Walking in Daylight Ch. 03byDanae72©
I want to thank everyone who left me comments (and votes!) on the first chapter of my story. I wasn't sure about submitting my work, because while I enjoy them, I didn't know how they would be received. I'll be working on re-writing the rest of the story and hope to submit it all at once, but if it seems to take to long, I'll split it into a couple of chapters. There are already other characters and settings demanding to be written, but I'll try my best to get this one done before starting another!
Please leave feedback, I'd love to hear what you think. If it is something negative, I want to hear it too, as long as it's given constructively!
A two-bedroom apartment in a duplex for only $500 had to be a mistake. It was practically a house. There was even an upstairs and a downstairs. Pen opened a door he'd just noticed and gaped at stairs going down into a basement. There was a basement in addition to an upstairs and a downstairs. It didn't even smell musty and old.
"This is really amazing, Ma'am. Is the price right? The paper must have made a mistake."
"No, that's right, and it includes all the utilities. All you'd have to pay is the phone and whatever service you want to use for your television. There is a catch, however."
Of course, there had to be a catch. At the moment, the only thing Pen thought he could say no to would be if he had to kill someone. "What's that?"
"My husband and I like to travel. We're gone almost all the time. If you decide to take the apartment, it will be your job to take care of the yard and keep an eye on our place. There is an account for you to draw funds from and all you have to do is call us up and we'll give the authorization."
Pen stared for a moment, and then sat down heavily on one of the chairs. He was asleep at home. Or maybe Alex had beaten him unconscious and he was in a coma in the hospital. This kind of thing just didn't happen. It especially didn't happen to him. According to this prospective landlady, he could live in this apartment at a ridiculous low price, all for taking care of the place.
Without the utilities, he'd be saving loads of money and could afford to buy some luxuries. Even then, this apartment had great furniture so that wouldn't eat into his savings. A new big screen TV maybe. Oh, and clothes! He could go out and buy some clothes that didn't come from a thrift shop.
"Why would you off this to someone you don't even know? You remember that I'm a daywalker, don't you?"
Edna Casher smiled at the young man, who looked so sad from the moment she laid eyes on him. "I couldn't care less that you're a daywalker, child. Truth be told, this arrangement wouldn't be offered to just anyone, but I feel like I can trust you. I see in your eyes that you're a good person. Plus I feel that you need help as much as we need it. I can see the bruises through your shirt since you took off your jacket."
Heat flooded Pen's cheeks as he quickly pulled his jacket back on. Mrs. Casher, just having met him and seen bruises, deemed him worthy of such an immense amount of trust.
"I'll do my very best not to make you regret giving me this chance, Ma'am. If it's all right with you, I'll sign whatever you need me to right away and go get my things ready."
"Move in whenever you're ready, Penlan Taylor. Today, next week, whenever it's convenient. And if you ever need any help, for anything, you just pick up the phone and give me a call."
Ryan parked his car and looked at the apartment building. He needed to get Pen to talk to him, so he could apologize properly. It wouldn't change anything, but it would make him feel better. Not that Pen would accept the apology. Carlie, his partner, showed her surprise at the fact that he knew Pen, and by what Pen had said, but except for a quick inquiry let it alone. She was great. Already he felt like they would get along just fine.
"I don't know what else to tell you, Mr. Wade. Mr. Taylor moved out yesterday and told me to move your boxes into storage until you made arrangements. You saw the apartment's empty of all personal items, and he didn't leave a forwarding address. Here's where to pick up your stuff. Just be glad I'm not charging you since it was just a day."
Penlan's boyfriend swore and jumped into a small red car. Ryan watched for a moment, and then went to speak to the man in the doorway, showing his credentials. "I'm Agent Sealey. Did I hear you say that Mr. Penlan Taylor moved out of his apartment?"
"That's right," the man confirmed. "Came in day before yesterday to let me know he was moving. Even gave me next month's rent for the short notice and wouldn't take it back no matter how much I tried. I mean, I'll have this place rented in a couple of days, no problem. He really didn't leave me a forwarding address though."
Well damn. With a new change of address, it could take up to a month or more for the computer system to be updated and let him know where Pen moved to. It felt important for him to get to Pen quickly. He recalled the anger in those green eyes as Pen threw Ryan's words back at him.
The landlord held up a finger and asked him to wait for a moment. Ryan waited, even as he wondered what the man could want. A couple of young women walked by on the street. They looked him up and down before giggling together. He smiled and nodded, which made them giggle even more. The girls were cute, but he hardly paid them any real attention. Normally, he would flirt a little more. Now, though, all he had on his mind was how to find Pen and quickly. This was getting ridiculous.
"I don't have a new address, but I still have his work information if that will help you. Since you're an agent and all, I figure that it's all right to give this to you."
Ryan thanked the man and examined the piece of paper. Three days a week, this being one of those days, Pen worked at a company called Classical Advertising. The rest of the time, apparently, he did freelance work. There was no indication of the nature of the freelance work. Brewster Place wasn't all that far from Ryan's apartment, which meant it was on the way. Nothing wrong with him stopping by while he was in the neighbourhood. It wouldn't fool Pen for a minute, but it would give him the opportunity to clear the air.
Pen hung up the phone and sighed when he saw the three new files on the corner of his desk. His job was reception and SOME report preparation. Lately, all of the reports made their way to his desk. Advertising was an interesting business, unless you worked reception and had to deal with all the complainers, both clients and the public. Then there was the hassle of keeping all the execs and other employees of the business happy. Everyone needed to be kept happy except him. The story of his life.
Damn he sounded depressed, even to himself. That would never do. His job was important, he reasoned as he finished inputting a set of numbers to finish one of the reports. If he failed in any way, things would topple like dominoes, from the bottom to the top. Everyone worked hard, just in different ways. Being the receptionist didn't mean his work wasn't as important, or even more so. It just wasn't as...obvious.
Blinking at the empty corner of his desk, Pen realized that he had finished all the reports, including the three new ones. Maybe some internal bitching was what he needed to make the work go by quickly. He had to grin at the thought. It certainly helped that the phone only rang once while working on the reports and nobody arrived for an appointment. The door chimed to announce a visitor, which made Pen laugh to himself, until he saw who the visitor was. Ryan Sealey. Agent Ryan Sealey to be precise.
Just as he prepared himself to blast the man, one of the executives entered the reception area with a client. Pen turned his attention to Ryan with his most professional look. "Welcome to Classical Advertising, Sir. How may I direct you?"
"I'm here to speak with you, Pen. There are things we need to discuss."
"With me?" Pen slid his eyes to Ms. Roman for a second, and then returned them to Ryan at a point just off his left ear. "I'm sure there's nothing to discuss between us, since it doesn't seem to pertain to advertising. Anything else, you will have to find me when I'm not at work. Sir."
"Is there a problem here?" Ms. Roman arrived next to them after seeing the client off. "Perhaps I can be of assistance."
"No, Ma'am, but thank you. This is Agent Sealey with the FDPA and he was just leaving so I can get back to work."
"FDPA? Oh, yes! Well I just hope he's here to do something about that boyfriend of yours. Take the rest of the day off, but come in tomorrow morning. We've been talking and Andrea just isn't working out. We hope you'll take the job full-time rather than part-time. Ring me up when you arrive, Pen and we'll talk about everything. See you."
Was the whole world against him? Apparently so. All he wanted was to be left in peace to live his own life the best he could. Instead, Ryan was there. Handsome, strong, beautiful Ryan. Even if all his past boyfriends resembled the man, none of them came close to the power Ryan radiated so effortlessly. I will not embarrass myself. I won't look at him as if he's the tastiest dessert. I will be short and abrupt and send him on his way as soon as possible. Pen sighed, knowing it wouldn't be so easy. Tomorrow he would quit this job and find another. That way, neither Ryan nor Wade would be able to find him so easily.
Shrugging into his jacket before coming around the reception desk, conscious that his bruises might be visible through his white shirt, Pen walked by Ryan and out onto the sidewalk. When the taller man, the much taller man, joined him, he crossed his arms and glared.
"What do you want? I told you, there is nothing I need your help with. I've taken care of myself for a long time now and can keep doing it. Just leave me alone, Ryan."
"Pen, I just wanted to apologize for what happened. I couldn't fathom that Benjie would do such a thing, to anyone."
"Apology accepted. It likely would have happened even if you'd chosen to believe me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some errands I can take care of right away, since I'm done work early." Pen began walking towards the stores the next block over. He held his breath, hoping against hope it would be just that easy getting rid of Ryan.
"Let me treat you to dinner, to make up for it. Please Pen, we used to be kind of friends. Dinner and coffee, then I'll take you home."
No. Definitely not. This is a really bad idea. "Fine. Dinner and coffee, this one time only, and then I find my own way home."
Ryan grinned at him and Pen thought he might just start drooling. When Ryan smiled like that, it showed his teeth and the hint of a dimple on the left side of his mouth. He looked positively delicious. More than a little nervous, Pen quietly followed his companion to a beautiful car. It was one of the new retro models, identical in appearance to the '69 Mustang, but with all the modern amenities. It used the new clean fuel cells and had the smart roof. This type of car Pen wanted desperately to have but knew he could never afford to own. Besides, even if he could afford it, it would be silly to buy a car he couldn't drive.
He couldn't help himself. Pen ran a hand along the line of the roof, not quite touching in case he should mar the beautiful finish. He knew he looked like a kid presented with a chocolate feast when he turned wide eyes to Ryan, but he couldn't help himself. He never could have imagined anyone allowing so close to such a car.
Ryan winked and unlocked the door for him. The interior looked like it belonged to a different car. The outside was red and the inside was all black and silver. There were dials for everything from the stereo system to the satellite navigator. Pen glanced over the seven-point shifter, completely clueless about that, and saw individual heat controls for each seat and the feet. One small panel puzzled Pen until he leaned closer and read the indicator. Not one but two automatic driving setting. How could someone need two drive settings? Both were set to the off position, meaning Ryan drove himself. Not too many people did that anymore, even if they all had to learn.
When Pen sat in the seat, it automatically adjusted for his body. Oh man, this was amazing. Never in his life had he been so comfortable in a car. His feet reached the floor comfortably and the seatbelt didn't cut into his neck. The dashboard even lowered slightly so he had a clear view ahead. Nobody he knew would ever believe he'd had such a treat. If he even tried to describe, they would dismiss it as some grand fantasy or dream.
They'd been driving for a few minutes when Pen looked around and thought to wonder where Ryan was taking him for dinner. His stomach twisted when Ryan smiled again and told him. "I thought we'd go to my place. I already have a delivery scheduled, and I always get enough to have a few days of leftovers. Don't worry, there'll be plenty."
Ryan loved the expressions of awe and longing Pen displayed, most likely unconsciously, about his car. His grandparents and parents had split the cost of the car for his last birthday. It still amazed him and he got to drive it almost every day. As a kid, he'd had pictures of every single model of Mustang on his walls, but the '69s were always his favourite, particularly the Mach 1. Trust his dad to remember that and get the retro model that matched. There were lots of functions he didn't use, but that didn't matter. He'd use them all right now if Pen asked him to.
When he told Pen they would eat at his place, the expression changed to something he couldn't decipher. The blond nodded slowly as he turned to look out the side window. Maybe taking Pen home wasn't a good idea. It did seem kind of sudden, now that he thought about it, but it wasn't as though they were complete strangers. They'd first met about sixteen years ago, even if their contact had been extremely limited in that time. Ryan could only remember five actual meetings off the top of his head.
"Is that all right with you? Having dinner at my place, I mean."
He received a long look before getting an answer. "Yeah, that's fine, Ryan. Hmm, this looks kind of familiar. I think I've been here before."
"Maybe that's because Joey and Harvey live here. They're my next door neighbours and are the ones that asked me to look into your, um, situation with Alex."
"Yeah, we visited Joey once, so that must be it." Pen chewed on his bottom lip for a moment, frowning slightly. "Neither one of them spoke more than two words to me whenever we were together. I think 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' was the extent of the conversation."
"Do you think maybe that could be because of Alex? Joey mentioned that they never really knew your name, only that Alex said it was P. It might be he warned them not to talk with you too much."
Pen shrugged and waited for the engine to turn off. The seatbelt retracted automatically once the engine was off, which made him smile again. He stood on the sidewalk until Ryan reached his side and walked with him into the building.
It was immediately apparent that this building had been gutted and completely remodelled. The plain brick façade didn't match the elegant wood of the foyer. Pen remembered being here now. Unless he was mistaken, the twin elevators were located to the right of the reception desk, the doors camouflaged by wood panelling that matched the rest of the walls. He remembered that he'd thought it very clever. The blues and greens were also very lovely against the dark wood and cream accents.
The interior of Ryan's apartment made Pen smile. It was so empty. There were no pictures on the walls, and very little on the shelves, except for some books and movie discs. The couch and chair were bare of throws or pillows. He looked carefully, but couldn't find any sign of a computer or even a hand screen anywhere. It was a little disconcerting. Pen always thought he was the only one that didn't have those technologies cluttering up every surface. Nowadays, people displayed their technology and hid their books away, if they even had any.
"Obviously this is the living room. Joey and Harvey live right on the other side of this wall," he told her, gesturing towards the left. "Right here is the kitchen. I love that there's a shuttered window between the kitchen and living room. Over there is the hall for the rest of the apartment. First door on the left is a guest room, first on the right is the laundry room. Second door on the left is the master bedroom, second on the right is the bathroom. At the end of the hall is a large storage area."
"It's nice. The living room and kitchen are really a great size." The lack of any kind of decorating made the rooms seem twice as big as they were.
"Yeah, all the rooms are really huge. The bathroom could be half its current size and still be considered big. You want something to drink? I have wine, beer, juice, soda and some cold water in the fridge."
Pen turned and caught the way Ryan was looking at him. It was a struggle to keep his expression smooth as he realized that look as interest. Not 'I'm interested in what you have to say' but 'I'm interested in finding out what you look like naked'. His heart began to beat a little quicker and he moved towards the window to put some space between them.
"Water for now. I'll save the wine for dinner."
He sat down in the chair while Ryan got the water. The couch looked comfortable, but he didn't want to take the chance of Ryan sitting next to him. That might prove to be too much for Pen to handle. Now that the idea of having a crush on the man was in his mind, it was difficult to get rid of it. If they were in close proximity to each other, he might give away his feelings and that would prove embarrassing, no matter the look he got earlier.
Ryan moved with easy and confident grace. Pen watched him as he went about getting them both drinks and felt jealous. Had Pen ever been able to move so easily with his head held high? Try as he might, he couldn't recall a time where he wasn't aware that he needed caution when interacting with people, even the members of his family. Except for his father when he was a child. That had changed as well.
As though reading his thoughts, Ryan asked the question when he arrived with the drinks. "Does your father live here in Rutherford as well?"
"No. My father is dead. He died a little over two years ago."
"Died?" Ryan leaned forward in surprise at the news. "It's strange to hear of a nightwalker dying. How did that happen?"
"He tried to break the binding. It was horrible. I-I was there, and saw everything. Do you know how a nightwalker dies, when they break the binding?" He waited to see just what Ryan knew about it. There weren't any reports of that kind of thing happened. Pen had researched after it happened, and again while working on his report on daywalkers for class.
"No, I haven't a clue. Can you tell me?"
"Almost as soon as his fangs broke the skin on his victim's neck, he pulled back and started screaming. The sound was just, well, inhuman. I think the easiest way to describe what happened next would be to say it is what you might imagine if a nightwalker walked out into the midday sun. There was smoke coming from his mouth, nose, ears, and even his eyes. The smell was so strong it nearly burned my nose.
"Everyone around was screaming and running, but I couldn't move. I couldn't tear my eyes away. Dad's skin began to blacken and smoulder, and almost before I realized it, he collapsed in on himself and fell to the ground, nothing but a pile of dust.
"Dad had invited me to meet him in a favourite restaurant of ours and that's where it happened. He wanted to die, and he wanted to have witnesses around. I went through his apartment so many times afterwards, trying to find some clue about why. There was nothing to find, though. I sold everything and have tried to forget."