Dead & Living

By Artie Gallezi

Action / Romance

What Was Always There

"New York's finest." I said as I heard police sirens and fire trucks racing to a giant pillar of smoke and fire. "Right on time!"

"Are you certain they will not suspect anything?" asked Mae.

"Oh, they will." I assured. "But you remember that room where most of them were sleeping?"

Once I was certain Wilhelmina was safe, Mae and I checked all of the rooms to see if there was anything that might be useful. Most of the rooms had been unused for some times, but what I guessed was the sleeping quarters sat next to a room full of lab equipment and an abundance of chemicals.

"Yes?" Mae said. "You said they were using the adjacent room to cook meth."

"I assumed meth since there was some sitting on a table." I corrected. "That little bit just could have been some that someone bought off the street. They could have curing cancer for all I know." I waited for a group of ambulances to pass with their blaring siren before I continued. "The fire department will be able to tell an accelerant was used, the chemicals and paint thinner they had stashed away. Once they find and identify the bodies, or whats left of them, they'll probably chalk it up to an accident caused by drug dealers."

"How can you assume that is what they will think?" asked Mae.

"Its not big leap to think a good amount of them have criminal records, hopefully drug and gang related. With the fire destroying any trace of us and the building was condemned and the bodies and drug lab were in the basement, they'll have no real choice but to think the cause of fire was someone mixing the wrong kind of chemicals. If by some chance they find our fingerprints, you and Wilhelmina were born before people even knew fingerprints existed."

"And yourself?" Wilhelmina asked.

"Me?" I looked down at Wilhelmina as I carried her in my arms. "The only time I've been in a precinct was when I just turned eighteen and had pick my dad when he got a DUI. My fingerprints aren't in any government database. Even if they were, I'd come up as dead and they'd have no where to go from there."

We continued walking south on 2nd Avenue and crossed E 117th Street which put in right in the middle of East Harlem, a few miles south of the Triborough Bridge.

It did not surprise me that Sebastian had chosen this place as a hideout. East Harlem has the highest violent crime rate in Manhattan. The neighborhood suffers from many social issues, such as the highest jobless rate in New York City, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, and drug abuse five times the national average. From what I read and heard, after a wave of arson ravaged the low income communities of New York City throughout the 1970s and "planned shrinkage" policies, many of the residential structures in East Harlem were left seriously damaged or destroyed.

By the late 1970s, the city began to rehabilitate many abandoned tenement style buildings and designate them as low income housing. Despite the fairly recent gentrification of the neighborhood, large numbers of apartment buildings have been deliberately kept vacant by their owners. Although the businesses on the ground floor are retained, landlords do not want to have the trouble involved in residential tenants.

I suggested taking the subway back to our nest in Soho as the police and fire departments had most likely closed off the roads and traffic would be too severe for a taxi. Mae accepted my logic and glamored a passing human, an old man no less the seventy, for directions for the number six subway.

Mae glamored more humans to part with subway tokens and we waited on the platform, ignoring the stares I was receiving for holding Wilhelmina without showing the smallest amount of effort. She had protested to being carried like an injured child, but when I noticed how she limped with each step I scooped her up in my arms. She could have ordered my to set her down, but she did not and I felt she was fighting the urge to do so. I was certain a day's rest and a healthy amount of blood and she would be put to rights, physically at least. I could not even begin to comprehend what was going through her mind. I was at lost for words and neither did she, or Mae, speak on the matter the entire trip to Soho.

We disembarked once the train stopped at Canal Street. I quickly took Wilhelmina in my arms and made our way to the surface. We walked south until Canal crossed with Walker Street and made a left onto it, continuing until we reached Broadway and our nest.

As we rode the elevator, I asked. "Mae?"

"Yes?"

"You said you're the sheriff's child, right?" I had a few nagging thoughts. "Has he been having the same problems as Ryuu in Area Three? Drug dealing werewolf packs?"

"Yes, although only from the Alpha and Beta Blood Packs." She answered. "The rest of the packs keep to themselves and do not meddle in our affairs. As do we." Mae raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious." I answered. "How big are the packs?"

"Their numbers reach just under five and forty when combined. While we did not share information, we found it wise to keep track of their numbers should the information be needed."

I paused for a moment. "Sebastian didn't mention if he was working for or with either of them by any chance?"

"I do not know." Mae said. "From what I comprehended, he only wanted revenge and was using what little resources and connections he could scrounge to find those responsible. He was part of what he called the Mahingan Pack. "

"That is the Algonquin word for wolf." Wilhelmina translated. "We thought our nest and that of Ryuu's had ended their existence."

"Not completely it seems." Mae looked troubled. "We must be wary. We cannot be sure if Sebastian had joined the other packs.""

"He didn't." I said firmly.

"Are you certain?" Mae asked.

"Yes."

"How?" Wilhelmina asked.

"He probably found out his packmaster's motorcycle was stolen and figured whomever was using had some connection to his pack's massacre." I looked up and saw we were on the tenth floor. "He most likely poked around until he found Ryuu's house and watched it for a time. Somehow he learned the motorcycle was in the city, I guess by either bribing or threatening a human that belonged to one of Ryuu's nestmates, and came here." I noticed they were staring. "It's what I would have done."

"I still do not understand how that proves he was not supported by the other packs." Mae protested.

"Had he gone to local packs, he would have found the bike within days and we would have had to deal with a lot more than the ten we did." I concluded. "All he had to do was limit his search to Manhattan."

"Why not Brooklyn or Staten Island?" Wilhelmina asked.

"Manhattan is the most luxurious and expensive borough to live in." I asked. "You saw the state of East Harlem. Imagine setting up a nest in Bed-Stuy or Hell's Kitchen. Would you consider staying there if you didn't have to?"

"Fair point." Wilhelmina conceded.

"I suppose not." Mae admitted.

"He would have probably narrowed even more his search to the more expensive neighborhoods like Tribeca or West Village." I added. "All he would need is anywhere between ten and twenty more Weres and he would barely have to lift a finger."

No sooner than I finished speaking, the doors opened to the twelfth floor. We wordlessly walked the corridor and stopped at room 221B. Mae was kind enough to open the door with the keys in my pocket as my hands were otherwise occupied and we stepped in.

We were greeted not with warm welcomes, but with stares from Adrian, Regina, and Doyle. Adrian was leaning against the wall with his arms folded across his chest and his feet crossed at the ankle while Regina sat cross legged on the edge of a couch. Doyle was, as usual, lounging without a care in the world in a recliner with the footrest out and laid out as far as the chair would allow.

"Well, it looks like someone broke curfew." Doyle grinned.

"You thickheaded dolt!" Adrian did the sensible thing and smacked the back or Doyle's head. "This is not the time."

Doyle hissed and scowled, but said nothing as he rubbed where Adrian had struck him.

Regina was more subtle. "It's been four days and neither of you called. We grew concerned."

"Mae?" I said gently. "Do you think could explain while I take care of Wilhelmina?" A thought came to me and added. "Feel free to use my coffin in the room at the end of the hall if you feel tired. Assuming Matthew doesn't insist on you returning to your home tonight."

"Thank you, Dominick. I shall do that." Mae looked less than pleased to recount her story. "It is also possible that they will be in danger themselves."

I turned, Wilhelmina still in my arms, and walked down the hall.

"Where are you taking me?" Wilhelmina asked. "My room?"

I entered the bathroom and gently set my maker on the unused toilet as I drew back the curtains and ran a warm bath. I poured some of the bath salts Regina liked to use. Wilhelmina seemed to understand my intentions as I slipped off her shoes and softly removed her stockings. She permitted me to unbutton her blouse, lavender silk stained by dirt and blood and had been torn in our struggles to escape, and I tossed it unceremoniously in an abstract corner. She tensed and flinched, so slight that no human would have noticed, but quickly relaxed and smoothly tugged off the tan colored khakis that had also been torn and stained with blood.

I removed my own shirt so only a red undershirt covered my pale chest and lowered Wilhelmina into the water. She gasped slighlty when her legs first entered the warm water and I noticed the smallest wisps of red swirl in the water before fading complexly. I knew the reason why and knew better than to mention it as did she.

I lathered a cloth with the soap I replaced in its niche. Wilhelmina did not move as I lifted her leg slightly and began washing her skin as gently as I could. I continued my work without a word, from either of us, and only stopping to drain some of the water and quickly running more to keep it from becoming cold. It was when I was washing her back that I finally broke the silence, less I go insane.

"I'm sorry." I said, my voice so soft I was not even sure I had said the word aloud.

"You know how I feel about apologies." She answered just as softly.

"They accomplish nothing." I said automatically. "But show weakness which is death for our kind." I hesitated. "But . . ."

"No exceptions." She said gently but firmly. "You are not to blame."

"I should have gotten to you sooner." I protested weakly.

"You were shot in the head with a silver bullet at point blank range." She reminded me. "After being ambushed by a group of other supernatural beings. Beings that knew of our weaknesses and exploited them perfectly." She looked over her shoulder. "We, and no doubt countless others, would have met our ends if not for you and your ability."

"I hardly call dextrocardia an ability." I said. "Just dumb luck."

"I was not speaking of your defect. Although it unusual for those of our kind." Wilhelmina seemed curious, as if her conclusion was bright as day and I of all should see it. "I was referring to your intelligence. That is your gift."

"How is that an ability?" I asked.

"If you read our lore that humans have recorded throughout time, you would see certain vampires with unique abilities." Wilhelmina paused as if to recall something. "I met an old vampire, hardly more than a maiden of sixteen, some distance from Lotharingia before I came to the New World. She had the ability to communicate with her children telepathically."

"How dose it happen?"

"No one is certain." She brought her knee to her chin and embraced them. "Some theories suggest that the vampire overlooked something important when he brought the human over or some alien substance in the human's body mixes with the maker's blood." She gently laid down to soak her hair and I began massaging shampoo into her scalp before she continued. "There is also the theory, one that make more sense to me but is unproven as the others, that the ability is merely one that the human already possessed and was greatly amplified upon joining our ranks."

"So you're saying I was always like this?"

"Yes and is entirely possible that any human you turn will have the same gift." Wilhelmina nodded. "But you were too much of a coward to utilize it or even acknowledge it for that matter. If you think that is incorrect, keep in mind that everyone else has taken notice except you. Why should you? You would not take notice that you have two hands. Your perspicacious mind, however technically dead, was a natural part of you and continues to be so. Now unhindered by human limits and emotions."

"There is one problem." I said.

"Which is?"

"I know you're trying to avoid talking about what happened. " I answered quietly.

"What is there to talk about?" Wilhelmina asked nonchalantly.

"You're kidding me."

"It was only sex." She assured.

i was beyond astonished. "But he — "

"The same thing you did only last week. " She said curtly. "Granted I'd prefer it had not happened, but the best plans of mice and men often go awry." She then shrugged. "There are always vermin like him, unable to accept all of life's pleasures are not handed down to them on a gilded platter and incapable of higher thought to realize there are other ways to accomplish one's desires.

"This isn't the first time." I concluded. "Or even the second time."

"I am beginning to understand that flaw you mentioned." Wilhelmina turned her face forward. "Yes, this has happened before. But time heals all wounds. You, yourself are an example of that."

"I don't understand."

"You did not always care for me." Wilhelmina turned to look at me. "If this had happened while you pined like a whipped dog for you human life, what do you think you have done or even said?"

It was true. Had this happened during my first few nights, I would have sworn upon penalty of death that she deserved it, but I knew now that I would have been wrong.

I mentally flashed back my first few nights.

(ONE YEAR AGO)

I did not believe in reincarnation and that did not change when Wilhelmina brought me over, but I like to think I had changed so dramatically that it might as well had happened. I was not the same person that I had been when my heart pumped day and night to keep my body alive and I was no longer the whimpering pathetic creature that refused to accept what I had become.

One night stuck out to me in particular.

It had been three nights since I drained the girl that Wilhelmina had first brought me and I tenaciously refused each and every human she glamored to the nest. According to her and the rest of the nest, I was doing something unheard for vampire so young that my human scent still clung to me.

I sat in the corner of my room, Wilhelmina ordering me to empty the dozens of boxes that contained my old possessions only the previous night, bringing my legs close and resting my chin on my knees. My eyes gazed around the room, the rest of my body remaining immobile. An old bookshelf that held the few precious novels and comics, some held together by masking tape, sat against the wall opposite my bed.

The bed was a simple mattress and wooden springbox that laid upon an incomplex metal frame and was clearly untouched as I had no use for it. As the foot of the unscathed bed was a chest that Regina had been planning to do away with, but had not found the time to do so, so I had a place to store my clothes. My record player sat on the nightstand, plugged into the wall, but unused. The records themselves still were in their box in a far corner until I found a place for them or until I disposed of them, whichever came first.

I was positioned so my back was to both the closet that held the claustrophobic, but supposedly safe, coffin and the door so I did not have to look at anyone who entered. I was silently fuming at my situation. Wilhelmina had ordered me not to leave the nest and she also had forbidden any attempt to contact my family and friends or any human for help.

I naturally tried to disobey her, but my fingers refused to dial the numbers on the phone that sat on a nightstand by the bed. I had been wondering why she andt bothered to remove the phone. I did manage to dial 91, but I could not bring myself to hit the last '1' button to start the call. Frustrated by having the tools in my very grip, but unable to use them, I crushed the delicate device of plastic and slammed the remains on the hook which shattered like glass.

My wallowing was interrupted my a slight throb and I looked over my shoulder. I turned back to the wall only feel another throb, this one marginally stronger, and returned my gaze to the door. I snarled my annoyance and firmly brought my head back to its previous position.

I lost all sense of thought when a third, skull fracturing, throb echoed. I fell to my side and cradled my head as the throb became a less of slight tingle and more of a resonating pound. I silently kicked and thrashed on the floor, unable to bear the sensation akin to having one's head being shook at the speed of a hummingbird's wings.

Then suddenly, just as quickly, the throbbing ceased. I pushed myself up on all four and a pair of bare feet came into view. I looked up and saw Wilhelmina, wearing a long sleeve dark navy blue mini dress and her arms folded across her chest and an exasperated expression on her face.

"Stop fucking doing that!" I growled.

"Let that be a lesson." She reprimanded. "When I summon, you answer."

"What do you want?" I demanded as I resumed resting my chin on my knees and embraced them. "Or did you just get bored?"

"Adrian informed me you refused the human to enter this room." Wilhelmina said lazily. "Yet again."

"So?"

"How do you even have the will to refuse?" she asked. "What did you hope to accomplish?"

"I'm used to going without." I scowled." As for why, you know why."

"You are aware that if you do not feed from them then one of the others will." Wilhelmina remarked. "They aren't about to refuse blood when it enters the nest so easily."

"Just leave me alone." I complained.

"You haven't fed since your first night." Wilhelmina reminded. "That was three nights ago."

"I hadn't noticed." I scowled again. "I'm already dead. Its not like I can starve."

"I could order you to feed." She warned. "A few simple words and that would be the end of it."

"Then why are we even having this conversation?" I demanded.

"You are behaving like a child."

"I WAS A CHILD!" I shouted as i shot up to my full height and my fangs ran out. "I was barely of drinking age for hardly more than three weeks before you did this to me!"

"I understand you are still coming to terms." Wilhelmina's face remained impassive. "But there is no need to shout."

"Do you listen when you talk or do find yourself drifting in and out?" I sneered.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Just get out!" I pointed to the door. "Just go back to what you were doing before I ever fucking met you!"

"What has upset you?" She actually sounded concerned, but you could become quite the actor after a few centuries. "I sense something more than the usual."

"You know what!" I snapped.

"I would like to hear it from you."

I set my mouth firmly shut.

Wilhelmina gave me an ultimatum. "Either tell me or I will order you to." She waited a moment then rolled her eyes. "Now!"

"I killed that girl." I turned away and hating the power she held over me. "I didn't know her name or if she had a family. I had no idea who she was and had no idea who I was. She never did a single thing to me and I still killed her."

"So you are concerned with killing an innocent?" She asked like I had said I was frightened of kittens.

"No." I said. "I'm concerned with how much I enjoyed it." I hung my head. "It felt . . . like . . . I . . ."

"More powerful than you even thought possible." Wilhelmina finished. "The more she continued to struggle, the more godlike you felt." She laid a hand on my shoulder. "There is no shame in this. Humans think themselves the top of the global food chain, but deep down on some primal level they know how weak they truly are." I turned to face her. "The only true difference between vampire and human minds is that we are more in tune with our instincts. Think back to when you first rose. You had no comprehension of what had occurred and yet when that thief tried to rob you, your instincts took over." Her hand when from my shoulder to my cheek. "This guilt you feel now is your mind rebelling as it adjusts to such a sudden and dramatic transformation."

"She still didn't deserve it." I realized how comforted I felt as she continued to caress my cheek and turned away. How could feel anything for her? "None of those people did." I thought came to me. "Isn't there a way to stop? Before I kill them?"

"Eventually, but not in your condition." Wilhelmina said. "Newborns require vast amounts of blood for the first year or so. After that, a few mouthful every so often is the norm." I she motioned to herself. "As I am almost seven hundred years old, I can go a few nights without blood. A week if my needs must."

I wanted nothing more to bolt right then and there, my new body proving useful for once, but I did not. I would not make it far, not because the others were faster and stronger and could easily catch me, but Wilhelmina would and could stop me with a single word before I even set a hair out of my room, let alone the apartment itself. I also knew that, one way or another, I would not be able to refuse the next human or any after that night.

I looked to my bookshelf absent-minded, not expecting a solution in the slightest. It was an old habit of mine to dwell in the world of comics and fantasy for a couple of hours to escape whatever woe occupied my mind.

Then I caught sight of a gift Christine had given me for my twenty first birthday. It was just sitting next to an old tattered copy that held all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works of Sherlock Holmes. She had said it was right up my alley as I had always been fond of murder mysteries and even more so if there was an excellent game of cat and mouse between characters, like Holmes and Moriarty. Had she checked thoroughly, Christine would have noticed that the cat and mouse aspect wasn't exactly Sherlockian, but it was a welcomed gift.

I could help but stare at my collection of Punisher comics.

The Punisher was a vigilante who employed murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion, threats of violence, and torture in his war on crime. Driven by the deaths of his wife and two children, who were killed by the mob during a shootout in New York City's Central Park, Frank Castle waged a one-man war on the mob and all criminals in general by using all manner of conventional war weaponry. His family's killers were the first to be slain. A war veteran of the U.S. military, Frank Castle was a master of martial arts, stealth tactics, guerrilla warfare, and a wide variety of weapons.

He believed certain people, any that fit into his description of a criminal, just deserved to die.

I had never thought this myself, at least I had not been so black and white about it. I certainly would have been less bothered if Wilhelmina had brought me Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, or even Emperor Hirohito, but ruthless megalomania dictators are few and far between even in the more unstable regions of the world. If Wilhelmina was going to force me, I had no doubt of that, then I could perhaps try to minimize the damage and see if she was open to a compromise. I might not have a vendetta like Frank Castle, but they had made thier choice while Wilhelmina took mine.

"Then do you think you stick with criminals?" I asked almost pleading. "You know, people who won't exactly be missed."

"I had not thought of that." Wilhelmina paused as if to consider. "That is probably best. Less chance of police or others to come looking for them." She then nodded. "Very well. It should not be too difficult as cities as large as this one have no shortage of vermin."

"While we're compromising, is there anyway I can — "

"No!" She snapped. "And that is the last time I wish to hear of it."

"But you didn't even let me fin — "

"Our kind has only survived as long as we have because we stay in the shadows." Wilhelmina reminded me for the hundredth time. "Your family thinks you have perished and have no reason to think otherwise. Do not think you can change my mind with those pleading eyes and quivering lips. This is for your benefit as well as theirs."

"How?" I asked. "They were dependent on me. That money you paid them for my stuff isn't going to last forever. We had enough trouble getting by with the both of us. My dad can't support them with my mother's medical bills and my brother is too young to work like I had."

"Their financial future is no one's concern, but theirs. Not yours anymore and certainly not mine. They will simply need to find a way or starve." Wilhelmina said callously. "As for your benefit, tell me. If you were to return to them without draining them the very second they stood before you, how would they react? You have proved you can keep yourself in check, but do you think you can last forever?" Her tone told me she doubted it. " Do you think they would accept you as their son because they love you? They might, but very unlikely once they learn you can only survive on human blood. They would most likely call you a monster or a demon and even try to destroy you for the sake of your soul. I can spend the next week telling you stories of exactly that happening to other vampires' children."

"This isn't the dark ages!" I snarled. "Women aren't being drowned in lakes for being witches and doctors aren't using leeches to cure diseases."

"I will give you that." She conceded, but she didn't seem upset about it. "Then let us assume they would not since humans have become much more aware of the world around them according to you. Do you truly think you can be happy as they continue to age? Will they?" She did not bother giving me a chance to answer. "I have seen that as well. They will resent the fact they must grow feeble and die while you remain the same year after year. They will beg and they will plead for you to grant them the same gift. A gift that you might know how to bestow, but have never actually done."

"I . . . uh . . . they . . ." I stuttered, words unable to come to me. "Well, you would . . . I mean . . ."

"Take your time." She said smugly. "We both have all the time in the world."

I wanted to argue with her, to show her she was wrong, but I could not. She had centuries upon centuries of knowledge and experience to counter anything I might say and at best I could forge the most basic and obvious reasons which she had already destroyed. She could very well have been lying, her every word just as false as her young appearance, but I could not prove it. I also had the uneasy feeling she wasn't as the truth is hardly ever better than fabrication. Why, why did I ever stop for her? It would have taken nothing for me to just keep driving and pass her by. It was the story of my life, and apparently my afterlife as well. I would do no wrong and go out of my way be kind to others and it always resulted in me being worse off than before.

"Now that we have settled that," She said briskly as she walked to the foot of the bed and bent over. "It is time you fed."

"But . . ." I glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand. "It's two am. Sunrise's in three hours."

"Had you thought of this criminal solution sooner, I might have saved the favor Sally owed me for something far more important." Wilhelmina set a white cooler with a red cross on side. "But no matter."

"Who's Sally?" I asked, eying the cooler cautiously. God only knew what she had brought.

"The coroner at Bellevue." She said as she opened the cooler. "Has been ever since she founded it in 1736. New York City did not extend much farther north than Wall Street at the time. "

"I guess it would make sense for a vampire to pose as a doctor." I mused. "Fresh bodies and people bringing in and storing blood for transfusions, no wonder hospitals scare some people."

"Here!" Wilhelmina tossed an object to me which I snatched out of the air out of pure reflex. "Waste not want not."

I looked down and saw I held a transparent plastic bag. I had seen these bags countless times on television. It had a white label with lots of tiny writing, but a large 'O' was unmistakable. Wilhelmina had brought, stolen, transfusion bags filled with blood. I mentally released a breath I had been holding. I more than half expected she had brought a severed head. You just never knew with her.

I licked my lips, the lack of blood for the past three nights rearing its ugly head. "I . . . uh . . . "

"Remove your shirt." Wilhelmina said.

I momentarily tore my attention from the mouth-watering morsel in my hand. "W-what?"

"Remove your shirt." she repeated as she set the cooler on the corner of the bed next to me. "Blood stains draw attention."

I pulled off the black tank top I wore and returned my gaze to the plastic Wilhelmina had thrown to me, now barefoot and bare-chested with only a pair of gray sweatpants on. Every instinct roared for me to drink and my hand trembled from the turmoil between my hunger and my will to preserve what little control I was still capable of.

"I . . . I . . . I can wait until tomorrow night." I said trying to keep my voice devoid of emotion. "I'm not really . . . hungry." The last word sounded hoarser than the rest.

"Assez de bêtise!" She rolled her eyes before they flashed with anger and she ordered. "Drink!"

My fangs pierced the thin plastic and the bag was empty before my very eyes. As I had predicted, I lost myself to the hunger and quickly seized another bag to drain which was followed by three more. The moment the last succulent drop disappeared down my throat, I turned my face towards the ceiling and basked in the new found strength and tranquility that had come with satisfying my morality induced fast. I'm sure if I still could, I would have breathed a sigh of content. I could taste the presartives and the bitter hint the plastic gave it, but I just didn't care at the moment.

I felt a presence in front me and looked down to see Wilhelmina, stepping out of her dress on the floor, and she brought my mouth to hers. Her tongue darted out and licked the corners of my mouth that had become stained with stray drops of blood. Unlike the previous time I had fed, I had the presence of mind to refuse and turn my head. Wilhelmina grasped my chin and forced me back. She smirked triumphantly and brought me closer, this time her lips and tongue in a passionate kiss. I hesitated for hard second, but gave in only to regain my senses half a minute later and pull away.

Wilhelmina, however, did not relent and forcibly brought me closer to kiss and chew the base my neck and shoulder as one hand went around my waist and rubbed my bottom while the other caressed my groin, kneading and stroking through the thin cloth of the sweatpants I wore. Something between a grunt and growl came deep from my throat as I fought the urges Wilhelmina was no doubt trying to stir up.

If there was one thing above all else that I loathed since Wilhelmina had turned me, it was the fact I was hardly in control of my urges. In the past, I took pride that I was the master of my own emotions. No matter the circumstances, I never lost my temper or gave in to the urge to strike someone. If I passed a beautiful woman, I'd give her a polite smile in passing no matter how libidinous my thoughts were. Now all it took was a single drop of blood or the faintest hint of a pleasing scent. Had Wilhelmina merely waited another night or two, I doubted I could even form coherent thoughts other to satisfy my hunger, both of them.

"Can't you . . . take . . . a . . . hint?" I grunted.

"Which one?" Wilhelmina began drifting down my chest, kissing and biting lightly. "Because you say one thing, but you're also shouting volumes to the contrary. Especially this!"

I clenched my jaw as Wilhelmina's hand drifting up and over the waistband the front of my sweatpants. "I'm not your personal fuck toy!"

"You are mine." She purred and slipped hand into my boxers. "Every. Last. Inch."

She removed her hand and then began rubbing my chest which only brought me closer. She closed her mouth around my left nipple and sucked. I just about had all I could take when her clever hands began to expertly and slowly pull down the thin piece of fabric that encased my legs when she decided to send me over the edge by using her teeth in the most taunting way.

I was not sure if it was the lust or anger or both, but I grasped her by the shoulders and threw her onto the bed. Before she could even blink I loomed over her, a leg on either side of me, and poised to enter. I had hardly moved a fraction of an inch when she clamped me in place with her legs on my waist. I was beyond words and snarled in protest as I tried to move forward, a few simple inches separating me from her.

"Calm yourself, Dominick." She whispered gently.

My snarl was shoved back into my throat as my waist, and the rest of me follwing, was suddenly spun. Before I knew it, I was laying on my back on the bed with Wilhelmina looming over me, smirking and straddling me. The way she smirked down at me, all superior and knowing, just confused me even more. I didn't know what I wanted more, kiss her or rip that smug face off her head. Either way, I reached up, but she seized my wrists and pinned them down.

"Last time was enjoyable." She laid down and buried her face against my neck, nuzzling and lightly dragging her fangs across the skin. "But more slowly this time. It is not a race."

She released my arms, but to my surprise they merely drifted across her delicate smooth skin as if eager to explore her topography. I felt her cheek rub against mine as she lifted her head slightly to look at me. She smiled as she ran her tongue over my fangs which resulted in a deep growl from my throat. Then she kissed me, her hands drifting between us to rub my chest again while my mine strayed down and cupped her rear.

Stop! screamed what little part of my mind remained to my body. This is no different from the first time! You're just a piece of meat to her! All she's doing is scratching an itch!

"That's right." She whispered sweetly when she pulled away for a moment and grinned with a pleased twinkle in her eye. "Stop fighting and let go, mon amant."

I know I would beyond hate myself later, but I did just that.

She sat up and brought my head to her breasts as she did so. I had not become accustomed to my fangs so when I switched between breasts, I drew blood. The taste of her blood excited me even more and my biting seemed to the same for Wilhelmina who was pressing me harder against her chest with one hand and guided me into her with the other. I felt her flinch and I heard her gasp when my manhood entered her and my hands tightly squeezed her buttocks.

I felt her hands grip my head and she pulled me away from her breasts to stare at me with lust in her stunning emerald eyes. She licked her own blood from my mouth and then just rested her forehead against mine.

"I won't ever forgive you for this." I said hoarsely.

"Make love to me." She said. "Make love to me, mon amant."

"Never." I croaked.

"Then I will!"

Wilhelmina then shoved me on my back hard and it was rush of growling, snarling, moaning, and biting from the both of us.

An hour later I laid next to my maker under the sheets, my bare back to her, trying not cry. I know some men or women cried after sex, but I understood it was due to feeling vulnerable or something. This was not the case at all. I was hating at how little in control of myself I was. So much so that all it took was some blood and some light caresses in the right spots to send me into a frenzy like a shark that had scented blood. As much as I wanted to, I did not shed a single tear. It was a small victory, but it was all I had and clung to it for dear life. She would not take that last inch from me.

God forbid Wilhelmina ever decided she was not in the mood and she brought a human girl to satisfy my desires. She probably had already and I sent them away. I didn't think I could live with myself if I woken from my bloodlust to find a drained and defiled body at my feet. I had given myself a small comfort that I had only drained the girl Wilhelmina had first brought and Wilhelmina had luckily distracted me. If she wanted to, Wilhelmina could have stopped me with single word before so much as a finger touched her.

Wilhelmina did not leave as I expected her to, but instead wrapped an arm under mine and a leg over my waist. Wilhelmina, a vampire just short a few centuries of a millennia, liked to cuddle. I was disgusted with myself, not just because of what I just did, but because how comforted and reassured Wilhelmina delicate smooth pale skin felt against mine and how calming it felt as she clasped my hand so lovingly as I protectively crossed my arms over my chest. How could she make me feel so confused? I hated her, but I somehow felt safe.

"You are upset." She said.

"No, I'm fucking ecstatic." I snapped.

"You don't sound like it." I felt nuzzling the back of my neck and planting a kiss ever now and then. "Tell me, mon amant."

"Why would I be upset?" I asked. "It's not like I miss real food or the added perk of not going into lust filled frenzy when I had a steak. If that ever did happen, I'm sure the women around wouldn't have minded being raped."

"If you're concerned about my consent, know that I could have stopped whenever I wished." She said, oblivious to my sarcasm. "Though I cannot see why since I was the one who seduced you."

"Oh, that's okay then." I said. "Otherwise that would have made things really awkward."

"Really?"

"Almost thousand years old and still can't grasp sarcasm." I grumbled. "Then again, you are technically brain-dead."

"I'm beginning to wonder how you brought women back into your bed if this is you spoke to them afterward."

"Impossible for them to go back if they were never there in the first place." I muttered almost inaudibly.

"Impossible for them to . . ." Wilhelmina paused. "Oh."

"That's right, oh." I said. "Feel free to add 'that' to the list if you're still keeping score." I retracted my fangs. "Provided you still care after all this time."

"I don't understand why that would upset you." she paused as if she just began to process what I had said. "You are upset . . . because . . . you cannot . . . control yourself?"

"And the survey says?" I said like a bitter Ray Combs on Family Feud.

"Why do you deny what you are?" She asked. "Why is control so important to you?"

"Its all I ever had that I could call mine." I said, not knowing what brought me to say it aloud or the words that followed. "My paycheck, or any money I came into, went to my family. My name might have been on my driver's license and I maintained both cars, but I hardly ever went anywhere because I wanted to." I tried to shut up, but I couldn't. "I paid for the cable, but all I ever saw on TV was the news and Nascar when my father was home. Even my fucking comic books weren't really mine for that long because I'd always end selling them!"

"I did not know." She said gently and i felt her skirt back slightly away.

"Well, now you do!" I sat up and stared daggers. "With my father unable to keep from wasting my money on cigarettes, beer, or anything he wanted that we didn't need I could look him in the eye and know I was better than him. After years of going without, I could hold my head up knowing that nothing — not alcohol, not drugs, not even money — could tempt me into doing something stupid." I paused for a moment and added. "Only women."

"Women?" She asked.

"Yes." I wiped the corner of my eye and stained my finger with blood. "The one time I decide to think with my dick like everyone else and this happens." I flashed her an angry look. "That's the only reason I came to your fucking party." I said party like it was most revolting thing in the world."

Wilhelmina studied me curiously like she wasn't sure what to make of me. I severely doubted I struck a lump of pity like coal in a long abandoned mine. No doubt she had seen humans live lives a hundreds time worse than mine in the several centuries she had been around. Perhaps she was just trying to understand my way of thinking and found she could not fathom why I was angry after having sex with her, someone had centuries of experience in the practice.

I waited for her response, but she just lean over to see past me at the clock on nightstand. "Sunrise is coming. We should retire to our coffins."

"If you say so." I rose up from the bed, not caring for my lack of clothing, and walked defeated to the closet. "Not like you're gonna let me stay in bed."

Wilhelmina also rose from the bed, but paused when she reached the door. "Dominick?"

"What?"

"In those few minutes before you fall asleep, think about this." She said. "Consider all the things that ever brought merriment and joy that you've denied yourself."

"Alright." I raised an eyebrow. "Anything else?"

"Then decide if they are reason enough for you to continue to walk the earth." She said plainly. "You may no longer live, but that does not mean you cannot have the life you wished for." She began walking to the door past me.

"Before you go," She paused and looked back at me. "Of all the people you've met, why me?"

She smiled slightly as if partly amused. "Even as a small child, I could predict what a human, often to the letter, might do or say. That little quirk only grew when I was brought over as it became essential to my survival. It is a skill all vampires must eventually learn, even you." She turned to leave. "To do otherwise would mean a short existence."

"Just give me a straight answer for once." I said exasperated.

"As you wish," Wilhelmina turned slightly and gave me another amused grin. "You proved me wrong."

Knowing she had left unable to answer her, Wilhelmina left and closed the door behind her.

As I had thought back to that night, my body had gone on autopilot and I only regained control when I registered that Wilhelmina was back in my arms. She was wrapped in her white bathrobe which she always kept hanging on a hook on the back of the bathroom door.

I stepped out of the door when Wilhelmina said to me. "Stop."

"What?"

"Let Mae have my coffin for the night."

"Why?"

"It is the etiquette. She is my elder and I am the authority of the nest. As a guest she is entitled to it without question, but it is best if I offer it to her."

"Alright." I said. "I'll tell her." I turned to my room. "Until then you can use mine. I'll sleep in the bed."

"But the window."

I pushed the door open. "What window?"

She looked to where the window had been, but saw only a large framed promotional poster for the 1972 Mario Puzo crime classic, The Godfather. The poster was merely a picture of Marlon Brando, wearing a tuxedo with a red rose in the breast pocket and holding an orange tabby cat, against a black background with the film's title just below him and a list of the actors and producers involved below that.

"I had the idea only a couple of months ago." I explained as I waked to the closet. "I bought some scrap sheet rock and plaster to fill in the window from a hardware store, but I didn't know how to go about painting it without having to do the whole room so I just hung a poster over it."

"That was very reckless." She said. "One crack and you would be unable to move to save yourself."

"I thought so too." I admired and Wilhelmina opened the door to the closet. "So I covered the space with layers of duct tape. One vertically across under one that runs horizontal with the final layer running diagonally. Between the sheet rock, plaster, three layers of thick duct tape, the frame's plywood back, the poster, and the fact I've been sleeping in it since you let me out of the nest probably means I'll be fine." I set her down to open the false bottom. "Plus, I check it every other night. Just in case."

"Do you still doubt that you possess a gift?" she asked.

"I'll know tomorrow night." I told her.

"How?"

"I'll have Mae take me to Matthew." I said. "There could be a chance I could help him end this quickly like I did with Ryuu."

Wilhelmina crawled into my coffin and I watched as she adjusted to a more comfortable position. I was about to close the door when she spoke. "Dominick?"

"Yes?"

She sat up and lightly brushed her lips on mine, much like she had when we first met. "Thank you."

I smiled warmly and closed the lid to the coffin then the false bottom and closet door. I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts then strolled out of my room.

I looked down the hall and saw Mae was still speaking as the rest of my nest were gathered around her. I silently made my way to her and took the empty seat across from her with Adrian and Regina on either side of us and Doyle still in the same recliner he had been in when we first entered.

"Mae, Wilhelmina said for you to use her coffin since she using mine for the night." I said once Mae finished recounting the event of the past three nights. "Its in the closet of the first room on right."

"Thank you." She dipped her head slightly.

"Now that's settled." I clasped my hands together and leaned forward. "I might be able to help Matthew like I did with Ryuu, but I need you to tell me everything from the beginning."

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