Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sweet Oblivion 3: Fluid by Jordan Castillo Price

Sweet Oblivion 3: Fluid
by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover art by ReneƩ George
ISBN: 978-1-59596-397-0
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Vampires, The Dark Side, Gay and Lesbian
Series: Sweet Oblivion
Length: Novella


It's been a couple of decades since Wild Bill has been able to savor the bite of an ice-cold, freshly tapped keg. Twenty-odd years since the shivery pucker of a cheap, boxed wine has assaulted his palate. But that doesn't mean Bill's forgotten how to party.
Wild Bill and Michael have holed up in a week-to-week hotel in an iffy Milwaukee neighborhood, and even though it's been a year or two, the fringe art happenings are just as edgy as Bill remembers.
There's a girl covered in frosting in the middle of the hors d’ouvres table, and she's begging them to dip. And the host of the party wants to lure them into the range of his mechanical eye. It's all fun and games, until a tryst turns deadly.


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The old loft had been a factory once upon a time. Maybe a place where six-year-olds earned two cents a day drilling holes in buttons. Or maybe a place where Bohunk women fresh off the boat stitched together brand new ready-made stuff for the generations who'd been here longer, middle-class matrons who spoke English.
It wasn't hard to imagine humanity teeming through the place. They wouldn't have been wearing PVC and fishnet back then, of course. But bodies is bodies.
Unless you count the body on the table. "What's that?" I asked her.
Her gaze met mine. "Cream cheese frosting."
What was she, twenty-five? If that. And splayed out on a table in nothing but a thin white coating of frosting, surrounded by sliced fruit. She'd bleached her buzz-cut to match the frosting -- that night, or maybe the night before, judging by the faint note of peroxide I detected over the warring scents of kiwi, pear, apple and grape. "Very creative. You're the artist?"
She shook her head. The cream cheese stopped at her collarbone, so she could do that much without disturbing the setup. "I'm modeling for Ivan."
Ivan. He was the flavor du jour, judging by the snips and snatches of conversation floating around every trendy watering hole on the south side of Milwaukee.
"What's your name?"
"Wild Bill."
"Suzanne. Listen, will you do me a favor? Dip something on me and eat it. Everyone's avoiding me like the plague. Maybe you could get it started."
Twenty-odd years ago, I woulda been all over her like stink on a wino. But even though I thought she was cute -- because, come on, how can a pixie-faced chick covered in frosting not be cute -- I felt like this wasn't my world anymore, and I had no business butting in.
"Please?" she begged me. "This was supposed to be fun."
What can I say? I felt sorry for the kid. It was ballsy of her to be pressing into service as a centerpiece for someone named Ivan. It had probably seemed like a great idea at the time, in a performance art sorta way. Who could've predicted how weird it would be to walk up to the hors d'oeuvres table and find a chick on it? I really did want to help her out. And while I couldn't eat -- not fruit, anyway -- I could at least dip.
I almost took an apple slice. My hand hovered over a fan of them. Twitched. But then I scented the pear, September-hard, and I took a wedge of that instead. "Anyplace in particular you want me to start?"
She blushed. Zing. The smell of it went straight to my nuts like an invisible, fondling hand.
"My arm, or, uh… my leg."
I'd been staring at her tits. No barrier whatsoever between her and the cream cheese. Oh my. I locked eyes with her again, gave her my most reassuring smile, fangs covered, and glanced at her wrist. A pair of handcuffs surrounded her skinny girl-arm, both cuffs on the same wrist.
"Don't ask. I've been on the lookout for someone with a master key. The locksmith wants a hundred bucks to pop it."
"Just act like it's a fashion statement, and no one'll be any the wiser." I judiciously ignored the hard, cold metal and the titillating story that undoubtedly went with it, and dragged the hard edge of the pear down Suzanne's thigh. The frosting parted. I imagine that's how it would've felt to press cuneiform letters into a clay tablet. The pear was a good choice. It made a beautiful line.
I drew a spiral first. Her thigh was firm as a boy's, and had just the right amount of give. I traced an accent line around it. The two lines, side by side, created a sort of negative space, a pinstripe of frosting. Another stroke. Even better.
I felt eyes on me, that prickle that's not quite hot or cold but maybe a little of both, and I glanced up and saw a dark-eyed kid with a mohawk and a pierced eyebrow giving me bedroom eyes. A year ago, I would've made good on that invitation -- 'cos he was sweet on the outside, but better than that, I could tell just by looking at him that he was bitter on the inside -- and that's the siren song that makes even the mustiest of dried-up vamps dash themselves to death on the rocky shore of wanting.
I'd paused mid-swoop, eye-locked with Pretty Boy for a split second, with that cream cheese-covered pear wedge clutched between thumb and forefinger.
Michael stepped between the vamp bait and me, and I felt like my soul, which had been trying to float out through my eyes, had slammed back into me, and I was myself again. I don't think he'd noticed the current of Mesmerism that he'd just short-circuited. "What are you doing?" Michael said, genuinely curious -- about the pear, not the mohawk boy. I finished out the whorl of the line I'd been drawing, and then turned to face him.
He had a red plastic cup of beer in one hand, full to the brim, and a handful of chips in the other. Everything else was black. Black leather jacket. Black T-shirt, black jeans. Filmy black scarf. Raven black Clairol hair. Thick black eyeliner. And tragically pretty, with insides all red and raw as if his best gal-pal had just been sucked dry yesterday. I brought the frosting-covered pear wedge up to his face and painted a thin line of white across his lower lip. "Dipping," I told him. And I slid the pear into his mouth. His tongue grazed my finger as he took it.
"That is so hot," Suzanne said.

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