Vampyre Interlude – A Continuing Story…
I studied my reflection in a golden mirror. Long hair, blond. Eyes blue. A handsome countenance, I’d been told.
“’od’s Teeth, I’m pale as a vampire.”
As I shrugged into a black sweater and jeans, a quiet knock at the door announced my manservant. I pulled on black boots of soft Italian leather. “Come.”
Always the perfect gentleman in his black suit and bow tie, Avery stepped into the treasure chest of art and antiques that was my bedroom. “Good evening, Sir.”
“Good evening, Avery. I’m going out.”
Last week on the telly, a talk show, Vampires Among Us, had peaked my curiosity. Five attractive young mortals circled the show host and claimed to be vampires. These real vampires plunged hypodermic needles into their veins, extracted a thimble of blood and squirted cardinal sin into their mouths directly from the syringe. Not my idea of pleasure.
“Imagine, instead,” I wanted to inform them, “pressing your lips to the throat. Open your mouth, run your tongue along the throbbing artery. Sink your teeth into that river of sheer delight. Your whole body vibrates with satisfaction more acute than sex. That’s what it means to be a vampire.”
The very prospect of telling these vampire children chased away the Hounds of Hell named Boredom nipping at my heels.
“Excellent. I hope you’re going hunting.” He folded his hands in front of him. “Sir, you should have waited for my assistance.”
I laughed. “Avery, at three hundred plus years, I think I’m old enough to dress myself.”
It had been an easy matter to run the little coven to ground. The five TV vampires shared a three-room flat in Maida Vale near an Underground station. Several evenings, I’d stalked the children at play. Among them was a flower of a girl—wild auburn curls free as the spirit that flashed in her blue eyes. Her long legs drew my gaze each time she pranced out of the flat in very short skirts. I imagined those legs in all sorts of erotic postures. Jaime was tonight’s entertainment.
Avery interrupted a vision of sinking my fangs and another part of my anatomy into Jaime. “Shall I fetch your coat, Milord? It’s another rainy night in London Town.”
I smiled at the old gentleman who’d served me for over twenty years. “Yes, I’m off on my vampire hunt. Don’t wait up.”
“Vampire hunt?” He chuckled. “Shouldn’t you wear a cross?”
My fingers in a cross, I bared my fangs, hissing like a horror flick fiend.
At quarter-past nine, I nosed my E-type Jag to the curb between an elderly Ford Escort and a new Mazda, switched off the headlamps then decided to park around the corner from prying eyes. After a short walk in a misty rain, I opened the etched glass door of the Rose and Crown and bit the bottom lip of a smile. The cheerful neighborhood pub in Maida Vale was a supremely unlikely haunt for vampires! But unseen, I had observed them in their natural habitat, and the Rose and Crown it was on a nightly basis.
When the door swooshed closed behind me, I found myself the object of lively scrutiny. Apparently, strangers rarely visited the pub. Everyone was looking at me, then as suddenly as I’d turned their heads, they lost interest and returned to the serious business of having a jolly old time.
The babble of voices, clink of glassware and subtle throb of pulses blended into human noise. The aroma of strong ale and pub food overwhelmed me. An American called for more ice. Barware dangled upside down from the wooden racks on the ceiling. Flushed faces smiled at their reflections in the BASS ALE mirror. A spattering of university students decorated the working-class crowd.
Instinctively, I shielded against the clutter of thoughts and emotions. I shed my topcoat, hung it on a tarnished brass coat rack and scanned the room for my quarry. Squat mushroom tables dotted the scuffed wooden floor. The chairs were an assortment of nobody-cares. To my left, a fire crackled in an arched brick fireplace, crowned by a picture of the Queen at her Silver Jubilee. As I gravitated toward the two brocade benches flanking the hearth, a familiar laugh chimed like a bell.
At a far corner of the room, the vampires huddled in a forest of Guinness cans sprouting from their table. I softened my shields slightly to eavesdrop as they excitedly discussed their stellar TV debut. Like a fox scenting the hunt, Jaime’s head came up and bluebell eyes met mine. She tossed her copper curls, her smile an invitation any man would recognize.
I acknowledged her with a slight nod. Another misguided child claimed her attention. She looked away, glanced back at me, then pretended to be intent on talking with her friend. As I walked slowly to their table, not one of the people watching me saw a vampire. Glamouring my brilliant blue eyes, with their elliptical pupils, and the delicate, deadly fangs was second nature. The revelers at the Rose and Crown saw a normal man in his late twenties.
Immersed in whatever vampires discussed, my prey were unaware of my approach, giving me time to study them. Goths, I understood, dyed their hair raven wing, wore black clothes, lipstick and nail polish. These children looked normal except for the boy with bright purple hair, nose ring and a dozen silver earrings piercing each ear. He was intent on a fat paperback with Vampire emblazoned on the red cover.
“Pardon me.” I clasped my hands behind my back and smiled a charming—no fangs on display—smile. “I caught your guest appearance on the talk show.”
“Did you now?” The boy sitting to Jaime’s right shook his blonde curls and challenged me with a rude stare.
Jaime fluttered ginger lashes, offered a coquettish smile and a thorough examination of my physique that made my pulse race. I wasn’t in trouble yet but, since her gaze lingered on my zipper, I suspected that getting into trouble—into Jaime—would be easy. She was obviously attracted to me. Beneath her rose perfume, I smelled the intoxicating scent of human pheromones.
“Do you really drink human blood?” So innocently, I asked!
In unison, they nodded. I swallowed a fit of laughter along with a dose of regret. These mortal children flaunted a secret I was obliged to keep—at penalty of death. Sometimes, like any guilty man, I merely wished to confess, tell someone what I was.
“I was,” I paused, “intrigued.”
“Is that right, mate?” The blonde boy arched his brows.
“You’re into vampires?” The boy with the paperback stroked the cover. “You don’t look the type.”
I don’t look the type!
I bit my lip to keep from laughing. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
“Join us.” Jaime stared at me as if she knew what I was. “My name’s Jaime.”
“I’m Anne.” The girl to Jaime’s right stood, smiled shyly and moved to the opposite side of the table.
Anne was a bit of a mouse, straight brown hair, brown eyes, round British face. Spicy Jaime bit the bottom lip of a sexy smile. Her flamboyant beauty emphasized her friend’s lack. As I slid into the booth beside Jaime, my knee brushed hers. Tonight’s short skirt was a soft nut-brown suede. The hem had ridden up to the juncture of leg to hip, displaying a sleek thigh. Dark brown leather boots hugged shapely calves.
“What’s your name?” Jaime interrupted the boy launching into an instant replay of the TV show for my benefit.
“Morgan.” That tidbit could be erased from their minds later.
Jaime leaned near, pressing her hip against mine. A rebellious curl tickled my cheek. “I know where I’ve seen you now. You’re Morgan D’Arcy, the concert pianist.”
I smiled what I hoped was a modest smile. “I play piano.”
The curly-haired boy leaned his elbows amidst the beer cans. “There’s a piano here. Why don’t you play for us?”
I’d seen the bedraggled, beer-stained upright forgotten in a corner. The abuse her chipped ivories had suffered played a chord of pity in my heart. Being something of a piano snob, I had to refuse.
“I’ve never seen him before.” Michael’s voice grated surly.
Jaime slapped the blond boy’s hand. “Don’t you know anything, Michael? Morgan is also a lord.”
Has she visited my website?
Sometimes, the best course of action is to do and say nothing.
She stretched taller, running her fingers through her hair. Her small breasts peaked beneath a skintight caramel sweater. She aimed a sultry smile at me. “You’ll have to forgive my friends. Some people can’t even spell class.”
A hiss of dissent swept around the table. Michael glared at me for being famous but not famous enough for him to recognize. As my gaze trailed from one rosy face to the other, I smiled at the thoughts I snatched from each mind. No doubt, I was trespassing on Michael’s territory. Jaime was his girl. But his girl’s big, round eyes were devouring me. Blood lust thundered in my veins. The other kind throbbed in my loins.
Purple Hair licked wafer thin lips. “Blue blood.”
His ravenous expression shocked me. Who is the vampire here? I allowed the beast to gaze from my eyes for a split second. He sat back, eyes wide, fingers rapping his beer glass.
I gazed at Jaime as I covered her hand with mine. “Why don’t you invite me to join you? Vampires…” I almost strangled on the word. “Fascinate me.”
Five pairs of blue eyes studied me. Jealousy burned in Michael’s sapphire gaze. The admiration in Jaime’s azure eyes made my cock lengthen and harden. Pulses throbbed faster. My heart segued to their beat. Apparently, the vampires were hungry for new blood—common red or blue.
An hour later, in their cold water flat only blocks from the pub, five innocents sighed, pretending to experience a high I knew too well indeed. The thimbles of blood they’d fed me were an empty tease. Stacked on the bare linoleum floor in a communal heap, trapped in the temptation of soft breasts and hard muscles, I was suffocating on the tantalizing fragrance of blood. The beast clawed at my eyes and my intestines. I needed air, a moment to regroup. I struggled free of the jungle of body parts and rose.
“What’s wrong, Morgan?” Jaime shrugged off Michael’s embrace to catch my hand.
“I need a drink.” I shook hair back from my face.
The mousy Anne had been braiding then freeing the long strands.
“Vodka in the cabinet over the stove.” Staking his territory, Michael kissed Jaime’s neck. “I told you he wasn’t one of us. Blood doesn’t satisfy him.”
I stepped over them, strode through city light slanting through dusty blinds. The rain had stopped, but a damp chill permeated the room.
“Damn, it’s cold in here,” Anne said. “Anybody got any money. I can’t feel my bloody feet.”
My coat lay on the faded black sofa. In the pocket, I found several five-pence pieces and fed them to the shilling meter. The electric heater sucked up the offering at a vampiric rate. Poor children were learning character the hard way.
I swung the kitchen door closed, leaned my elbows on the counter and fought for self-control. Cigarette burns obliterated silver stars on a dingy white Formica sky. Dishes and pans decorated with burned food overflowed the sink.
Damn, even breathing hurt. My body was one rigid, throbbing need.
The door creaked open, heels tapping on linoleum. I sensed the identity of my visitor as control slipped away from me on the gentle waves of her scent. I could imagine how her blood would taste, and I longed to have it flowing into me.
Jaime’s voice flowed down my rigid back like a caress. “Did you find what you wanted?”
“That question is open to a tempting variety of interpretations.” I struggled to subdue the shivers of need, but this earthquake had blasted off the Richter scale.
A red mist blurred my vision as I lifted my head and turned. A ballerina in a Shetland wool sweater and a short-short suede skirt danced toward me. Her arms slipped around my neck. Mine circled her tiny waist.
“What do you want?” she purred into my hair.
“Blood, perhaps.” My hand drifted lower, cupping her firm ass.
Jaime slid her arms around my neck, leaning her pointed hipbones against my thighs. The woolly scent of her sweater coaxed both incarnations of lust. She’d taste as fresh and earthy as she smelled. I longed to kiss her left breast where the artery branched from the heart.
“You’re no novice.” She undulated against me. “You’ve done this before.”
“Once or twice.” I caressed her back in long strokes. “In much greater quantities.”
She reached behind my head, stripping the band off my hair and finger-combing the length full. As she was shorter than I, her breasts flattened just below my chest, the nipples taut nubs. “There’s something about you. I don’t know. Distant, removed, inhuman almost.”
Surprised, I arched a brow. “Inhuman?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.” She tilted her head, frowning as she searched for words. “Unearthly is a better word. You look like an angel, but the Devil gleams in those stunning blue eyes. Are you Lucifer, Bringer of Light?”
I smiled, drinking in the fragrance of her blood, tempting the Hunger. “If the Devil granted your fondest wish, what would it be?”
Without hesitation, a fingertip tapped my chest. “You.” Her lips pouted ripe strawberry. “I know that’ll never happen…but you did ask.”
My lips hovered over her neck, tasting skin whipped cream smooth. An electric shock of desire sizzled head to toe. Like an exotic bird, she quivered in my hands…seductively.
I brushed a kiss to her cheek, smoothed frothy curls back from her throat, and whispered against her soft, human flesh, “Come home with me.”
“Not tonight.” She grazed my ear with a red-lacquered fingernail. “Call me tomorrow.”
I gazed at her through my lashes. “Would a big bed, a warm fire, and a private concert, only for you, tempt you to change your mind.”
Her hands traced my arms. “You’re very persuasive.” She gave her fiery hair a toss and shrugged one dainty shoulder. “But I can’t upset Michael. He’s been drinking all day. He’s well—he’s not very nice when he’s upset and in his cups.”
“Forget Michael,” I breathed against her throat, and she rewarded me with a shiver. “What do you want, Jaime? What does your heart desire?”
“Perfect freedom.” She sighed, arched her back, and spread her hands above my bowed head. “To live above the rules. Perfect hedonism. I’d wager you live above the rules or bend them to suit you, Lord D’Arcy.”
Dreams misted her bluebell eyes. Jaime’s hands drifted down my back, over my ass, returning to my shoulders in a smoldering journey of discovery. All the while, she held my gaze, trembling like that exotic bird when the cage is opened, and freedom is a terrifying reality.
Little girl, I could, if I chose, open that door for you.
In three centuries, I’d made of hedonism and passion an art. Mortal rules did not apply to my kind. A guilty twinge rippled in my aching stomach. Soon, I must change—within the next year at least—but, in this golden moment, I was still free to enjoy the decided advantages of amorality. The red-haired vixen smiling up at me was definitely one of those perks.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Jaime leaned back in my embrace and frowned. “I’m a dreamer not a fool.”
“We are each and everyone a fool,” I whispered.
“Whose fool are you?” Jaime stared into my eyes, daring me to bare my soul.
A woman who doesn’t believe I exist. Gazing into the distance, into the past, I failed to respond.
She folded me in her arms, stroking my hair and trailing kisses over my face. I resisted but the demon reared his ugly head. My stomach cramped. My mouth watered. From the other room, music—the Door’s Light my Fire thundered, torching passion. Fire licked through me. I captured her soft full mouth and teased her lips with my tongue. Her arms tightened on my neck. She leapt up and locked her long, sexy legs around my hips, her need hot against my erection.
I lost the battle to be a good man, failed the test of whether I was strong enough yet to meet Isabeau. Bloodlust and common lust overpowered me. My shaft flexed hard against her open invitation to fill her. Oh, yes, she was mine for the taking. Gently, I pressed needle-sharp incisors through her skin, into the vein.
As if I’d sucked her into me, her body melted against mine. “Real, dear god, real.”
A silken thread of blood wound around my tongue. Instinctively, my mouth opened wider, locked now to the promise of satisfaction. My name exploded from Jaime as I sucked hard, bruising tender perfumed flesh. Moaning, she swiveled her hips. With each swallow, I plummeted deeper into Jaime. I’d probably have killed her then and there, but, like a gunshot, the door banged against the wall.
“Slut,” Michael shouted above the music that had followed him through the door.
I whirled out of her arms, startling a gasp from Michael and a cry from Jaime. Where the door had struck the wall, snowflakes of plaster drifted to scuffed linoleum.
My eyes were blood red. Blood dotted the corners of my mouth. I slid an arm around Jaime’s waist as she swayed, feeling behind her for support.
Anger and alcohol flushed Michael’s face. “What the bleeding hell’s going on?”
I ran my tongue over my lower lip, erasing proof that the pretend vampires, with their games of bloodlust, had invited the real thing.
Keenly aware of the drizzle of blood on Jaime’s neck, I shrugged. “We’re vampires.”
Mute, he stared at me, the animosity and jealousy tangible.
“Aren’t we?” I arched an aristocratic brow. “Jaime and I were experimenting deeper into the reality of being vampire.”
Michael performed a comical war dance. “Get the fuck away from her. Jaime’s my girl. You keep your bloody noble,” his tone made the word sound a cut below the garden slug, “hands off her. Do you hear?”
“I hear quite well, thank you.” I released his girl and lazily tucked my hair behind my ears.
“Real,” Jaime breathed. “Don’t fuck with him, Michael. He’s a real vampire.”
“Oh right! He’s a goddamned cunny hound,” Michael shrilled.
“Watch the profanity, Michael.” Fangs punctuated my smile. “In the presence of a lady.”
As I strode toward him, I called and caught his gaze. The little fool tried to break free of the spell. My smile broadened—no masquerade—a fanged predator. He fell back against the door, swiveling his shoulders, a butterfly pinned to the board, his young heart hammering in his chest. He was afraid of me.
I was more afraid of myself. If I couldn’t control the beast, I couldn’t go to Isabeau. His young, strong, powerful male blood called to me in the language of hunger and desire.
“Pardon me.” I flung a negligent gesture. “I can’t very well turn into steam and ooze beneath the door.”
“You arrogant bastard.” The boy’s hands clenched and unclenched at his sides. “Stay away from us.”
“Morgan, don’t leave.” Jaime seized my arm and tried to turn me around.
“Stand aside, Michael,” I commanded, shrugging free of Jaime.
He blinked once then obeyed. The next few minutes blurred. That taste of Jaime’s blood bedeviled me as I grabbed my coat and hurried to the door. The vampires called to me. The scent of their blood was a discordant symphony in my veins. A chorus of questions echoed behind me as I burst into the mist-shrouded night, slammed the door and mentally clicked the lock. In the kitchen, Michael shouted lewd accusations at Jaime.
My hands shook. A starving child, I stood motionless in the center of the sidewalk. Ragged gasps of breath burned my lungs. I had to escape. If I returned to defend her, I’d kill the boy. Running blind, I found my car, draped my throbbing body over the black canvas roof and tried to subdue the thirst.
The sound of running feet snapped me upright. I swept my hair back from my face. Jaime raced toward me, her bare feet thudding on the damp cement walk. Again and again, she called my name as she ran. The need for her blood wrenched my stomach. This game had not gone as I’d planned. I extended a hand in a warding off gesture, the night taking a drunken spin.
“Morgan, don’t go,” Jaime screamed, the sound penetrating my trembling hands. “I want you.”
I wanted not Jaime but the warm red blood pulsing through her.
Frantically, I searched my pocket for the car keys, unlocked the door, slid into the leather seat and fired the engine. Jaguar exhausts rumbled escape. How sweet the sound!
Jaime shook her fist. “You haven’t seen the last of me, Morgan, mark my words.”
Damn, I’d forgotten to wipe their memory slates clean and broken Vampyre Commandment I, The Pact. Revealing myself to humankind was punishable by death. My foot hovered over the brake. There was no way in hell I’d turn the Jag’s nose around. If I did, someone would die. I floored the accelerator. My sleek red cat leapt into a curve, skidded on the wet pavement and righted with a flick of my fingers.
I was homeward bound but alas not alone. Jaime’s threat echoed in the confines of the roadster…and Isabeau’s face haunted me.
Velvet soft, willing Jaime had awakened the monster. The craving ran flames through my veins. A few blocks down the road from her Maida Vale flat, I whipped the E-type to the curb, levitated to the sidewalk and stood motionless, scenting the air. The cold starless night echoed my mood. I was angry with the wannabe vampires for tempting me; with myself for succumbing to temptation and failing the test I’d set for myself tonight.
I turned up the collar of my coat against the chill mist, hurried down the street—a silent wraith in the fog. I’d catch the Underground to some seamy back street and satisfy the raging fever. When I’d fed and could think clearly, I’d return home to the solace of my piano. Indeed most times music could soothe the savage beast. Not now. The hunger demanded death.
For a vampire to remember is to relive. I slipped into memory, tasting the sweetness of innocent blood as a mortal life poured into me. Drowning in sensations, I failed to hear the tap of high heels. I snapped to awareness the instant before we collided.
The woman snapped, “Watch where you’re going.”
“Sorry.” Hunter sensing prey, I tensed. “I didn’t see you.”
The thud of her heart enchanted me. Saliva broke beneath my tongue. Her wooly scarf had drifted down her neck. A rapid pulse in the jugular whispered an invitation.
“You weren’t looking.” Raindrops glistened on a dowdy orange coat. Beneath a funny hat, her face was plain and round, her cheeks flushed.
I smiled, closed lipped, hiding deadly fangs. The spinster hurrying home to her cat frowned up at me. Poor sad creature was alone, would always be alone. Of all the emotions crowding in on me at that moment, I understood loneliness best. Many late nights, the solitude of eternity ate at my soul. I wished to end her pain. And mine.
“I apologized.” My aristocratic voice and expensive clothes registered.
The hard lines of her face softened. Bird-like, beak open, she cocked her head. “Sorry sir. When you first appeared like, I feared you’d snag my purse. But such as you wouldn’t hurt the likes of me—” she shivered, “now would you, sir?”
“You’ve nothing to fear.” Desire deepened my voice. “I shan’t hurt you.”
I felt my eyes changing from blue to red, the bloodlust rising like sap. My victim’s eyes widened, her mouth opening to scream but the cry became a sigh. Jaime’s face flashed before my eyes. The spinster would pay the debt the redhead had made.
An image of Isabeau, streaky blonde hair whipping in a Southern breeze, blinded me. Soon I’d leave England, go to Charleston and the only woman I’d ever truly loved. The years apart, the years of pretense would melt away, and she’d love me as she had when she was a child. Isabeau, beloved of a monster. The warmth stealing through me froze. She would love me, wouldn’t she?
The woman’s scent, her blood spiced with adrenaline, called me back to the moment. A giant wave of hunger rolled over me, washing away all other thoughts. Gazing into my victim’s British blue eyes, I dropped the glamour of a normal man. Under my spell, she smiled. When I extended my hand, she linked her fingers in mine. A vampire and a spinster disappeared into the misty tunnel between tired old buildings that hadn’t been built when I was a mortal man.
The old brick walls watched the fatal drama. If my victim were a lush and beautiful young woman, I’d indulge in a slow seduction. No, the craving was too strong. Lust for blood burned every cell of my body. In fitful shadow, I turned her to face me.
The death dance had begun, and we were both powerless in its sway.
“Sir,” she whispered.
Cupping her chin between forefinger and thumb, I lifted her, smashing her head like a ripe melon on the bricks. She jerked once then hung, a limp carrot in my grip. Before she could die and her blood grow stale, I sucked her dry, licking the red mixing with rain off her face. Violence and death had appeased the hunger, but horror ran an icy finger down my spine when I gazed at my handiwork. My fingers opened. As she fell, blood from her shattered skull painted gory graffiti on the wall.
Dowdy orange Jill collapsed on the toe of my shoe. I shuddered as I eased my foot from beneath her and stepped back, sickened by the brutality. I wiped my hand over my spattered face, and one-by-one, I licked cool dead blood from my fingers. Lyrics from Eleanor Rigby echoed in my head. Died in an alley and lost her name. Nobody came.
“What have I become?” My voice echoed down the alley.
No god, no devil answered. I’d become no more, no less than I’d been for centuries.
A hard rain began to fall, soaking my hair. Rivulets streamed down my coat, washed the red painting my cheeks into the gutter. When my catharsis was done, I focused the psychic energy Jill had given me in her blood on her body. Electric power shot from my eyes. A glow surrounded the empty husk. Two, three heartbeats and Jill disappeared, without a trace.
Is it any wonder there are so many missing persons?
By midnight a fortnight later, the craving was burning a hole in my soul. My passion for—and estrangement from—Isabeau drove me to kill every night. I was trying to run away from obsession, but there was no escape. Anyone who hasn’t suffered Obsession should pray it never darkens his door.
Obsession strips one of control.
Pacing the floor, resisting the urge to hunt, I found myself at the window. Since it was early evening the heavy drapes were still drawn, and behind them, the UV proof material in place. As if my bedroom were a tomb, I felt stifled. I jerked the curtains open and the protective material back, flung the window open to a cold, clear night.
A sudden longing for my country estate possessed me. There was too much light pollution in the city to see the stars, but a full moon cut a circle in the sky.
“An excellent night for vampires,” I said wryly to no one.
When the phone rang, I started, staring at it while premonition capered down my back. Where was Avery? My manservant usually answered the phone. On the final ring before voice mail took the call, I lifted the receiver. “Morgan here.”
Without fanfare, my friend Trevor from the Philharmonic said, “Brandy has been in an accident. Car crash.”
“Dear God.” I pictured Brandy as I’d last seen her, laughing as she shot me a bird. “Is she injured? Is she—”
“Not good.” He cleared his throat. “She asked for you.”
Brandy was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met. Her hair was curly dark, her skin caramel smooth and her eyes remarkable—gray flicked with black.
I’d always wished I could seduce Brandy, but we often worked together.
Brandy Hamilton, first chair violin for the London Philharmonic, had been struck by a hit-and-run. Condition critical.
The sterile hospital corridor was empty. Dinner rounds and visiting hours were long past. With a quick glance at the nurse on duty, I glided by her station, unseen, unknown. I paused to read the nameplate, listening inside. I opened the door, closing it silently behind me. The stench of drugs burnt my nostrils. Brandy slept in a jungle of tubing. I sat in a blue plastic chair by the bed and read the chart. Broken legs. Depression in skull causing brain to swell. Substantial brain damage. If beautiful Brandy survived, she’d be a vegetable.
Horrible to see her fine long legs sheathed in plaster rather than silky hose. Sad to know that her brilliant career was over. If I knew who’d struck her, I’d kill him without a second thought. Art is so vulnerable. So mortal.
Minutes or hours, I don’t know how long I watched the slow rise and fall of her chest. I wasn’t the only one at Brandy’s bedside. Death kept watch with me. The senseless waste of it all ate at me. Vivacious, talented, witty, Brandy was dying. I could save her but, because I refused to bring anyone I loved into this life, I’d lost many friends.
“Wake up, Brandy.” I leaned over her, and her eyes darted left to right behind her lids.
I eased her to consciousness, lifted her cold hand and pressed it to my cheek. Brandy’s eyes fluttered open, widened.
An angel. She couldn’t speak but her thoughts were clear to me.
“I’m not an angel.” I felt sorry for myself who’d live forever and for Brandy who’d die before sunrise, but a thrill scintillated over me. I would tell her what I was. “I’m a vampire.”
Understanding flickered in the black-flecked eyes. Her delicate, arched brows drew together as she struggled to speak. Vampire. Not real.
She couldn’t wrap her mind around the truth. Then I saw belief dawn in her eyes. The dying possessed the ability to grasp fact, perhaps, because they are closer to the ultimate truth. Unafraid, she studied my luminescent eyes, my too perfect skin. I smiled, showing the trademark of my species. She stared at the fangs. No other reaction.
I kissed her fingertips, colder than mine, and she tried again to speak. “You needn’t talk, my dear. I can hear your thoughts.”
Her lack of fear made me bold. I told her a story few mortals had ever known. Quietly, as befitted a death bed, I painted a portrait of the French noblewoman who’d seduced me, absorbed me to the core and finally awakened me to darkness. I described the eternal night from my experience—its music, its mystery, its menace.
“I don’t believe vampires are inherently evil,” I concluded.
Then I whispered to her my dearest dream of Isabeau and our child.
Her eyes held mine like a lifeline as a hard spasm shook her. Morgan!
I chafed her hand, easing her pain.
Hope lit a torch in her eyes. Vampires are immortal. Can you make me like you? Please. I’m dying.
Through the centuries, I’d seen that pleading look on many faces. Pain squeezed my heart. “I cannot.”
Cannot or will not?
I shook my head. Becoming a serial killer was a high price to buy time. We couldn’t randomly make other vampires. Permission to perform the Arcanum must be obtained from Les Elus, the Vampyre Council. I hated rules. Rules were meant to be broken.
I couldn’t look at her as I repeated the lie, “It’s impossible.” I swallowed hard and the half-truth slipped glibly from my tongue, “I was born a vampire.” Reborn to the Vampyre.
Tears streamed down her pale cheeks. My music, my hopes, the lost opportunities, the unkept promises. Don’t let me die.
Her chest rose and fell in erratic waves. She managed a scarcely audible whisper. “You were kind to me. Be kind to me now.”
“I’m sorry I can’t make you immortal.” Tears burned my eyes as I stroked her cheek. “I’ll take the pain away, my Brandy, and give you peace. That I promise.”
Her eyes vibrated left and right. Convulsions racked her lovely body. Her brain seemed to grow cold and her thoughts to solidify into one long sigh. Despite my efforts, Brandy plummeted toward the final abyss. Except for the rules—and my vow never to perform the Arcanum—I could save Brandy, but if Les Elus found out that I planned to break the most sacred rule and father a child on a mortal, they’d bring the curtain down on my sinners’ opera.
When the muscles in my jaw began to ache, I realized I was clenching my teeth. “I don’t want to make this choice.”
No one heard. Brandy was well beyond hearing.
I had bitten into my lower lip, tasting feral Vampyre blood—the fountain of youth.
Holding my breath, I listened to the fresh hot elixir I craved flowing carelessly through Brandy’s veins. Why did I hesitate? She’d asked me for rescue. Her sublime young body was wrecked. In minutes, my friend would die. If I fed now, there’d be no need to hunt later. Brandy, with her untimely death, could save another soul. The craving drew my lips back from my teeth. My eyes changed from blue through purple to cardinal sin.
I who’d killed legions hesitated.
Avoiding the tubes in her nose, I bent to run my tongue over her lips. Her mouth was too alluring not to taste. We’d always promised that one day we’d be lovers. I hoped Brandy would feel the warmth of my smile and know that she was not alone. I knew she feared dying alone. Everyone does.
Reverently, I unbuttoned the hospital gown. With deliberate precision at odds with my need, I planted my lips above her left breast, where the main artery exits the heart. The hospital murmured. Odors of sickness, of death lapped at my senses. As I suckled, Brandy’s heartbeat slowed and weakened. Anticipation drew me rigid. Death would alleviate Brandy’s suffering. I would take the essence of her earthly being. Pleasure so exquisite it tread a fine line with pain robbed me of awareness. My heart expanded, contracted. My body burned, froze, glowed. As my friend fed me the last drop of her life, I ejaculated a soft cry of ecstasy against her skin.
“What the bloody hell!” A shrill, nerve-rending cry snatched me down from heaven.
I lurched back, my hands hopelessly tangled in plastic vines. Struggling to free myself, I ripped the tube from Brandy’s nose and the I.V. from her hands. Fluid spurted over the blanket. No blood flowed from the needle wounds. I’d emptied that sweet, rich bottle of brandy.
This all happened in the blink of an eye. In one supple motion, I had gained my feet and whirled to face the intruder. After my sojourn in red velvet darkness, the light seemed to shatter. Shards of brilliance stabbed my eyes. Cursing, I flung an arm over my face. Deep in Blood Spell, I staggered into the chair, sending it crashing to the floor. Shoes squeaked on tile, driving spikes into my ears, my brain.
“Morgan.” Horror edged a familiar voice. “What in the name of heaven do you think you’re doing?”
Brandy’s blood and psychic energy washed bliss through me. The shoes squeaked painfully closer. When I managed to focus, Jaime’s face was inches from mine.
“There’s blood on your mouth.” Jaime was out of context. She ran a fingertip along my lips, the blood staining my mouth reddening her finger. She glanced at the corpse. “You killed her.”
Wild-eyed, Jaime seized my shoulders and shook me. Bliss sharpened every sensation and emotion. I was furious with the intruder who’d interrupted me at the moment of greatest pleasure—the moment of death. I didn’t move or resist as she shook me again. If I lifted a hand, I’d break the redhead’s neck.
“You’ll bring the coppers down on us for sure.” Jaime danced a jig of fear. “We were on TV, saying we were vampires. We’re in for it now.” Then she did the most annoying thing. She wiped my mouth with the hem of her sweater.
I flicked the offensive hands off me. “You little twit. She was my friend. She was dying. I rescued her from suffering.”
“I knew you were real.” Jaime gazed at me in wonder. “A real vampire.” Like a litany, she chanted real vampire until I thought I’d scream.
“Stop babbling or I’ll strangle you.” I raised my hands as if I intended to make good the threat.
Jaime fell back a step but her expression was that of an initiate worshiping at a shrine. I should have expected the wannabe vampire’s reaction, but she’d caught me in the midst of a kill. Where I expected revulsion, I met reverence. Did the fool not realize I fed on her kind?
“Why are you staring at me?” Jaime’s voluptuous whisper was like an intimate caress.
Lust and bloodlust blended as the girl undulated toward me. I closed my eyes and sighed. “What are you doing here?”
Desire stirred as she applied her slender body to mine, buried her face in my hair and kissed my neck. “I work at the hospital to pay for university.” She rubbed her sex against mine. Hot breath stirred my hair. “Take me.”
I disappeared from the heated embrace, turned my back on temptation. “I’m going. Don’t follow me.”
“Morgan,” she begged.
I threw my hands up. “I’ll ring you tomorrow evening.”
She molded her body to my back. “Not tomorrow, tonight.”
Anger flourished, died, was reborn as she licked my neck. “I want to be a vampire. I want to share forever with you. The first time I laid eyes on you, I knew I had to have you. You’re all I think about.”
Though the blood and her bold seduction were working their magic on my libido, I made one last desperate attempt. “Wait for me in the car,” I groaned.
Her hand slid down, caressed my growing erection.
Slowly, I faced her. With the soft glow of the light behind her, she looked like a Renaissance angel—like the first woman I’d killed as a newborn vampire. Some strange, garbled idea of resurrecting her, of atoning for the initial sin, swept through my mind. My smile must have been tender. Jaime sank her hands into my hair and kissed my blood-stained mouth hard, pushing her tongue between my teeth, exploring, my fangs lacerating.
“Take me,” she breathed into me.
Excitement stood each nerve on end. “I’ll take you.” I watched my hand move through a fog of unreality. I ripped the uniform down the front as easily as tearing tissue paper.
Jaime smiled triumphantly and wagged her breasts, a sexy invitation.
I marched her ahead of me and, flung her face down on the bed. Her flimsy undergarments were no hindrance. “My dear little slut, I’ll take you.”
She whimpered as I slammed into her, but her hips rose up under me, plunging my shaft deep. Another surprise. Jaime was a virgin. Wet, warm, blood christened the breaking of her hymen. She writhed, her soft cries mingled pain and carnal delight. Gradually, her wriggling became a frantic rhythm. “Oh, yes. Oh, God.”
Her urging sank to an animalistic moaning. It was rage not tenderness. We fought each other, struggling toward the apex of satisfaction. I collapsed on top of her. With my fangs clamped into the muscle along the top of her shoulder, I pounded into the tight embrace of her body. Blood welled in my mouth, intensifying my need.
“Yes, ah, yes.” Jaime whimpered and buried her face beside Brandy’s feet.
I punished us both with pleasure until release sucked the anger out of me. Her body was hot, wet, convulsing. Claustrophobic. Before the spasms of orgasm subsided, I pulled out and stood. Jaime’s hands, knotted in the sheet, looked very small. Her hair drifted like red smoke against a blanket of sky blue. Eyes closed, breathing fast, her heart like a runaway train, Jaime lay shivering in the final glow of passion. Blood oozed from the purple bites on her shoulder. With a great sigh, she flipped on her back and gazed at me in stunned silence.
My gaze trailed from the small breasts rising and falling in a hypnotic rhythm to the rose tattooed on her left hipbone and stopped at the sticky blood clinging to the curls between her long, long legs. I felt dirty, wanted to go home and shower.
Graceful as a ballerina, she rose from the bed. Her white dress hung like a martyr’s tattered robes. Christened by virgin blood, she looked at me. For one horrible moment, I feared she might kneel.
“Make me like you.” Jaime offered me an instant replay of Brandy’s expression. Begging for life.
“I can’t. It’s against the rules.” Rules stank of dictatorship; I hated them. “Even monsters have rules.” I tilted my head back, closed my eyes.
“You’re not a monster,” she whispered.
“You’re wrong. I am.” When I glanced down, I noticed the blood on my shaft.
She followed my gaze. Reverently, she put her hands on me and manipulated, up and down, her hands squeezing, sliding in the blood. She teased me with a slow, reptilian smile and dropped to her knees. Her tongue darted between her lips and languidly circled my crown.
“Oh, Jaime.” I came instantly erect. My hips jerked as she licked and stroked me.
I sank my hands into her fiery red hair, trying to force my length into her mouth. She grabbed my ass and took as much of my cock as she could swallow, her mouth sucking up and down until I burst.
My second release left me weak kneed. I was satiated with blood and sex, but Jaime was a fire that beckoned, made one want to dance in the flames and see how long he could survive. There was no question I’d survive, and no question that Jaime wanted me—or directions to the Fountain of Youth. The human part of me cringed. The vampire part laughed.
She sat back on her haunches, watching me through her lashes. One by one, she licked the blood off her fingers, relishing each in turn. When she sighed, I shivered at the total, consuming avarice in her eyes.
“Take me again. Either way.” She touched her breast, trailed a finger along her bruised shoulder. “Both ways. I want everything you can give me.”
Who’s the vampire here?
There was no conscious decision. I’d already made one too many choices tonight. The rules chaffed at me like a poor fitting saddle. As I helped Jaime to her feet, I knew I was about to become a father for the first time in my life. “You’d best do something about your clothes.”
“You’ve claimed my maidenhead. Are you going to leave me?” Her hands closed on my cock, firing both lusts.
“You are a vampire.” I tangled my hands in her fiery hair. “You require only the ritual. You’ll make a good one. Better than I. I’ll do it before sunrise.”
I’d enjoy ferrying Jaime across the Styx. “Fetch your coat. Meet me at my car in the front lot. You know which one it is. I must take care of Brandy.”
“Take care of her?” Jaime gawked at the corpse. “She’s dead as a doornail.”
“Dispose of the evidence. I’ll explain later. You’ll need to know how to get rid of your leftovers.” I pushed her toward the door. “Go now.”
Minutes later, I held the door while Jaime swung those legs I so admired into the E-Type. Late at night, the city sighed and twinkled, the temperature mild enough to drop the top. Reluctant to entomb myself with Jaime, I stood for a minute listening to sounds mortals would not hear—a sort of symphony for me alone. In the din of distant noises, I heard the lone cry of a bird. Suddenly, I felt very old and very weary. For once, I understood why some of us seek out death and kneel before his blade.
I was too busy considering this revelation to notice the alarm bells clamoring along my nerves, but when a hand gripped my arm and tried to spin me around, I resisted. I sensed his identity and laughed, negligently flicking his hand off my sleeve.
“Ah, the irate boyfriend.” I turned slowly.
“You bloody bastard!” Under Shirley Temple curls, Michael’s face glowed cherry red but the ease with which I’d freed myself had surprised him.
Jaime screamed, “Michael,” and climbed from the car.
Fists at his side, he took a menacing step away from me, nearer to her. “Slut,” he spat. “You give him what you’d never give me.”
“Yes.” My mocking tone and arrogant expression diverted his anger from Jaime to me–where it belonged.
Spittle hit my chin as he shoved his face into mine. “I knew you were bad news. Lords of the realm don’t go slumming–”
“That’s quite enough.” I glared at him but didn’t reinforce it with a mental command. Cat and mouse was one of my favorite games.
His hands clenched and unclenched convulsively. With a furious grunt, he punched. When I caught his fist in mid-air, he buried his fingers in my hair, wrenching my head back. “I’m going to smash your pretty face–”
Jaime gave a cry of pure delight. She hadn’t seen me move, but Michael was my prisoner, arm bent behind him.
“Don’t ever,” I hissed, fangs bared, “Touch me.” I had no intention of hurting the kid, merely scaring him.
Blinded by jealousy, Michael hadn’t actually seen the fangs, but he felt the needle-like prick on his neck. Believer or skeptic, the victim who experienced their sharp caress must instinctively recognize the kiss of a vampire. My teeth had but scratched his flesh. When he began struggling, one incisor drew blood. And my intentions took an abrupt turn for the worse. A taste of blood, young and heady with wine, was like that first drink to a confirmed alcoholic. You can’t stop at just one. Anger had usurped much of my self-control. My entire being focused on the kill. The one fang buried in his neck dove deeper, struck a vein.
Michael begged for his life, interspersing babbled prayers.
In self-defense, I lifted him, tossed him away from me, watching him fly without wings. He struck a wall and slid jelly-like down the bricks, his head trailing blood. In repose, the boy’s round face, framed in its riot of blonde curls, looked cherubic. Blood leaked from the corners of his mouth, coloring his lips kissable. My heart segued to the beat of his defiant young heart. Flames licked through my veins. With shaking hands, I covered my face.
I felt Jaime hovering behind me but didn’t turn.
“Is he dead?” There was no regret or sorrow in her voice, only detached curiosity. “I wouldn’t care, you know. He beat me.” Her voice tripped, stumbled into a whisper. “I left but I came back. I had nowhere else to go.”
I, who am a horror, was horrified that the victim defended her abuser.
She continued in a hollow voice, “Michael is angry. He goes off like a volcano.”
I turned and looked into her eyes, seeing the truth there.
In my time–of disease and sudden death, of wars where hundreds rather than hundreds of thousands died and you saw the face of the man dying on your blade–women were treasures. Kings risked kingdoms for a woman. Duels–even wars–were fought for them. If I’d brought nothing else with me from my past, it was chivalry. Jaime looked away. I’d won my battle against self until I saw the tears in her eyes.
Holding his gaze, I walked the fifty feet separating me and Michael. He lay motionless in the garbage, watching the approach of the inevitable. A sneer twisted his lips. He no longer looked angelic.
I stopped in front of him. “Did you hit her?”
“No.” Blood stained his blonde curls.
I captured the truth from his thoughts. “You don’t deserve to live.”
“Hypocrite,” he spat the word as if it had some meaning.
I shrugged, smiled and knelt beside him. He shuddered as I planted my lips on his neck in the softest of kisses. Horror and passion rose in him, spilling forth in tears.
“Cry little lost boy.” Desire lowered my voice. “I’m going to extinguish the lamp of your life.”
He went mad, kicking and shouting curses. I fell on him, my teeth gouging the artery. With a swift move of my head, I tore the vein in half. I wanted to hurt him, wanted to see his pain. Propping my hands on his shoulders, I straightened. Blood spurted to spatter my clothes. For a moment, I watched Michael’s mortality gushing out of him.
Blood is your god, my vampire mother, had said, and my god screamed for a sacrifice.
I flinched as Jaime placed her hands on my shoulders. Her touch penetrated the blood spell, and I regained control of the killing instinct. I levitated to my feet, shook back my hair and Jaime gasped. She hadn’t seen me move.
She blinked as my hand closed on her wrist. “Dear God. The vampire.”
Michael’s voice broke as he cried, “Jaime, he’s what we pretended to be—”
“Shut up, Michael.” She ran her hands over my hair, her expression reverent.
The smell of the blood and taste of blood, the scent of her arousal almost usurped control. I’d already decided to break a vow I’d made to myself and perform the Arcanum for Jaime. Change base metal into gold. But she must understand that the greener grass on the other side of the fence had been sprayed with damnation and poisonous guilt.
“See what it means to be a vampire.” I shoved her down on top of him. “No more drops of blood. Here is the river of life.”
Jaime trembled and licked at the blood. She retched and grappled with me as I held her down. “I can’t breathe.”
“Not for the fainthearted.” I lifted her off him.
Fingers wrapped around Jaime’s slender throat, I gently stroked her trachea with my thumbs. Her head rolled back on the slender column of her neck. Her eyes drifted closed. Blood smeared her mouth and chin. With my tongue, I licked her face clean, and she shuddered in my hands.
Blood-spattered and gory, I cradled her face in my hands. “Look at me.”
She opened her eyes and gripped my arms. “I want to be what you are, where you are for all eternity.”
The rules had chafed me far too long. Temptation demanded I listen to its whispers. Vampires must petition the Council for permission to perform the Arcanum, known to mortals at the transformation of metal to gold. To us, it was a passport to eternity. I’d always been a rule breaker, even before my transformation. I’d been a Royalist in the English Civil War, and followed my King into exile.
“Take my hand, Jaime, we’re going to Wonderland.” I brought my wrist to my mouth, opened the vein, and offered the ecstasy of vampire blood to Jaime. “Borrow the hunger from me.”
Greed sparkled in her eyes. She grabbed my arm, her mouth locking on my wrist. A whiplash of pain and pleasure riveted me. I closed my eyes, listening to her suckle. She moaned against my flesh, and my shaft hardened. There would be plenty of time for bedsport later.
“Enough.” I plucked her mouth off me.
Her eyes were no longer soft bluebell but acetylene-torch blue. Jaime had borrowed the fever in my blood. The craving reverberated through me as she tossed me the wickedest of smiles, turned, and fixed her boyfriend with a hungry gaze.
“Michael.” Her hand trailed down my arm as she walked away.
Whispering endearments, Jaime lay down on top of Michael, her mouth opened on the spouting artery. I turned my back on the death scene. The lesson had been learned, but not the way I’d intended. I had hoped to repulse her, make her shudder at the thought of a vampire. As I strode toward the Jag, I heard her voracious sucking. Yes, Jaime would make an excellent member of our dark-side society. Tonight, I would shatter the Vampyre Ten Commandments by bringing her across, metaphorically giving Lucien the finger.
I leapt over the door into the car and leaned my head back on the seat. Picturing Lucien’s angry face, I smiled.
Moments later, Jaime opened the door and slid gracefully into the passenger seat. “Take me home with you, Morgan.” Pretty lips, rouged with blood, smiled.
Jaime Richards had been Michael Cox’s judge, jury, and executioner.
As the light crept into the sky, I gave the redhead her heart’s desire. I drank her mortality and fed her from the fountain of youth—the tainted blood in my own body. They say each man carries in his loins the seeds of his own destruction. That night, I planted mine.
My Bosendorfer thundered a lonely, ominous piece as I pounded the keys. Closing my eyes, I rested my forehead on the piano. My hair swept forward to insulate me from the world. The doorbell jerked me to the surface of the ocean of dark melody. I opened my eyes. The music died. A sallow-faced moon peered at me through the window.
“God’s Teeth,” I cursed. “Stop with the bloody doorbell.”
I considered not answering the door. Submerged in sad, heavy music, I could ignore my cowardice. I wanted Isabeau beside me, loving me, but I was afraid to go to her. Loving anything as much as I loved her entailed a surrender of self. So far, I’d been successful in avoiding that particular calamity. But a fault had formed in the emotional ground beneath my feet. The earthquake I’d originated would eventually reshape my world. How much longer would I be able to control such a force as obsession?
The bell clamored again.
“No rest for the wicked.” Instead of simply materializing by the door, I climbed to my feet.
Shadows fled as I strode into the hall. I didn’t switch on a light. The Gothic darkness suited my mood. My unwelcome guest might think no one home and leave. I stood motionless, trying to sense the entity on the other side of the locked door. Nothing came to me but a glimmer of personality, a thought which was only my name and the desire to see my face.
My caller was Vampyre. Even more reluctant now, I unbolted the door.
“Hullo, Morgan.” Jaime shifted foot-to-foot. She studied the carved design above the door. “Where’s Avery?”
“Running errands.” I arched a brow. “Why are you here?”
Jaime was an unpleasant reminder of my weaknesses and shortcomings. Our affair, meant to be a casual one-night stand, had morphed into a relationship of sorts. My predicament was that of a man who picks a girl up in a bar, sleeps with her with no thought of the future. Three weeks later, she appears on his doorstep and announces to his wife that she’s pregnant. I had no wife and, as a vampire girl, Jaime couldn’t be pregnant, but guilt clawed at my resolve.
“Where have you been?” My folly stared at me with sad eyes. “I’ve been calling. Coming round. The house was shut up tight.”
Arms braced across the arched doorway, I told the truth, except that Isabeau was a dream not a friend. “Quick trip to the States. To check on a friend.”
“It’s been a fortnight, and I haven’t heard a word from you.” Jaime had no umbrella. Rain beaded on her hair, ran down her face. “May I come in?”
“I’m not in the mood for company.” I wondered when I had learned such perfect heartlessness. “Some other time, perhaps.”
“Some other time perhaps!” Tears stained blue eyes. Rosebud lips quivered. “You gave me eternity. And we are so good together. How can you just turn me away?”
I hated being reminded as much as I hated myself for being rude and unkind to her now. “With the greatest of ease.”
“Spend a few minutes with me. I need you.” She seized my sweater, realized what she was doing and began stroking my chest. “I’ve come all the way to Belgravia to see you. Please, Morgan.”
“It’s not safe for you to come here.” I shoved my hands in the pockets of my twill trousers and stood firm.
A drop of rain splattered my eye, cascading like a tear down my cheek. With a tentative finger, Jaime traced the path of the raindrop. I retreated from the shock of her touch. In the misty light of a coach lamp, she crumbled. Her shoulders sank. She lowered her head. Quiet sobs shook her slender body. I remembered those days when I thought of her with desire.
Angry with myself for losing control of that desire, I tried to drive away the evidence of my failure. “Poor beaten puppy.”
Her head came up. Turquoise fire lit her eyes. “How can you?” When she reached towards me, I retreated a step. “Morgan, please. I don’t want to beg. I’m alone. You’re the only one…like me I know.” She clenched her fists and stamped her little booted foot. “Damn you. I’m so lonely!”
I marveled that I could feel such overwhelming remorse. I’d killed armies of men, stood before the Vampyre ruling council and told them where to stick it. Yet this slip of a girl, with her vampire tears, shattered my defenses. “Very well, come in.”
On a chill breeze, she glided past me. Her hair gleamed deep, rich auburn, her eyes now acetylene blue. A vampire child. My child, I thought helplessly.
“You’re killing me” Her delicate white hand lifted as if to touch me. “Why won’t you see me?”
I collapsed against the door that I had closed behind her. “I haven’t singled you out. I simply don’t want company. Anyone’s company.” My voice sounded disharmonious, flat.
There was one whose company I craved. Soon, Isabeau would be mine. Soon.
“What happened between us should never have happened.” I closed my eyes. “You should be a mortal student spouting about the romance of the Stuarts.”
“Open your eyes and look at me.” Jaime studied me with great sad eyes, her face a devastated alabaster landscape, its geography eroded by tears. “You wanted me once. I know you did. You gave me immortality.”
“I gave you what you wanted.” A heavy sigh escaped me. “Now, give me what I want.”
“I gave you my soul.” She smoothed her hands down my chest.
I caught the wandering hands and laughed without mirth. “Jot that one down. It’s perfect for a romantic tragedy. Hollywood poppycock.”
“Stop it!” She clenched tiny fists. “Whatever else I have to give is yours.”
I thought she might actually strike me. I deserved it. “I’ve no taste for melodrama, Jaime. I want peace.”
“You made me immortal.” Her eyes brimmed with the dreaded tears. “Don’t you love me? Even a little?”
“Do you like immortality? If so beware.” I didn’t try to hide my irritation, preferring her anger to her tears. “If the others find out, you’ll be exterminated.”
“Damn you,” she whispered. “Damn you, Morgan, they can’t hurt me any more than you’re doing.”
“Is this the same little girl who wanted to watch the parade of history–forever?” I gave a derisive laugh.
Like a cat, clawing with all fours, she launched herself at me. Painted nails gouged my cheeks, blood welling. “Stop torturing me.” But anger and frustration vanished from her face. She wrapped herself around me. “Hold me. Even if you don’t love me. I’m your child and you can’t leave me like this.”
Feeling the proper cad, I disengaged from her desperate embrace, set her on her feet and held her at arms’ length. “I’ll introduce you to another vampire. Maggie will show the ways. I’ll ring her straight away.” The desperation in my voice amazed me. Amazement softened my features. “Maggie will take you under her wing.”
Jaime mistook my change of face for a change of heart. “I don’t want Maggie. I want you.”
I trapped her wandering hands at her sides. “Don’t be difficult or I shall–”
“Destroy me, Mighty Creator?” She shrugged.
Seizing her wrists, I lifted her, slamming her back against the wall. “You chose this path. Stop complaining if the rocks are too sharp for your delicate feet.”
“Bastard!” Dangling from my grasp, she kicked at me with size five granny boots. “Don’t you have a heart?”
“I’ve been called heartless.” I eased her to her feet, and she glared at me. “Look Jaime, I was honest with you from the beginning.” Exasperated, I ran a hand back through my hair. What weakness possessed me of late? Who was this new man? “Go away.”
It came out as painful a whisper as Jaime’s entreaties.
She bowed her head, her shoulders shaking. She folded her hands beneath her chin. “I’m sorry. Phone Maggie. I can’t bear being alone anymore.”
When a woman weeps, my barriers melt. I simply cannot stand by and watch a woman cry. Even if I’m the culprit. Jaime’s eyes met mine. She was so lovely. Crystallized. Transformed into an aquamarine and amber beauty that was as lethal as it was enchanting. My blood had created this vision. Loneliness knocked a little louder at my door.
“Ah, how tempting you are, my beauty.” My hand lifted of its own accord to fondle an auburn curl.
She caught my hair, pulling my face down to hers. Her lips formed soundless words. “Love me.”
My hands came up between us. “Jaime, please. Maggie is one of my dearest friends. She will lead you through the night and won’t betray you to the others. If I ask, Maggie will befriend you.”
“Is she–” her voice tightened. “Did you make her, too?”
I shook my head. “I’ve never given the dark gift to anyone.”
“You’re in love with someone else.” It was a statement that needed no answer but I nodded. “I won’t interfere. Couldn’t you have us both? Is there no chance for you and me?”
“None.” I had ached with the loneliness and fear darkening Jaime’s eyes. Suddenly, I became aware of the dead stillness looming in the house. Taking her arm, I guided her into the study. “I’ll phone Maggie. You must do this. For me. For yourself.”
As I reached for my mobile, it rang. I hesitated, paralyzed by dread. I’ve been called evil. Sometimes, I believed myself evil. But the darkness emanating from that small square of plastic leaked into the room, and a shiver capered down my spine.
Jaime clamped her hands to her ears. “I can’t stand to hear it ring.” She grabbed the phone and held it to her ear. “Hello.”
Her mouth dropped open. Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the mobile. Slowly, she went rigid. My child felt the hatred, a relentless thing, reaching out.
Whatever the source, I was the target. I tugged the phone from her hand. She went limp, sagged to the floor, and buried her face in her hands.
A man spoke, alluring as only evil can be. “Golden Cavalier, I bring you greetings from your sordid past.”
Like sour rope, apprehension knotted in my throat. No one had ever called me by that name–except my vampire mother. His voice, deep, tinted by an accent and malice, teased my memory. A piercing whistle from the other end of the line jarred me.
“Speak, Lord D’Arcy, speak.”
“I’m Morgan D’Arcy. Who’s calling?”
“I’m hurt. Shattered.” Swarthy his voice. “You don’t remember me?”
Jaime sat frozen, her eyes blank, a deer sensing the arrow’s flight. I took the evil as far from her as I could, pacing until I found myself gazing down at the street gleaming wetly under headlights. “What is your business with me?”
“How rude. I’m a blood brother. Of sorts.”
“If you don’t engage my curiosity in the next two seconds–”
“Don’t hang up before I deliver my punch line. Don’t doubt that we’re kin.” Again that seductive laugh. “I call to proclaim civil war amongst the brothers of darkness.”
“I haven’t the time nor inclination to listen to nonsense.”
“I’ve waited a long time for my revenge.”
“Revenge?” I huffed.
“In a country and century far, far away, you wronged me grievously.”
A shiver ran down my spine. “I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong chap–”
“What-ho! I say, what-what. It just wasn’t cricket, old man.” He chuckled, and a coin clicked into a slot.
A call from a pay box couldn’t be traced. “I’ve no idea what you’re rambling on about.”
“Ah, Morgan thinks everyone has forgotten his dangerous little game.” An oily laugh. “And his prized broodmare tucked safely away in America.”
The hairs at my nape quivered. Ghosts of fog floated down the rain blackened street. Danger has an unmistakable scent. I didn’t know the caller, but he knew me, and he might know too much. “I no longer keep horses,” I said, each nerve afire.
“Lucien knows exactly what I’m talking about. Your noble quest. Shall I remind you? Lilith’s brood seeking the Garden of Eden, bartering health and immortality to the Children of Eve. Offer humanity hope, and they’ll accept us with open arms. I personally think you are a lunatic, but…” He coughed. “There’s only one little hitch, right, Morgie Old Chum? Genetic insanity. Ah, but you’re a cunning bastard. The future Lady of St. Averil can modify the genetics of madness.”