The Right Time
Damon looked at Lindsey the next morning, sleeping peacefully. He was feeling a little disturbed. Had she really said she loved him the night before, just as she dropped off to sleep? If she had, what kind of love was she talking about? Friendly? Romantic? He wasn't sure, and he wasn't sure he wanted her to feel that way. He wanted her to like him, but love? This was what he had been afraid of. He didn't want Lindsey to fall in love with him, only to be upset when he had to leave her. He wasn't planning on going anywhere any time soon, but it was inevitable that he was going to leave. He hated the idea of causing her any more pain. But right now, all he could do was push it to the back of his mind and live in the moment, which was how he had managed to survive all these years.
He looked at her hair, spread over the pillow, and rubbed a strand between his fingers. She hated her hair, he knew. Not the color, but the quantity, and he had to admit: there wasn't a huge amount of hair there. It wasn't thick or luxuriant, but it was soft, like silk. It reminded him of the silk embroidery floss his mother used to work samples. He hadn't thought of that in years, but it was an apt description. He thought about how her body felt when he held her. She was warm and soft, and just from the few kisses they had shared, he had the idea she was a passionate woman. He wanted to find out, but he knew it would take careful persuasion. She wasn't going to fall into his arms.
"Stop staring at me, Damon," she said sleepily. How did she know? The same way she could take one look at him and know he was lying or deflecting a question.
"I like looking at you," he answered
softly. "How are you feeling?"
"Better than I deserve, I know." She
barely opened her eyes and managed a grin. "It's true. We made it out."
She turned to face him. "But I'm still bone tired." He
smiled. "I know you are. Go back to sleep. It's still early, and we
don't have to be anywhere that I'm aware of."
"O.K.," she murmured, wishing the last thing she saw every time she closed her eyes would be Damon's gorgeous blue gaze.
She slept on, and he knew she was worn out. But, after a couple of hours without her waking, he closed his eyes and slipped into her dreams. He heard her before he saw her. She was singing, which she never did around him.
"Good morning, America, how are you? Say, don't you know me? I'm your native son. I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans. I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done."
Did she usually sing sad country songs, he wondered? But she didn't have a country sort of voice. No, it was much closer to folk. It was a sweet soprano, and Damon could feel the sadness of the words of the song, even without any music.
"But all the towns and people seem to fade into a bad dream, and the steel rails still ain't heard the news. The conductor sings his songs again, the passengers will please refrain: this train's got the disappearing railroad blues."
Why sing that song? He knew it and the words were haunting. It was one of the few country-ish songs he liked. He appeared from around the crepe myrtle that blocked Lindsey from seeing him. She had the swing in motion and was nodding her head to a melody Damon couldn't hear. Her eyes were closed and she didn't see him right away. He watched her, fascinated, until she opened her eyes.
"How many times have I told you to stop staring at me?" she said.
She stopped the swing and nodded to the empty space beside her. "Have a seat."
He did and they sat for a few moments. "I didn't know you sang."
She looked stunned and grimaced in embarrassment. "You heard that?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Who wrote that song, anyway?" He knew she would know.
"Guy named Steve Goodman. I can't believe I let you hear me sing!"
"Why not? You have a nice voice. And I know you love music. I'm surprised I haven't caught you before now." His grin was wicked and teasing.
"I wish I could crawl around in your head like this. I'd love to catch you singing, or doing something completely embarrassing, like, I don't know. Break dancing or something."
He laughed. "You can't embarrass me. I have no shame."
"I believe you."
"Is this your house?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yeah. I don't know why I thought I could sell it. I can't. I can feel my roots too deep in this red dirt to leave for good."
"Want to show me around?"
"Sure. Come on in." She opened the screen door and Damon walked in behind her.
"How long have you lived here?" he asked.
"Since I was 14 and Mama and Daddy came back to take care of my grandmother. It's just an old farm house, but I do love it."
Damon spied an old picture on the wall of a youngish couple. "Who's this?"
"My great-great grandparents. It was made about the same time as the one of your family in your house," she said with a grin.
"Keep reminding me of my age, why don't you? These your parents?"
"Yeah. It was made, oh, 10 years or so before Daddy died, while he was still in good health."
Damon examined the picture. "You look like your dad."
The scene faded out and Lindsey woke up. Someone was at the door. Damon was up in a second and stood by the door. "Who is it?"
He looked through the peephole and saw the kid had luggage with him. "Come on in," he said, opening the door. The kid brought the luggage in, Damon signed for the delivery and they were alone again.
"Interested in seeing what I got?"
"Yeah. Where did it come from?" Lindsey asked, as she came into the sitting area.
"The Coach store."
"Seriously?" Lindsey knew she was looking at several thousand dollars' worth of merchandise.
"Yeah. If I'm spending the money, I want good stuff. Here. These are yours." He handed her two burgundy leather duffels. "And this."
"This" was a beautiful crossbody bag with a matching wallet and a tasseled zipper pull, all in a buttery tan. "Damon!" she exclaimed.
He cut her off. "Don't. I wanted to buy it for you, all right? You needed a purse. Just be gracious and say, 'Thank you, Damon. It's beautiful.'"
She ruffled his hair. "Thank you, Damon. It really is beautiful." She kissed the top of his head. "So tell me, Mr. Got Rocks. Where in the world does all this money come from? I know it's beyond tacky to ask, but I'm a reporter, after all."
He grinned widely and chuckled. "Well, some of it is from the Salvatore lumber business our uncle ran back in the 1880s. He invested it well and it's earned a lot of interest over the decades. Every so often, my financial investor will venture some money, and it's mostly done well. So, I don't worry about it. I just make a phone call once in a while, and bingo! Money on demand."
"In the Caymans."
"Really." She sighed. "With that kind of money, I'd retire to Tahiti."
"Want to go?" he said.
"Where? To Tahiti? Are you nuts?" she answered.
He shrugged. "We could."
"Yeah, if I had a passport, which I don't. Oh, well."
"I'll still take you to the beach. And anywhere else you want to go."
Damon grinned at her. "Because, somehow, you've become my best friend."
Lindsey smiled at him and stroked his hair. She didn't say anything. She just went to the kitchen. "Nothing here but leftover pineapple juice. Yuck." She dumped the rest of the juice in the sink.
Damon got up and grabbed two blood bags, poured the blood in a large glass, and drank it. He put the empties back into the cooler and locked it. "There are some things Housekeeping doesn't need to see," he said.
"Agreed. So blood from bags is OK?" Lindsey asked.
He shrugged. "Straight from the vein is always better, but bags are handy."
"I know when you drink from the bags, usually two or three is what you get. Is that rationing your supply, or is that how much you need, or what?" She had not felt that comfortable discussing this aspect of Damon's life before.
"As long as I feed on a regular basis, a couple of bags is just right. I can go completely without for a little while, but I start getting edgy after a couple of days, and you don't want to be around me," he answered.
"So when you feed from a human, you don't necessarily kill them?"
He shook his head. "Ideally, not. Honestly, even though the craving doesn't really completely subside, there are several cons for killing by draining. First, obviously, you have a body on your hands, then, drinking that much at once is like eating too much all at one time. Makes me feel way too full and a little sluggish, which isn't good. I'd rather catch, eat and release. Really, it's more fun. Satisfies the whole predator urge." He raised his eyebrows when he saw the look on Lindsey's face. Then, she nodded.
"I asked, and I know by now, that if I ask, you're going to be honest. So what would be a good hunting ground?"
He gave her a look of disbelief. "Who are you, Anne Rice doing 'Interview with the Vampire' all over again?"
"No, but jeez. Who else am I gonna ask? You know how nosy I am!"
"I know. Really, anywhere there's a lot of people, and usually where they're distracted or have been drinking a lot. Bars, parties, festivals." He paused and leered at her. "Shopping malls."
She rolled her eyes. "Good grief. Let's go find some breakfast."
"I need to shower first. And if all you eat is toast and coffee, I'm taking you over my knee. For real." Damon realized his mistake as soon as the words were out of his mouth. "Kidding! Just kidding!" He held up his hands when he saw the look on her face.
"You'd better be," she said.
"So what would you do if I did it?" Now he was pushing her buttons.
She gave him a pseudo smile. "Let's just say I'm creative. And I did cover a murder trial in which bourbon played a prominent role."
Damon cleared his throat. "O.K., then. Let me get a shower."
"You do that," Lindsey said. She could infuse a little menace into her voice, just like he could.
Damon was sexy all the time, but Lindsey had the most trouble keeping her hands off him when he was just out of the shower. He smelled so good, and when his hair was damp and spiky, she really wanted to mess it up with her hands. So, she busied herself putting a few things into her new purse. She saw another case in the purse she missed the first time. She opened it – sunglasses. She had needed some, and he knew it. She shook her head. He could be so sweet and considerate. And then could talk about draining people and burying bodies. But she knew what he was.
"What do you want to do today?" he asked as he pulled a black T-shirt on. He grinned. Lindsey's heartbeat always sped up when she saw him shirtless, but she had the best poker face he'd ever seen. She didn't bat an eyelash.
"How about the botanical gardens? I know it's warm, but they have plenty of shade and I just want to be outside for a little while."
"Sounds good to me." Being outside did sound pleasant, and he wasn't worried about the crazies getting both of them out of a public park without creating a massive disturbance. He was fairly sure they were on the trail, but so far, their luck had held.
Lindsey was so glad to get in the shower and get her hair washed. She felt incredibly grungy. They had both enjoyed the gardens, and even though Damon clearly didn't want to admit it, he was as fascinated by the butterfly house as she was. But it was a warm day in Alabama and walking around in the heat and humidity was bound to work up a sweat. She wondered how Damon could stay in the car with her on the drive back, knowing his sense of smell, but he hadn't said a word. He, of course, rarely broke a sweat. It was disgusting.
Damon had been wanting a steak, so after they got cleaned up, they hit the steak house in the hotel. It was so nice to be able to order what she wanted without even looking at the prices. The food was delicious, and Damon insisted she order a dessert, which she then insisted on splitting with him. It was a chocolate soufflé and it was heavenly.
"You wore that new lipstick," he observed as they walked back to their room.
"Yeah. Do you like it?"
"It looks great."
Lindsey and Damon had kissed a little, but he hadn't pushed anything, and that suited her, in spite of the fact that she wanted him. So, she washed her face and went to bed not long after they got back to their room. She was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
Damon heard her go to bed, but watched TV a while longer. Then, he got in bed with her and snuggled close to her. He was glad she didn't mind it because her warmth made his sleep deeper. Even though he visited her dreams this morning, he still didn't know exactly what was going on inside her mind, where he was concerned, anyway. He felt her relax against him, though, and he wondered if this might be the right time to see how receptive she was.
Lindsey woke to the feeling of Damon's body against her back, which wasn't unusual. What was unusual, was the feeling of his mouth at her neck, not to bite her, but to kiss and nibble at her skin and on her earlobes. "What are you doing?" she said, her voice raspy with sleep.
He smiled in the darkness. "Lindsey, I do like having you in my arms," he hummed against her neck.
"O.K." She was still half-asleep.
"Let me make you feel really good. I want to."
That woke her up, and she snorted, "Damon, you're just horny and I told you I didn't want pity sex." She attempted to wriggle out of his grasp, but he held her easily. "Go to sleep, please."
"Lindsey, don't tell me you don't want me. You're lying if you do."
Oh, she wanted him all right, but, "Wanting you and having pity sex are two different things."
Damon shook his head. "It's not pity sex. I want you."
"Why?" This should be good, assuming he could come up with a decent answer.
"Maybe it's because you're the first woman I've run into in years who didn't bore me to tears. Maybe it's because you stand up to me, but you treat me like a person and not a monster. Maybe it's because you force me to use my brain to keep up with you. And I'd forgotten what that was like."
He could feel her chuckle. "Still all sounds like pity sex to me."
"It's not. You challenge me."
She turned over to face him. "Lord, help. What that means is, once you've had your wicked way with me, the challenge is over, the hunt is done. You got what you wanted, so that's it, and I'm in the wind. No. I can't deal with that."
"You think I'd do that to you?"
"I don't know. I can't risk finding out."
"Why not?" His voice was still soft, and his hands were making circles on her back.
She sighed. "Because I love you, Damon. And I know you don't feel the same way, and as hellish as it is sleeping next to you every night and not having you, I won't be just your friend with privileges. I have more respect for myself than that."
He was silent for a moment, pondering what she said. "How do you know I don't feel the same way about you?"
"You've told me over and over that you're the bad guy, that you avoid getting close to people, for a variety of reasons. You've made it clear you're not interested in love like this."
He harrumphed. "Me and my big mouth. Maybe a man can change his mind. Maybe it just took the right slightly crazy brunette to make me wonder if I haven't been missing something for a while."
"So what are you saying?"
She wasn't going to let him off easy, but he didn't expect her to. "I can't promise you forever. You know that. I can't even promise you a few years. But I can promise you I will never willingly hurt you or allow you to be hurt as long as we're together. What I have to give, I'll give you. It's been a long, long, long time since I've tried to love anyone. I've had a habit of making really bad decisions that screwed up the few relationships I've been in. But I want to give you whatever I've got, if you'll let me, for however long I can."
"What about your feelings for Katherine?"
She could see him in the dim light, thoughtfully chewing his bottom lip. "Right now, I'm disgusted with myself for keeping it up this long. I honestly don't know if she's worth the years I've spent mooning after her." Here, he pulled Lindsey close. "But for once in my miserable life, I'm not going to throw away a little slice of happiness with both hands for her. I don't know how it will end, but in this moment, Lindsey, you're the one woman who drives out the demons in my soul. I won't turn my back on that. Let me kiss you, and if you want to stop, I swear I'll stop, but if you'll let me love you, I don't think you'll regret it."
She sighed deeply. She had the feeling Damon was as honest with her right then as he had been, probably in decades. So, without a word, she put her hands on Damon's face and brought his lips to hers in a sweet, delicious kiss that was different from any they had shared. She brought her hands up to his hair, to comb her fingers through its softness, and could feel his hands slip under her pajama top to caress her skin. She shivered with the contact and his mouth left hers to kiss her throat and neck. She trusted him implicitly, perhaps foolishly, but he never offered to do more than kiss and nibble sweetly at her skin. He brought one hand around and started unbuttoning her pajama top, which he slipped off her shoulders. She figured he could see her fairly well, but she was thankful for the darkness in the room, nevertheless.
When Damon brought his hands to her breasts, she gasped and he smiled. "They're so soft," he said.
"Is that a problem?"
"Not for me. You feel like a woman, not a little girl." When he took her nipple in his mouth, she cried out and arched her body toward him. "You are so hot," he said. "So responsive." Her arousal was rolling off her in waves. He could smell how much she wanted him, and the fragrance was sweet and delicious.
Although his vision was augmented, in the darkness, he automatically allowed his other senses to take over, since they were usually more reliable. And what he heard, smelled, felt and tasted on Lindsey's skin was more erotic than anything he expected. She was making small noises every time he touched her. The taste of her skin was as sweet as her fragrance. It was like a sugar high. He growled as she reached to touch him. She fanned her hands across his chest and nuzzled in his neck, and his mouth took hers again, and he kissed her until she had to break for air.
"You all right?" he whispered in her ear.
"Yeah," she managed.
She could feel as he touched her center under her panties and she cried out in pleasure. "So wet." He chuckled and she felt it to her toes. "You're a sex machine, you know it?" He continued touching her. "Still trust me?" he asked.
"Mmm-hmm," she said and wriggled out of her pajama shorts and underwear. This, then, was the moment of truth. If Damon was going to be completely disgusted by her body, it would definitely be now. But he acted as though he didn't even notice. To her shock, she could tell he intended to head south. When his mouth touched her folds, Lindsey thought her heart would stop from the intensity. It was too, too good. Everything he did was exactly right. Lindsey had nowhere near enough experience to tell him what she wanted, so she had to rely on his instincts, and they were on the money. She felt him slide a finger into her heat and she nearly cried. With his fingers working her, and his tongue right on that sweet spot, Lindsey was sure she was going to die from the storm. She climaxed so hard she thought she was going to pass out before she caught her breath.
She hardly had time to recover, before Damon was on top of her, kissing her deeply, and then easing himself inside her. Somehow, he knew he needed to be a little more careful. There was a brief flash of pain, and then, he filled her completely. He stopped for a moment and put his forehead to hers. When Damon entered Lindsey completely, at first, all he could think was how sweet and hot and tight she was around him. Then, he smelled blood and realized it was hers. Was she a virgin? Oh, god. "Lindsey, I didn't know. You should have told me. Did I hurt you?"
"No, Damon. I'm O.K." How she could even form a coherent sentence was beyond her, but she managed. She nudged him with her hips, encouraging him to continue what he was doing. He grinned at her and started moving again, easily, slowly, setting a rhythm she could handle, and she met every thrust.
Finally, he started thrusting harder and she was aching with wanting again. She could feel him touch her again, and she automatically bent her knees so he could get a deeper angle. As he touched her, the wave crashed over her again and she cried her orgasm. Damon followed shortly after and as he rolled them to their sides, felt Lindsey relax into his body in complete faith. How long had it been since anyone had trusted him like this? Decades, at least. It was blissfully wonderful. He stroked her hair and skin and she nuzzled into his neck, inhaling his unique fragrance and feeling his breathing slow to normal.
"Are you O.K.?" he whispered.
"I'm fine, sweetheart," she said.
"You should have told me this was your first time."
She chuckled. "I thought you would have figured it out considering the number of hints I threw."
He kissed her forehead. "I thought it might have been a while, but not that I was your first. Do I need to apologize?"
"Nope. I knew what I was doing. I could have told you to stop and I didn't. I just hope you weren't too disappointed. I know I have zero experience."
This time, Damon tipped her chin up and kissed her lips sweetly. "I wasn't disappointed, I promise. And god knows I've got enough experience for both of us. And then some." His tone was a little rueful.
"Somehow, I believe that," Lindsey said with a smile.
"Are you still serious about when you said you love me?" His tone was so hopeful.
"I was and I am."
She could feel him sigh in relief. "I don't know if I'm capable of love, but I do care very much for you, and I love being with you, and I want you and I need you right now."
Lindsey sighed too. "Well, like the song said, 'two out of three ain't bad.'"
"Oh, man. I didn't even think of how that sounded. But it is kind of like the song."
"A little. Except neither one of us is leaving right now, I don't think."
"I'm not going anywhere, except to sleep. Even we vampires need some rest, and it's been a long day."
"When are we headed to the beach?"
She could see his smile in the dimness. "Is tomorrow soon enough?"
"I guess so. Turn me loose, baby. I need to get up."
Reluctantly, Damon released Lindsey from his arms, and quickly slipping on her pajamas, she went into the bathroom. He could hear water running, and then she came back out and he heard her make a noise as she came back to bed. "You sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. A little sore, but that's normal."
"It's all right. I wouldn't have missed it for anything." She cuddled to him again.
"I was thinking..." he said.
Lindsey laughed. "Should I be worried?"
"No. Thinking back is more like it. I was just remembering. You remind me of someone I knew a long time ago. A little anyway."
"Really? How's that?"
"I know the worst way to start a sentence is, 'don't take this wrong,' but hear me out before you make me sleep in the bathtub, O.K.?"
"O.K.," she said, a little warily.
"When I was in Fort Worth, in the early 1880s, there was a brothel in town..."
"You'd better not be going where I think you're going with this," Lindsey said.
"You said you'd hear me out."
"All right. But it had better be good."
"It is. Anyway, it was one of the places where you had to fork over a lot of cash, but the girls were all clean, and the customers had to be too, or they'd kick you out, permanently. I was there enough to try most of the girls. It was sex and a meal. What can I say?"
"You didn't just kill those girls..."
"Oh, hell no. Didn't want to, and besides, there's no way I could have gotten out of there with my hide intact if I had. But I didn't want to kill them. They were sweet girls. And I liked the company. But I kept hearing about one of them – the regulars called her Glory. They said she was good, and there was actually another vampire in town who was one of her most faithful clients. She knew about us, he said, had no interest in telling our secret, and he said he always felt like she understood him. He never had to compel her, and she never judged him. That sounded pretty good to me, I have to admit."
"I can see that. Go on."
"Well, she was one of the few ladies who made her own appointments. The madam allowed her to do it because she knew Glory would make her money every night. But my vamp friend, Jakob, actually had to refer me. She wouldn't take me sight unseen. Every man had to have a referral. And he kept telling me she was not going to be what I expected, and not to be disappointed."
"Yeah. Well, I got my appointment and went up to her room. The door opens and there's this woman standing there in her corset and petticoat, and she's not that young, and she's kind of plain and she's well, Rubenesque."
"Good choice of words," Lindsey said dryly. "So she's old, plain and fat and reminds you of me. I didn't think I liked where this was going."
"No, no, no!" Damon rushed to explain. "You're beautiful. Take my word on that. My point is that with Glory, there was this deep understanding. I don't know how she did it, but she made a man feel like he wasn't another john. He was her lover for the night. Big difference. She took one look at this daylight ring and said, 'Another one. But at least you look like you're worth the effort.'"
Lindsey laughed at this. "I like her already."
"You would have. Like you, she treated me like a man, not a curiosity or a monster. I was just a man. And I could tell her anything. Like I can tell you anything. And her body was soft and warm, and she taught me to make love. I knew all about sex. I could screw a girl's brains out all right, but I'd skipped right past the making love part. Never learned it from Katherine, that's for damned sure. But Glory taught me how to put the woman's pleasure first and how to really, well – make love."
"Well, God bless her then," Lindsey snickered.
"You bet. Anyway, I figured out really quick what Jakob had been trying to tell me. When I was with Glory, the demons stopped howling at me. The blood hunger faded. I felt as nearly human as I had in years."
"What happened to her?"
"Well, turns out she had a gift for dressmaking. Jakob and I bought her out of the brothel and set her up in her own business. And we were, you might say, private clients until she didn't want to do that anymore, but we were always welcome guests in her home. She actually left her house to Jakob when she died, and last I heard, he was living there as his great-grandson."
"Wow. That's actually a great story."
"It's all true."
Damon kissed her softly, sweetly. "And with you sweet Lindsey, it's the same. The demons don't howl at me. The blood hunger fades. Not completely, of course, but it's a lot more manageable. Not that I wouldn't love to taste your blood, but unless you ask me to, I won't. I can't do that to you."
"You're much more of a gentleman than you let on, Damon. You know it?"
"You think so?" he said, a smile in his voice.
"Know so. And thank you, not just for the sex, which was wonderful, but for not.." Here she hesitated. "For not – freaking out when you saw me. I know you see in the dark very well, and I just really appreciate you seeing something besides the very not perfect outside. Thank you for not acting disgusted or repelled by the way I look. Even if you are, you didn't act that way and I appreciate it."
He could hear the tears in her voice. "Who is perfect, Lindsey?" he said softly. "I'm not. No way. Knowing what I am inside, how can I judge anybody? I do, but I shouldn't. But I'm telling you the truth when I tell you that you're warm, and your body welcomed me and you are sweet and hot and sexy, and very beautiful." He nuzzled in her neck and put his cheek against hers.
"Thank you. And those demons? They have to get through me first. And I'm not afraid of them." She put her head on his chest. "Good night, Damon."
"My warrior angel," and once again, she heard the smile in his voice. "Good night, Lindsey."