the bad side where he doesn’t belong. Ilya finds a way to the other side of the bar, but one look at the patrons there has him regretting ever leaving his apartment. When he tries to leave, a scary-looking man who does nothing but growl follows him.
Ulric knows he’s freaking Ilya out, but Ilya has inadvertently caught the interest of the vampire Ulric is hunting, and he has to protect him. How will Ulric keep Ilya safe when he doesn’t believe Ulric is a bounty hunter? And how do you tell someone they’re your mate when they don’t believe you’re a werewolf?
Ofelia Gränd is Swedish, which often shines through in her stories. She likes to write about everyday people ending up in not-so-everyday situations, and hopefully also getting out of them. She writes romance, contemporary, paranormal, Sci-Fi and whatever else catches her fancy.
Her books are written for readers who want to take a break from their everyday life for an hour or two.
When Ofelia manages to tear herself from the screen and sneak away from her husband and children, she likes to take walks in the woods…if she’s lucky she finds her way back home again.
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