As soon as we got inside, he carried me upstairs to his bedroom. It was completely dark in the room at first, but then light all at once filled the room, and I realized that candles that had been placed about the room were spontaneously igniting.
I could see the room clearly now. It was simple, with a king sized bed, a television, and two chests of drawers. I could also see why the room had been so dark. The window across from the door had some kind of metal sheeting covering it, blocking out all outside light.
He flipped a switch on the wall and the metal sheeting moved slowly upward to uncover the window and let in the sparkling lights of the city.
“That’s clever,” I said. “To keep the sunlight out during the day. So you actually sleep in here?”
“Yes,” he said. “What were you expecting? A coffin? Something ancient and gothic made of marble with intricate carvings?”
“Something like that does come to mind.”
He laughed. “Vampires don’t sleep in coffins anymore. It’s much too primitive, and uncomfortable.”
I kicked off my shoes and went to sit on the bed. He came to join me, taking slow steps, slow for him anyway. This close proximity to him, in such an intimate setting, was making me ache again. I knew it was like rubbing salt in the wound to be so close when we both wanted to take things slow, but I wanted to be close to him, I needed it, so I would just have to endure the ache. He cupped my face with one hand and gently rubbed my cheek with his thumb. His hands were cold, but that didn’t bother me. I loved his touch, no matter what temperature it was.
“You know, I searched two and half centuries for my match,” he said. “Love was the one thing that I always wanted as a mortal, the one thing that I never stopped wanting, and I have searched for it all over the world. And just when I started to think I would never find it, you found me. You brought me out of my monotony and gave me something to look forward to.”
My heart warmed at the sentiment, and I still couldn’t believe this was really happening. Somehow, Nicholae had found a worth in me from a far that I hadn’t found in years of introspection. It was both humbling and flattering at the same time, and beyond endearing. I so looked forward to getting to know him.
“So, how long do I have to make my choice?” I asked timidly. “Whether or not to become a vampire?”
He looked down at his lap in a moment of thought, then said, “I think I would wait for your answer forever. And even if you chose not to become a vampire, I would still stay in your life for as long as you would have me.”
This surprised me. He was willing to be with me even if I stayed human. Suddenly the image of me, old and wrinkly and dying, with him eternally young by my side, flashed in my mind, and the image stabbed my gut like a knife. I knew that, no matter what my decision, it would not come to that. I would not put either of us through that kind of pain. I quickly pushed the thought out of my head before it could cause him too much alarm.
There was much we had to talk about now, in this moment, and this moment was all that mattered.
“Tell me things about you that you haven’t written in your books,” I said. “Tell me about your mortal life. You were an Earl, right? What was it like in England back in the seventeen hundreds? It seems like life would have been boring without modern technology.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “Life wasn’t boring at all. There was so much to do, so many scandalous activities to occupy one’s time, not like nowadays where all young people do is watch television and play with their phones. Back then we didn’t need social media, because face to face exploits were already so entertaining.
“There were balls with beautiful ladies who weren’t really as innocent as they led you to believe. Nobles fought with each other all the time, and the rumors and gossip of such things were what we lived for. And, in an estate the size of mine, there were always scandals involving the servants. One was never bored.”
I could picture it, Nicholae in the finest eighteenth century suit with ruffles of his collar and sleeves, dancing with a debutante and charming her out of her dress with that devilish smile.
“What about William?” I asked, referring to his fledgling. “Where is he now?”
“He doesn’t like the big cities like I do. He prefers smaller, quiet towns. He lives in a big country house in Louisiana. But even though we don’t live together anymore, we still keep in contact. I keep his number in my cell phone.”
“You have a cell phone?”
“Does that surprise you?” he asked.
“Well, no, I guess not,” I said. “It must be easier to talk on the phone than to communicate telepathically over long distances.”
“Indeed,” he said. “Sure, in the days before phones, our telepathy was a godsend for communication. But it does take a good deal of energy to send one’s mental voice out so far and to target a specific person. Why bother with such things when it’s so much easier to press a button on a phone and talk to someone as if they are right next to you.”
I loved listening to the way he explained things. I loved listening to his voice in general.
“Well, since you do have a cell phone…can I have your number?” I asked, feeling somewhat foolish and juvenile.
“Oh, of course,” he said. He pulled a rather large phone out of his back pocket and spent a moment tapping on it.
When he stopped, I felt my own phone vibrate in my pocket. I opened the screen to see a text from a New York number. The text was a winky face emoji. I saved the number under his name in my contacts, although I did instantly commit it to memory. Then I put the phone back in my pocket and said half-jokingly, “Let the sexting begin.”
We both laughed.
“Tell me about Laramie,” I said, getting back to our original conversation. “Where is he?”
“It’s hard to say,” he replied. “Laramie never likes to stay in one place for too long. He, like me, has houses all over the world. But I suppose he spends most of his time in his lab in New Mexico.”
“He has a lab? Really? What does he do there?” I was suddenly giddy with curiosity. A vampire with a laboratory?
“The last I heard, he was working on a version of the ‘Human Genome Project’, except he’s only interested in vampire DNA.”
“That is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!!!” I peeped. “Oh I would love to meet him, love to see his lab! I can’t imagine what all he’s discovered!”
“You will, you will, in time,” Nicholae said, clearly entertained by my enthusiasm. “I have already told Laramie that you would want to see it.”
“Laramie knows about me?”
“Of course, and so does William.”
Wow. Already four vampires knew about me, and I had met two of them just tonight! It was like being inducted into the world’s most prestigious cult.
We talked all through the night. I asked him everything I had ever wanted to know about his books, every burning question about Laramie’s research, every small detail about him I could think of, and he indulged all this happily. Through the hours, as the conversation got flowed, we got more and more comfortable, inching closer to each other until I was cuddling up against his hard chest.
“You’re falling asleep,” I heard him say through chimerical waves of consciousness. “I’ll see you tomorrow night. Sweet dreams…” And his voice took root in my cavernous subconscious and blossomed into dream.